Table of Contents

Fall 2007

Short Stories

Bus Stop

Deep Freeze

In the Ditch

Missed Connections

My Bedtime Buddy

On Silent Feet

Out of Service

Ric With No K

The Rorschach Affair

The Years of the Wicked

Under the Blanket of the Sun

Upon A New Road

Reviews

Ammunition

Bad Thoughts

Beating the Babushka

Bloodthirsty

Hidden Depths

Pay Here

Play Dead

Poison Pen

Silence

Who Is Conrad Hirst

Profiles/Features

Bronx Noir

In For Questioning

Together We Write

Profile: Derek Nikitas

Pelecanos Country

Interviews

George Pelecanos

Robert Fate

Rick Mofina

Kevin Wignall

Review:

A Double Dose of PLAY DEAD:
Claire McManus Reports on books by David Rosenfelt and Anne Frasier

Review by Claire McManus

After a month's vacation, our book club read two books for our August meeting. We'd done a comparison/contrast a few months ago (comparing two antiques mysteries, one of which we liked, and one of which we didn't), and we liked the process, so we decided to do so again.

We decided to read two books with the same title by different authors. We chose PLAY DEAD.

PLAY DEAD
by David Rosenfelt

Our group has a number of animal lovers, so we thought this could be a fun book to try. The protagonist is Andy Carpenter, a wealthy lawyer from Paterson, NJ. A dog lover, Andy uses his attorney skills to help a golden retriever escape a sentence from "doggie death row." But then it turns out that the dog may have been a witness to a murder that took place several years earlier. Andy, who's having trouble motivating himself to work now that he's so rich, decides to investigate.

This is really a fast-moving book. We all felt that we got caught up in the story, as improbable as it was. Most of us liked the narrator quite a bit; and we felt that the portrayal of New Jersey felt a lot more "real" than it does in other Jersey books ( e.g., Evanovich, who seems to create a quasi-mythological state where nobody feels quite real). The investigation proceeds with some clever twists and turns.

Also, in a world where there's a lot of negativity, it is nice to spend time around a narrator and an author who have a very positive vibe--and Andy definitely does. They both clearly love animals, particularly dogs, and while this seems like a bit of a shaky foundation on which to build a book, you just can't argue with this book's heart.

In a lot of ways this is really escapist entertainment, which means that you can't really expect well developed characters or themes. Most of the characters are one-dimensional, which is fine, because Rosenfelt isn't a pretentious writer and you get the sense that he just wants to write a fast-paced, fun story--and he succeeds there. What surprised most of us, though, was the fact that we were turned off by the present tense narrative. Of the 10 of us, only 3 of us liked it. The other 7 did not. Personally, I would say that this would keep me from reading other books by this author. There's something annoying about a book told in present tense; I can't quite put my finger on why, but there you have it.

Since we chose these books based on titles, you won't be surprised to see that this "PLAY DEAD" comes from a pun on a typical command given to dogs. So, it fits the book; and it's nice and mysterious.

And now for...

PLAY DEAD
By Anne Frasier

Reading this book, we started to wonder if our book club is obsessed with voodoo! We had read SINNERS AND SAINTS, by Eileen Dreyer, a few months ago, and that book had a voodoo element (set in New Orleans). In contrast, this one is set in Savannah, GA, but also features a voodoo plot.

This title comes from the fact that someone is "killing" make prostitutes in a way that makes them seem dead while they actually remain alive-- a fact that a medical examiner discovers when performing an autopsy on a body that he thought was dead! It is a creepy way to start the book, and it really sets the tone for a dark, mysterious, skin crawling thriller.

The lead protagonist is Elise Sandburg, whom we liked a great deal. She felt very real to us, a strong woman from mysterious circumstances (she was abandoned in a cemetery as a baby). She has issues with her teenage daughter as well as a partner who has a personality disorder, which keeps her on her toes more or less nonstop. Her relationship with her daughter felt very real and hearfelt, not just tacked on for character development or conflict. Elise is flawed herself, dealing with the own dark parts of her personality while coping with a killer loose on the streets of Savannah. Some of us had read MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL, which made Savannah more of a tragicomic kind of place. But here, in PLAY DEAD, it's definitely a creepier, scarier place where bad things lurk around every corner.

Like Rosenfeldt's book, this one is a page turner. Most of us preferred it to the Rosenfelt book because it had more heft, more seriousness. Frasier is a more atmospheric writer than Rosenfelt, who basically plays it for laughs and emotion, while Frasier tries to do a little more. Out of us, 6 loved it, 3 liked it, and only 1 said it seemed formulaic.