Blue Heaven

[Amazon Link]

This novel won the 2009 Edgar Award for best mystery novel, and (for all I know) they were exactly right. It's an excellent read.

It's set in North Idaho, an area undergoing unsettling changes as long-time ranchers find themselves struggling to stay afloat, while hundreds of affluent retirees migrate in from other states, setting up a distressing number of McMansions and espresso bars. A goodly fraction of those retirees are ex-cops. (Hence the title.)

The action starts when two kids, Annie and William, from a semi-broken family take off on an impromptu fishing expedition. They're deep in the woods when they encounter a grisly crime: three men cold-bloodedly executing one of their comrades. The kids take off, but the killers see them. And the chase is on.

I'm wondering: how can this guy make this simple chase plot go 350 pages? But he does. In a tightly-plotted choreography, the kids have some good guys on their side: an aging rancher, and a retired cop investigating a long-ago heist in his little California town outside L. A. But the bad guys are also resourceful, and have their fingers into the community.

Every character is sharply drawn, from the major heroes and villains to the bit players: a snoopy lady mail carrier, a hapless local sheriff, a bank officer wracked with guilt (about more than one thing, it turns out).

I'd never read anything by C. J. Box before, but he's very good. Next shopping trip through the Amazon…


Last Modified 2012-10-02 3:49 PM EDT

Illegal

[4.0
stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Part one of a double-feature DVD from Netflix.

We sometimes gripe about movie remakes; can't Hollywood come up with some new ideas? It's not a new phenomenon: This 1956 movie was actually a second remake. Previous incarnations were The Mouthpiece in 1932 and The Man Who Talked Too Much in 1940. (Arguably better titles than the hopelessly generic Illegal.) And all based on a stage play by Frank J. Collins.

So quit your bitching about The Karate Kid and Ghostbusters, OK? Recycling is a venerable Hollywood tradition.

Here, Edward G. Robinson plays Victor Scott, hotshot District Attorney, who specializes in hustling defendants off to the chair. All is well, until one day he prosecutes DeForest Kelley (yes, Bones McCoy himself). Unfortunately, Bones has a very small part, as Victor learns just a wee bit too late that he's innocent. Bzzzzt!

This causes a professional life crisis for Victor, who had fancied himself running for Governor. He quits, turns to drink, and his life bottoms out. A chance encounter in a drunk tank allows him to straighten out, as he latches onto a fellow inmate accused of murder, represents him in court, and gets him acquitted via a hilarious stunt (which in real life would probably get him disbarred or jailed, but…)

And all that's just in the first 15 minutes or so. Were this a French film, we'd be two hours in. The main plot revolves around Victor's involvement with his protégé, Ellen (played by Nina Foch), and a mob kingpin (Albert Dekker).

Fun stuff: Jayne Mansfield's first movie. Ellen Corby, Grandma Walton herself, plays Victor's loyal, tough, and cynical secretary. And Edward Platt plays the replacement D. A.! I found it amusing that his staff called him "Chief". (Nobody, however, said "Sorry about that, Chief.")


Last Modified 2012-10-02 3:48 PM EDT