The Last Dead Girl

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Culture-crudity landmark: a laudatory blurb on the back of a dust jacket can contain an f-bomb if said blurb is from Stephen King. (Apparently Steve was out of adjectives that day.)

This book is billed as a prequel in Harry Dolan's "David Loogan" series, based in Ann Arbor, MI, which I read and enjoyed. David's going by the name "David Moore" here, and it's set in a semi-fictional Rome, NY. I don't think the transition is explained, but it's understandable. NY David has the same deadpan delivery as I remember MI David having. The opening chapter has him under police interrogation:

“Why’d you kill the girl?” he said.

His tone was mild, bored, bureaucratic. I studied his face. He had dark hair cut short, a heavy brow, a long, fleshy nose. His skin was olive and he had gone too long without a shave. He must have been around fifty years old. His eyes looked tired.

“Seriously?” I said.

“Yes. Seriously.”

“Does that ever work for you?”

He tipped his head to the side. “Sometimes.”

“A cold open like that—‘Why’d you kill the girl?’—and then they just confess?”

“You’d be surprised what works.”

David's 10-day girlfriend, Jana, has been brutally murdered. Both the police and David are in the dark for either suspects or motive. But (thanks to Dolan's tricky narrative technique) we know the perpetrator is a sicko, who spied on Jana and David from afar. David becomes obsessed with tracking down the killer, making himself very unpopular with the cop above. And it puts even more of a strain on his relationship with his already-estranged fiancée. (Yes: a girlfriend and a fiancée. David's life is a complex one.)

Jana was a pre-law student, and (as it turns out) was working on an "Innocence Project" with one of her professors, examining the possible railroading of a husband for the murder of his wife. Is there a connection there? No spoilers, but come on, what do you think?

I mentioned the tricky narrative technique: it's mostly first-person from David's POV, but there are long stretches of third person from other characters' POV. And that occasionally includes flashbacks to years past.

I usually don't do this, but I said "Whoa" out loud, right at the top of page 170 (hardcover version). And thought: I really didn't see that coming. As in his other books, Dolan is fond of intricate plotting and seemingly-unimportant characters who turn out to be very important.

And, of course, a peril-filled climax. Definitely a page turner there.

URLs du Jour


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  • Mostly, it says we run a joke into the ground. Jonah Goldberg explains What ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ Says About Our Discourse. Assuming you know the basics:

    Indeed, one of the things fueling the “Let’s go Brandon” stuff is liberal hypocrisy. When Trump was president, there was no shortage of mockery and expletives hurled his way. Robert De Niro got a standing ovation for saying “F--- Trump” at the Tony Awards. Rep. Rashida Tlaib used similar salty language, without liberals taking to their fainting couches.

    I get that some might think Trump’s a special case, given how much he soiled the presidency and the discourse. I don’t remember anyone trying to cancel Eminem for the F-bomb in his anti-Bush track “Mosh,” released just before the 2004 election.

    But as is so often the case when liberals use a double standard, conservatives suddenly discover it, too. Partisans on the right were often outraged by crude attacks on Republican presidents. They condemned such epithets as offensive and disrespectful. Now they think they’re great. If the left should lighten up, the right should grow up.

    Might not be a bad idea. Not holding my breath for either thing to happen.

  • I, for one, welcome our new human-operated zero‐emission port equipment. Scott Lincicome and Ilana Blumsack say we should Build Back Slower.

    As discussed in a previous blog post, proposed spending on U.S. ports in the bipartisan infrastructure bill is not only unnecessary but might actually slow down needed upgrades in the our port system, which ranks as one of the more expensive and least efficient systems in the world. Buried in the latest version of congressional Democrats’ reconciliation bill is more bad news: the $2.65 billion in additional federal spending on ports (to reduce air pollution) appears to exclude investment in automation – the lack thereof being one the key reasons that U.S. ports are currently so inefficient.

    In particular, the bill provides grants for U.S. ports to purchase and install “zero‐emission port equipment or technology” at their facilities. However, the bill’s new definition (at pp. 307–308) of eligible projects reads as follows (emphasis ours):

    The term ‘zero‐emission port equipment or technology’ means human‐operated equipment or human‐maintained technology that (A) produces zero emissions of [relevant air pollutants]; or (B) captures 100 percent of the emissions described in subparagraph (A) that are produced by an ocean‐going vessel at berth.

