Friday, June 10, 2005

I Walk the Book Beat

Loyal readers know that I sometimes write mystery book reviews for "Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence," a publication associated with the Magna Cum Murder Mystery Conference. For your passing interest, here is my most recent entries, submitted today:

THE FINAL SOLUTION by Michael Chabon
The World’s Greatest Detective, unnamed but slyly recognizable, has retreated to solitude during World War II. But a strange mute orphan, and his garrulous parrot, bring his deductive skills back to creaking life in Michael Chabon’s fanciful homage to Sherlock Holmes. Interestingly, it is not the trail of murder, but the missing parrot, that sends the detective on the path once more, trying to solve one final case before his mortal coil expires. Chabon, more known for mainstream fiction like THE ADVENTURES OF CAVALIER AND KLAY, produces more than just a mystery, with ruminations on the war and its effects on the people of Europe. A bit of a curio, and a slender volume, but a nice read.

A WINDOW IN COPACABANA by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
A solid police procedural from Brazilian author Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, translated from Portugese, about a police detective who diligently tries to find out who is putting out hits on other cops and their mistresses, despite opposition from above as to the resolution of the case. Well-written and cleverly plotted, with a likeable protagonist, but of special interest for the insight into another culture and everyday life in Rio de Janeiro, where police corruption, and a men’s mistresses, are commonplace facts of life that have to be dealt with. The most recent entry in an ongoing series from Garcia-Roza.

THE RUBY IN THE SMOKE by Philip Pullman
Wry thriller puts a contemporary spin on the traditional English melodrama. Here we find plucky heroine Sally Lockhart, upon the mysterious death of her father, embarking on a death-defying adventure through the sordid back alleys of 19th-Century London, all opium dens and precocious street urchins and mysterious shadows by gaslight. British author Philip Pullman is light on his feet, and spins an interesting story of a missing jewel, an uprising in India, and the drug trades, with a somewhat somber denouement. THE RUBY IN THE SMOKE seems pointed a bit at young adults, but the subject matter is certainly enjoyable by those older, and in some ways perhaps more appropriate.

Compelling espionage tale finds a police artist who rebuilds the faces of recovered skulls for criminal cases, shocked to one day discover that he has rebuilt the face of his identical twin—the brother he never knew he had. Somewhat reluctantly, he embarks on a dangerous mission to find out what happened to his lost sibling. In the fashion of Ludlum and LeCarre, there is world-spanning intrigue and plenty of double and triple crosses as our hero is drawn closer to a confrontation with a mounting threat against the United States. Complex, muscular novel with engaging characters and situations.

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