Sunday, June 17, 2018

Lazy Sunday Service

The world cup has become the moving wallpaper in the background at home. I'm not sure I'm going to win the fantasy football league at work. My six teams are France, Argentina, Portugal, Iceland, Serbia and South Korea. The points system works on wins and goals scored equals points, losses and goals conceded losing points. So far, two wins, three draws, and one still to play. Main thing is I need all of them to get out of the groups to stand any chance. Come-on Iceland!

My posts this week

Review of Traitors by Josh Ireland
Own goal

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Own goal

‘I guess we’ve a month of this nonsense?’ Emma said, entering the living room. ‘Ten hours a day of twenty men chasing a ball.’

‘Twenty two,’ Tom said, not looking up.

‘The goalkeepers are not chasing anything.’

‘Still …’

‘Still, nothing. Ninety minutes of tedium, diving, fouling, grown men throwing tantrums, dodgy refereeing, then a panel talking shite.’

‘And a few goals.’

‘What else is on?’

‘Ah, come-on, it’s the world cup!’

‘And Ireland’s not there.’

‘So?’

‘Seriously, you expect me to watch wall-to-wall football for the next four weeks?’

‘And fetch me beer.’

‘Talk about scoring an own goal.’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Review of Traitors by Josh Ireland (John Murray, 2017)

During the Second World War a number of British subjects betrayed their country by working for the Germans (a number of others do the same for Russia). In Traitors, Josh Ireland provides mini-biographies of four men who worked for the Nazis, providing a nuanced account of their actions, reasoning and fate.

William Joyce, a fascist in Britain before the war, broadcasts as Lord Haw-Haw. John Amery is the wayward son of one of Churchill’s cabinet members, who sets up a scheme to try and recruit prisoners of war to fight on the German side against the Russians. Harold Cole is a conman and thief who finds himself left behind in France after Dunkirk and sets up escape lines only to betray all its members to the Gestapo, who he subsequently serves. Eric Pleasants starts the war as a pacifist, who is captured in Jersey and spends time as a prisoner of war before he’s recruited to join a British unit of the SS. Joyce and Amery are ideologues who maintain that they are patriots who wish to see Britain join Germany to fight the Bolsheviks. Cole is an opportunist petty criminal who’ll do anything to save his own skin. Pleasants does not believe in nationalism and principally looks after himself. While they each can self-justify their actions, the British authorities, press and public take a different view, and all of them pay a heavy price for their actions.

Ireland’s account is well researched, yet he doesn’t get bogged down in minutia, keeping the tale moving. Unusually for a historical account, Ireland tells the four men’s stories in the present tense. Along with an engaging voice, this works to give the material some immediacy and verve. It would have been nice to reflect a bit more in the conclusion about the nature of treachery in concept versus the messy lived reality, but overall an interesting, thought-provoking read.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Lazy Sunday Service

It's been a few weeks since I last visited the local bookshop. I popped in yesterday and picked up some reading for the next few weeks: Black Water by Cormac O'Keeffe, The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, The Confession by Joe Spain, Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, Lightening Men by Thomas Mullen, and Rather be the Devil by Ian Rankin.

My posts this week:

Review of Greeks Bearing Gifts by Philip Kerr
Review of Without the Moon by Cathi Unsworth
May reads
Defending home

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Defending home

The orangutan ran along the downed trunk and slammed his fists into the digger’s scoop. Paused, thumped again and retreated.

A handful of loggers watched, looking bemused.

‘We need to get closer, Miguel,’ Cassie said. ‘One of them might shoot him.’

‘More likely capture and sell him.’

The orangutan stood in front of the treetop defiantly.

The scoop started to move. The great ape advanced, raising its arms.

‘Hey!’ Cassie yelled. ‘Stop that machine!’

‘Cass!’

‘They’re logging illegally. Stealing his home. Now there’s three of us defending it.’

‘With fists and cameras.’

‘I came here to help them, Miguel. Hey!’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Review of Greeks Bearing Gifts by Philip Kerr (Quercus, 2018)

1957, Munich. Bernie Gunther is working as an assistant in a hospital mortuary when an old acquaintance recognizes him and strong-arms him into helping to steal money destined for a politician. Expecting a double-cross, Bernie plays his own version and his reward from the politician is a job as an investigator in an insurance company. For an ex-cop, the job is perfect, with Bernie’s detective instincts enabling him to spot frauds and quickly gain the attention of his bosses. When the company’s usual shipping investigator reports ill, they decide to reward Bernie’s work by sending him to Athens to verify the claim for a sunken ship. The ship has a dirty history, having been taken from a Jew sent to Auschwitz, and was on a trip to search for sunken treasure. Bernie takes an instant dislike to the German owner and is suspicious of the circumstances related to the claim. When the claimant turns up dead, shot through both eyes, a Greek cop likes Bernie for the murder. Holding his passport and threatening jail, the cop strong-arms Bernie into discovering the murderer and tracking down old Nazis who seem to have returned to Greece to collect what they stole from the Jews of Salonika.

Greeks Bearing Gifts is the thirteenth book in the Bernie Gunther series. In this outing it is 1957. Bernie is living in Munich under an assumed identity and is trying to keep a low profile. However, his peace is broken by an old Berlin colleague and very quickly Bernie’s life first starts to unravel, then takes a turn for the better. In his new role as an insurance claims assessor he is sent to Greece to investigate the legitimacy of a claim relating to a sunken ship. There his luck seems to flip-flop: on the one hand he is placed in the frame for murder and is embroiled in a conspiracy that dates back to the Nazi occupation of the country; on the other hand, he meets and falls for a beautiful Greek woman. As usual, Bernie’s task is to stay alive and extricate himself from the mess he now finds himself in. And also as usual, Kerr does a very nice job of creating an intriguing plot that places his anti-hero into the midst of real-life characters and historical events. There is a strong sense of place and time, the characterisation is excellent, there’s nice references to Greek mythology and noir films, and story for the most part is compelling. The only fly in the ointment was the troublesome coincidence that some of the people in Munich are the same as he's dealing with in Greece, creating what felt like an over-extended plot device. Nonetheless, this is Kerr and Gunther in fine form, with Greeks Bearing Gifts being an entertaining and engaging read.


