We need more people like Ruth Bader Ginsburg

By Ande Jacobson

In 2016, Teri Kanefield wrote a captivating biography of one of the giants of the U.S. justice system – Free to Be Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Story of Women and Law. In it, she starts with Ginsburg’s humble beginnings as the younger daughter of two Jewish Eastern European immigrants. She then follows her through her education, personal experiences, and her impressive judicial career first as an attorney and law school professor, then as a judge, and finally as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. In every capacity she held, she broke new ground and furthered the quest for equality and fairness in the country’s jurisprudence. Kanefield doesn’t just list facts and figures, she shows the reader a portrait of an incredible person of integrity and perseverance striving for fairness and equality across the board. Continue reading

The book every woodwind player and technician should have

By Ande Jacobson

Woodwind Instruments: a practical guide for technicians and repairers by Daniel Bangham is a new release that will be a useful reference for woodwind technicians and players alike. Expected in late October 2022 through The Crowood Press, Bangham’s book provides instructions for setting up a complete workshop to repair and maintain clarinets, flutes, saxophones, oboes, and bassoons. The detailed repair instructions for technicians include most routine and complex repairs they might encounter. For players, the book can serve as a guide on caring for their instruments along with what to look for when they are encountering problems going so far as instructing them on some stop gap measures until they can get their instruments to a repair shop. The book is aimed at technicians, particularly given the specialized equipment needed to affect repairs, but understanding more about how their instruments work helps players get the most out of them even if they don’t want to try to make the repairs themselves. Continue reading

The law applies to everyone, even the ‘First Family’

By Ande Jacobson

In 2009, David Baldacci’s fourth book in the King and Maxwell series dropped. As so many of his stories seem to be, First Family has some references that could directly apply over a decade later. Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are former Secret Service agents who had to leave the service under murky circumstances in the first book in their series, Split Second. At the end of that one, they established a partnership as private investigators. They’ve maintained some of their contacts within the service and other law enforcement agencies and have since taken on some complex cases as PIs.

In First Family, they were on their way to talk with a potential client when they stumble upon a crime in progress. In a flurry of activity, a young girl is kidnapped, and her mother is murdered in their home. King and Maxwell are unable to stop the crime and get shot at when they try to intervene. Because they are on the scene at the time of the crime, they are interrogated by law enforcement as some old rivalries between the FBI and the Secret Service appear. It turns out that the girl is the First Lady’s niece – her father being the First Lady’s brother. In what seems like an odd turn of events, King is then contacted by none other than the First Lady despite the FBI already heading up the investigation. As it happens, King and the First Lady have known one another for a very long time because of a chance meeting one night when King helped her husband, then a U.S. Senator, avoid an unseemly scandal that would have prevented his ascension to president later in life, at least in a society that cared about character and fitness for the job.

The President and First Lady aren’t the only ones with secrets in their pasts in this action-filled adventure. The mystery doesn’t surround the perpetrator’s identity. The reader learns that early on even though it takes a while for the various investigators to figure it out. The mystery surrounds the motive behind the crimes – one intentional, the other a disastrous accident – along with navigating the additional complications that result. Love, hate, and every emotion in between are on display as are the wonders of science.

There’s a lot that isn’t fair as the story unfolds, and yet the villain is more sympathetic and understandable than the First Family by the time all is exposed. Through the girl’s captivity, her captor seems conflicted. He clearly doesn’t want to hurt her, but he’s also cagey about how and when she’ll be released. He understands how bright she is and brings her a wide variety of books to read. He also has her meet another captive, a woman who seems protective somehow. One time, she and the woman try to escape and discover that they are in an abandoned mine built into a remote mountain. They realize that there is no way for them to leave on their own, and they reluctantly return to their rooms.

Given the events that have transpired since the book was published, the First Family is even less sympathetic than it would have been in 2009. Baldacci deftly weaves a tale of intrigue combined with the lust for power by those who should never have it. He also provides more insight into King and Maxwell as they deal with a personal tragedy in the midst of their case that brings them closer together.

As with all Baldacci stories, some of the action is more than a little implausible, but then it’s not intended to be a true crime story. It is entertainment, and the characters are drawn bigger than life. The reader can relate to them in some ways and in others admire their fortitude. The book reads quickly with a satisfying final resolution, and it sets up future King and Maxwell stories.


References:
First Family, by David Baldacci
It only take a ‘Split Second’
Breaking the code
http://www.davidbaldacci.com/


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What keeps a Secretary of State up at night?

By Ande Jacobson

What happens when a former U.S. Secretary of State and a best-selling crime novelist decide to collaborate on a book? In October 2021, a gripping political thriller resulted from such a partnership. The book is State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny. The two became friends through a series of unlikely events. Clinton and her very close childhood friend, Betsy Johnson Ebeling shared a love of books. By chance in the summer of 2016, the two of them were reading one of Louise Penny’s books, something that Ebeling mentioned in an interview. Penny’s publicist happened to see the interview, and she arranged for Penny and Ebeling to meet at a publicity tour for Penny’s latest book that year. The two hit it off and became fast friends. In the fall of 2016 not long after her book tour, Penny’s beloved husband died of dementia. As Penny was reading some condolence cards, she opened one that changed her life again. The writer was Hillary Rodham Clinton, and it was toward the end of her brutal 2016 presidential campaign. Despite the intense pressure, she took the time to write an eloquent and heartfelt condolence note to Louise Penny, a woman she’d never met. Clinton knew Penny through her books and through Ebeling’s recent friendship with her and had to reach out. That was the first direct contact between Penny and Clinton. That, along with some other timely in-person meetings, started a close friendship. Sometimes that rapport thing just happens, and the three of them, Betsy, Hillary, and Louise, had that spark. And then in 2019, ending her long battle with breast cancer, Betsy died. Continue reading

