Jim Wormold is just a vacuum cleaner salesman in 1950s Havana, trying to be good father to his teenage daughter and worrying about money, still missinJim Wormold is just a vacuum cleaner salesman in 1950s Havana, trying to be good father to his teenage daughter and worrying about money, still missing the wife who left him. Then, a mysterious man shows up in the shop and recruits Wormold into the British Secret Service. Wormold has no idea how to be a spy but he quickly finds he has a talent for writing fictional spy reports about things and people that don't exist. But, things take a more sinister turn when the events in his fictional reports begin to actually happen. Funny and painful at once, a great read. ...more
This is a great introduction to Genghis Khan and the Mongol culture. Weatherford writes in a clear, engaging way that moves the history along and makeThis is a great introduction to Genghis Khan and the Mongol culture. Weatherford writes in a clear, engaging way that moves the history along and makes it easy to keep the many people involved straight. I would have actually liked a few maps to help me visualize better but overall this was a good historical introduction to the period. If you are looking for a broad overview, however, Weatherford is quite focused so this might not be exactly what you are looking for. ...more
I have mixed feelings about this book. This is the first in the series of Joe Sandilands novels, this one set in the 1920s in British India. SandilandI have mixed feelings about this book. This is the first in the series of Joe Sandilands novels, this one set in the 1920s in British India. Sandilands has been in India to give a workshop and is detained by the governor to investigate a string of murders committed at a small British military station over a period of ten years. Each of the women was murdered in March, each was the wife of an officer, and each is murdered in a way that plays upon her worst phobias. Sandilands, with the help of the very attractive wife of the post "collector" (commander), Nancy Drummond, sets out to find the connection between the murders and prevent another murder from occurring.
The mystery is well constructed and the setting is intriguing. I especially like the sense of impending catastrophe as the reader sees the clear signs of the end of British rule while the British characters seems oblivious. However, I am annoyed by the constant reinforcement of sexist and racist stereotypes. The most skillful historical writers manage to convey the belief systems of their characters accurately while subtly indicating to the reader when they do not share that belief system. Cleverly does not pull that off. Female characters are either sex objects who, if virtuous, are unaware of their sex appeal or, if "slutty" use it to manipulate others or , if older, women are gossiping biddies. Colonial administrators are, with the exception of one local policeman, honest and well intentioned. Indians are either intelligent collaborators with the British or mysterious and in many cases savage and deceitful. I have read later books in this serious and I think Cleverly improves her technique in the later novels. ...more
Catherine Howard is often dismissed among Henry VIII's wives as either a silly woman who brought troubles upon herself or as a helpless pawn of the poCatherine Howard is often dismissed among Henry VIII's wives as either a silly woman who brought troubles upon herself or as a helpless pawn of the powerful Howard family who used the lovely Catherine to seduce the king away from Anne of Cleves and attempt to regain the status lost by their relationship to Anne Boleyn. But, Russell uses careful study of primary sources to show that Catherine was not completely unaware of politics. But, neither was she, as a young woman of the aristocratic class, able to choose her circumstances or her marriage partner. Russell shows that Catherine's teenage love affair while living in her grandmother's house was probably her only consummated relationship outside of marriage and that her later flirtations with Thomas Culpepper were probably never consummated due to lack of opportunity. However, Russell shows Henry as a man subject to violent swings of mood and deeply vindictive of anything that touched on his ego. He was able to demand that parliament make retroactive laws to punish specific individuals for crimes of thought and intention. By becoming his wife and his queen, Catherine moved into a position in which even the desire or intention to commit adultery was seen as a capital crime. A dark picture of the age, engagingly written. I couldn't put it down. ...more
The second installment in the adventures of holistic detective Dirk Gently involve a dirty refrigerator of epic importance, a strangely neurotic eagleThe second installment in the adventures of holistic detective Dirk Gently involve a dirty refrigerator of epic importance, a strangely neurotic eagle, and some seriously confused Norse gods. It will take all of Dirk's observational skills and detective acumen, plus a huge dose of dumb luck, to save the day. ...more