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Tipping Point: Our picks and pans ('A Slow Fire Burning,' Dave Chappelle, 'Heart of Champions')

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BOOK TIP

A Slow Fire Burning

Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins, the author who penned the best-seller “The Girl on the Train,” recently returned with another female-centric thriller. Hawkins writes deftly about damaged women, and she creates lots of them here. A lonely busybody discovers her young male neighbor’s lifeless body. He’s been murdered. Hawkins expertly plots the reveals of the secrets and histories of different characters including: the aforementioned woman; the unstable 20-something (“Mad Laura”) that he spent the night with; and the dead man’s aunt, who still grieves the son who died while in her sister’s care. “A Slow Fire Burning" moves along like, well, a house on fire, even if it lacks the kind of hook that was so effective in “Train.” In that earlier novel, the main character’s black-out drinking made her unsure of what actually happened — and also made her vulnerable to villains. In “Fire,” though, Hawkins’ storytelling talent still makes for a gripping read.

— Kristina Dorsey

STREAMING TIP

The Closer

Dave Chappelle

Netflix

Wait! Is "The Closer" even still ON Netflix? The latest controversial comedy special by Dave Chappelle has literally and figuratively been cancelled by pretty much the rest of the world at this point. Last I heard, Netflix was holding fast despite protests from many of its employees. At the heart of the discord is what Chappelle says about LGBTQ people in a loosely recurring theme throughout the 72-minute standup performance. Because this is what we as a society do anymore, there are several ways to break down and analyze "The Closer" — and in this case most of them seem to conclude that Chappell is an awful person who needs to be punished in some fashion. Here's what I know: Chappelle is very funny and very offensive — pretty much across the board. But there's more to a Chappelle concert than a succession of jokes. He typically makes an overarching point — and this is very much the case in "The Closer," a set which made me laugh a lot and think a lot and concludes with a helluva real-life twist. Ultimately, one of the things Chappelle wants us to speculate on is: Who's more dangerous, the comedian whose role is defined as a clearly identified provocateur or the self-righteous and "victimized" whose social media anonymity can build to tsunami strength with no accountability?

— Rick Koster 

MOVIE TIP

Heart of Champions

If you’re not a rower, don’t bother seeing this movie. If you ARE a rower — and southeastern Connecticut has a larger-than-average portion of its population who are (yes, that includes me) — you should give it a try. The plot doesn’t offer many surprises — it hits all the notes of the usual cliched sports movie — but the scenes of rowing and the discussion of the sport are fun for crew folks. Michael Shannon plays a no-nonsense coach taking over at a fictional college whose men’s varsity has just lost the national championship to Harvard. He tries to get the fractious group to become a team, dammit. The actors portraying the athletes include Charles Melton from “Riverdale” and Alexander Ludwig from “The Hunger Games,” and David James Ellliott of “JAG” plays an overbearing father.

— Kristina Dorsey 

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