Saturday, August 18, 2012

2012 books, #71-75

Mr Briggs' hat: a sensational account of Britain's first railway murder, by Kate Colquhoun.   London: Little, Brown, 2011.

I have two objections to this book I'll get out of the way straight away.  One is the punctuation in the title and throughout - I'm firmly in the "s after the apostrophe" camp, after living in or near a town with a Queen's College and a Queens' Road (named after multiple queens) for the last 25 years or so...  I know style-guides differ; but I'm nothing if not fixed in my opinion about these things.  The second is more of a warning - if you want to avoid being totally spoilered, do not even glance at the second set of photographs before reaching the end - grrrrrr.  But apart from that...  this is an extremely enjoyable book.  There's a surprising amount of pre-forensic forensic detail, and a real attempt to recreate the crime from its artefacts.  There's a lot of interesting stuff on the general climate of the times as regards crime and punishment, and a lot about the development of London.  And there's a genuine and ongoing mystery and ambiguity at the heart of the book.  I'd recommend getting the paperback if you can - I read the hardback but a book-group friend read us the post-script from the paperback edition; the publication of the hardback brought out some further detail from relatives of the victim and some early 1860s photographs of him and his family.

Skin,  by Mo Hayder.  London: Bantam, 2009.

Another rather gruesome offering from Mo Hayder, but nowhere near as nasty as Ritual; and develops the relationship, or lack of relationship, between Flea Marley and Jack Caffery.  Somehow, this middle book in a sort of trilogy is a bit of a filler, despite having its own plotline; but none the less readable for that.

One shot, by Lee Child [audiobook]. Read by Jeff Harding. Whitley Bay: Soundings, 2005.

Another excellent Jack Reacher book.  This time, a shooting by a lone gunman in a small Indiana city looks like an open-and-shut case, until Reacher rolls into town.  He, more than most, knows that the gunman is guilty - the same man carried out a similar killing 14 years before in Kuwait City.  Sometimes, though, the evidence is just too perfect... and Reacher can't resist investigating.

And a rantette.  At one point in this book we get a rundown on Reacher's appearance.  6'5"; dirty blond hair; piercing blue eyes; 250lb.  So; who have they cast for the films?  Anyone who said "Tom Cruise"; well done...  While I realise there's some sort of willingness to suspend disbelief for the movies, you can go too far... many of the elements in this book just wouldn't work with someone of smaller stature.  Brute force is part of Reacher's repertoire, and while Mr Cruise is a fine actor, based on The Firm, A Few Good Men and Rain Man, he ain't Jack Reacher.  Needless to say, not something I'll be queuing to watch.

Until proven guilty, by J A Jance. Large print edition. Bath: BBC Audiobooks/Harper Collins, 2005.

Hm.  I had these recommended on Ravelry when we were talking about settings for novels and I was wondering if anyone had written a series based in Seattle, and on the basis of the first one, I'm not sure I'll go all the way through.  The plot is interesting enough, although it's pretty obvious from early on who the murderer is, but the main character does come over as a bit of a gullible idiot... I have the second one though, so will give this series another try...

Drop shot, by Harlan Coben.  London: Orion, 2002.

Another Myron Bolitar book, this one set around tennis and the US Open.  The dialogue in these books is so funny, and the main characters so interesting, that an excellent, twisty plot which is genuinely surprising at points is a very nice extra...  A young woman, a former tennis prodigy, is shot at the US Open while looking for Myron.  On investigation, there's a connection between her, one of Myron's current clients, and the murder 6 years before of the girl's fiancé... and the plot just keeps on thickening...

Sunday, August 05, 2012

2012 books, #66-70

Until it's over, by Nicci French [audiobook].  Read by Adjoa Andoh and Paul Tyreman.  Rearsby, Leics.: Clipper, 2008.

Astrid thinks her day's pretty ropy after she's been knocked off her bike by a careless neighbour's car door, but when the woman's body is found behind her bins, life's about to become a lot worse.  This is an intriguing structure - the first half is told from Astrid's point of view, and the second from the point of view of the killer, whose identity gradually becomes clear.  Both readers are excellent, too.

