Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Knowing, by Laurel Dewey

The Story Plant, ISBN 9781611880496, December 2012

The only other Jane Perry story that I've read was a novella that was a pretty straight-forward police procedural. This is a little different.

Jane Perry is a Denver homicide detective, who has had great professional success but a very rough personal life. She's recently met a man she's really connected with for the first time, and has kicked the alcohol and cigarettes that have had too much control of her life.

And she's discovered she has an older half sister, born and given up before her mother made the mistake of marrying Jane's father.

Knowing starts with Jane leaving on a road trip to go meet her half sister in New Mexico, where she's currently living in halfway house.

It's not long before her plans have been completely blown up. Her car gets stolen when she stops for gas at a Quik-Mart. When she gets on a bus to continue her trip, she meets a young prostitute who has a very alarming story about what really happened in the case, currently much in the news, of another prostitute who was murdered and the apparent killer found still in bed with the dead body.

Then she gets off the bus briefly, and it blows up, killing everyone aboard. And her day has only just begun to get weird, alarming, and generally bad.

There are elements of horror here, and of Secret History, as well as just plain edge of your seat suspense. There's the escaped killer who isn't really the killer, and the mysterious red-haired men who turn up in entirely too many places, and a series of numbered postcards with their own mysterious message to share.

Meanwhile, Jane is struggling with her own inability to trust and rely on anyone else, her inability to believe in the love she and Hank have for each other. This isn't just a side issue; it turns out to be critical to her ability to make the right choices in the high-stakes conflict with "the gingers," mysterious men in black who control key levers of power nearly everywhere.

It's a fascinating, engrossing story that demands your involvement while reading it.


DISCLAIMER: What follows is a personal pet peeve.

A relatively minor point: Nanette tells Jane that Gabe liked beer made with pine needles instead of hops, and tells her a fairy tale about pine needle beer having been common until the Middle Ages, when the Church suppressed it. Supposedly, men who drank pine needle beer were too energized and independent, while men who drank hops beer were more submissive and manipulable. This sounded odd to me, so I did a bit of research. Pine needle beer was a Scandinavian creation. It also became popular in Scotland, and remained so until the end of the 19th century. William Bros. brews Alba Scots Pine Ale, and Wigram Brewing Company's Spruce Beer is based on an original brewed by Captain Cook, apparently in an effort to combat scurvy among his crew. None of this is consistent with Nanette's version. It's not all that important, but I get annoyed at the lazy negative stereotyping of Christianity as having crushed Virtuous Paganism.

I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley.


  1. Hi, Lis.....Love your review. I've read "Knowing" and remember the segment you're referring to in your pet peeve. I found this info from Stephen Buhner's book, "The Natural Testosterone Plan." Maybe it will clarify what Dewey was saying?

    [Page 87-88 - Chapter: Testosterone Antagonists]

    "Most of the hops (used in beer) is a very potent estrogen called estradiol. Estradiol, as it is taken into the male body, causes a direct lowering of testosterone levels in the testes and an increase in SHBG levels, which then binds up with even more free testosterone in the bloodstream.

    ....The presence of this highly estrogenic substance in beer is not an accident.

    Prior to the German Beer Purity Act of 1516, beer almost never contained hops. In fact, more than one hundred different plants were used in brewing beer.....For the last thousand years of that period, the most dominant form of "beer" was gruit, which contained a mixture of yarrow, bog, myrtle, and marsh rosemary. These herbs—especially in beer—are sexually and mentally stimulating. (It is rare to become sleepy when drinking un-hopped beers.) The Catholic Church had a monopoly on the production of gruit, but competing merchants and the Protestants worked together to break that monopoly and force the removal of all sexually stimulating herbs from beer. They replaced them with an herb that puts the drinker to sleep and dulls sexual drive in the male....."

    I've also heard Buhner lecture on this subject and I do recall him mentioning something about the "need of the Church" to keep the people "not excited." So, yes, there certainly was an element of control by the Church to make sure the people didn't get too wild.

  2. Roberta, I've just done a little research on Stephen Buhner. He claims exactly zero education in the sciences, some in mathematics, and none in the discipline of history. My previous research on pine needle beer indicates that it was a phenomenon of the northern reaches of Europe, never really popular beyond Scandinavia and norther Scotland. And in those regions, it was certainly never banned, and remained in production in Scotland until late in the 19th century.

    I can't find any references to the Catholic Church pushing hops to the exclusion of other types of beer except in one discussion thread (at http://www.bluelight.ru/vb/archive/index.php/t-574195-p-4.html), a comment from an individual who admits that superior preservation was another reason, and probably even the main reason--but he likes the story about the Church banning it for reasons of control because it lets him "bash the Catholic Church.

    Later in the same discussion, someone points out what I hope you know: that hops is the only thing that preserves beer and keeps it stable (and alcoholic) without modern refrigeration technology (enabling conditions of darkness and temps no higher than 35F). Without hops, beer would have been much less available.

    The fact that Mr. Buhner says something is just not sufficient without real, verifiable sources, especially since he has no relevant qualifications that makes taking him seriously a plausible thing to do.

    I'm sorry, but I am a librarian--a master's degree in library science, and a bachelor's degree in history, and over two decades professional experience in locating, identifying, and assessing the reliability of sources. Mr. Buhner is serving up woo-woo, with a side order of Catholic-bashing.