Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Reviewing: The Man From Yesterday: A Jack Lehman Mystery by Seymour Shubin

The mind can be a tricky thing. The name of someone you just met might escape your remembrance while at the same time the name of some classmate in elementary school from decades ago can’t be forgotten. How many of us have forgotten our home phone number from time to time? For retired Detective Lieutenant Jack Lehman it seems to be happening more and more.

As the novel opens, he knows one thing for sure. A former snitch of his, the name he can’t remember, reached out and by phone told him that a big heist of over a million dollars had happened. The phone call had come after a long night when he was tormented by the fact that he simply could not remember the name of who his favorite late night talk show host was as he watched him on TV. He was still more asleep than awake when his snitch called and now, as he sits in front of Captain Hewitt, who runs his old 32nd District, he is humiliated and embarrassed.

As Captain Hewitt points out, while Jack can’t remember the name, a heist that big means the police should have heard something. Jack knows that is true but he also knows the call happened. Driven by a need to prove himself as well as to dispel the notion that he is nothing more than a senile old man, Jack begins to work the case. A case that leads back to the past and scores unsettled. Beset by his own memory problems and the assumptions of others, including his family that he is suffering from senility or early stage Alzheimer’s, Jack continues to push the case with little outside help others than from writer Colin Ryan who believes the former Lieutenant is on to something that could turn into a book for him.

While the novel does shift in point of view occasionally, the story is told primarily from the viewpoint of Jack Lehman. In so doing, the reader is treated to the viewpoint of a man who knows his memory is weakening and yet at the same time is sure that there is a case. A case that while shadowy and vague has some substance to it if he can just start pulling the pieces together. He also knows how others, including his family, feel about him and know that because of those assumptions, they aren’t going to take him seriously. That pain of self awareness as he rages against the dying of the light flows throughout the entire novel.

Featuring a complex central character dealing with the efforts of aging on so many levels, this novel becomes an engrossing story that works across the board. It becomes easy to cheer each success Jack has and suffer the agony of each setback. This book, much like “Witness To Myself” also from this author, pulls the reader into a world of personal pain and obsession where the character is on a hunt for vindication.

Book Facts:

The Man From Yesterday: A Jack Lehman Mystery
By Seymour Shubin
Academy Chicago Publishers
ISBN #0-89733-529-5

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Monday, May 29, 2006

Reviewing: Witness To Myself by Seymour Shubin

Adolescence is a hard perplexing time ripe with strange thoughts, strange feelings, and impetuous actions with little consideration of the consequences. It certainly was fifteen years ago for teenager Alan Benning. His family, on vacation in Cape Cod by way of a large motor home, had no idea what he thought or felt. The family was well off, his parents were conservative and Alan, with no one to talk to about life and his feelings, began to hate and fear himself. That hatred and fear of himself grew and grew after the incident in the woods near the beach during that vacation.

In the present day, Alan, now thirty is a successful lawyer with a steady girlfriend, Anna, a loving cousin, and an obsession about what might or might not have happened that fateful day fifteen years ago. Driven to know, he begins to unravel his own perfect life. A life that appears to be perfect but hides so many dark secrets that he is not sure of what actually happened back then.

Author Seymour Shubin has weaved a complete tale about the human spirit. Shifting in point of view between Alan and his cousin the author paints a picture of obsession. Not only is Alan obsessed with what he might or might not have done but the cousin has his own obsession. The cousin’s need isn’t as obvious early in the novel but the end of the book it is clear that his own obsession is just as strong.

It is also clear that the author is commenting on the nature of mankind. Those little things that surely lead to disaster. Those little things, unnoticed or unremarked at the time and yet become telling through the use of hindsight. The signs were obvious, as they often are, and unnoticed until long after the fact. The author makes this point throughout the work as he weaves complex multifaceted characters throughout the tale.

The result is a fast paced intense read. While only 250 pages in paperback, this isn’t a beach book and far from it. This is a book that rapidly becomes a real page turner as it pulls the reader into a world not unlike his or her own. This is a book that one doesn’t want interrupted and is sorry to see end. Intense and driven, the book doesn’t let go until that final phrase “the end” and even then lingers in the mind.

Book Facts:

Witness To Myself
By Seymour Shubin
Hard Case Crime
ISBN #0-8439-5590-2

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Reviewing: Nothing But Trouble: A Kevin Kerney Novel

This latest Kevin Kerney novel finds Kerney and his family at a cross roads. The Santa Fe Police chief knows that his current lifestyle is not working. With his job in New Mexico and his wife Sara currently assigned to the Pentagon he is unable to see her or his three year old son Patrick as he wants too. With the nation at war and Sara unable to leave her job and not wanting to either, Kevin is beginning to think that it is time to move on.

Moving on is also a concept he also feels should apply to his former friend Johnny Jordan. Johnny always had one scheme or another going while he chased women and drank to excess. That hasn’t changed but the schemes have gotten grander. This time he intends to produce a modern day western and wants Kevin involved as a technical advisor for old times sake. Though suspicious of Johnny’s real motives, Kevin needs a change of pace and decides to accept the proposition.

Before long, Kevin finds himself deep in a murder investigation that may have links to illegal immigrant smuggling and organized crime. He is also deep into parenting as Sara is off to Ireland on a far reaching investigation of her own that first began several novels ago involving desertion and smuggling. Kevin juggles both and before long, finds himself failing at all of it.

This latest book in the series, that 10th overall, clearly is a set up for the next one. Fundamental changes in their lives are happening and neither Sara nor Kevin is very sure about where their professional careers are headed. A story plot that could have been exploited and yet is not given nearly as much attention as the focus is primarily on the details of how to make a movie.

Those details, which are extensive, one could reasonably expect to be key in resolving the investigation aren’t. Instead, they provide long breaks in action throughout the book and do not provide any more information than one could gleam from watching one of the many Hollywood coverage shows. They seen to serve no real purpose other than to fill pages and boost the word count.

However, when author Michael McGarrity allows the characters to do what they do best, both Kevin and Sara move steadily forward carrying the novel forward in their separate cases. As always, in those sections the result is a good read that captivates the reader and provides strong entertainment especially in regards to Sara’s case.

The overall novel is a bit of rollercoaster read as it bogs down in several spots and moves smoothly at a rapid pace in others. While average for the series, McGarrity’s work is better than most others on their best day and that certainly is true here.

Book Facts:

Nothing But Trouble: A Kevin Kerney Novel
By Michael McGarrity
ISBN# 0-525-94919-X

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006