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Escape (Butch Karp Series #20)by Robert K. Tanenbaum
In New York Times bestselling author Robert K. Tanenbaum's most explosive thriller yet, Butch Karp takes on a controversial defense in the courtroom, as a deadly terrorist plot unfolds in the heart of Manhattan.
Claiming God commanded her to gruesomely murder her three small children, a radical political science professor with a high-profile/b>/i>
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In New York Times bestselling author Robert K. Tanenbaum's most explosive thriller yet, Butch Karp takes on a controversial defense in the courtroom, as a deadly terrorist plot unfolds in the heart of Manhattan.
Claiming God commanded her to gruesomely murder her three small children, a radical political science professor with a high-profile politician husband pleads insanity, leaving New York District Attorney Roger "Butch" Karp the arduous and incredibly unpopular task of proving that she's not. Meanwhile, an American-born jihadist detonates a suicide bomb inside a Manhattan synagogue. A harrowing question links the violent crimes is there any defense for a killer who believes committing murder is God's will? As Karp, his wife Marlene, their daughter Lucy, and a cast of eccentric accomplices begin a deadly manhunt, they uncover an intricate terrorist plot to paralyze New York's emergency response system and cripple the economy. They must find an assassin known only as "The Sheik" before he orchestrates a bloody massacre that could devastate the country forever....
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Six months earlier...
Setting aside her copy of the New York Times, Jessica Campbell smiled as her husband, Charlie, hurried into the kitchen and over to the espresso maker. He poured himself a double shot and took a sip before putting the cup down to fumble at his tie.
"Here, let me help with that," Jessica said, standing. "I fixed breakfast -- a western omelette, bacon, and an English muffin."
"No time," Charlie replied, turning his face away from her as she stood on her tiptoes to complete a Windsor knot. "I'm expected at campaign headquarters by 8, and I have to stop by and pick up Diane." He stepped back and gave her a funny look. "What's with all the domesticity?"
An angry expression sailed quickly across Jessica's face, but she forced a smile in its wake. Act normal, no tantrums or crying. Her laugh was brittle. "Can't a wife cook breakfast for her husband, the future congressman from the 8th Congressional District, without losing her feminist credentials?"
Charlie caught the strain in her voice. "Sure, she can," he said, forcing a smile of his own. "Just checking to see if you're feeling okay."
They both knew that the question was as loaded as a pimp's gun in Spanish Harlem. She wondered for a moment if he was on to her. Careful, or he'll ruin everything. "I'm fine, silly," she said. "I just wish I could be more of a help to you with your campaign. It's already March and you've hardly started fund-raising."
Politics was a safe subject, unlike the state of her mental health or their marriage. And despite everything that had happened of late, she had her admirers and friends in the media, and he needed to keep her on his side.
Jessica had been inducted into grassroots liberal politics by her parents, Benjamin and Liza Gupperstein, who liked to boast at cocktail parties that they'd hung out with Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg at the Chelsea Hotel. Abbie Hoffman had once crashed on their couch. Their daughter had been born in 1968, just a few weeks after they were arrested in Chicago for protesting at the Democratic National Convention. They'd also marched in Selma, worked for Eugene McCarthy, and burned flags to protest the war in Vietnam. Many years later their stories gave them a sort of rock-star credibility among the wealthy liberal crowd of upper-crust Manhattan. But they hadn't always hobnobbed with the rich.
In fact, Jessica had spent her first decade living with her parents in a tenement building at 120th Street and Fifth Avenue across from Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem. The white, non-practicing Jewish couple had explained to their horrified Modern Orthodox families that the reason they chose to live "among the oppressed" was to "immerse our child in an environment surrounded by the suffering and discrimination faced by blacks so that she will learn to be sympathetic to the plight of those less fortunate."
However, their home had been broken into more often than a methadone clinic; the Guppersteins were robbed and mugged so many times that when Benjamin's parents were killed in a car accident in 1978, he and Liza quickly decided that the lesson had been learned and moved into the now-vacant Gupperstein Sr.'s walk-up in SoHo. It was the first of many steps up the ladder. A few years later, Benjamin's more capitalist-minded brother, Sam, a computer-software savant, talked them into giving him their life savings so that he could buy stock for them in a young company he worked for, a little start-up called Microsoft. This was shortly before the company went public. And the rest -- you guessed it -- was history.