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Review of Without the Moon by Cathi Unsworth (Serpents Tail, 2015)

London, 1942. A killer is preying on women in the blacked out streets of London. As women fear for their lives, DCI Ted Greenaway investigates, seeking to quickly capture the murderer. The killer, however, is moving swiftly, selecting new victims in rapid succession. To add to Greenaway’s woes as soon as he apprehends the suspected killer another women is murdered in the same area, raising the question as to whether he has arrested the right person, or whether a second killer is at work.

Without the Moon is a relatively straightforward police procedural, although with fewer twists and turns, and less focus on the personal life of the lead police officer. The story is rather linear and the two denouements (one mid-book) anti-climaxes, which is somewhat to do with it being the fictionalised account of two real cases that took place, the first named ‘the blackout ripper.’ The tale is also somewhat thin, with Unsworth fleshing out the story with subplots relating to London gangsters and lives of working women. The characters are largely one-dimensional lacking backstory and personality. In addition, there were a number of small elements that didn’t ring true, for example, a sergeant calling his boss ‘Ted’, as opposed to ‘Sir’ or ‘DCI Greenaway’. The result was a story that had an interesting setting and premise, but felt a bit anaemic with respect to characters, plot and storytelling.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

May reads

A fairly mixed month of reading in terms of setting, themes and styles. Two historical crime fiction tales, told in a hardboiled style were the standout books. I think Night Life just shades it as my read of the month.


Night Life by David C Taylor ****.5
The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter ***
Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell ****
Paris Trout by Pete Dexter ***.5
The Bombers and The Bombed by Richard Overy ***.5
The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan ***
White Butterfly by Walter Mosley ****.5

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Lazy Sunday Service

A beautiful day. Ten hours of gardening. Digging French drains, creating a gravel patio, and raking flat top soil and sowing with grass seed. Same again tomorrow. Now sitting outside watching the swallows acrobatics over the meadow. Very little reading, though I did finish Philip Kerr's Greeks Bearing Gifts early this morning.

My posts this week
Review of Night Life by David C Taylor
Final ‘official’ day of Progcity project and thanks
Where's my money?


Saturday, June 2, 2018

Where's my money?

It took him a couple of moments to realise he wasn’t alone. Even then Steve’s reaction was slow. A fist sent him back onto the sofa.

‘You had the whole world to hide in and you chose Donegal!’

Steve made it halfway across the room before his legs were kicked from under him.

‘Where’s my money, you little prick?’

He scuttled backwards until he hit the wall.

‘Fifty thousand euros. I trusted you to collect and deliver, Stevie. Instead you collected and ran.’

‘I, I …’

‘Fifty thousand, plus interest, plus broken bones. That’s the deal. Now, where’s my money?’




A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Review of Night Life by David C Taylor (2015, Forge)


New York, 1954. Michael Cassidy has returned from the war and become a cop. He has a strong sense of justice and doesn’t mind taking on other corrupt cops, infamously throwing a vice cop beating a prostitute from a third floor window. He’s also independently wealthy through his Broadway producer father, connected via his ‘uncle’ Frank Costello, a mafia boss, and occasionally has second sight, dreaming of events before they happen. On new year’s eve he arrests a thief, but crosses swords with a lawyer from Senator Joe McCarthy’s witch-hunt team, who threatens to make his life hell. The following day he’s assigned to the murder case of Alexander Ingram, a Broadway dancer found dead in his bathroom having been tortured. It seems whoever killed Ingram was after something specific. The FBI want Cassidy and his partner to act on their behalf and as dictated. The pair have no intention of following such orders, however, and try to track down Ingram’s secret and the men he associated with. Those men are murdered in turn and Cassidy is being placed under pressure from the CIA, FBI, the mafia, and another shadowy group . In the meanwhile, McCarthy’s lawyer has decided to target Cassidy’s father for Un-American activities.

Night Life is the first book in the Michael Cassidy series set in 1950s New York. Told in a noir-style, the story has two interwoven threads. The first concerns a murder centring on a blackmail case involving photos of a very senior figure that many organisations would like to get their hands on – FBI, CIA, mafia, and communists. The second relates to a McCarthy witch-hunt against Cassidy’s father, a Broadway producer and Russian immigrant with a murky past. Cassidy has to solve the former to resolve the latter, but it’s far from straightforward when there are so many actors wanting to get their hands on the blackmailer’s damaging snaps and he’s finally found and fallen for the woman of his dreams. Taylor does a good job of introducing a new character and fleshing out his personality and backstory while keeping the tale moving along, and making sure a fairly complex plot is clear to follow. There’s a strong sense of place and time, some good contextual historicisation with respect to McCarthy’s investigations and trials, and the characterisation is well done, including the use of some real-life people from the time. The result is an absorbing and entertaining read.


Sunday, May 27, 2018

Lazy Sunday Service

A busy week just passed, with a trip to Cardiff and a load of meetings, capped off with the welcome news that the repeal the 8th referendum was passed. Somewhere along the way I put down William Shaw's The Book of Scars to find at the end of the day I no longer possessed it. After four visits to bookshops in Cardiff and Dublin I've not managed to find a replacement, so I'll have to order another copy from the local bookshop. A little frustrating as I was halfway through.

My posts this week

Review of The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter
Review of Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell
It's already tomorrow

Saturday, May 26, 2018

It's already tomorrow

‘I’m not sure I can do this,’ Ciara said.

‘She’s the reason I’m here,’ Joanna replied, tugging her friends arm. ‘Her and the tens of thousands who had to travel. For me. For you.’

‘I know, but … it’s too ...’

‘You’ve already cried for Ireland, what’s a few more tears?’

At the foot of Savita’s mural were candles and a mound of flowers.

An old man was stood to one side crying, clutching his grand-daughter’s hand.

‘It still breaks my heart,’ Ciara sobbed.

‘All our hearts.’

