Sunday, July 20, 2014

Book Review: The Slype, by Russell Thorndike

Russell Thorndike's 1927 novel teems with murder, blackmail, serial kidnappings of man and beast, a secret book pointing the way to a long-lost treasure, an ancient cathedral rifled with hidden tunnels and clandestine doors, all tied to a haunted passageway called the Slype (which gives this book its title). Toiling with and against each other in this droll mayhem set in the English riverside town of Dullchester are a cast of variously eccentric characters who can't help calling to mind the singular personalities in some of Charles Dickens' classic fiction, a literary canon that clearly inspired and informed Thorndike's writing. Thorndike revels in taking his time to spin his engaging tale through a labyrinth of puzzles, not unlike a pleasant stroll in what is nowadays known as a "cozy mystery." Kudos to Valancourt Books for publishing this high-quality reprint of a novel sure to please fans of Dickens and Agatha Christie alike.

Book Review: The Rule of Nobody, by Philip K. Howard

"This town needs an enema." So said Jack Nicholson's "Joker" about the dysfunctionality of Gotham City in Tim Burton's 1989 movie, "Batman." In "The Rule of Nobody," author Philip K. Howard embraces Joker's sentiments exactly, save that Howard's disgust is aimed squarely at Washington D.C. Regardless of one's political stripe, the list of what's badly broken in national politics far exceeds the tally of what's working well. In this book, Howard illustrates the vast and litigious space separating common sense from bureaucratic inertia in modern America. Surely many ailments explain the malady, and just as surely one of the more prominent among them is bureaucratic malaise brought about by countless aged and conflicting rules and regulations as immortal as they are useless, if not downright dangerous. Thus the enema -- Howard's prescription to set things right in part is to vigorously seek and eliminate outdated federal bureaucratic regulations and regulators whose evolution has rendered them poisonous to the health of our national body politic. Howard's diagnosis, prognosis and suggested course of treatment all ring true. There's no politician alive who wouldn't benefit himself and his constituents by reading this book. You should read it, too.