"False Front" is a recent entry in Fanning's Lucinda Pierce detective series. Pierce is as tough and hard-boiled as they come--she is a homicide inves"False Front" is a recent entry in Fanning's Lucinda Pierce detective series. Pierce is as tough and hard-boiled as they come--she is a homicide investigator who survived being shot in the face and who refuses to have further reconstructive surgery done. People can take her as they find her, glass eye and all. It is representative of the series (I have read most of them) as we follow Pierce and her ally and possible love interest FBI Special Agent Jake Lovett take separate tracks in solving a series of murders that seem unconnected although we discover pretty early that an unknown but very powerful person and her contract killer are behind them.
The theme of the death of parents and its affects on children continues with the deepening relationship between Pierce and Charley Spencer an eleven year old girl who Pierce first met a few books ago when Charley discovered her mother's body and attached herself to the detective as she was running down the killer.
Worth reading for the odd but very real protagonist. ...more
Either Leena Lehtolainen is an infelicitous writer of prose or Owen Witesman is a poor translator from Finnish to English--or, more likely, some of eaEither Leena Lehtolainen is an infelicitous writer of prose or Owen Witesman is a poor translator from Finnish to English--or, more likely, some of each--but "My First Murder" is so bland and dull that I gave it up after 50 pages. ...more
Great title (ASBO is an Anti-Social Behavior Order, an English civil order to control the speech, actions and even perceived attitude of individuals sGreat title (ASBO is an Anti-Social Behavior Order, an English civil order to control the speech, actions and even perceived attitude of individuals short of criminal charges but more serious than an "informal" police stop and search), good premise for a novel, poor execution. Stick to Dickens for fiction that nails the social and economic dislocation caused by rapidly advancing technology and extreme greed. ...more
Linda La Plante gets gruesome in her account of a serial killer who copies a well documented case from Los Angeles from decades ago. There are three sLinda La Plante gets gruesome in her account of a serial killer who copies a well documented case from Los Angeles from decades ago. There are three set pieces (discovery of the body, autopsy, story breaks in the tabloids) which La Plante uses to describe, underline and detail the outrages committed by the killer on his first victim before her death and the mutilations of her corpse afterwards. Subsequent murders are not as sanguine but still incarnadine enough for anyone outside an abattoir.
The political dynamics within the murder squad and the Metropolitan police itself are front and center--everyone wants to solve the crime but everyone also has a career to think of or a family to get home to.
Protagonist Anna Travis lets her hormones get in the way of her judgement while dealing with a reporter--she is horny as can be and gets set up by an unscrupulous newsman who screws here in several ways.
Mithradates VI of Pontus did nothing by half measures. In the spring of 88 BC he organized the slaughter of essentially all the Roman and Italian resiMithradates VI of Pontus did nothing by half measures. In the spring of 88 BC he organized the slaughter of essentially all the Roman and Italian residents of the Province of Asia which encompassed western Turkey. Men, women and children, masters and slaves were rounded up and killed without mercy. Those who attempted to gain sanctuary in the temples were murdered and the temples burned. Their property was confiscated; people who killed Roman moneylenders had their debts cancelled; bounties were offered for informers and the killers of Romans in hiding.
As least 80,000 Romans and Italians living in Anatolia and the Aegean islands massacred—thousands of merchants and tax collectors with their slaves and families had emigrated from Italy to the newly conquered Asian province of the Roman Republic. In addition to the number of people killed, that the plot was kept secret from the Romans was one of the great intelligence coups and mysteries of the ancient world. Ordinary people from all ethnic groups and social classes were part of the poplar alliance to wipe out the Romans. Indigenous Anatolians, Greeks and Jews killed in response to Rome’s system of taxation and debt which destroyed individuals and threw entire cities into financial collapse. Mithradates appealed to the wealthy and the poor because all had felt the sting of the Roman lash and suffered under its yoke.
The events of 88 BC were extreme, even in that ultra-sanguine era. It wasn’t part of neither a war nor a rampage by victorious soldiers after battle—it was a terror attack the targeted specific groups of civilians, painstakingly planned in advance and ruthlessly carried out. It was explicitly designed to eliminate and entire ethnic and linguistic group. By today’s standards it would be genocide, terrorism and crimes against humanity. While the first century BC was rife with state-sponsored, collective and private acts of violence, nothing was as cold-blooded and of such a large scale.
Like all kings, Mithradates wanted to keep his dynasty intact. This was difficult in the first century BC in areas under intermittent Roman rule, and was made especially chancy in Mithradates’ realm where (for example) mothers killed older sons in order to rule as a regent for younger ones who then would slay their mothers as the sons approached the age to reign. He claimed to be descended from the generals of Alexander the Great through his father and Darius I of Persia through his mother and since there was no other examples of such impeccable breeding he made on of his sisters his wife. While this was not uncommon in the eastern Mediterranean in the classical period—Egypt was rife with brothers who were their own brothers-in-law for example—he went even further, imprisoning his remaining sisters in enforced virginity in case a substitute breeder was necessary.