The Guppersteins assuaged the guilt of sudden riches by contributing large checks to the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Anti-Defamation League. Every Christmas Eve, which they referred to as "Winter Solstice," Benjamin, Liza, and Jessica had the chauffeur drive them to a soup kitchen just a few blocks from the old family tenement in Harlem to serve turkey and ladle mashed potatoes and gravy onto the plates of their former neighbors. They then went home where the adults quietly thanked their lucky stars for insider trading and multiple stock splits.
That kind of money bought the Guppersteins seats at every liberal charity and political event in the Five Boroughs, including the cocktail parties, where they trotted out their former radical left-wing bona fides. Unfortunately for family tranquility, however, teen-aged Jessica saw her father -- in his designer tie-dyed T-shirts, Birkenstock sandals, and cell phone with its speed-dial set to his stock broker, lawyer, and hair stylist -- as a sellout, and she frequently told him so. Even her mother's seat on several boards of non-profit organizations and charities did little to mollify Jessica's abhorrence of all things smacking of capitalism, though she made no complaint about the money spent on her private schooling and the latest teen fashions. She gladly took her free ride through Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, where she majored in art, and then through graduate school in political science at Columbia. And she also accepted her parents' wedding present of a $2 million brownstone on the Upper West Side when she married Charlie Campbell.
At the time she met Charlie, Jessica had been involved in a lesbian relationship -- not because she was particularly attracted to women, but it seemed the right thing for an avowed feminist to at least sample. She and her lover had gone to a coffeehouse one night where Charlie, an aspiring writer, was trying out his poetry on an unsuspecting crowd during Open Mic Night. His poetry was predictably neo-Beat and self-indulgent, but he was so earnest and so obviously interested in Jessica that she'd shown up the next week without her girlfriend and gone home with him to his flat in the East Village. They'd been together ever since.
The son of a third-generation Detroit autoworker, Charlie was tall, slightly overweight, and slope-shouldered but handsome in a cherubic kind of way -- pouty lips, round flushed cheeks, and wavy brown hair. She, on the other hand, was short, dishwater blonde, flat-chested, thin-lipped, shaped like an Anjou pear, and in need of thick glasses to see much of anything with her watery blue eyes.
Despite their physical disparities, their politics and interest in social issues meshed like peanut butter and jelly or lox and bagels (depending on which side of the family was talking). She admired how he wanted to make the world a better place; he liked the way she admired him, and besides, her family had more money than God.
Only the most cynical of Jessica's friends, such as her former lesbian lover, pointed out that Charlie had proposed marriage the night after he'd met her parents and discovered the extent of their wealth and political connections. The former lover also noted -- at the wedding reception -- that for an avowed feminist, Jessica had been quick to announce that she was dropping Gupperstein for Campbell as a last name. "Quite the transformation," the woman complained. "Jew dyke to WASP breeder practically overnight."
Such bitter pronouncements and their owners were soon left to the past. The young couple moved into the brownstone at 95th and Columbus where they hosted meet-the-candidate, or avant-garde-artist, or hip-new-musician dinner parties, after which the hosts and guests retired to the living room for heated political and social debates fueled by dense clouds of Lebanese hashish and expensive Spanish wines. Meanwhile, Jessica worked on her Ph.D. in political science -- specializing in feminist revisions of history -- while Charlie decided with his in-laws' financial blessing to pursue a law degree at Columbia University.
After Jessica received her doctorate, her parents' connections and financial resources landed her a job teaching at New York City University, where she made it a point to introduce herself to her students as a "left-wing femi-socialist." Always good for an anti-government or anti-business quote in the school newspaper, she was soon enjoying her reputation as a campus radical. But it wasn't until November 2001 that she made front-page headlines by chaining herself, along with her three-year-old daughter, Hillary, to the gate of Trinity Church on Broadway, just down the street from the still-smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center.
Running low on post-9/11 stories, the press was happy to give her a soapbox. With her daughter in her arms, she accused the United States of being "the true terrorist nation." The publicity and hate mail that followed had been the highlight of her life to that date. She'd even had the photograph from the Times article enlarged and framed to hang in her campus office. It showed her handing off Hillary to Charlie as she was being hauled off to jail.
