The Thief Taker by C.S. Quinn

 

Description: The year is 1665. Black Death ravages London. A killer stalks the streets in a plague doctor’s hood and mask.

When a girl is gruesomely murdered, thief taker Charlie Tuesday reluctantly agrees to take on the case. But the horrific remains tell him this is no isolated death. The killer’s mad appetites are part of a master plan that could destroy London – and reveal the dark secrets of Charlie’s own past.

Now the thief taker must find this murderous mastermind before the plague obliterates the evidence street by street. This terrifying pursuit will take Charlie deep into the black underbelly of old London, where alchemy, witchcraft and blood-spells collide.

In a city drowned in darkness, death could be the most powerful magic of all.

Opening: London, 1665
In the year of the Black Death London is a city of half-timbered houses and dark towers. In the narrow backstreets, astrologists predict the future, and alchemists conjure wonders. Traitors’ heads line London Bridge, where witches sell potions, and gamesters turn cards. The river flowing beneath lands a daily cargo of smuggler gangs and pirates.

Loved this from the very start: it is gory, graphic and dead gruesome. Many gizzard for dinner scenes so I suppose this is not for the squeamish, and the murdering hulk is terrifying so this is not for the shiverers either. Rest assured though, it is not a horror fic by any stretch of the imagination. The Thief Taker for all its grisly subject is written in a very upbeat fashion. I would loath to call it YA because lots of people have a very prejudiced mindset when it comes to that shelf. It is a highly enjoyable piece of hist-fic fluff.

Holborn Bridge: 1831 Drawn by Tho. H. Shepherd. Engraved by M. Woolnoth.

What a debut, and ike Oliver Twist, I’m asking for more of Charlie Tuesday. Three point five plague hoods rounded up for the sites that do not operate on half ratings.

Endorsed by my Peter James: ‘Quinn is a brilliant new talent!’
Images from the book

I Refuse by Per Petterson

I Refuse by Per Petterson


Random House UK, Vintage Publishing/ Harvill Secker. Translated by Don Bartlett.

Description: I refuse to compromise. I refuse to forgive. I refuse to forget.

Tommy’s mother has gone. She walked out into the snow one night, leaving him and his sisters with their violent father. Without his best friend Jim, Tommy would be in trouble. But Jim has challenges of his own which will disrupt their precious friendship.

Dedication:

to Øivind

Opening: DARK. IT WAS half past four in the morning. I was driving towards Herregårdsveien from Hauketo. Just before Ljan station I turned off to the left over the railway bridge, the lights were red, but there was no one else around, so I turned anyway.

I am inordinately fond of Petterson’s writing when he is on top form, and he so very nearly is here, with a tragic tale of family and friendship. A fab slice of Nordic gloom with an underlying translucency of Steinbeck’s ‘The Moon is Down’ and Telemark, fortified with repression and suppression. Three and a half fishermen.

5* Out Stealing Horses
4* To Siberia
4* In the Wake
2* I Curse the River of Time
2* It’s Fine By Me
3.5* I Refuse

Dead Men’s Bones by James Oswald

Dead Men's Bones (Inspector McLean, #4)

bookshelves: summer-2014, published-2014, mystery-thriller, series, newtome-author, e-book, fife, britain-scotland, ipad, casual-violence, contemporary, cults-societies-brotherhoods, execution, eye-scorcher, games-people-play, gangsters, gorefest, lifestyles-deathstyles, mental-health, net-galley, ouch, recreational-homicide, revenge, sleazy, superstitions, suicide, twist-on-a-theme

Read from August 02 to 03, 2014

 

Description: Dead Men’s Bones is the fourth novel in James Oswald’s phenomenal Inspector Mclean series set in Edinburgh.

The body of a prominent Scottish MP is discovered outside his home, a remote house in North East Fife. In a horrifying attack, Andrew Weatherly has killed his wife and two young daughters, before turning his gun on himself.

