PaperBackSwap Blog

Archive for September, 2015

Mystery Monday Review – Blue Death

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Blue Death by Michael Collins

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


This is #7 of 19 mysteries featuring one-armed, Polish-Lithuanian PI Dan Fortune (Fortunowski) of New York City. Dan is asked by an old friend, an Armenian-American belly dancer, for assistance. Her husband wants to renew a lease with a huge corporation but he can’t find anyone in the company to handle the routine paperwork. Dan agrees to intervene in the runaround and find the elusive executive who theoretically handles that procedure. While on the hunt, Dan runs around Manhattan, the industrial wastelands of New Jersey, and pristine spots of SoCal like Ventura. Four murders occur, some for understandable reasons, some senselessly hinging on bad luck.

Dan ends up interacting with bosses and employees of International Metals and Refining Corporation (IMG). One of their lines is the manufacture of pure titanium. Collins had a degree in chemistry and was a technical/writer editor for chem-e journals. So, the technical side of the story feels real. I like credentials in an author

The mystery will feel real to readers of certain age, who were young adults forty years ago. Old-fashioned ideas pop up, such as the irresistible urge all women feel to have babies and the implacable will to power, property, and success in all men. As ecologically-minded as Ross Macdonald, Collins holds up Jersey as an environmental nightmare that was devastated by amoral corporations. The execs of big business smugly feel themselves beyond the reach of the law. But, middle-aged men, vulnerable to the rhetoric of assertive self-empowerment of the era, wonder about the impossibility of balancing real freedom with homey security, cozy benefits with clear and exciting risks. Like a Simenon character at the end of his tether, a 40-ish research scientist bemoans his fate: “When there’s nothing left to dream, you’re dead.  A blue death, oxygen-starved.  My life is over.”

The plot is ingenious, the characters persuasive, the tone matter-of-fact, the nostalgia disarming. Dan is an absolutist and idealist, looking for a perfect world in which human beings can run as free as dogs. IMR robotoids are all moral relativists. Well-worth reading, if only as an artifact of a bygone era.



Book Review Contest Winners!

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

brc pen med


It was such a close contest, but Lisa K (paxregina) is this week’s winner of our Book Review Contest! All of the finalists got a Book Credit and Lisa will get a NEW book from her Wish List. Congratulations!

Homeward Bound by Emily Matchar
Winning Review by Lisa K (paxregina)

You might think, “what could be bad about young people being frugal, living lightly on the land, growing their own vegetables, sewing their own clothes, making their own laundry soap, and homeschooling their children?” On the surface it does seem idyllic, and I myself have fallen for many a blog describing such a romantic life in the country. But once Matchar runs this trend through the prism of gender and class, and puts it under a social and political lens, a more nuanced truth emerges. She gives the DIY (or New Domesticity) movement props for valuing creativity over consumption, for having a concern for the environment and putting an emphasis on family, but she makes a very convincing argument that there can be a downside if we aren’t careful to put things in perspective. The dangers include that of hyper individualism which can lead to problems such as the anti-vaccine movement has caused, as well a neglecting of collective political action. If you are homeschooling your children, why fight for better public schools? What then happens to those who can’t afford to stay home and educate their children? If you don’t trust the government to keep the food supply safe and you eat only local and organic foods that’s great, but what about those who can’t? And the fact that the movement is overwhelmingly female threatens to reinforce old gender stereotypes, disenfranchise men and potentially leave women vulnerable later in their lives. How will these young women, who are now content to knit sweaters for their toddlers, feel when their children are grown? And if they are dependant on a husband’s salary, what will happen if he dies unexpectedly or they get divorced? Rejecting and demonizing the entire workforce may demoralize women who do have careers and it’s not going to help make it a more hospitable place for mothers who have no choice but to work.

When faced with the increasing stress of modern life wanting to return to a simpler life is completely understandable, but there is a danger in romanticizing the past. Women learning the crafts of running a home should not underestimate the importance of financial independence. Being able to make jam and sew your children’s clothes is no replacement for the ability to financially support your family if you should need to.

I’m sure many people will take offense at this book and that’s too bad, because I think it’s very evenhanded and fair and it is a book that needed to be written. Young women disillusioned with the workforce that are thinking of choosing this path should do so with their eyes wide open–read this book.

You can enter the Book Review Contest yourself, by reviewing a book and sharing the review to Facebook.
Read details here:http://www.paperbackswap.com/help/help_item.php?id=699

Stay tuned for this week’s finalists!