Another child, Chelsea, was born into the Campbell household just before the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003. Which is when Jessica became Public Enemy Number One on conservative local radio talk shows. Both hosts and callers were angered by her proclamation that Islamic extremists were "at least fighting for Allah, which is a more ethical reason than our troops fighting for Big Oil, the god of the United States."
There just seemed to be something about childbirth that got her radical juices flowing. In late 2005, when she was pregnant with their third child, Benjamin, she wrote an essay entitled "What Goes Around, Comes Around," published in a left-of-center national magazine, which suggested that the people who'd died in the World Trade Center were "casualties of war... no different from civilians the U.S. government kills daily in Fallujah." Indeed, she wrote, the WTC dead shouldn't be considered victims, or even "collateral damage," because they were "the economic foot soldiers of the American war machine." "Therefore," she said, "it can be argued that they were legitimate military targets." She also noted that Islamic jihadists believed that they were obeying the will of God when they blew up other people along with themselves. "Thus they consider themselves, with some degree of accuracy... at least in an abstract sense, to be operating on a higher moral plane."
Throwing rocket fuel on the fire, she'd concluded that "the Christian Right, who run this country, should be the last to judge someone who believes that they are obeying the will of God."
After the article was published, Jessica eagerly awaited the deluge of hate mail and telephone death-threats she'd receive and pass on to her friends in the media as badges of honor. This time, however, the fallout was more than she'd anticipated. It was one thing to be pilloried by conservative talk-show hosts, but this time, even the New York Times, while defending her right to express her opinion, tepidly admonished her for "opening wounds that are still healing."
The public was not so timid. The Families of 9/11 Victims, as well as various conservative groups, organized a protest march on the NYCU campus that turned into a near-riot when anti-war and pro-Jessica supporters showed up. Heated words quickly turned to fisticuffs and an all-out brawl before the police moved in to separate the combatants. After the incident, members of the New York state legislature, including some middle-of-the-road Democrats, threatened to cut funding to the university for what the sponsor of the budget appropriations bill called Campbell's "hate speech."
NYCU's board of regents voted to censure her for "actions detrimental to the reputation of the school" because she'd signed the piece as "by Jessica Campbell, professor of political science at New York City University," without permission from the administration. Jessica threatened to sue on First Amendment grounds, and a settlement was reached. But part of the agreement was that she take an extended maternity leave for the birth of baby Benjamin in January.
The brouhaha might have ended there. However, Ariadne Stupenagel, a reporter for the normally liberal Manhattan weekly the New York Guardian, received a tip from an anonymous member of the NYCU faculty that Jessica's work wasn't entirely her own. The reporter began digging and found several instances where Jessica had apparently plagiarized the work of other scholars for a number of her essays, including her Ph.D. treatise, A Feminist View of the Criminality of White Males in American Politics. Stupenagel's investigation, published under the headline "What Goes Around, Comes Around for NYCU Prof," uncovered evidence that Campbell regularly made up facts and falsified research to support her writings.
Jessica's lawyer protested to her friends at other media outlets, as well as to the school's board of regents at a hastily arranged ethics hearing, that "these small irregularities, if they can even be described as such, were at worst accidental, and the product of carelessness and poor editing, not intentional academic fraud." He then hinted to the press that Stupenagel's story was essentially ghostwritten for her by right-wing pundits, noting that the reporter was in an apparently amorous relationship with an aide to the New York district attorney, himself a notorious conservative.
Campbell's lawyer lambasted the university for using "these minor and out-of-context accusations to punish my client, not for alleged academic fraud, but for her essay regarding the people who died in the World Trade Center." And that, he wagged his finger, "is a reprehensible assault on Jessica Campbell's constitutionally protected free speech." Any effort by the university to punish her, he warned, would have "a chilling effect on academic freedom" and result in a hefty lawsuit against the school.
However, with public sentiment decidedly against Jessica, and even the governorpronouncing that taxpayers should not have to fund "radical demagoguery disguised as free speech," the board of regents felt safe to begin an official inquest to determine if the charges of academic fraud and plagiarism warranted dismissal. In the meantime, they told Jessica and her attorney that her maternity leave was now a "sabbatical" until the review was complete.
