Fiction: “The Partner” by John Grisham

The PartnerI flew out to visit My Dear Friend Emily in San Francisco back in January of last year. And when I was looking for a book (or two) to bring with me on the flight, I just could not bring myself to pick up the next Patricia Cornwell title in the Kay Scarpetta series – I don’t know why; probably some gut feeling about how terrible it would be, and I was looking forward to the trip and didn’t want snotty Kay to ruin it for me.

So I picked the next best thing for an airplane read: a John Grisham novel I hadn’t read in years.

I was once an avid reader of John Grisham novels – mainly, back in high school. I know I have read all of his novels spanning from A Time To Kill up through … The Brethren, maybe? The Firm has always been my favorite, but I thought I remembered The Partner as also being very good, mainly because I thought it was funnier than some of the other books he’s written?

Reader, I was a bit wrong on that front.

Patrick Lanigan is the titular partner. When the book opens, he has been hiding in Brazil under the name Danilo Silva for a number of years. Why is he in hiding? Because a number of years ago (apparently 4), Patrick stole ninety million dollars from his former law firm and faked his death. And when the book starts, he has just been found.

Patrick is taken by hired bounty hunters and tortured to find out where the money went. After a few days, the bounty hunters turn Patrick over to the FBI and he is remanded back to the States. Patrick hires his friend, Sandy McDermott, to represent him in the trial. And there’s a whole bunch of shit that Patrick needs to clear up – why he faked his death, whose body was in the car, what happens to his ex-wife’s life insurance settlement, etc.

I cannot recall why Patrick stole the ninety million in the first place – I seem to recall that the other partners in his law firm were working with a Mafia don, and there may have been a case that they were all working on (and maybe planning to set up Patrick as the fall guy?) that also involved the highest echelons of government, maybe the Department of Defense?

Patrick also has a partner working with him back in Brazil – another lawyer, maybe a girlfriend, she is the one that notifies the FBI of Patrick’s abduction by the bounty hunters. They communicate by coded phone calls and through Sandy (once Sandy’s on board), and at the end of the novel, she arranges to pay the money back to the —

Oh that’s what happened – the law firm was representing a shady contractor who had managed to swindle the U.S. Department of Defense out of millions of dollars by inflating purchase orders, invoices, and all sorts of other shit. There may have also been a U.S. Senator involved.

But anyway, Eva, Patrick’s girlfriend-slash-lawyer, arranged to pay the bulk of the money back to the Government (keeping a tidy sum of probably about $10 million earned in interest over the years of Patrick’s “disappearance”) – but once Patrick goes free, she doesn’t meet him in France as arranged.

At this juncture, I’d like everyone to click the link to my review of The Firm, and refresh yourself with the parameters for John Grisham novels. The Partner shakes out thusly:

II. A lawyer who has become disillusioned with the system, but will give it one last try(*), discovers
C. The case he’s currently working on has ties to the highest of government.
With the help of
1. His friends,
b. Is able to turn the Mafia over to the FBI.
As his life is now in danger, he must
i. Escape to the Caribbean or South America,
with a tidy sum of about
$10 million.

(although in this one the $10 million doesn’t actually end up in the protagonist’s hands, but — details, right?)

Finally, for the Guster Reading Challenge for The Partner, I assigned it the entry for “Read a book you picked up at an airport, or that features an airplane or an airport”, one of Guster’s most popular songs, “Airport Song.” While the plot of the novel didn’t take place on a plane or at an airport (and I’ve had this paperback in my collection for years), I read the book on a cross-country flight, so – I’m going to make it count for this.

Here’s a link to a video of Guster performing “Airport Song” at the Paradise Rock Club in January of 2017. The Goldfly version of “Airport Song” is … okay, but as Guster said back in February of this year, when My Dear Friend Emily and I saw Guster at Bubba’s in San Francisco (yes, I flew out to San Francisco to see Emily but also mainly so we could see Guster, which has been “our band” since 2004), a few years ago Guster got tired of playing “Airport Song” as written, so they made a disco version; in my opinion, the live, disco version is the superior version.

Grade for The Partner: 2 stars

Fiction: “Reunion In Death” by J.D. Robb

Reunion in DeathA couple of days ago I took this off of my bookshelf in preparation for writing this review, and I yelled at myself because, again, this was a book I owned, but didn’t dogear any pages. Nor did I remember any of the particulars of the plot.

But then, tonight, I realized – it doesn’t matter.

Isn’t the point of the In Death series to be unchanging? All of these plots are the same – Eve is assigned a case that becomes personal in nature, she feels determined to keep Roarke out of it because a) he’s a civilian, and b) she doesn’t want to put her husband in harm’s way. Roarke keeps ending up involved because a) he’s richer than Croesus, and odds are he either owns the building the murder happened in or the victim was a business associate or whatever, it is what it is, and b) he has better equipment than the NYPSD, and c) he sticks his nose into it in spite of Eve, because Eve’s his wife –

John Mulaney that's my wife.gif

– and goddammit, he’s going to protect her.

That’s it. That’s the plot.

In this case (according to GoodReads, and also a quick browse through last night), the murderer in question is a woman who Eve either put away in jail and now she’s out again, hoping to get revenge, or she eluded Eve before and now Eve’s even more determined to get her behind bars. The murderer does crime by poisoning old rich dudes. To which I say, “I hope her first victim was/will be Jeff Bezos” (because these books take place in the future) (and mainly because Jeff Bezos is a terrible, terrible human being who literally has enough money to throw one billion dollars a year at trying to go to space).

I can’t remember this part of it at all, but according to GoodReads, Eve (and Roarke) also have to return to Dallas. Eve confronts her past with Roarke beside her, and I’m sure it was very affecting – I just can’t remember any of it.

(In my [scant] defense, I was also in the process of moving while I read this book. The next two books I actually finished reading in my new house – well, new as of October 2018.)

So. Shortest review on That’s What She Read ever? Possibly. Look, it was good – if you like the J.D. Robb series, you’re going to like this one. And I think it does what it’s supposed to – entertains you while you read it, and then when you’re done, the plot just fades into the rest of the novels, leaving you fresh for when you read the next one. This is the 14th book in the series – you gotta praise it for its consistency.

Grade for Reunion In Death: 2.5 stars (perfectly average)

Non-Fiction: “Incendiary” by Michael Cannell

IncendiaryHere it is, friends: the beginning of the end (of 2017). I have six books (including this one) to get through and then I’ve got the 2017 recap to get done. If I can keep my head down and power through, I’ll be able to post the recap before September, and therefore be better than I was last year.

The last six books of 2017 were also all library books. This title was on the “new and notable non-fiction” shelf, and I’ll be very honest: when I read the subtitle (“The Psychiatrist, The Mad Bomber, and The Invention of Criminal Profiling”), I picked up the book and checked to see if there were any references to Hannibal Lecter or Thomas Harris in the index.

Reader, there were.

The plot – such as it is, for a non-fiction book – covers the story of the Mad Bomber in New York City. Beginning in 1940 and continuing over the course of 16 years, the Bomber planted pipe bombs all over the city, mostly focusing in movie theaters, train and bus stations, and Radio City Music Hall. The police force struggled to determine the culprit – not only were forensics still fairly primitive compared to today, but the Bomber was extremely careful with his fingerprints. The Bomber would either write letters to the newspaper or the police station, I can’t remember which, but the police were aware that the bombs were placed in retaliation against Con Edison, a huge electricity public utility in New York State.

