The Age of Doubt
Translated by Stephen Sartarelli
Penguin, June 2012
The books in the Inspector Montalbano series usually are lighthearted stories about the Sicilian detective combined with a mystery for him to solve. However, while in this novel he does have a mystery to solve, this entry reflects more of his introspection. The contrasts are intriguing, to say the least. It begins when the Inspector rescues a bespectacled, rather mousy woman whose car is about to be swallowed into a chasm, or sinkhole, created in a collapsed road. She tells him she’s the niece of a rich widow whose yacht is about to enter port.
When the boat does enter the port, it brings with it a corpse and a dinghy retrieved at the mouth of the harbor. The victim’s face was smashed, and the fingerprints are not on file, making identification extremely difficult. The yacht docks alongside a luxury craft, whose crew appears suspicious. This leads Montalbano on a convoluted investigation based on information – – or misinformation – – the woman has given him.
As usual, the Inspector’s lusty appetite is exhibited, with descriptions of lunches and dinners at his favorite restaurant, or dishes left for him to heat in the oven by his housekeeper. Perhaps more poignant is a side story about the 58-year-old Inspector’s possible love interest, a beautiful young woman Coast Guard lieutenant he meets during the investigation. It makes him even more human as a character, lightening what would otherwise be a heavy murder mystery.
Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2012.
Elegy for Eddie
Harper Perennial, October 2012
The Maisie Dobbs series, now with nine entries, has taken her from World War I, where she served as a nurse, to the cusp of the Second World War. In this novel, there are three themes which can tend to confuse the reader until the author brings them together and makes sense out of what at first appear to be separate subplots.
To start with, a delegation from Lambeth, scene of Maisie’s childhood, visits her to engage her services as an investigator to find out how a young man died in a paper factory. The other two plot lines, one more personal to her than the other, has Maisie questioning her own motives and standards as well as her relationship with her lover; and the last involving the stealth campaign of Winston Churchill to prepare Great Britain for the possible war with Nazi Germany.
The book is equal to its predecessors in characterization and human interest. Obviously, it is more political in tone than its forerunners, given the time in which it takes place: the depression era and rise of Adolf Hitler. While Maisie’s introspections may be overdone, they certainly are in keeping with the character.
Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2012.
Harper, December 2012
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The fact that the author long served as a defense attorney in 30 murder trials permeates this tale of terrorism, murder and treason. It is the third novel featuring Brad Miller, an attorney; his wife, Ginny, also an attorney; and Dana Cutler, a dogged private investigator and sometime reporter for a sleazy Washington supermarket scandal sheet. In previous books, their investigation revealed the role of a President in a series of murders and saved the life of a Supreme Court Justice while preventing a CIA plot to fix a case before the Court.
Now Brad is serving as the legislative assistant to the U.S. Senator from Oregon and Ginny is working at the Department of Justice. Murders in Oregon and the District of Columbia seem to implicate an escaped serial murderer, one of whose previous convictions Brad helped to overturn. But, of course, nothing is what it appears to be. A terrorist plot surpassing the Twin Towers destruction completes the story, uniting all the elements.
The plot is pretty much humdrum, and the characterizations less than fully developed, but Mr. Margolin certainly knows how to spin a narrative. In the end, he makes sense out of the diverse elements in an interesting manner. It is, perhaps, a light read, but still one that is recommended.
Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2012.
The Riptide Ultra-Glide
Morrow, February 2013
There’s nothing sane about a novel featuring Serge A. Storms and his sidekick, Coleman. There usually is a plot, but the real show is the madcap escapades and far-out situations described. And no less so are the irreverent observations from Serge’s mouth. Too numerous to mention.
As in the former entries in the series, this novel takes place in Florida, giving Serge the opportunity to hold forth on the many locales and highlights of the State. It begins with Serge and Coleman driving down to the Keys, filming what is to be a reality show on a camcorder. And the rest of the book, of course, turns out to be surreal, when a couple of teachers from Wisconsin lose their job and decide to go to the Sunshine State on vacation. Instead they become embroiled in the midst of two gangs fighting for control of drug traffic. It remains for Serge to rescue them.
The novels in this series are not particularly easy reading because much of the time Serge’s observations and comments are so outlandish that the reader has to stop and regroup. But, crazy as it sounds, most of the time they make sense. Nevertheless, a Serge A. Storms novel is always enjoyable. And recommended.
Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2013.