Saturday, October 31, 2015

She looked like Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity

She looked like Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, with the personality and scheming to match. Carl Hudson was snared the minute he walked into the bar. Several beers and whiskey’s later he was captivated, seduced by sultry eyes, musky perfume, and risque small talk. Three weeks on and he’d lost all sense of reason, luring her husband to an isolated spot and smashing a claw hammer into his skull; burying the body in a shallow grave. Hours later he’d been re-cast as an obsessed stalker, bundled into a police car as Barbara cried crocodile tears on the sheriff’s shoulder.

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review of The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley by Jeremy Massey (2015, Riverhead Books)

Paddy Buckley has followed in his father’s footsteps and works in the funeral trade in Dublin.  Still mourning the death two year’s previously of his pregnant wife he’s been moving through life in somewhat of a daze.  Then on a single day his world is turned on its head once more.  First, he ends up in bed with an attractive grieving widow, who then promptly drops dead.  Then he meets her beautiful daughter and once again loses his heart.  Then he ploughs into and kills the brother of Vincent Cullen, head of one of Dublin’s most ruthless criminal gangs.  Realising who the victim is, he speeds off into the night.  The next morning he’s assigned the job of organizing Donal Cullen’s funeral.  It’s bad enough that he’s having to look after the funeral of a woman who died in his arms, but now he’s surrounded by thugs who are actively searching for him.  With a bit of luck he’ll manage to pull through, but with his present run of luck that seems doubtful.

In this debut novel, Jeremy Massey tells a farce about an undertaker who has the task of arranging two funerals for people whom he has accidentally killed.  Beyond what the law might think, the catch with one is that he is falling in love with the victim’s daughter, the catch with the other is that the victim is the brother of the head of a major Dublin criminal gang.  Just as Paddy Buckley is given the hope of a new relationship after mourning the death of this pregnant wife, the ground is pulled from under him and it looks like it might be a struggle to survive the week.  The tale is quite nicely told, with Massey carefully arranging the setup, and then spinning out the aftermath as Buckley tries to manage the fallout.  However, while it’s entertaining enough, the plotting felt a little over-contrived, the telling felt a little flat, lacking both tension and humour, and I didn’t really connect with the Buckley as a character.  That’s not to say that I didn’t like the book, just that I wasn’t bowled over by it.  Overall, a story with a really great hook that didn’t quite live up to its promise, but nonetheless was an interesting read.

Monday, October 26, 2015

September reviews

Having failed to summarize the reviews for August until mid-September, I've managed to do the same for my September reviews.  My read of the month for September was William Gibson's The Peripheral, which took a bit of work to read myself into, but was worth the effort.

Natural Causes by James Oswald ****
Rome ’44: The Battle for the Eternal City by Raleigh Trevelyan ***.5
The Peripheral by William Gibson *****
Black Bear by Aly Monroe ***.5
Mangrove Squeeze by Laurence Shames ****
Unholy Ground by John Brady ****.5
The Exterminators by Bill Fitzhugh ****

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Lazy Sunday Service

It took a long time to be delivered to my local bookshop, but I now have my hands on a copy of Patti Abbott's Concrete Angel.  I'm looking forward to reading this one having enjoyed Home Invasion.

My posts this week:
Review of Stasi Child by David Young
Review of The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel

It was that time of the night

Saturday, October 24, 2015

It was that time of the night

It was that time of the night.  When witches appear as angels and men boast of conquests on the pitch or in bed.  McBride tipped back the whiskey, slid off the bar stool, and weaved his way to the door, squeezing past angels squeezed into dresses one or two sizes too small.  He bid farewell to the bouncers and lurched into the humid night.  A car slowed, it occupants hollered abuse, then sped away.  A throaty voice enticed from the shadows.  Two men stepped onto the pavement blocking his path. McBride clenched his fists and gladly stepped into the violence.

