J.F. Freedman,
Bird's-Eye View
(Time Warner, 2001)

Fritz Tullis is a disgraced history professor. He was once on the fast track to a golden career before he let his libido lead him into an affair with a powerful man's trophy wife. With little choice but to resign his position, Fritz left Texas for the Tullis family estate in southern Maryland. Here, he wallows in self-pity and misery consoling himself with a type of semi-solitude. He rebuilt a shack on the edge of the estate in an area that borders swampland. Fritz spends his time mulling over his past and engaging in a favorite hobby -- photography.

It is during an outing to photograph wild birds in the area that Fritz notices a plane touch down on a strip of land belonging to a neighbor -- an assistant Secretary of State with a bad disposition and a suspicious past. As is Fritz's nature, he photographs whatever he sees, including the arrival of this plane. As a result, he unwittingly records the grisly murder of someone he later determines to be a Russian diplomat. Never one to realize he is in over his head, Fritz begins a journey of discovery as he uncovers a complex scheme involving the international arms trade. As you might expect for an individual with academic smarts, yet no street smarts, Fritz comes close to losing his life more than once during this six-hour tale.

Bird's Eye View was written by J.F. Freedman, best-selling author of Above the Law and House of Smoke. The intriguing story is further enhanced by the storytelling skills of Gregory Harrison. Harrison has had a career that has spanned television, film and theater, although he is, perhaps, best remembered from his days on Trapper John, M.D. The character Fritz speaks from the first-person point of view, yet all characters get their own distinctive voice thanks to Harrison. As you will hear, he is adept at impersonating both males and females.

During the course of this story, you will often flip back and forth between liking Fritz and hating his guts. He swears more than your average sailor. He has trouble associating with humanity and reminds me of an ornery 2-year-old who thinks the universe revolves around himself. Fritz has the tact you would expect from someone who currently hates the world (meaning, he has none). Yet, on the other hand, having a non-detective using his intelligence to figure some things out while stumbling across other clues in a way contributed only to luck is kind of appealing. It is easier to imagine yourself in the role this way. Fritz is no superhero, nor is he Sherlock Holmes.

Birds-Eye View has a lot going for it. You have murder, intrigue, mystery and a host of characters you might truly like or truly hate -- but none that you will be apathetic towards. Harrison does a superb job of projecting the emotions of all the characters he gives voice to. The story is gripping and you will surely want to pop in the next tape as soon as one finishes. My only concern would be for those who want to avoid cussing with their action-adventure murder-mysteries. There is a lot of it. (In general, it does not bother me. But I was once at a stop light with the windows rolled down and the volume up high when a string of profanities lashed out during morning rush-hour traffic. I don't think red is a great color on me -- especially my face. So, just keep the swearing in mind.)

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 18 May 2002

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