Around 1956, New York Police Capt. Howard Finney decided to visit a psychiatrist, Dr. James A. Brussel, who was the deputy commissioner of the New York State Dept. of Mental Hygiene. On a whim, Capt. Finney asked Dr. Brussel to try and give a psychoanalysis of the Mad Bomber.

This had never been done before. Psychiatrists would only analyze people in their presence. So, based on what evidence Capt. Finney could give Dr. Brussel, the doctor created the first criminal profile.

In addition to the anger the Bomber felt toward Con Edison, Dr. Brussel gave the following additional insight:

Male, as historically most bombers were male. Well proportioned and of average build, based on studies of hospitalized mental patients. Forty to fifty years old, as paranoia develops slowly. Precise, neat and tidy, based on his letters and the workmanship of his bombs. An exemplary employee, on time and well-behaved. A Slav, because bombs were favored in Middle Europe. A Catholic, because most Slavs were Catholic. Courteous but not friendly.

Has a good education but probably not college. Foreign-born or living in a community of the foreign-born – the formal tone and old-fashioned phrasing of the letters sounded to Brussel as if they had been written or thought out in a foreign language and then translated into English. Based on the rounded letter “w’s” of the handwriting, believed to represent breasts, and the slashing and stuffing of theater seats, Brussel thought something about sex was troubling the bomber, possible an oedipus complex – loving his mother and hating his father and other authority figures.

A loner, no friends, little interest in women, possibly a virgin. Unmarried, perhaps living with an older female relative. Probably lives in Connecticut, as Connecticut has high concentrations of Slavs, and many of the bomber’s letters were posted in Westchester County, midway between Connecticut and New York City.  [Wikipedia page (]

And as Capt. Finney was leaving with the profile, Dr. Brussel added this:

In the parting moment Dr. Brussel closed his eyes. An image of the bomber came to him with cinematic clarity. He wore outdated clothes since his contempt for others would prevent him from holding steady jobs. His attire was old-fashioned, but clean and meticulous. It would be prim, perhaps with an enveloping, protective aspect.

“Captain, one more thing. When you catch him,” Dr. Brussel said, “and I have no doubt you will, he’ll be wearing a double-breasted suit.”

Dr. Brussel added, “And it will be buttoned.”  [p. 107-108]

From there, Capt. Finney went to Seymour Berkson, the publisher of the New York Journal-American, and published a letter to the Mad Bomber, asking him to give himself up.

To The Mad Bomber
(Prepared in Co-operation with the Police Dept.)

Give yourself up.

For your own welfare and for that of the community, the time has come for you to reveal your identity.

The N.Y. Journal-American guarantees that you will be protected from any illegal action and that you will get a fair trial.

This newspaper is also willing to help you in two other ways.

It will publish all the essential parts of your story as you may choose to make it public.

It will give you the full chance to air whatever grievances you may have as the motive of your acts.

We urge you to accept this offer now not only for your own sake but for the sake of the community.

Time is running out on your prospects of remaining unapprehended.

You can telephone the City Editor of this newspaper at Cortland 7-1212, or you can go to any police station or even the policeman on the street and tell him who you are.

In all cases you will be given the benefits of our American system of justice.

Give yourself up now.  [p. 127]

The Mad Bomber began a correspondence with the Journal-American, and that led to confirming some of Dr. Brussels’ theories about the Bomber.

Eventually, a secretary at Con Edison found a worker’s comp document dating back to 1931, wherein an employee had been injured at work and found to have a permanent disability, and therefore fired. She found similar phrases used in the Mad Bomber’s letters and responses published in the Journal-American, and notified the police. The lead paid off: the culprit was George Metesky.

(Fun fact!: Con Edison also potentially delayed the investigation by claiming that all worker’s comp records dated prior to 1940 had been destroyed, when actually, they hadn’t. Capitalism!)

Metesky was arrested and indicted on 47 charges, including attempted murder and damaging a building by explosion. And yes, when he was arrested, he was wearing a buttoned double-breasted suit. Metesky was interviewed by numerous psychiatrists, and a judge determined him to be a paranoid schizophrenic; Metesky was declared legally insane and incompetent to stand trial. He was committed to Matteawan Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

He was eventually released when the Supreme Court found that one cannot commit someone to a hospital unless a jury finds that person dangerous. Since Metesky was committed without a jury trial – and by that time, he’d served two-thirds of a maximum 25-year sentence – he was released. He died in 1993, at the age of 90.

So now that I’ve got that out of the way, here’s the part of the book that talked about Hannibal:

Today profiling plays a prominent role in the pursuit of all serial offenders. It has also become a preoccupation of popular culture. In the late 1970s a quiet, bearded former Associated Press editor named Thomas Harris audited classes and met with FBI agents at Quantico, Virginia, where he learned about the agency’s semisecret efforts to profile killers and sex offenders. “What I try to do with a case is to take in all the evidence I have to work with … and then put myself mentally and emotionally in the head of the offender,” said John Douglas, one of the profilers Harris consulted over the years. “I try to think as he does. Exactly how this happens, I’m not sure …. If there’s a psychic component to this, I won’t run from it.”

Harris applied what he had learned at Quantico to his writings. His bestselling 1981 novel, Red Dragon, and its sequel Silence of the Lambs[*], introduced the world to Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist and homicidal cannibal, and Will Graham, the profiler who tracked him. Like Dr. Brussel, Graham succeeded because he could get inside the mind of a madman and follow his logic.

“It’s the way you think,” Graham’s FBI supervisor[**] tells him in Red Dragon.

“I think there’s a lot of bullshit about the way I think,” Graham replies.

“You made some jumps you never explained.”

Harris almost single-handedly created a profiling genre that stormed the bestseller lists and commands prime-time programming. [p. 244-245]

[*] It’s The Silence of the Lambs, dammit!

[**] Will’s “FBI supervisor” is JACK CRAWFORD, MUTHAFUCKA!

jack flips the bitch.gif

I liked the book. I thought Mr. Cannell did a good job with going between viewpoints: that of the NYPD, Mr. Metesky, and Dr. Brussells. He explained a lot of the forensics without being overly technical, which I appreciated. The plot – such as it is – moved along. If you’re interested in this type of topic, I’d recommend it. The Hannibal stuff was just a bonus.


Grade for Incendiary: 2.5 stars

Fiction: “The Maze” by Catherine Coulter

the-mazeWhen I was in the middle of reading The Witches, a strange feeling came over me. I couldn’t explain it. I do get this feeling occasionally, but I’m rarely able to pinpoint where the feeling comes from. This time, I think it was a mixture of reading a book for entirely too long (The Witches), plus a general sense of ennui.

That feeling? Was a desire to read a really shitty book. Something I could just … rip to fucking shreds, douse those shreds in gasoline, light a match, toss it over my shoulder, and then walk the fuck away. A pure, antagonistic, anarchic feeling.

It’s been a while since I’ve ranted – really ranted – about anything. At least, nothing literary. I’ve had some rants in public, about certain public events (and gaslighting) that are occurring currently in our society, but a book rant? I haven’t had one of those since one of those really shitty romance novels I read.

So why did I go back to Catherine Coulter? Especially after The Cove was so disturbingly bad? Well, first, I had read The Maze years ago, but couldn’t remember its quality. I guess I thought the chance was pretty good that it’d be at least as bad as The Cove?

