People say you should never judge a book by its cover, and while that may be true, its also foolish to think that a book cover bears no weight on one’s decision to invest in reading a book. When I was walking through Barnes N’ Noble, I only picked up Lauren Beukes’ novel, Broken Monsters, because the cover caught my interest. However, it was the synopsis, and online reviews that actually piqued my interest enough to purchase this book. I had hopes that this would be a cool avant garde horror novel that would serve as a good read while bored at work, but I was very pleasantly surprised to find that this was a story worth losing sleep over. It does start off slow, as each chapter is from the perspective of a different character and none, except the detective and her daughter, seem to relate. However, once their stories begin to connect to one another, it becomes increasingly difficult to put down until you suddenly realize it’s 4:00 AM and you are too spooked to sleep without a light on.
Come for the cover, jacket copy, and online reviews—and stay for the imaginative, propulsive writing.
CROSSING JORDAN. “Pilot Episode.” NBC. 24 September 2001 (Season 1, Episode 1). Jill Hennessy, Miguel Ferrer, Ken Howard, Lois Nettleton, plus a large ensemble cast. Creator/screenwriter: Tim Kring. Director: Allan Arkush.
Please forgive the lack of screen credits. This is the only episode of Crossing Jordan I’ve seen so far, and I haven’t yet placed names with faces, nor do I know how long some of the faces will last. I didn’t include any names in the guest cast, either, since most of this first episode was devoted to introducing the characters, not the story itself.
Which was OK, or maybe even more than that, but if you’ll allow me, I’ll get to that in a minute. The series was on for six years, and I won’t lie to you: I’d barely heard of it before buying a box set of DVDs of the first season. I can’t tell you why it’s been under my radar all this time.
Or maybe I can. (A) A lack of time to follow everything that’s on TV, even crime-solving shows, and (B) an assumption that new shows won’t last, so why start watching them, but missing one like this one that does catch on, and it’s too late to catch up with the story line, or so I think.
Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh (Jill Hennessy) is a medical examiner who insists on helping the police solve the cases her dead bodies involve her in, against all of their wishes. She’s beautiful, smart-talking, feisty, has a problem with anger management, and as a direct result, she has run out of places to work until her former boss, Dr. Garret Macy (Miguel Ferrer), convinces his superiorss to hire her back at the Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
I gather her father (Ken Howard) doesn’t stick around for the entire series, but at least during the first season he’s an ex-homicide detective who helps Jordan solve her cases by playing a version of killer/victim to re-enact the crime given the facts as she has them. He’s glad to see her again, but Jordan has problems, in the pilot, at least, with the fact that there is a new woman in his life, Jordan’s mother having been murdered when she was a child. This may explain some of the chips on her shoulder.
There are quite few others in the ensemble cast, as I said earlier, all of whom get a brief introduction and some exposure in this first episode. The story itself is interesting without being overly memorable. It turns out that a young prostitute, found dead in an alley and suspected of dying of a drug overdose, is actually a virgin. It is then discovered that she came to Boston looking for her father, and — well, I needn’t tell you everything, need I?
I do like the characters, and so did the general viewing public, given that the series lasted for so long. It’s one I’ll keep watching, at least through the first season, which is all that’s been officially released on DVD. (The problem being rights to the music played in the back ground.)
The book featured in this week's podcast review, Corpse Diplomatique, was the third in the series of books by Delano Ames to feature Dagobert and Jane.
The first book featuring this rather odd couple was called She Shall Have Murder, published in 1948. I first reviewed this book several years ago - and enjoyed it. Here's how I summarized it:
Jane works in the office of a London law firm. As with most law firms, it has its share of difficult clients. One of those clients, a Mrs. Robjohn, who believes that she is being spied upon and followed, is found dead one morning, the apparent victim of an accident involving a gas line. The police – and almost everyone else – are satisfied with the verdict of accidental death.
Jane’s boyfriend, Dagobert, however, is suspicious. And he is soon able to prove – to his and Jane’s satisfaction, at least – that the old woman must have been murdered. We are never told exactly why the evidence did not make the police suspicious, but this IS a mystery novel, after all, and the fictional detectives have to be given some leeway.
