29 July 2017

Library Limelights 138

Scott Turow. Identical. USA: Vision Paperback, 2013.
It's a great day when Turow comes out with a new book; I'm a little late for this one. Once again his fictional Kindle County comes alive as state senator Paul Gianis campaigns in a race for city mayor. Paul's identical twin Cass is being released from prison after twenty-five years for killing his then-girlfriend Dita Kronon. No-one knows, or is telling, the truth of exactly what happened the night Dita was murdered and it all becomes headline news again as Hal Kronon publicly accuses Paul of being implicated. Their mutual Greek heritage is writ large across three generations of inter-family relationships.

Kronon employees Evon Miller and Tim Brodie are charged with unearthing more evidence against Paul. As they proceed, a great deal of background is peeled away on key figures in the old drama and the present day. Even the private lives of both Tim and Evon as outsiders play into a bewildering mass of information, sometimes almost TMI. This is a true forensic work ― fingerprints, blood typing, DNA; Turow is impeccably detailed in his legal knowledge. It seems there are no heroes as such, and who will guess the ultimate double (or triple?) twist?

Phrase: "this bag of loose nuts and bolts" describes a habitually out-of-control emotional person.

One-liners:
Life was much too cruel to go through it alone. (68)
He didn't feel it made sense to waste the energy on relationships that would only pull him under some emotional waterfall in which he'd never catch his breath. (93)
The closest thing to changing the past is to leave it unspoken. (390)

Campaign advice:
Mark stood up, all five-six of him, but still looking, from the hard set of his face, like somebody you wouldn't want to mess with. He was done wasting time. 
"You have to sue. Period. Personally, Ray, I'm not spinning my wheels asking what Hal's got. Because if he's got anything real, Paul's not gonna be mayor anyway." Crully turned toward his candidate. "So, Paul, either quit now or sue." 
Crully flipped his pencil in the air and let it bounce on the table and left the room. (38-9)

Courtroom tactics:
"Your Honor," said Tooley, "we still haven't heard any answer to our request for DNA."Du Bois raised his hand toward Ray, who responded. 
"Judge, we're eager to come forward with all probative evidence, but this request for a DNA test is clearly a bridge too far. In order to be entitled to discovery, a party must show that there is a reasonable likelihood that whatever proof is sought is potentially relevant. Dr. Yavem concedes that there is no better than a one in one hundred chance that an examination of DNA will lead to admissible evidence in a case like this with identical twins. So that part of the motion is little more than the effort to embarrass and harass Senator Gianis." (153)

Never giving up:
"I'm not letting him get away with it." 
"With what?" Tooley asked."Hiding whatever he's hiding." 
"Hal, what could he be hiding if the test is 99 percent likely to be inconclusive? Don't smoke your own dope." 
Hal's bulging eyes ran back and forth behind his glasses as he considered his friend's advice. 
"I want the DNA." 
Mel dropped his glance to his hands, then tried another approach. 
"Hal, you won. Don't you see this? You won this motion. You made a convincing case that this guy knows more than he's telling. And Paul said uncle. Accept victory, Hal. Celebrate for a second." (206)



Greg Iles. Mississippi Blood. USA: William Morrow/HarperCollins, 2017.
Emphatically: the most amazing courtroom trial, ever. Mississippi Blood is the final, culminating drama in an acclaimed trilogy of recent American history in the deep south ... so much more than "merely" crime genre. It's a stand-alone novel and you'll be fine if you missed the first two books,* but I highly recommend them. The Cage family and a large cast of characters continue in a complicated mass of relationships. Natchez mayor Penn Cage stands almost helpless while his father, Dr Tom Cage, is tried for murder. Defence lawyer Quentin Avery seems strangely mute as the trial spins out of control. The suspense at strategic points becomes unbearable.

Viola Turner was the victim in the case ― Dr Cage's lover, mother of his child, terrorized by racist killers. A parade of witnesses reveals one surprise after another. Some are lying for venal gain, some to protect others. Penn himself risks death by seeking the truth of the night in question, despite threats from the vicious Double Eagles, desperately hoping his hired security will keep his mother and daughter safe. There's not much room to catch your breath in the close to 700 pages. Iles' finely-tuned gift for nuance never misses a beat; what more can one say about a masterpiece?
* Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree.

One-liners:
The people on this jury represent a divided city, a fractured state, a wounded nation. (176-7)
My mother gives me a glare that could freeze vodka, and I face forward again. (314)
"Mr Johnson, don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining." (500)

Find the witnesses:
His suggestion has stunned me. "Testify in open court? You've got to be kidding. The FBI has been working that angle all along." 
"You're not the FBI. You're my son." 
"Do you think that grants me some kind of superpower? These aren't grateful black patients, Dad. These are pissed-off, defiant old rednecks." 
Dad's eyes flicker with conviction, even excitement. "I believe you can do it. You've got a gift with people." 
"Hell, you couldn't even do it! You got up at Henry Sexton's funeral and asked everyone in the community to break their silence and tell what they knew about the Double Eagles. But nobody has come forward. Have they?" (46)

Strong Blood:
A distant fondness comes into Serenity's eyes, and she quotes her uncle word for word: "I been all over the south, man. Cutting pulpwood and playing the blues. Mississippi blood is different. It's got some river in it. Delta soil, turpentine, asbestos, cotton poison. But there's strength in it, too. Strength that's been beat but not broke. That's Mississippi blood." 
"That says it, right there," I tell her. "Beat but not broke." (97)