I do want to take a moment and say that, if I were forced to score these books against each other, I would give The Maze a slight edge over The Cove. Mainly because Ms. Coulter has grown (slightly) as a writer in that she doesn’t have one-sided dialogue tell the story any longer; but still, it’s baaaad.

Before I start this verse of The Rant Song, I suppose I should tell you some of the plot.

The star of the book is Lacey Sherlock – yes, that is her real name. Yes, Ms. Coulter incorporated every single fucking “Sherlock” pun she could think of. Yes, it gets incredibly tedious. Lacey Sherlock is a rookie FBI agent. Upon graduation from Quantico, she is recruited into Dillon Savich’s unit on criminal behavior or something. Look, I’m not going to look it up, y’all should know that by now. But Savich uses computers to track trends and catch serial killers and I’m all, whatever. Oh, PS, this was written twenty years ago, so the technology is wicked dated.

Savich wants Sherlock on his team because a) she figured out he was the bank robber in her last Quantico / Robber’s Alley simulation, and b) apparently she’s the best FBI trainee Quantico had ever seen since J. Edgar Hoover.


Yeah — I’m right there with ya, Clarice.

So Savich hires Sherlock onto his team, and she quickly breaks a case that the rest of the team had been working on for a while, and I’m all, whatever. But in the middle of the case, Savich quickly realizes that Sherlock … has a secret.

Because of course she does.

See, her sister was murdered by a serial killer! Seven years ago, the serial killer lured her sister, Belinda, into a giant maze, and when Belinda got to the center of the maze, he cut out her tongue and killed her! And Sherlock has been hiding this secret (?) for seven years while she graduated college and underwent FBI training, all so she could catch the serial killer and kill him in return! And no one knew about her dead sister this entire time?

And then her sister’s widower comes to Washington unexpectedly and starts stalking Sherlock, who is polite (because even though her sister’s dead, he’s still considered “family”) but aloof. But he ain’t having none of it. Also, everyone – her ex-brother-in-law, Savich’s … secretary, I’m going to say, because I can’t remember and never looking it up, y’all – but everyone is assuming that Sherlock is sleeping with Savich. But she’s not. At least, not right now. It does happen, eventually – and not that hotly, either, but I’mma gonna get to that.

And then Savich figures out Sherlock’s … secret, and instead of kicking her out of the Bureau, he helps her find the serial killer, which they do … by doing a Google search on lumber? You guys, I can’t even with how dumb this is. Anyway, Sherlock goes “under””cover” to find the serial killer, and it is just —

God, this whole thing is so dumb. So the serial killer, Marlin Jones – his real name, hand to God – kills women who badmouth their husbands or significant male partners. It also helps him kill them if they use profanity.

That’s it. That’s the motive.


Yes, Hanni – that is adorable, compared to you.

Ugh – I just realized how much I miss Hannibal.

ANYWAY. So Marlin kidnaps Sherlock (who’s still “under””cover”), takes her to a new Maze, and she gets him arrested. But – how – there’s still a hundred pages left in the book? Da fuck??

Oh, but don’t worry, there’s plenty more ludicrous-ness to go. See — Savich’s secretary is still being mad jealous of Sherlock for no fucking reason, and hires some dude to break into Sherlock’s apartment and tell her to leave town, but also, he threatens to rape her. This after Sherlock was stabbed or concussed or something in getting rescued from Marlin’s maze. So in the middle of being threatened with rape, Savich manages to come to her rescue and bring her back to the hospital. When she’s released, he takes her to his condo, they do sex, and then Marlin escapes? (That’s not as connected as it sounds – it’s not like their sex is what releases Marlin from prison.) Or, wait – she has to go back to San Francisco for some family thing, and Savich is now in love with her and won’t let her be alone for five friggin’ minutes, and that’s when Marlin escapes! (Don’t worry guys, it literally doesn’t matter which is the real turn of events.) And then we find out that Marlin’s dad – whose name is Erasmus, be tee dubs, what the fuck – is also out of jail and most importantly, alive? And kind of the ringleader of the whole Maze-serial killer-thing? And also Douglas, Sherlock’s ex-brother-in-law, may have also been boinking Sherlock’s mom? While having the hots for Sherlock? Oh, and also married to a right See You Next Tuesday?

Seriously. You guys. I am never making it up.

And as if the plot weren’t! bad! enough!? Ms. Coulter’s writing has. not. improved. At least, not as much as I’d hoped.

Oh my god, a thousand words and I haven’t even started quoting this shit. Goddammit.

Okay, where do I want to start. Oh — so, back when I read The Cove, I ranted about how bad her dialogue was. I just reread that review, and apparently, my apoplexy rendered me unable to point out Ms. Coulter’s tendency to start bits of dialogue – usually a sentence at the end of a paragraph – with a “Yeah, [statement].” And the character isn’t even answering a question!

Here are some examples from The Maze, because yes, I dogeared all of them.

“Can you help us?”

“Both Agent Sherlock and I have just a few questions. Perhaps we can meet with your people and get the answers. Yes, Captain, there’s not a doubt in my mind that we can help you.” [p. 32]

Y’know, common parlance is to answer a dude’s question once it’s asked. So, y’know, “Yes, Captain, there’s not a doubt in my mind that we can help you” should come first. But – y’know what, it’s fine.

“Yeah, she’s out like a light.  Keep an eye on her, Savich.  She scared the hell out of every cop in that warehouse, but she sure got the job done.  Funny thing how her shooting him saved his life.  If you hadn’t called a quick halt, the cops would have turned him into a pincushion. Hey, we’ll call tomorrow. Oh yeah, we got a lot on him.”  [p. 122]

“The young cop who messed up and let two of the old people go in that Florida nursing home murder – he has no idea. We were right – all old people look the same to him. Oh yeah, there’s been a spate of murders in South Dakota, right in Elk Point, then the guy went over the border into Iowa.” [p. 218]

“I’m going to call Jimmy Maitland and let him know we’re back. And Ollie. Yeah, I think I’ll give Hannah a ring. Yes, I think you’re right. She’s probably behind the leak. I’m beginning to think this might be a good time for her to transfer to another section.” [p. 262]

It’s so. annoying.

Also annoying – how people can’t just fucking come out and say Sherlock has goddamned reddish hair. Look at this stupidity from Savich’s stream of consciousness:

He cocked open an eye. Sherlock was standing over him, a shock of her red hair falling over to cover the side of her face. He watched her tuck the swatch of hair behind her ear. Nice hair and lots of it. Her eyes were green, a pretty color, kind of mossy and soft. No, her hair wasn’t really red, but more red than anything else. There was some brown and a dash of cinnamon color as well. He guessed it was auburn. That’s what he’d thought the first time he’d seen her. [p. 38-39]

A hundred pages later, and he’s still not convinced he knows what color her hair is:

That hair of hers had come loose from the clasp and was rioting around her face – red hair that wasn’t really a carrot red or an orange red or even the auburn he’d thought, but a mixture of this color and that. She had lots of hair. Actually very beautiful hair.  [p. 123]

Even Sherlock’s ex-brother-in-law, Douglas, cannot just call red hair “red”:

[Douglas] touched her hair, then sifted it through his fingers. “Beautiful. It’s auburn, but not really. Perhaps more Titian, but there’s some blond in there too and some brown.” [p. 47]

What the fuck. Guy’s a douchemonster. Wouldn’t know Titian if it came up and bit him in the face. (I’ll get to Douchemonster in a minute.)

