Three Reviews: The Exchange, The Singer’s Gun, and Dirty Thirty

ARHuelsenbeck
3 min readNov 14, 2023

Three books I’ve read recently:

The Exchangeis the most recent book from John Grisham. It reintroduces us to lawyer Mitch McDeere from The Firm, which was the first Grisham I ever read, mostly due to the buzz around the 1993 movie starring Tom Cruise. If you read that book, you know it ended with Mitch and his wife Abby going into hiding after he exposed his law firm for its ties to organized crime.

Now it’s fifteen years later, and they believe it’s safe to return to the US with their two sons. Mitch has joined a high-powered multinational Manhattan law firm. He is tasked with helping a Turkish construction firm get paid for a huge bridge project in Libya. The case turns into a kidnapping drama.

The book is well-written. The tension doesn’t let up until the very end. When you think that things can’t possibly get any worse, they do. Yet the ending is naggingly unsatisfying.

Many people die in this book, though **SPOILER ALERT!** the hostage is released relatively unharmed after a multi-million dollar ransom is paid. The kidnappers are never identified except as a terrorist group. The ransom money will undoubtedly fund years of escalating violence. So there is no release of oxytocin that you might experience from a more benevolent resolution.

The Singer’s Gun by Emily St. John Mandel skips forward and backward in time. The protagonist, Anton Walker, grew up with parents who claim to salvage and restore priceless historical artifacts, but Anton understands that something illegitimate is going on-his friend whose parents also own a business says it’s unusual for deliveries to be made in the middle of the night.

When his abandoned cousin Aria moves in and joins the family business, Anton assists her with her side hustle of providing realistic social security cards and passports. The family rationalizes that this helps immigrants get settled in their new country.

Anton wants to abandon this life and get an honest occupation, though he fakes a Harvard degree in order to become the head of a small research division at an international water systems consulting firm. However, Aria needs him to do one more small job for her-transfer a package. Easy peasy, he can do it on his upcoming honeymoon.

Meanwhile, his firm wins a water contract in New York City, triggering a background check on all employees, and Anton’s secrets threaten to come to light.

The author has this annoying habit of telling her stories out of chronological order. The inconvenience of this technique is that, unless you have an eidetic memory, if you need to go back and check a detail (Who is Jackson? Where is Ischia?) you have no idea where to find it.

Other than that, the book is well-written, the storyline compelling. I like Anton and was rooting for him all the way through. But again, **SPOILER ALERT!** no positive ending. Anton survives, but someone else tragically dies.

Dirty Thirty by Janet Evanovich is the thirtieth installment of her Stephanie Plum mystery series. Stephanie works for her cousin’s bail bond business, apprehending clients who fail to appear at court. She’s assigned to locate Duncan Dugan, who allegedly robbed Plover’s jewelry store. Meanwhile, Mr. Plover wants to hire her to find his former security guard, whom he fired on the day of the robbery, and whom he believes stole diamonds out of his safe.

I buy every Stephanie Plum book. In each volume, Stephanie’s car or apartment or both will blow up (check), she’ll attend a viewing at the local funeral home with her grandmother to try to get leads (check), and I’ll laugh out loud at least once (check). All the usual characters make their obligatory appearances. This is not exquisite literary fiction, but it is a guaranteed good time. Dirty Thirty does not disappoint.

I was afraid that maybe this was the last book in the series, thirty being a nice fat even number, but the way this book ends (and this time, no spoiler alert!) it’s clear there will be at least one more. To not resolve the ending would be criminal indeed.

Originally published at http://arhtisticlicense.com on November 14, 2023.

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ARHuelsenbeck

Former elementary general music teacher. Wife, mother of 5, grandma of 3. Blogging about the arts and the creative process at https://ARHtisticLicense.com.