The question on everyone’s lips is why would this successful and wealthy man commit such a gruesome crime?

Inspector Tony McLean is surprised to find himself at the centre of this high profile investigation. The deeper he digs, the more McLean realizes he is being used in a game between shadowy factions from the world of power and privilege.

Pressure is on to wrap up the case. That would go against everything McLean believes in . . . but to carry on will threaten the lives of his closest friends and colleagues.

Opening: The pain is everywhere.
It pulses through his head is if there’s a hole in his skull and someone is squeezing his brain in time to his heart beat.

Several pals have reported that series is incredibly good and given this, my only foray so far, proves them right. It is the marvellous tone of the proceedings that makes this book stand out: the backdrop of Scotland in referendum year, the police coming to terms with Police Scotland and all the insecurities roiling in the wake of these issues. A lot of space is given over to ex-soldiers being unable to connect or settle down to civvy life after the horrors of Afghanistan and Iraq, so they become foot soldiers in the army of the homeless; a stark look at how Community Care fails in the bigger picture.

Inspector McLean is a man with recent injuries and who has to attend physiotherapy and counselling sessions and I mean to backtrack to the previous books to find out the answers to some of my questions, however this works well enough as a standalone.

The middle section of this story was eye-scorching, nevertheless, slight cracks started appearing towards the end; a supernatural element was alluded to on several occasions that seemed at odds with the story that had gone before. It could be posited that this was excellent police procedural for a good three quarters and then it seemed to change genre and leave some unresolved issues. For these issues Dead Man’s Bones loses glister where more patience in the fine-tuning would have made all the difference.

Would I recommend it? Oh yes, but with the above caveats. Three and a half bowls from Bobby’s soup kitchen.

‘The Bull’ Roslin Glen

Roslin Glen, cup and ring marks

————————————————————

James Oswald is the author of the Detective Inspector McLean series of crime novels. The first three, Natural Causes, The Book of Souls and The Hangman’s Song are also available as Penguin paperbacks and ebooks. He has written an epic fantasy series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro, which is published by Penguin, as well as comic scripts and short stories.

In his spare time he runs a 350-acre livestock farm in North East Fife, where he raises pedigree Highland Cattle and New Zealand Romney Sheep.

Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder

 

Read by Danika Fairman

Description: In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell; shortly afterwards the two Germanies reunited and East Germany ceased to exist. In this book, Anna Funder tells extraordinary tales from the underbelly of the former East Germany, including the story of Miriam, who as a 16-year-old might have started World War III.

Read her two books the wrong way around. This non-fiction is superbly written, and she really does have stories that need relating to help us understand DDR because let’s face it, no matter how many time the history is read the subject remains hard to get one’s head around.

DDR was a paranoid place and awful things happened to ordinary people and Funder has pinned the subject matter smack, bang to the , erm, wall.

I mentioned that I read her books the wrong way around – ‘All that I Am’, a novel based on factual events, did not resound so well, maybe I am just a non-fiction kind of girl at heart.

Astounding read worth five checkpoint-charlies even though there are some flaws.

Surfy Googling yields some interesting piccies:

Alexanderplatz. We stayed in the Hotel up those stairs on the left, and that square was full of Christmas market. How it looks today:

Speaks the Nightbird (Matthew Corbett, #1) by Robert McCammon

 

Description: The Carolinas, 1699: The citizens of Fount Royal believe a witch has cursed their town with inexplicable tragedies – and they demand that beautiful widow Rachel Howarth be tried and executed for witchcraft. Presiding over the trial is traveling magistrate Issac Woodward, aided by his astute young clerk, Matthew Corbett. Believing in Rachel’s innocence, Matthew will soon confront the true evil at work in Fount Royal….
Evil Unveiled
After hearing damning testimony, magistrate Woodward sentences the accused witch to death by burning. Desperate to exonerate the woman he has come to love, Matthew begins his own investigation among the townspeople. Piecing together the truth, he has no choice but to vanquish a force more malevolent than witchcraft in order to save his beloved Rachel – and free Fount Royal from the menace claiming innocent lives.

