Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Murder Room by Michael Cappuzo

Reviewed by Jeanne
Eugene Francois Vidocq was a Frenchman who spent much of his early life either in prison or evading the law.  He was a thief, a duelist, and forger, among other things.  Then he decided he was tired of being on run or in prison.  He tried to become a merchant but his past had a habit of catching up to him. Finally, he struck a deal with Jean Henry, the chief of police in Paris:  he would serve as an informant and in return he could stop running when released.  He proved an invaluable resource; so much so that he later formed an influential plainclothes police force to investigate crimes.  His methods were revolutionary, and he has become known as “the father of criminology.”  Vidocq inspired a number of fictional characters; most notable to modern audiences, perhaps, are Jean Valjean  and Inspector Javert of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
About 150 years after his death, a dedicated group of professional investigators formed the Vidocq Society. Membership is by invitation and limited to 150. The group includes police investigators, forensic pathologists, profilers, blood spatter experts and others whose skills give them an edge in solving crimes.  They only take cases by request and the case must be at least two years old.  They’ve had some extraordinary success stories and been the subject of numerous news stories.  
To tell the story of this amazing group, Michael Capuzzo has written The Murder Room:  The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World’s Most Perplexing Cases.  He concentrates on three of the founders (sculptor Frank Bender, criminal profiler Richard Walter, and Commissioner William Fleisher) and recounts some of their more memorable cases.
My admiration for the Vidocq Society knows no bounds.  These are truly dedicated people—people who really deserve to have a better book written about them.  There are sentences that lack coherence; repetitive phrases; cases are shuffled around in different chapters; and, saddest of all, some sensational but unsubstantiated solutions tossed in.   There should have been enough real cases with evidence and verdicts to fill the book without resorting to this.  The narrative is convoluted and disjointed.  At times I skipped ahead in the book to try to find the outcome of one case, because the author had decided to start recounting an entirely different case before revealing what happened in the first case.
If you can make it through the stilted prose (for the sake of your liver, don’t make a drinking game out of the use of “evil eyes,” “cold eyes,” or the ever popular “cold, evil eyes”), you’ll find a number of well known and not so well known cases recounted.  One of the better known is the John List case, the man who murdered his entire family and then vanished for nearly two decades, before Bender’s superb bust of what List would look like coupled with an excellent psychological profile by Walter led to his capture; another such case is that of Marie Noe, who for years was pitied as the mother who lost so many children to SIDS, but who actually had murdered them. A number of other cases are sprinkled in, including historical cases going back decades.
This book is for those who enjoy true crime stories and want insight as to how some famous cases were actually solved but be aware that the writing style can be a distraction.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Nevermore: 18 Acres, The Inquisitor, 13th Tribe and more

Nicolle Wallace has years of Washington experience both as a political commentator and as White House communications director under George W. Bush. She puts this experience to good use in Eighteen Acres, a novel about the first woman president.  Charlotte Kramer is considering a run for a second term when a close friend makes a terrible error in judgment which threatens national security and Charlotte’s husband’s affair with a reporter is revealed. The book was characterized as a fun read, but without a lot of serious political insights.
Another first novel is The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith which features an interrogator known only as Geiger, a man who specializes in getting information out of even the most taciturn of subjects.  Geiger’s methods are mostly psychological rather than physical but his goal is to get information no matter the physical, emotional or mental cost to the interrogated.  Then a client brings in a twelve year old boy to be questioned, and soon both their lives are at risk. Our reviewer found this to be a thrilling page- turner of a book. 
The Thirteenth Tribe  by Robert Liparulo is a fantasy thriller which pits a former Army Ranger against a band of immortals who were once a part of the twelve tribes of Israel, but who were cursed for worshipping a pagan idol.  They hope to earn God’s forgiveness by executing sinners, and unless Jagger Baird can stop them, they’re going to wipe out millions.
Another one of our readers is making his way through all of Terry Prachett’s writing.  Currently he’s working on the Discworld series, which features golems, werewolves, dwarves and other fantastical creatures in a long running, extremely funny series that provides some of the best social satire around. A favorite character is Death, who rides a pale horse named Binky.  Death likes humans, even if he doesn’t quite understand them—not even his granddaughter, Susan, a no-nonsense teacher who has had to substitute for her grandfather on occasion.
Although The Woman Who Wasn’t There by Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo sounds as if it would be fiction, it’s the true story of Tania Head, a woman whose story of escaping from the 96th floor of the South Tower made her a champion for those who had been injured or had lost loved ones.  She helped found the “World Trade Center Survivors’ Network,” spoke tirelessly on behalf of survivors, and inspired many with her quiet courage.  There was only one problem: Tania wasn’t even in the U.S. when the attacks occurred. One reviewer said that this read like a thriller.
Daniel Woodrell isn’t yet a household name, but our reviewer thinks that should change.  Woodrell is the author of Tomato Red, a fine example of what Woodrell calls “country noir.”  His stories are dark, violent, and utterly unforgettable.  Most of his books are set in the Missouri Ozarks.  His best known book is probably Winter’s Bone which was made into an award-winning film.  It tells the story of sixteen year old Ree Dolly, trying to take care of her two younger brothers and ill mother.  Things take a turn for the worse when Ree discovers that her father used the house as collateral to get out of jail, and unless he shows up in court, the family will be homeless so Ree sets out to find him.  Booklist describes the writing as “spare but evocative” and that the story is told with “stunning realism.”