Jessica wanted to fight. But gazing at an accordion file full of evidence that damned his client, the attorney shook his head. "No. You're going to take a break until this all blows over. Then you're going to throw yourself on your knees in front of the regents and beg to keep your job. Comprende?"
Jessica saw the look in his eyes and nodded. As high as she'd been while working on the article and immediately following its publication, her spirits plummeted like Icarus back to Earth.
In the kitchen, Charlie Campbell patted Jessica on the shoulder, the insincerity of which they both noticed but said nothing about. "Maybe when you get... better," he said, "you can help with the campaign. But you know what Dr. Winkler said about avoiding stress and getting plenty of rest. Just enjoy this time with the kids. Like Diane said the other day, they grow up fast, and it won't be long before they're out of the house."
Charlie thought he saw a look of irritation on his wife's face. His smile collapsed into a frown. He had watched her increasingly vitriolic mood swings with growing concern for their potential impact on his forthcoming congressional race.
Charlie was a politically ambitious man whose marriage to Jessica had given him the financial and personal wherewithal to pursue his goals. After graduating from Columbia Law School, he'd gone straight into politics, and by age thirty he had become borough president of Manhattan.
When he began wooing the predominantly liberal voters of Manhattan, his wife's outspokenness had been an asset. She'd also been astute with her political advice. He was still thankful that she'd encouraged him to denounce the war in Iraq early on, before he'd done much more than test the waters of a congressional campaign. Now he looked like a prophet, while other politicians were trying to explain why they'd initially approved of the war.
The 8th Congressional District included most of Manhattan's Upper West Side and points south encompassing Chelsea, SoHo, Greenwich Village, Trebeca, and downtown Manhattan, as well as Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Gravesend in Brooklyn. As such, the district was composed of the most left-leaning voters in the entire state, who were only too willing to believe that a Republican administration had lied to lead Americans into a disastrous war and was possibly even responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Center.
Personally, Charlie had a hard time swallowing the notion that the Bush administration could have carried out what would have been the most complex and well-executed conspiracy and cover-up ever conceived by any government anywhere. Hell, they can't even keep their sexual peccadilloes off the front pages and newscasts, he thought, much less pull off 9/11 and blame it on the fucking camel jockeys. But publicly, he bent in whatever direction the voters in the district leaned.
Even up to Jessica's declaration that Islamic extremists were fighting for Allah, rather than Big Oil, Charlie had been able -- when the press called asking for comment -- to shake his head, plaster an affectionate smile on his face, and fall back on his wife's First Amendment rights while pointing out that being married did not mean that they shared all the same views. "At least not necessarily to the same degree of... vigor," he'd add, with a "what can you do?" chuckle.
Charlie's own idealism had mellowed with age and political realities. As he had pointed out to his wife numerous times when asking for a bit more discretion in her comments, radical leftists rarely had their husbands elected to high office in the United States. The caution usually had the desired effect, because she wanted it as much as he did. She positively dreamed of becoming the darling of the Left within the D.C. beltway and being offered an endowed chair at Georgetown University.
Still, she couldn't seem to shut up for long. Something would set her off, and the next thing he knew, he'd be speed-dialing for the public-relations spin doctors.
At the same time that NYCU was trying to distance itself from his wife's comments, Charlie's political handlers, who privately referred to her as "the C-word," prepared Charlie's responses to the media. To wit, she had been taken out of context, and even at that her comments were "devil's advocate-type provocation intended to make people think about how our actions are perceived in other countries."
"My wife was merely trying to say that if U.S. foreign policy is based on violence, then violence is to be expected in return," he'd explained during an impromptu speech at Columbia University, where he could expect a sympathetic crowd. It was a few days after the birth of Benjamin, and he had said, "My wife and I have a new baby boy... yes, thank you for your applause, we like him too... and he's why I'm running for Congress. We need more voices for reason and diplomacy, not more dead soldiers or a draft of our sons and even our daughters. Our current adventurism in the Middle East has only created more enemies and a more dangerous world for all of our children."
