Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Hugh Fontclair is the proud scion of a proud family who has agreed to marry a wealthy Cit's daughter to save the family's good name since the Cit has information about the Fontclairs that would prove devastating if revealed. His daughter has no idea that she is a pawn in the game, however, and wonders why Hugh has offered for her. Hugh goes out the night of his proposal and gets gloriously drunk (an unusual circumstance for him), where he meets Julian Kestrel. After Kestrel saves him from a bad run at Hazard, Hugh gratefully asks him to serve as best man at the wedding, and to join his family at their country house as they host the bride-to-be and her father. Kestrel, for his part, is intrigued at Hugh's invitation, and goes to Bellegarde only to find a house teeming with mistrust, hidden secrets and an overriding sense of family. There are Hugh's parents, Sir Robert and Lady Fontclair; his cousins Guy and Isabelle; his aunt, the viper-tongued Lady Tarleton; his uncle, Colonel Fontclair. Also present are his sisters and Mark Craddock and his daughter Maud. It is immediately clear that Mark Craddock and the Fontclair family hate each other, and Julian discovers at least one reason why soon after he has arrived. Then an attractive lady is found in Kestrel's bed and, unfortunately, she's been murdered. Suspicion falls on Kestrel's manservant, Dipper, and it is up to Kestrel to clear him, in the course of which he discovers his true calling as a detective. He pokes his nose into all sorts of things, asks unpleasant questions, picks up a Watson to his Holmes (Dr. MacGregor, a straight-forward man who is initially put off by Kestrel's foppish appearance, but soon comes to respect his brain), and eventually solves the crime.
Kestrel's partner in detection is his valet Thomas Stokes, known as Dipper. Dipper got his nickname from his first career as a pickpocket. Kestrel hired Dipper as his valet after he caught Dipper stealing his watch. Other memorable characters in the series include Dr. Duncan MacGregor, a gruff Scottish-born physician who assisted Kestrel in some of his cases; Dipper's sister Sally Stokes, a saucy street prostitute who helps Kestrel and Dipper solve the mysterious death of a "fallen woman" in A BROKEN VESSEL and becomes Kestrel's lover; and Philippa Fontclair, a charming young girl whom Kestrel meets in CUT TO THE QUICK and corresponds with in later novels. The novels are heavily influenced by other fictional British detectives, such as Lord Peter Wimsey and Sherlock Holmes.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
It is the spring of 1937 and distinguished economist Lord Benyon is on the Queen Mary, bound for New York. His mission is to persuade President Roosevelt to provide Britain with arms and money if it nters the war with Germany - as seems very likely. Many want the mission to fail and will not stop at murder to achieve their aim. Major Ferguson of Special Branch, a friend of Lord Edward Corinth, asks Edward to keep an unofficial eye on Benyon who refuses to be surrounded by policemen on the Queen Mary, but is prepared to have Edward at his side. Also on board is Verity Browne, travelling to America at the Communist Party's behest to liaise with sympathizers there. But it is not Lord Benyon who is murdered but the rascist senator from South Carolina who has managed to enrage a number of his fellow passengers - not least Warren Fairley, the black singer, actor and communist. But surely Fairley is too obvious a suspect? Might not the murderer be the German aeronautical engineer, or Marcus Fern, the city banker who is acting as Benyon's secretary? And what about Bernard Hunt, the art dealer, or even the young American union organiser Sam Forrest, with whom Verity is so taken?
Friday, June 25, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
In Wyoming for a medical conference, Boston medical examiner Maura Isles joins a group of friends on a spur-of-the-moment ski trip. But when their SUV stalls on a snow-choked mountain road, they’re stranded with no help in sight.As night falls, the group seeks refuge from the blizzard in the remote village of Kingdom Come, where twelve eerily identical houses stand dark and abandoned. Something terrible has happened in Kingdom Come: Meals sit untouched on tables, cars are still parked in garages. The town’s previous residents seem to have vanished into thin air, but footprints in thesnow betray the presence of someone who still lurks in the cold darkness—someone who is watching Maura and her friends.Days later, Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli receives the grim news that Maura’s charred body has been found in a mountain ravine. Shocked and grieving, Jane is determined to learn what happened to her friend. The investigation plunges Jane into the twisted history of Kingdom Come, where a gruesome discovery lies buried beneath the snow. As horrifying revelations come to light, Jane closes in on an enemy both powerful and merciless—and the chilling truth about Maura’s fate.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Sunday Seconds -- there are books that I would really love to re-read -- if I could make the time. Sometimes books have profound impacts on one's reading experience. Sometimes you just know these books could be even greater if you could go back and read them with again better understanding and life experiences under your belt. Sometimes books don't hold up the memory the second time around -- that's the risk. Sunday Seconds will be a cataloging of that kind of wish list.
