The Man in the Crooked Hat

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I've now read five Harry Dolan novels in the past 18 months. Yeah, I'm hooked. Unfortunately, if he has anything new coming out, Amazon doesn't know about it. Sigh.

This is a standalone novel from 2017. It has the standard Dolan ingredients: a complex plot, deadpan dialog, lots of characters. Some of whom are minor characters and stay minor. Some are only seemingly minor. So you had best keep track of everyone.

Oh, and a pulse-pounding climax.

The protagonist, Jack Pellum, is haunted by the senseless killing of his wife. It's a little unusual in that we know who did it right from the get-go: Michael Underhill, the titular Man in the Crooked Hat. What we don't know: his motive. And he's obviously very careful. Jack and Underhill engage in a ballet of detection and deception.

All Jack knows is that he saw the Hat Guy shortly before his wife's murder, acting suspicious. Didn't get a good look at him, but two years afterward he's set himself up in the private eye business, and is posting flyers around town with a poor rendition of his suspect. Then he gets word that a recent suicide has also accused a man in a crooked hat of a murder 20 years previous! Could it be…?

If you like mysteries, I think you'll like Dolan.

URLs du Jour


  • Need a typographic laugh? xkcd provides:


    For additional toilet-adjacent fun, moan at the mouseover: "A medicine that makes you put two dots over your letters more often is a diäretic."

  • All is forgiven, Jeff Bezos! Twitchy compiles reactions to a recent presidential lie, and one of the more diplomatically couched ones is:

    Bezos takes for granted the usual dishonesty, auto-translating Biden's euphemistic "[making] the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share" into "raising corp taxes". And he refrains from noting that tax increases on corporations are at least partially passed on to customers, which doesn't exactly help with inflation.

    Still, you can only do so much in a tweet. Bezos notes the non-sequiturioisity of it all, and makes fun of the DGB, so good for him.

    But it's fun to speculate on future presidential tweets. Like…

  • "Can't find baby formula? Let's make sure the FBI investigates school board protesters!"

    Well, President Biden hasn't tweeted that. Yet. Maybe he shouldn't talk at all about what James Freeman calls Biden’s Baby Formula Shortage.

    In the name of safety, the federal bureaucracy has turned a supply-chain challenge into a full-blown crisis. Few things are as disturbing as being a new parent and learning that your infant child is not thriving. For any number of reasons, some little ones need baby formula, and right now America doesn’t have enough of it. In this era it has sadly become common to see empty market shelves once occupied by various items. But this is not just any other product.

    Like many other goods in the era of lockdowns and Covid regulations, baby formula has been subject to supply constraints. But there is one specific event that created the current crisis. On Feb. 17 of this year, the FDA announced:

    Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it is investigating consumer complaints of Cronobacter sakazakii and Salmonella Newport infections. All of the cases are reported to have consumed powdered infant formula produced from Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan facility. As a result of the ongoing investigation, along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local partners, the FDA is alerting consumers to avoid purchasing or using certain powdered infant formula products produced at this facility. This is an ongoing investigation, and the firm is working with the FDA to initiate a voluntary recall of the potentially affected product.

    Ever since, while the plant has remained idle, various Washington officials have continued to insist on calling it a “voluntary recall.” But what choice did the manufacturer have after the FDA investigated and decided to warn consumers not to buy the product?

    Freeman notes that the evidence connecting the Abbot facility to baby illness is iffy at best.

  • Creating government lawyer jobs is a high priority. J.D. Tuccille looks at (yet another) cabinet department creating (yet another) odious offshoot: ‘Environmental Justice’ Is Guaranteed Employment for Government Lawyers.

    So far as government officials are concerned, there's no authority like amorphous authority. Even better when that amorphous authority is wielded against ill-defined crimes, so that the powers-that-be have carte blanche to ruin the day of whoever draws their attention. That's what we're looking at with the Department of Justice's new Office of Environmental Justice, which enacts a racialized vision of law and, importantly, hands officialdom a free hand in the process.