Mithradates of Pontus was a king who wanted to be known as Rome’s greatest enemy. He was a symbol of cruelty and a hero confronting the unstoppable merciless expansion of empire. He freed thousands of slaves, pardoned prisoners of war and enemy captives, granted democratic rights throughout the lands he ruled and shared the spoils of war widely among his followers. At the same time Mithradates was cruel, unscrupulous; his tactics were both successful and devastating. For Rome he was the most feared enemy general since Hannibal.
Adrienne Mayor has spent years reading the sources in several ancient and modern languages and obviously knows her stuff. Her narrative weaves all the facts available with informed speculation on what might have happened during periods when the sources are missing or inadequate; a fragment of a Roman commentary on a Greek history tells us most of what we know about Mithradates’ childhood for example. “The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy” falls in the between literary historical fiction—the chapter “The Lost Boys” when Mithradates and a cohort of friends went missing from the court and were probably living in the Anatolian wilderness, both as an adventure and to avoid death at the hands of his mother—is based on Mayor’s interpretation of some of the legend that surrounds this most mythic of figures. ...more
Having dealt more or less successfully with my long standing but poorly thought out aversion to 18th century English poetry I though I would try a fewHaving dealt more or less successfully with my long standing but poorly thought out aversion to 18th century English poetry I though I would try a few novels beginning with "Moll Flanders".
The syntax is less florid and circumambulatory than I had assumed. Moll is terrific--it is as easy for the reader to fall in love with her as it was for her five husbands--one, of course, was her long lost and unrecognized until too late brother. She has an unsurpassed eye for the main chance and is willing to use whatever is available to achieve it. In addition to her five husbands she was "Twelve Years a Whore, Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Years a Transported Felon in Virginia" and didn't regret a day of it.
"Moll" tells the story of Moll who is always honest (with herself and therefore the reader), energetic, upbeat and industrious. She couldn't have been born into a lower estate; her mother was a condemned prisoner in Newgate who "pleaded her belly" and was saved from the hangman since she was pregnant. After Moll's birth her mother is transported to the wilds of America and the little girl is passed from one foster parent to the next, lucky to live through their ministrations. The parish paid a certain sum to the caretakers for each child they took in and it was not uncommon for them to keep the money while starving the child.
She survives and by her tenth birthday has learned to charm women and girls through a combination of cunning and naivete so that they are willing to protect and cosset her; later she is able to enlist other women to help her seem wealthier than she is, allowing Moll to constantly marry above her class.
The theme of repentance runs throughout the book although Defoe shows us the what Moll call repentance is closer to regret that she didn't make a better match for herself or that she got caught in a scheme before she could completely carry it out.
Moll is as greedy as any character in literature, abandons children born at various times with various fathers without compunction and fails, ultimately, in the most important function a woman like her can have: atone for her sins, see the error of her ways and show penitence for them. Since she doesn't consider anything she has done to be wrong, she doesn't have anything for with to beg forgiveness.
Getting to know Moll is a lot of fun and well worth dealing with the grammar (and capitalization) of fiction from almost 300 years ago....more
Marjorie Garber does what she is best at--creative close reading of Shakespeare. In her analysis of "Julius Caesar", for example, she shows how the deMarjorie Garber does what she is best at--creative close reading of Shakespeare. In her analysis of "Julius Caesar", for example, she shows how the device divides the characters into two camps: those who attempt to control dreams and destiny and those who are controlled by it. Decius Brutus purposely misinterprets Calpurnia's dream that foretells disaster for Caesar, changing the meaning into one that is flattering to Caesar and with enough psychological acuity to deliver him for murder on the Ides of March.
Characters construe dreams throughout the play; some as they like for their own purposes, some misconstrue through error, while others do so in order to lure the unwary and fool the gullible.
This is very early Garber--1974 when she was an assistant prof at Yale--and lacks much of the polish of her more recent works. It is still well worth reading, particularly those chapters that cover plays with which one is most familiar. ...more
Stripping for rubes and hayseeds on the carnival circuit during the first half of the 20th century. Show business at its most tawdry with the here todStripping for rubes and hayseeds on the carnival circuit during the first half of the 20th century. Show business at its most tawdry with the here today and gone today ambiance of a show under canvas that was headed to the next wide spot in the road making a bawdy spectacle into something dirty and transgressive.
Not badly written, full of photographs of the barkers, touts and especially of course the girls, in and out of their costumes. A nice touch are reproductions of small help wanted ads for strippers, talkers and comics. ...more
Occasionally heartbreaking often brilliant photographs and text document an odd corner, since disappeared, of the commercial sex trade. Susan MeiselasOccasionally heartbreaking often brilliant photographs and text document an odd corner, since disappeared, of the commercial sex trade. Susan Meiselas is a real artist--while she describes and illustrates a tawdry world she never loses focus on the humanity of the people she chronicles, including barkers, show managers and paying customers as well as the dancers.