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Jan 30, 2020 12:17AM ● By Michael Harris

Old Favorites Revisited

 

As you can imagine, I have lots of favorite authors and get excited when they publish new books. This column, featuring a few of my favorite authors, is a mixed bag, from the highly recommended to the why bother to read.

 

Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key is another thriller by the author of The Woman in Cabin 10.The narrative is a letter written from prison by Rowan Caine to her lawyer explaining why she was wrongly convicted of killing a child under her care. The story is spellbinding and full of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I will not give away the ending, but it comes as a complete surprise. It would’ve made Agatha Christie proud!

 

At first blush, John Grisham’s The Guardiansseems like many of his previous legal whodunits. But as I read on, the story was not simply a rehash of his prior books and got more interesting. Cullen Post, a former criminal prosecutor, now works as a clergyman for Guardians Ministries, a small group that tries to exonerate wrongly convicted murderers on death row.  The book follows his efforts to prove the innocence of several mistakenly convicted individuals.

Every step along the way in this page-turner, the courts, law-enforcement, and DA’s office try to thwart his efforts. Post’s principal case deals with the wrongful conviction of Quincy Miller for the violent murder of his ex-wife’s divorce attorney. Because of sketchy evidence and bribed witnesses, Miller has spent 22 years on death row. Post’s challenge is to find new evidence before Miller is executed. It’s another thrill ride for those who love legal yarns. The cases are especially interesting in this age of DNA testing, where new evidence has exonerated many wrongly convicted prisoners.

 

Pulitzer Prize winning historian David McCullough’s latest book is The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West.It’s an account of the 1870’s settling of the Northwest Territory, “a wilderness empire northwest of the Ohio River containing the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.” This vast territory of land was ceded to the United States by Great Britain as part of the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which formally ended the Revolutionary War.

 

Massachusetts minister Manasseh Cutler wants to open this territory for settlement by veterans and their families. Congress created this territory in the Northwest Ordinance, which included “three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery.” The story is interesting but lacks the pizzazz and energy of his previous books likeThe Path Between the Seas, John Adamsor1776.

 

Ken Follett’s latest book is Notre-Dame: A Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals. Having learned much about cathedrals for his blockbuster bestselling novel The Pillars of Earth,Follett was distressed by the 2017 fire that might destroy the beloved Paris landmark, the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral. He uses this catastrophe to tell a wonderful storyabout Notre-Dame, “from its construction to the role it has played across time and history,” its connection to Europe’s other great cathedrals, and its influence on Follett’s most famous novel.  

 

I was delighted to learn that a sequel to Michael Crichton’s 1969 sci-fi thrillerThe Andromeda Strainhad been published. It’s called The Andromeda Evolutionand is credited to Crichton, although Daniel H. Wilson wrote it after Crichton’s death. Unfortunately, my excitement waned as soon as I started the book. It adds little to the original story and seems like a rip-off using Crichton’s name. Reread the original instead.