Okay. I have been writing this review for entirely too long. So, I’ve just gone through my Word document of quotes that I want to bitch about, and divided them up into categories. Without further ado:

CATEGORY ONE: Man, These Serial Killers Are Awful Talkers

So, remember: the serial killer who leads the poor defenseless women into The Maze is Marlin Jones, acting under the influence of his father, Erasmus Jones. I am never making it up. And remember their motive!cute: they don’t like women who badmouth their husbands, and they especially don’t like women who swear. Here, Marlin monologues (!) to Sherlock about one of his prior victims while she’s in the middle of The Maze:

“He brought her in one night. They had a big argument right there. She even threw a beer in his face. She cursed him up one side and down the other. She even called him a motherfucker. Most women, even bad ones like you, they don’t say that word. That’s a word for real bad guys.” [p. 135]

YOU WATCH IT, MOTHERFUCKER. Although maybe it’s slightly comforting that at least a serial killer might be able to like me for who I am as a person?


Besides as food, Hanni.

ANYWAY. There’s also that dude that Savich’s secretary, Hannah, hired to scare Sherlock into leaving Savich alone. Y’know, the one that breaks into Sherlock’s apartment and scares her when she’s getting out of the shower (oh, I forgot to mention that part:)

“Why do you want me to leave Washington?”

The gun stopped.  He drew his hand away.  “Your mama and daddy need you at home. It’s time you went back there and took care of your responsibilities. They don’t want you here, involved in conspiracies and shooting people, the way the FBI does. Yeah, they want you home. I’m here to encourage you to go.”

“I’ll tell you why I can’t go back just yet. You see, there’s this murderer, his name is Marlin Jones, and he just killed this woman in Boston. He’s a serial killer. I can’t leave just yet. I’ll tell you more but it could take a while.  Can’t I put on some clothes? We can go in the kitchen, and I’ll make some coffee?” [p. 173]

Yes, offer the person who is waving a gun in your naked face some coffee, Sherlock! There’s no way that will end badly! (PS, I am going to get into how Sherlock talks. Christ on sale.)

But anyway, she asks him what his name is (because remember, this individual is unrelated to the main serial killer plot!), and this is, hand to God, his entire response:

“Who are you?”

He laughed. “Call me Sam. You like that? Yeah, that’s me – Sam. My pa was named Sam too. Hey, I’m the son of Sam.” [p. 174]

I can’t with that shit. Here’s why I can’t with this shit: It’s fucking lazy writing that has no point.

ALLOW ME TO ELUCIDATE. (P.S., this is a thing I do with my employees when they write letters to taxpayers: if I feel they’re going off on tangents, I show them “the point” of every sentence they have written. And if there is repetition, or no “point,” the sentence gets fucking cut.)

  1. “Call me Sam.”
    Okay. So, if it had stopped there, I wouldn’t have had an issue. Sherlock asked who he is, and he answered: “Call me Sam.” And with just that one line, we the reader could infer that “Sam” is not his real name, and we can move on.
  2. “You like that?”
    Now, “Sam” is asking Sherlock if she likes his choice of name. Here’s the thing, though: it doesn’t matter what Sherlock likes or wants. This person broke into her apartment, and came upon her when she was getting out of the shower. She is naked, unarmed in all senses of the word: she is beyond vulnerable. “Sam” has all the power in this scenario, and there is no need – besides emphasizing his louse-ness, I suppose – for “Sam” to ask if Sherlock likes his name. And even if he’s not asking her how he did for a name choice, if he’s just making noise? That’s almost worse.
  3. “Yeah, that’s me — Sam.”
    Great – he’s re-emphasizing his choice. Either to make sure Sherlock gets what she is to call him, or – and this is my theory – he’s really proud that he came up with a name so quickly when asked, and now he’s just chuffed about it.
  4. “My pa was named Sam too.”
    This sentence was either written to show the level of education “Sam” has (“pa” as opposed to “father”), or as setup for the next sentence. There is no other reason this information need be relayed to Sherlock.
  5. “Hey, I’m the son of Sam.”
    Oh, it was a joke. Now, before you get all up in arms about “See? He needed the fourth sentence so the joke lands in the fifth”, I must ask you: does the joke land? And, more importantly, is the joke necessary? I posit NO.

This has been “Story Structure Theory OR: Is That Sentence Really Necessary?” With Alaina Patterson.

(God, that whole paragraph pissed me off royally.)

CATEGORY TWO: Douglas, Sherlock’s Ex-Brother-in-Law, Is a Terrible, Terrible Person

He is. He is a terrible, terrible person. He is a misogynist. He is abusive, both mentally and physically so. He is hitting on Sherlock while married to a woman who is just as awful as he is. He makes me so angry, he just makes me want to – set him on fire!


This is part of our first introduction to Douglas:

“Let’s go eat, Lacey.”

“You look like a prince and I look like a peasant. Let me change. It’ll take me just a minute. Oh yeah, everybody calls me Sherlock.”

“I don’t like that, I never did. And everybody has to make a stupid remark when they meet you. It doesn’t suit you. It’s very masculine. Is that what the FBI is all about? Turning you into a man?” [p. 51]

Here, we have another instance of somebody going “Yeah, [statement]”: this time from Sherlock. But let’s talk about Douglas. He takes her statement – “everybody calls me Sherlock” – and interprets it that the FBI is taking away Sherlock’s femininity. Go fuck yourself, Douglas.

At dinner, Douglas brings up the fact that he’s probably going to marry some woman back home because she claims he got her pregnant. And to show how absolutely awful Douglas is, that’s not the worst part of it:

“She claims I got her pregnant and I suppose that I could have, but I’ve always been so careful. Living in San Francisco, you’re probably the most careful of any American.” [p. 53]


This is not the first time Catherine Coulter has elevated the link between homosexuality and the AIDS epidemic in a completely unsympathetic way. I remind you of this, from my review of The Cove:

So Sally has been kidnapped for the umpteenth time, this time by her not-father. And her not-father is monologuing about his reasons for institutionalizing her and making her life a living hell. And here is where he brings up her gay husband:

“And, you see, I knew all about his lover. At least I made sure you didn’t get AIDS.” [316]

At least I made sure you didn’t get AIDS. [“Fiction: ‘The Cove’ by Catherine Coulter”]

I mean, goddammit. And before y’all start saying, “Alaina, this was written twenty years ago,” fuck you, twenty years ago was 1997! 1997 was recent enough to realize that gay people are not walking contagions for AIDS, which is exactly what Ms. Coulter is implying, in both of these novels. You cannot tell me with a straight face that Ms. Coulter is merely referring to birth control when it comes to Douglas “being careful” while “living in San Francisco.” This is homophobia, plain and simple, and I will fucking call people out on their fucking bullshit when I see it. So both of them – the fictional character and its creator – can go fuck themselves.

What else does Douglas do? Oh, how about lurk outside of Sherlock’s apartment, waiting for her to come home?

“Is that Savich?”

She was so startled she nearly fell over backward. As she was flailing for balance, he came out from behind a tree. “Oh my heavens, it’s you, Douglas. You nearly stopped my heart. Is something the matter? Is everyone all right?”

