A book with an accountant as a real hero and a reference to Sitting on the Dock of the Bay has a real chance at being the first eleven on our scale of zero to ten. There are, as you are surely wondering, seven tens so far out of 110 books on our book spreadsheet that we starting keeping a few years ago.
Jim Geraghty’s new book, Between Two Scorpions: A Dangerous Clique Novel (BTS) is a tough review for us. Thrillers, meaning save the world or at least the USA, are not our favorite genre although we read a few. The ensemble cast is a challenge. And we loved Jim’s earlier book, The Weed Agency. We finished it before we started the spreadsheet so it doesn’t have a rating. We loved parts of BTS but there were a few meh parts as well. Another way to describe our reaction to BTS is that it didn’t register on the envy meter. Alan Furst, VDH, and Herman Melville, to name a few, make us envious because we couldn’t even imagine doing what they do. We think, and we are almost surely overconfident, that we could write something like BTS.
Let’s start with what Jim does well in BTS. Well, there are lots of good parts so let’s limit ourselves to three categories. First, there are lots of pop connections and inside jokes. There is Sitting on the Dock of the Bay (cited above) from our generation, then some things we vaguely remember, and some stuff we are not sure if it is made up. Our favorite inside joke is the National Reconnaissance Organization. Alec says, “NRO is the best.” Alec is right.
Our second positive is even more fun, this time with God. On page 290: “Brigitte Bardot posed in a bikini [in Cyprus], and if ever there was compelling evidence of God’s love for man and for his desire for his creations to be happy, it was the sight of Bardot [yes, you deserve some pictures] in a bikini.” A few pages before, 278-9, Alec has a great conversation with God. Jim has a light touch with God but at the same time he is bringing up the notion that God might be taking sides in human events. We find it really intriguing.
Our third positive is that Jim has a great eye for organizational evaluation. The Clique (Raquel, Alec, Katrina, Dee, and Ward) can be effective because it is small and agile. The Clique is also problematic because its agility means that there isn’t much oversight. Do we really want American citizens on American soil killed by unauthorized missile launches? Jim does a great job of reminding us that there are real difficulties fighting the War on Terror.
Well, if it is so good then why did it only get an eight of ten? Part of the reason is that we grade on a tough scale. Eight is a good grade. Another reason is that we don’t read much crap so it is a tough comparison. What Jim and BTS needs is another gift.
Sidebar One: We were disappointed not to learn more about Alec’s accounting background. We may not have many fellow travelers in our desire to know more about his accounting history. End Sidebar One.
There are many choices for additional gifts but two obvious ones are painting the scene and patience related to tension. It could be painting the scene but that isn’t our first preference although we love when Alan Furst (cited above) does it. We have a hard time remembering if cerulean is a shade of blue or the chop sticks they used on Red Dwarf so painting the scene isn’t our first choice.
Sidebar Two: We looked it up and we were wildly wrong about one of those word choices. End Sidebar Two.
We like that Jim is a matter-of-fact story teller. He could, however, ratchet up the tension by sometimes showing a little patience. It is not that Jim never goes into detail on some arcane point or wanders off when somebody is in danger but he could do it more often.
We recommend Between Two Scorpions. It is a really good book but it is not a great book but it is a fun and interesting read. You should buy BTS so Jim can write his great book. It is in him.