Crowd suspense:
When the big back doors open, I don't see the witness, but two federal marshals. One holds open the dorr while the second stands a few feet inside it, awaiting their charge. With a jangling clink of metal on metal, a black man of medium height enters the courtroom with a graceful walk and a twinkle in his eye. Junius Jelks's hair is gray, but he still looks virile, and he seems to draw keen pleasure from the hundreds of eyes now riveted upon him. As he walks down the aisle, an audible hiss arises from the gallery. The sibilant rush is soft, snakelike, but when it continues without break I realize it must be coming from many mouths at once. This crowd clearly remembers Lincoln's testimony about how cruel this man was when he acted as Lincoln's pretend-father. And if the crowd remembers that description, the jury does, too. (451)

When shit happens:
The irrevocable events of our lives happen in seconds, sometimes fractions of seconds. [...] 
As a prosecutor, I dealt with countless people who suffered from split-second breaks of fate, and most never stopped wondering: What could I have done to avoid that? If only I'd locked my car doors, if only I'd turned left instead of right, if only I'd skipped that last drink, if only I'd listened to my instinct and given that guy a fake phone number, if only I'd remembered my pepper spray or bought that gun I looked at in the sporting goods store ... 
Hindsight is always 20/20; foresight rarely better than a blur. (504)


Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke. The Cinderella Murder. USA: Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, 2014.
To fill a gap while waiting in a TPL lineup for bestsellers, I grabbed this book because of Burke. But the pedestrian prose seems all Clark, a popular author who never appealed to me. Alafair's contribution is the real mystery. OK, so the 20-year-old cold case murder of a college girl is revived by a television program that sics the former suspects on each other. More people die. Laurie, the producer, is in danger. Her father is conveniently an ex-cop. Aspiring actors, evangelistic quackery, computer geekery. It's hard to feel engaged by mostly cardboard characters. Under Suspicion, the name of the TV show, seems also to be a book series from the two writers.

One-liner: Laurie could empathize with Nicole, but she couldn't sympathize. (305)

The show goes on:
Laurie wasn't sure how she felt about living with all her coworkers, but from a financial perspective, she couldn't argue with Jerry's logic. "Sounds like a plan," she said. "If nothing else, I'd say we've already earned this delicious lunch." 
As the waiter recited elaborate food descriptions from memory, Laurie nodded along politely, but her thoughts were spinning as she envisioned all the work they had in front of them. She had guaranteed Brett Young the best Under Suspicion possible. And just this morning, she had given her word to her nine-year-old son that she would do it all while being a full-time mother. 
How could she possibly keep both promises? (129)


Janwillem Van de Wetering. The Hollow-Eyed Angel. USA: Soho Press Inc., 1996.
An odd little piece from the in-house library: the author indulges in extravagant whimsy among his characters in a mystery on a level of its own. Amsterdam detectives Grijpstra and de Gier are appalled when their commissaris goes off to New York to investigate Dutchman Bert Termeer's death in Central Park. De Gier follows at a decent interval. All three have theories about the death, fodder for psychological and philosophical debate. Whether it is even a murder is anyone's guess, what with red herrings thrown around amid absurdist conversations. Every New York inhabitant they meet seems off-the-wall eccentric while the commissaris' dream of a sightless but sexy tram driver recurs aimlessly. Often the book reads something like bipolar musings on an acid trip ― not to everyone's taste but plenty of sly humour.

One liner:
His boots were suede, recently steelbrushed to straighten the little hairs. (13)
"Well now," Grijpstra said, "adultery, adultery...I'm afraid that idea is extinct now, Simon." (240)

Chance meet of two poets:
"You speak good Dutch," Grijpstra said. 
"Not all that difficult," the Turk said peevishly. "Not too many words, no grammar to speak of." 
Grijpstra liked that. He passed the Turk a croquette from a paper bag. 
"Pig?" the Turk asked suspiciously. 
"Calf," Grijpstra said generously. 
The Turk said that he had been known to eat pig. Not by mistake either. The Turk was against religious rules that bully. The Turk would consume, Allah be praised, whatever he liked, but if he did eat pig it would be nice to be aware of his sinning. His eye caught the flash of a car's brake lights. The Turk swallowed, smiled, straightened his back, recited: "At alien streetcar stop in slashing darkness my soul glows sudden red, lit up by sin." 
Grijpstra applauded a fellow artist. (26-7)

Permission to go to New York:
"How is the old man doing?" 
Grijpstra thought that the commissaris was ill. 
"He has been ill for years now," the CC said. "He could have been on permanent sick leave since he started using a cane." He looked at his long slender hands, then dropped them under the desk top. "But maybe my respected colleague doesn't like doing nothing." 
"What are you going to do, sir? Grijpstra asked. "When you retire?" 
The chief constable smiled. "I will just fade away, Adjutant. I am good at that. I have been practicing for years." 
Grijpstra, as he left the room, remembered the commissaris saying that lack of substance makes people float to the top. (131)

Futuristic visions from airplane:
Would the New York skyscrapers degenerate into crumbled shapes leaning across each other, with skeletons staring out of broken windows? Would vines, mold, lichens and mosses gradually smooth their jumbled lines? 
Maybe, de Gier thought, it will all slide into the ocean, to the bottom of the sea, like Atlantis, like Amsterdam. With Amsterdam there is the certainty, in a foreseeable, calculable future, that the sea will flood the city. Ice caps melt and ocean levels rise and dikes cannot be built up forever. 
There would be fish again, huge schools, unbothered by hunger at the top of the food chain. De Gier imagined fish swimming through his apartment. (133)

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