4* Gone South
CR Speaks the Nightbird (Matthew Corbett, #1)

Somewhere down below there is a comment that this was written by a mid-life crisis guy who wasn’t having his bedroom needs resolved. Probably nearer the truth than said author would care to acknowledge. You can’t get away from the fact that this is written purely from a male POV, and some of it right from the playground and it would fail the Bechdel test in fine style.

However.

This was an eye-scorcher of epic proportions that at times felt rather long-winded and at other points I was breathless with anticipation. Quite the nail-biting period-piece murder-mystery.

Supernatural? No.

Horror? Hell no.

Just a riveting story that could have been a five star if McCammon shown more style, and have dropped a couple of scenes that were graphic and pointless.

Four Spanish coins from the belly of a turtle.

Authoritarian Sociopathy: Toward a Renegade Psychological Experiment by Davi Barker

bookshelves: essays, nonfiction, summer-2014, fraudio, anarchy, psychology, boo-scary, bullies, casual-violence, games-people-play, gardening, gulp, how-to, lifestyles-deathstyles, mental-health, ouch, politics, published-2014, rid-the-world-of-tyrants, totalitarian

Read from July 14 to 21, 2014

 

Description: Numerous studies have shown us that those given authority are more likely to lie, cheat and steal, while also being harsher in their judgments of others for doing these same things. Science tells us people with power feel less compassion for the suffering of others.

Previous experiments also show us that those who are obedient to authority are capable of the worst forms of murder, and tolerant of the worst forms of abuse. They will even chastise those of us who resist corrupt authority. They become facilitators of evil, believing that obedience to authority absolves them of personal responsibility.

This is the fifth draft of a renegade psychological experiment on authoritarian sociopathy, specifically on police brutality. We aim to show the world beyond a shadow of a doubt, that power corrupts absolutely, and corrupt authority deserves no obedience.

Interesting front about plagiarism being about love, and who wants love policed. Hmmm

Stamford experiment just got worse
Milgram experiment
– Government has the monopoly of violence in a designated area

Nothing new here, really. Refresh yourselves with the videos linked to above so you don’t forget how we can all act like either laboratory rats or merciless tyrants.

Just the two hazard signs as rating

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ― Aristotle, Metaphysics

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

bookshelves: fraudio, summer-2014, published-2014, north-americas, mystery-thriller, casual-violence, contemporary, eye-scorcher, games-people-play, giftee, hackers-and-computers, lifestyles-deathstyles, ouch, racism, recreational-drugs, recreational-homicide, scary-clowns-circus-dolls, those-autumn-years, chocolate-references, dog-steals-the-show, incest-agameforallthefamily, washyourmouthout-language, poison, suicide

Read from June 27 to 29, 2014

 

14:22:29 Narrated by Will Paton

Description: In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands. In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes. In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the perp; and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy. Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands. Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

In the gloomy pre-dawn hours of a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of unemployed hopefuls are lined up for a job fair. Without warning, a merciless driver plows through the crowd in a roaring Mercedes. Eight people are killed; 15 are wounded. The killer escapes into the early-spring fog never to be seen from again. Until now…

Detective Bill Hodges is a battle-hardened and streetwise crime fighter originally assigned to the Mercedes killings. Now retired, Hodges has lost his way in boredom and depression craving the thrills of taking down the region’s most notorious criminals. When a disturbing letter from the Mercedes Killer arrives at his door, Hodges soon finds himself uncontrollably drawn into a cat-n-mouse pursuit with stakes beyond comprehension.

A locked car problem, according to Jerome,‘a nigger kid with a white name’, is a four pipe problem.