The Nevermore Book Club meets every Tuesday at 11:00 AM.  We talk about what we're currently reading, listen to recommendations from others and enjoy doughnuts from the Blackbird Bakery!

Friday, August 24, 2012

I Capture the Castle

Reviewed by Jeanne
When the BBC polled British citizens for their favorite books, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith came in at #82 on a list that included Tolkien, Jane Austen, J.K. Rolling, John Steinbeck, Tolstoy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dickens and Alexander Dumas.  This slid right by me at the time, but not long afterwards the book was mentioned again, and then again, on a couple of book lists. Apparently it was one of those books held near and dear to readers, like To Kill A Mockingbird or Catcher in the Rye, and whose fans hold it as a touchstone. When the book was reprinted and the library bought a copy, I decided I should at least give it a try to see what all the fuss was about.
The book is set vaguely in the early 1930s, though an exact date isn’t specified. As the book opens, seventeen year old Cassandra Mortmain is writing in her journal, sitting in a sink.  She explains that she’s discovered that the best place to write is somewhere unexpected and different.  This fuels creativity, and she is surrounded by creativity.  There’s her father, who once wrote an astonishing novel that made him the toast of two continents, and who enjoyed wealth and fame as a consequence.  Unfortunately, he has written nothing since and the family is eking out a living in a crumbling castle where they’re months behind on the rent and food is in scant supply.  Topaz, her stepmother, has been an artist’s model and still earns most of what money the family has by going to London and modeling.  She’s a free spirit, a nudist occasionally, and she lives to be a muse to artists.  Rose, Cassandra’s sister, is weary of living in poverty and dead set on finding a way out or, barring that, a way to make it somewhat more endurable by doing things like dying all their old clothes to try to make them look semi-respectable.  Rounding out the household are Thomas, the youngest child, who is still going to school and Stephen, whose late mother was a maid to the Mortmain family.  Stephen is a teenager and is very much in love with Cassandra but she sees him more as a brother than a suitor.
Enter two American brothers, Simon and Neil Cotton.  Their grandfather was a titled landowner, including the castle the Mortmain family rents, and elder brother Simon now inherits it all.  Rose decides immediately that here is a way out: she’ll dazzle Simon so that he marries her and she will save her family from destitution. 
When I started the book, I noticed its charm but wasn’t immediately enthralled.  I harbored suspicions that the Americans might be clumsy, ill-bred folk (they weren’t), that it was going to be too cutesy (it wasn’t) and that I could guess exactly how it would end (boy, was I wrong.) I also thought that perhaps I was reading the book too late—that it was something I’d have loved had I been in my twenties and just never you mind by how many years I was missing that goal. However,  I was enjoying it enough that I continued to read and by the time I hit this wonderful scene where the Mortmains are trying to give a dinner party for the Cottons, only the Mortmains are short on food, chairs, silverware, tablecloths and a table, I was hooked.  The story enchants mostly because of Cassandra, a girl on the brink of womanhood, still idealistic enough to see the good in people but already more aware than most of life’s troubles.  She doesn’t rail at the injustices of their plight, but tries to make the best of a bad situation.  I think though that it’s her pleasure and delight at small windfalls that won me over: the luxury of a chocolate bar that Stephen has bought for her, the pleasure at having a journal to write down her thoughts, their books, and her love of family.  I think the two words that sum the book up best are “love” and “hope.” 
For all that it isn’t a saccharine sort of book.  It’s sweet, funny— laugh out loud funny at times—as well as poignant and lively.  Early on in the book, Cassandra and Rose discuss whether they’d rather be a heroine in Charlotte Bronte’s books or one from Jane Austen’s and conclude that the appeal of both is that you still want to know what happens to the characters after the book ends.  By that criterion, this book succeeds as well as those do:  I do want to know what happened afterwards and not just to Rose and Cassandra, but to all the book characters.
Note:  If you think the name Dodie Smith sounds familiar, you may be a fan of “A Hundred and One Dalmatians.”  Smith, a dog lover, wrote the novel on which the movies have been based, and Pongo the character was inspired by her own Dalmatian dog also named Pongo.  I Capture the Castle was her first novel, written in 1946 when she and her husband were living in America and she was feeling homesick for England.  Dalmatians  was her second novel, written in 1956.  She had begun her career as a playwright, producing seven before she ever wrote her first novel. She worked in Hollywood as a screenwriter during the American sojourn.
Disney held the film rights to I Capture the Castle for decades.  After Ms. Smith died, her literary executor won the rights back and in 2003 a movie was made at last.  Bill Nighy starred as Mr. Mortmain.  The movie pleased a number of devoted fans and got good reviews.  I saw it on DVD and while I enjoyed it, as with so many movie versions it somehow didn’t have quite the charm of the book.  I think I would have liked the movie more had I not read the book—but isn't that true a most movies from books? The book I will remember with fondness; I'm not sure I'll remember the movie very long.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Nevermore: Fiction

