Tuesday, June 13, 2017

No Cure for love

 Is there no cure for love?

I recently read two books, both detective yarns of different flavors.  And they both--one centrally and one less directly--deal with this question.

The one that deals with it centrally is actually called No Cure For Love.  Very good book.  Two notches up from a beach read, and still a fast page turner.  A tv actress is being stalked by a maniac who claims to be her true love.  A detective who works in a special unit of the Los Angeles police department is on the case to try to find the obsessive lover and protect the actress.

The maniac is the most extreme example of someone who is crazy in a kind of love for which there is no cure.  But he is a maniac with a sick family background.  Besides the maniac, there are three other "normal" characters in the novel who engage/d in relationships that reflect that, once smitten, decisions and behaviors become irrational and can be counterproductive.  Yet a fourth example seems to provide a foundation for a sequel to the book.  (I just perused the author's website and I don't see any sequels to this novel, first published in 1995 and then re-released in 2015).  The normal characters and their relationships are not central to the plot, but they're examples of the premise: there may be no cure for love. Love begets irrational behavior.

A number of things are impressive about the book. The first is that the author, Peter Robinson, typically writes about an Inspector Banks who works and lives in the UK.  I have read several in this series and thought No Cure for Love was part of the Banks' series. No Cure for Love however has nothing to do with Inspector Banks and very little to do with the UK.  A main character is from the UK, but for the most part the dialogue/slang/language is typical of US detective stories. The ability to switch and write so differently reflects versatility and skill.

The second impressive feature is that while there are a couple of things in this book that make me wonder about how likely they are to happen, the book--for the most part--passes the plausibility test.  I wonder about Sally's current mental health given her behavior in the past.  And there is a love affair that seems not only gratuitous but, in my experience at least, unlikely to begin as it did.  Still, everything else about the book rings as if it could be true.

Third impressive aspect:  there are enough clues in the novel to keep you guessing about who the maniac might be.  And you can get it right.   I am not typically a fan of detective stories when at the last second someone pops up as the doer who could not have been sleuthed out by the reader.

In sum, if you like detective stories, read this book.  And when you are done with its plot, maybe think about whether there is indeed a cure for love so that we can behave rationally when we are in the throes of it.

The second book, Slow Burn, by Ace Atkins is a Spenser novel.  Spenser, a character developed by the late Boston author Robert Parker, is attempting in this novel to identify arsonists who have been burning buildings for a year.  I liked the Parker Spenser novels, a little more than the Atkins's ones, though the latter have its strong points as well. Both write fast moving stories.  Parker's typically had a moral message at the end that hung around for a spell. Atkins's characters have a little more depth. In this one, there is a reference to Spenser's hard drinking dad, who I had not read about before.  Maybe I just missed it.  I never thought Parker got Susan--Spenser's love interest--or Hawk--his friend and occasional partner--in anything other than monochrome.  Atkins does a little better.

In Slow Burn, three people, with holes in their hearts, rationalize starting fires.  The damage to their innards relate to family, abuse, and thwarted dreams more than romantic disappointments. Nothing of course condones their anti-social behavior.  One of the three does more than just set fires.

There is a reference in the acknowledgments that the author researched an actual spate of fires in Boston in the 80s to do this book. However real were the other fires, I found I had to suspend too much belief to buy the plot line in this one.  It is a fast read, but I don't think it sufficiently gets to the guts of why people do the things they do.  Spenser novels written by Parker did not do this either, but often you were left with something to wonder about relating to the human condition when you were done.  That happens to some extent with this one but not as much.

Not a bad read, but not a book I would hunt for.

No Cure for Love, however, is a different story.  Very well written and compelling page turner. And beyond the search for the maniac--the title and the book itself made me think of why we act irrationally if not maniacally when "every fairy tale seems real." Probably there is no cure for the "dizzy dancing way we feel."  I don't believe that is always a bad thing. Hate to be cured of that feeling.

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