By Linda Fairstein
Random House Large Print, 2009, 560 pages
Genre: Detective Fiction
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - December 15, 2009
There is a genre of detective fiction that blends a thrilling tale with generally unknown information about a subject that fascinates the novel's readers. The book titillates and informs. One of the well-known practitioners of this art is Dan Brown who did so successfully with his The Da Vinci Code. Unfortunately many readers thought that his recent novel The Lost Symbol was not as good. Some thought that the information about the Masons was overmuch and insufficiently interesting.
This is the principle problem with this two-pronged genre: like a well-cooked dish or a superb martini, it requires just the right mixture of the two ingredients; too much of one can destroy the otherwise good meal or superb drink.
Fairstein is an excellent writer and she generally succeeds in providing her readers a tasty blend. However, while I rarely put aside a book unfinished, I did so with this novel. I personally love books and I found the information that she offered on the history of books and maps interesting. However, like a twenty minute church or synagogue sermon that exceeds its time limit, I began to feel as if I was overburdened by the time I reached a quarter of the book.
I pushed myself with the hope that the mystery would revive my interest, but by the middle of the novel, when there were discussions about how maps caused America not to be named after Columbus, how they influenced ancient discoveries. How and why they became collector items, how they were stored, how thieves cut maps from ancient volumes, and other facts, I gave up.
But I did not give up on Fairstein. I feel certain that her next book, like those in the past, will have the right mix and I will enjoy both the mystery and arcane facts about some history of New York.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he coauthors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.israelbooks.com.