Canada is the new novel from Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Ford, best known for his Bascombe trilogy.   Dell Parsons is still a teenager when his parents are caught robbing a bank.  His twin sister Berner runs away, while Dell hides out in a Canadian hunting lodge with an American who is supposed to be a family friend but who has a violent streak. The story is told in retrospect by an adult Dell.  Our reviewer was unimpressed by the mushy story line and unsympathetic characters.
On the other hand, The Good Father by Noah Hawley won high marks.  Our reviewer called it beautifully written and thought provoking. Dr. Paul Allen is a successful Manhattan rheumatologist with a happy marriage and twin sons.  He’s made a career out of caring for difficult patients and solving their problems.  Life is good.  Then a presidential candidate is assassinated, and Dr. Allen finds the Secret Service at his door.  They tell him that his son Daniel, a product of his first marriage, is the murderer. Unable to believe it, Dr. Allen sets out to try to piece together what really happened.
Two of Larry McMurtry’s early books came up for discussion.  Horseman, Pass By was considered quite a revelation when it was first published in 1961.  It was an unsentimental look at the clash between the old Western values and a changing landscape.  The book was the basis for the classic movie, “Hud.”  All My Friends Are Going to be Strangers  It’s the story of a young writer who leaves Texas and heads for California, chasing a dream of fame and fortune.  One reviewer found it delightful, evoking the late 60s era and featuring unforgettable characters (some of whom turn up in other McMurtry books).  A second reader gave up on it in short order, proving once again that not every book is for every person. came out in 1972, but included some characters from a previous novel.
John Grisham’s Calico Joe has been mentioned in several meetings.  Most of our reviewers have been surprised at how much they enjoyed this atypical Grisham novel.  Instead of a courtroom drama, this novel is rooted in baseball.  Joe Castle is a young player from Arkansas who bursts into the big leagues as an amazing batter in a sports version of a Cinderella story. The crowds adore him, dubbing him Calico Joe after his hometown.  Then he faces pitcher Warren Tracey, an angry, hard-drinking man who throws one pitch that changes both their lives.  The story is told by Tracey’s son Paul, who was 11 years old at the time of the pitch; thirty years later, Paul is seeking some sort of closure to the story.  Grisham’s novel echoes the real story of Carl Mays and Roy Chapman.  This isn’t a book just for baseball fans; it’s for anyone who enjoys a good story.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Nine Lives Last Forever & How to Moon a Cat by Rebecca Hale

