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Friday, August 14, 2020

Columnists > About Books

July 31, 2020

Jul 31, 2020

By George Ernsberger - columnist

BREAK ‘EM UP by Zephyr Teachout (St. Martin's/All Points). I once actually voted for Zephyr Teachout because I liked her name when I saw it on the ballot. It was in a primary election where I didn't love the person who was certain to be the winner (of the general, too), so…it was the only vote I ever cast even that whimsically. But now we begin to see that she's thoughtful and serious. Her parents may have been whimsical in naming her, but she's calmly reasonable, indeed icily logical, in calling, simply, for antitrust laws and practices to restore what everybody pretends we worship: free markets.
The argument is more subtle than this, but allow me to steal a little of her first example: These are just a few of the agents who have flattened particular competitive markets out of existence: Amazon; Google; Monsanto/Bayer; Visa; Unilever; Verizon. There are more, but that's more than enough for now. We are at their mercy—not what capitalism is supposed to provide. Read her, argue with her; that will be enlightening, clarifying, wherever the argument leads you.
THE INDOMITABLE FLORENCE FINCH: The Untold Story of a War Widow Turned Resistance Fighter…by Robert J. Mrazek (Hachette). Terrific popular historian, Mrazek. The Second World War, and a true story that reads like a fantasy adventure, except that the heroine's name is too corny for a novel. So well told that even though we know she survived (after the war she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom), the tension near the end makes the reader distinctly uncomfortable.
THE REVELATORS: A QUINN COLSON NOVEL by Ace Atkins (Putnam). This series (this is the twelfth) as readers of this column have been told before, is the sort of literary realism, relentlessly clear-eyed, that the term “crime fiction” seems to have been created to characterize, sustaining a sort of hard-eyed attention on emotional and intellectual… textures, would the world be? It isn't “literary” in the sense of poetic, or experimental in style, but Atkins, here—he does lighter (but equally smart) things, elsewhere—strides confidently in the ranks of the larger literature.
HALF MOON BAY by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman (Ballantine). Just the third of another, already elite series, by this father-and-son partnership—books that handsomely live up to the expectations created for suspense readers by their last name. This is the crime scene investigator Clay Edison, in California's Bay Area. They're not “forensic” in the way that, say, Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs are—there are those elements, realistically in front of us, but the books are more essentially police-procedural murder investigations, with all manner of complexity of plot and depth of character.

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