No Time for Tears, only for business

No Time for Tears is Cynthia Freeman’s aptly named novel about a Jewish woman too busy keeping her family together to regret what she does to accomplish it.

Spine of No Time for Tears
No dust jacket on this library copy of No Time for Tears

Chavala Rabinsky becomes head of her family at 16 when her mother dies in childbirth. She promptly proposes to Dovid Landau, whom her parents have treated like family.

She knows Dovid will be the father to her five siblings that Avrum Rabinsky is too grief-stricken to be.

Chavala is surprised to find she loves him.

Realizing the Russian pograms are going to get worse, Chavala convinces Dovid the family must emigrate.

She wants to go to America, but the men are set on Palestine.

Chavala’s financial acumen gets them there.

Eretz Yisroel isn’t the promised land they expected.

After World War I, Chavala and Dovid separate.

Dovid remains to build the Jewish homeland.

Chavala goes to New York with two brothers and one sister for whom she makes a home. She builds a multimillion-dollar business to support them and the son conceived in Israel.

Freeman’s builds her story entirely of character sketches, sabotages what personalities survive by an unbelievable plot, and produces an entirely forgettable novel.

No Time for Tears by Cynthia Freeman
Arbor House. ©1981. 411 p.
1981 bestseller #10. My grade: C

© 2019 Linda G. Aragoni

 

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The Glitter Dome isn’t gold

The title of The Glitter Dome is set in glittering type
The title is covered in glitter.

The Glitter Dome is another of ex-cop Joseph Wambaugh’s police anti-procedurals.

Like The Choirboys, Dome is about cops doing things cops are supposed to keep from happening.

The main story is about partners Al Mackey and Martin Welborn, career cops old enough to be eyeing retirement hopefully. They have just been assigned to clear the murder of Nigel St. Clair.

Al and Marty have cleared other murders by arranging proof that the victim killed himself.

This time, however, they can’t find any way pass the shooting off as murder.

Marty gets interested in trying to solve the crime.

Meanwhile Gibson Hand and Buckmore Phipps are walking their beat when ball of clay thrown in an artists’ studio knocks Phipps’s hat off.

In the studio, a Marine modeling for the artists has a note in his pocket that says Nigel St. Clair and a phone number.

Overlapping coincidences lead to the cops solving the murder.

Wambaugh milks his story for laughs, but cop humor is pretty much that of sixth grade boys: Funny if you’re a sixth grader.

The characters are drawn in broad strokes: Only Marty emerges as a person.

The rest of the cops are people you don’t want to know.

The Glitter Dome by Joseph Wambaugh
William Morrow. ©1981. 299 p.
1981 bestseller #9. My grade: B

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

The Third Deadly Sin: A twist on”Son of Sam” killer

The Third Deadly Sin is part police procedural, part psychological novel dredging up memories of the “Son of Sam” killings in New York City in the summer of 1976.

Knife blade drips blood into a white rose.
Knife and rose: symbols of purity and murder

Two men have already been murdered when Abner Boone has a chat with retired cop Edward X. Delaney at the suggestion of the acting Deputy Commissioner.

Boone says someone has killed two men at midtown hotels in a month, slitting their throats and mutilating their genitals, before disappearing without a trace.

Delaney agrees to act as an unofficial sounding board for investigators.

Delaney’s wife is active in the feminist movement. Their discussions about women’s roles makes him wonder if the killer could possibly be a woman. His wife unequivocally says that’s impossible.

Statistics show almost no random killers are female.

Delaney still wonders, especially when a third killing shows the time period between murders corresponds to a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Novelist Lawrence Sanders divides his attention between the mousy, back office clerical worker with a sharp Swiss Army Knife and Delaney.

Sanders sets each discussion of the investigation one murder behind what readers know has happened.  That may show how slow police work is, but it’s confusing to readers.

Despite that flaw, The Third Deadly Sin is fascinating reading.

The Third Deadly Sin by Lawrence Sanders
G. P. Putnam. © 1981.  444 p.
1981 bestseller #8. My grade B+

© 2019 Linda G. Aragoni

Goodbye, Janette. Sorry to have read you.

name Harold Robbins in large red type, title smaller, both superimposed on woman’s faceHarold Robbins’ 1981 bestseller Goodbye, Janette is a new low for a writer I thought couldn’t get any worse.

The book opens as the Allies are about to take over occupied France. A French collaborator named Maurice and a German general are preparing to escape separately.

They have put Jewish companies they operated during the war in the name of the beautiful Polish woman the General rescued from the concentration camps.

By convincing his uncle that he worked undercover for the Allies, Maurice will assure he inherits the title Marquis be Beauville. Then he’ll marry Tanya, giving her and her daughter, Janette, French citizenship. The General will join his family in South America.