- The historical setting of 1663. It is just after the restoration of the monarchy following the English Civil War, when the authority of King Charles II is not yet settled, and conspiracies abound.
- The book is an epistolary novel, which is difficult to pull off, but this succeeds.
- It is a story of a murder in 17th-century Oxford that is related from the contradictory points of view of four of the characters, all of them unreliable narrators.
- A contrast portrayed in the novel is, on one hand, a philosophy based on ancient and medieval learning, and, on the other, the scientific method that was beginning to be applied in physics, chemistry and medicine.
In 1663 Oxford, a servant girl confesses to a murder. But four witnesses--a medical student, the son of a traitor, a cryptographer, and an archivist--each finger a different culprit... Opinionated, influential Dr. Robert Grove is poisoned with arsenic in his New College lodgings. A missing signet ring leads his colleagues to his former servant (and rumored strumpet) Sarah Blundy, who, swiftly brought to trial, confesses and is promptly hanged--and dissected by enthusiastic physician Richard Lower. But the crime, evidently so simple in its events, is presented through the distorting lenses of four narrators whose obsessions place it in dramatically different contexts. Visiting Venetian Marco da Cola, a dandy trained in medicine, who has been treating Sarah's ailing mother Anne, grieves for the ruin of mother and daughter and the wreck of his own friendship with Lower. Sarah's former lover Jack Prestcott, an undergraduate jailed for attacking his guardian, is consumed with proving that his exiled father was hounded to his death innocent of the charge of treason the returning monarch Charles II's supporters had lodged against him. Dr. John Wallis, mathematician and divine, sees no inconsistency between his endless petty intrigues on behalf of Charles's scheming minister Henry Bennet and his vituperative condemnation of Sarah. In the brilliantly illuminated world in which medical experiments, religious and political debates between Roundheads and Royalists, and the founding of the Royal Society bring debates about the nature of science, history, religion, and authority into a focus whose sharpness has a special urgency for our own time, each of these narrators has his own slashingly conflicting claims to make. But it's not until the final narrator, burrowing historian Anthony Wood, weighs in to judge among the sharply competing visions of the earlier narrators that Pears produces his
most memorable surprises, or unveils his deepest mysteries. Rashomon meets The Name of the Rose. Who is telling the truth about the poisoning of Dr. Robert Grove? They all are, depending on one's definition of the truth.
A Question of Precedence
I will leave out much, but nothing of significance. Much of my tour around that country was of interest only to myself, and finds no mention here. Many of those I met, similarly, were of little consequence. Those who in later years did me harm I describe as I knew them then, and I beg any reader to remember that, although I was hardly callow, I was not yet wise in the ways of the world. If my narrative appears simple and foolish, then you must conclude that the young man of so many years past was similarly so. I do not go back to my portrait to add extra layers of tint and varnish to cover my errors or the weakness of my draftsmanship. I will make no accusations, and indulge in no polemic against others; rather, I will say what happened, confident that I need do no more.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
5. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
6. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
7. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
9. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
13. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
14. What is your favorite novel?
21. Science Fiction?
23. Who is the most over-rated writer alive today?
I've got to have some breakfast now then get laundry going. Later I'll be walking Tug and I need to get some groceries. No idea what to have for dinner tonight. It's a bit overcast this morning but supposed to get up into the 70s.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
When the body of a young woman is discovered deep beneath the icy waters of Lake Grant, a note left under a rock by the shore points to suicide. But within minutes, it becomes clear that this is no suicide. It's a brutal, cold-blooded murder. All too soon former Grant County medical examiner Sara Linton - home for Thanksgiving after a long absence -- finds herself unwittingly drawn into the case. The chief suspect is desperate to see her but when she arrives at the local police station she is met with a horrifying sight - he lies dead in his cell, the words 'Not me' scrawled across the walls.
