March 21, 2007

My wife loves lions.

22nd Avenue Lion 4
Originally uploaded by stodmyk.
I love this sidewalk ornament, as pic'd on 22nd Avenue one day last summer. Most days I see stuff like this, I've left the camera at home -- once in a while, however...

March 5, 2007

The Italian Secretary - Caleb Carr

Caleb Carr wrote a book a few years back (1994) a wonderfully dark portrait of a doctor playing detective in turn-of-the-century New York City. Dr. Lazlo Kreizler is a dark protagonist whose methods of investigation -- tainted as they are with such unholy things as the scientific method and psychological profiling -- are scoffed at by local law enforcement. Picture if you will Silence of the Lambs, about 20 years prior to World War I. Kreizler's efforts to catch the world's first recognized serial killer are buoyed only by his street rats, a social leper in the form of a sensationalist newspaper writer, and a relationship with his old school chum, New York City Police Chief Theodore Roosevelt.

The Alienist was a revelation of sorts, turning me on to contemporary historical fiction and inspiring me to walk through their inspirations.

While Carr's work since then has disappointed -- in both the sequel to the Alienist (The Angel of Darkness) and his attempt at futuristic espionage (Killing Time) the man seemed enamored with his own smarts -- it was with not a little bit of excitement that I picked up The Italian Secretary, his authorized foray into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's signature character. Sherlock Holmes is ably portrayed, but the pattern has, alas, persisted. Carr's insistence upon showing off just how clever he is ruins any chance he had at getting it right.

You see, Mr Carr, Conan Doyle succeeded only because he made Holmes look clever, without bringing attention to his own cognitive abilities as a writer. No one walks away from an Agatha Christie masterpiece with a nagging feeling that she was showing off; Christie's characters, rather than Christie herself, show guile; her stories are smart; her plot twists are without peer.