Reviewed by Jeanne
Some time back I wrote a review of How to Wash a Cat, the first book in the “Cats and Curios Series.”  I said I wasn’t exactly enthralled with it.  You can read the actual review here:
Several folk from the mystery list Dorothy-L agreed with my assessment, though at least one still thought I was being too kind.  I don’t like to do hatchet reviews, even though one can make those vastly entertaining with all sorts of snarky remarks.  (Does anyone remember the good reviews from Dorothy Parker?  Nope, they remember that she wrote of Katherine Hepburn’s performance that she “ran the gamut of emotions from A to B.”) 
Anyway, having a streak of masochism, I will sometimes continue to read books in series that I don’t think I like in the vague hopes that perhaps the next one won’t be quite as bad.  This is a difficult proposition because while I am indeed gullible, I’m not so gullible that I go into the book with a clean slate.  I start reading suspiciously, waiting to be disappointed. That’s the way I started the second book in the series, Nine Lives Last Forever.  The first thing I noticed was that at certain sections the point of view switched from “I” to some omniscient narrator.  “And just who is telling this tale now?” sniffed I to Melon, my obese feline friend.  I did have to admit, though not to Melon, that some of the description was kind of nifty.  Then the point of view shifted to the perspective of—I kid you not—a frog.  The frog turned its head.  Can frogs turn their heads? Since they don’t have necks, I don’t think so.  Another black mark, right?
Well, I had to admit to myself (if not Melon) that I still kind of liked the section about the frogs.  I was starting to worry about my little amphibian friends in this story and I am not a person who is particularly attached to frogs.  I began to have the sneaking suspicion that I was enjoying this book.  Darn.
I also began to suspect that a lot of the things I’d been taking seriously were, in the immortal words of Foghorn Leghorn, “a joke, son, just a joke.” So I loosened up and, sure enough, it was much more fun.  So much fun that I started the third book, How to Moon a Cat, and checked to see when the fourth comes out.   Early on in the book, one of the cats, Rupert, is upset at a duffle bag because that bag takes his person away and he doesn’t like it.  He thought they had an agreement:  he let her call him Rupert and in return, she takes care of his every need.
Yes, this was a fine piece of feline logic. I tried not to get my hopes up, but pretty soon I found I was enjoying this third book.
I don’t think it a total coincidence that there was less first person narration.  Part of the problem with the first book was my feeling that the “I”/Rebecca character was –well, an idiot.  There are clues dropped everywhere but she didn’t bother to pick one up, much less follow through.  The third person narration lets the reader in on the joke in a way the first book couldn’t.  There are several delightful sequences with the cats that made me laugh out loud, and I must say I did enjoy the moon’s role.  (Yes, the moon is occasionally personified.  I would have—well, did, actually roll my eyes, but somehow it worked.)  The characters were better defined.  Isabelle, Rupert’s feline sister, takes a very dim view of her somewhat dim brother, and will probably solve the mystery long before her owner does.  Human friend Monty is always sure he’s going to be the hero and star, and never lets a bruised ego (or other part of his anatomy) get in the way of another grand entrance.  Monty, needless to say, is also ditsy.
The series set up is that Rebecca has inherited an antiques and curio shop from her late uncle who apparently died of a heart attack, though Rebecca made no effort to check out the funeral home, death certificate or anything else.  Uncle Oscar was (or, perhaps, IS) a California history buff and, as it turns out, has left clues for Rebecca to solve, all involving California history. Uncle Oscar apparently has an arch enemy who is searching for something Oscar had, and he’s ruthless in his efforts to obtain it. Unfortunately for Rebecca, she has no idea what’s going on but she gradually realizes that she’s being stalked by someone dangerous, someone who dabbles in untraceable poisons and is a master of disguise.  This is the part where you either decide to go with the flow and suspend disbelief or toss the book across the room. 
I don’t know a great deal about California history, so the books could be a good learning experience.  I have to say that some of the characters are very opinionated so I would occasionally check other sources to see what more objective writers had to say.  In general, though, I found it all very interesting.  In the third book, there was a different view of John Fremont than the one I had from the Irving Stone novel Immortal Wife; that was a bit of a surprise in a good way, prompting me to re-examine some things I thought I knew.  In some cases there was more than I cared to know about California history so I just merrily skipped those parts and moved on without ill effects.  (One reviewer complained about the amount of history in the book.  It does get very wordy in there.  As I said, I skipped.)  I’m not reading these to solve the overall mystery.  I just want to know what’s going on with Rupert and Isabelle, what crazy stunt Monty will pull next, and if Mark Twain will show up again.  It’s that kind of a series.
In short, this isn’t a slapstick Stephanie Plum novel nor is it a realistic novel a la Margaret Maron.  It’s a whimsical book, a cloak and dagger cozy, and something of an acquired taste, but I found it to be qualified fun.  I'm looking forward to the fourth book, How to Tail a Cat, due out September 4.
Melon's impression of a moon. Or a cat.  We're not sure.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Read 'Em Before You See 'Em: Books Into Film