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Review of Stasi Child by David Young (twenty7, 2015)

East Berlin, 1974.  Oberleutnant Karin Müller is a detective in the murder squad of the GDR national police. Her marriage is disintegrating and she’s haunted by memories of being raped and the subsequent botched abortion.  When she’s ordered to investigate the death of a teenage girl found near to the Berlin Wall, she knows she’s heading into trouble.  The girl has been recently sexually assaulted, appears to have been escaping from the West to the East, and a high ranking Stasi detective is calling the shots.  He wants her to discover the girl’s identity, but not her killer.  In practice, investigating one means also trying to identify the other.  As she tries to determine who the girl might be it becomes obvious that others would prefer her to make little progress.  In a country where it’s not clear who’s a state agent and a wrong move can make you an enemy of the state, Müller tries to steer a course through murky waters, determined to solve the case and stay alive.

Stasi Child captures well the paranoia, fear and complex power games of the GDR, conveying the sense that even those working in the police and security services, who were most able to abuse their positions, were fearful of how the system could eat its own.  Young illustrates this by entwining two parallel storylines: the first told in the third tense and is set in the present follows Oberleutnant Karin Müller, a young detective who despite her own woes still believes in the ideals of the GDR, who is ordered by the Stasi to identify a teenager whose murder has been staged to look like she was killed trying to flee from the West; the second, told in the first person and set some months earlier charts the harsh regime suffered by Irma Behrendt in a youth detention centre.  Both characters and storylines are compelling, though I initially struggled with the first person tense of the latter.  The tale is atmospheric and plot intriguing.  However, its realism started to waiver as it built towards its denouement, which felt overplayed; both in terms of the wrap-up, but also in the personal ties between the threads -- and the carefully layered police procedural gave way to a thriller.  The final scenes, however, pack a powerful punch.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Review of The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel (Center Street, 2009)

As America enters the war after Pearl Harbour leading member of its GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) community become fearful for the safety of the nation’s art treasures.  They move towards putting in place a strategy for protecting them, in the process turning their attention to art works already in the line of fire in Europe.  The result is the MFAA (Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives) program consisting of a small group of archivist and curators, art restorers and historians, and architects who would advance with the Allied forces and try and protect a list of key buildings and art works and unearth the location of stolen pieces of art, which were looted wholesale by the Nazis and transported to Germany and Austria.  The Monuments Men tells their story, charting their journeys, battles (both with their own bureaucracies and commanders and in the field) and discoveries up to shortly after the war. 

To try and provide an accessible narrative, Edsel drifts towards a fictional-style telling, and concentrates on a handful of leading characters.  This does make the account relatively straightforward to follow, although because he keeps the timeline linear the narrative jumps around between threads quite a bit.  It also centres the story on a small number of people and decontextualizes it somewhat from the wider story of art plundering during the war and its recovery and its restitution after the war.  This was clearly Edsel’s intention, to focus specifically on the MFAA and the men he casts as heroes in their efforts to save and return priceless art (and initially they were just a handful of men).  And they certainly were dedicated, brave and tenacious.  Personally, though, I would have liked the story to have a bit more depth with respect to the MFAA beyond the personal narratives and to have been set in the wider context, especially the Nazi efforts to plunder and hide materials, and the various networks and intermediaries involved.  The book could have also been improved by removing the unnecessary repetition.  Overall, an interesting account of a little known Allied endeavour.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A leap to the West

‘Are you sure about this?’ Kirsten said, gazing from the outcrop at the forested valley.

‘There.’  Jonas pointed down to his right.

He flicked the switch of his torch twice.  A single flash answered.

‘Klaus.’  Jonas leaned out and checked the cleared strip; two high fences topped with barbed wire.  He raised his bow, the arrow arcing towards the torchlight, twine trailing in its wake.

A minute later the thicker rope was being tugged across the gap.  Searchlights flicked on, a dog barked.


He clipped on a makeshift harness.  ‘We go together.’ 

He gripped her waist and stepped out.

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Review of Sign of the Cross by Anne Emery (ECW Press, 2006)

Tired of working legal aid, Monty Collins transferred to private practice, losing his wife and custody of his two kids in the process.  After a young woman connected to a Catholic youth group is murdered, his boss asks him to look after the interests of a local priest who has become a suspect in the case.  Brennan Burke is a difficult man to represent, especially since he is open with the police but has a habit of concealing information that might prove useful for Monty.  As the case against Burke seems to strengthen, Monty struggles to construct a defence or to determine who might have a vendetta against the priest.  What he does discover though is that Burke has a colourful past and plenty of skeletons in the closet.  Then a second body is discovered that also points towards Burke and a trial is inevitable.  Monty is fairly certain his client is innocent, but he’s not at all convinced that he’ll be able to persuade a jury to share his view.