When life returns to normal, all parties will profit.

That might have become a good novel.

Robbins turns it into a visual encyclopedia of sexual perversions.

After literally taking a whipping from Maurice, Tanya outsmarts him. They remain married, live more or less under the same roof.

Tanya isn’t aware that Maurice has started molesting Janette until she becomes pregnant after a week of being raped and beaten by Maurice and his male lover.

All that happens in the first third of the novel.

It goes downhill from there.

Don’t even say hello to Goodbye, Janette.

Goodbye, Janette by Harold Robbins
Simon and Schuster. ©1981. 382 p.
1981 bestseller #7. My grade: D-

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

Masquerade: Armchair treasure hunt

front dust jacket of Masquerade by Kit Williams mixes vintage English country scene with fantastic imaginary tree covered with flowers.
Cover illustration by the author

Masquerade, a fantasy by author-illustrator Kit Williams, has talking animals, squeaky-clean peasants, and a treasure for the first reader able to solve its mystery.

Moon having fallen in love with the Sun, makes him a necklace as a token of her affection and sends Jack Hare to deliver it.

After adventures through earth, air, fire and water—and a series of riddles—Jack reaches the Sun only to realize the necklace is missing.

Readers are asked to figure out from the text and pictures where Jack lost the necklace.

According to the dust jacket, Williams made an 18-carat gold jewel and buried it in Britain in a ceramic container inscribed:

“I am the Keeper of the Jewel of
MASQUERADE
which lies waiting safe inside me
for you or Eternity.”

Although Masquerade looks like a children’s book and is classified as juvenile fiction in libraries, it isn’t appropriate for children and there’s not enough story for adults.

Masquerade‘s attraction is clearly the gold jewel.

18-carat gold jewel made by Kit Williams
The prize for the lucky winner

The picture book and buried jewel inspired a genre known as armchair treasure hunts.

For novel readers, story of the scandal around the first person to claim the treasure is more entertaining than Masquerade.

Masquerade by Kit Williams
Schocken Books, 1st American ed. 1980, ©1979.
1981 bestseller #5. My grade: C-

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

Gorky Park: Chilling murder mystery

On dust jacket of Gorky Park, Russian fur hat with red star lies in bloody snow.
Snow, blood, fur… keys to the mystery in Gorky Park.

Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park is like no other murder mystery you’ve ever read.

By taking traditional murder mystery elements into unfamiliar settings, Cruz Smith creates a world that feels absolutely authentic.

The novel is set in Moscow, where three frozen corpses are found by accident in Gorky Park. When the Militia’s homicide detective, Arkady Renko, arrives on the scene, the KGB agent is already there, which means the murder is a political crime.

Major Priblula makes sure his men destroy as much potential evidence at the scene as possible, declares the murders aren’t a political security case, and turns the investigation over to Renko, stipulating that Renko send him regular, detailed reports.

Renko senses he’s being used. He tries to keep busy investigating without finding anything, but his instincts lead him to facts that his analytical mind pieces together.

The story gets more complicated when Renko finds one of the murdered men was an American who had the same last name as an American tourist who turns out to be a New York City policeman .

The plot is complicated by believably complex characters, many of whom are not what they appear to be and several of whom don’t even admit their motivations to themselves.

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith
Random House. ©1981. 365 p.
1981 bestseller #5. My grade: A

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

An Indecent Obsession

Black and gold type on the cover are symbolic of the fight between good and evil in Colleen McCullough’s An Indecent Obsession
That’s the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces  badge  at the top

Colleen McCullough’s novel An Indecent Obsession is emotionally raw tale told with restraint and respect.
The story begins as World War II is about to end for men in Australian military hospital “troppo” ward who broke under the stresses of jungle warfare.

Nurse Honour Lantry has just five men left in ward X: Neil, their leader, whom Honour thinks she might like to know better post-war; blind Matt; hypochondriac Nugget; sadistic Luce Daggett, who scares her; and severely withdrawn Ben Maynard, the only one Honour thinks really belongs in a mental hospital.

The men call her “Sis.”

All except Luce respect and adore her.

The group’s dynamic is upset when Sergeant Michael Wilson appears at the ward.  Compared to the others, Mike is obviously normal.

Honour can’t figure him out. His paperwork says he had a violent crisis; he says he tried to kill a man.

Honour, having served in the field for the entire war, is emotionally exhausted. She allows herself to feel unprofessional interest in Mike, which provokes a crisis.

McCullough relates the story from Honour’s perspective but with a degree of distance that refuses to let Honour be exonerated when she misinterprets what her senses perceive.

Indecent Obsession is an unforgettable story.

An Indecent Obsession
by Colleen McCullough
Harper & Row. ©1981. 317 p.
1981 bestseller #4. My grade: A

© 2019 Linda G. Aragoni