7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
R. Kelly Wagner
- Published on Amazon.com
In many of the books in this series, Haddam has a particular theme that in one way or another, all of the characters are either thinking about or demonstrating by their actions. In this volume, that theme is "cognitive dissonance" although she never uses that exact term. More about that in a moment.
First, a few quick things I have to pick on. As other reviewers have said, the situation with the two detectives on the case is a little unbelievable in terms of actual police procedures - but it does certainly fit in with the cognitive dissonance theme! Second, Bennis comes back, rather improbably without a very good explanation, and equally improbably, Gregor accepts that lack of an explanation. Frankly, I did not like this development; in my mind, Bennis is a little too quirky, and not particularly good for Gregor, and I had liked in the previous book that she disappears and Gregor starts dating someone else. Oh well. I suppose there were many fans of this relationship, and in terms of the overall story arc across volumes, it's not totally unexpected.
Next, a few quick things I particularly liked: the recurrance of minor characters from previous books, now playing bigger parts - Edmund "Chickie" George, Alexander Mark, some of the nuns. Some new bit characters I wouldn't mind seeing more of - Tyrell Moss, the shopkeeper, and the teenager he is trying to convince to live in the real world rather than a fantasy thug world. Like the characters in the book, I don't ever want to see Phillipa Lydgate, the English reporter, ever again - but the portrayal of her, and of our regular characters' reactions to her, is certainly funny!
Now. Back to that cognitive dissonance stuff. As I was reading the book it occurred to me that was the theme; by an odd coincidence, unplanned, the next book I picked up after this one was "Mistakes Were Made" (Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts) which is by a couple of sociologists explaining how many of us use self-justification to hold contrary beliefs at the same time, and what effect that has on our overall thinking about politics, about our own marriages and childhoods, and about crime, among other things. The page before the title of contents of "Mistakes Were Made" includes the following quote:
"We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time; the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield." -- George Orwell (1946)
This is a really good quote to have in mind as one reads "Glass Houses" - watch it apply to Phillipa, to Charles - and, in ways bigger or smaller, to everyone in the book. From Phillipa's knee-jerk atheism (hey, *I'm* an atheist and I didn't like her attitude or the way she treated other people's beliefs), to Alexander's ability to be a sincere practicing Catholic while being gay; from Margaret's ability to remember her childhood as golden to Elizabeth, her sister and not that far from her in age, remembers the same years and the same parents rather negatively; from Dennis's managing to convince himself that his perversions are actually better than normal, to Marty Gale and Cord Leehan managing to hate the stereotypes of each other that they see without ever even noticing each other as real individuals. Perhaps the only characters who are open-minded enough not to indulge in more self-justification than is needed (they do give some, but they really are justified!) are the evidence clerks Betty and Martha.
In short, in this book, psychology and sociology play so big a part that they might almost be considered characters in their own right. It's fascinating reading, and for me, interesting enough to more than make up for what I perceived to be weaknesses in how the regular characters behaved. And I think that now that I've also read the above-mentioned book about cognitive dissonance, I'm going to go re-read "Glass Houses" so that I can play I Spy the various forms of self-delusion and self-justification. I would hope that many other readers would find the same amusement.