Post Script: The Steel Van Man – Jason P. Stadtlander

The Steel Van Man

Jason P. Stadtlander

Smith Publicity — Ashian Ink Publishing

ISBN: 9780989077149

Description:

The modus operandi of this powerful thriller is the hook that snags the reader in chapter one and just won’t let go. In a sleepy coastal town north of Boston, a serial killer is murdering select victims, couples mostly. Intriguingly, however, this brutal hunter serves a higher calling. Detective Stanley Devonshire is uncovering a trail of evidence in an attempt to determine exactly how the killer has managed to continue on its horrific rampage undiscovered-for what appears to be eighty years now-and with the exact same pattern. At the outset, there is no discernible thread of reason connecting the killings. So Stan enlists the help of his long time friend from Marblehead, Detective Mark Brown. Stan is also joined forcibly by a stunning state police officer and imposing federal agent who follow him along on a journey of revelation-twist after convoluted twist. Devonshire is certain he is close to solving the cases stacking up on his desk, but in his attempt to identify the illusive killer, will he or someone close to him become the hunter’s next prey? The Steel Van Man has the reader holding his breath and postulating at every turn as the book weaves a story of murders committed, secrets revealed and justice sought. While the author weaves tantalizing threads of disclosure, the reader is driven in an uncomfortable direction, a direction he might prefer to avoid.

My View:

Definitely a very disturbing and creepy story; the opening chapter titled Experimentation is ghoulish and incredible. At first there seems to be no obvious connection or link to what you expect from this narrative…a murder/mystery…but that connection is abhorrently obvious when the grisly discoveries are made, (no spoilers’ here). Despite the gore factor being extremely high at this point I thought this was a great hook, I wanted to read more – even if at time I was a little doubtful that I could stomach the visuals presented to me.

However the rest of the book did not live up the expectations the introduction suggested.  A convoluted storyline, so many twists and turns I nearly went dizzy,  too many wild coincidences that nobody challenged or appeared to notice, main characters that were poorly developed and  a story line that was just too far fetched – I just could not suspend my disbelief and enjoy this book.  For me the ending was incomplete and just tied everything up into a nice neat package where it seemed just like a fairy tale where all would be alright in the morning.

And the premise that sometimes torture and murder as revenge/retribution/punishment is justified did not sit well with me.

 

Today IS My Birthday

Yesterday afternoon more guest arrive d- my mum, my sister and my brother in law and Rachel went home. We had a few drinks and then a lovely roast meal followed by mini plum puddings and custard – a Christmas in July theme. We followed with this more wine and some locally sourced fortified wine.

It was not surprising  that we all slept very well and late. After breakfast we did another mini wine tour this time stopping at Madfish/Burch Family wines ( which is 5 minutes from our house) and makes one of our favorite shirazs –  the Leston and  the delicious Muscat dessert wine. On our way to the Margaret River Chocolate Factory ( where we bought dark chocolate soft nougat)  we stopped at Vasse Felix Winery and sampled and then bought a bottle of their amazing dessert style wine – Cane Cut. I think we will be enjoying my birthday treats for a while.  🙂

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It’s NOT my Birthday….Yet…

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It is almost my birthday and so the celebrations start with a visit from one of our daughters, Rachel, (Angela visited a few weeks ago). Yesterday we explored the Margaret  River Farmers Market and bought some yummy sour dough wood fired bread and hand crafted cheese from Margaret River Organic Creameries . To this bounty we added a nice Brie from the Margaret River Dairy Company, the shop is just down the road from us.

Later we did a mini winery tour ( stopping of at Margaret River Venison Farm for some of its famous jerky) .The wines in this region – as always – are superb – which makes choosing a bottle to have with dinner very difficult.

If you are ever int his region I recommend you stop at these two wineries – great wines and friendly service – Windows Estate  where we choose a  2012 Sauvignon Blanc  – tasting notes: “An abundance of  of gooseberry,passion fruit and citrus integrated  with the subtle creaminess of lemon butter and finishing with fine acidity.”

And from House of Cards Winery and Cellar Door we bought a limited edition fortified Shiraz  – which is really rather good! Very warming on these cold nights and perfect to drink in my new  liquor glasses.   🙂  ( And did I mention that next door to the House of Cards is Gabriel’s Chocolate ?? Who can resist hand crafted chocolate?)

So much good food and wine to discover…so little time to try it all 🙂  🙂 🙂

Post Script: Bones of the Lost – Kathy Reichs

Bones of the Lost

Kathy Reichs

Random House UK, Cornerstone

William Heinemann

ISBN: 9780434021154

 

Description:

The body of a teenage girl is discovered along a desolate highway on the outskirts of Charlotte. Inside her purse is the ID card of a local businessman who died in a fire months earlier.

Who was the girl? And was she murdered?

Dr Temperance Brennan, Forensic Anthropologist, must find the answers. She soon learns that a Gulf War veteran stands accused of smuggling artifacts into the country. Could there be a connection between the two cases?

Convinced that the girl’s death was no accident, Tempe soon finds herself at the centre of a conspiracy that extends from South America to Afghanistan. But to find justice for the dead, she must be more courageous – and take more courageous action – than ever before.

My View:

Kathy Reichs is an exceptional writer – every book she has written in the Tempe Brennan series delivers a well thought out plot, with many twists and turns, main characters which are largely empathetic, scenes that are detailed and extremely visual; she is able to set up “place” and “time” so convincingly. This novel is no different.

I raced through this read wanting to discover the identity of the young girl, wanting to see the bad guys held to account for their actions and I was not disappointed.  Reichs successfully inter weaves  three seemingly unrelated stories to create this narrative – one of a unidentified young girl left dead on the road side, one of identifying smuggled artefacts and the final taking place in down town Afghanistan –  where Brennan’s forensic anthropology skills are put to the test under war zone conditions.

I enjoyed that part of this story was set in Afghanistan as mostly all I know of the country is what I see on news flashes announcing more dead soldiers. I liked getting this second hand glimpse of what it is like to be stationed in this war zone. It is scary when air strikes become the norm. It is not a situation I would like to be in.

And in the foreground the complicated personal life of Tempe Brennan plays out; the men who are most important to her make an appearance and at the conclusion we are given hints of a possible romance… or are we being fed a red herring?

This is a great forensic/police procedural that is peppered with humour, something I was not expecting – I particularly liked the comment about exercise after Tempe discovers an Exercise After Forty newsletter in her emails (p.68): “Unable to sit still, I raced up the stairs two at a time. Exercise after forty.”  There were many instances where I felt a smile break out as I read this murder/mystery.

My only fault with this book was what I feel to be a bit of a heavy handling of Ms Reichs personal views on human trafficking. The conversation with Dew felt contrived and like I was being lectured. I share your views on human trafficking Ms Reichs but I think your narrative made the points very well without the need for the lecture at the end.

All in all a well written, satisfying crime/mystery.  I look forward to the next episode.

Post Script: The Guilty – Sean Slater

The Guilty, Sean Slater

Sean Slater

The Guilty

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781471101366

 

Description:

THE FIRST EXPLOSION KILLS THE TOY MAKER.

THE SECOND BOMB TAKES DOWN THE CITY’S MOST SUCCESSFUL REALTOR.

TWO ARE DEAD, ONE IS WOUNDED.

BUT STILL NO SUSPECT.

It’s clear to Homicide Detective Jacob Striker and his partner Felicia Santos that the two incidents are linked. But with no demands being made by the bomber, and no known connection between the victims, uncovering the motives seems impossible. Then detective Harry Eckhart disappears, tasking with him the lone survivor. His actions make no sense, and they force Striker to redirect his focus onto his fellow cops. It is an investigation Striker would prefer to avoid, but cannot – for the bomber is about to strike again.

And this time, it’s much closer to home…

My View:

An authentic voice in crime police procedural novels, Sean Slater is the pseudonym for Sean Sommerville, a police officer in the Province of British Columbia, Canada.

This is the third book in the Jacob Striker series but can easily be read as a standalone. I intend to look up the earlier books in this series; such is Slater’s writing skill! This is a brilliantly thought out, well executed police procedural – full of explosive moments (literally)J, fast paced action, subtle humour and great contemporary dialogue.

I loved the rapport between the two main characters – Striker and Santos and thought the portrayal of their work and personal relationship was realistic and valid. The dialogue between them and the cast of characters in the novel was smooth, effortless and natural.

Slater creates a unique and visual sense of place and time in this book. We experience firsthand the gritty and grungy view of contemporary down side British Colombia; the dirty smoke belching industrial chimney stacks, industrial concrete waste lands, abandoned warehouses, run down public housing, drug users and sellers, motor cycle gangs and the everyday hard working citizens (which includes the police force) juxtaposed against the wealth and opulence of the English Bay area.The topics of post traumatic stress – particularly relating to service in the armed forces and the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, are one of the major issues discussed in this novel; this rhyme is constant feature in the book and highlights the state of mind the bomber is in and is a reflection on a larger issue, of how the war can effect individuals in the armed forces .

Tommy Atkins went to war

And he came back a man no more.

Went to Baghdad and Sar-e.

He died, that man who looked like me.

Corruption in the police force is another topic this book tackles. Don’t be discouraged this is not a novel that is about shouting in your face causes or politics though they do play a part in the narrative; this is a story about modern life, about death – be it from illness, accident, crime and war and the affects death has on the living, it is about choices we make, about the things we chose to believe in and the positions we take and how the past can return to haunt us.  This story has an edginess that is disturbing – it concerns how issues can become black and white and not grey – positions where the truth is skewed and no one wins. But above all this is a superb police procedural with empathetic characters, a fantastic story line, plenty of action, drama and a sense of realness that is unsettling.  I am a fan!

Adults Only Prune Jam with a Kick!

A few moths ago we received a gift of some gourmet jams, pickles and relishes produced in South Australia. All were delicious and I was particularly impressed with a Prune and Citrus Jam, I read through the list of ingredients hoping for inspiration so I could replicate this divine spread in my own kitchen.  It sounded simple enough, prunes, citrus, spices, sugar, but there was not enough detail for me and I really wanted to make sure I got the citrus kick in the jam.

I searched the web and found some intriguing prune jam recipes and concluded that  a boozy kick might just jazz up my jam with a big hit of flavour. It did! WOW!  This jam is great on wholemeal crackers, great on a cheese platter, great on scones. Pretty good straight out of the jar too. 🙂

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My Recipe for  Adults Only Prune Jam with a Kick!

1kg  of prunes infused in alcohol of choice (I used Grand Marnier and Chivas Regal); lightly pack prunes into a glass screw top jar to the neck and top with alcohol. Screw on lid and place in pantry, over the next month or so continually turn jar on its ends ensuring the liquid is  distributed and absorbed.

Then:

Add to saucepan:

Roughly chopped  boozy fruit

2 cups brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence/paste

3 cups orange juice

Simmer stirring for  5 – 10 mins allowing the fruit to further breakdown.

Reduce heat and cook a further 10 mins or so until a thick sauce/ jam  like consistency.

Bottle and refrigerate.

Jam will thicken slightly when cool.

Enjoy!

Post Script: Snake Bite – Christie Thompson

Snake Bite

Snake Bite

Christie Thompson

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781743316863

The funny and shocking coming-of-age story of a wild teenager in a Canberra you never dreamed existed!

Description:
Goon of Fortune is one of those games that people cracked out at parties when everyone is already too maggot to realise what a pointless game it is. A bunch of people circle the Hills Hoist and you peg a bladder of cheap wine to the line. People take turns spinning the clothes line and whoever the wine sack lands in front of has to scull for five seconds.

Jez is seventeen and lives with her alcoholic single mum in in a government rental in Canberra’s outer-suburbs, with little money or future prospects. As well as suffering from terminal boredom, Jez has got epic First World Problems: where is her next pill coming from, what will her first tattoo be, and how will she ever lose her virginity?

Recently Jez has been having weird feelings about her best friend, emo kid Lukey – is she just bored or does she really want him? And if she makes a move on him (how to make a move on him?), will that endanger their friendship? So when effervescent hipster Melbournite Laura moves to town and starts macking on with Lukey, what is Jez to do but seek guidance from sexually experienced next-door-neighbour stripper, Casey? At the same time, Jez’s mum hooks up with a local bartender, placing a strain on their already fragile relationship.

Over the course of one blazing summer, Jez runs a gauntlet of new experiences and discovers the real meaning of home. Filled with humour, brilliant observations and raw revelations, Snake Bite is a contemporary Puberty Blues, the coming-of-age story of a wild teenager in a Canberra you never dreamed existed. It will sink its fangs into, inject you with its intoxicating venom, and never let you go

My View:

An engaging read once you have discovered the secret to decoding the teenagers’ language of text shortcuts, abbreviations and contemporary jargon.  This is a fast moving book full of angst, despair, loneliness and the universal themes of all teenagers in the first world  – those of seeking acceptance and love.

The reality is not a lot has changed in the last forty years or so for young people; teenagers are still ‘misunderstood’, still seeking answers to the meaning of life and still searching for acceptance; still trying to define themselves by their clothes, their music, their “style” and their choice of friends. Young women are still confusing sex with love.  Not a lot has changed since I was a teenager.

The language of youth may have changed, the drug of choice may have changed (alcohol is an option where once was the only choice for most, now dope/weed and other chemical highs are more in favour and easy to acquire, apparently). It seems we have still not managed to teach our children how to communicate their feelings and deal with their emotions – young people are still trying to bury their angst and loneliness in the numbness of drug use.  It is a sad indictment of modern life.

An engaging read, sometimes funny, mostly sad. The characters I found were a little stereotyped and for me Jez was the only empathetic voice. I did not understand how with the massive amount of drug and alcohol use and abuse in this narrative that apparently no adult had a single clue what was going on; for me this aspect of the narrative spoilt the credibility of the story, and the fact that all issues were neatly and simply wrapped up in the conclusion – Jez was enlightened to the “ways of the world” and appeared mature beyond her years, and “happy families” prevailed in the end, was a little too convenient.

However, a quick mostly enjoyable if not sometimes confronting read that every parent should read. This book can be used as great conversation starter for adults with teenagers. And I should add – I know that I was not the target audience for this book – I am several generations too old for and most likely was seeking more than what the book was offering as YA reading. 🙂  Young adults will enjoy.

Post Script: I Can See In The Dark – Karin Fossum

I Can See in the Dark

Karin Fossum

Random House

ISBN: 9781448104642

Description:

Riktor doesn’t like the way the policeman comes
straight into the house without knocking. He doesn’t like the arrogant
way he observes his home.The policeman doesn’t tell him why he’s there,
and Riktor doesn’t ask. Because he knows he’s guilty of a terrible
crime.

But it turns out that the policeman isn’t looking for a
missing person. He is accusing Riktor of something totally unexpected.
Riktor doesn’t have a clear conscience, but this is a crime he certainly
didn’t commit.

 

 

My View:

I strangely disturbing story of madness that is mostly concealed and controlled until one day the control is lost and anger and rage rule.

This is a very sad story about man who has no emotional connection with people, with life, with his actions. On the surface he appears to function well; to hold a job, a person who is reliable, quiet and conservative. But appearances can be deceiving and he has worked hard to deceive.

Fossum paints the picture of this sad and desperately lonely individual with bleak colours. His life is grey; there is no light, there is no laughter, there is cynicism, pain, sleeplessness and no purpose until ironically he ends up in remand for a crime he did not commit.  In prison he finds comfort in routine, support from the prison officers  and purpose and potential working in the prison kitchen. He starts to envisage a better life, a life that has the potential to include others and in his own mind and delusion, develops a relationship with the prison cook. Upon his release his schemes and desires unravel spectacularly.  There is no optimism, just more grey.

A remarkably sad story that does not sit easily with your psyche; it will not leave you in a hurry, after you turn the last page you will be left   haunted by the lonely image of despair and madness that is  Riktor. It is a depressing life that Riktor leads, and it is sad that he has passed through all the “systems” without being diagnosed or assisted in any way. Even the prison psychiatrist fails him – he diagnoses his illness and many psychoses but does not offer any assistance (perhaps I am too hard, perhaps his job was only to diagnose) but somebody should have helped, society needed to do more.

Haunting, sad and disturbing – it has all the elements that Karin Fossum exploits so well.