Let’s just say that murders happened in the middle of other things: a cop, a lawyer, a fire investigator get up, they fight with their wives, they eat. Sometimes they think. The law is something they think about. How it came to be what it is, where it came from, when it changed. If you have a father who reads, who respects the history of things, who loves the Law, you think about what a lawyer should be, what the law should be, what an institution like the law allows human beings to be.
In Europe, rich people sometimes keep a modest apartment in a poor or marginal area of their city. They call it their “pied a terre”. Translated, this means “foot on the ground”. It is said that their purpose in maintaining these small apartments is to remind them of their roots and to keep them in touch with reality. And that’s exactly why I always keep my copy of Letters To A Young Lawyer in my briefcase. The words within, the philosophy, Harris’ love of simplicity and reverence for the law, this is my psychological pied a terre.
For years the facile, monarch-note like introductory blurbs of audiobooks have been aimed at delayed airline passengers looking forward to a two or three hour seat in a jet on hot tarmac. As nonlocalizably uninformative as the pilot, but more or less referential.
The introduction to Robin Cook’s Critical marks a new slovenly low for the Recorded Books label, with its mistaken reference to “Jack’s heart operation”. (Dear editors: There is nothing wrong with Jack’s heart. Not in this book. It’s a different body part being operated on. Really. )
One sure sign that a publisher, or a civilization, is going down the drain is when it’s references are wrong. Another is when medics start talking about an innate sense of ethics. Ethics is a form of action, a set of practices and reflections based on habit and training. Ethics is not a sense. Nor is it innate — in the newborn –or in the coat closet. It is not inside anything because it is not a body, not a thing that occupies space.
But if it did occupy space, it would not be space in New Jersey, where Robin Cook has been spending too much time and where Critical gets its goombahs, its bad guys, its evil. The good guys are of course in New York, doing autopsies, solving crimes and playing Dick and Jane, medical examiners….
Somewhere in between are the doctors. And the entourage of bureaucrats who settle into their attached positions like feudal serfs, and the moneylenders, insurers and staph infections which prop up and support the institution of medicine in a big city.