“Oh yes. I’ve been waiting for you, Lacey. I came over hoping we could have dinner. But you weren’t here.” [p. 60]

What the fuck. Also, he kisses Sherlock without her permission, and then his wife, Candice, who I’m fucking getting to, barges in and accuses him (rightly) of being a cheating pig, and then this happens:

“Candice,” he said very patiently, as if speaking to an idiot witness, “Lacey is part of my family. Just because Belinda died, I didn’t cut her out of my life.”

“I saw you kissing her through the window, Douglas.”

“Yes,” he said quite calmly. “I did. She’s very innocent. She doesn’t kiss well and I like that.”  [p. 151]

I … I don’t even have any more vitriol left for him. Go fuck yourself, Douglas. Go find the most splintered broomstick in your woodshed and just … go to town on your own asshole with it. Fuck you, you disgusting excuse for a fictional character.

CATEGORY THREE: Douglas’s Wife Candice Ain’t Much Better

So remember, Candice was the woman who Douglas at first thought was knocked up. Turns out, she was lying to get him to marry her. When they got married, she admitted that she was not pregnant. So Douglas returns to attempt to get Sherlock back – even though he never had her in the first place, so “back” is a misnomer. And then Candice follows Douglas – from San Francisco – and manages to follow Douglas back to Sherlock’s apartment, unbeknownst to either Douglas or Sherlock.

“I followed you, Douglas. And you came here just like a little trained pigeon. I knew you’d come to her, even though I prayed you wouldn’t. Damn you, I’d hoped our marriage meant something to you. Just look, you let her kiss you. You’ve got her lipstick on your mouth. Damn you, you smell like her.” [p. 151]

This isn’t the first time Ms. Coulter does this, but do you notice how she repeats key phrases in the same paragraph? That’s another thing I’d use my red pen on with my employees.

A hundred pages after this, Candice is badmouthing Belinda to Sherlock and Savich:

“Belinda had low tastes. I’ve heard that she went to dives, to real low-class places. That’s where she would have met this killer. Yes, I’ll bet she did sleep with him. She slept with everyone. Why don’t you ask her?” She turned and gave Lacey a vicious look. “Yes, ask the little princess here.” [p. 248]

“Now, Candice, how do you know so much about Belinda? She was killed seven years ago. You weren’t even around then.”

“I’m an investigative reporter. I looked up everything. I spoke to people who’d known her.” [p. 249]

I just … I don’t see the point of having such an antagonistic person in this story. What purpose does Candice serve? How does she contribute to the narrative? This book has so many stupid plot tangents that you could completely cut out the whole Douglas and Candice shit and you’d still have … well, you’d still have a mess, but that’s because the whole motive behind testing women by having them walk a maze is fucking stupid.

CATEGORY FOUR: … Oh my god.

And not just any normal “oh my god.” This is the Bob Belcher, pinch-the-bridge-of-his-nose-in-disgust “oh my god.”


So when I read these, please realize that the primary reaction I had was to facepalm myself and mutter, “oh my god.”

“What’s your name?”

“Lacey Sherlock.”

“No one’s named that. That’s stupid. That’s out of some dumb detective story.” [p. 134]


“What’s going on, Savich?”

“My gut. You’ve never before mistrusted my gut, sir. Don’t mistrust it now. I’m out of here and on my way to her house. She was going there to get more stuff. We made a firm time date. She isn’t here. Sherlock’s always on time. Something’s happened and I just know it’s Marlin and Erasmus. Put out an ABP on her car, Mazda, 4X4 Navajo, license SHER 123.” [p. 307]


And now, the moment that I truly felt bad for Savich:

It was nearly morning when Savich came slowly awake, aware that something strange was happening, something that was probably better than any pesto pasta he’d ever made, better even than having won a huge bet off one of his relatives. The something strange suddenly intensified and he lurched up, gasping. She was leaning over him, her tangled hair covering his belly, her mouth on him. [p. 263]

I may not know too much about blowjobs, but I do know how to tell one apart from pesto pasta. I am so sorry for Savich. I can only imagine his train of thought while he was waking up. What’s — what’s that I’m feeling? Is that … is that pesto pasta on my dick? No, it’s the mouth of the girl I went to bed with last night, and the mouth is on my dick, and it’s doing things that I like. Like, dudes, answer me a question: how much time actually elapses between “being asleep” and “knowing you’ve got a woman sucking your cock”? Isn’t it pretty immediate for you guys? Like, that’s a feeling you know immediately, deep within you(r balls)? HOW DOES HE NOT KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON

oh my god.

Before I get to Category Five, the Katrina of the book, I have one random thing to add because it makes me laugh:

Savich put his elbows on the table, looked directly at the man, and said, “Detective, were there any repairmen in the Lansky household within the past two months?”

Dubrosky reared back, then rocked forward again, banging his fist on the table. “Do you think we’re fucking idiots? Of course we checked all that!” [p. 32]


I just want to point out here: this rant is officially longer than my rant on The Revenant. I am so sorry, you guys – I didn’t realize how epic this was going to be.

On to CATEGORY FIVE, THE MOST SERIOUS OF CATEGORIES: Sherlock isn’t as cute as you think she is

One of the traits that comes out in Ms. Coulter’s dialogue is Sherlock’s awkwardness when it comes to speaking. Here’s an example: for context, her direct superior just witnessed Sherlock Poirot-ing about how she solved a case in front of the entire staff meeting, but she neglected to inform her direct superior first.

“There honestly wasn’t time, Ollie. No, of course there was time. It’s just that I, oh damn, this sounds ridiculous, but I really wasn’t even thinking about it until it popped right into my head. Surely you’ve done the same thing.”

[…] “It wasn’t a very nice thing to do, Sherlock.”

“No, you’re right. It wasn’t. I can only say that I honestly wasn’t thinking about it.” It was true. She hadn’t known that Savich would put her on the spot in front of the whole Unit, but he had. There’d been no time then to say anything to Ollie. No, there’d been time. She just hadn’t thought about it. [p. 77]

Between the stuttering and the going back and forth about how there wasn’t enough time to tell Ollie, no actually there was, she was just dumb – it’s an annoying quirk.

She’s even indecisive about when she intends to kill Marlin Jones:

“All right, the truth.  He hasn’t told us everything.  If I could have gotten all of it out of him, then I would have shot him clean.  Well, maybe.  Yes, we have to get him to tell us everything, then I’ll shoot him in the chest, I promise.”  [p. 119]

And here, she’s actually doing a rather decent job of defending herself to Jealous Hannah, but then no, wait — yup, there she goes, fucking it up:

“Ollie told me that Savich doesn’t believe in becoming involved with anyone in his unit. That includes all of us, Hannah. If you want him, then I suggest you transfer out. Listen, I just want to catch this monster in Boston. Actually I did lie. I do want Savich’s brain and his expertise. Does that count? Is that brain lust?” [p. 82]

Now, let’s talk about her time being “under””cover” when attempting to bait Marlin Jones into kidnapping her. I know I’ve said it before, but remember: when it comes to Marlin deciding who his next victim will be, the secret word is fucking.

“What are you doing with the plywood, ma’am?” [asks Marlin.]

“I’m building props for my son’s school play, and that’s why I need to use plywood, not hardwood. They’re doing Oklahoma! and I’ve got to put together a couple of rooms that can be easily disassembled then put back up. So I’ll need some brackets and some screws too.”

“Then why’d you pound a nail through it?”

