Who's asking: Jennifer Lechner, Freeport, ME
Oh, you knew I'd get around to this question eventually. People have been wondering about it since at least Roman times, when they'd take cartloads of asparagus up to the Alps to freeze, just so the aristocracy could eat it at mid-winter festivals.
The distinctive odor created by asparagus comes from the interaction of digestive acids with a sulfur-sugar compound in the asparagus plant. The chemical reaction produces thioesters, and the one thing I remember from high school chemistry is that esters are strong scent producers.
According to some scientists, not everyone suffers the asparagus-urine smell -- but I read one article that suggests the chemical reaction is the same for everyone, but not everyone can smell it.
I am deep in the February doldrums, with little time for pleasure reading... I've read four manuscripts this week, but don't want to talk about any of them (although at least two already have publishing contracts), because of the likelihood that the final books will look different from the versions I read. Here's a short installment of
What I Read This Week
Robert Crais, The Watchman. Elvis Cole's mostly silent partner Joe Pike must pay off a favor by serving as bodyguard to an heiress who saw the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time. To say much more about the plot would make it sound cliched and maybe even corny, and that's exactly what this book is not. It's a masterful balance of plot and character, both entertaining and compassionate, and Crais' best work since L.A. Requiem.
T. Jefferson Parker, The Fallen. Parker creates a terrific protagonist -- Robbie Brownlaw, a San Diego cop who develops a peculiar form of synesthesia after surviving a fall from a hotel window -- but the plot, a city ethics investigator's murder, never takes full advantage of the character. It seemed almost as if Parker had written two different books, and combined them. The seams show. I hope we see more of Brownlaw, though.