REVIEWS FROM MICHAEL F. HENNESSEY
POSTED DECEMBER 30, 2012
All you need do is mention either Patricia Cornwell or Kay Scarpetta and you know you have a hit novel, the fictional Scarpetta almost as well known as the author. THE BONE BED is Cornwell's 20th Scarpetta novel and it has to rank with her very best.
Here's the situation: A 48-year-old American paleontologist, Emma Shubert, goes missing from a dinosaur dig in Canada's Alberta Wapiti River bone bed; Scarpetta, head of the Cambridge Forensic Centre at MIT in Massachusetts, receives a video clip of the bone bed plus a photo of a human ear. Does it belong to Ms Shubert and where is she? Alive? Dead? Quickly following, Scarpetta pulls a woman's body from Boston Harbour and proves that she has been dead and was kept frozen for months before being immersed and moored in the harbour. Who is she? Who killed her? Is there any connection between this woman and the missing paleontologist? You'd be tempted to bet your shirt there is.
Scarpetta proves to be an expert on human relations and her skill in keeping her sometimes edgy colleagues in check is richly displayed here. She is also adept at interpreting what's being said into what's really being said; that is, the understory. To write this stuff takes a rare skill and makes Cornwell's dialogue a delight to read.
Scarpetta's life is in danger in the final pages as the killer closes the trap on her. Will this 20th adventure be Scarpetta's swan song, or will the seemingly indestructible forensic director live to fight another day? You don't want to miss THE BONE BED, predicted to propel Patricia Cornwell once again to the top of the best-seller list. HIGHLY RECOMMENSDED.
- Michael F. Hennessey
POSTED FEBRUARY 28, 2013
There's a plethora of sleight of hand in the 176 pages of this little gem. It is the tale of the pursuit of the black bird by Dashiel Hammett after the story of THE MALTESE FALCON had concluded, and years after Hammett had given the bird away. Readers will remember that the bird turned out to be worthless. It had sat on Hammett's desk for ten years during which he turned out one hit novel after another. After he gave it away he went into years of a dry spell during which he produced nothing. Now, he believes that the bird had some supernatural powers that helped him, and he wants it back.
Hammett has said, "All my characters are real. They are based directly on people I knew, or came across." So here are the real life characters, the people they played in the novel and movie, and the actors who portrayed them:
Samuel Dashiel Hammett was Sam Spade, as played by Humphrey Bogart. Moira O'Shea was Brigid O'Shaughnessy, as played by Mary Astor. Emil Madrid was Joel Cairo, as played by Peter Lorre. Evie LeFabre was Effie Perrine, as played by Lee Patrick. Cletus Gaspereaux was Kaspar Gutman (the Fat Man), as played by Sydney Greenstreet. And Mike Arnette was Miles Archer, Spade's partner, as played by Jerome Cowan.
Hammett gave the Falcon to Moira O'Shea just after she was released from prison where she served eleven years for her part in the Falcon fiasco. Now, trying to find her again, he comes across his old sparring partners, Madrid, LeFabre, Gaspereaux, and Arnette. They re-live old times, but their enmity is as fresh as ever and he learns nothing from them about Moira's whereabouts. He finds her in the final chapter on New Year's Eve, 1959, and gets the bird from her, but realizes that what was once between them no longer works.
The mystery of who wrote this book remains. Afterword author Gordon McAlpine says he found the manuscript while doing research on Lillian Hellman, Hammett's companion for many years until his death. While it is credited to Owen Fitzpatrick, McAlpine points out that he was a character in Hammett's second novel, THE DAIN CURSE, who ended up a helpless cripple in a hospital for the criminally insane. Possibly it was penned by Hellman, but McAlpine argues convincingly against this. Best bet, he says, is that Hammett himself wrote it in the period January 1960 until his death from lung cancer in January 1961, after recovering the black bird from Moira.
As I said earlier, much sleight of hand goes on here, many "a reversal of a reversal - telling the truth to deceive," as the author says in the dying pages of the story.
Anyone who has read THE MALTESE FALCON, or seen the movie - and that`s all of us, isn`t it? - will want to read HAMMETT UNWRITTEN. It's a great read and you'll enjoy playing games with Gordon McAlpine, following the twists and turns of his quirky mind. He may be right. The novel is clean and terse. It could have been written by Hammett. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
- Michael F. Hennessey
There comes a time in every trial where, if a "Guilty" verdict is delivered, the "Not Guilty" crowd goes wild. And vice versa. This is a vice versa case. When Sydney Bennett, a sexy night club waitress and good time girl, is declared "Not Guilty" in the murder of her two-year-old daughter, the forces of righteousness cry out against her, led by Faith Corso, the crusading TV anchor of Breaking News Network (BNN).
On the night Sydney is to be released from prison, a hostile mob gathers outside the prison, hyped on the false rumour that Sydney's lawyer, Jack Swyteck, has brokered mega-bucks movie and book deals for his client, a "blood money" payout that leads to mass hysteria. In the ensuing melee, a young Sydney look-alike is rushed by the frenzied crowd and ends up in a coma.
Now Jack is also saddled with blame for sending the look-alike into the crowd so he can slip Sydney out a side door. Also, when it's proved that the jury foreman has accepted a bribe of $100,000 to deliver a "Not Guilty" verdict, Jack is blamed for this as well.
Jack and his girlfriend, FBI agent Andie Henning, are convinced that there is some rich evil genius behind the plot to nail Sydney. After all, who else could afford to lay out $100,000 to put Jack in a frame?
James Grippando, author of nineteen other novels, including eight featuring Jack Swyteck, brings us another action thriller that keeps us glued to our seats. His touch is deft and smooth, suspense is always present, and the story moves right along. A good read. If this is your first Grippando, you'll want to check back on some of the others. RECOMMENDED.
- Michael F. Hennessey