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Book Nook - 21-08-2017

Monday, August 21, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

When Evil Strikes
Patricia Cornwell’s creation, Dr Kay Scarpetta, a forensic pathologist, was such a fascinating woman that she starred in twenty-three bestselling novels—Chaos is the twenty-fourth, and perhaps the weakest of the lot.

Cambridge, Massachusetts–based Kay Scarpetta has moved up the ladder by sheer dint of hard work, and is as popular among her team of forensic experts, as she is hated by criminals, since her meticulous work gets many caught and convicted. Her husband Benton Wesley is with the FBI, and that causes a few clashes in their otherwise happy marriage.  Kay’s favourite person is her niece Lucy, a computer wizard, who lives with Janet and their adopted son Desi. As much as loves Lucy, her relationship with her sister Dorothy has always been abrasive. Her nemesis is a psychopath, Carrie Grethen, an evil genius, who always escapes capture and keeps targeting Kay and her family.

The weather is stultifyingly hot when Chaos begins and Kay Scarpetta is forced to walk sweatily through Harvard Yard, carrying shopping bags. Dororthy is due to visit, which is causing Kay some unease. Her frenemy, the cop, Pete Marino has just informed her of an anonymous complaint against her, about a public spat she had with her chief of staff Bryce Clark, which could be her persistent online stalker Tailend Charlie at work. Just as she is sitting down to dinner with Benton, both get urgent phone calls, and her one relaxed evening in the week is ruined.

The body of a young woman is found in the John F. Kennedy Park, and from initial descriptions, she seems to be someone Kay ran into earlier in the day. Two mentally challenged twin girls found the body, and may have tampered with evidence. Kay does not want the crime scene to become crowded with the Harvard University campus and a busy street nearby, so demands a tent to be put up around the body.

It takes an inordinate amount of time for the tent to be erected, and while Kay twiddles her thumbs, a lot of things are going wrong around her. Lucy turns up in an enigmatic mood, and Benton comes by to give news of Kay’s mentor Colonel Brigg’s sudden death, a day before he was to address Harvard students with her. Kay is shocked and irritable, talking to Marino in an annoyingly pedantic manner. There is something eerily similar about the two cases, but it’s almost 300 pages by the time the sluggish plot starts moving, even if what unfolds is totally convoluted.

Before that there is the forensic procedure described in excruciating detail, and ultimately the reader is as fed-up as several characters in the book. After the build-up suggesting high-tech gizmos and rare chemicals at work, the climax is surprisingly tame.

Cornwell really must find another adversary for Kay, Benton and Lucy to fight against. Chaos might disappoint all but Cornwell’s most ardent fans.

Chaos
By Patricia Cornwell
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 421


Excerpt of Chaos
THROUGHOUT MY CAREER as a forensic pathologist my younger only sibling has managed to equate what I do with being a mortuary scientist or simply someone who deals with messes no one else wants to touch.

Somehow it’s the logical conclusion to my taking care of our dying father when I was a child. I became the go-to person when something was painful or disgusting and needed tending to or cleaning up. If an animal got run over or a bird flew into a window or our father had another nosebleed, my sister would run screaming to me. She still does if she needs something, and she never takes into account convenience or timing.

But at this juncture in life my attitude is the two of us aren’t getting any younger. I’ve decided to make a real effort to keep an open mind even if my sister might be the most selfish human being I’ve ever known. But she’s bright and talented, and I’m no saint either. I admit I’ve been stubborn about acknowledging her value, and that’s not fair.

Because it’s possible she really might know what she’s doing when she mandates that I should speak less like a legal brief or a lab report and more like a pundit or a poet. I need to turn up the volume, the brightness and the color, and I’ve been keeping that in mind as I polish my opening remarks, including cues such as underlines for emphasis and pauses for laughter.

I take a sip from a bottle of water that’s hot enough to brew tea. I nudge my dark glasses up as they continue to slip down my sweaty nose. The sun is a relentless blacksmith hammering in twilight’s fiery forge. Even my hair is hot as my low-heeled tan leather pumps click-click on bricks, my destination now about ten minutes out. Mentally I go through my talk:

Good evening Harvard faculty, students, fellow physicians, scientists and other distinguished guests.

As I scan the crowd tonight I see Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winners, mathematicians and astrophysicists who are also writers, painters and musicians.

