From one strange topic to another, albeit in fiction: past lives! The Forgetting Time stars a young boy who remembers a traumatic past and whose mother despairs of finding a cure for him. So she finds a scientist who specializes in past lives and helps her find, supposedly, the family he belonged to (conveniently located a short plane ride way — isn’t it wonderful that past lives don’t criss-cross the world?) O yes, and they solve a murder mystery while they are at it.
I must admit that even a skeptic can get swept away at times by the eventful story, and that the quiet moments between mother and son are captured very successfully. But the absurdity of past lives kept intruding.
How we love the rotten, psychopathic hero! The Truth and Other Lies stars a horrible famous author with many secrets and an inconveniently pregnant mistress, along with regular generous impulses to throw everyone off. His mistress is also plotting, as is the loyal assistant to the president of his publishing house, so much villainy is committed, to the great satisfaction of the reader.
The ending could be less trite, but until the very end the story is a lot of twisted fun. If you liked Gone, Girl, you will like this book, too.
Consumed stars two investigative reporters of the last order, who will stoop to anything to get a story. They are researching a couple of French artists who may or may not have staged the murder of the wife and cannibalistic consumption of her body by her husband. So this is not a story for the faint of stomach — but that is not why I am affixing a (very faint) star to it: it’s boring! Despite incessant travels from Europe to Canada to Japan and North Korea, despite the very varied sex lives of everyone involved, despite the bizarre medical afflictions the characters endure, I was bored by the wild coincidences that serve as a plot. Bored also by the lengthy and pointless descriptions of the photographic and computer equipment used by the heroes. If I want an iPhone commercial, I know where to find it. (And I’m not sure Apple would appreciate such edgy surroundings for a paean to their wares!)
O, and the French couple’s last name, Arosteguy. It’s Basque, not Greek. The iPhone research was good, the patronymic one, not so good.
The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder is the mind-boggling story of Charles Cullen, a nurse who killed dozens of patients, usually by injecting them with various drugs, and who was not found out for many years, although the hospitals where he worked developed serious suspicions about his work, and in several cases were quite certain that he had killed patients, but simply discharged him without reporting his actions or even providing outright bad references for him. Only half of the book is about the murders themselves; the second half describes the tortuous police investigation, with no bodies and very few tangible clues — and major obstructions on the part of the hospital, which seems more concerned with protecting itself from lawsuit than pursuing the matter.
Do not read this before going into the hospital: it is that creepy.
Blood flows generously throughout John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster, as befits the story of a mass murderer, and the gruesome details are not for the faint of heart, but if you can get beyond that I highly recommend this book, which nicely ties together the very personal story of the lawyer who defended the killer (as his first defense client, to boot), the story of the crimes as ascertained by the police inquiry, and an inside look at how the justice system works. The author makes an excellent case that all criminals, even ones that seem repugnant, deserve and need a serious defense, and it’s useful to hear that about a case that seems so extreme. The one thing that seemed strange to me is that, years after the fact, the attorney still believes his client was insane at the time of the dozens of murders he committed — basing his belief on the very fact that so many murders must be the work of a deranged mind. We don’t like to think that a fellow human could cause such cruel devastation, but he sure seemed to be functioning very well otherwise, including running a successful business (and fooling everyone about his extracurricular activities). Indeed, one of the interesting findings was that not two of the many experts who examined Gacy agreed on a psychiatric diagnostic. That does not bode well for psychiatry, does it?
A book full of compassion and humor on a topic that does not bring either to mind.