Friday, September 11, 2009

Review: Causes Unknown by Leslie Horvitz

One of the last Joe Bob Briggs' reviews, unless the good folks there send along some more books. To be honest, I had all but given up hope of ever seeing any more in print, but I have been told that the site will begin posting 'new' reviews shortly.

Just for those who may be interested, here's the new one from me.

Causes Unknown by Leslie Horvitz
Published by: Leisure Books
ISBN: 0843957956

Michael Friedlander doesn’t believe that his brother Alex killed himself. They had not been close for the past few years, but had remained in touch. While Alex was making money on Wall Street, Michael found himself moving from job to job and city to city. Once a medical student, a possible frame up destroyed his medical career and pushed him out of New York City. Now, while waiting to sell his brother’s condo and clearing away his belongings Michael becomes more and more convinced that things are not as cut and dry as the police and the Medical Examiner would have the family believe. Meanwhile, a possible serial killer called The Chopper by the press is leaving a trail of body parts and dismembered corpses around Manhattan. Money is changing hands and there is an obvious cover-up that may tie The Chopper to the death of Michael’s brother. As he begins to investigate his brother’s business dealings several other deaths occur and Michael himself may be in danger.

Originally published in 1989, the book doesn’t seem that dated. Horvitz’s New York skyline is still dominated by the World Trade Center and the stockbrokers and cops are not pulling cell phones out to keep in touch. Still the story captures a time before 9/11, Iraq and the financial breakdown of the past few years. I lived in the city back then and the author captures the spirit of a particular period perfectly.

While we follow Michael we also get into the minds of several other characters, including that of the killer. Horvitz has created a totally creepy, if pretty realistic, sociopath in The Chopper. Convinced that his victims are ‘asking for it’ and able to assume the identity of just the right person to attract those he intends to kill. Aided by a part-time medical examiner’s investigator, who has found she has been used, and a former-cop turned private investigator, Michael tries to uncover the conspiracy which led to his brother’s death, while trying to keep himself and his allies from falling victim.

Horvitz creates some interesting characters, both good & bad, but none without their flaws, and throws in some surprises along the way. Good casual reading for those in the mood.

Three stars
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