The young girl pulled the old man’s arm. ‘Come-on, grandpa, it’s already tomorrow.’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Review of The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter (William Morrow, 2016)

An ex-cop is found murdered at an abandoned construction site. The site is owned by Marcus Rippy, a star basketball player, and has been mothballed during his trial for rape. Now that the case is over and Rippy has been acquitted the development of the complex is about to restart. The ex-cop was linked to Rippy’s sports agency. In the same room as he’s discovered in there is a large quantity of somebody else’s blood. That person appears to be Angie Polaski, another ex-cop with a troubled history. Attending the scene is Detective Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Trent was in charge of the Rippy rape case and Polaski was his ex-wife. He should be nowhere near the case, but despite his new relationship, he has a pathological need to find out what’s happened to his wife.

The Kept Woman is a police procedural thriller set in Atlanta and is the eighth book in the Will Trent series. Trent is a detective with a very troubled history and in this outing that history come to the fore. Trent has just lost a rape trial case against a star basketball player, his marriage to Angie Polaski is over, and he’s now dating Sara Linton, a medical examiner. Polaski though still haunts Will’s life, especially when it turns out that she was present at a murder site – an under-construction nightclub owned by the acquitted basketball player – that contains a dead cop and copious amounts of her blood. Trent is determined to find out what happened, even if it means placing his present relationship under immense strain. Slaughter tells the story in two halves. It starts with the brutal attack at an abandoned night club development and the police and GBI being called to the scene and the start of the investigation. Then at a key reveal it shifts back to a week before the attack and details that lead up to it. The pace and tension is kept high throughout as the case quickly unfolds. While the story is tense and gripping, it is a mess of coincidence and plot devices, with every character being related or previously intimately connected to each other, and the tale itself relies on the reader suspending disbelief and just riding along on the melodrama and action. And there is a lot of melodrama. The result is a story that is entertaining in a police action movie kind of way, but fails to ring true.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Review of Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell (McFori Ink, 2018)

1999, Dublin. A well-organised and ruthless gang are committing armed robbery. The police have a good idea as to who is behind the clever heists, but they are smart and their local neighbourhood protects them given they had rid the area of drug dealers. Detective Bunny McGarry and his partner Detective Sergeant Tim ‘Gringo’ Spain are drafted in to help with the investigation. Both have their own problems – Spain has separated from his wife and has a gambling habit, McGarry has fallen for an American jazz singer who is living with an order of nuns, on the run from a crime committed in New York. As the cat and mouse game between the police and gang intensifies, so does McGarry’s ardour for Simone. The path to justice and love though are never smooth, especially when Bunny McGarry, a man who rubs both his colleagues and criminals up the wrong way, is involved. 
 
Angels in the Moonlight is a prequel to McDonnell’s ‘Dublin trilogy’ focusing on a key case and romance of Detective Bunny McGarry, a Cork man with a passion for hurling who is serving in Dublin. McGarry is a delightful character, a man with a distain for authority and a trouble-maker, but fiercely loyal to friends, committed to upholding justice, and with a soft, romantic side that he keeps well hidden. McDonnell exposes these traits through the investigation of an armed gang of robbers and his wooing of an American jazz singer hiding in Dublin. As with the Dublin trilogy, the story moves at a relatively quick clip, has a number of well-penned, colourful characters, and has a streak of dark humour running throughout with a number of belly-laugh moments. The scenes with the order of nuns and the hurling matches were a delight, with some wonderfully witty dialogue. The two parallel storylines were interesting, though both were well signposted and fairly predictable. Overall, a fun and funny read.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Lazy Sunday Service

A couple of weeks ago I started a short run of reading books that had race as a central theme. They proved to be emotive and often difficult set of stories, with their casual and often times brutal racism. One of the attractions of crime fiction is their social commentary and how they create reflection on persistent injustices and these books certainly cast a fascinating light on past and contemporary racial divides and discrimination: Paris Trout by Pete Dexter; Dark Town by Thomas Mullen; White Butterfly by Walter Mosley; A Negro and an Ofay by Danny Gardner; Slumberland by Paul Beatty; and Capture by Roger Smith.


My posts this week
Review of Paris Trout by Pete Dexter
Review of The Bombers and The Bombed by Richard Overy
Watching the wedding

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Watching the wedding

‘Will you be watching the wedding then?’

‘What wedding?’

‘Harry and Meghan.’

‘Is that the racy couple at number thirty two?’

Mac took a gulp of his Guinness.

‘Are you taking the piss? The royal wedding. Prince Harry and his American girlfriend.’

‘I thought he was a chip off the old block.’

‘Charles? He’s been married twice.’

‘No, the other one. Captain whatever-his-name was.’

‘Steady on.’

‘What? That apple didn’t fall far from the tree.’

‘That apple is sixth in line to the throne.’

‘He would be round ours as well if he wasn’t out of bed by eight o’clock.’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Review of Paris Trout by Pete Dexter (Penguin, 1988)

Cotton Point, Georgia, just after the Second World War. Paris Trout and his hired muscle shoots a black woman and a fourteen year old girl. The latter dies a few days later. Trout admits the killing, but argues that he had every right as he was collecting a debt from her brother and she was fleeing instead of cooperating. His colleague, a former policeman, argues she was armed. Trout is well-known in the town, running the local store and also an informal bank for black families. In a place where racism is endemic and Jim Crow antics common he is bemused as to why such a fuss is being made over the death of a black girl and cannot understand why the case is heading for court. As the case unfolds he becomes increasingly paranoid, accusing his wife of poisoning him, and his lawyer of conducting a shoddy defence. Used to getting his way, he’s not going to let the law and shifting social relations stand in his way.