Lawless will be hitting movie screens August 31.  The film stars Shia LaBeouf as Jack Bondurant, one of the bootlegging Bondurant brothers who ran moonshine in Franklin County, Virginia during the Great Depression.  Some shady lawmen wanted a cut of the profits and the result was the bloody episode known as the “Great Moonshine Conspiracy.”  The movie is adapted from the novel The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant—and no, the name isn’t a coincidence.  Though billed as a novel, it’s based on the true story of Bondurant’s grandfather and great uncles.  Incidentally, the writer Sherwood Anderson lived in the area at the time, and it was he who dubbed Franklin “Wettest County in the World” because of all the moonshining.  The cast of the movie includes Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman
Of course, one highly anticipated book into film has been hit by a bit more drama than the studio intended, but still Breaking Dawn pt. 2 is expected to be one of the more lucrative films.  Since this was the last book in the “Twilight” series, the next Stephenie Meyer book to be a movie is The Host, a science fiction story of an alien and a human who find themselves in an uneasy alliance—and a single body.
Charlie is struggling with love, death, and being fifteen in the novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky which will be coming to theaters this September.  Emma Watson plays Sam,  Charlie’s crush.  Fans are excited that Chbosky wrote the screenplay for the movie, so it should be true to the book.
Lee Child fans are awaiting the arrival in theaters of Jack ReacherHow they’re waiting is another question entirely!  Some are eager to see the ex-MP troubleshooter on screen, introducing this fascinating character to a whole new audience.  Others are troubled by the casting of Tom Cruise for a character who is supposed to be 6’5” and … um… not Tom Cruise.   A third faction is going to ignore the movie altogether.  If you’re intrigued, the movie is based on the novel One Shot.
The Paperboy is based on the novel of the same name by Pete Dexter.  It stars Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron and Matthew McConaughey in this tale of a reporter working on a story involving an inmate on death row who was convicted of killing a local sheriff. The reporter is brought into the story by a woman who has fallen in love with the inmate via the mail, and wants to prove his innocence.
Dean Koontz has been wary of having his books filmed, but after reading a script and meeting the director he liked, he signed off on a movie version of Odd Thomas, one of his best loved characters.  Odd is a short-order cook who can hear the dead and occasionally is called upon to save the world.  The movie stars Anton Yelchin, Willem Dafoe and Melissa Ordway, and will be out in 2013.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell was a bestselling book that brilliantly blended characters from different times and places to tell one interconnected story, and how actions have consequences that can last for years.  The movie has a great cast:  Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Susan Sarandan.
Tolkien fans are anxiously awaiting The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey, the first part of the book adaptation from Peter Jackson.  Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy received almost universal acclaim for his fidelity to Tolkien’s books and The Hobbit should be more of the same.  The movie brings back Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, and Christopher Lee and introduces Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins.
The Life of Pi by Yann Martell is something of a cult classic.  It’s the story of a young man, the son of a zoo keeper, who is sailing with his family and an assortment of animals to Canada.  Then the ship sinks, and the young man finds himself on a small boat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and a tiger.  The film is scheduled for a November  2012 release.
Oz:  The Great and Powerful is the story of how a young sideshow magician ended up as the Wizard of Oz.  James Franco, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz star in the adaptation of L. Frank Baum's stories. 