At any rate, Jane and Dagobert set out to investigate further. I should mention that Dagobert is unemployed – which, at this point in his life, appears to be a chronic condition – and he is quite happy to have the amateur detective work to fill up his time.
There's more, to be sure - and you can listen to the original podcast review by clicking here. I'm happy to say that the Manor Minor Press has a Kindle edition of She Shall Have Murder available. They also have an e-book version of Corpse Diplomatique as well, and they say they're trying to get hold of the other Dagobert and Jane books. They're entertaining, funny and good reads.
- David Morrell
Posted: 23 Mar 2015 02:16 PM PDT
Michael Crichton was a writer who knew how to write, and what he chose to write seemingly meant something to him. His later novels tended to deal with science, technology and ethics, and his early works—particularly the novels written “as by”—dealt with both youth and culture in a strikingly simple and meaningful manner. His 1968 novel A Case of Need written as by Jeffery Hudson is not only the best of his early works, but it is also arguably his best novel.
John Berry is a pathologist at a Boston hospital and the novel opens with a heart surgeon ranting about losing a patient on the table. Berry doesn’t pay much attention because this is how the surgeon deals with the stress and anger of a lost patient. The rant, like everything in the novel, has the subtle feel of reality and prepares the scene for the main crux of the novel: an abortion gone wrong. A procedure that was illegal when the novel was published and no less controversial than it is today.
Dr. Art Lee is an OBGYN and an abortionist. He is also one of John Berry’s best friends. When a young woman dies in an ER hemorrhaging from a botched abortion, Dr. Lee is the primary suspect. This sets the novel in motion—John Berry is certain his friend didn’t perform the procedure and he wants to clear Dr. Lee’s name, but his motives become less clear as the novel unravels.
A Case of Need is a crossroads novel between Mr Crichton’s early pulp adventure novels and his larger, more complex modern novels. It is something like a DMZ between the John Lange thrillers and The Andromeda Strain. It features many of the hallmarks of his later works, particularly cultural and medical ethics, but it is wrapped in a damn terrific mystery. It won an Edgar in 1969 for best novel and it represents Crichton’s talent at its highest.
What truly separates A Case of Need from the herd is its setting, theme and dialogue. The setting is the world of medicine. It clearly focuses the reader’s attention on not only what it is like, or was like, to be a work-a-day physician, but it also thematically explores the ethical decisions that lurk in the industry. It gives a murky representation of abortion and its relation to both physicians who perform the procedure and those who do not. And the dialogue is vintage Crichton; it moves the story forward in quick and linear fashion.
There really isn’t anything about the novel that is weak or underdeveloped. The prose is strong and vivid—
“All heart surgeons are bastards, and Conway is no exception. He came storming into the path lab at 8:30 in the morning, still wearing his green surgical gown and cap, and he was furious.”
The mystery is plotted perfectly and the suspense is built as well as any novel I have read. It begins with what appears to be a moment of subterfuge—the angry heart surgeon—but ties the seemingly out-of-place opening scene perfectly into the theme of the story; the imperfect surgeon struggling with his own limitations and balancing the imperfections of society with the needs and demands of his patients.
A Case of Need is a terrific novel that is as relevant and entertaining today as it was forty years ago. In a sense it is very much a novel of its time, but it also has a timeless quality in that the questions it never quite answers will continue to debated generations from now. And it very well may be the evidence we need to prove Michael Crichton was from another world. He really was that good, and this novel proves it.
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Wyatt Storme is an ex-football player and Vietnam veteran who is visited by his old pal and psycho sidekick, the ex-CIA agent Chick Easton. Chick asks him for help protecting a bad boy movie-star during the shoot of a Western movie. There's also an old enemy of Storme lurking around.
Storme is a really cool guy, a real John Wayne kind of guy. Tall, honest, kind to women and a bit of a loner. He also gets in quite a few witty lines in the Spenser veign. Chick is an almost superhuman sidekick, where there's of course some comparisons to Hawk
The story is paced well with enough twists and action and a shift to the POV of Storme's old enemy that nevers confuses or annoys.
Great, old-fashioned PI writing and a MUST for fans of Spenser, Elvis Cole or my own Noah Milano.
One of my favorite books of the year so far.