Paris Trout is social drama built around the murder of a black girl in a small Georgia town just after the end of the Second World War. The hook is that Trout, a white shopkeeper and loan shark, does not deny the killing and has no sense of guilt or shame. To him the girl’s death is entirely her own fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and acting in a way to provoke his violence. He is genuinely mystified as to why the case is heading to court and fully expects proceedings to be halted or to win. Dexter tells the tale from a handful of perspectives: Paris Trout, Rosie Sayers (the girl that is killed), Harry Seagraves (Trout’s lawyer), Hanna Trout (the wife), and Carl Bonner (Hanna’s lawyer). Seagraves, Hanna and Bonner are all repulsed by Trout but are ensnared in his evolving madness. Trout is a hideous figure, a caricature of Jim Crow, and Dexter uses the shifting perceptions of Trout to explore the inherent racism and social norms of a society divided by race and class. There are no great surprises or twists, rather the story acts as a morality play, sliding to a somewhat inevitable end. It’s an interesting, if somewhat flat read, that peters out a bit of the end. More problematically, the black family disappears entirely, as does the black community of Cotton Point, from the trial onwards – it’s telling and troubling omission; written out of the fiction of a terrible crime committed against them. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Review of The Bombers and The Bombed by Richard Overy (Penguin, 2014)

Prior to the Second World War there was a believe, especially amongst the air forces of the various belligerents, that bombing could determine the outcome of wars, curtailing land campaigns. The subtitle of this book is ‘Allied Air War Over Europe, 1940-1945’ and it focuses on the Western allies attempts to test this hypothesis, charting the bombing campaigns over Germany in particular, its Axis partners, and occupied countries such as France and the Netherlands from the perspective of the bombers and those who were bombed. To a large degree it is academic in its approach, setting out a rather dry and dispassionate account based on the historical archive of documentary evidence, presenting events at a distance and with memos and statistics rather than personalities and experiences. Overy argues that the bombing campaign not only did not achieve its aims, but cost more in lives and material than it gained in strategic and tactical advances. That is not to say that the bombing campaign had no effect – it certainly led to much destruction, lives lost, disruption, and some influence on the distribution of resources, but rather than collapsing morale it often reinforced resolve and it had little impact on industrial production until near the war’s end.  While the book provides a broad overview of the politics and practice of bombing, from both Allied and Axis perspective, it gives little sense of the key people involved who are rather one-dimensional, or the experiences of those undertaking bombing raids or being bombed. Moreover, it provides very little coverage of the Eastern front and that of the third major allied party, Russia. I was expecting the book to circle round to a wider systemic analysis of the effects and ethics of bombing at the conclusion, but that didn’t materialise. Overall, an interesting read concerning the politics and effects of a bombing campaign.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Lazy Sunday Service

And so ends a long week of events - two workshops and a three day conference. The workshops were the final events of the Programmable City project, which I've been running for the past five years. It was great to get all the present and past members of the team together for an event in the Mansion House in Dublin. The Conference of Irish Geographers is always a nice event, catching up with colleagues and hearing what they are working on. Caimh McDonnell's Angels in the Moonlight is now helping me detox from all the learning and socialising with some hearty belly laughs.


My posts this week
Integrity

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Integrity

Logan ended the call. He wasn’t sure what was worse – Cronin’s intimidation, his guilt, or that he was going to lose the case. He was defending a man who had raped and murdered an elderly woman.

The door cracked open. ‘Charlie?’

‘Sometimes I hate this job.’

‘But only sometimes.’

She ghosted into the room.

‘I’m defending a monster; if I win it’ll be a miscarriage of justice.’

‘Many innocents get convicted.’

‘And I hate that as much as I hate to lose.’

She slid onto his lap.

‘Quit.’

‘I can’t.’

‘Then coast.’

‘I’ll lose.’

‘It’s called integrity.’

‘I’m a lawyer.’


A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Lazy Sunday Service

I used to do a half-decent job at keeping up with Irish crime fiction, but I realise I've got a little out of touch over the past year. Besides not keeping up-to-date with on-going series, I've neglected reading new authors or new to me. I have Caimh McDonnell's Angels in the Moonlight on the to-be-read pile and plan to read the following sometime over the summer: Dervla McTiernan, The Ruin; Steve Cavanagh, The Defense; Cormac O'Keeffe, Black Water; Jo Spain, With Our Blessing; Gerard O'Donovan, The Long Silence; and Clar Ni Chonghaile, Rain Falls on Everyone. All my reviews of Irish crime fiction can be found here.

My posts this week:
Review of The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan
April reads
Review of White Butterfly by Walter Mosley
Review of A Negro and an Ofay by Danny Gardner
Always ruining everything

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Always ruining everything

The bed was covered in clothes. Cassie looked over her shoulder at the mirror. This dress wasn’t too bad. All she needed now was a matching pair of shoes.

‘Kaiser!’ Ted yelled from outside. ‘Incoming!’

The door flew open and a muddy dog bounded into the room.

‘Out!’

Kaiser tipped his head, then coiled his body.

‘No!’

The dog shook himself vigorously.

Ted skidded into the room.

‘Out!’

‘Sorry, Cass.’

‘Sorry isn’t going to get these clothes cleaned! Nor me washed and to my job interview on time! He has to go.’

‘Woof!’

‘Or you do. Men! Always ruining everything!’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Review of The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan (2015, Mulholland Books)

After a heart attack, Inspector Ashwin Chopra is forced to retire from the Mumbai police force. On his last day at work he inherits two mysteries. The first is the seeming suicide of a young man, found drowned in a puddle. The second is the delivery of a young elephant, an inheritance from an uncle. His superiors are not interested in investigating the first, and the building manager is opposed to letting him house the second. Chopra was always an honest cop and he knows what he’s going to do with respect to the dead man – complete the investigation as a civilian. He’s less certain what to do about the elephant, though his wife Poppy is adamant the building manager is not going to get her way. Warned off by senior police officers, Chopra keeps digging, navigating the bustling city and it sharp social divisions, following the few clues that he has. It soon turns into his most dangerous case to date and to his surprise, his new elephant, Ganesha, proves to be an adept sidekick.

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra is the first book in the Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation set in Mumbai. Ganesha is a baby elephant and is Chopra’s unexpected inheritance. The book fits into the loose genre of somewhat mystical, charming cozies, such as Colin Cotterill’s Dr Siri series and Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Lady Detective Agency series. The tale follows Chopra’s attempts to solve a murder of a young man despite being officially retired from the police and to work out what to do about looking after Ganesha. It’s a light and light-hearted read, despite the corruption and violence underpinning the case under investigation. Chopra and his wife Poppy make for a charming couple, Ganesha is an interesting twist, and the story picks up on Indian themes of storytelling, with its nod to the use of mystical gods and Bollywood story structure. However, the charm and sense of place doesn’t fully compensate for a linear and straightforward plot and a tale that lacks substance and depth. Overall, an entertaining tale with a nice hook and lead character.