Really enjoyed this flawed but engrossing eye-scorching read. Bill Hodges is adorable as a retired cop with old school values and a legal pad always to hand. Jerome is a local lad who is scorching hot on all things computer, which, as it turns out, is an asset because there is a meeting in The Blue Umbrella chatroom with Mr Mercedes in the offing…

Special credit goes to Jerome’s dog, an Irish setter, who survives a death plot in favour of a more deserving target.

Good solid three pipes here; totally enjoyable romp where I feel glad this was a weekend encounter so the straight fourteen hours+ didn’t really impact on anything urgent.

3* Joyland
3* Mr Mercedes
4* The Shining
3* The Stand
4* It
5* Misery
3* Carrie
5* The Gunslinger
3* Pet Sematary
4* 11/22/63
3* ‘Salem’s Lot
3* The Green Mile
3* Needful Things
3* Cujo
4* Different Seasons
3* The Drawing of the Three
3* Firestarter
5* The Waste Lands
3* Wizard and Glass
4* Insomnia
2* Dreamcatcher
3* Desperation
4* Four Past Midnight
2* The Tommyknockers
4* Dr Sleep
2* The Mist
4* Hearts in Atlantis
3* Rose Madder
4* Full Dark, No Stars
3* From a Buick 8
3* Just After Sunset
3* Blaze
3* Storm of the Century screenplay
1* UR
3* Children of the Corn

The Rose of Tibet

bookshelves: mystery-thriller, tibet, published-1962, under-500-ratings, adventure, hardback, handbag-read, paper-read, spring-2014, casual-violence, one-penny-wonder, ouch, religion, buddhism, a-questing-we-shall-go

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Karen Witzler
Read from May 15 to 27, 2014

 

Bagged a first edition hardback. Smashing. The prologue states that this story is mostly true so even though some of it may appear ‘out there’ Charles Duguid Houston’s story is, we assured, a fictionalised account of a true adventure. He left for Inda in 1950, and returned on a stretcher in 1951 with a sensational story to tell.

Opening: In the summer of 1949, when he was twenty-seven, Houston found himself having an affair with a married woman. She was thirty, and he was not in love with her, and he had only gone into it because he was bored and lonely. He didn’t think that the affair would outlast the summer, but it did, and by the autumn, when he started school again he was wondering how to end it. He was a bit digusted with himself.

Charles’s half brother, Hugh Whittington, is missing, presumed dead after an avalanche in Tibetan pass, and for the life insurance company to pay out to the families of the four men team, death certificates will have to be acquired. Restless, weary of his art teacher job, and ambivalent regarding the two women in his life, Charles makes the journey…

Great adventure tale along the lines of ‘She’ and ‘Lost Horizon’
3.5*

The Invention of Brazil by Misha Glenny

bookshelves: spring-2014, published-2014, nonfiction, travel, politics, filthy-lucre, anthropology, casual-violence, environmental-issues, fradio, gangsters, slaves, under-10-ratings, true-grime, south-americas, sleazy, revolution, religion, recreational-drugs, radio-4, music, lifestyles-deathstyles, history, colonial-overlords, bullies, brazil, art-forms, architecture, adventure, plague-disease, roman-catholic, sport, suicide

Read from May 02 to 19, 2014

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b042jcxs

Description: Forget the beach volleyball, carnival, and the rest – here’s the truth about Brazil. The murder rate is among the highest in the world. The economic inequality is visible wherever you go. Behind the happy cultural imagery there lies a much darker Brazil, the result of an extremely dark colonial history when this land was little more than a giant farm worked by slaves.

Misha Glenny and producer Miles Warde travel from the favela of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro up the coast to Salvador, the first capital of Brazil, and then back to Sao Paulo, economic powerhouse of the south. On the way they meet contributors including the anthropologist Peter Fry; Americo Martins of Rede TV; historian Lilia Schwarz; and bestselling author Laurentino Gomez. Further contributions from Luciana Martins, David Brookshaw and Patrick Wilcken, author of Empire Adrift.