“That was just experimentation. My husband, that fucking son of a bitch, won’t help me, drinks all the time, won’t take part in raising our son, won’t show me any affection at all, well, so I’ve got to do it all myself.” [p. 105]


Like, she just decided to fucking go for it. Marlin doesn’t like women who swear? And he doesn’t like women who badmouth their husbands? Okay, let’s call the pretend husband a “fucking son of a bitch”, an alcoholic, and a neglectful parent and lover. Can’t just say “motherfucker,” huh, Sherlock?

Now, this next quote is from just before Marlin kidnaps Sherlock, and I’m not sure what this sentence means:

Her heart pounding, she whirled about, a gasp coming out of her mouth. “Oh goodness gracious, Marlin, you scared the stuffing out of me. Oh yeah, you scared me shitless.” [p. 107]

Is it just another example of Ms. Coulter’s “Yeah, [statement]” tic? Or is it Sherlock realizing she could have swore in the first sentence, so to cover it up she goes, “Oh yeah,” where it could mean “Oh yeah, I mean, you scared me shitless”? I’m not sure. But I do know it’s dumb either way.

This description of Savich’s voice is just fucking lazy:

“Your voice made me quiver – all dark and soft, like falling into a deep, deep well. If I were a criminal, I’d say anything you wanted to keep you talking to me like that. It’s a wonderful voice. Plummy – that’s how a writer would describe your voice.” [p. 183]

NOBODY SAYS ‘PLUMMY’ IN REAL LIFE. You overplayed your hand, Ms. Coulter.

And finally, speaking of Ms. Coulter’s hand, I want to leave you with this statement from her acknowledgements:

Whenever I hear writers brag about how their editors don’t require any changes to their manuscripts, I’m honestly floored. It’s an editor’s job to be the reader’s representative and thus make the manuscript better. And believe me, a manuscript can always be made better.  [Acknowledgements, pg. I]

Well, as I just typed 5,000 words to prove that your editor isn’t worth a goddamned dime, I just have to say: no shit, Sherlock.

jon stewart boom

Grade for The Maze: Twilight stars.

Fiction: “Seduction in Death” by J.D. Robb

seductionAs I was finishing up The Witches, I realized I wanted something a little lighter for my next reading fare. While I was still reading silly little romance novels at home, that genre still isn’t something I feel comfortable reading in public – especially since I don’t read them on my Kindle app. (Or don’t, for the most part.) So I went with the next best thing to a cheesy romance novel: a crime novel with some romance! Also known as, the next book in the J.D. Robb Eve Dallas series.

This book’s villain is actually a team of two: two young, affluent white male geniuses who never got women in high school or college, so they turned to meeting women under pseudonyms online – and really obvious pseudonyms to the modern day reader; I’m talking about John Keats, or Byron. Poets from the Romantic period that people in 2058ish (when the series takes place) might not be as familiar with as we are right now. But they entice a lady via their online profiles, and then when they go out on their first date, they roofie the girls, and then, after they’ve consented (while incapacitated, so, no, consent wasn’t part of the discussion), they inject another drug into the girl’s bloodstream which causes her to have a heart attack mid-orgasm, and die.

Yet another reason why I’m still single.

No, but for real: many well-meaning people have said to me, “Alaina, why don’t you try online dating?” And while I was just as hesitant prior to reading Seduction in Death, this certainly doesn’t help. (Although at least I’d give myself enough credit to know when someone’s masquerading as John Keats or something to figure out they’re lyin’.)

Look, one of my formative influences is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And in episode 8 of season 1, “I Robot, You Jane,” Willow dates Malcolm, and the relationship is all online. Malcolm also turns out to be a demon, but that’s neither here nor there. This conversation between Buffy and Xander, however, completely explains my reservations:

Xander: I mean, sure he says he’s a high school student, but can say I’m a high school student.
Buffy: [duh] You are.
Xander: Okay, but I could also say I’m an elderly Dutch woman. Get me? I mean, who’s to say I’m not if I’m in the elderly Dutch chat room?
Buffy: I get your point. [realizes] I get your point! Oh, this guy could be anybody! He could be weird, or crazy, or old, or … he could be a circus freak! He’s probably a circus freak!
Xander: Yeah, I mean, we read about it all the time. Y’know, people meet on the ‘net, they talk, they get together, have dinner, a show … horrible ax murder.
Buffy: Willow … ax murdered, by a circus freak. Okay, okay, what do we do?

PS, this conversation? aired back in 1997. It’s stuck with me for almost oh god I just counted twenty years. Just because Dude posts a picture of himself, how do I know it’s really Dude? I have trust issues up the wazoo! There is no way I am going to be able to trust anyone, no matter how well-meaning they may be.

holy shit next year is the 20th goddamned anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

So anyway, Dear Well-Meaning Friends: stop suggesting I try online dating. Don’t quote to me the magnificent Carrie Fisher, who said “stay afraid, but do it anyway.” As much as I admire her (and god, do I ever), and aspire to her level of life-living, when it comes to that avenue, there are Things I (clearly) need to work on (probably via talk therapy), and until those Things have been Worked, online dating will be a no-go for me. And I’m okay with that.

oh god how will i be able to trust a stranger in talk therapy i’m probably going to assume he’s a cannibal and welp there goes that plan


SO ANYWAY. (I probably should have waited to write this until I was a little less scatter-brained, but I am way behind on blog posts and Hamilton Tickets [who I’m puppy-sitting again] is asleep on my feet and not jumping on me, so I’m going to take advantage of the quiet and my awakeness to get at least one post done.)

There really isn’t much else to talk about plot-wise. If you read these books to keep up with the budding romance between Peabody and McNab, they ended the last book on the outs, but they’re back together by the end of this one. Eve and Roarke are still very tight and in love, and seriously, I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it until it’s no longer true: I love their relationship.


“Don’t.” She held up a finger at Roarke’s quiet tone. “I don’t want to talk about that now. I don’t ever want to talk about it, but I especially don’t want to talk about it now. And if anybody had listened to me when I said she and McNab getting tangled was going to screw things up, we wouldn’t have to talk about it, would we?”

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you’re talking about it.”

“Oh, shut up.” [p. 73]

The only other dogears I made in the book all detail the villains’ attitude towards their victims. They’re rich, well-educated, assholey white boys who are killing women because women never paid them attention while they attended their genius schools. It’s exactly as horrifying and probably indicative of actual attitudes as you can imagine. And we’ve all had a rough week, month, year – even though J.D. Robb / Nora Roberts wrote these characters back in 2001, I don’t want to bring any more negativity into this week if I can help it.

Grade for Seduction in Death: 2.5 stars

Fiction: “Betrayal in Death” by J.D. Robb

Betrayal in DeathAll right, this one is going to be quick for a number of reasons. 1) No one is going to pay attention to anything anyone says about stuff other than David Bowie today; it’s just a fact. 2) I’m starting to write this at 9:30 at night, and I shouldn’t need to spend more than half an hour on it, because I have to go to bed soon. 3) It’s a J.D. Robb Eve Dallas/Roarke novel – even though they’ve all been different, they’re still all the same, y’know? 4) I rated it 3 stars, it’s not going to change anyone’s world.

HOWEVER. There was something that I did want to talk about with this, so let me get the plot out of the way, then I’m going to give you some clues, and by the end of this review, you’ll understand why this is probably my favorite of the In Death books so far.