Sign of the Cross is the first book in the Monty Collins series set in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Collins is a lawyer who’s been playing in a blues band since his university days and is separated from his sharp-tongued, law professor wife.  In this first outing he’s trying to defend a bullish but charismatic priest who is suspected of committing murder, who is fairly uncooperative and parcels out information only when forced to.  Interestingly, the only character I had difficulty fully believing in was Monty, who seemed a bit lost and a bit pastiche.  His acerbic wife, his kids, and the characters based around the church all seemed more coherent.  This might partially be the artefact of the first person tense, but was more than that I feel; he just felt a little unsubstantial.  The plot is a somewhat hesitant to begin with, but gains shape and direction as it unfolds.  With regards to the mystery, Emery manages to keep a number of suspects in the frame, though the denouement was no great surprise.  At the end I was turning the pages as much to see how the relationships between the characters turned out as the tale, especially Burke and Monty’s wife.  Overall, a fairly run-of-the-mill mystery, lifted by the supporting characters.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Review of Lunenburg by Keith Baker (2000, Headline)

Thirty years ago a teenage boy paddles to an island to spy on a local woman.  As he watches her have sex with one of her two lovers, the other slips into the house.  Later the first man is found with the knife in his hand, the woman stabbed to death.  Rather than admit his presence the boy keeps his silence, but now with terminal cancer and the man convicted of the woman’s murder recently freed, he considers confronting him with his secret.  But before he has chance to do so, he’s murdered, as is a private investigator hired to check him out.  Detective Annie Welles of the Halifax Regional Police is determined to try and solve the murders.  However, her home life is a disaster and she’s fallen out with one of her senior colleagues, who is quite happy to sideline her, especially if it aids his own career prospects.  While all the attention is focused on finding the recently released convict, Welles joins forces with a Scottish journalist, John Taggart, in Nova Scotia to cover a royal visit, to pursue her own investigation.

Lunenberg is a police procedural set in Halifax, Nova Scotia, that follows the exploits of Detective Annie Welles as she tries to solve two murders that seem to have their roots in an another murder thirty years previously.  Welles is an interesting character, playing the role of the downtrodden but feisty female cop who pursues her own investigations in the face of sexist sidelining.  She’s joined by a number of nicely penned characters and Baker provides a reasonable sense of place for Halifax and Lunenberg.  Where the book struggles, however, is with respect to the plot, which has both holes in it (such as why the witness held his silence for thirty years) and is driven forward by an endless succession of plot devices, especially contrived presences and absences and an abundance of coincidences.  The result is a tale that simply doesn’t ring true and denouement that felt contrived and weak.  Overall then, while the characters had potential, in my view the plot let the story down.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Lazy Sunday Service

Arrived back in Ireland this morning after just over a week in Nova Scotia.  Was a little alarmed to see out the window that the wing was pocked with holes.  Thankfully it seemed to make no difference to the flight.  I enjoyed my time on the East coast of Canada.  And I found time to read two Canadian based novels, which I'll review in the coming week. 

My posts this week
Review of The Pale House by Luke McCallin *****
Review of Blizzard of Glass by Sally M Walker ***
Twentieth anniversary of PhD viva
Review of The Girl in Berlin by Elizabeth Wilson ***
Lighthouse blues

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Lighthouse blues

The orange glow from the fire danced on the glass baubles hanging from two trees.

‘What the hell are you doing, Callie?’

‘What does it look like I’m doing?’ Callie snapped, dropping a canvas frame onto the flames.

‘For god’s sake, Cal.  Just stop.’

‘Stop!  Stop?  Why the fuck would I stop!’

‘Because they’re good.  Because you’ve spent hours painting them.  Because ...’

‘Look at it, John.’  She held up a painting of lighthouse on a rocky outcrop.  ‘It’s shit.  They’re all shit.’