From the team behind The Invention of Germany and The Invention of Spain.

Salvador. Most of the slaves to Brazil landed here. At that time, Salvador was the capitol.

São Paulo is a sprawling mass and is the modern economic hub of this vast country. It was from this area that the slavers worked to capture indigneous indians. Think ‘The Mission’, Portugeuse style.

Episode 1: BBC DESCRIPTION: In The Invention of Brazil, Misha Glenny traces the gaps between the image and reality, beginning with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500. More slaves were transported to Brazil than anywhere else, more than the United States, more than anywhere. “There were many Africans who served as interpreters,” Joao Reis explains, “who could tell the slaves: ‘You are not going to be eaten by those whites’. And that was the African fear – that they were being brought to an unknown world by whites where they would be eaten.”

Rocinha, the biggest slum in South America.

The favela borders Gavea, one of the richest areas of the city. The contrast is stark.

Episode 2: BBC DESCRIPTION: Misha Glenny continues his exploration of the little known but extraordinary events that have shaped Brazil. This week, two unexpected events in Brazil’s path to independence. The first occurred in 1808, when the entire Portuguese court moved across the Atlantic to escape Napoleon. They lived in Rio de Janeiro, which they enjoyed so much that they stayed on for another 13 years. The second occurred in 1822 when the King of Portugal’s son, Dom Pedro, declared ‘Independence or Death’, breaking Brazil free from her European overlords. We reveal that the British were heavily involved in both events.

Episode 3: BBC DESCRIPTION: From giant factory farm for Europeans to modern BRIC economy, the story of Brazil’s transformation is captured in this final programme in the life of Getulio Vargas – moderniser, dictator, and finally democratically elected president. In the final part of the Invention of Brazil, Misha Glenny explores the life of Vargas, the man who changed Brazil.

“I was struck by how short he was … the crowd went wild with adulation, an enormous mass of people. Their spontaneous shouts made me think I was in Italy, watching one of those fascist rallies.” Unnamed public official, seeing Vargas for the first time.

Vargas came to power in 1930 and proved an expert at keeping himself in power. Initially he styled himself on Mussolini – the story of why he took Brazil into the Second World War on the side of the Allies is central here. As also are the events leading up to his suicide while still in power. With contributions from anthropologist Lilia Schwarz, Professor David Brookshaw, Peter Fry, and author Ana Maria Machado whose father was arrested by Vargas several times.

“As quid pro quo for escorting the Portuguese across the Atlantic, the British ended up arm twisting the Portuguese royal court into signing a very one sided treaty, which in fact ended up giving the British more rights than the Brazilians themselves.” Patrick Wilcken, author Empire Adrift.

I enjoyed this three part documentary, however flister Laura, a Brazilian herself, rated this 2* so maybe this is not a rounded portrayal.

My Tibetan Childhood: When Ice Shattered Stone by Naktsang Nulo, Angus Cargill (Translation)

bookshelves: e-book, net-galley, translation, tibet, nonfiction, autobiography-memoir, history, spring-2014, buddhism, bullies, casual-violence, censorship, colonial-overlords, families, gangsters, ipad, lifestyles-deathstyles, ouch, politics, rid-the-world-of-tyrants, true-grime, published-2007, racism, religion, bucolic-or-pastoral, execution, superstitions, tragedy, war

Read from May 08 to 11, 2014


Translation provided by Angus Carghill and Sonam Lhamo

Including a foreword by The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso

Description: In My Tibetan Chldhood, Naktsang Nulo recalls his life in Tibet’s Amdo region during the 1950s. From the perspective of himself at age ten, he describes his upbringing as a nomad on Tibet’s eastern plateau. He depicts pilgrimages to monasteries, including a 1500-mile horseback expedition his family made to and from Lhasa. A year or so later, they attempted that same journey as they fled from advancing Chinese troops. Naktsang’s father joined and was killed in the little-known 1958 Amdo rebellion against the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, the armed branch of the Chinese Communist Party. During the next year, the author and his brother were imprisoned in a camp where, after the onset of famine, very few children survived.