Something about his confession doesn't add up and deeply suspicious of the detective in charge, Lena Adams, Sara immediately calls the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Shortly afterwards, Special Agent Will Trent is brought in from his vacation to investigate. But he is immediately confronted with a wall of silence. Grant County is a close-knit community with loyalties and ties that run deep. And the only person who can tell the truth about what really happened is dead.
A plan to destroy America, a hundred years in the making, is about to be unleashed . . . can it be stopped? There is a powerful technique called the Overton Window that can shape our lives, our laws, and our future. It works by manipulating public perception so that ideas previously thought of as radical begin to seem acceptable over time. Move the Window and you change the debate. Change the debate and you change the country. For Noah Gardner, a twentysomething public relations executive, it's safe to say that political theory is the furthest thing from his mind. Smart, single, handsome, and insulated from the world's problems by the wealth and power of his father, Noah is far more concerned about the future of his social life than the future of his country. But all of that changes when Noah meets Molly Ross, a woman who is consumed by the knowledge that the America we know is about to be lost forever. She and her group of patriots have vowed to remember the past and fight for the future--but Noah, convinced they're just misguided conspiracy-theorists, isn't interested in lending his considerable skills to their cause. And then the world changes. An unprecedented attack on U.S. soil shakes the country to the core and puts into motion a frightening plan, decades in the making, to transform America and demonize all those who stand in the way. Amidst the chaos, many don't know the difference between conspiracy theory and conspiracy fact--or, more important, which side to fight for. But for Noah, the choice is clear: Exposing the plan, and revealing the conspirators behind it, is the only way to save both the woman he loves and the individual freedoms he once took for granted.
It was published in 1996 and has 320 pages.In A.D. 644, a respected scholar of the Celtic Church is murdered during a visit to the Irish Kingdom of Muman. The kingdom's ruler summons Sister Fidelma to solve the brutal murder, but her time is limited. The victim, as it turns out, was a comrade of the arrogant King of Fearna, who threatens war over the suspicious death of his friend. But during her inquiries, Sister Fidelma comes to realize that there is more at hand than what appears, and finds her own life caught in the balance.
Steve may be getting the crud now. He hasn't been feeling well today and went to bed when he got home from work. I think it will be an early night for both of us.
PK the Bookeemonster
Monday, June 14, 2010
Oxford University, in 1624, the savage murder of a young girl kindles a frenzy of suspicion between privileged students and impoverished townspeople. And when one of Falconer's students who may have witnessed the crime narrowly escapes being beaten to death by a lynch mob, the Regent Master rushes to his defense. The stabbing murder of Margaret Gebetz, Master John Fyssh's French servant girl, is followed by the murders of three students. What connection, if any, do the slayings have to the visit to Oxford of Prince Edward, weak King Henry III's son, who is being wooed by rebellious barons? What is the nature of the small book that illiterate Margaret possessed and which she believed would protect her?
Sunday, June 13, 2010
On the surface, it is a story of one man, Howard Roark, and his struggles as an architect in the face of a successful rival, Peter Keating, and a newspaper columnist, Ellsworth Toohey. But the book addresses a number of universal themes: the strength of the individual, the tug between good and evil, the threat of fascism.
Howard Roark, a brilliant young architecture student, is expelled from the Stanton Institute of Technology for refusing to abide by its outdated traditions. Despite the determined effort of some professors to defend Roark, and the subsequent offer to continue at Stanton from the headmaster, Howard chooses to leave the school. He goes to New York City to work for Henry Cameron, a disgraced architect whom Roark admires - being formally Cameron's employee but in fact his disciple, and in effect, his adopted son. Cameron who once was architecture's modernist hero, has fallen from fame due to the fickle demands of society and his own caustic personality. His work serves as an inspiration for Howard. Roark’s highly successful but vacuous schoolmate, Peter Keating, also moves to New York to work for the prestigious architectural firm, Francon & Heyer. Roark and Cameron create inspired work, but their projects rarely receive recognition, whereas Keating’s ability to flatter and please brings him almost instant success despite his lack of originality.