There’s this fancy auction at one of Roarke’s hotels and a housemaid gets murdered. As it occurred in one of Roarke’s hotels, Roarke is going to take this one personally. Apparently there were a couple of other murders in buildings and other entities related to Roarke, so this is just the icing on a murder cake of awfulness. Eve investigates — because “conflict of interest” never really comes up when you’re the best cop on the force, regardless of the fact that you’re married to the guy who owns half of New York — and determines that Roarke is at the center of a conspiracy wherein someone is killing people close to him in order to have Roarke’s guard go down and the bad guy hopes to kill him.

Turns out it’s all a front so some other guys can rob the fancy auction that’s being held in Roarke’s hotel, but the idea of a hit on Roarke holds up for 80% of the book, which is way better than some other conspiracy books I’ve read in the past (I am soooooo looking at you, Patricia Cornwell and Laurell K. Hamilton!).

There’s also some hints from Roarke’s past back in Ireland and Summerset, Roarke’s valet who is way sturdier than Woodhouse and who also hates Eve which is really funny, anyway, Summerset gets some action in the book too. Oh, and Peabody and McNab kind of break up but get back together, if anyone cares about them.

OKAY. SO. The thing I loved about the book? The assassin. Why? Well –

Sly [the assassin] enjoyed traveling, and had several scrapbooks filled with postcards he picked up as he did so. Occasionally he would page through them, sipping a drink, smiling over the reminders of places he’d been, and the trinkets he’d collected there.

The meal he had in Paris that summer after he’d dispatched the electronic’s manufacturer, the view from his hotel window on a rainy evening in Prague before he’d strangled the American envoy.

Good memories. [p. 36]

duomo jpg

Eve and Peabody’s attempt to track Sly also sounds very … familiar.

“Well, the profile indicates he sees himself as a highly successful businessman, one of impeccable taste. He likes fine things, and he can afford the best.”

“[…] He’s booked or bought himself an estate somewhere, with a good wine cellar and all the trimmings…”

“[A lead] for us is music. He knew the Mozart thing playing. Called it by name, hummed along with it. Peabody, I want you to start checking out the high-dollar season tickets to the symphony, the ballet, the opera, all the highbrow stuff.” [p. 135]


And then, there’s all of — well, this.

He’d prepared himself a delightful veal picatta for dinner. Often after a job he liked to putter around his kitchen, enjoying the scents and textures of cooking, sipping an appropriate wine as his sauces thickened. [p.160]


And finally, the pièce de résistance:

The kitchen was directly off to the right, and polished to a gleam. She pursed her lips as she poked into the tank-sized refrigerator and found it fully stocked, as was the AutoChef. Both ran to expensive food, heavy on the red meat.

Interesting, [Eve] thought, and imagined [Sly] Yost standing over the huge stove, delicately sauteing something. Listening to music, classical or opera, as he worked. Wearing the snow-white butcher’s apron she found hanging, pressed and pristine, in a narrow closet.

He’d cook for himself, an efficient and self-sufficient man. […] He’d set his table with the fancy china in the cupboard, light his candles, and savor his solitary meal.

A man of refined tastes, who liked to kill. [p. 195]


Seriously, J.D. Robb is fucking with me with this one, isn’t she? Isn’t she??!

Grade for Betrayal in Death: 3 stars (the extra star is because Everything is Hannibal and Everything Hurts.)

Fiction: “Hannibal” by Thomas Harris

hannibalSo, similar to my (latest) “review” of Red Dragon, this won’t be a review of the book I read, but more like … well, I’ve realized that while everyone I know is aware of my vast love for Hannibal, many of them seem to be stymied as to the reasons why I love it so much. So, this will be me trying to put those emotions into words.

There are some movies that I love that I remember seeing for the first time, quite vividly. I’ve talked about this in relation to books I’ve read, but the same can be said for films. An example: I had taped Sunset Blvd. off of AMC when I was in high school, but never got the chance to watch it until I went to college. So one night, I couldn’t sleep, and I popped the VHS into my tiny combo TV/VCR unit, and I watched it in the dark. And I mean, three-in-the-morning dark. I may have had my Christmas lights on that I had hung under my roommate’s top bunk for lighting, but I doubt it. To this day, I cannot watch Sunset Blvd. in anything but pitch blackness. I think Billy Wilder would agree with me in that it’s not a movie made for daylight.

So having said that, I do not have a vivid memory for the first time I ever watched The Silence of the Lambs. I had to have watched it for the first time when I was in high school, because I remember doing impersonations of the “fava beans and a nice Chianti” line in drama club, but other than that … no recollection.

I do remember seeing Hannibal when it came out because my best friend Kerri and I went to see it at the movie theater, and I still remember leaning over during the Pazzi murder scene and whispering, “They’re using the blue filter there because — ”  I can’t remember why; she and I and Amelia had been taking Film Studies as an elective, and at one point we knew what all of the different color filters signified. Not anymore!

I also know I watched Manhunter, the first film adaptation of Hannibal Lecter, itself an adaptation of Red Dragon, at least twice because William Petersen played Will Graham in that movie and I was addicted to CSI: Original Flavor for about three years when it was first on.

So by the time I was a sophomore in college, I’d read all three novels – Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal — and I’d watched three movies: Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal. And … that’s it. I certainly don’t recall being obsessed with them or the characters by any means; I certainly don’t remember purchasing six posters for Silence of the Lambs and leaving them in my parents’ basement – it doesn’t seem like something I would have done! By the time 2003, 2004 rolled around, my latest obsession at that point was Arrested Development, so .. I still say a murder wizard planted those posters, Dad.

Fast-foward about ten years later, and almost without warning, Alaina gets sucked into and then becomes obsessed with this “reboot” of Hannibal. What, in God’s name, happened?

Well – storytelling happened.

See, [see?] before Hannibal premiered in 2013, here’s what anyone could say about the life of Dr. Hannibal Lecter:

  • When we meet him in Red Dragon, he has been behind bars for at least three years.
  • We know he was nicknamed “Hannibal the Cannibal” in the press for gruesome murders and cannibalizing.
  • We know that Will Graham was responsible for his capture.
  • We know that Hannibal nearly killed Will during said capture.
  • We know that Hannibal was a psychiatrist at one point, and because he still writes for medical journals and has insight into the sociopathic brain, Will goes to see Dr. Lecter in trying to capture the Red Dragon serial killer.
  • There is tension between Will and Dr. Lecter; the reader is left to assume it’s merely due to the fact that Will caught him.
  • Approximately seven years later (? – I might be wrong about that), Jack Crawford sends his new trainee Clarice Starling to ask Hannibal for help on the Buffalo Bill serial killings.
  • Hannibal helps her, but at the cost of Clarice telling Hannibal about her past and secret fears.
  • Hannibal escapes custody and moves to Italy.
  • In Hannibal, we learn about another one of Hannibal’s victims: Mason Verger, who has offered a reward for capturing Hannibal alive so he can kill him
  • Hannibal returns from Italy and, in a weird confluence and sequence of events, ends up kidnapping Clarice who has been suspended indefinitely from the FBI, and then brainwashes her into loving him, and they spend the rest of their lives happily ever after … ?

Even if people are only familiar with the Silence of the Lambs plot, we know that Hannibal is in jail and as far as we can tell, has always been in jail.

The TV show Hannibal? Shows him out of jail.

Shows him as a practicing psychiatrist. With actual patients.