    Robots therefore need not apply.

    Goes without saying: those humans will be union members.

  • It's Thursday… so it must be time to link to Kevin D. Williamson's 'The Tuesday' column. In which he discusses Vax, Quacks, and ‘Respectability Politics’. It's long, and I marvel (as usual) at KDW's ability to churn out paragraph after paragraph of insightful and informative prose. See if this grabs you:

    A request from the vast, endless digital peanut gallery: “I’d love to see a National Review contributor try to explain why it is that for 15 years the stereotypical anti-vaxxer was a progressive suburban mom in an ultra-blue district but at no point did any major Democratic politician try to court their support the way Republicans have.”

    That’s a fair question, and the answer, in a word, is: respectability.

    The Democrats have won it and weaponized it, and the Republicans have consequently rejected it.

    The Democrats have successfully aligned themselves with the most prestigious and powerful social institutions — Silicon Valley, Wall Street, the Ivy League, the New York Times — and they have, in turn, aligned these institutions with themselves and their ambitions. Republicans, for their part, have largely rejected these elite institutions (you can smell the sour grapes from here) along with the entire notion that such elite institutions should enjoy any special status or deference, adopting instead a countercultural politics that is, in spite of its right-wing character, a great deal like the left-wing countercultural politics of the 1960s. The student radicals who occupied the university administration offices would have loved to have done what that rabble did on January 6, but they did not have sufficient strength to occupy the Capitol — only the Lincoln Memorial, where they were visited by a solicitous Richard Nixon.

    The hippies and their political allies were neck-deep in filth and dysfunction, high on radicalism, and up to their eyeballs in various kinds of antiscientific quackery. The Democratic Party, at the time, made some considerable room for this, having no other practical choice.

    But that was then. The Democratic Party is well on the other side of its “Sistah Souljah moment.”

    The Dems are still full of quacks, but they are respectable quacks. According to all the best sources.

  • Anti-woke right: Threat or Menace? David French, guesting at Bari Weiss's substack, goes with the former: The Threat From the Anti-Woke Right.

    The most prominent example of right-wing illiberalism comes from the series of so-called “anti-CRT” bills being passed in legislatures across the country.

    According to a Heritage Foundation tracker, the bills have been introduced in more than 20 states and passed in seven. They promise to protect children from a divisive and hateful ideology, but they’re largely a mess. They’re vague and poorly drafted, and they leave teachers utterly confused.

    What can they teach? What can they not teach? What’s going to trigger a bunch of angry parents and lead to some state investigation or clamp-down?

    Let’s deal with the confusion first. The most notorious example of this came two weeks ago in Southlake, Texas, when a school administrator told teachers that, if they include a “book on the Holocaust” in their syllabi, then they also have to include one with “opposing perspectives.”

    As I think a Dickens character said: "If the law says that, then the law is an ass."

    A good start for legislators (if it's not too late) would be to read James Copland's How to Regulate Critical Race Theory in Schools: A Primer and Model Legislation at the Manhattan Institute site.

  • Another bad idea whose time has come. Veronique de Rugy warns us: Here Comes the Hypocritical Global Minimum Tax

    There is a certain irony to a group of rich countries pushing for policies that will disadvantage poorer countries. Yet this is exactly what the leaders of the world's biggest economies did by endorsing a global minimum tax rate of 15% on the profits of large businesses, a deal that has since gained momentum and pledges from leaders in 136 countries.

    The deal's objectives are simple. It creates a tax cartel, and high-tax nations believe this will limit competition from countries with lower and simpler taxes. It also benefits wealthier, higher-tax nations by shifting revenues from countries where companies are headquartered to countries where companies make their sales. At the heart of these two objectives is the need to feed wealthy nations' enormous budgets.

    Bookkeeping details follow, but at bottom it's the usual story: politicians trying to squeeze money from the private economy under the dubious assumption that they'll spend it more wisely than the original owners would.