‘Look, come back inside.  Take your medicine.’

‘Fuck my medicine.’ Callie dropped the painting.  ‘And fuck art.’

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Review of The Girl in Berlin by Elizabeth Wilson (2012, Serpent's Tail)

1951 and Burgess and Maclean have just fled England.  Having been acquitted of murder and fleeing to East Germany a few years previously, communist Colin Harris decides to travel back to London to check out the possibilities of return with a wife in tow.  Harris’ arrival raises flags and the enigmatic MI5 spymaster, Kingdom, asks Special Branch detective, Jack McGovern to keep tabs on him.  A couple of days later a former German scientist, who’d fled to Britain in the late 1930s, is discovered floating in a canal, having last been seen with Harris and a colleague.  While CID investigate, McGovern is sent to Berlin to keep tabs Harris who has returned to the city.  There he meets a raft of shady characters and Harris’ financee, who is desperate to find passage to England.  McGovern finds himself adrift in the divided city, unsure as to what he is looking for or why.  He senses he’s a pawn in a larger game, but he’s not sure of the purpose or rules.  And it seems he might be expendable.

On one level The Girl in Berlin works quite well.  It is quite nicely written with some nice attention to detail concerning London and Berlin in 1951, including fashion, politics, and sense of place.  Many of scenes are well framed and engaging.  On another level, however, the book seems quite disjointed and the plotting somewhat ponderous.  While Detective McGovern plays the central character, rather than follow him exclusively, Wilson weaves together a number of intersecting threads centred on a set of characters.  Some of these are much more crucial to the mystery aspects of the book than others, with some interchanges have little bearing on the case.  The result is a storyline that seems more literary than crime/spy orientated and a plot that seems to make little sense at times.  Consequently, while the story had its moments, overall it lacked coherence and didn’t ring true.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Twentieth anniversary of PhD viva

Today is the 20th anniversary of my PhD viva.  It was a fraught, combative affair, lasting three and half hours.  I remember we spent half an hour on a single page before the chairperson moved it on.  I then waited outside the room for three quarters of an hour.  When I was called back in the chair told me I had passed with no changes, except correcting typos.  Given the outcome I queried the whole process and was told the examiner liked to make it ‘a rites of passage experience’, being deliberately argumentative.  They spent the whole of my long wait discussing football and had ‘forgotten about me’.  Not quite the affirmative experience I was hoping for, despite the pass!  I must be one of the few people to have been given that grade who left the viva decidedly pissed off!

And at that point I joined the ranks of newly minted graduates looking for a job.  55 applications and nine interviews later I finally landed one, despite having a handful of published papers and a NSF grant (I pretty much applied to every department in the UK from Aberdeen down to Plymouth!).  At one point I was going to employ myself as my own research assistant using the NSF funding and was asking contacts if I could spend the money in their department (CURDS in Newcastle University had kindly agreed to this, but then I got the job in Belfast).  My top tip is do a thesis on what you’re interested in, but that will also get you a job.  I did what I was interested in and then got the job on the basis of my Masters in GIS.  Interestingly, the first paper I wrote as a first year student -- and submitted against my supervisor’s advice -- is still my most cited paper (almost twice as much as the next).  Which is actually kind of depressing; you’d have thought I’d have written a more impactful paper since then!

I had just turned twenty five when I finished my PhD, so with twenty years down I guess this anniversary also marks the halfway point until retirement (assuming the retirement age isn’t revised upwards).  Hopefully I might write another decent paper in the meantime.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Review of Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917 by Sally M Walker (2011, Henry Holt)

On December 6, 1917 two ships collided in Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia.  One ship was full of munitions, the other with relief supplies.  The result of the collision was the munition ship catching fire.  While the crew rowed away as fast as they could, the ship drifted to Pier 6 in Halifax, attracting a crowd of onlookers.  A short while later the ship exploded, creating the largest man-made explosion prior to Hirosoma, flattening the two towns of Halifax and Dartmouth, first through the shockwave, then a tsunami, killing nearly 2,000 people, and shattering windows over thirty miles away.  As the relief effort started, the following day a blizzard swept in dumping more than a foot of snow.  Isolated, their infrastructure shattered, and families devastated, the town stuggles to cope the scale of the disaster.

