THE DELUSIONS OF CROWDS: WHY PEOPLE GO MAD IN GROUPS by William J. Bernstein (Atlantic Monthly Press). This big, serious history and study of manias concentrates on financial and religious wigouts, …
THE DELUSIONS OF CROWDS: WHY PEOPLE GO MAD IN GROUPS by William J. Bernstein (Atlantic Monthly Press). This big, serious history and study of manias concentrates on financial and religious wigouts, hardly at all on explicitly political ones. Shrewd, that; it frees us to consider coolly how the phenomenon really works (spoiler alert: it isn't only crazy or stupid people). We are all parts of variously definable “crowds,” and all are inclined to deny that awkward fact, to ourselves especially. The principles to be seen in the similarities of those movements will surely, in our time, put us in mind of political obsessions, the maddening contagion of “conspiracy theories” (why is such looniness called “theories” at all? Mightn't we agree on a usage like “conspiracy manias,” say, or “conspiracy delusions”?). So, not entirely comforting; crazy can't help being a little bit crazy-making. Still, this book might still settle a sane mind. A non-judgmental understanding of paranoia might be an immunization against it. We can hope.
FLOWERS OF DARKNESS by Tatiana de Rosnay (St. Martin's). Lovely and creepy at once, a near future slightly-sf suspense novel set in a hauntingly evoked, partly ruined but still vital Paris. That great city made real to us without insistence, but with magical clarity. A bright, sad, divorced writer living alone with an Alexa- (or Siri-) like assistant that may have not just artificial intelligence but . . . motivation—so . . . of what sort?
MISSING AND ENDANGERED: A BRADY NOVEL OF SUSPENSE by J. A. Jance (Morrow). Yet another endlessly productive and creative suspense master. The column has never attempted to keep up with her—I barely read as fast as she writes—but this has been a particular favorite series of hers; not only thrillers, but westerns and family novels, as well. Sheriff Joanna Brady and her family all figure in, as always; her daughter, in college, now, is home in Arizona for the holidays—with a new friend, with secrets.
NIGHTHAWKING by Russ Thomas (Putnam). Excellent second crime novel by the author of last year's FIREWATCHING, highly praised here and pretty much everywhere else. This is the small-city but distinctly cosmopolitan British police department—diverse, and not only ethnically; our central character is gay. All managed calmly; this is no stunt, but well made crime fiction, with honest character depth everywhere and no clichés, among characters or crimes.
A FATAL LIE by Charles Todd (Morrow). Sgt. Rutledge, of course, and surely I need say no more except: the authors (a team, we well know) have lost nothing and neglect nothing. A many-leveled case reveals its secrets to tireless Rutledge in stages; his sometimes sardonic but sad and saddening battlefield ghost comrade speaks up early and, well, not often, but regularly.
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