Proof Of Conspiracy by Seth Abramson (2019, St. Martin’s Press)
Seth Abramson has spent a great quantity of time on this book, and it shows. In it, he has tied together reporting from a variety of sources and has created a solid case to demonstrate not merely the actions President Trump has taken on behalf of foreign powers but likely rationales behind those actions.
The book’s greatest strengths lie in Abramson’s sourcing and his ability to string together a narrative structure. His sources are compendious, and he has had the foresight to set the more than 3,000 end notes online rather than pad the size of the already-thick tome by another 250 pages. The body of the work runs to just over 500 pages, and by following it a reader is granted insight into what has guided the Trump administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East.
As one might expect, various actors in the area are demonstrated to have maneuvered for increased power and influence; sadly, Trump is portrayed as being easily controlled by allies and enemies alike through a combination of payoffs and promises. His is shown as an administration of outright corruption whose mistakes are magnified by incompetence and inexperience at the highest levels.
This is not to say the book is ideal; it falters in a few significant ways.
Foremost among them is the tendency Abramson has to make assumptive leaps. There are a few points within the narrative where, bereft of absolute fact, he is forced to rely upon reasonable extrapolation. This is completely understandable but, amidst a timeline of precise and documented evidence, an incomplete trail tends to stand out. He is presenting this as “proof”; it’s right there in the title. Without every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed, it’s not proof, it’s merely overwhelmingly likely narrative of conspiracy.
Second is the nature of Trump’s corruption. Were the tale spun by Abramson the only example of Trump’s violations of American interests, he might rightfully draw everyone’s attention. Trump is so corrupt, however, that the atrocities and injustices detailed here are easily lost amidst the other scandals of the day. While it may explain Trump’s reactions to the Khashoggi vivisection and some of his petlike acquiescence to Putin, it doesn’t even approach the subjects of Trump’s China & North Korea support or his South America policy. A 500 page commitment to only one of Trump’s many offenses may be too specific for some readers.
Still, for someone who is interested in Trump’s Middle East policy, this book is an excellent timeline reconstruction and explanatory narrative.
Cat On the Edge by Shirley Rousseau Murphy (1996, Harper)
The first Joe Grey novel is a slipstream story masquerading as a cozy mystery. The conceit of having a cat as a key player in a mystery series is nothing new, having formed the basis of novels by Lilian Jackson Braun, Carole Nelson Douglas, and many other authors. The key difference here is that the cat in question, Joe Grey, can talk.
Actually talk, directly to humans.
It’s an ability which is matched in less than a handful of other cats throughout the course of the series, and which is not suitably explained. He is a regular cat until one day he realizes he can completely understand English and is gifted with far greater than standard feline intellect. Unlike other cat detectives, Joe Grey is not especially good at deduction, but simply being able to read and understand what people are saying give him a significant advantage in a world where pets are often ignored.
Murphy tends to bog down in her descriptions and the story suffers a little by introducing another fantastic element into the mix, but her experience with and studies into animal behavior offset the flaws in the book. Joe Grey is not a person stuck in a cat’s body, he’s a cat.
It’s a fun book and a pleasant diversion, and it spawned a series which has to date run for another twenty books. There are also direct ties (and explanations for the talking, intelligent cats) to her preceding young adult fantasy novel, The Catswold Portal. It’s an entertaining mystery series if you know what you’re getting into and remain interested in trying it.