I bought Blizzard of Glass online since I was travelling to Halifax.  I’d heard about the explosion of 1917 and thought I’d try and learn more before I arrived.  What I hadn’t appreciated was that it was a history book for kids.  It’s a well written book that blends a straight historical narrative with the personal story of a handful of families.  It provides a basic overview of the disaster and its consequences.  For kids, it’s great.  However, I wanted a much more in-depth analysis of the lead-up, the accident and explosion, and the effects and blame game.  Basically, the book was way too thin for what I was after. Overall, then, good for what it is, but not quite what I was looking for (and my rating is based on what it is).

Monday, October 5, 2015

Review of The Pale House by Luke McCallin (No Exit Press, 2015)

Late March 1945 and the Germans are on the retreat on all fronts.  After a harrowing time in the hands of the Gestapo after the failed attempt on Hitler’s life in 1944, Captain Gregor Reinhardt finds himself back in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, where he’d served two years previously.  This time he is a member of the Feldjaegerkorps -- the military police -- who have far reaching powers to conduct investigations across all units.  Having served as a detective in Berlin before the war, Reinhardt has a nose for tracking down criminals and in a city under siege and sheltering the worst elements of Ustaše - the Croatian fascists - and a German penal battalion he has plenty to choose from.  What draws his attention is two separate executions of seemingly anonymous soldiers.  And the more he probes, the stronger the pressure to divert his attention.  Only Reinhardt is a man of principles -- he might be working for a corrupt state, but he still believes in justice regardless of consequence.   

The Pale House is the second book in the Captain Gregor Reinhardt series.  Reinhardt joined the police after the First World War, rising to become a detective inspector in the Berlin Kripo before joining the Abwehr and the fringes of the German resistance.  In the closing stages of the Second World War he finds himself in Sarajevo as the partisans close in, working for the military police.  The city is in turmoil as the Germans prepare to retreat and the Croatian Ustaše lash out at the civilian population, knowing they are about to be overrun.  Despite sense of impending doom and savagery, McCallin has Reinhardt conduct a murder investigation, weaving a clever, compelling and somewhat complex plot.  He very nicely captures the fear at work in the city, the tension within the German ranks and between them and their Croatian collaborators.  Reinhardt is a somewhat sombre character, but his principles and role as a flawed but ‘good German’ in a corrupt regime makes him an interesting anti-hero.  The other characters are well penned, though given the case and situation, they’re all a pretty rum lot.  I particularly liked the very strong sense of place and it’s clear that McCallin has done his historical research, yet it doesn't dominate the story but rather provides good context.  Overall, an excellent historical crime tale and a strong addition to what’s shaping up to be a very good series.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Lazy Sunday Service

I spent today travelling anti-clockwise along the Cabot Trail and through Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia. Lots of rugged coastline, gazillions of trees that are just starting to turn to autumn colours. Wonderful drive. For once I've managed to see more than the airport and hotel on a talk trip and, thankfully, I still have two days of touring before I have to turn up to do the work gig.

My post this week:
Review of Natural Causes by James Oswald
Review of Dragnet Nation by Julia Angwin
From the tree

Saturday, October 3, 2015

From the tree

Tommy emerged quietly from the thicket and clambered up a tree, perching legs akimbo on a thick branch.

The curtains at the back of the cabin were open, the rooms lit.

He wiped sweat from his brow, raised his binoculars and directed them to the room at the far end.

The girl was lying on the bed in her underwear, tapping at her phone.

He increased the magnification; if only he could reach out and touch her. 

A hand grabbed the top of his trousers and tugged hard.

As he tumbled backwards a booming voice said: ‘Gotcha, you little bastard!’

