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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Eight of Swords by David Skibbins

Eight of Swords by David Skibbins. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Pres, 2005. ISBN: 0-312-33906-2

This book won the St. Martin's Press 2004 "Best First Traditional Mystery Contest". But that's not why I picked it up off my local public library's “new fiction” shelf. It was the tarot connection that grabbed me. While I don't “believe” in tarot, or other forms of divination, such as astrology, I do find tarot to be an intriguing way of thinking about things. It can be used as a tool to assist in thinking seriously about the elements of life that are impacting or influencing a person.

But that's neither here nor there. What about this book? It is an amusing little diversion, and to use my favorite metaphor for reading, takes you on a good ride. The plot is too pat, and seriously strains one's ability to suspend one's sense of disbelief, but you don't really care while you're reading it.

Our protagonist, a street side tarot reader in present day Berkeley, California, turns out to have quite a past. He's a member of the original Weather Underground, and has been LIVING underground for the past 25 years or so. But now he becomes involved in solving a kidnapping and murder. And he just “happens” to have a friend who is a major computer hacker, who provides him with the local police reports, and all the inside data he needs.

And she just “happens” to have a good friend who runs an undercover surveillance operation, using mostly Hispanic people, some undoubtedly undocumented. Not to mention that our one time terrorist now reformed tarot reader, has several alternate identities available to him, and significant amounts of cash cached away to draw on as needed.

All of these factors combine to create a situation that one could hardly describe as true to the real world, or true to ordinary life as most of us lead it. But who cares? We're reading this book for entertainment, not realism, and in that regard, it delivers.

Recommended for anyone who wants some entertaining escapism set in the mystery/suspense genre.


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