Robert K. Tanenbaum
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Buy *Escape* by Robert K. Tanenbaum online

Robert K. Tanenbaum
Vanguard Press
520 pages
April 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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In Escape, the newest book in the Roger "Butch" Karp series of courtroom crime stories, Butch has to oppose an insanity plea in the court, and there is also a threat by Muslim terrorists to bomb New York City.

Jessica Campbell, whose husband, Charlie, is running for Congress, has written several papers critical of US politics, and lately she has become something of an embarrassment to her husband's political career. Jessica has also started to hear voices accusing her husband of being a fornicator and a hypocrite. The voices also urge Jessica to kill her three children in order to save them from their father's sins - and Jessica obeys. Her lawyer is building up a case for an insanity plea, but her children's' bodies have not yet been found.

Meanwhile, a group of angry, young, disenfranchised African-Americans find consolation in Islam. Their imam is looking for suitable men to recruit as terrorists on US soil, and he finds them in some of the young men in his mosque, who are trained by a Russian woman to build up their strength and convictions. When one of the men makes a mistake and is taken out of the inner circle, he decides to bomb a synagogue all by himself. This draws the police's attention to him. Eventually Butch and his friends find out about his mosque and decide to investigate it. This, of course, makes it difficult for the imam and his inner circle to execute their plans, but they will try their best.

Through its characters, Escape addresses many of today's relevant issues: faith and what, if anything, it excuses; terrorism; past atrocities which should not be forgotten. Unfortunately, Tanenbaum's style comes across as preachy and obvious. Instead of letting the characters tell their stories and letting the readers make up their own minds, the tone tells the readers what to think and what conclusions to draw.

The highlight of the book is certainly its many quirky characters. In addition to the terrorists, who are not always mere cardboard cut-outs, there is the Sons of Liberty Breakfast Club, which consists of such a disparate men as a Catholic priest, a former US Marine and a former judge. They start to investigate the shady dealings of Sons of Man, who are bent on world domination - except that they want to do it behind the scenes and for completely for their own personal benefit. This is a continuing plot from the previous books.

A couple of homeless men have significant roles to play as Butch's friends and allies, as well as a gentle young woman - Miriam - who is a devout Muslim. She opposes the terrorists and is able to see the spirit of a Muslim saint who died long ago. Moishe Sobleman, a Jewish baker who survived the concentration camps, is a gentle and philosophical soul.

Escape is very sprawling; it goes quickly from one point of view to another and has many point-of-view characters. While some of the characters are quite charming, they do not all serve a purpose plot-wise. Instead, they preach about their own philosophical point of view. On the positive side, the narrative is easy to read and get into.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Mervi Hämäläinen, 2008

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