Sunday, December 4, 2016

Turbo Twenty-three

Christmas must be approaching as a new title in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series has just been published. I find these books an entertaining read so always look forward to catching up with the next installment of Stephanie's eventful and certainly unpredictable life.

The story begins when Stephanie and Lula discover an abandoned freezer truck filled with ice cream plus a frozen body decorated to imitate an ice cream bar. This time most of the action centres around the rivalry between the owners of two ice cream factories. Ranger, who has been employed to install security at one of the firms, asks Stephanie to work undercover at the factories to try to collect inside information relating to the rivalry. Stephanie also continues her work as a bounty hunter and some of the characters she apprehends have links to the ice cream saga further complicating the plot. As the storyline progresses it is clear that working in the ice cream industry can have sinister consequences.

Themes in the other books in the series continue to evolve with the complications in Stephanie's love life continuing and more motor vehicles being damaged when Stephanie is around.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Invisible History of the Human Race - how DNA and history shape our identies and our futures

A recent television drama series, Code of a Killer, on ABC2 was based on the first case of using DNA fingerprinting techniques to solve a murder. DNA testing has become an accepted part of our lives. DNA is often used by archaeologists to test biological samples from skeletons to help determine their age. Studying a person's DNA can also be used medically to detect family patterns of diseases. Part of the book is also spent looking at eugenics and how theories of eugenics influenced the leaders of the Nazi Party.

In the Invisible History of the Human Race, Christine Kenneally, investigates how our DNA can help tell us of our past. Her theory is that a study of our DNA cannot only help us understand our biological history but also our social history. Increasingly DNA tests are being used as a tool to assist researchers determine family connections as well as exploring the paper trail of history. DNA is also used to investigate how peoples, such as the Vikings, settling in England mixed, over time, with the local populations.

This is not necessarily an easy book to read for those of us without an advanced science background, however it does contain some interesting theories to think about, particularly in relation to historical research.

The Pigeon Tunnel - stories from my life

John le Carre has been writing books, largely spy stories, since 1961. The Spy who came in from the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy are perhaps his best known novels. Many of his novels have been adapted for the cinema or for television.

David John Moore Cornwell was born in Dorset in 1931. When he began writing books he adopted the nom de plume, John le Carre. The Pigeon Tunnel is a collection of stories recounting events that happened in his life when he was working for a time in British Intelligence during the Cold War as well as when he has been researching the background for a new book. The stories provide a glimpse into the life of David Cornwell but particularly of John le Carre, author.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Nightingale before Christmas

Each year Caerphilly seems to have a variety of festivals. This time it is the Caerphilly Designer Show House competition where a number of designers each have a room of a house to decorate before the house is open to the public during the Christmas festivities. Money raised during the Open House is designated for the Caerphilly Historical Society. Meg's mother has one room to  decorate while Meg is the on-site co-ordinator of the project. What could go wrong at such a busy time of the year apart from murder and attempts to destroy some of the show rooms. As well as trying to find time to attend other Christmas activities in the town Meg works overtime assisting the police with their investigations as well as trying to establish the motives for the murder and the destruction of part of the house. Another Meg Langslow Mystery, this time with a Christmas theme.

No Nest for the Wicket

No, this book is not about Cricket but is about Extreme Croquet - this game really does exist. Meg is playing extreme croquet when an opposition player hits Meg's ball off the course. When looking for the ball Meg discovers a body lying at the bottom of a slope - and so the story begins. Another entertaining encounter with Meg's extended family and the townsfolk of Caerphilly (ficticious town in Virginia) as attempts are made to first discover the identity of the victim and then solve the mystery of her murder.
Another Meg Lansgslow Mystery by Donna Andrews. This is one of the early titles in the series so it was interesting to revisit the earlier lives of the characters compared with their lives in the more recent books in the series.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A great reckoning

Armand Gamache has a new position as head of the Surete Training Academy in Louise Penny's latest novel, A great reckoning. The corruption which infiltrated the Surete has affected the training of new police recruits and not everyone is happy with Armand's appointment to rectify this situation. When one of the staff is murdered Isabelle Lacoste and her team arrive to investigate but to show impartiality a RCMP officer is also appointed to observe the investigation. One of Commander Gamache's first tasks in his new role was to check the application forms for the new intake of students. The choice of Amelia Choquet as a student amazes Gamache's colleagues, especially when she is considered as a prime suspect for the murder. However it soon becomes obvious that some of the investigators also consider Gamache to be the murderer.

Armand and his wife continue to live at Three Pines though he occasionally spends nights in his rooms at the Academy. Back at Three Pines a map of the village and surrounding area has been found hidden in a wall. Gamache takes a copy back to the Academy and when some of the students show an interest he gives them the task of determining the significance of the map and the reason it was hidden.

A reason that I enjoy reading these books by Louise Penny is not only for the resolution of the plot but for the continuing story and development of the main characters at the Surete and at Three Pines.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Owls well that ends well

 I recently discovered a series of short reviews that I had written about the first six Meg Langslow Mystery books by Donna Andrews which I am adding to the blog.

When Meg and Michael purchased a house they also inherited a house and barn full of accumulated junk. A garage sale seemed to be the solution but complications arose when various members of Meg's family offered to help and also set up stalls. The sale itself progressed relatively smoothly until the body of a local antique dealer was found in a trunk. When a colleague of Michael's is arrested for murder, Meg investigates among the mayhem. A Meg Langslow mystery no. 6