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review of Dragnet Nation by Julia Angwin (2014, St Martin’s Press)

The subtitle for Dragnet Nation is ‘A quest for privacy, security, and freedom in a world of relentless surveillance,’ which neatly sums up the book’s focus.  In short, Julia Angwin charts: (a) how web- and mobile-based communication has become an intersecting set of data dragnets in the United States (and elsewhere), with state agencies and companies using a variety of practices (such as using cookies, data trackers, wifi and MAC address sniffing, spyware) to track and trace the use of phones, apps, websites and online transactions and purchases; (b) her attempts to reclaim her privacy and to evade mass surveillance, and to improve her data security, using a range of different tactics, including cloaking, blocking, obfuscation, encryption, requests for copies of her data and deletion from databases, and changing which services she used.  Her analysis draws from of two main sources: her journalism with the Wall Street Journal and interviews with key witnesses, as well as desk-based research of literature; and her own attempts to install various bits of software and to change her online and communications behaviour. 

Angwin’s argument is that ‘the modern era of dragnets marks a new type of surveillance: suspicionless, computerized, impersonal and vast in scope.’  She reports that in 2013 Krux Digital had identified 328 separate companies tracking visitors to the top fifty content websites.  She herself identified 212 data brokers operating in the US that consolidated and traded data about people, only 92 of which allowed opt-outs (65 of which required handing over additional data to secure the opt-out), and 58 companies that were in the mobile location tracking business, only 11 of which offered opt-outs.  She contends that through a lack of privacy people are being routinely hacked in a number of ways, including: always being locatable; finding it difficult to keep something secret; being impersonated; having devices hacked and used to spy on activity using the microphone, camera, and screenshots; being categorized, socially sorted and financially manipulated; and always being considered a suspect by state agencies and open to suspicionless searches.

While one of the back cover endorsements claims the book is an ‘antidote to Big Brother’s big chill’, I experienced the opposite.  It is an engaging and informative read, but an also somewhat depressing, revealing the US state to be entirely paranoid about its own citizens, routinely spying on them as if they are all criminal suspects (often in secret and without legal recourse; as the Snowden and Wikileaks revelations have also highlighted), and corporations have little respect for their customers treating them as simply another commodity to be monetized and sold, with just about all of their online behaviour, however mundane, being harvested, traded, and consolidated to create new derived data products, and used to nudge them towards purchases (with such actions authorized in the small print of complex legal documents that detail terms and conditions, or not at all as in the case of many apps).  In both cases, privacy has disappeared almost entirely, despite claims to the data being anonymized (it is incredibly easy to de-identify the data given the overlapping metadata). And Angwin’s analysis only concerned the internet and mobile phones; once one considers the plethora of smart home and smart city technologies, from mass digital CCTV, automated systems, to the internet of things, then the loss of privacy multiplies.

As Angwin’s own concerted attempts to reclaim privacy highlight, at present it is very difficult to regain any meaningful level of protection (and even if one does, the very fact that a person is seeking privacy flags them up as a potential risk and further potential surveillance).  Indeed, Angwin often struggled to make sense of different technical approaches, install various bits of software, and change her behaviour, despite being technically savvy and having access to leading experts in the field.  Certainly many of the approaches she tried would be beyond the average internet or smartphone user.  This leads her to conclude that the solution to the data dragnet cannot be purely technical, but rather requires a combination of better laws, oversight and financial penalties, a more transparent and ethical state (just as there is surveillance focused on citizens, there should be on the state itself to create mutual accountability; and it should use more ethical approaches such as programs like ThinThread that tries to respect and protect privacy, relying on encryption and court sanctioned search warrants), and a new market of platforms that see consumer privacy as a competitive advantage.  Here, I was somewhat surprised not to see privacy-by-design in the mix, or even discussed, nor data minimization or fair information principles. 

Ultimately, Angwin concludes that there is a need to find a middle way between ‘those who ask us to hand over all our data and “get over it,” and those who suggest that we throw our body on the tracks in from the speeding train that is our data economy ... We didn’t shut down the industrial economy to stop pollution.  We simply asked the polluters to be more accountable for their actions’ (p. 223-224).  Finding and implementing that middle way, however, given the vested interested involved will not be easy or straightforward.  Overall, an interesting read that highlights the extent of the present dragnet and the difficulty of avoiding it, but a little thin on how the data captured is being used and alternative privacy visions (which might have been gained by examining privacy, technology and legal debates).  Certainly worth a read if you want to increase your paranoia about how data about you is generated and traded.