Robert Rotenberg. Strangle Hold. New York: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 2013.
In my opinion Rotenberg's style has become more comfortable since I last read him. At first I thought my Canadian-author-loyalty was going to be strained again; a scene with the Polish crime scene tech has awkward ethnic-type dialogue. But his courtroom drama is superb with the necessary tension and suspense. One annoyance: after seeing a dozen typos, mostly missing or misplaced prepositions, I gave up counting.
Toronto Detective Ari Greene finds himself in a conflict of interest, to put it mildly. The murder of his married girlfriend Jennifer puts him squarely in the suspect spotlight; luckily he knows an interesting, proficient lawyer. Somehow the author failed to convince me that it had been a serious love affair for both Ari and Jennifer. Leading the investigation is Ari's friend and colleague Daniel Kennicot, a cop with reservations about Greene's guilt. Awotwe Amankwah the journalist, Angela Kreitinger the Crown prosecutor, and the bereaved husband are well-done characters.
"Dad," Greene said, leaning on the rake he was using on his father's lawn, "she's twenty-five years younger than you."
Greene's father was staring at the backside of his latest girlfriend, a larger-than-life Russian bombshell named Klavdiya, as she strutted up the concrete steps to his little bungalow. He snapped his head toward Ari. "Twenty-three and a half," he said. "And you won't let me drive at night. She drives at night." (72)
The candidate for mayor:
How was Hap going to feel about me, his prize student, if he finds out I'm the one? Greene wondered.
"So far Kennicott's drawn a blank," he said, choosing his words carefully. At least it wasn't a lie.
"Keep me in the loop," Charlton said. "The sooner we get an arrest, the better." He took a final drag then stuck the end of the cigar under the running water. It hissed and sputtered until it went out. He tossed the butt out the window. "So much for taking back the litter from the streets." He chuckled. (129-30)
He looked at her walking. Swinging her backpack. How many times had he watched her stroll out of view along the bleak, deserted sidewalk? Then turning off the DVD when she was out of the frame.
But this morning, he paused it at the last image of her in view. This is enough, he told himself. One more second and she's gone. Ari, she's gone.
He put the remote down and lay back on the couch. This way madness lies, he thought. He rubbed his face and closed his eyes. He forced himself to think of the trial. How well everything had gone in court yesterday. How close this other nightmare in his life was to being over. (321-1)
James Lee Burke. Creole Belle. New York: Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, Inc. 2012.
Despite the continuing mayhem, I had to see if Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel survive another epic battle against the forces of evil pervading the backwaters of Louisiana. Grimly fascinating and clearly addictive. I care about these characters and their feelings and their families. The two men defy giant oil corporation interests who dismiss responsibility for the toxic spill destroying the ecological balance of the Gulf and the Mississippi delta. Well-trained thugs are sicced on our heroes. Good thing Clete is a one-man wrecking machine. But Dave and Clete have trouble identifying the local bad guys in the mix as the plot twists and turns; they also have a bad habit of confronting their suspects, ignoring the warnings from Sheriff Helen. Furthermore, their two daughters are caught up in some diabolical threads.
Dave (or is it Burke?) broods more on moralizing about life and death with each book. He rues the poverty level in his state, so dependent on the oil and gas economy where the very few get very rich. His recovery from the drama of the last book, The GlassRainbow, only increases his sensitivity to an alternate universe. His musings balance out the physical carnage ― a few macabre elements are not for the squeamish. Still, it's hard to put down a book racing to a breathless climax. Dave, what's next?!
One-liner: "Don't rent space in your head to bad people." (305)
Dave to himself:
She could not have been over seventeen. What kind of human could do something like that to a young woman? Unfortunately, I knew the answer. There were misogynistic sadists in our midst, in greater numbers than most people could guess at. And how did they get there? Answer: Our system often gives them a free pass. (81-2)
Sheriff to Dave:
"You're supposed to be on the desk and off duty at noon," she said. "You're supposed to go home and take a nap and throw pinecones in the bayou. Obviously that's not what you have in mind. You prefer stirring up the wrong people in New Orleans and going to Lafayette and eating a load of buckshot."
"I didn't plan any of this. What do you want me to say?"
"I advise you to say nothing." I sighed and raised my hands and dropped them in my lap."I think it's time to put you back on full-time status, bwana," she said. She narrowed one eye, "it's the only way I can keep your umbilical cord stapled to the corner of my desk." (158-9)
What is most remarkable about many of those who have great wealth is the basic assumption on which they predicate their lives: They believe that others have the same insatiable desire for money that they have, and that others will do anything for it. Inside their culture, manners and morality and money not only begin with the same letter of the alphabet but are indistinguishable. The marble floors and the spiral staircases owned by the very rich and the chandeliers that ring with light in their entranceways usually have little to do with physical comfort. These things are iconic and votive in nature and, ultimately, a vulgarized tribute to a deity who is arguably an extension of themselves. (473)
Quoting a quote:
William Faulkner was once asked what he thought of Christianity. He replied, in effect, that it was a fine religion and perhaps we should try it sometime. (568)
Robert Harris. The Fear Index. 2011. UK: AudioGO Ltd. [large print edition]. 2012.
Computer nerds and financial players are gonna love this. I didn't. It's something different from this author I admire. Leading his chapters with quotes from Darwin to emphasize human emotions, he spins a tale about a brilliant physicist who built a super computer, equivalent to the scientific goal of creating artificial intelligence. The VIXAL-4 is then employed by a hedge fund company to make them tons of money. However, the creator of this powerful machine, Alex Hoffman, is being impersonated and stalked with murderous intent.
Hoffman is not a sympathetic character initially; he's a one-track mind uninterested in wealth or his fellow man. His partner Hugo Quarry takes up the public relations slack. I didn't mention Hoffman's wife Gabrielle who has perfected an odd art form. No disrespect to Harris who is in complete charge of his subject and the suspense thereof, but stock market statistics and Large Hadron Collider physics are over my head. Oh ... and yes, the FEar Index is a real thing.
One-liner: Suddenly he experienced yet another long-forgotten sensation: the delicious, childish pain of self-pity. (41)
The investors' meeting:
Hoffman stared at the tablecloth and let the discussion flow around him. He was remembering now why he didn't like the rich: their self-pity. Persecution was the common ground of their conversation, like sport or the weather was for everyone else. He despised them."I despise you," he said, but nobody paid him any attention, so engrossed were they in the inequities of higher-rate taxation and the inherent criminality of all employees. And then he thought: perhaps I have become one of them; is that why I am so paranoid? He examined his palms under the table, and then the backs of his hands, as if he half-expected to find himself sprouting fur. (170)
Quarry does his best:
He felt as if he had been smiling solidly for about fifteen hours that day already. His face ached with bonhomie. As soon as Leclerc had his back to him, he treated himself to a scowl. (200)