Charlie and his team thought the speech had gone over well. But when Jessica saw the clip on the evening news, she'd lashed out. "I don't need you interpreting me for the masses," she'd hissed, "or using our son for cheap political theatrics."
"Great, here we go again," he'd snarled back, then ducked when she hurled a crystal ashtray at him. "You're nuts! I can't keep up with your fucking moods." He'd stomped out of the house and didn't return that night.
But that's all water under the bridge, Jessica thought, standing in the kitchen. Today, she'd save her children from that evil man.
Charlie finished his espresso and gave her a wink. "Well, got to run," he said. "You sure you're all right?"
Jessica hesitated. A part of her wanted to tell him that no, she wasn't all right -- that there was a voice she believed to be the voice of God and it was telling her to do a terrible thing... that she needed help and he shouldn't leave. But that would ruin everything.
"I'm good," she replied and pecked him on the cheek. "Really, I am. Now get going to your meeting... mustn't keep Diane waiting."
Charlie scanned her face for evidence of sarcasm. Diane was usually a sore point in their relationship. With good reason, he thought, hoping he could still make it across town to her apartment for a quick romp in bed before heading to the campaign office. But his wife's face was the picture of innocence. He shook his head and headed out the door for the waiting cab.
Jessica walked over to a window facing the street and looked out. It was mid-March, and the leaf buds were opening on the trees in front of the brownstone. Her husband glanced back at the house but didn't see her, then climbed into the cab. She kept her vigil for several more minutes to make sure the taxi and Charlie didn't return.
Then she picked up the telephone and called the nanny. "Hi, Rebecca, I won't be needing you today," she said. "I'm going to take care of the children myself."
"Are you sure, ma'am?" Rebecca replied, the worry in her Jamaican-accented voice unmistakable. "Perhaps I should come over just to help a little bit, dearie."
"That won't be necessary," Jessica said evenly. "But thank you, Rebecca. In fact, thank you for everything. And goodbye."
Jessica hung up with a sense of relief. With Charlie gone and the nanny accounted for, the steps of her plan were being checked off like a grocery list. She went down to the brownstone's underground garage where she opened up the back of the family Volvo station wagon and pulled a large footlocker from the interior. Charlie rarely, if ever, drove; he always taxied or had a driver, so the car had been a good hiding place.
Bumping the footlocker up the stairs, Jessica lugged it into the hallway outside the main floor bathroom and opened it. Inside were her "supplies" -- two new pretty white dresses for the girls and a white gown for Benjamin; a padlock still in its packaging from the hardware store; and a hunting knife purchased at a sporting goods emporium in Newark. She picked the knife up and examined the blade; the weight of the weapon felt empowering in her hand. Just like the knife Abraham planned to use on his son Isaac, the voice noted approvingly.
Jessica left the trunk in the hallway and carried the clothing and the knife into the bathroom. The knife she laid on the vanity, and then she hung up the dresses and the gown before turning on the bathwater -- testing the water on her wrist to make sure it wasn't too hot. She wanted the children to be clean and freshly scrubbed for their trip.
She heard the voice humming -- the sort of sound, she imagined, that the universe makes, or how God communicates without words. She turned off the water, but the humming persisted.
Jessica turned and walked to the nursery and stood next to Benjamin's crib. She looked down at her sleeping child for a moment, then picked him up and held him against her shoulder. He felt warm and trusting nestled against her, making little sounds associated with baby dreams and contentment.
Suddenly she sobbed, overcome by what she knew she had to do. Murderer! cried a voice that sounded more like her own.
Don't listen to that, replied the other voice. Your children's souls are at stake. The sins of their father run in their blood. Send them to me if you want to save them.
Jessica willed herself to turn to the door of the nursery and begin to walk. Tears clouded her vision. She stumbled to the bathroom, where she sank to her knees next to the tub. Cradling her baby, she looked down into Benjamin's adoring eyes. A tear fell from her cheek onto his forehead, startling him. Laying him on the rug, she unzipped and removed his sleeper, and then his heavy, wet diaper. "God, do I have to do this?" she cried when he was naked.
I command it! The voice was insistent, angry. Jessica, answer me!