The real significance of this episodic narrative is the way it shows, through the eyes of a child, the suppressed histories of China’s invasion of Tibet. The author’s matter-of-fact accounts cast the atrocities that he relays in stark relief. Remarkably, Naktsang lived to tell his tale. His book was published in 2007 in China, where it was a bestseller before the Chinese government banned it in 2010. It is the most reprinted modern Tibetan literary work. This translation makes a fascinating if painful period of modern Tibetan history accessible in English.

The author and his brother in Chinese clothing at their first government school.

Opening to the Prelude: It was hot at noon that day. We were making our way wearily across a river when we heard guns firing repeatedly from up ahead. We had no idea what was going on, but we were all frightened. Everyone dismounted except for me. Some Tibetan gazelles, startled when they saw us, sprinted to the top of a mountain. I rode over and looked down to the road beneath. It was a Chinese military column, so long that you couldn’t see the beginning or the end of it. They were on horseback.

This autobiography opens out with Nulo’s early memories when there were many battles between the tent peoples, or nomads, on the grassy plains: one chiefdom or clan against another, and retributions sought. Another hazard was the nightime roving of armed bandits.

Written from the memory and onto the page, My Tibetan Childhood is a straight forward and compelling look at old Tibetan customs being smashed to pieces under the Chinese wrecking-ball. There are no hysterics here, nothing mawkish to clutch at pearls and weep into embroidered hankies about – the plain facts are too awful for that sort of pantomime. Just a plain recounting through a young man’s eyes.

Pranks, adventures, superstitions and some tears before bedtime: the story of youth everywhere. It was enjoyiable to read about Nulo’s young escapades and the hazards that life on the grassy plateau threw at him. However, as the Chinese troops come nearer the read becomes darker and infinitely vicious and some parts are tough to read.

This is an important book, one of the defining reads that makes one want to say ‘if you haven’t read this, then we have little in common.’

Sky burial details, murder and torture may disturb, not least because the words are unembellished, however the squeamish can quickly skim over the facts.

The Northeastern part of Amdo was where our author was born. Today, The Han-Chinese is a majority in the eastern part of Qinghai and the provincial capital Xining.

A Tibetan Intellectual, Naktsang Nulo, Shares His Thoughts on Self-Immolations in Tibet (from Jan 2013)

About the author: Naktsang Nulo (born in 1949) worked as an official in the Chinese government, serving as a primary school teacher, police officer, judge, prison governor, and county leader in Qinghai province, China, before retiring in 1993. Angus Cargill was formerly a Lecturer in the Department of Tibetan Language and Literature at Minzu University of China, Beijing.

Trivia: Coral plays a great part in Tibetan culture. It must be that at one time Tibet must have been covered with ocean.

“With little comment or condemnation, [My Tibetan Childhood] records the price paid in lives and lifestyles by the author’s family and community for their incorporation into modern China. . . . In many senses, it is a naive story, the chronicle of a world seen through a child’s eyes. But to readers within Tibet, it was a revelation. It told of epochal events that had rarely if ever been described before in print.”— Robert Barnett, from the introduction.

“As Naktsang tells it, the 1950s were a time of tremendous change: violence, war, exile, survival, and life and death defined so much of the everyday in Amdo and indeed across much of the Tibetan plateau. Told from the perspective of a child, his tale takes us into the complex and at times violent world of Tibetan clans and chiefs. We travel with him and experience the dangers faced on the road: bandits, soldiers, ferocious storms and cold fronts, and hungry wolves. . . . [And we] learn much of the violence that accompanied the ‘peaceful liberation’ of Amdo and the subsequent ‘reforms’ in the late 1950s.”—Ralph A. Litzinger, from the foreword.

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