Time BombJonathan KellermanBantam468 pages. $19.95 At...

BOOK BRIEFS

September 16, 1990|By GERRI KOBREN

Time Bomb

Jonathan Kellerman

Bantam

468 pages. $19.95 At first you figure the racist politician Sam Massingil is the villain of this new thriller; otherwise, why would the author have named him after a douche?

But as child psychologist Alex Delaware digs into the reasons for a sniping attempt in a California schoolyard, he finds an array of nastier, more twisted characters, or people who are, at best, very odd.

Sam's own shrink is a slimy character who gives therapy a bad name, and his left-leaning political opponent is a self-aggrandizing buttinsky with a stolid clod as bodyguard. The sniper, shot dead on the spot, was a borderline-retarded girl; her father is a computer-obsessed narcissist; her only friend a black man who delivered groceries and studied the Holocaust before an apparent drug-deal killing. Even Alex's new love, the bright, beautiful school principal, has hang-ups, involving her own father, cops and music.

The only characters you can really trust are Dr. Delaware himself and his pal Milo, a homosexual police detective. But that's the way thrillers are supposed to be. This one, on the mark all the way, keeps you guessing in the beginning, and on the edge of your seat right up to the end.

In his fourth book, "The Doctor With Two Heads," Gerald Weissmann insists that the plagues of mankind can be solved. "The key to their solution is the path of the imagination." Two heads -- the scientist's and the artist's -- will guide a doctor on that path.

According to Dr. Weissmann, a physician and researcher at New York's Bellevue Hospital, imagination gives us the courage to break free. It allows the musician and the poet to make "some of the most sublime noises of our civilization." It permits scientists to find causes, even cures (more sublime noises). In the past, researchers cleared up cholera, polio, smallpox. In the future, scientists can clear up Alzheimer's, AIDS, cancer. But health research must be a national priority.

As these 14 inspiring essays point out, research brings life. Science is a creative act that requires leaps of the imagination no less thrilling than an artist's painting or a poet's verse. "... the imagination lurks in artist and scientist alike, itching for the chance to astonish us all."

DIANE SCHARPER Remember a TV sitcom so tame that it could actually pull a plot from a teen-ager smoking cigarettes? The show that expertly milked mundane plots featured that quintessential wholesome family, the Brady Bunch.

The show ended in 1974, but the Brady clan lives on in reruns. Now Brady fans can read about them.

Newsday TV columnist Andrew Edelstein and syndicated TV columnist Frank Lovece have put together "The Brady Bunch Book." It features synopses of all the episodes, Brady trivia and a history of the show, which gives some good (albeit short) insight into how lame sitcoms make it to TV.

a longtime "Brady" fan, I thought this book might be intriguing. Wrong.

The updates on stars' current lives were dull. Where's the juicy Hollywood dirt? OK, so Barry Williams (Greg) said he had smoked marijuana -- not exactly titillating.

Actually, the best aspect of the book is its sometimes sarcastic tone. After discussing why people remember the Bradys so fondly, the authors write, "Still, they really acted like white-bread dorks a lot of the time, didn't they?" That makes for fun reading, but not necessarily worth the cover price.

BETH HALLER

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