Ritual, by Mo Hayder.  London: Bantam, 2008.

The first of the Jack Caffery/Flea Marley books; and extremely gristly.  Not one I'd like to see as a film...  It's very well plotted though, and the relationship between Caffery and Marley is well-drawn.  I'll have to read the next one, Skin, as that's the one between the two I've read, and when one of the stranger events in the sequence seems to take place...

Lestrade and the Ripper, by M J Trow [audiobook]. Read by the author.  Whitley Bay: Soundings, 2010.

This is an excellent romp.  Unlike the Lestrade of Conan Doyle's books, Trow's Lestrade isn't stupid (although he is ridiculously clumsy).  An excellent plot - based on the Ripper murders but with a sub-plot - and the sort of horrendous puns we expect from Trow's Maxwell books.  (We have a character called Ovett who runs very fast, and there are two clerks in the hotel called Gable and Kent...)  Trow turns out to be an excellent reader of his own books; I hope there are more of these...

Calendar girl, by Stella Duffy. London: Serpent's Tail, 1999.

Quite a flimsy thing, this, and oddly styled.  Alternate chapters are narrated by Saz Martin, private investigator, and by an unknown woman whose circumstances become more and more sinister.  The connection between the two becomes extremely guessable quite early on, but it's a quick, interesting read regardless, with a quick twist in the tail for good measure.

Death wore white, by Jim Kelly [audiobook].  Read by Roger May. Oxford: Isis, 2009.

A queue of cars is trapped by a fallen tree and a snowstorm on an isolated part of the West Norfolk coast, out of mobile phone contact.  One man has a heart attack, and when the authorities arrive they also find that the driver of the leading vehicle is dead in his cab, with no trail of footsteps to or from the pickup...  Another excellent Kelly book.  Midway through listening to this, I went to King's Lynn for the day and walked past several of the settings for this book.  Having read the sequel out of sequence, I was spoiled for some of the cliffhangers, but the plot is a real locked-room puzzler and uncoils like a snake...

POTW: 5 August 2012

Things I've liked this week:

The Olympics: the buildup

I used to be someone who described herself as not keen on sport.  I've always liked cricket, and used to watch tennis at Wimbledon and the world snooker championships, but really, until I started following the Tour de France a couple of years ago I'd have described myself as a non-sports-fan with a strange fondness for cricket...

However, as a family we always watched the Olympics, and obviously the buildup in London has been quite fierce.  I took most of this week off, but was wandering around last week taking some pictures:

The Jubilee Line signage gearing up for the sheer number of Olympics venues along its length (and, although I didn't get a clear photo due to the ban on using flash in the station, I'm loving following signs to Lord's cricket ground to get onto the Tube!)


The Games cars are quite swish, here seen in front of the Treasury Building in a dedicated Games lane...


A couple of hours before the Torch procession came down Whitehall, the (presumably-non-sponsor) Blimp going past Big Ben over the towers of Portcullis House


At King's Cross, the students of St Martins (which has just moved up there) have put together a Songwall, which consists of thousands of rotating balls, each half black and half yellow, to be manipulated by passers by.  (I don't know what the song connection is as it doesn't seem to make a sound...)


Also at King's Cross, rainbows inside


and out


and some rather stunning graphics across the front of the German Gymnasium.


One of the more alarming features of the Olympics is the scary monocular mascots - but these strange Cyclopses are currently clutched, in fluffy form, in many small hands.  Presumably small children don't feel as worried by their strange, police-state CCTV stares...  Here's an example of a Wenlock (for the Olympics; the Paralympics one is Mandeville), outside a church in Bishopsgate near Liverpool Street station.


And just by accident, I happened to arrive early on Friday morning last week, as Big Ben was striking 40 for the beginning of the Games, 12 hours before 20:12 when the opening ceremony started...  And there were so many people who turned up to watch.  It was really quite moving...  Here they all are:


The Olympics: the events

I absolutely loved the opening ceremony - listened to it all on the Friday evening, and then watched it on the Saturday evening to see if the pictures in reality were as good as the pictures in my head (just for a change, they were).  I loved its quirkiness, and its Britishness, and its willingness to send itself up.  And I thought the "cauldron" made up of all the petals was fabulous.  I gather each nation will be given its petal to take home and the cauldron will cease to exist, which is both a nice bit of symbolism and saves someone the bother of wondering where on earth to put the thing afterwards...

