Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: The Architect

The Architect
The Architect by Keith Ablow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

West Crosse is an architect par excellence, a man of enormous creative vision and sensitivity to the needs of his wealthy clients. This is especially true of the homes he designs for families - anticipating both current and future needs. They are creations of light and space, temples to truth and beauty. Crosse is a man of high ideals.

But I wouldn't want him to design a house for me.

Crosse goes beyond planning perfect homes for his clients, you see. He also plans perfect lives for them. If a member of the family is an obstacle to the happiness and growth of the family, Crosse removes that person... and he finds one in each family he works for. An abusive husband, a wife who doesn't want children, a daughter with a drug problem - all of them must die for the good of the family.

Forensic psychiatrist Frank Clevenger is put on the case after the President of the United States begins receiving fan mail from the unsub who has been killing and surgically dissecting wealthy people across the country. Clevenger is beset by personal problems: his love life has taken a downturn, and his continuing problems with his adopted son Billy often steal the stage from the visionary killer on a mission from God. Fighting his alcoholism becomes harder and harder, and finally he begins prescribing Antabuse for himself to prevent falling into the pit for good.
In contrast, the families he meets during his investigation seem to be coming out of their own dark times. They seem calm, even happy... and even relieved at the death of their loved one, though they don't say so out loud. It makes investigating... interesting and nonrewarding at the same time.

I've read several books of Ablow's, and this one was an enormous pleasure to read. Crosse's sense of beauty and clean proportions take him out of the bounds of the 'average' serial killer, while Clevenger's personal life becomes a messy disaster. There are no simple solutions in our hero's world, and he's not going to get them in this novel. For Crosse, though, the mission is clear, and there is no hesitation in his actions. The consequences are horrible. If a movie were made of this book, Hollywood would have to alter the ending. The audience would not accept it.

A side note: the Skull and Bones group of Yale gets a lot of attention in this novel. Crosse belongs to it, and uses its connection to get contracts with the high and mighty. President Buckley (an excellent choice of names) is a member and, given the book's 2005 publication date, was probably meant to draw comparisons to George W. Bush. Ablow casts no aspersions on the Bonesmen, political or otherwise. Membership simply makes them more vulnerable to trusting The Architect and less likely to talk to investigators about other potential victims.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Case of the Melting Caretaker Brain

My brain is melting.

It's been roughly six weeks since my wife and I left our jobs and moved down here to help care for my father, and, little by little, my brain is melting away. It's not all due to the Florida heat, either.

I have fallen behind in posting my #wws and #ffs on Twitter. I plan to read books to my wife after my parents go to bed, but instead I collapse in front of the TV or harvest imaginary crops on Castleville. I sort out my dad's pills and handle his refills, but forget to take my own meds OR give my wife hers, either.

My life used to be highly structured. Weekdays: Get up, go to the office, have lunch, work again, go home, fart around on the Internet, watch TV, complain to my wife that I should be writing. Weekends: Sleep later unless at a con, run errands unless at a con, write, promote books, fart around...

There is very little structure here. We exist at the demands of my father's daily needs and, to a certain extent, my mother's as well. These change from day to day and week to week. Mom needs someone to haul the trash to the curb. Dad needs help transferring from the wheelchair to his recliner. Nurses and therapists must be shown in. Prescriptions must be refilled and picked up. Bess has proved to be an enormous asset, hauling the family to doctor's appointments and carrying tanks and wheelchairs in the back.

I take Mom out for walks to help her manage her diabetes. I take my wife out for walks to help her manage her cabin fever: as the expert on the oxygen equipment, she rarely gets to leave the house.

Writing? Every time I begin to string two thoughts together, someone here asks me to do something. For example, Dad just asked me if I could trim his nails. He has to be careful not to cut himself due to the Coumadin. I'll do it later.

If I remember.