Friday, June 02, 2006

Nol. pros.

Who uses it: Lawyers and judges
What it means: An abbreviation for nolle prosequi, "I do not wish to prosecute." The decision (usually requiring a judge's approval) not to pursue charges against someone, based on the conclusion that a jury would probably acquit.
How you can use it: When deciding to let someone's transgression go.

I'm in Freeport today, helping Jen out with a conference for criminal defense lawyers. Being a professional researcher -- not to mention an editor of crime novels -- means that almost everything is grist to my mill, and I expect to pick up all kinds of insights today.

Just getting here was an adventure, since Dizzy and I drove down yesterday in a violent thunderstorm. Thunderstorms generally don't bother Dizzy, but even he was dismayed when thunder made the Beetle rattle on its tires.

What I Read this Week

Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself. Another of my BEA trophies, this book won't be out until early next year. Keep an eye out for it, though, because it's terrific. Danny gets away from a pawnshop robbery that goes bad; his partner, Evan, is arrested for killing two people at the scene. Seven years later, Evan gets out of prison and expects their old partnership to resume -- after all, Danny owes him -- but Danny's gone straight, and has too much to lose to go back to the old life. Evan blackmails Danny into one last job, which puts everything Danny loves at risk.

Stuart Woods, Dark Harbor. The latest Stone Barrington was waiting in my mail when I got home last week -- thanks, Stuart -- so I took a few hours off on Sunday for a mental vacation. These are boys' fantasy novels for grown men, and always entertaining, but this is not the strongest entry in the series. Attorney, man-about-town and sometime CIA consultant Stone Barrington investigates the death of his first cousin's family on a small Maine island, and his occasional partner Holly Barker gets kidnapped (for reasons that are never fully explained) along the way.

Jo Dereske, Bookmarked to Die. The Mystery Bookstore's bookkeeper, Carol, raves about this series, so I thought I'd give it a try. Librarian Helma Zukas lives a quiet, regimented life, except when she's dealing with murders in her small town. Her decision to create a "Local Authors" section in her small-town library leads to controversy, politicking and death, as two aspiring authors are killed within a short period of time. The prickly, odd character of Helma is the reason to read this series; she's a creature from another time dropped into the 21st century.

Patricia MacLachlan, Sarah Plain and Tall. Jerry Maschino recommended this book to me as a good one for adult literacy students, because the language is clear and the story works on several levels. I'd never read this book -- it came out when I was in college -- so I bought a copy (yes, I do still buy books). It's a simple, lovely story about a mail-order bride who moves from Maine to Kansas in the early 20th century, told from the point of view of her would-be stepdaughter. I should have bought the other books in the series (Skylark, Caleb's Story, More Perfect than the Moon) at the same time.

George Pelecanos, The Night Gardener. Another book that's not out yet, but this one comes out in August. In 1985, someone is killing young teenagers in Washington, D.C. and leaving their bodies in community gardens. By design or coincidence, all of the victims have first names that are palindromes. The crimes remain unsolved -- and then twenty years later, a teenaged boy named Asa is found shot to death in another community garden. Three policemen who were part of the original investigation are drawn back into the case: violent crimes detective Gus Ramone, whose son knew the victim; limo driver Doc Holiday, who left the police force under a cloud years earlier; and former Sergeant T.C. Cook, who retired before solving his most frustrating case. As usual, Washington itself is a major character, and the scenes set in 1985 felt like stepping into the Wayback Machine.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The books you read! Thankfully the real world small towns are not nearly so full of mysterious violent death. Nevertheless, in my travels this summer, I intend to give a wide berth to anyone I meet who bears the slightest resemblance
to Stone Barrington, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot or your new character Helma Zukas.
Just being near them can be fatal.

AnswerGirl said...

Yeah, one of the reasons I don't read many books like the Zukas series is the implausibility of such high murder rates in these small towns... also, the library in Dereske's book seems awfully well-staffed for a small town.