Educational, entertaining; intended for starter detectives but ideal for anyone interested in the minutia of modern...


Private Investigator: Sub Rosa in a Nut Shell

Thomson’s debut work of nonfiction—part memoir, part guidebook—provides “the nitty-gritty of worker’s compensation insurance investigations.”

The author, a licensed private investigator, worked primarily for the Insurance Company of Southern California on suspected insurance fraud cases. His beat spanned from Modesto to Capistrano. His tools were both traditional gumshoe and high-tech, the essential components of what’s known in his industry as “sub rosa,” or covert, surveillance. Over a decadeslong career, which Thomson admits was low paying and “often humdrum,” the author recounts covering wrongful death assignments and scoping out cheating spouses. Sometimes, worker’s compensation insurance cases had their own unique and interesting twists; Thomson shares a memorable one in the short chapter “The Woman with Two Claims.” He examines the advances in surveillance equipment since the 1980s but notes that nothing works better than patience, a featureless car with good fuel economy and the ability to make quick U-turns, and old-fashioned note taking. Aside from being crucial to fact-finding, investigative notes serve as the raw material for requisite written reports. The author’s experiences as a process server helped him learn how to keep dogs at bay and navigate large apartment complexes. Thomson shares many small tips, some obvious, some subtle, on the legalities regarding privacy, as well as the importance of notifying local police of stakeouts and how to control the unprofessional and distracting “jiggle” that can mar clandestine camerawork. To identify the right person at an address, he suggests a unique method of mailing a large, bright envelope or a teddy bear, anything innocuous but easily spotted from afar, to establish the intended “claimant.” At times, Thomson’s writing reads as a dry surveillance report, but when he wanders into the shaky area of “pretext” and expresses his thoughts on running red lights or relieving oneself on stakeout, the peculiarity of his voice can be engaging.

Educational, entertaining; intended for starter detectives but ideal for anyone interested in the minutia of modern investigative work.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-1479781591

Page Count: 76

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    


Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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