Thursday, May 3, 2018

April reads

My read of April was Thomas Mullen's historical police procedural set in Atlanta in 1948, Dark Town, following the exploits of the cities first black cops.

Dark Town by Thomas Mullen ****.5
The Twilight Warriors by Robert Gandt ***.5
Slumberland by Paul Beatty ****
The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 by Ian W. Toll ****
Capture by Roger Smith ***.5
The Demon Under the Microscope by Thomas Hager ***

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Review of White Butterfly by Walter Mosley (Pocket Books, 1992)

Los Angeles, 1956. A man is torturing and murdering black women. The police turn to Easy Rawlins for help; a man used to digging around for answers and who knows the city and its dark underbelly. However, Easy, recently married and with a young baby and school-aged child, is trying to keep on the straight and narrow. When a fourth victim dies, this time a white woman, the police won’t take no for an answer, threatening to jail his best friend and make his life hell. Reluctantly he starts to piece together the last days of each victim. Easy was always a man with secrets and those, his investigation, and his drinking is placing a strain on his marriage. Whether he helps catch the killer or not, it seems he might lose something precious in the process.

White Butterfly is the third book in the Easy Rawlins series set in post-war Los Angeles. In this outing Easy is hustled by the police into helping to track down a serial killer preying on women in the city. It’s the most personal of the books so far in the series, as much about his private home life and him as a person as it is about the case (the first focused more on his history and social circle, the second on his business interests). Easy is a conflicted, flawed, complex character, with secrets that he guards from everyone, including his new wife; an ability to lie, cajole and hustle; a weakness to stray; and a questionable loyalty to a psychopathic friend; yet he also is loving and has his own moral compass he uses to navigate a fraught social world and everyday racism. He exposes all these characteristics as his marriage disintegrates as he searches for the killer. The case isn’t overly complicated, though it has a nice twist, but Mosley tells the tale through an engaging, affective voice and sparse prose that has the cadence of classic hardboiled noir. As with the other books in the series, there is nice historical and social contextualisation and sense of place. The result is a dark, somewhat bleak, but evocative story.


Monday, April 30, 2018

Review of A Negro and an Ofay by Danny Gardner (2017, Down and Out Books)

1952, the American Mid-West. After a bar brawl, former Chicago cop Elliot Caprice wakes in the holding cells under the St Louis courthouse. Caprice is embittered and disillusioned, a Second World War veteran who is now on the run after killing two cops while working undercover for the Feds in the Chicago police to root out corruption; a mixed raced, educated man living in a world of overt and casual racism. Using his one phone call he asks old friends from Southville, Illinois, to come to his aid. Returning to his old town he finds the family farm in foreclosure, his adopted father living in a local flophouse, and the local mobster he used to run with fending off a new gang. Determined to save the farm, Caprice finds work as a runner for a local attorney, tracking down people and serving notices. One of the attorney’s clients is a rich Chicago family who are fighting over the estate after the untimely death of the patriarch. After meeting the beautiful gold digger at the centre of the fight, Caprice decides to enter into a private venture and return to Chicago and resolve the mess, knowing that it’ll drag him back into the underbelly of the city and potentially his own downfall.

It’s fair to say that there’s a lot going on in Danny Gardner’s A Negro and an Ofay. At the core of the story is the conflicted life of Elliot Caprice, the light-skinned child of a black man and white woman, brought up traversing the black and white Jewish communities of Southville, Illinois; college educated, a military veteran, a former cop, and on the run after killing two cops when his cover as a Fed informer was blown. The tale follows Caprice’s attempt to save himself, his uncle and their farm after it is foreclosed by the bank by becoming involved in trying to resolve a battle over a rich Chicago family’s estate, which has been built on crime and corruption. At the same time, the story provides social commentary on racism and anti-Semitism pervading life in 1950s America. Caprice’s personal issues and the case are somewhat convoluted and both are a strength and weakness of the story. The strength is an engaging, flawed character fighting personal demons whilst dealing with a handful of simultaneous battles which ensure there’s a non-stop flow of action. The weakness is it is sometimes tricky to following what is happening, often amplified by Gardner’s pared back scenes that sacrifice detail for pace, which led to me re-reading passages to pick up nuances that seemed to skip by. The result was a story that seemed to hurtle along through a maze, when a little less pace and some embellishment at times would have given the reader a better sense of the journey. Nonetheless, there’s plenty to like, especially Caprice and the historical window into 1950s race relations in the US, and the tale is hopefully the start of a series.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Lazy Sunday Service

It's been a bit of a hectic week of travel, with a couple of days in Liverpool and London, giving talks and meeting folks. Between reading drafts of academic chapters, I did manage to work my way through Walter Mosley's The White Butterfly and Vaseem Khan's The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra. Reviews soon. I also managed to pick up a copy of Philip Kerr's Greeks Bearing Gifts in Gatwick Airport, which has gone to near the top of the to-be-read pile.

My posts this week
Review of Dark Town by Thomas Mullen
Review of The Twilight Warriors by Robert Gandt
House call

Saturday, April 28, 2018

House call

‘I know he’s here, Mrs Brown.’

J.T. shifted his weight and tried to slow his wheezing.

‘And I’m telling you, he’s not.’

‘I appreciate you want to protect him, but I need ...’

‘He ain’t here!’

‘Mrs Brown, you’re a fine woman, a fine woman, but either he comes to the door or I come in.’

A pistol crept round the door frame.

J.T. swatted it aside, grabbed the wrist and pulled. Kept pulling until the young man flew down the stairs.

‘Thomas!’

