Book Review: Trap by Robert K. Tanenbaum (3/5)

12 Jan

This is a book I never intended to read and probably would have never picked up. My brother’s girlfriend got us all books for Christmas and this was what she picked for me. I’d never heard of the author before and it was outside my usual genre. However, when you finish your book sooner than expected, you grab the next thing you can get your hands on and for me, it was this book.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Trap (Butch Karp #27) by Robert K. Tanenbaum

Summary from Goodreads:

When a tremendous blast rocks an old school building in East Harlem during a meeting of the New York Charter Schools, killing six and wounding a dozen others, it’s initially blamed on a natural gas explosion. However, as Butch Karp digs a little deeper, he discovers the explosion was the work of a mysterious serial arsonist in the employ of the teacher’s union president, who is angry at the unqualified successes of the charter school movement in New York City and worried for the corrupt public school system. Also involved in the planning and cover-up is a major law enforcement player and a political hack who panders to the union for financial support and gets caught up in the homicidal scheme.

At least that’s the conclusion Butch Karp is operating under when he indicts the pair for murder. But is it a trap? Is there another motive behind the attack that could derail the case? How will Karp discover it and can he do so in time to bring justice to the murdered and maimed? It all ends in the kind of dramatic courtroom showdown that New York Times bestselling author Robert K. Tanenbaum is best at, and that Booklist called “positively balletic.”

That’s not the summary I would have written for this book, but whatever. The book starts out in the middle, flashes forward to the beginning, and then continues chronologically. I wasn’t a huge fan of this only because I knew what was coming along the way. There were two characters the reader was supposed to think was one and it was pretty obvious to me that there were two bad guys. Well, more than two, but whatever. There were two crimes that were being confused but the reader knew they were different pretty quickly. I thought the big reveals were a bit slow and predictable. The book was fast-paced, though. I was, unfortunately, sick over the New Year and this kept me entertained while I recuperated on the couch.

Butch Karp was a good character and I’m glad to hear he has 27 other stories (26 before and one after). I wasn’t aware this was part of a series and it read fine on its own. Butch’s wife was not as well detailed and I’m guessing she has a bigger role in other books but she was a bit bland here. The villains were flushed out but it felt a lot like info dumping to get their back story. Micah and Tommy could have had a conversation to let their story out instead of reading about it in a multi-page catch-up.

Butch’s sons, Giancarlo and Zak, were my favorite characters. They are both on the verge of celebrating their Bar Mitzvahs and Zak has doubts about going through with the process that he comes to terms with though the book. He’s the only real character with growth which is what makes him easy to like. His twin brother seems to be naturally gifted but isn’t arrogant about it so they make a good pair.

The most relatable part of the story was how everyone reacted to the Neo-Nazis and what they had to say. It was hard to read and I hope it was hard for Tanenbaum to write the ignorant and vile things the Neo-Nazi characters would spew about minorities. I thought the author must be really cold to write the things he did, but in one scene he has an entire courtroom fuming mad over what one of the Neo-Nazis says and I felt better that he felt their opinions were as vile as I did.

Robert K. Tanenbaum Image via Publishers Weekly

Robert K. Tanenbaum
Image via Publishers Weekly

I liked that this book addressed how corrupted school systems can be. My husband is a teacher and it has ruined my opinion of the public schools in the US. The low pay rate and high union dues are beyond frustrating, especially as an individual who despises unions. It was a topic I hadn’t read about before and I liked the uniqueness of that.

I was quickly frustrated that the last third of this book was a courtroom hearing. A lot of the facts presented in the trial were rehashing the first part of the book. Very little new information was revealed besides who died in a bombing. It put a sour taste in my mouth because I’d enjoyed a lot of the first part of the book and then couldn’t wait for it to be over.


I was glad that this book had a pretty solid message about Judaism and tolerance. Many times thrillers don’t seem to have much of a message to me. Zak’s internal struggle with his faith and what it means to be Jewish was really uplifting, even as a Christian. Many religions have a celebration for reaching manhood (or womanhood) and it was good to see someone take that celebration so seriously and really mean what he’s doing.

Writer’s Takeaway: Like I’ve said, the internal conflict in this book was its saving grace to me. I think, too many times, authors forget to include and internal and external conflict in their books. While Butch is battling the school system, he’s also dealing with the death of a family friend. Zak is dealing with being kidnapped but also deciding if he’ll go through with his Bar Mitzvah. Having both is very important and helps skeptical readers (like me) connect with a story.

This book was fast paced but was a little lacking in a structure for me. Three out of Five stars.


Until next time, write on.

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Related Post:
Book Reviews: Innocence by Heda Margolius Kovaly and Trap by Robert K. Tanenbaum | Buried Under Books


2 Responses to “Book Review: Trap by Robert K. Tanenbaum (3/5)”

  1. Sue Johnson January 12, 2017 at 11:42 AM #

    Sam —

    Thanks so much for posting your take on this book and such an honest appraisal. Coincidentally, a friend/acquaintance recently told me Robert K Tanenbaum is one of her favorite authors. Since I am totally unfamiliar with his writings, I was intrigued to read your take. I think you just saved me! Now I know.

    Sorry you were sick during New Year’s weekend. So was I, but I wasn’t well enough to read. It’s a good reminder how valuable your good health is, isn’t it?! Nice reminder as 2017 kicks in.

    Happy New Year and good luck with your graduate work. See you in May.




    • Sam January 12, 2017 at 5:14 PM #

      Hi, Sue! I’m glad this timed up well for you. I read a few reviews that said this was not Tanenbaum’s best wok so your friend might have a specific title recommendation if you want to try him out regardless of my opinion. I’m not a fan of the genre at all so I was inclined not to like it. I hope you’re feeling much better now. Not the best start to 2017 but an ‘it can only get better’ state of mind. Happy reading and see you in May.


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