How to stop the evil doers

By Ande Jacobson

Though first released in 2010, David Baldacci’s Deliver Us from Evil is just as relevant today. This is the second (and so far last) in the Shaw series. The story can stand alone and grips the reader from the very first page. Shaw works for a shadowy international organization under Frank Wells and was originally conscripted for his considerable talents in exchange for dismissing some sticky legal issues in which he’d been ensnared. While his every move is tracked, he takes on assignments to apprehend the most dangerous criminals to hand off to the appropriate law enforcement organizations through a cooperative, multinational effort. At the outset, Shaw is still smarting from his previous assignment through which his fiancée lost her life, and with her, he lost his heart. The bulk of his backstory was shared in the first book of the series, The Whole Truth. Continue reading

It only takes a ‘Split Second’

By Ande Jacobson

David Baldacci’s Split Second came out in 2003 and provides the origin story behind the Sean King/Michelle Maxwell partnership. King, a former Secret Service agent, and Maxwell, a current agent, become targets of a long-running conspiracy that bring them together after similar career mishaps. King had ended his career with the service in disgrace after his protectee was executed right in front of him during a split second’s distraction. Maxwell’s charge is abducted eight years later when she leaves him alone very briefly per his request. Both were rising stars in the service. Both had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and fell victim to horrific events that were far more complicated and violent than they realized at the time. Continue reading

Can we believe the reports?

By Ande Jacobson

David Baldacci is known for gripping adventure novels that can sometimes seem a bit too plausible in today’s world of perception management. In his 2008 book, The Whole Truth, he introduces a new hero, Shaw. The reluctant international intelligence agent with no first name and a mysterious past may be the only person who can unravel a manufactured crisis before it’s too late. Teaming up with Katie James, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has fallen from the top of her field and is looking to redeem herself, they desperately seek the source of the crisis de jour that begins as a humanitarian catastrophe and expands to include a London massacre that blanket the news worldwide. Which events actually happened? Who is behind these events, and why did they set them in motion? Continue reading

The God Delusion – Why limit our perception?

By Ande Jacobson

In 2006, Richard Dawkins wrote a book that has garnered high praise from some and unabashed fury from others. The book has the provocative title, The God Delusion. Dawkins uses his background as a scientist specializing in evolutionary biology to examine a simple conceit to explain why so many people refuse to even consider leaving religion behind despite compelling evidence to refute its validity: “I didn’t know I could.” In his Preface he explains that his intention in writing this particular book is to raise consciousness to a few ideas such as why atheism has merit and can facilitate a productive and fulfilling life without guilt or apology; how concepts like natural selection, though often misunderstood, provide more probable alternatives to religious dogma; and how religion corrupts childhood and encourages exclusion. He acknowledges the importance of various scriptures such as the Bible, not as divine instruction, but as works of literature or historical fiction. As such, he explains how they provide cautionary tales and cultural references while inspiring countless modern works of literature, and he laments the ever decreasing familiarity with such sources even amongst those who claim to be religious. Mostly he intends his book to inspire people to think and examine the world around them anew, open to the beauty that comes with greater understanding through science. Continue reading

The nation is in ‘Peril’

By Ande Jacobson

The final book in Bob Woodward’s trilogy chronicling the Trump presidency and its aftermath is aptly named Peril. Woodward co-authored this third book with Robert Costa and released it in September 2021. While the first two books, Fear and Rage, together cover the Trump presidency prior to the historic 2020 election and its aftermath, Peril overlaps a bit with Rage and focuses on the extraordinary actions within the Trump administration, the Pentagon, and Congress in the lead up to the election, the administration’s attempts to thwart the legitimate outcome of losing reelection, and the first several months of the Biden administration. While the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol and the Department of Justice are hard at work investigating what happened from a legal perspective, Peril tells the story drawn from personal interviews of more than 200 people at the center of the events resulting in more than 6,000 pages of transcripts, much of the information never before seen in the news or in publicly released documents. In a historical context, this is an important book. It chronicles what happened from the perspective of those involved rather than strictly what was made public or reported in the news. Continue reading

Breaking the code

By Ande Jacobson

I recently read and reviewed Kate Quinn’s The Rose Code for an upcoming book club Zoom, and at the same time, I was reading David Baldacci’s Simple Genius. I had started Baldacci’s book first, but as I decided to get a jump on my book club reading, I discovered an unexpected connection. Both books feature the mystique of codebreaking and of Bletchley Park, albeit at different times in history. As mentioned in my previous review, The Rose Code takes place at the time that Bletchley Park was active during WWII and its immediate aftermath and provides the reader with riveting historical fiction. Simple Genius doesn’t qualify as historical fiction and is instead a political thriller/murder mystery, the third in Baldacci’s King and Maxwell series. Continue reading