James Grippando. When Darkness Falls. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007.
Obviously my Jack Swytek interest has not abated. This story plunges the Miami lawyer into a hostage situation so fast I had scarcely warmed up to a new cast of characters. Jack shares equal billing in this one with an odd pair of policemen. Here I have to say the female of that ilk is not the most convincing cop on the block. She seems to waft around in a world of her own, looking much more credible as the mayor's daughter, which she also happens to be. Her companion is struggling with newly permanent blindness, a homeless guy has a bank account in the Bahamas, and the irrepressible sidekick Theo gets in his fifteen cents worth of comedy relief. Does that grab you?
It's a whirlwind of action from start to finish with increasing references to Los Desaparecidos; I don't want to say more (spoiler). My only disappointment was guessing the mystery early on, which most savvy family historians would. Not the most gripping Grippando novel, character-wise, but still true to form in the building suspense department.
In a tight spot:
Theo kept waiting for the buzz.Had the food from the wagon been laced with any kind of sleeping agent, some noticeable effect should have kicked in by now. Theo felt nothing. It was like the time Jack had decided to walk on the wild side and bake pot brownies, only to discover he'd paid his Colombian yardman a hundred bucks for a bag of oregano. Actually, it was Theo who made the discovery. Jack thought he was stoned. Poor Jack.How will that guy ever survive without me? (204)
"Something to drink, gentlemen?" said the mayor, standing at the bar. He made the offer with a smile, but it seemed strained to Jack. The bags under his eyes had almost doubled in size since Jack had first spoken to him in the privacy of his limo. His skin had taken on an unhealthy, ashen sheen. Had Jack been forced to guess, he would have said the mayor hadn't slept in at least three days."Nothing for me, thanks," said Jack."You got any smoothies?" said Theo.Jack tried not to roll his eyes."Uh, no," said the mayor.Theo looked around and said, "I ever trade in my little open fishing boat for one of these babies, it's gonna have smoothies. Strawberry. Banana. Mamey."Jack resisted the urge to strangle him."Papaya, carambola, kumquat—""Theo, we get it, all right?" said Jack. "The man doesn't have any smoothies." (303-304)
Phyllida Law. How Many Camels Are There in Holland? Fourth Estate/HarperCollins Publishers, 2013.
It's not what you think. At all. The title attracted me, mais oui, but the subject matter couldn't possibly be any further away from camel chasing. Phyllida Law is one of the funniest, quirkiest Brit writers you might come across. She is also an actress perhaps lesser known than her daughters Sophie and Emma Thompson. Phyllida has a delightful mother of her own who lapses into dementia and that's what this is about. Commuting between acting jobs, the three women with assorted friends and neighbours undertake the care of "Mego" in her little Scottish village, to ensure her quality of life. The touching illustrations were done by the author herself.
You will never find a warmer, more poignant memoir on a timely topic. You will even laugh out loud sometimes at some outright absurdities. The love in this family is infectious. Phyllida sometimes fears she too is lapsing―lose your car keys lately?! I had to buy the book because my regular stand-by, Toronto Public Library, did not even have a copy yet. Well worth it because it's being lent to every senior I know. We're in this together. We all have lapses.
A bit of family background:
I remember 3 September 1939 and the outbreak of war. We were to be evacuated. It sounded painful and some of it was. At school we were just 'the evacuees', 'wee Glasgow keelies', and they snapped the elastic on my hat till my eyes watered. I caught fleas and lost my gas mask. James, my brother who was twelve, wet the bed, got whacked with a slipper and ran away back to the bombs. (3)
At one point after a doctor visit, Mego bursts out with:
'I take three blues at half past eight
To slow my exhalation rate
Alternate nights at 9 p.m.
I swallow pinkies – four of them .
The reds, which make my eyebrows strong,
I eat like popcorn all day long.
The speckled browns are what I keep
Beside my bed to help me sleep.
The long flat one is what I take
If I should die before I wake.'
How in Heaven's name did she remember all that and from where? I'd never heard it before in my life. She would suddenly come out with a quote from Shakespeare, quite often very apt, and she knew all the lyrics from 'Miss Otis Regrets.' (81)