Book Reviews: Capital Punishment by Robert Wilson, Original Skin by David Mark, and Andrew’s Brain by E. L. Doctorow

Capital MurderCapital Punishment
Robert Wilson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2013
ISBN: 978-0-547-93519-5-5
Hardcover

It’s not often that kidnappers do not demand money in exchange for the victim.  But that is precisely what happens when Alyshia D’Cruz, daughter of an Indian billionaire, Frank D’Cruz, is grabbed one night in London, and she is subjected to intense psychological interrogation, for reasons that are unclear to her father.

The ramifications of the abduction are wide.  One possible motive is revenge on her father—but at whose instigation and for what reason: Gangster associates with whom he has been in business?  Terrorists in Pakistan, where he has operations and dealings with intelligence agents?  There are other theories involving MI-6 and other spy agencies, personal relationships of various characters, including Frank’s ex-wife, Frank’s relationship with his daughter, and her relationship with her mother (Frank’s ex-wife).  Ultimately Charles Boxer, a private security officer, is retained by Frank to rescue his daughter.

This is a very complicated novel, written with great depth and on many levels, encompassing religious fanatics, Indian mobsters, London crime lords, Pakistani politics, and British government officials, all kinds of plots within plots and distorted personal relationships.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2013.

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Original SkinOriginal Skin
David Mark
Blue Rider Press, May 2013
ISBN: 978-0-399-15865-0
Hardcover

Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy showed in his debut in The Dark Winter that he not only blushes easily, but his gut leads him to see crimes passed over by others.  Once again, he follows his instincts to solve a murder chalked up by others in the CID as a suicide.  It’s not as if the Yorkshire Serious and Organized Crime Unit hasn’t enough to do, but by conducting his “informal” investigation, McAvoy brings the “solve” statistics way up as at least two more murders occur.

Simultaneously, the Unit is overwhelmed by a series of crimes brought about by a vicious group seeking to take over the drug trade previously run by Vietnamese.  But McAvoy sniffs foul play in the year-old discovery of the nude body of a young man found choked in his home, hanging in his kitchen.  So he looks into it informally, with a sort of blessing by his superior, Detective Trish Pharaoh, and learns more about underground erotic sex activities than he bargained for, as well as coming too close to politicians who can cause him more trouble than it’s worth.

The plot moves swiftly, and the interchanges between Aector and Trish are so understated and poignant that the reader can only marvel at the author’s low-key approach.  This follow-up to the debut novel is more than a worthy successor; it is a wonderful addition to the series, which, we hope, will continue strongly in the future.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2013.

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Andrew's BrainAndrew’s Brain
E. L. Doctorow
Random House, January 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6881-4
Hardcover

The eponymous Andrew reminds me of the Al Capp (Li’l Abner) character,Joe Mxstlpk, who walked under a black cloud and was followed by a calamity wherever he went.  That is the story told by this Andrew, presumably to a psychologist or “shrink,” of his life:  the trials and tribulations, loves and losses, highs and lows.  In a way, the novel also reminds me somewhat of James Joyce’s Ulysses, except that it is written in clear prose and complete sentences.  The tale is related in a disjointed stream of consciousness, flitting from topic to topic, but is grouped into eleven “chapters,” various phases of Andrew’s life.  Apparently, Mr. Doctorow set out to write a book of very different quality than his previous efforts, which include such popular novels as World’s Fair, Billy Bathgate, Loon Lake and Ragtime [which also found its way into a hit musical].

It is unfortunate that this novel may not attract readers of his previous work, although it should gain plenty of critical acclaim.  As such, it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2013.

One thought on “Book Reviews: Capital Punishment by Robert Wilson, Original Skin by David Mark, and Andrew’s Brain by E. L. Doctorow

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