Such a remarkable collection of the best and the brightest, and we are extremely honored to have the governor here, and the attorney general, and several senators and congressmen in addition to members of the media, and business leaders. I see my good friend and former mentor General John Briggs hiding in the back, slinking low in his seat, cringing over the thought of my being up here. [Pause for laughter]

For those of you who don’t know, he’s the chief of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System, the AFMES. In other words, General Briggs would be the forensic surgeon general of the United States were there such a position. And in a little while he’s going to join me during the Q&A part of the program to discuss the Columbia space shuttle disaster of 2003.

We’re going to share what we’ve learned from materials science and aeromedicine, and also from the recoveries and examinations of the seven astronauts’ remains that were scattered over a fifty-some-mile scene in Texas . . .

I HAVE to give Dorothy credit.

She’s dramatic and colorful, and I’m somewhat touched that she’s flying in for the lecture even if I have no idea why. She says she wouldn’t miss tomorrow night but I don’t believe her.  My sister’s not been to Cambridge in the eight years I’ve headed the CFC. My mother hasn’t either, but she doesn’t like to travel and won’t anymore. I don’t know Dorothy’s excuse.

Only that she’s never been interested until now, and it’s a shame she had to choose tonight of all nights to fly to Boston. The first Wednesday of the month, barring an emergency, my husband Benton and I meet for dinner at the Harvard Faculty Club, where I’m not a member. He is and not because of his FBI status. That won’t get you any special favors at Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and other Ivy League institutions in the area.

But as a consulting forensic psychologist at the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital in nearby Belmont, my FBI criminal-intelligence-analyst husband can avail himself of the most marvelous libraries, museums, and scholars in the world anytime he wants. He can help himself to the Faculty Club to his heart’s content.

We can even reserve a guest room upstairs, and we have on more than one occasion been given enough whiskey or wine during dinner. But that’s not going to happen with Dorothy flying in, and I really shouldn’t have said yes when she asked me to pick her up later tonight and drop her off at her daughter Lucy’s house, which will get Benton and me home after midnight.

I don’t know why Dorothy asked me specifically unless it’s her way of making sure we get to spend a little alone time together. When I said yes I’d come and Benton would be with me, her response was, “I’m sure. Well it doesn’t matter.” But when she said that I realized it does matter.  She has something she wants to discuss with me privately, and even if we don’t get the chance tonight, we have time.


ALSO RECEIVED
Geetanjali Pandit’s Buddha at Work: Finding Balance, Purpose and Happiness at Your Workplace may be just the thing today’s harried professional needs. According to the synopsis, “How can you bring your best and most successful self to work every day?

Told in a series of conversations with Gautam, and interspersed with tales from the Buddha's life - along with real-life stories from people who’ve faced challenging situations in their jobs - Buddha At Work offers invaluable insight that will guide you through the challenges of the modern-day workplace.

This book unlocks the secrets to

  • Keeping yourself motivated and energized, and being your productive best;
  • Managing stress, and taking control of every workday situation;
  • Dealing with difficult bosses and co-workers, or unforeseen situations like losing your job;
  • Channelling negativity into a more productive and positive attitude.

Drawn from the author's decades of experience as head of HR in the country’ top organizations, and packed with easy-to-apply practical advice, Buddha at Work will help you achieve your true potential and find inspiration when you need it the most.”

Buddha at Work: Finding Balance, Purpose and Happiness at Your Workplace
By : Geetanjali Pandit
Publisher: Hachette India
Pages: 256



Joshua Cooper Ramo’s book, The Seventh Sense, seeks to explain issues that may be causing confusion in today’s fast-changing world. Says the synopsis, “Not since the twin hammers of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution battered apart the foundations of old Europe has the world faced a shift as elemental, as epochal as what confronts us now. From Facebook to hacking attacks to ISIS, powerful network forces we barely understand are ripping through our connected world, tearing at our most fundamental ideas. What institution do you trust more today than you did ten years ago? Exactly. In this groundbreaking new book, Joshua Cooper Ramo explains a powerful new instinct that we need to understand if we want to see everything from the opportunities for fortune in our age to the most virulent dangers. Animated with experiences studying with Chinese Zen masters and advising generals and CEOs, The Seventh Sense will forever alter the way you look at our the world we now live in.”

The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks
By Joshua Cooper Ramo
Publisher: Hachette
Pages: 352

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