29 May 2010

One Track Minds

I finished The Devil and Sherlock Holmes by David Grann this morning. I would call it a book of non-fiction short stories, all dealing in some way with an obsession.

Only the first story has anything to do with Sherlock Holmes though there are several people who could be called devils. There's a French man who impersonates teenagers, even being sent to the USA as the missing son of a Texas family. Did they accept him in their life because to deny he was their son might lead investigators to find they'd killed their real son? in another, a Polish man is brutally murdered and a novel published afterward leads the police to the author as a suspect. There's a story of Toto Constant, the Haitian dictator who lived for a while in Queens. The stories of a lawyer taking on the Aryan Brotherhood and another fighting the Italian mob are great crime stories. I learned about the James Traficant trial from the second one. Some stories aren't crime related but as a reader you know you wouldn't want to be the people in them. Sandhogs digging water tunnels in NYC, a firefighter who survived 9/11 but can't remember how, a biologist trying to capture a giant squid, all are men who've bound the meaning of their lives into some other event or object.

overall, a 5. one complaint is that most of the articles are several years old and only a couple have postscripts with updates on the people and events. I personally think the best chapters are the first two, dealing with the bizarre death of a Sherlock Holmes scholar and an execution in Texas of a probable innocent man. The fifth, of the NYC firefighter, is tragic and sad but also quite good.

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