Brief reviews of recent releases: "Killer Ambition," by Marcia Clark, and "Survival Lessons," by Alice Hoffman.
By Marcia Clark. (Little, Brown, 448 pages, $26.)
When the teenage daughter of famed director Russell Antonovich turns up dead, Special Trials District Attorney Rachel Knight and Detective Bailey Keller are pulled into the case. They question the girl’s friends and discover a secret boyfriend, but that is just the first of many lies and distortions. A long-ago dispute over a stolen screenplay resurfaces, and Rachel and Bailey must sift through stories to weed out the truth from misplaced loyalties in the cutthroat entertainment business. This is the third Rachel Knight novel from Clark, a former deputy district attorney and lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial. The investigation portion of the novel drags a bit, but the trial chapters are riveting. Clark clearly knows the court from the inside out, and her characterization of the proceedings is great fun to read. Hang with this book, it’s worth it.
Judy Romanowich Smith, freelance writer
By Alice Hoffman. (Algonquin Books, 83 pages, $13.95.)
It’s been 15 years since novelist Alice Hoffman (“Turtle Moon,” “Here on Earth”) was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her new book is a guide to getting through that dark time — something she looked for then, but could not find. “I needed help in my new situation,” she writes. “I needed to know how people survived trauma.”
Her lessons are not profound, and not all of them are practical. We do not all have the wherewithal to kick the blues by flying to Venice and renting the very room where George Sand met her lover, Frederic Chopin. Some of us do not need to be told to eat more chocolate. But to read this book so literally would be to miss the point.
Hoffman’s message is that to feel better, we need to focus on the good. Stay away from negative people, let go of old hurts, seek out the beauty of — if not Venice — the stars in the night sky, the roses in the garden. Read good books, take a nap. “Don’t judge yourself harshly. Don’t listen to those who do.”
It would all seem simplistic, if not for the fact that Hoffman has been there and knows whereof she speaks. And really, it’s good advice for any of us, cancer or no.
The proceeds from the book will go to the Hoffman Breast Center at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass., which Hoffman established.
LAURIE HERTZEL, senior editor/books