Shows him as a chef. A cannibal chef.

everything is people

The show basically says “Look, we know Hannibal’s going to end up in jail; you know that Hannibal’s going to end up in jail. But how did he get there? What exactly did he do to end up in that hospital? How did Will find out? Why doesn’t Will really want to go ask Lecter for help with the Red Dragon case, because it feels like there should be more there?” and then the show gives those answers to us and they are glorious and more than we could have ever imagined

Look, dramatic irony is my favorite irony – that’s when we the audience know what is going to happen but the characters do not. We know how Romeo & Juliet is going to end, but Romeo & Juliet do not. As famous blogger Cleolinda Jones is fond of saying, “The people in ______ don’t know they’re in ______.”  This can be used for Dracula and for Hannibal.

We know that the protein scramble Hannibal makes for Will on their first date breakfast meeting contains human lung sausage, but Will doesn’t. So if we’re identifying with Will, we become horrified on his behalf. YOU’RE EATING PEOPLE, you yell at the TV.

And then, we become curious – when is Will going to figure all this out?? When does everyone realize not only that Hannibal is the Chesapeake Ripper, but that he’s serving the Ripper’s victims up literally on silver trays? What is Will’s face going to look like when he realizes that not only is Hannibal a cannibal, but that it fucking rhymes? Who copyrights the phrase “Hannibal the Cannibal”?

I mean, Chilton, obvi. He’s the only jackass with the inbred jackassery to go ahead and copyright the fucking phrase. Goddamit Chilton.

(also – the show made us sympathize with Dr. Frederick Chilton, which is an IMPOSSIBLE task. So, kudos, and keep fighting, Fred!)

Bryan Fuller et. al .are taking something so familiar and turning it on its ear. We know where the landmarkers are – Will catches Hannibal, Hannibal guts him with a linoleum knife, Hanni goes to jail, Will recuperates, fast-forward to the Red Dragon escapade – but we don’t know how we’re going to get there. It’s like, we know we’re going to Disney World, but we’re going to drive all across Canada and back first. Wait, that’s not the best analogy. Because what the writers also did was throw in actual quotes and concepts from the books waaay before they’re supposed to happen.

Ex: In the book Red Dragon, Hannibal sends a letter to Will, telling him he (Will) shouldn’t feel bad about killing Garrett Jacob Hobbs, as God kills people all the time. This letter arrives at Will’s fingertips years after the Hobbs case; in fact, in the book, the case has maybe all of three paragraphs given over to it. In the book, Hannibal is taunting Will, because that’s all Hannibal does to Will.

In the first season of Hannibal, the Garrett Jacob Hobbs case is the first one that Will and Hannibal are pulled into together. Because yes, Hannibal is helping Will and the FBI catch the Minnesota Shrike. Except Hannibal (again, quoting the brilliant Cleolinda Jones), is the WORST AT HELPING, and copycats Hobbs’s kills because he was curious as to what would happen. (It’s a long story.) But Will still shoots Hobbs dead in Hobbs’s kitchen, and in the show, it’s episode 2 where Will is in not-therapy with Dr. Lecter, and Dr. Lecter gives him this piece of wisdom in an effort to absolve Will of his guilt of killing Hobbs. Is Lecter still taunting Will? A bit, but under the guise of concerned therapist. He wants Will to trust him so he can turn him into an acolyte in the future.

So many moments I can point at to illustrate the concept of taking something old and making it new, or winking at the audience. Or just having fun with the whole thing – my favorite scene in the entire series, hands down, is when Hannibal is planning a dinner party, and he has a Rolodex of business cards, and a box of recipes. And he’ll pick a business card, kill that person, and take what he needs for his recipe. In between the killings (which we do not see), we flash back and forth between the FBI’s lab, wherein the lab techs are talking about how these six or seven victims are all missing certain organs, and we flash to Hannibal’s kitchen where he’s preparing and vacuum-sealing said organs.

“Intestines were the only organs missing from this body?”
“Yes, so we’re either looking for someone with short bowels, or the Ripper’s making sausage.”
CUT TO: Hannibal making sausage

You guys, I die every time I watch that scene. It’s priceless.

And if we’re talking about black humor, how about that time when there was a live bird inside a corpse which was stuck inside of a dead horse, and that bird when it came out was a freaking starling

Plus the show has beautiful cinematography and the actors are amazing. Bryan Fuller loves playing with gender and race, so in the show, Jack Crawford is now played by Laurence Fishburne. Dr. Alan Bloom becomes Dr. Alana Bloom, who has feelings for both Will and Hannibal. Freddie Lounds is now short for Fredericka Lounds, and she is AMAZING. Bryan’s said in interviews that if he had been able to get the rights to the Silence of the Lambs characters, he wanted to cast a person of color as Clarice, to see how that upbringing would affect the characterization.

It’s so smart, and wonderful, and what I really enjoyed doing re-reading Red Dragon and Hannibal this summer was to see where the writers were able to take scenes or dialogue or narration from the source material and honor it in a completely new way. Plus, this was probably the first TV show where I’ve actually been intrigued by the idea of being scared.

I mean, look, I don’t watch horror movies. I hate them. And while I’ve watched sci-fi horroresque shows, the highest on those lists are going to be The X-Files and Buffy in terms of grossness and being scared for characters. But I came into both of those shows late – I started watching The X-Files in season 5, practically, and the only episode of Buffy I watched when it aired for the first time was “Chosen.” (That’s the series finale; everything else I watched on DVD or FX reruns.) But with Hannibal, it was clear that things weren’t always going to be what they seemed, so I never knew when or if someone was going to die.

In Red Dragon, Freddie Lounds dies. And he dies horrifically. In Hannibal the show, Freddie is now Ms. Lounds, and Bryan Fuller did not want to see that level of violence against a woman. (He’s been very adamant about that as well – not using sexual violence as plot devices. God bless you, Bryan.) So that entire episode, I was all, “WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN? WHO’S — IS — HOW –” and then WHEN THE VICTIM WAS ANNOUNCED I WAS SHOCKED BECAUSE I DID NOT SEE THAT CHOICE COMING AND IT WAS … AND THE PERSON’S NOT EVEN DEAD


I am so glad I watched that episode at my house in the woods by myself, because if I had watched it with people near me, the cops would have been called expecting me to have been murdered.

Okay, two thousand words later, and I still don’t think I did my feelings justice. I was just so impressed with how someone can take such well-known stories and characters, elevate their surroundings and actions to such a wonderful level of art and taste, and yet remain true to the spirit of the source material. I mean, yes, it’s a show about a serial killer. Yes, it’s a show about a cannibal. Yes, people die in grisly ways that we actually get to see on network TV at times, to the utter amazement of me. (YOU CAN SHOW HIS LIPS GETTING BITTEN OFF BUT YOU BLUR A BUTTCRACK ON A RENAISSANCE PAINTING? COME ON, NBC)

But I didn’t watch it for the gore, or the blood, or the violence. I didn’t even watch it for the black humor – that was a wonderful bonus. I watched it because I was so amazed at how something so indelible on pop culture could be reinterpreted and re-imagined into something so breathtakingly new.

And I’m going to miss the fuck out of my crazy cannibal murder husbands show.

Grade for Hannibal, the book: 3.5 stars
Grade for Hannibal, the TV show: ∞ stars

(that symbol is infinity. infinity stars.)