‘See what comes of lying, Mrs Brown. All I wanted was to talk. Now I’m breaking bones.’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Review of Dark Town by Thomas Mullen (Abacus, 2016)

Atlanta, 1948. The city has just appointed its first eight black policemen to patrol ‘Dark Town’, a black district, though they have no powers of arrest, having to call white officers to perform those duties. Racism in the city is endemic, no institution more so than the police department, with many white cops seeking to push the new men out or under. Lucius Boggs, a preacher’s son, and Tommy Smith, a former soldier, are finding the new role of policing a strain, viewed with suspicion by some of the black community and despised and badly treated by white officers. One evening they try to detain a former cop who has a beaten young black woman in his car. Veteran Officer Dunlow and rookie, Rakeshaw, let him go without charge. The following day the woman is discovered dead, lying in a pile of rubbish. Boggs and Smith are forbidden from undertaking an investigation, but the white cops seemingly have no interest in the case so they start to dig around. Rakeshaw is also uneasy, his partner is meant to be training him, but so far he’s mostly seen corruption and aggressive racism. When the woman’s father turns up at the police station to identify the body and is accused of murdering his daughter it prompts Rakeshaw into action. Boggs, Smith and Rakeshaw all want justice and reform, but their quest is threatening some powerful people and is in danger of ending before it has really started.

Dark Town is the first book in a historical police procedural set in Atlanta, 1948. The city’s policing is in transition, with corruption within the police force starting to be reined in and the first eight black officers being appointed. Veteran white cops are unhappy at both developments. They want the status quo maintained, the black community to be kept firmly in their place, and the black cops gone. The tension and politics of embedded, overt institutional racism and potential change pervade Mullen’s tale. On the one side are white cops, many of whom are kluxers, who rule the city through violence and corruption, who are supported by white institutions and Jim Crow laws. On the other are the eight new cops, the black community and their leaders, and a handful of white officers who might not be happy with the changes but are uncomfortable with excessive and unwarranted discrimination. At the heart of the story are two partnerships and the death of a young black woman. Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith are two new black cops; Lionel Dunlow is a veteran white cop and Denny Rakeshaw is his rookie partner. Neither partnership is harmonious, but while Boggs and Smith trust and work for each other, Dunlow and Rakeshaw are at odds. Boggs, Smith and Rakeshaw are all secretly investigating the death, unhappy that it is being ignored by the homicide division. Dunlow is determined to bury the case and preferably Boggs and Smith as well. The three junior officers are playing a dangerous game, one that has larger ramifications than they anticipated. Mullen’s story delivers on multiple levels – strong historicisation, sense of place and contextualisation, nicely drawn characterisation, and a compelling and engaging story. It is not always an easy read, with the explicit racism and violence, but it gives a good sense of social and political relations at the time. The story seemed to run out of steam a little towards the end, and there are a couple of threads that seemed to get lost, but nonetheless this is a story of substance that extends beyond the investigation of a murder to reflect more broadly on society, power and its abuses. 


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review of The Twilight Warriors by Robert Gandt (Broadway Books, 2010)

1945 and the United States and its allies are closing in on Japan. Bypassing Formosa, they decide to invade Okinawa, an island close enough to the main islands to provide a strong air and naval base. Okinawa is heavily defended and well organized and the Japanese military are prepared to use kamikaze flights and ship runs to try and halt the advance. Their plan is to inflict as much damage as possible to make the Americans realise the cost in life of invading the main Japanese islands and hopefully reach some kind of peace on acceptable terms. It’s a strategy that pays some dividends, with 34 US ships sunk, 368 damaged, 763 aircraft lost, 4907 Navy men killed and 4,824 wounded, and 12,520 soldiers killed and 36,311 wounded, and it directly influences the decision to drop the atomic bombs. On the Japanese side, 16 ships and 4000 planes were lost, and 110,000 personnel were killed plus 100,000 civilians. The Twilight Warriors tells the tale from both American and Japanese perspectives and covers engagements on land, air and sea, and the strategies adopted by military leaders, though it provides the personnel experiences by concentrating on the exploits of USS Intrepid’s fighter pilots.

Gandt does a good job of providing an overarching picture of the scope and extent of various battles. However, the battle on the island is covered in somewhat sketchy terms, with the narrative focusing more on the naval and aerial side of the battle, and in particular the kamikaze raids and the sinking of the Yamato and her escorts. Given the wide brief and approach, as might be expected, the narrative chops and changes perspectives quite a bit, flitting between various actions and decisions, and the exploits of a small group of naval aviators. The latter grounds the battle in the everyday experiences of men facing danger head-on, with a number of them killed in action, or ditching into the sea. Snippets are also given of the views and experiences of other US personnel, especially on ships under kamikaze attack and those taking part in such suicide missions. At first, this style is quite jarring, but as the book progresses it finds a rhythm and works quite well to give a sense of scale of operations, yet still be grounded in individual lives. Overall, an interesting, engaging and a little uneven read.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Lazy Sunday Service


On Friday I was very honoured to receive the inaugural Faculty of Social Sciences Research Achievement Award and also the overall Maynooth University Research Achievement Award. Conor Murphy won the early career Social Sciences research prize, so it was a good day for geographers. The other early career winners were Dr Karen English (Fac. Sci & Eng) and Dr Deborah Hayden (Fac. Arts, Celtic Studies & Phil), and the senior winners were Prof. Paul Moynagh (Fac. Sci & Eng) and Prof. David Stifter (Fac. Arts, Celtic Studies & Phil), so many congrats to them. The prizes have been introduced as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the split from St Patrick's College to form MU. Just about all of my research is collaborative, so many thanks to everyone I've worked with in making this possible. And big thanks to OH.


My posts this week
Review of Slumberland by Paul Beatty
Review of The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 by Ian W. Toll
Worth every cent

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Worth every cent

‘It’s simple, Tommy; you can jump or be pushed.’

Tommy glanced down at the canyon floor.

‘I’ll do whatever you want, Mr Baylis. I’ll pay everything back, plus interest.’

‘What I want is to watch you plummeting to your death.’

‘I understand that, Mr Bayliss, but that doesn’t get you your money back. I can only do that alive.’

‘You’re expecting me to trust you? After you’ve already broken my trust?’

