I'm a fan of Warren C. Easley, who is a former scientist and business executive who now lives in Oregon and writes mystery novels - for me, it sounds like the best sort of life. I interviewed him about two years ago when his eighth novel, "No Witness," came out, and now a new novel featuring lawyer Cal Claxton, "Fatal Flaw," has been published.
I remember that when I talked to Easley I asked him if, like a lot of novelists, he planned to either ignore or marginalize the pandemic as a plot point in future books, and he said that he planned exactly the opposite - he was going to make it central to his next book.
That's exactly the case in "Fatal Flaw," a solidly plotted mystery that I found somewhat disquieting. It takes place during the early days of the pandemic, long before vaccines and before we knew much about how it would be transmitted from person to person. Which means that as characters make observations about Covid-19, or act in certain ways that they think are safe, I found myself talking back to the book, saying, "No, no, no…".
At the same time, the plot revolves around the murder of an executive at a medical technology company that says it has found a way to instantly detect Covid - there are hints of Theranos sprinkled throughout the book, which makes it timely.
"Fatal Flaw" is light reading, but I enjoy my time with Easley and Cal Claxton. As the protagonist shuttles between the Pearl District in Portland and his home in the wine country, eating salmon, sipping pinot noir, walking his dog, jogging along the Willamette River and solving a murder mystery, I found myself in a comfort zone. Pass the pinot.
Season three of "Star Trek: Picard" is now finished, and I think it was a satisfying end to the adventures of characters we first met in 1987 and followed through seven seasons and four feature films. They're all older now - Patrick Stewart is 82, Jonathan Frakes is 70, and even LeVar Burton is 66. But in the final season of "Picard," they all brought a relaxed energy and deep commitment to their characters' legacy to the screen. Of course, they save the galaxy from terrible villains. Of course, their interplay and dialogue is laced with knowing humor. Of course, they reflect a view of humanity's future - tolerant, resilient, with an equal emphasis on heart and mind - that is idealized. But for people like me, whose commitment to the franchise dates back to the original series that debuted on September 8, 1966, this nostalgic and emotional final act was everything I could have asked for.
(And the good news is that there are four other Star Trek series in production at the moment for Paramount+, with plans for more movies and series in the future. There are always, as Spock once said, possibilities.)
Season three of "The Mandalorian," part of the Star Wars franchise, also is in the books, and the longer the series goes on, the more indifferent I am about it. Maybe it is because I've always been more a Star Trek guy, but to me there is no emotional resonance in "The Mandalorian." It seems to be more about mythology than people, and while I watch it out of curiosity, I can't get excited about it.
My wine of the week - the 2016 Notebook red from the J. Bookwalter vineyards Washington State's Columbia Valley, which is a lovely blend of Cabernet and Syrah (with just a touch of Merlot), and perfect for sitting outside by the fire pit on an evening when a chill descends and summer still seems far off.