01 February 2016

Library Limelights 100

Some sort of note should be made here that this is my 100th post in the Library Limelights series. It began as notes-to-self (don't buy/borrow books you've read before) regarding loans from the small but convenient library here at FEC, hence the word "limelights" popped up. The series immediately expanded to the gloriously endless resources of the Toronto Public Library (TPL) system. Amen.

Nelson Demille. The Lion. New York: Grand Central Publishing/Hachette, 2010.
Another old favourite: it's been a while. John Corey is an irreverent, non-politically-correct former police detective working for a Homeland Security task force ... a task force of uneasy alliance between the FBI and the NYPD. His personal nemesis from an earlier novel (The Lion's Game) is back, threatening him and the whole of Manhattan; it's not long after 9/11. Asad Khalil is one badass psychotic terrorist from Libya. Corey's habitual wisecracks are very funny but can verge on overload for the reader. Especially when he and his colleagues diss all Arabs in general with stereotypical, derogatory comments.

FBI agent Kate Mayfield is Corey's partner domestically and on the job (how does she put up with him?). Both have been targeted by Khalil, the Lion, who may have mass murder in mind as well. There's a harrowing skydiving scene ... and encounters with the killer ... well, let's avoid spoilers. Enforced protection does not sit well with our confident hero. I'd forgotten how entertaining he can be; the light touch is certainly needed to offset a couple of gruesome death scenes. I need to catch up with a few more Corey adventures.

My theory was that the FBI should first master some basic police skills, such as how to use the subway system or how to follow a suspect without getting hit by a taxi. (66)
Boris had a little sarcastic streak, which shows intelligence and good mental health, as I have to explain often to my wife. (357)

Wedded bliss:
When I met Kate three and a half years ago, she showed no tendency toward sarcasm, and she had once indicated to me that this was one of several bad habits that she'd picked up from me. Right, go ahead and blame the husband. Also, when I met her, she didn't swear or drink much, but all that has changed for the better under my tutelage. Actually, she'd made me promise to cut down on the drinking and swearing, which I have. Unfortunately, this has left me dim-witted and nearly speechless. (65)

Outsourcing (shades of Halliburton):
Outside of 26 Federal Plaza are guard booths, manned by the private firm of Wackenhut Security. This arrangement represents some very advanced thinking from Washington that goes by the name of outsourcing. I mean, why use highly trained Federal law officers who are sworn to duty, when for twice the money you can get a fat guy in a silly uniform who may have trouble getting his gun out of his holster? Call me cynical, but I think I see some people making money on these government contracts. Maybe I should outsource myself. (235)

Battle ready:
And while I was sharpening the big knife, I understood a little of how ancient warriors must have felt on the even of battle―or modern soldiers, who sharpened their bayonets before an attack. The sharpening of the steel was less about the cutting edge of the blade than it was about the cutting edge of the soul and psyche; it was an ancient communion with every man who ever faced battle and death, and who stood with his comrades, but stood alone, with his own thoughts and his own fears, waiting for the signal to meet the enemy, and to meet himself. (398-9)

Ridley Pearson. Beyond Recognition. New York: Hyperion, 1997.
A goodie from the 50¢ jumble sale, picking up vaguely where I'd left off in the career of detective Lou Boldt. Pearson is a veteran crime writer of several series and standalone novels. Working with police psychologist Daphne Matthews, his forensic investigation sets out to catch the arsonist scaring Seattle. Horrific fires using a mysterious high-powered accelerant are consuming homes of single mothers; their bodies are all but vaporized after each inferno. The victims seem to have nothing in common. Be warned: there are more technical details than you ever wanted to know about pyromania.

Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Ben may be an unwitting witness to the criminal's identity. Matthews' maternal instincts become almost obsessed with caring for him, vying for his affections with his friend Emily, who gives psychic readings. Talk about psychology: we are told repeatedly that Boldt is anxious ― about the difficulties of the case, about his overactive imagination, about his wife, about his relationship with Matthews. His gloominess was beginning to make me anxious; his emotional reactions in general seem un-cop-like. The story builds to a racing climax involving Ben and a complicated, labour-intensive plan to trap the arsonist.

Marriage was many things; easy was not one of them. (83)

Impartial observations:
"Yours is a morbid life, isn't it, Sergeant?"
Boldt winced. He didn't appreciate his work―his life―being reduced to such a statement, hated it all the more for the truth of it. Death was a way of life for him, it was true; but for Boldt it was seen as a means to an end, the only acceptable end being justice and the imprisonment of the party responsible. An investigator who relied upon the victim to tell the story―a man who even lectured on the subject―Boldt understood the intricacy of the relationship between victim and killer. That he exploited this relationship was nothing he tried to hide or make light of. That it often bordered on the grotesque was inescapable. (69-70)

Ben hangs a ride:
It was a stunt he had wanted to do a hundred times but had never had the belly to try. ... 
He pedaled hard, rising up off his seat, glancing once over his left shoulder, a slight smirk as he twisted his head fully around so his right eye could see back there. A good-sized truck, bigger than a pickup but smaller than a dump truck. Picking up speed after the last light. Gaining on Ben. 
His legs pushed hard; he needed to match that speed. 
Gaining ... gaining ... 
Another look, a huge swivel of the head: Only a few yards back, the engine louder than a locomotive, the gears singing, Ben inched the bike to his left, swerving, the truck looming closer. 
Closer still. Legs flailing then to match the speed. It had to be exact. He knew. He had heard stories. If you timed it wrong, the truck pulled you right off the seat or, worse, folded the bike underneath the twin rubber tires, bearing down like a steamroller. (572)

Robert Wilson. You Will Never Find Me. UK: Orion Books, 2014.
Wilson's most recent series features Charles Boxer, kidnap and missing persons consultant. Boxer has history with police service and a private security firm. In fact, this is the second book in the series. Yours truly slightly regrets not finding the first one first ― but all in good (recovery) time, as this one comes close to heart-stopping. Boxer's daughter Amy (her mother Mercy is a London cop with a specialist kidnap unit) decides to run away and lose her parents forever. Yes, the teenager manages just that. Maybe her parents' forensic experience rubbed off although they've long been separated. Boxer follows a trail to Madrid, only to run up against a serious Colombian drug lord.

Mercy's team is involved with the kidnapped son of a valuable Russian defector, but she can't stay out of her daughter's case too. Necessarily working together at critical points, she and Boxer gain insights into Amy but especially each other as one devastating personal blow follows another. The action is a roller coaster going from missing person to kidnap to hostage, with murders in between. It takes all the wits of combined British teams to deal with two ruthless sets of foreign criminals. Wilson rules!

One-liners: "I'm the pork chipolata at the Jewish wedding." (197)
Morality often goes out of the window when the economy is in trouble. (246)

Esme's hand trembled slightly as she reached for the shot glass. She sipped, took a crackling drag from her cigarette, held it in, let it trickle from her nose. 
"It's just history," said Esme, "and you told me that was the very reason you didn't want to be a homicide detective any more. It was all past tense. It wasn't going to bring anybody back. And it won't bring Amy back. You might be able to winkle out some cockeyed reasoning as to why―" 
"I'm angry," said Boxer. 
"With me?" asked Esme, astonished. You think I put this idea into her head? Don't be bloody ridiculous. This has been building for years." 
"I'm not angry at you," said Boxer. "I'm angry at myself." 
"Welcome to the club," said Esme. "We're all platinum card members here." (46-7)

Collegial collaboration:
Had Zorrita been able to look inside Boxer at that moment he would have been mystified by the colossal Gothic darkness within. He would have expected a wincing rawness, a laceration of all that was good, but not a bottomless black chasm. Surely that would come later, with the realisation of loss, the terrible emptiness, the endless longing for that unattainable fullness. The unfillable gaps of empty shoes, limp dresses, a hollow in a mattress. 
He moved around the desk, lifted Boxer away from the table and got him onto a chair, which the translator, snapping out of his paralysis, held steady. They studied him as if he was a drugged tiger, fascinated but wary. His face was strangely still and dry of any tears while his body seemed to be under tremendous strain, as if trying to withstand some terrible G force. 
"Are you feeling all right?" asked the translator, unused to these emotional crises in his work. 
"No, I'm afraid I don't," said Boxer, his body smoothing out as if suddenly weightless. 
The translator and Zorrita exchanged looks. 
"You don't what?" the policeman asked. 
"I don't have any sample from which you might be able to extract my daughter's DNA." (118-9)

A toast:
They drank the burgundy, which made everything else taste like rubbish afterwards, and Isabel proposed a toast: "To families, and to quote Dickens, one of our greatest Londoners, 'Accidents can occur in the best-regulated families.'" (369-370)

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