Pam aka Mrs. Neal aka The World's Greatest Librarian (and she has a sign from her teens to prove it!) is anxiously awaiting the film version of Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stolh.  It's a YA fantasy set in a sleepy little South Carolina town where 17 year old Ethan is counting the days until he can leave Gatlin in his rear view mirror.  Then Lena and her family move to town, carrying secrets and curses, and Ethan is changed forever.  The movie boasts a great cast, including Emmy Rossum, Viola Davis, Jeremy Irons, and Emma Thompson.
Jack Kerouac’s classic beat novel has never made it to the big screen before, so the December premiere of On the Road should break new ground.  It stars Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund, and Viggo Mortenson.
Another modern classic book which is being made into a movie for the first time is Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.  While it began life as a short story in 1977, the tale of Ender Wiggin was so popular that Card expanded it into a novel in 1985 and has tweaked it a bit since. Several sequels followed.  In the original story, gifted children are sent to Battleschool, where they learn military tactics to try to save the world from an insect-like alien race. Harrison Ford stars, along with Asa Butterfield, a talented young actor who starred in Hugo and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
On the other hand, there are a number of film remakes of classic novels coming out at the end of the year.  Here are some of the more intriguing ones:
·         Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina casts Keira Knightly and Jude Law as husband and wife 

·         Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables gained a whole new audience as a musical best known by fans as Les Miz; this version features Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe

·         The Great Gatsby starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Isla Fisher is the latest F. Scott Fitzgerald work to go to the big screen

·         Last but not least, Emily Bronte’s only novel is being filmed yet again, so look for a new version of Wuthering Heights in a theatre near you.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hominid by John C. Boland

Reviewed by Jeanne
Archaeologist David Isaacs is more than a little surprised to get a call from his one-time mentor Noel Sprague. They had parted on somewhat less than cordial terms, especially since Sprague had married the woman Isaacs loved.  He finds Sprague hasn’t changed: he’s still a bit of a bully, behaving as if the others are at best marginally competent.  However, Isaacs needs the job.  He ran into some trouble on a previous dig and is in need of a bit of redemption and Sprague needs someone with experience in underwater archaeology. 
Isaacs arrives on the Chesapeake Bay Island and learns that they’ve uncovered three Colonial era lead coffins which were buried on the far end of the island, away from the settlement.  The reasons seem vague, some talk of witchcraft or curses but there are no records to explain.  Burials of that type are definitely an anomaly for the time period, making this an exceedingly rare find.  Before the coffins can even be exhumed, one of the archaeologists dies in what seems at first to be an accident but soon is revealed to be murder. Someone seems bent on keeping the contents of the coffins a secret, but a shadowy organization is equally determined to unlock the mystery, though perhaps not for public consumption.
I saw this book reviewed in Mystery Scene Magazine and was intrigued enough to read it myself.  As I recall, the reviewer there compared Hominid to books by Preston and Child but the author I thought of was Michael Crichton. Both write thrillers grounded in science and make the science fascinating in the bargain. Boland even appends a good list of references at the end to back up some of the plot elements. In fact, I’d argue that they use the thriller format to promote an interest in science; in the case of Hominid, it’s genetics and human evolution.  Both writers have a common weakness as well, and that is that their characters tend to be more cardboard than humanoid.  But flat characters never stopped me from zipping through a Crichton book, and certainly didn’t impede progress on Hominid. These aren’t authors we read for scintillating insights into the human condition but for ideas, science and action.  Boland has all that down pat.  Just when you think he’s going for one thing, the plot twists and you find yourself contemplating something else entirely.  There is a bit of repetition—characters refer to a study with mice several times—but it’s not overly annoying and doesn’t slow the pace of the book.