April 08, 2020

Author examines the nature of evil

Editor’s Note: Maine Bound is a column featuring new books that are written by Maine authors or set in the Pine Tree State.



THE MEPHISTO CLUB, by Tess Gerritsen, Ballantine Books, New York, 2006, hardcover, 355 pages, $25.95.

The best-selling Camden author continues her study of what evil truly is in her chilling 10th suspense novel.

As in past novels, at the center of “The Mephisto Club” are Boston Medical Examiner Maura Isles and Detective Jane Rizzoli. As the novel begins, they find themselves at a grisly murder scene, complete with ancient satanic symbols.

The duo soon finds themselves with the unwanted assistance of a secretive group called the Mephisto Club, a group of scholars who believe that Satan and his minions live among the general public. Catholic Rizzoli scoffs at their ideas, but Isles, whose birth mother is a killer, isn’t quite so sure.

Gerritsen takes readers around the globe, from Boston to upstate New York to Italy and the Mediterranean. An agnostic who majored in anthropology in college, she uses her knowledge of myths and folklore to create a thought-provoking look at where evil comes from.

Her works are not just whodunits, but why-dunits as well. Gerritsen urges readers to look inside the human soul, and “The Mephisto Club” will cause them to do just that.



THE STARK REALITIES THAT SURROUND TEXAS, by Troy Casa; Wordrunner Chapbooks, Petaluma, Calif., 2005; 18 pages, saddle-stitched, no price given.

Troy Casa has been an enthusiastic champion for the Greater Bangor poetry scene in recent years, organizing time and space at Borders Books for local pro-am poetry readings and hosting the occasional celebrity, such as Gerald Stern. His own works, offered in his chapbook “the stark realities that surround Texas,” are tuned to some of the major preoccupations of post-Vietnam American verse.

Many of these poems concern deeply personal emotions, speaking to and of a son, Keats, and reflecting on the fear, anxiety, pain and hope for joy that go with intimate personal relationships. At the same time, the feelings are mainly suggested rather than evoked. Characteristic of our time, the terse, ratiocinative language tends to conceal or at least muffle the emotions and the contexts that surround them.

“One Good Roll of the Die” begins:

I just wanted to tell her

that I’ve made all my mistakes twice

and none that could kill me

and then goes on to mention a buried gun, a beagle, and falling from a churchtop in Reno, images suggesting a narrative that’s hard to fill in, as there are too few words even to guess who “her” is. What emotional or rational place we are intended to occupy is uncertain, though both modes of experience seem diligently at work in the poet.

In “On Reading Mrs. Old’s ‘Father,'” Casa has the good sense to call out the facades on which Sharon Olds built a whole po-biz career in the 1970s and ’80s, but the poem’s allusions are so compressed that much of what’s absent remains, in the end, absent.

These poems are elusively allusive, hinting at experiences and emotions deeply felt but not really disclosed. Proponents of the notion that poetry is essentially an exercise in the writer’s own, personal self-expression, are likely to be well-satisfied by “the stark realities that surround Texas.” For readers with other ideas, more links than hints seem needed, but Casa’s control of clipped rhythms and sharp imagery may promise larger possibilities.

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