    "The Justice Department has three essential responsibilities: upholding the rule of law, keeping our country safe, and protecting civil rights. Seeking and securing justice for communities that are disproportionately burdened by environmental harms is a task demanded by all three of those responsibilities," Attorney General Merrick Garland insisted last week as he introduced the Justice Department's new Office of Environmental Justice and its underlying strategy.

    It's arguable, maybe even probable, that the well-connected have been likely to steer Earth-Day environmentalism toward "solving" problems experienced by the elite. Will dragging identity politics into the mix improve things? No, it will not.

  • Stand beside her and guide her. Through the night, with a light from a bulb. A bunch of people I like signed a document decrying America’s Crisis of Self-Doubt.

    We live in an age of increasing national self-doubt.

    The American project, as such, is under assault. Our history is the subject of a revisionist critique that is all-encompassing, unsparing, and very often flatly inaccurate. Our traditional heroes are under threat of being run out of the national pantheon. Our institutions, from elections to the job market to law enforcement, stand accused of perpetuating a systemic racism that is impossible to eradicate. Our educational system, from kindergarten through graduate school, is increasingly a forum for crude propagandizing. Our system of government is attacked as archaic, unfair, and racially biased. Our traditional values of fair play, free speech, and religious liberty are trampled by inflamed ideologues determined to impose their will by force and fear.

    The national mood resembles those of the 1930s and 1970s, when radical critiques of America got considerable traction and our national self-confidence often seemed to hang by a thread.

    It is in this context that we reclaim what once was a consensus view of America that has now become bitterly contested.

    It's both inspirational and aspirational. Check it out.

  • Not all inspirational quotes survive critical thinking. And Bryan Caplan does a fine job skewering Wilkins' Folly, a quote engraved in a prominent position at George Mason University:

    We have no hope of solving our problems without harnessing the diversity, the energy, and the creativity of all our people.

    That's from Roger Wilkins. Caplan is harsh but fair:

    1. No society in the entire history of the world has ever “harnessed the diversity, the energy, and the creativity” of all of its people. Not even close.

    2. Yet every society, no matter how dysfunctional, has solved some of its problems.

    3. To say “we have no hope” of doing something that every society has achieved is absurd.

    4. What if you interpret “solving our problems” as “solving all of our problems”? Then we have no hope of success regardless of what we harness, because the goal is just too hard.

    5. Plenty of “our people” plainly aren’t going to help us solve any problems. Most people simply aren’t creative - never have been, never will be. Many people, similarly, have bad attitudes. They’re not going to help solve problems, either. A few people even have crippling health problems that preclude them from contributing despite their fervent wish to help. How are people in comas supposed to help us solve anything?

    He goes on to observe that if you really want to "solve our problems", examining them with clear eyes is a must.

  • Fox41 in Yakima on the LFOD watch. Another Fox station on the other side of the country with another state comparison: Rulebreakers on the Road: States with the Most Reckless Drivers (2020). We barely make the top 10!

    9. New Hampshire

    Frequency of reckless drivers: 28 per 10K drivers
    Relative increase in driving since pandemic onset: 484%
    Population density: 151.9 people per square mile

    They may say “live free or die” in the ninth state on the list, and it seems like this laissez-faire attitude carries over to precautions on the road. New Hampshire’s rate of reckless driving is 36 percent higher than the national average. The Granite State has also experienced an astronomical increase in driving rates from the beginning of the pandemic until September: with a 484 percent relative increase, New Hampshire drivers returned to the roads in great droves. Unlike many of the other states on this list, New Hampshire’s population density, while lower than the national average, is not comparatively very low — it ranks 21st in the nation on population per square mile. As a repeat offender from 2019, it seems as though the driving norms in New Hampshire are less stringent — and result in more driving violations — than the rest of the country’s.

    We were beaten by Virginia, both Dakotas, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, and South Carolina. But we knocked the stuffing out of Idaho, recklessly.