Roark closes his office rather than compromise his drawings, and his ideals, to the whims of his clients. He takes a job at a Connecticut granite quarry owned by Guy Francon, whose beautiful, temperamental, and idealistic daughter, Dominique, beguiles Peter Keating. Upon the urging of his mother, Keating breaks off his engagement with Catherine to facilitate his romance with Dominique. While Roark is working in the quarry, he encounters Dominique, who has retreated to her family's estate in the same town as the quarry. There is an immediate attraction between them. Rather than indulge in traditional flirtation, the two engage in a battle of wills. Not long after, Roark leaves to build the Enright House.
Ellsworth Toohey, a columnist for The New York Banner (a yellow press-style newspaper owned by Gail Wynand) and author of the popular column One Small Voice, is an outspoken socialist, who is covertly rising to power by shaping public opinion through his column and his circle of influential associates, and whose quite openly proclaimed designs are not understood or taken seriously. Toohey sets out to destroy Roark through a smear campaign he spearheads at the Banner. As the first step, Toohey convinces a weak-minded businessman named Hopton Stoddard to hire Roark as the designer for a temple dedicated to the human spirit and gives Roark carte blanche to design it as he sees fit. Roark designs the temple, with a naked statue of Dominique, which creates the first public outcry against Howard and Stoddard is (with Toohey's encouragement) appalled at what Roark has built. Toohey further manipulates Stoddard into suing Roark for general incompetence and fraud. At Roark’s trial, every prominent architect in New York (including Keating) testifies that Roark’s style is unorthodox and illegitimate. Dominique defends Roark, but Stoddard wins the case and Roark loses his business again.
Dominique believes that greatness such as Roark's should never be offered to a public unable to appreciate it, and decides that since she cannot have the world she wants (in which men like him are recognized for what they are) she will live completely and entirely in the world she has, which shuns him and praises Keating. That evening, Dominique pays Keating a visit, and makes him a one-time offer of her
hand in marriage. Keating accepts, though he is engaged to Toohey's niece Catherine, and they are married that evening. Dominique turns her entire spirit over to Peter, hosting the dinners he wants, agreeing with him, and saying whatever he wants her to say. She fights Roark, and herds all of his potential clients over to the slowly weakening Keating. Despite this, Roark continues to attract a small but steady stream of perceptive, intelligent clients who see the value in his work.
To win Keating a prestigious architecture commission offered by Gail Wynand, the owner and editor-in-chief of the Banner, Dominique agrees to sleep with Wynand. Wynand then buys Keating's silence and a divorce for Dominique and Keating, after which Wynand and Dominique are married.
Wynand subsequently discovers that every building he likes is done by Roark, so he enlists Roark to build a home for himself and Dominique. The home is built, and Roark and Gail become great friends, although he does not know about Roark's past relationship with Dominique. Now washed up and out of the public eye, Keating realizes he is a failure. Rather than accept retirement, he pleads with Toohey for his influence in favor of Keating to get the commission for the much sought after Cortlandt housing project. Keating knows that his most successful projects were aided by Roark, and he knows Roark is the only person who can design Cortlandt, due to its economical requirements. Roark agrees to design it in exchange for complete anonymity—and the agreement that it would be built exactly as he designed. When Roark returns from a long yacht trip with Wynand he finds that, despite the agreement, the Cortlandt Homes project has been changed. Roark asks Dominique to distract the night watchman and dynamites the building to prevent the subversion of his vision. The entire country condemns Roark, but Wynand finally finds the courage to follow his convictions and orders his newspapers to defend him. The Banner’s circulation drops and the workers go on strike (thanks to Toohey's quiet conspiracy to "stack" the paper with those who agree with him, or those whom he can control), but Wynand keeps printing with Dominique’s help. Eventually the tide of public opinion rises against Wynand and most of his staff leaves in protest. Wynand is eventually faced with the choice of closing the paper or reversing his stance and agreeing to the union demands; he gives in, the newspaper publishes a denunciation of Roark over Wynand's signature. At the trial, Roark seems doomed, but he rouses the courtroom with a speech about the value of ego and the need to remain true to oneself. The jury finds him not guilty. Roark marries Dominique. Wynand, who has finally grasped the nature of the "power" he thought he held, asks Roark to design one last building, a skyscraper that will testify to the supremacy of man: "Build it as a monument to that spirit which is yours...and could have been mine."