"Hineini!" Jessica shouted her reply. The Hebrew word confused her for a moment; she hadn't heard it since her childhood, when she'd visited her grandparents' home in Mount Vernon and listened to stories from the Torah. But she knew what it meant. "Here I am!" she shouted again.
The ancient word gave her the strength to pick up the child, who gurgled happily and kicked his feet. "Oh such a good baby," she cooed. "Don't worry, little lamb, we'll meet again someday."
Jessica hesitated. She feared God, and in the Torah that had been enough to satisfy Him and spare Isaac. But now the voice was silent. "Hineini," she whispered again and plunged her baby beneath the warm, soapy waters of the tub.
Copyright © 2008 by Robert K. Tanenbaum
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Meet the Author
Robert K. Tanenbaum is the author of thirty-one books—twenty-eight novels and three nonfiction books: The Piano Teacher: The True Story of a Psychotic Killer, Badge of the Assassin, and Echoes of My Soul. He is one of the most successful prosecuting attorneys, having never lost a felony trial and convicting hundreds of violent criminals. He was a special prosecution consultant on the Hillside strangler case in Los Angeles and defended Amy Grossberg in her sensationalized baby death case. He was Assistant District Attorney in New York County in the office of legendary District Attorney Frank Hogan, where he ran the Homicide Bureau, served as Chief of the Criminal Courts, and was in charge of the DA’s legal staff training program. He served as Deputy Chief counsel for the Congressional Committee investigation into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He also served two terms as mayor of Beverly Hills and taught Advanced Criminal Procedure for four years at Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, and has conducted continuing legal education (CLE) seminars for practicing lawyers in California, New York, and Pennsylvania. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Tanenbaum attended the University of California at Berkeley on a basketball scholarship, where he earned a B.A. He received his law degree (J.D.) from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. Visit RobertKTanenbaumBooks.com.
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How many more writers are going to beat the heck out of this topic? Got as far as the first chapter. Found another book to read
Like the continuing story of the family. It is good reading.
saturday afternoon, rainy and chores are done...great characters, family dynamics in the middle of action adventure - good guys vs bad guys and they are really bad guys......loved it
Tannenbaum's books never disappoint me. This one was a real "could not put down" until finished book.
Tanenbaum's newest offering proves that you can have too much of a good thing. The main benefit of this book is, I think, to Robert Tanenbaum's bank account. Marlene is taking on terrorism again with her father, kids and the denizens of New York's underground. These plot themes become increasingly improbable and leave me looking forward to this month's new release from Lee Child. I think I've just read my last book by this author unless Barnes & Noble chooses to start stocking his earliest offerings again. If you're looking for something escapist which will take you a while to plod through this is a good book. But it's definitely not literature (doesn't even pretend to be), it's not a compelling adventure and the characters are increasingly difficult to identify with or have empathy for. Read John Lescroart instead.
This book was a fun book in so far as the characters,and I do mean characters,that make up the "fun" part of the book. It was very topical in dealing with Post menaupausal disease and how is used as a defense against murder and as an insanity plea. (you may recall the Houston housewife who used this defense). The District Attorney and his family have appeared in other Tanenbaum books and they provide the reader with a wealth of side and sub plots and other machinations, that keeps the story moving in a very enjoyable pace. As horrible as the central issue is, the murder of three young children by a distraught mother, the crime is dealt with in a very professional manner and the principals are very reaalistically protrayed. I highly recommend this book. It is a quick read. Some very interesting issues and some very surprising and unexpected developments occur along the crooked path to justice.
This time Marlene is not involved until the denouement and the tale suffers from her absence. The plot is barely believable and the criminals are criminally and laughably over the top. Dime novel escapes and rugged manly virtues ascribed to the heroes; a certain flightiness and bravura to Lucy without the normal leavening of introspection and self awareness. Tannenbaum has done a 'Burton' with this millstone and has given his sententious preachiness full throttle. I felt like I needed a brain rinse. I have experienced the same thing from a variety of authors ...Alistair Maclean via James Patterson to Clive Cussler. John Sandford seems to have avoided it so far. Thank you for a good two decade ride Mr Tannenbaum. Now go and reinvent yourself because you know deep down that this book is a blot on your writing landscape.