Desperately sorry for Cav and the rest of the road race team on Saturday afternoon (and great kudos to him for turning up to commentate cheerfully on the track events this week when he could have retreated to lick his wounds); and many congrats to Bradley Wiggins for a majestic win in the time trial (quite literally majestic given the ridiculous gold thrones at Hampton Court...)

Some support was given from here...


And I think the Guardian's  headline was just about perfect...


Like Cavendish, Wiggins is looking like a man who doesn't want to leave the party and go home - having used his victory interview with Radio 5 to pitch for an invite to A Question of Sport on the grounds they hadn't asked him for ages, he then popped up to commentate on the track cycling on Thursday...

I've also been enjoying the frankly incomprehensible rules of the track cycling events, and the fact that UK competitors turn out to be good at things you only hear about every few years, like trap-shooting...

(And there's been Test cricket, too - we're not doing stunningly against South Africa, but it's wonderful listening to TMS - Blowers yesterday afternoon lamenting his inability to tell the difference between men and women, and there was that time in Saõ Paolo... sadly we never heard the rest of the story...)

Holidays and friends

I was on leave from Monday afternoon to Friday this week, and managed to catch up with some people...

On Saturday Sue and I went to the Tickell Arms at Whittlesford for a very belated birthday celebration (Sue's, not mine)!  Excellent food and a lovely atmosphere.  We got back to Sue's just too late to see the road cyclists come in...

One of the benefits of the Olympics is that out-of-towners were visiting London for the events.  Nic, of Yarns from the Plain, was one - we met for the first time at That Knitting Event Neither of Us Travelled To two summers ago; and it was really nice to see her again and meet her husband on Monday afternoon after they'd been to watch the archery at Lord's.

On Tuesday night we had a small impromptu get-together at the Devonshire Arms, just four of us; and on Friday lunchtime I met Sarah for lunch... and then there was knitting on Saturday afternoon, during which we watched tennis (mostly; once the stroppy man who comes in and changes the TV channel in front of the people sitting there watching it and then stalks out again had gone, and I'd ambled over to security to get the guard to change the channel back again)...

Oh, and some crafty things

We shall not speak of my Ravellenic Games knitting project.  Put it this way, making a cardi in 4-ply in my size was already very ambitious.  It turns out I knit a lot more when I'm travelling back and forth to work than I ever do if I'm on holiday.  And it also turns out that despite many attempts while joining both fronts to the back at the armholes (this is a top-down cardi), I managed to twist one armhole once and the other one twice in the joining, necessitating the ripping of over a day's work.  Gah.  I'll put it down at the end of the week and take it up again during the Paralympics, I think...

Still, a pair of socks was finished... this is the Lindsay pattern from Cookie A. and the yarn is Yarnscape's Footsie-HT in colour Wisteriosis (a club special):


I can now show the shawl I made Sue for her birthday (or at least a blocking shot as I forgot to photograph it once the pins came out) - seemed to be popular though as she wore it for lunch...


And so was a scarf, the first of two woven ones for the Ravellenics...


The weft yarn for this one was also from Alison at Yarnscape; Dance in the Moor colourway.

My second Ravellenics weaving is a present for my Mam's 75th later in the month; warp in merino from KnitPicks, weft in 100% cashmere from KnitWitches.  Beautifully soft, even before washing...  This is where I's got to at the end of the time-trial on Wednesday; there's another couple of feet done now and some more due later...  This is the first time I've done weaving in laceweight and used my 12.5 dpi heddle - really enjoying it so far...


Two other things arrived through the post on Tuesday; a new book, and more lovely club yarn (for Lammas).  I did some test-knitting for Woolly's latest book, and also copy-editing; there's something about an actual book rather than a PDF, even though the PDF is excellent for printing out and moving around with!


This post is reaching War and Peace length, so I'll stop now.  It was a nice week.  Hope you had a good one too.