Thursday, May 10, 2007

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman - review

What the Dead Know will by the end of the year be recognized as one of the top novels of the year.


In many ways What the Dead Know is a tour-de-force of story telling whose only serviceable comparison is the tapestry of bullshit, truth & wonder that Verbal Kint weaves in the movie The Usual Suspects. To extend the comparison just one step further if the central question of the movie was ‘Who is Keyser Soze’? Then the central question of What the Dead Know is ‘Who is Heather Bethany’? It’s exactly this question that Lippman will answer for us over the course of 384 masterfully controlled and written pages.


The story is crafted in such a way so that it leap-frogs back and forth in time. This serves two purposes and executes both beautifully. First it allows Lippman to pick and choose which bits of information to give us and when to give them to us. The bits of information quickly become a potent mix of hints and red-herrings that will form a literary bread crumb trail. Second, and perhaps more importantly it will allow for a careful dissection and examination of the events and the relationships surrounding them. Read More


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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

From the front lines of Charm City

A scene from the set of the fifth season of The Wire,now currently filming around town OR real life.

There are only 42 Homicide detectives in Baltimore. 42. That's it. So far for the year 2007 there have been 101 murders. In addition to being woefully understaffed and over worked Homicide detectives are required to work one week every month on cold cases, of which there are 1065 from the past nine years.

The Homicide departments closure rate for the year so far is 23.4 percent. The national closure rate, according to the FBI, is 62 percent.

All of this information is especially relevant after the announcement last week that Homicide detectives are going to have to start walking the beat.

When David Simon wrote Homicide ---- years ago he painted a bleak and sober picture. Things have gotten worse and now this. Ridiculous.

There were 20 murders in the month of April. Four have been solved. On April 7th Brent Flanagan was beaten and stabbed. His body was dismembered and stashed in a house. Then the house was set on fire to cover it up.

State Delegate Jill Carter wrote recently “Bullets in Baltimore are as urgent a crisis as bombs in Baghdad."

"Baltimore or Baghdad: Which is the greater American tragedy?” Carter’s letter asks. “As of March 19, 2007, violence has claimed the lives of 47 Americans in Baghdad since the start of the year. During the same period, violence claimed 61 lives in Baltimore, Maryland — most due to gunshot wounds. Thousands marched this past weekend to end the loss of life in Baghdad. By contrast, the cry of outrage in Baltimore has barely risen to the level of a whisper.”

That last line is important and sad because it reflects how used to murder the people of Baltimore have become.

Only in the bureaucratic nightmare as portrayed so accurately in The Wire can something like the following happen:

Joseph Ensey died in November 2006 due to complications from a 1991 shooting. Ensey’s death was ruled a homicide by the Medical Examiner’s Office on April 20. The man police say is responsible for Ensey’s killing, Gamel Brown, 42, of Baltimore, cannot be tried for the homicide because he already pleaded guilty in the early 1990s to a handgun violation in connection with Ensey’s shooting, police said.


April 2: Darrell Smith, 21, of Baltimore, shooting

April 8: Eric Zuraski, 39, address unknown, stabbing

April 9: John Daughtry, 25, of Baltimore, shooting

April 11: Tavon Campbell, 20, of Baltimore, shooting

April 12: Brent Flanagan, 16, of Baltimore, stabbing *

April 18: Johnnie James, 25, of Baltimore, shooting

April 18: Kevin Randall, 45, of Baltimore, shooting

April 19: Christopher Wayman, 23, of Baltimore, shooting *

April 20: Joseph Ensey, 45, of Woodlawn, shooting *

April 22: Van Johnson, 29, of Baltimore, shooting

April 22: Damon Dubose, 23, of Baltimore, shooting

April 26: Ernest Buchanan, 18, of Reisterstown, stabbing *

April 27: Dewitt Smith, 25, of Baltimore, shooting

April 29: Ronald Daniels, 29, of Baltimore, shooting

April 29: Victim’s family not notified, 36, address unknown, shooting

April 29: Azerwoine Walker, 30, of Baltimore, shooting

April 29: Leroy Sanders, 22, of Baltimore, shooting

April 30: Deshaun White, 31, address unknown, shooting

April 30: Adult male victim unidentified, shooting

April 30: Eric Queen, 24, of Baltimore, shooting

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Blood of Paradise by David Corbett - review

With an assured hand David Corbett has been quietly crafting some of the best novels of the last 5 years.

Corbett is better then anyone else at using a simple premise or crime as a platform to spin epic stories of the human experience writ large against a vast canvass. From personal interaction with one another; to interactions with ourselves; to interactions with our own ghosts and demons; to interactions with faith, god and fate; to interactions with the socio/politico machines of our own creation. The beating heart at the center of Blood of Paradise may be a dark one but it’s a real one that we, at times, can recognize as our own. Read More