08 April 2013

Library Limelights 27


David Baldacci. Divine Justice. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2008.
I am catching up with Washington DC's Camel Club. Oliver Stone is in even more trouble than he was in Stone Cold. Hunted by every federal law enforcement agency, his comfy hideaway occupation as a cemetery caretaker ends. Into Virginia's off-track mining country our Viet Nam hero goes on the run. To find himself in yet another precarious danger zone. The plot steadily boils. As usual, Baldacci's narrative switching works very well to increase the suspense. The Camel Club―Annabelle, Reuben, and Caleb, with some surprising additions―to the rescue!

Militaristic interrogation techniques are brutal but thankfully brief; not to imply this is simply macho-only reading. Oliver's life is overlaid with layers of lies and coverups and none of the authorities want to hear the truth. Despite non-stop action and story developments, the author weaves social comment into the story more successfully than, say, Grisham's rather abrupt insertions. The next adventure is already on order.

A tired cop:
"Prescription drug abuse is rampant around here. I spend a lot of my time with that crap. Black stain on what is otherwise a nice place to live. But you can't lock everybody up who's addicted. Hell, there wouldn't be any miners left to work. You try to rehab them, get their methadone pop every day, but it's not enough. Every cop up and down the Appalachian mining country knows we're fighting a losing battle. But we don't have enough resources. We're overwhelmed." (198)

A tired investigator:
Knox clicked off and dropped the phone on the bed. Now he felt worse than he did before he'd called. He knew he'd frightened his daughter and there was nothing he could do about it now. Maybe he wanted to scare her. Or at least prepare her for when he didn't come back home, or even for when she might have to come and ID his body.
He looked around the dismal interior of his room. How many crappy hole-in-the-walls, how many effed-up towns, how many shitty countries had he spent the majority of his life in? The answer was clear: way too many.
He lay back on the bed feeling lonelier than he ever had. (191)
 Scott Turow. Limitations. New York: Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.
A choice little (197 pp) novella on a point of law and how it affects the judge (and his staff) in a case before the appeals court. George Mason is a repeat persona from one of Turow's many fine mystery dramas set in Kindle County, USA. Judge Mason also has a personal problem that delays his courtroom decision. Genealogists will appreciate the legal distinctions being made. Defined by their thoughts, words, and gestures, without excess verbiage, the characters are compelling. A quick read, but with all the flair and smooth style we expect of Turow.

Julia Keller. A Killing in the Hills. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2012.
This book, a first novel, was recommended somewhere in a review; it certainly raised mixed feelings. Talk about a segue from Divine Justice above ... West Virginia's mining country is portrayed as a hell-hole despite Keller's forced moments of soothing mountain scenery. Returning to her home town to become prosecuting attorney, Bell Elkins fights poverty and addiction in the surrounding communities when faced with some senseless killings. Or so they seem. We know the killer―a truly disgusting piece of trash―almost from the beginning, but we don't know who hired him. Bell tightly represses her own horrific past, alluded to repeatedly.

I did not find any of the characters particularly engaging, probably because we are told the same thing so many times about Bell's relationships. I stumbled on the repetitive, tiresome depiction of a sullen teenager. In creating a family unable to articulate, the author makes the reader privy to the individuals' thoughts in strained prose. Despite also reaching too hard for similes ("sweat-moussed hair"), there are well-written passages of social comment.

Good:
Driving back to the courthouse, she'd had to weave her exasperated way around the slow-moving, antenna-topped, wide-bodied white news vans from TV stations in Charleston and Huntingdon and Pittsburgh. The vans were cruising around the small downtown, just as they'd probably cruised through some other tragedy-stunned downtown the day before, drawn inexorably to the world's open wounds. Camera crews and reporters were eagerly prowling the smattering of streets in Acker's Gap, hunting for scared people to interview. (21-22)

Bad:
It was weird. She hated her mom but she loved her, too, and it was like the two emotions were locked in a kind of primitive combat in her heart, fatally bound up with each other, equally matched throughout eternity, like characters in a video game who fall off cliffs together in a single snarling unit because neither one will let go. Neither one could win outright, either. One couldn't get over the edge without the other. So on it went. (215)



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