‘Please. I’ll …’

‘Jump.’

‘No.’

‘Jack, push him off.’

Jack shuffled onto the plank, which creaked ominously then snapped.

Bayliss watched the two men tumble.

‘Beautiful. Worth every cent!’


A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Review of Slumberland by Paul Beatty (Oneworld, 2008)

Ferguson Sowell is a LA DJ in search of a perfect beat. He thinks he’s found it, stitched together from an eclectic set of sound samples and music, but it’ll only be perfect if the Schwa – an elusive jazz genius accompanies it. The Schwa, however, has disappeared leaving only a handful of recordings. Sowell mysteriously receives a couple of clues which leads him to believe his potential muse might be in West Berlin and manages to wrangle a job as a ‘jukebox sommelier’, charged with creating a perfect set of tunes for a Berlin bar, Slumberland. The bar is a place where German women pick up black men and Sowell joins their ranks, sleeping with a succession of women between working in the bar and DJ-ing around the city. Being black in white city, one with a potent Nazi past but also a vibrant cosmopolitanism at the time when the Berlin Wall falls is unsettling and invigorating. There’s little sign of the Schwa, however.

In Slumberland Paul Beatty tells the story of a musically inventive DJ who is obsessed with sounds, beats, riffs, and music, who travels to Berlin to search for an elusive, virtuoso jazzman. The telling somewhat mimics the sensibilities of the lead character, with Beatty creating verbal riffs, spurts of free-form, scatting prose, and a densely multi-layered narrative. Set in pre- and post-fall of the Berlin Wall the tale is a rumination on music, race, sex and culture, as experienced and considered by the lead character, perhaps one of the most reflexive people on the planet, spending half the time riffing on his own inner-voice. At times shocking and bombastic, often clever and knowing with some interesting observations, the story also has a dark humour running throughout. Some of the passages were a joy to read. At the same time, while enjoyable, ultimately the story doesn’t really seem to go anywhere – there’s no epiphany or sense of closure beyond Sowell fulfilling his ambition. If you like your fiction like a DJ mix of freeform jazz, then you’ll probably enjoy this literary equivalent.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Review of The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 by Ian W. Toll (W.W. Norton, 2015)

The second installment in a trilogy that charts the Second World War in the Pacific, this book focuses on the period mid-1942 from the Guadalcanal campaign through to mid-1944 and the battle for Guam, and US strategy of island-hopping and bypassing, and the strategic blunders of the Japanese and their overstretched resources. Toll’s aim is to provide a grand narrative, detailing the key decisions and battles, some of the key personalities and inter-service rivalries, and the wider politics of the war from a US and Japanese perspective. The challenge is to balance the broad sweep of history with enough detail to give a sense of the various actions and interactions. For the most part he succeeds, providing an overarching picture of the theatre, strategies politics, and rivalries, while also describing the views and experiences of key personnel and ordinary servicemen. He also manages to balance the perspectives of the US and Japanese. While it’s an interesting and engaging read, it suffers a little from an unevenness in coverage, with some campaigns or specific experiences getting fuller treatment than others, for example the extended description of three cruises of one submarine and concentrating on the Mariana Islands approach rather than the hopping up the Solomon Islands to towards the Bismarck islands and engagements in Papua New Guinea. The ending also seemed somewhat directionless, giving a general view of Japanese society at that point of the war, but giving little sense of the Allies plans for the final phases. Overall, a decent though uneven, overarching narrative of the mid-phase of the Pacific War.



Sunday, April 15, 2018

Lazy Sunday Service

Since the start of the year I've been taking a literary world tour, reading fiction set in Canada, China, England, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Laos, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United States, and Wales. It's been good to mix up the settings more consistently. For the next set of reads I'm going to take a different path, focusing on a handful of historical crime tales that take race as a core theme, starting with Paul Beatty's Slumberland (set in late 1980s Berlin), then Thomas Mullen's Dark Town (set in Atlanta in 1948), Pete Dexter's Paris Trout (set in 1949 in Georgia), Danny Gardner's A Negro and an Ofay (set in 1950s Chicago), and Walter Mosley's White Butterfly (set in Los Angeles in 1956). That set is all US male writers, but they're all already on my to-be-read pile and I'll see if I can track down some others to mix it up a little.


My posts this week
A life, not a life sentence
Review of Capture by Roger Smith

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A life, not a life sentence

The suitcase hit the bottom step, then landed with a thud.

'Are you okay?'

'Just about,' Cath said, regaining her balance.

Paul glided into the hallway, his electric wheelchair jerking to a halt.

'Where're you going?'

'My mother's.'

'You're leaving me?'

'I just can't do this anymore. I'm twenty-seven. I want night’s out. Kids. A life, not a life sentence.'

'Is that all I am now - a burden? What about until death do us part?'

'If I stayed that's probably what would happen.'

'You'd kill yourself?'

'I'd kill you.'

‘Perhaps I should’ve died in the accident.’

‘I’m sorry, Paul.’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Review of Capture by Roger Smith (Serpent’s Tail, 2012)

Nick Exley is a software developer who specializes in motion capture. He’s something of a nomad, globetrotting as he looks to sell his product. He’s ended up in Cape Town, where he’s rented a plush, isolated beach house just yards from the ocean. On the day of his daughter’s fourth birthday, Nick is getting stoned on the deck while his wife is flirting with her lover in the kitchen, as Sunny heads to the sea to play with her new boat. From rocks nearby Vernon Saul watches the girl topple into the sea. Instead of heading to rescue her he waits, then rushes in to attempt CPR, console the family, and help deal with the police and funeral arrangements. Vernon used to be an opportunist cop until a gang shot him when he got too greedy and he was bounced out as unfit to serve, both on physical and moral grounds. Now he’s a security guard, but he’s still always looking for an angle for self-enrichment. His plan is to inveigle his way into Exley’s life and see where that takes him, knowing that he has security camera footage showing the developer smoking dope as his daughter drowns. One of Vernon’s other projects is Dawn Cupido, a former hooker and meth-head who now works as an erotic dancer and tries to protect her young daughter from the terrible upbringing she had in The Flats. That she has her daughter at all is down to Vernon, who got her back from social services. Vernon has not quite worked out how to leverage Dawn, but she owes him. And so does Nick Exley. As Exley tries to cope with the death of his daughter, Vernon manipulates the situation, which gradually turns into a nightmare of murder and lies.

