A Crack in the Lens by Steve Hockensmith

This is the fourth installation in a fairly new mystery series, but it was the first one that I read. And it caught my eye not because of the relationship of the two main characters to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but because the author chose to place his characters in San Marcos, Texas, my chosen home for the past 20 years.

The two central characters in the book are Gustav Amlingmeyer (aka "Old Red") and his brother Otto (aka "Big Red"). What has gone on before the central plot is that both "Old Red" and "Big Red" are roving cowboys in the late 1890's, moving from place to place. "Big Red" reads Sherlock Holmes stories to his brother, who is illiterate. "Old Red" fancies himself a detective in the fashion of Holmes and has taken up cases along the way and solved several.

Which brings us to the current novel. The Amlingmeyers end up in San Marcos to try to determine the cause of death of a prostitute that "Big Red" knew from 5 years prior. A lot of people aren't happy that he has returned to town, and some of them are determined to see that he moves on posthaste.

Speaking as only a recent resident, I tried my damnedest to place the buildings and events in the context of the current layout of the town (and failed miserably, only one of the streets still bears the same name 100 some odd years later. But I had fun with it and enjoyed meeting a couple of new characters to add to my list of favorite detectives. Fortunately my library has the other three books so far published so I will be able to catch up on them quickly.

I rate this one 8½ stars.

Ad Nauseum: A Survivor's Guide... by Carrie McClaren and Jason Torchinsky

As it started out, this book was very interesting, but it got a little dull towards the middle, especially the mock debate between two separate viewpoints on the merits and problems with advertising, represented by one Sut Jhally and James Twitchell. I think its more geared towards someone who is more of a student of marketing and advertising than someone who has a passing interest in the field.

I can't give it more than 4 stars.


K Blows Top by Peter Carlson

In 1959, the leader of the Soviet regime, Nikita Khruschev, visited the United States for a lengthy tour of both major cities and country fairs. He was met with varying levels of interest, sometimes parades and sometimes protests (and sometimes both).

The author begins his story with Vice-President Nixon's visit to Moscow and the "Kitchen Debates", but that is only the preface to the real story. Originally Khruschev was to reciprocate the invitation to come to America with an agreement to meet for talks on the arms race. But wires got crossed, and the codicil to the invitation went unvoiced.

This put the tour by Khruschev on a somewhat tense level with the Eisenhower administration which felt it had an obligation for diplomacy by allowing the tour to be one-sided from their point of view, but it was pulled together nonetheless. What follow in the latter ¾ or so of the book is an entertaining and often hilarious tale of the Soviet premier's encounters with diplomats and ordinary citizens as he goes from New York to Los angeles to a county fair in the Mid-West, with people fawning over him in some of the most unlikely of places, given the atmosphere of the time. (This, you will have to be aware, occurred not long after the McCarthy "Red Scare", and just following on it's heels would have been the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis of the next President's term.)

All of this proves to be one of the more readable biographies I have read in recent years (albeit not a true "biography" in the sense of the word that I would normally mean, since it spans less than a year in total time). I highly reccommend it to anyone who normally avoids biographies, though, because it hardly feels like one, more like an anecdotal remembrance instead.

I rate it 7½ stars

The Return of the Remiss Reviewer

Once again, I have been reading books and not doing reviews. Expect a slew of them of the next few days.