Monday, April 14, 2014


The Wrong Girl         
By Hank Phillippi Ryan
ISBN: 9780765332585
A 2013 hard cover
release From Forge

If there ever was one, this novel sets permanently to rest any question about this author’s talent. She has here masterfully fashioned a complicated, multi-layered story centered on two important elements of our society. One is the fostering of children by state agencies. The other is the whole private adoption industry. Two separate but linked investigations are carefully intertwined to create the whole.

In Boston, the Brannign is considered the peak of the mountain, the most upscale, elegant, completely above-board well-respected private adoption agency. But now comes a friend of reporter Jane Ryland who is beginning to suspect something is amiss about her adoption through that agency thirty years earlier.

Meanwhile Ryland’s secret lover, ace Boston detective Jake Brogan, is tasked with finding the murderer of a young woman. Problem, in the deceased woman’s apartment are two small children and an empty cradle. The children are not hers and there is no identification to be found. The atmosphere in the apartment is odd. Brogan and his partner are stymied. Cell phones ring. Cell phones play a large part in this novel, including at least one that becomes a loose end. Jane gets a threatening cell phone call. Her editor calls. In fact, cell phone communication becomes a large distraction—almost too much. The other flaw is the author’s technique of ending almost every chapter, and there are 82 of them, with an abrupt short portentous sentence. Still, the pace is rapid, the characters are interesting, well and formed and the plot has many layers. Finally the subject of adoption is very compelling and Ryan does an excellent job with it, overall.

Ryan’s style gets a little  mannered, but the powerful drive of the narrative pulls one through. An excellent, emotionally demanding story.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Schubert Club of Saint Paul tonight (3/11) presented Valentina Lisitsa,
Ukranian-born Russian pianist in concert at the Ordway. She presented
a solo piano concert of Liszt, J.S. Bach and Beethoven. The stage consisted
of the single Steinway grand piano. Lisitsa, a tall blond wore a bright
red strapless floor-length layered gown that radiated color.  Her style is
aggressive. The Daily Telegraph reported her essential attribute is a fevered
urgency. She certainly attacks the keyboard, but because there was a large
video display of the keyboard, the audience was treated to mesmerizing
fingering technique. Her hands and fingers went from anvil strikes on the keys
to liquid subtle finger movements of nuanced sound. At times one could see
her finger movements as more like snakes writhing across the key, bringing
sounds we didn’t know existed.  It was a stunning presentation, enthusiastically
acknowledged by the nearly full house.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

There are some things, people, events, monuments, that should not be replicated. That is, the painting of Washington crossing the Delaware, the Sistine Chapel, Big Ben, others. Everybody can think of personal favorites, unique events, pictures, things we prefer to view and remember in the original form. I include films in  that category of the inviolable.  What is the drive to redo significant films? Is is just money? Fame? Misguided overweening  ego?  So we come to the modern regurgitation of the Bonnie & Clyde story. The original with Warren Beatty, and Faye Dunaway is likely to be a minor masterpiece.  The recent disaster is not.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Bonnie & Clyde film stands up

A lot of gangster films don't stand the test of time. They are slow, contain action scenes not really believable, and dialog that sounds like grandmother wrote it. Hey! Maybe she did. Even so-called classics like Key Largo, in which at one point I thought E.G. Robinson was going to fall on the floor and writhe in an excess of evil.

Bonnie & Clyde stands up. Tense, funny, fast-paced. It all works. Yes, I know Barrow's sister in law, played by Estelle Parsons seemed overly shrill at times and she hated the portrayal--the real one, not Estelle. I was impressed. Of course, I'm easily impressed by ,murderous action, or so I'm told.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Rosenstrasse A moving historical illustration of the power of love

German women married to Jews face intolerable pressures as Nazis move to deport all Jews. In the prison at Rosenstrasse, a growing number of women stand in silent protest against the separation until the machine capitulates and releases the husbands. The film is diifficult to follow at times, but it is well-and appropriately acted. Well worth seeing as a reminder of humanity, inhumanity and the historical significance  of intolerance and bigotry, and a powerful reminder of real love and devotion.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Since the Minnesota Orchestra has been destroyed by the money grubbers in the temple of greed, it has been harder to find good classical music. Today we were fortunate to attend a concert by Music In the Park, a longstanding chamber series.  We sit in pews in a marvelous sanctuary in a pleasant neighborhood of Saint Paul. The acoustics are excellent. Today we heard the Pacifica Quartet, augmented by Anthony McGill, principal clarinetest for the Metropolitan Opera.

They performed a fine concert with pieces by Mozart, Shostakovich, and finally by Johannes Brahms. It is clear, the players, in residence in Indiana, deserve their excellent world reputation.  It was a fine, fine afternoon of really good classical music.

Monday, September 23, 2013


Nice weather we're having here in Minnesota. It is just warm enough with light breezes and sunny skies to raise a little sweat. Cleaned the driveway, the deck and watered the lawns. Almost got brained by a red squirrel high in the Walnut tree dropping not-quite-ripe black walnuts. For a moment I thought I was under siege.

The government is about to close down, and here in Minneapolis and Saint Paul we've about lost a world class orchestra. All because the board of directors abruptly decided fiduciary responsibility was more important that classical music. Yes, we needed some adjustments, but the meat ax approach never works. RIP Minnesota Orchestra.

Reading with interest the reports on the just ended Bouchercon, the International World Convention of crime fans, readers, and creators.

I hope to see many of you in Indianapolis next month when Magna Cum Murder resumes its excellent convention of Mystery fans and practitioners.