Capture is thriller crime tale set in Cape Town. The tale revolves around three main protagonists: Nick Exley, a rich, white software developer visiting the country with his wife and young daughter; Vernon Saul, a coloured former cop, who is always looking for an angle to leverage power and opportunities; and Dawn Cupido, an erotic dancer and former meth-head and hooker who owes Vernon for retrieving her daughter from social services. Each character is flawed, but while Exley has lived a so-far charmed life, Vernon and Dawn have been living nightmares from a young age. Smith’s hook is for Exley to join them, his daughter drowning in the sea and his troubled relationship with his wife disintegrating. Vernon, a psychopathic chancer whose go-to solution for every problem is to kill whoever is in the way, inveigles his way into Exley’s life, which rapidly descents into hell – a blur of drink, drugs, lies, coercion and murder. And in Vernon’s wake is Dawn. Smith sets a dark, nasty tone in the first few pages and rarely lets any light into the tale, keeping the pace and tension high throughout. And he brings into sharp contrast the rich enclaves and the grinding poverty and violence of The Flats, and the inability of overstretched services to keep a lid on all the crime. While some of it seems far-fetched – it’s really not clear why the police don’t bring Exley or Vernon in for questioning or take a more active interest in their shenanigans, and there is a plot reliance on Exley’s work – it doesn’t really matter too much. This is like an action-thriller film, with a cartwheeling plot, rather than the considered realism of a police procedural drama. It’s bold, lurid and dark, with vivid characters, and not at all subtle. My main issue was that the denouement was signalled from quite a long way out, and after the noir running throughout felt a little bit of a cop-out. As I’ve said before, the South African tourism board is probably praying for Roger Smith to find his inner Enid Blyton; hardboiled crime readers will happy to take his work as it is.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Lazy Sunday Service

Turns out my review of The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths by Harry Bingham was my 900th on the blog. I guess that's worth noting. May the good reading continue.

My posts this week:
March reads
Review of The Demon Under the Microscope by Thomas Hager
Hold her steady

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Hold her steady

‘This is crazy!’

Two flak shells burst nearby.

‘Nearly there. Hold her steady.’

‘Drop the fucking fish!’

The air was full of small explosions; the guns of the ships ahead spitting fire. Up above was a melee of fighters and dive bombers.

‘Drop a little.’

‘We’re already catching waves!’

A wing sheared off a plane to their right and it smacked into the sea.

'Keep her steady.’

The plane lifted as the torpedo dropped.

Hoskins let the plane float up, roaring over the cruiser.

Moments later a blast ripped through the ship.

‘Poor bastards.’

‘Save your tears for our lot.’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Review of The Demon Under the Microscope by Thomas Hager (Three Rivers Press, 2006)

The demon the title refers to are bacteria, which when present in wounds can often lead to death when not treated by antibiotics. Prior to the 1930s there were no effective cures for many forms of bacterial infection, such as strep, staph, meningitis, pneumonia, gonorrhoea, gangrene and tuberculosis, other than to hope the body’s own defences managed to fight back and overcome the invaders. That meant high rates of death from infected wounds for soldiers and for women giving childbirth, but also that what seemed like fairly innocuous cuts could lead to death within a few days. After serving as a medic in the First World War and seeing thousands of men have limps amputated to try and stop the spread of infection or die from their wounds, Gerhard Domagk wanted to change that. After training as a doctor he moved in to pathology research, first in a university team, then in the industrial giant, Bayer. If Bayer could produce a chemical solution to bacterial infections, it could reap a vast fortune. Domagk headed up the research lab to identify an effective drug, working with chemists to create and test on mice hundreds of new synthetic compounds. They hit on a line of research that linked sulphur to azo dyes, discovering that a few of their new concoctions worked, enabling mice infected with strep to fight back and remain well. So was born a whole family of sulfa drugs, the first antibiotics, which massively improved survival rates from bacterial infections.

Hager tells the story of the invention of sulfa, predominately by focusing on the life and work of Gerhard Domagk, though there are plenty of sidebars where other parts of the tale are filled in. The result is a book that is not told in a linear fashion. Indeed, the book pings around the calendar like a pinball machine in the first half in particular. It starts, quite oddly, at December 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbour (presumably to orientate the book for an American audience), then swaps to 1914-18, then the 1920s interspersed with 1084, the seventeenth century, the 1870s, the eighteenth century, nineteenth century, and also travelling from Germany to France, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, the US. From around page 70 it starts to settle down into a more linear narrative, progressing from the late 1920s through to late 1930s, mostly located in Germany, with a few forays to England, France and the US. The story also starts to diversify from Domagk and medical tales to the wider political economy of the pharmaceutical industry and science, as not only did sulfa products lead to a revolution in treatment, but also how the drugs were developed, tested and approved, after one particular drug had catastrophic effects. Prior to sulfa, pretty much anyone could create and market a health product without highly regulated testing or naming ingredients or side effects. Indeed, Hager goes as far as to argue that the nature of health care was fundamentally changed, with physicians moving from being caregivers to technicians, and the predominant site of care moving from home to hospital. Having been forced to reject his Nobel prize by the Nazis in 1938, Domagk finally received it in 1947. Despite the fractured narrative, created by trying to centre the story on Domagk when it is really a multi-threaded tale, Hager tells a fascinating history in an engaging voice.

Monday, April 2, 2018

March reads

A nice month of reading. There were two standout tales - The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths by Harry Bingham and The Way Back to Florence by Glenn Haybittle. It's a tight decision, but The Strange Death shades it as my read of the month.

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths by Harry Bingham *****
Tokyo Station by Martin Cruz Smith ****
Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart ****.5
The Way Back to Florence by Glenn Haybittle *****
The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan ***
The Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Coterill ***
Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal by James D. Hornfischer ***
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson ***