Review: Hidden But Now Revealed

hidden-but-now-revealed

Hidden But Now RevealedG. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

Summary: A study of the word mystery in scripture, particularly considering its use in the Old Testament book of Daniel, and how nearly all New Testament usages connect back to this book, and show the once hidden but now revealed realities surrounding the person of Christ, his kingdom, and the inclusion of the Gentiles.

“Mystery” means quite a number of different things, and often, when we read passages in the Bible that refer in some way to mystery, we read those into the text. In other instances, it is the practice to read into the New Testament usage of mystery the uses of this term in the pagan religions of surrounding cultures.

Beale and Gladd in this book understand mystery as something that was once hidden but had now been revealed, or will be revealed. What they do in this book is study all the instances where the word occurs in scripture, primarily in Daniel in the Old Testament, some in inter-testamental Judaism, and in the canonical New Testament books of Matthew, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, and Revelation. They devote a chapter to each of these, exegeting the text, and in the case of the New Testament books, showing the echoes or connections back to Daniel in almost every use–often in parallels in word usage and meaning, as well as in the elaboration or fuller development of that meaning. Each chapter includes conclusions that summarize the biblical theology of mystery in that book. Many of the chapters also have excurses on special issues related to the text of a particular book.

The final chapters consider the theme of mystery in the New Testament even where the word does not occur, the contrast between the esoteric character of pagan mystery religions and the open character of the biblical proclamation of the mysteries revealed in Christ. A conclusion then ties together the theology of mystery found throughout scripture, showing how so much was revealed in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection and cosmic rule of the Son of God. There is the mystery of the already-not yet kingdom and the inclusion of the Gentiles. Most of all is the mystery of the cruciform work of Christ, how the victory of Christ and salvation and the conquest of Satan occurred through the death of Jesus.

One of the bonuses of this book was the concluding appendix on “The Cognitive Peripheral Vision of the Biblical Authors.” Have you ever noticed how some of the passages cited as prophecies of Christ, seem to mean something very different in their Old Testament context? It seems that the New Testament authors interpret these to mean something very different from what they meant in their original context. Beale and Gladd argue that this reflects a type of “peripheral vision.” The contextual meaning in the Old Testament is the equivalent of the focal point in one’s vision. They would contend, and show evidence from different shadings of meaning within the same Old Testament books, that authors may mean and comprehend more than their explicit intention in a particular passage, such that the appropriation of these passages by New Testament writers falls within their “cognitive peripheral vision.” I’m not sure I buy it yet, but it is an intriguing idea to explore further.

Overall, I thought this was an example of doing biblical theology at its best from a conviction that one may trace both continuity and discontinuity between the testaments but can look for coherence in the whole. They work from exegesis, to summary of the theology of mystery in each book of scripture, to a synthesis of the theology of mystery found in scripture as a whole. Their close, careful study requires the reader’s full attention, but if followed leaves one with a new sense of the wonder of what has been revealed in the coming of Christ, as well as the glories we may yet anticipate.

 

Review: Strong Poison

strong-poison

Strong PoisonDorothy L. Sayers. New York: HarperCollins, 2012 (originally published 1930).

Summary: Harriet Vane is accused of murdering her lover with arsenic. Lord Peter Wimsey believes she is innocent despite damning evidence and sets about to prove it.

Harriet Vane is awaiting the jury’s verdict. She is on trial for murdering a former lover, Philip Boyes after breaking off their relationship. Both are authors, Vane as a mystery writer the more successful. Her current novel concerns poisoning by arsenic and in her research she obtained samples of arsenic under assumed names. Following several meetings with her, Boyes suffered gastric distress. After going away for his health, he returns, and after dining with his cousin Norman Urquhart, he visits Harriet one more time to plead his case. That night, he falls terribly ill with gastric distress, of which he dies four days later. After a nurse’s suspicions are made known, an autopsy uncovers arsenic as the cause of death.

The cousin seems to have an airtight alibi–the two had shared the same food and drink, some of which Boyes himself had prepared. Hence Vane is the only plausible suspect with means, motive, and opportunity. Yet in the end, the jury comes back with a “hung” verdict. Wimsey takes an interest in the case, believing her innocent, and uses the reprieve to investigate. He focuses on Urquhart, whose alibi seems just a bit too perfect.

This leads to what is the most amusing part of the story as Miss Climpson and her typing agency, supported by Lord Peter, go undercover. Miss Murchison goes to work in Urquhart’s office. And Miss Climpson cultivates a spiritualist interest in the caregiver of wealthy old Cremorna Garden, an infirm relative of Urquhart and Boyes. And of course, the ever-resourceful Bunter befriends the household staff of Urquhart.

Time is winding down. Suspicions are confirmed. But will Wimsey get the evidence needed to exonerate Harriet? And how will she respond to Lord Peter’s proposal of marriage?

This is all great, good fun in what seemed to me one of Sayers’ fastest paced mysteries. Sayers introduces in Vane a strong female character who makes one wonder if she is modeled after Sayers herself. She inserts an egalitarian interest as Detective Parker becomes engaged to Lady Mary, Wimsey’s younger sister, with his full support. All wrapped up in a great story.

 

 

Review: Sun and Shadow

sun-and-shadow

Sun and Shadow, Åke Edwardson, translated by Laurie Thompson. New York: Penguin, 2006.

Summary: DCI Erik Winter, newly bereaved of his father, is confronted with a gruesome double-homicide of two sexual “swingers”, the possibility of involvement within his own ranks, and a pattern of clues that suggests that his partner, pregnant with their first child, may be at risk.

I am a fan of Penguin mysteries. I will often buy one even if I’m not familiar with the author, because I’ve found them to be consistently well-written and well-crafted as mysteries. I came across this one in a second hand store, by Swedish crime writer Åke Edwardson. I was not disappointed but it took reading the first hundred pages to fully engage my attention. After that, I was riveted.

In the first hundred pages, we are introduced to the characters, especially Detective Chief Inspector Erik Winter, impeccably dressed, a lover of jazz, and engaged in a serious relationship with Angela, a doctor who is bearing their first child. Much of the first part of the book is taken up with his final visit with his dying father in Spain, interrupted by a bloody double murder involving sexual “swingers” back in Gothenburg. We are introduced to Patrik, a newspaper carrier who in fact saw the murderer and first suspects something is not right in the flat where the murder occurred, his girlfriend, Maria, the building caretaker who reports the murder (and is also caretaker in Winters’ building), and the police who work with Winter. As it turns out, all this scene-setting and character development is important as we follow Winter into the investigation.

Winter’s investigation centers around clues left by the murderer. A cassette of “black metal” music with its lyrics. The word “Wall” written in blood with the “W” circled. The beheaded heads of the victims swapped on their bodies. Then there are the calls to his flat when only Angela is there. The presence of someone in the caretaker’s basement cubbyhole in his building. A second murder of another “swinging” couple. A crime psychiatrist thinks the clues point toward someone who wants to be stopped. By Winter. Evidence points to a policeman or someone dressing as one. Can the people around Winter be trusted? Is Angela and their baby in danger?

One finds oneself more and more drawn into the suspense as the killer and Winter get closer to each other. Skillful misdirection has us suspecting several different individuals even as we approach the book’s climax. The plot is dark, yet we have decent people wrestling with the profound realities of life against the gruesome backdrop. I was delighted to discover at the Penguin Random House website that there are at least four other Erik Winter mysteries available. Winter is a well-drawn character, and Edwardson a fine writer whose work I want to come back to. I think you will as well.

Review: Clouds of Witness

clouds-of-witness

Clouds of Witness, Dorothy L. Sayers. New York: Open Road Media, 2012 (originally published 1926).

Summary: Lord Peter is summoned to find out the truth concerning the death of Denis Cathcart, for which his brother Gerald is facing a murder trial before the peers of the realm.

Lord Peter Wimsey, just returned from a jaunt in France, is informed by his man Bunter that he might want to be off to Riddlesdale, the family home. It seems that his brother Gerald, the Duke of Denver, has been arrested on the charge of murder. The facts are these. Peter’s sister is engaged to Captain Denis Cathcart and is visiting Lady Mary, his betrothed. Now Cathcart is dead of a gunshot wound from Gerald’s revolver, and Mary finds Gerald over the body on a garden path as she comes down at 3 a.m., saying she has heard a shot.

Earlier that evening, Gerald received a letter from an old friend accusing Cathcart of being a card sharp. This is just about the ultimate offense among gentlemen and so Gerald confronts Cathcart in what ends up to be an angry exchange of words. Cathcart, who was planning to ditch Lady Mary, storms off. Gerald tries to get to sleep but cannot and gets up about an hour later, goes out, apparently wanders for several hours, and claims that he was returning and finds the body. But his gun is found nearby, and the evidence is sufficiently damning for the police to arrest Gerald. And Gerald does nothing to help himself, remaining silent about his whereabouts that evening. It doesn’t look good for the Duke of Denver.

Enter Lord Peter, who believes from the start that his brother couldn’t possibly be capable of such an act. And it doesn’t add up. Cathcart is leaving Mary and so no further intervention is needed. Yet the case seems open and shut. But some things don’t add up. There are conflicting reports of when the shot was fired–11:40 p.m. and 3 a.m. There are size 10 footprints that do not belong to any of the party. The window to the den was pried, even though the door to the garden had been left open. There is a diamond broach of a cat left by the body, but the woman with Cathcart when it was purchased does not fit Mary’s description. And there is the unfriendly Grimethorpe, and his exceedingly attractive wife, who seem to know something important.

Parker heads off to Paris, and Lord Peter takes a perilous plane trip to America and back, tracking down the clues. The trial before the peers of England opens, and Lord Peter has not returned and a terrible winter storm lies in his flight path across the Atlantic.  Will he make it in time (will he make it at all?) and will his evidence exonerate his brother and reveal how Cathcart died?  I will leave that for you to discover.

This is only the second of the Lord Peter Wimsey tales. I felt Sayers was still developing her craft, but already we see the development of the characters of Lord Peter, Bunter, and Parker, and their relationships. The description of the trial by Gerald’s peers, other Lords of England, is fascinating. Already, this is good writing, and I commend reading this before later numbers because it only gets better!

[A note on editions. This book is now in public domain and is now available in very inexpensive digital versions, one of which I downloaded. There were passages missing (noted) apparently from a quickly scanned version. From other reviews, I gather the current print edition may not be better. Open Road generally releases high quality digital versions. This one includes an illustrated biography of Sayers with photographs from the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College. Older print versions may also be found at second hand stores or online sellers.]

Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger AckroydAgatha Christie. New York: HarperCollins, 2002 (originally published 1926).

Summary: Poirot comes out of retirement to solve the murder of Roger Ackroyd, who is killed after learning that the woman he loved, who has taken her life, had poisoned her first husband and was being blackmailed to cover up the fact.

There are some who consider this among the very best of Agatha Christie’s mysteries. It is the only one appearing in the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I am inclined to agree that it is one of the best I have read, particularly for the unusual surprise at the end.

Mrs. Ferrars has committed suicide. Her husband had died the previous year under somewhat suspicious circumstances. Dr. James Settles is the physician consulted on the case and it turns out that he is with wealthy Roger Ackroyd when Ackroyd, who had fallen in love with Ferrars, receives a suicide note confessing she had poisoned her husband and was being blackmailed by someone she named in the letter who knew the fact. Ackroyd refuses to reveal the contents of the letter. Later that evening Settles receives a call informing him that Ackroyd has been murdered in his study. He goes to the house and discovers it is so, in the neck with a knife from a collection of curios.

Flora Ackroyd, a niece who stands to inherit a tidy fortune, having agreed to marry Roger Ackroyd’s choice of spouse, Ralph Paton, enlists the help of Hercule Poirot, who has retired and lives nearby. Dr. Settles, who saw the crime scene, becomes Poirot’s aid in the investigation and is the narrating voice in the story. Flora is particularly concerned because Ralph has gone missing and is the prime suspect, because of his financial straits. But others in the household are also suspicious. Parker the butler appears to have been listening at the door of Ackroyd’s study during the meeting between Ackroyd and Settles, and then again later in the evening as well. Others seems to be hiding things as well: Flora’s mother Mrs. Ackroyd, Hector Blunt, a friend staying with the family, Geoffrey Raymond, the secretary, Mrs. Russell and Ursula Bourne on the staff. There is a strange American-sounding figure who gets directions from Settles to the house shortly before the murder took place.

Working alongside Inspector Raglan, Poirot with the help of Settles and his sister Caroline seek to get to the truth these different characters are hiding. There is also the puzzle of who it was Ackroyd was speaking with shortly before his death and why one of the chairs in the study was moved out of place.  Eventually there is the traditional “gathering of suspects” at which Poirot reveals the killer. I can say no more because this is where the plot takes a surprising turn.

What I enjoyed was the character of Poirot. One sees why he is one of the most celebrated figures in detective mysteries. He is thorough, thoughtful, relentless in the pursuit of truth, intolerant of deception, and gentle when people confess the truth. He takes truth seriously but himself not at all. He can be both droll, and infinitely sad as he ponders the evil people do. I’ve read or watched other Poirot stories but found his character especially well drawn here.

Likewise, the plot seems to move at just the right pace, unraveling each thread of the mystery until all is prepared for the final revelation of the murder. The perfect book for a summer read, or any time you need a few hours of rich diversion.

 

Review: Whose Body?

whose body

Whose Body? Dorothy L. Sayers. New York: Harper Collins, 1923. (Link is for trade paperback version.)

Summary: A body found in Thipps bathroom, a missing financier. Two cases that Lord Peter and his valet, Bunter, are called into simultaneously, apparently disparate, ultimately connected.

Imagine walking into your bathroom to discover a body in your tub with nothing on but a pair of pince-nez glasses. That is the unusual scenario that greets the retiring architect Thipps, who lives with his mother in a flat in Battersea. Thipps mother and Lord Peter’s are friends and so he is called in to investigate in the very first of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. Then the unimaginative police Inspector Suggs arrests both Mr.Thipps and their maid Gladys on suspicion of the murder.

Shortly thereafter, his friend Parker, a Scotland Yard man, drops by to discuss the case, which he became involved with because he thought the man might be missing Jewish financier, Reuben Levy. Apart from a superficial resemblance, he is not. As best as they can tell, he was a workman who died from a blow to the back of his neck, who had been shaved, barbered and manicured and given the glasses post-mortem, and placed in the tub after being let down from the roof through the bathroom window.

The two cases seem unconnected until it is learned Levy was inquiring of directions to a famed physician’s residence late in the evening before the body was found in Thipps bathroom. An odd coincidence, and perhaps no more than that but one that will place both Parker and Lord Peter in peril, and awaken memories of Lord Peter’s World War I battle experiences, an early example in literature of the description of what we would now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

While I did not feel the writing was quite as polished as later writings and that Lord Peter seems overly silly at times, the characters of Lord Peter and Bunter are already well-drawn, with the fascinating element of Lord Peter’s war service, apparently dilettante life, and his simultaneous fascination and reluctance toward detective work. Bunter appears as the ever resourceful and somewhat independent-minded valet, the perfect companion to assist Lord Peter in his adventures. One of the most hilarious passages is Bunter’s account of plying of the famous physician’s, Lord Julian Freke’s man with Wimsey’s alcohol and cigars, very good alcohol and cigars at that. And there is a fascinating passage in which Wimsey questions a medical student about his activities a week before, that he swears he can’t remember, and the systematic questions that lead to a detailed recollection of events.

A good read in its own right, Whose Body? also heralds the promise of the other “Lord Peter Wimsey” mysteries, fourteen in all. If you’ve never discovered them and love mysteries, you should try them. And as a bonus, copyright has expired in the U.S. on Whose Body? and so it is available in at least two e-book versions on Amazon currently for $0.99 and for free on Feedbooks (in the U.S.). So if you like to start your mystery series at the beginning, here is an inexpensive way to explore the first of a series I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, even though set in pre-World War II England.

[Also reviewed on Bob on Books: Dorothy L. Sayers, The Nine Tailors.]

Digital Archives

Internet Archive

One of the most fascinating things about the Internet from when I first started using it twenty years ago was this sense of having the world at your fingertips. I remember downloading Mosaic for the first time and discovering this thing they called a search engine, in this case, an early version of Yahoo. Organized by categories, you could search and drill down from topic to topic.

Eventually Google supplanted Yahoo, and then conceived the project back in 2004 of digitizing every known book. I’ve used this to track down quotes to their sources (and sometimes discovered that there was no source for the quote attributed to a particular author). I’ve downloaded 19th century sermon collections available for free. I understand that in recent years, Google has slowed down these efforts. Some would contend this reflects a shift in mission to use of search data in marketing, but it also reflects the fact that they’ve digitized over 20 million books! And they’ve been hampered by some lawsuits along the way.

Another outfit that has also been digitally archiving books and an incredible array of other materials is the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive is a non-profit effort launched in 1996 in San Francisco that includes text, audio, moving pictures, software, and, significantly, archived web pages. I discovered for example that you can look at a collection of archived campaign webpages from 1996. One of the challenges of the internet is its ephemerality. Have you ever come across a weblink that no longer works or a page that no longer exists? The Internet Archive may be the place that still has a record of this. From their homepage you can use their Wayback machine to enter an old URL to see if it is in their archives.

One of the other standout features of Internet Archive for the computer geek is old software from MS-DOS games to VisiCalc for the Apple II. They even have an emulator that allows you to play the games in your browser. Yes, you can play Oregon Trail again!

One writer described the Internet Archive as “a chaotic, beautiful mess”. Indeed, among other places you can go from their home page is a free audiobook collection, a Grateful Dead collection, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, The Iraq War Collection, The Portuguese Web archive, and that collection of MS-DOS software!

The question of course, is whether you can find what you are looking for. My sense is that Google’s search algorithms are better for getting you in the neighborhood of what you are looking for. But the Internet archive is just a fun place to snoop around, and you can do it from your own home.

It occurs to me that one of the big questions around the future of libraries and archives is both how to preserve materials in physical form and also to continue to preserve digitized materials including media that only ever had a digital format, especially because of the weird paradox that digital materials often degrade far faster than the printed page. It makes me wonder if a journal on my daily doings will last longer than my social media presence on Facebook’s servers–of course, who is going to want to study either?

At any rate, exploring all this reminded me that librarians and archivists to day face very different challenges in preserving not only printed primary source materials but the digital record of our society. It will be an interesting task to figure out what is important enough to safe and what is just ephemera!

Review: The Nine Tailors

The Nine TailorsThe Nine Tailors, Dorothy L. Sayers. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1966.

Summary: Lord Peter, stranded in Fenchurch St. Paul due to a driving mishap, later is enlisted to solve the mystery of the death of an unidentified man, whose body is found buried atop the grave of a recently deceased woman. The “nine tailors” refers to the nine tolls of a bell when an adult man has died, after which the years of his life are tolled.

Lord Peter Wimsey suffers a driving mishap on the unfamiliar roads near Fenchurch St. Paul, in the fen country of East Anglia, on New Year’s Eve, and is forced to find refuge with the somewhat absent-minded village rector, Venables and his wife. Venables is a change ringer and the church has an impressive set of bells. Wimsey ends up taking the place of Will Thoday, taken ill with influenza and participates in ringing the bells for nine hours to ring in the New Year.

While awaiting the repairs on his car, Lady Thorpe dies and Wimsey learns that sad tale of the Thorpe house, whose fortunes were impaired by the theft of an emerald necklace from a house guest, Mrs. Wilbraham, whose loss was made good by Henry Thorpe. The butler, Deacon, and a London accomplice, Cranton are found guilty of the crime, but the emeralds are never found. Both went to prison, but Deacon’s body was supposedly discovered in a pit after a prison escape.

During the intervening four months, Henry Thorpe also takes ill. Daughter Hillary, dealing with impending loss, ascends the bell tower one day and finds a scrap of paper covered with unusual writing that turns out to be a cipher for the location of the missing emeralds. When Henry dies, he is to be buried in his wife’s grave, which when opened is found to hold another, unidentified body, missing its hands and with the face smashed in. Rector Venables calls in Wimsey to help solve the mystery of this death. And mysterious it is, not only because the man in this grave cannot be identified for lack of fingerprints, but also for how he died. Neither the rope with which he was bound, nor the injuries were the cause of death.

Wimsey’s investigations take him to London and to France, where he encounters the widow of the man in the grave. There is more to be learned of both Deacon and Cranton, and also the involvement of both Will and James Thoday. What did Potty Peake, the village simpleton, witness of the mysterious man’s death? And what will the mysterious scrap of paper found by Hillary Thorpe reveal of the hiding place of the necklace?

Sayers takes a risk in spending so much time in the book on the practice of bell-ringing and yet the bells are an integral part of the plot, including the mysterious man’s death. She also captures the ethos of the fen country of East Anglia where the story is set. Yet, the mystery is a favorite of many readers. According to Wikipedia, Sinclair Lewis judged it the best of his four “indispensables.”

The potentially tedious bell-ringing material is interspersed with methodical police Superintendent Blundell, spunky Hillary Thorpe, and the amusingly absent-minded Rector and his capable wife, who tend to both the spiritual and physical life of their parish, acting with aplomb when faced with the flooding of the fens at the end of the book. Of course, Lord Peter occupies center stage, with his faithful sidekick Bunter, as he unravels the mystery while playing mentor to the orphaned Hillary. No cold detective, this man, who discovers as he unravels the truth, the difficult and delicate work of exposing basically decent people caught up in a bad business. Sayers gives us an intricate, well-crafted, and winsomely human mystery.

 

Review: Surreality

SurrealitySurrealityBen Trube. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.

Summary: The murder of Franklin Haines in virtual reality is paralleled with the real theft of $80 million from him. A prostitute is missing, a deadly gang that operates in both cyberspace and the real world threaten murder and mayhem, and Detective Dan Keenan, his real world and virtual world partners and a penguin named Tux work together to find the real criminal behind this web of crime.

Surreality is a virtual world where dreams can become reality, whether a re-created library of Alexandria, a casino named Arcadia, or darker enterprises for pleasure or crime or both. The book begins with the opening of the casino literally created before our eyes out of cherry blossoms that coalesce into an art deco masterpiece. Entrepreneur Franklin D. Haines celebrates this great business enterprise as a hint of the future grandeur and opportunity available in Surreality, until his avatar is fatally strangled and the whole edifice collapses, even while $80 million is drained out of his real life accounts. During all of this, an accomplished virtual madame disappears, as does her real life counterpart.

Because Franklin Haines lives in Columbus, Ohio, Columbus Metro Police Department Detective Dan Keenan is called off of administrative leave by his boss Tom Daily to investigate the case. Keenan is damaged goods, having shot in an alleyway a maniacal murderer by the name of Sinclair who was wielding a knife. He has a hard time shaking the nightmares and memories of that night and wonders if he has a future. Daily gives him this case with the hopes it will get him back on his feet and working again with his partner Sonya Caliente. His first assignment is to learn about Surreality, where he discovers he has another partner, Synthia (Synthetic Intelligence Algorithm), kind of an edgy Siri who looks great in a red dress. And as he begins his virtual investigations, he is soon joined by an expert hacker, Tux, whose avatar is a penguin.

Things get more complicated. Tux introduces Keenan to the nefarious Polos (Power Lords), mostly internet thugs and identity thieves who have also set up shop in the nether worlds of Surreality. Meanwhile, an attempt is made on Haines life in physical reality, where he dives in front of his elegant wife, Katherine Haines, saving her life while getting wounded. A possible suspect, Dr. Glassner, the promoter of the Alexandria Library collecting the world’s knowledge, is also virtually murdered and robbed. It turns out that Glassner and Haines played the leading roles in developing Surreality, falling out over whether it would be a center of culture or commerce. Caught between these two is Katherine Haines, also a programmer, the step sister of Glassner and wife of Franklin D. Haines.

Those are the main characters, besides Keenan’s lovable dog, Garfunkel. Keenan, Caliente, Synthia and Tux work together as the plot weaves back and forth between Surreality and Columbus. Columbus natives will enjoy references to Jack and Benny’s the “Dube”, the Athenaeum, Goodale Park, and the Ohio Union. Geeks will enjoy the visual rendering of how “infected code” works in a virtual world. I found myself intrigued wondering how all the plot strands would come together–who was behind all this stuff? As Keenan investigates this case, he comes face to face, and struggles with, the ghosts and memories of his confrontation with Sinclair

For the most part, the plot moved along and drew me in. There were a few sections, particularly at the beginning when the technical description seemed to slow things down. This book is classed on Amazon as a “technothriller” and it seems that a certain amount of technical explanation was necessary to establish the plausibility of the technical parts of the plot. This is facilitated with a main character, Keenan, who was pretty clueless when it came to computers, and by Synthia, whose attitude made it all a bit more fun.

I found myself liking these characters, even the virtual ones, who I discovered from the ending, may live on in future installments in this series (this is marketed as Volume 1 on Amazon). And I enjoyed the imaginative descriptions at various points such as the creation of a casino out of cherry blossoms at the beginning, the transport tunnels to different parts of Surreality, and the scene where Tux and Keenan have to successively hop their way across nine lanes (data streams?) in an attempt to rescue Ms. Klein, the madame.

Also, without getting ponderous, the book gave a thought-provoking portrayal of all the contradictions we find on the internet and other online media–this place that simultaneously gives us access to incredible volumes of knowledge, every form of commerce, as well as the darker sides appealing to every form of desire and the dubious and criminal activities of the “dark net.”

All in all, a good read that met my basic good read test–did it keep me up at night. It did, and I finished it over a weekend.

Disclosure: While I paid for the e-book that I used for my review, I should disclose, for those who haven’t figured it out, that the author is my son. I won’t claim to be an impartial reviewer in this instance, but I hope I’ve given you enough to decide if this is something you might like. Well done, Ben!

Repost: After The Funeral (An Agatha Christie Mystery)

I recently reviewed Agatha Christie’s At Bertram’s Hotel. Agatha Christie mysteries are a favorite summer read for me. Here is a review of another novel that I wrote last summer.

After the funeralThis was a wonderful diversion during a very full schedule of meetings in this past week. Agatha Christie always seems good for that and why I chose her for a break from serious reading during some serious discussions.

Leaving aside the personal stuff, the relatives of deceased estate owner Richard Abernethy are gathered for the reading of his will following his funeral. He had been ill but nevertheless had died rather suddenly in his sleep. Entwhistle, the family lawyer has just announced that the proceeds will be divided in six equal shares among the family when Cora Lansquenet, a daffy niece known for saying what she thinks, pipes up and asks, “But he was murdered, wasn’t he?” The fuss dies down until the next day when Cora is brutally hatcheted to death, in what appears to be a break-in. At this point, Entwhistle’s suspicions are aroused and his informal discussions with family members only deepen the impression that any of them could be involved in this murder, and presumably Richard’s. And so he calls in Poirot, an old friend.

Tension deepens when Mrs. Gilchrist, Cora’s housekeeper and companion, suffers a serious poisoning incident with an arsenic-laced piece of wedding cake. It appears there is a desperate killer set on wiping out anyone who might have a notion of who committed the murder. When Helen Abernethy realizes who is responsible, she is struck on the head and knocked out, just on the point of revealing the truth to Entwhistle.

Poirot deduces the true killer from what she did say and reveals the killer in one of those typical library scenes where the whole family is gathered. Of course, I will leave the fun of discovering the murderer to your reading. Having read some Christie, I would say that it was a bit of a surprise, and yet not a surprise at all. Have fun with that!

I came by this book as a free giveaway as part of World Book Night, which has suspended operations for lack of funding. Even if you have to buy this, I think you will find it a diverting and worthwhile read.

First posted here on July 29, 2014.