Thursday, December 16, 2010
The plot begins with the chance discovery of a skeleton that has been scattered around several farms. As Police Chief Mario Balzic investigates the case, we are drawn into a perverse world where lies run rampant. When the reader finally discovers what happened, the resulting emotions will be a tragic mixture of empathy, anger and disgust.
This book is the second installment of the Mario Balzic series, and is by no means the best. Unlike some of the later Balzic novels, some of which are simply brilliant, this book falters in the beginning. In fact, during the first-half of the story, the writing is surprisingly flat, which is quite disappointing given K.C. Constantine's amazing literary skills.
In the second-half, however, the writing improves a lot, and the plot soon reveals a haunting set of characters. By the end, fans of Constantine's work will recognize some of the common themes that permeate through the Balzic series, such as racism, women's struggle against misogyny, and the kind heart of Chief Balzic, who seems to be constantly clashing with the powers that be.
2 1/2 out of 5 stars
Curious to find out how this once solidly red state became blue, I recently picked up a copy of "Dateline Vermont", while visiting Montpelier, the state capital. As the former Vermont bureau chief for the Associated Press, Graff covered Vermont politics for more than 25 years. In this memoir, he describes such momentous events as the rise and fall of Howard Dean, the defection of Senator Jim Jeffords from the Republican Party, and the rise of Bernie Sanders, the only democratic socialist in the United States Senate.
Though I enjoyed parts of the book, such as the the section on how the Vermont state legislature recognized same sex civil unions, I was disappointed overall. The main reason for this is that Graff's memoir failed to provide what I was looking for, namely, a good explanation of why Vermont turned its back on the Republican party. To be fair, this book does provide a thorough description of modern-day Vermont politics. What I did not find, however, was a strong analysis of why these events took place.
In short, this is an interesting read for serious students of Vermont politics. This being said, for those who don't live in New England -- which includes this Canadian -- this book is simply OK.
2 1/2 out of 5 stars
How Barack Obama Won: A State-by-State Guide to the Historic 2008 Presidential Election by Chuck Todd
Unfortunately, this book does not offer any new insights, but rather rehashes what Todd has already said on TV. To be fair, political junkies will be pleased with the numerous statistics that slice and dice the U.S. electorate into countless pieces. For those who want greater context, however, this book is surprisingly weak on overall analysis, especially in the introduction, which is the weakest part of the book.
In short, I was expecting a lot more from Todd. To use an analogy, this work is like a book on World War II that contains pages and pages of statistics -- e.g. how many soldiers died; how many guns were used; how many tanks were built -- without providing a good explanation of why the war occurred in the first place. As such, I couldn't help but think that this book was simply a rushed job that was put together to cash in on the post-election window.
2 out of 5 stars
More of a social analysis than a classic mystery novel, this book touches on such themes as domestic abuse, the withering away of Pennsylvania’s coal industry, and the petty politics that surround City Hall. Amidst this fascinating context is Constantine’s genius for writing dialogue, as well as his unflinching honesty. For the characters in this book are not one-dimensional people, but rather real human beings who possess a strong belief in hard work and family values, while also displaying a not-too-subtle racism and, for too many of the men, a dangerous acceptance of misogyny.
In short, this story is a real picture of blue collar life, with warts and all, that will leave the reader wondering why Constantine is not a much better known writer
3 out of 5 stars
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Unfortunately, the last chapter of the book is a complete disaster. Like many literary train wrecks the concluding section is based on good intentions. Disturbed by the Bush Administration’s reaction to September 11th, and in particular the passing of the Patriot Act, Paretsky writes a passionate defence of free speech. Her tone, however, is so shrill that it could pass of as a left-wing version of Fox News. Furthermore, some of her claims are highly dubious.
As a case in point, the last chapter argues, among other things, that media concentration in the publishing industry will limit the number of writers who can get published. This point, however, is contradicted by an earlier observation in which Paretsky writes that there are now so many female writers telling stories with strong women heroes that she can’t keep track of them all. Moreover, reading her memoir in 2009 with President Obama in the White House, the reader can be forgiven for thinking that her pessimism about the Unites States is highly exaggerated. This point becomes ironic when we find out that Paretsky lives in Chicago, the city that President Obama has called home for many years. In short, I found this book to be well written and fascinating in parts, while shrill and grossly one-sided in others.
2 1/2 out of 5 stars