Department of Supposition

Reading Janet Maslin’s book reviews bears some resemblance to dead horse-beating, mostly because the horse being flogged is wondering why she can’t go back to reviewing movies, her real love (I know, she cited burnout upon hanging up her film critic cleats after 20 years with the NYT, but then she also originally turned down the book reviewing post and look how that’s turned out.) But today’s review of John Leake’s ENTERING HADES caught my eye not because she didn’t like it – most of the points she raises are pretty fair on that front – but because of this aside:

“Only the toughest and smartest cops could police a city like Los

Angeles, with its giant size, ethnic complexity, large amount of crime

and chronic shortage of police manpower,” Mr. Leake continues

robotically. (Michael Connelly, the Los Angeles police-work aficionado,  writes admiring blurbs for many crime stories. “Entering Hades” is not one of them.)

Which tells us what, exactly? That he should have? That by not doing so he’s passing silent judgment? That by mentioning the lack of blurb, Maslin’s passing not-so-silent judgment? (Guess what door I’m picking.) I can think of any number of reasons for this so-called blurblessness, from not being approached to this being just another manuscript Connelly turned down on principle now that he’s not giving nearly as many “admiring blurbs” as he once did. Editorializing on the book is fine; editorializing about the intentions of a writer unrelated to the book is not.