Sunday, February 12, 2006
This was a fairly predictable tale of bioterrorism. A deadly virus is stolen from a lab in the wee hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The whole story takes place in those few hours, with the characters rotating between the lab and Stanley Oxenford's home. His children and grandchildren are visiting for the holidays, and we soon learn that reprobate son Kit is out to ruin his father, while saving himself from a huge gambling debt. Toni Gallo, as the lab's security chief, is the heroine.
My introduction to Ken Follett was his book "Eye of the Needle", which I read in 1979. I remember that I was absolutely mesmerized. I suppose my tastes have changed over the years, or his writing has gotten a bit more bland. At any rate, I read the first chapter or so of this one, and lost patience with it. After returning it to the library, I saw an audio copy and decided to give that a go. When I'm stuck in the car, I love to listen to books on CDs, and I don't mind ones that I wouldn't waste time reading. When I read a book, I want to love the language...to appreciate the author's way with words...to take my time savoring the mind pictures...to copy passages and look up definitions of unfamiliar words. However, about the only things I require from an audio book are an interesting storyline and an able reader. This CD passed muster where the bound version did not. The story wasn't one of Follett's best as I remember them, but the howling wind at the beginning and end of each disk set the mood, as did the reader's varied Scottish accents.
For the background of these pages I used Apple Barrel's "Blue Stoneware" acrylic paint, overbrushed with Americana "Titanium White." The title was written with a Zig embossing brush, covered with white embossing powder and heated til it melted. To focus the eye and tie the magazine photo to the previous page, I stamped and heat-embossed a few snowflakes.
As I was reading the first few chapters of this book, I was thinking that I didn't see what all the hoop-la was about. Linda and Jan had both raved about it. I agreed that it was well-written, but I thought the story was less than mesmerizing. That all changed by page 62! I was up until 2:00 a.m., because I couldn't turn out the light until I came to the final page. The author didn't wrap everything up with a happily ever-after ending, but he hinted that there was hope. This is a quote about that:
"If someone were to ask me today whether the story of Hassan, Sohrab, and me ends with happiness, I wouldn't know what to say. Does anybody's? After all, life is not a Hindi movie. 'Zendagi migzara', Afghans like to say: 'Life goes on, unmindful of beginning, end, kamyab, nah-kam, crisis or catharsis, moving forward like a slow, dusty caravan of kochis."
The author writes in the first person so persuasively that I had to keep reminding myself that this was fiction and not an autobiography. It is a beautifully told story of loyalty and betrayal, of guilt and redemption; that age-old truth that one person's momentary action (as well as inaction) can have consequences that not only affect him, but even future generations.
Two Afghan boys were raised together. Amir was the privileged son of a wealthy, larger-than-life man; while Hassan was a servant and a member of the shunned Hazara ethnic minority. Their story covers the past 30 years of Afghanistan's history, from the final days of the monarchy, through the Russian occupation, and on through the iniquities and brutality of the Taliban.
The illustrations include a map I got off the Internet, a picture of a little Hazara boy from a geography book, and a real piece of Afghan money.
I always wonder how the author &/or publisher comes up with the title. I do know that often an author isn't allowed to make the final decision. Sometimes titles don't make the least bit of sense. It's as though they're just pulled out of a hat, and have no relation to the story at all. An example of this is "The Rottweiler" by Rendell. Other times, they're vaguely relevant, but in a boring sort of way--such as Dennis McFarland's "Prince Edward."
And sometimes they're inspired, like this one. It was obvious after the first few pages that this title referred to identical twins. But it delighted my word sense later on to realize that the double bodies had a 'double' meaning, and also applied to pregnant women and their babies.
Dr. Maura Isles is a Boston pathologist who is used to seeing dead bodies. But she is shocked to arrive home one evening to find her colleagues at the scene of what they believe is her own murder...for the dead woman is her mirror image. Maura was adopted, and as far as she knew, had no siblings. But DNA tests confirm that this mysterious woman was without doubt her identical twin. Maura's friend, Detective Jane Rizzoli is quite pregnant, but still hard at work and her investigation leads to facts that show the dead woman was a victim of domestic violence. However, things are not quite so easily solved. Soon circumstances cause her to realize that they are on the trail of a serial killer--one who murders pregnant women!
My online friend Linda Cameron gave me the idea of hiding details that give away the plot. I glued a little folder to the bottom right-hand corner and held it closed with a dot of velcro. The reason behind this is so that I can look back to remind myself "who-dun-it" without spoiling the story for anyone looking at my journal.