BOOK & BLOG
August 25, 2008
Books of the Week: UNDERGROUND by Kat Richardson, CHASING DARKNESS by Robert Crais, THE FOURTH WATCHER by Timothy Hallinan
It’s great to see Timothy Hallinan back on the mystery scene. Hallinan, who’s had a long and varied career, now writes a series about travel writer Poke Rafferty, who lives in Bangkok with his girlfriend, Rose, a former prostitute, and their adopted daughter Miaow, a street child. Having created a family, Poke is determined to protect it at all costs, and when Rose’s house-cleaning agency is drawn into a counterfeit money scam, the danger comes at them before they have time to dodge. Poke’s mysterious father and a surprise half-sister surface in Bangkok, on the run and in deep trouble. The first book in this new series (A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART) was very good, and I think THE FOURTH WATCHER is even better.
Robert Crais has been one of my writing idols for years. His Elvis Cole/Joe Pike books comprise some of the best American private eye writing ever, and maybe simply some of the best American writing. Dialog, tone, action, characterization: Crais can do it all. CHASING DARKNESS deals with the discovery of the apparent suicide of a small-time criminal, a man who’d been accused of being involved in a series of grisly murders. Elvis Cole found the evidence that exonerated the criminal, Lionel Byrd. Now, evidence is found with Byrd’s body that seems to indicate that Byrd was guilty all along. The families of the victims blame Cole for Byrd’s being at large to kill their loved ones, and Elvis himself is horror-struck at the possibility. Elvis and his friend Joe Pike discover corruption where there should be none. This is a fine, fine book.
A lot of you have read the previous two books in Kat Richardson’s Greywalker series about Harper Blaine, the private eye who died for two minutes and comes back with a strange ability to see layers of time and the ghosts of the dead. You won’t want to miss UNDERGROUND, in which Harper tracks a mythical beast through Seattle’s underground and finds a new love interest along the way. I think this is the best of the three Greywalker books, and I recommend it with confidence.
I’m thinking serious thoughts this week. A local teacher was arrested for having sex with an underage student. This is the second scandal involving a teacher in a calendar year, in our small town. What’s going on? Did Mary Kay Letourneau’s famous affair with her much-younger student strike a spark in the minds of some women who might never have considered having sex with a kid? Are so many women desperate to have the power in a relationship? (Yes, I know, male teachers do the same thing. I acknowledge that, and I think it’s equally a betrayal of trust. But women teachers are on my mind this week.)
I’ve had some thoughts about this, though I don’t know if they amount to any startling or illuminating insight. A few weekends ago, an older man said to me, “I don’t think these women should be prosecuted, because you can’t tell me that having sex with a teacher wasn’t the culmination of those young men’s fantasies.” After my knee-jerk reaction of horror at such an unenlightened statement, I wondered if I was blind to the reality he was expressing. I considered this seriously.
In the end, I decided . . .Nah. I don’t care what fantasies young men legal children -- may have, the reality is not something adults should provide . . . especially adults in a position of trust. There’s a huge gap between thinking your teacher is sexy and having that teacher give you oral sex in the back seat of her car.
(While it may turn some women on to imagine a muscled and attractive masked intruder coming through their windows to give them a night of incredible sex, that is absolutely and totally a fantasy. Every rape victim understands this discrepancy; just ask one. I know, this is an aside, and after I said I was limiting the discussion to women teachers molesting their students! Sorry.)
I don’t doubt this older man believed what he said. I simply don’t buy into his thinking. Do you agree? Disagree? No matter how you think of such a situation wish fulfillment or child molestation such a relationship is against the law. Even if, as I doubt, the boy involved is thinking, “Yahoo! I got to have sex with my teacher!” what is the effect of a ‘successful’ sexual campaign on the woman involved? She can’t see her male students as kids any more; she’ll see them as potential sexual partners. That’s no way to run a classroom.
I don’t know what the solution is. But teachers who abuse the trust parents and kids place in them should be prosecuted, no matter who may consider this a victimless crime. It’s not.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris