Review: An Accidental Murder by J. New

I didn’t realise this was a short book [though this is entirely my fault as clearly marked in the description that I didn’t fully read as I like to not have everything spoiled] and was surprised how quickly it moved forwards. Spoilers follow.

The book is preceded by a short prequel in the series which wasn’t obvious until I looked it up halfway through the book. The book, however, assumes you’ve read it and doesn’t really elaborate on characters or locations. As such you’re immediately meant to accept that there’s a ghost cat that communicates with the main character and can also move objects. There’s an article I read a while back on how someone skipped a page in the ‘Catcher in the Rye’ at the beginning and the book changed the whole concept [I’ve not read the book so wouldn’t know]. I had a somewhat related experience with Girl on the Train though where I was wondering for most of the book if this wasn’t something in Rachel’s imagination, as I didn’t read anything of the description and so wasn’t sure of the genre. I suppose it’s akin to someone watching a random episode of Charmed having to take at face value that there are witches or watching Buffy and having to accept that vampires are a thing.

So far the dislike of the book is my own fault – the length and the fact I didn’t read the prequel on how she came about the cottage and, I presume, the cat. As it happens, Phantom is actually a clever name for a ghost cat.

The rest of the book didn’t do much for me either though and I doubt I would have finished it in a timely manner, had it not been for how short it is. The characters weren’t developed enough, I couldn’t figure out the time period except for the bit where they actually mentioned dates, and the overall mystery was bland with the full explanation given after the fact. It wasn’t just cozy, it was just too straightforward and every action and conversation could have been summed up with ‘character did/say breezily’ thus skipping over any depth. The only character who held my interest was the ghost cat whom, at this point, I’m probably overselling. He’s no Salem on Sabrina, he’s just an apparition who appears at crucial points to deliver plot through knocking out an antagonist by dropping something on their head or by hissing at someone thus making it really obvious they’re evil.

Everything comes back around to the length: I think I would have really liked it had there been more depth to everything as the premise is fun, but equally that would make it another book and I only finished this because it was only 100 pages and I can hardly not finish something so short!

2/5 – Marking up for the premise which has so much potential, yet marking down for everything else. I would read another book in the series if it had more to it though.

[Goodreads link]

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Mostly indoors [Week 5] – #carocat2017

  • I’ve always loved the clothing of this brass wall hanging though am glad time has moved on and I don’t have to wear it! 29/365
  • Doodling doodles. 30/365
  • I’ve never seen such unusual plant leaves. [Look at me taking & posting pictures every day for a month!] 31/365
  • One of the creepiest outdoor decorations I’ve ever seen. It’s not meant to be creepy either, but nearly made me jump! 32/365
  • Reading the Brexit white paper. Poor Kindle. 33/365
  • My trusty iPod Classic. Ten years old now and completely scratched, but still works and holds over 24 hours charge! 34/365
  • It’s probably because I’ve been reading FSOG & similar ones recently, but ‘x is mine’ really grates on me. 35/365 @SatScenes

Between bad weather and a lot to do I’ve not really managed to get out as much as I’d have liked and a lot of pictures are from around the house.

The Saturday picture [35] was the first one since the beginning of the year where I’d not actually taken a better picture – that snap was meant to be just one of many I take, but when I went through it a few days later, I didn’t have any more for the day.

I still have to remind myself throughout the day to make sure I have taken a picture that I wouldn’t mind sharing. As I’ve said before somewhere, I take sometimes dozens of pictures in a day, but at least 95% don’t go anywhere. I have three alerts on my phone each day reminding me to take a picture: 8am, 1.37pm, and 10.05pm. Usually one of those will prompt me to look through and see if I can use any of the ones I’ve already taken and, if not, I’ll snap something around me. This week there are a few of the latter ones: 29, 30, 34.

The creepy decoration I actually saw a couple weeks before [when it scared me so much that I jumped!], but I didn’t take a picture and then wasn’t too sure where it was so walking past it again this week was a stroke of luck I guess? It’s actually some sort of bird face thing and I’m pretty sure the owners didn’t intend for it to be seen as creepy!

As for the Brexit white paper: Don’t bother, it’s devoid of meaningful content.

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Review: The Stalker by Sally Spencer/Alan Rustage

I fell for it: I discounted the perpetrator based on two comments in the book and I am really annoyed with myself! Some spoilers follow, but not the main reveals.

This was a really good book. I like investigative books and I particularly like whodunnits and deducting myself as to who the perpetrator could be. With the many books and TV show episodes of Poirot and Midsomer Murders that I’ve watched, I think I usually deduct the motive and killer in about 80% of cases which is why I’m so annoyed I fell for something obvious here!

The book is told from various POVs: Beth – a single lawyer mother whose husband committed suicide a year or so prior to the book, Detective Sam Brody who investigates her for a case, and the ‘angel’ who is her stalker. The stalker isn’t just a stalker, but also goes out of his way to make life easier for Beth for reasons I’m not really quite clear about. His narrative starts off with an infatuation of her but quickly changes to religious babble. He has issues with women going all the way back to his teens when he found his mother in bed with the neighbour and the angel killed her which I am very sure I’ve seen almost word for word in an episode of Cold Case or similar before.

The book continues to pull out tropes from the white cop and his chilled-out black partner to the overworked lawyer mother and the secondary characters. To continue the TV shows theme, it feels like you’re in an 80s or maybe 90s cop/detective show: it’s good, but it’s before TV moved away from being too cliched.

There are enough potential suspects that at one point I even considered keeping a handwritten list to keep track of arguments for or against their guilt. Turns out there are enough hints and false clues throughout the book and a lot of the people were actually guilty, albeit not of being the stalker. The writing is solid and I was drawn in from the prologue which is the first bit told from the stalker’s POV.

carocat2017-36-small

The stalker was actually the second person I suspected [I remember the scene], but he was also the first one I discounted based on two comments in the book. This is why statements can’t be believed and everything needs checking!

I find it curious that this is meant to be the first book in a series around the detective who I feel didn’t really get top billing. The first half of the book mostly centers around Beth and the latter part around the three of them. If anything I would have thought the series to continue Beth’s story, though maybe future books will continue to the multiple POVs narrative which would certainly be something different.

Lastly, this book was hugely satisfying for another reason!

the-stalker-book

4/5 – This was a surprisingly good book.

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Lots of walking in either great or grey weather [Week 4] – #carocat2017

  • One of my favourite pictures I’ve taken in a while – walking along the Weser on Sunday. Just look at that sky! 22/365
  • The difference a day makes – view to the hidden Klüt hill on Monday vs the day before. 23/365
  • Many shades of grey! 24/365
  • Trying to inject colour into dreary weathered days through the means of fruits! 25/365
  • I really like the sentiment behind this [though wish it wasn’t an advert for cigarettes..]! 26/365
  • I’m in my 30s and still amazed by stunning sunsets [some sunrises, too]. Will I ever tire of seeing something like this? 27/365
  • Panoramic views over #Hameln from the Klüt hill from last Saturday. More pictures. 28/365

I managed to get in a lot of walking this week: 103k steps over 69km. I went up the Klüt hill twice and blogged about it here and here.

The weather was mixed between really dark grey skies all day [the 24th picture was taken during mid-afternoon, it never really got much brighter that day!] and amazing weather, such as the 28th when I went up the Klüt.

I really love the 22nd picture and I’ve now used it for my Twitter header, too.

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Review: Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell

I’d first read and loved the Kay Scarpetta series as a teenager, devouring the books as they came out all the way up until around 2005 when life happened and I generally stopped reading. In order to pick it back up I’d been planning to re-read the series to refresh my memory, though why I think this was a great idea considering how badly John Grisham’s or Sidney Sheldon’s books have fared over time I do not know. Spoilers follow.

Kay Scarpetta’s novels have a set of fixed main characters: her own character of Chief Medical Examiner, the cop Marino, the FBI profiler Benton, and the young niece Lucy. There are also a bunch of office staff, a housekeeper, and family in another state. I loved Benton’s first arrival and remembering catching myself smiling wide when I realised it was him, especially as I thought he wouldn’t be arriving until a later book. The tech is hilariously outdated to the point where I couldn’t not eye roll over another gushing sentence containing floppy discs or IBM machines.

I had never realised how differently written the books are. Postmortem essentially takes place over maybe 15 long conversations padded either side with some minor descriptions. Some conversations are between people other than Scarpetta, such as the one where Marino interviewed the husband of Lori Peterson which is relayed through Marino bringing her the tape. Others are straightforward investigative brainstorming, such as Benton and Scarpetta, and the ones between Marino and Scarpetta are a balance of getting to know and uncomfortable truths, especially the one about Bill.

Kay Scarpetta is a woman in a male-dominated field and it’s referred to a couple of times, such as:

I was one of four women in my class at Hopkins. I was too naive in the beginning to realize what was happening. The sudden creaking of chairs and loud shuffling of paper when a professor would call on me were not coincidence. It was not chance when old tests made the rounds but were never available to me. The excuses – “You wouldn’t be able to read my writing” or “Someone else is borrowing them right now” – were too universal when I went from student to student on the few occasions I missed a lecture and needed to copy someone else’s notes. I was a small insect faced with a formidable male network web in which I might be ensnared but never a part.
Isolation is the cruelest of punishments, and it had never occurred to me that I was something less than human because I wasn’t a man. One of my female classmates eventually quit, another suffered a complete nervous breakdown. Survival was my only hope, success my only revenge.

She’s divorced, without children, and married to her job having risen up in the ranks all the while having to prove herself because she’s a woman which which to my teenage self was inspiring though perhaps not the divorced part!

However, I never picked up on her views of Marino and it’s spoilt my opinion of her. As the novel is told from her point of view we see a lot of her characterisation of Marino, such as:

  • I wasn’t sure if he didn’t like women, or if he just didn’t like me.
  • He was hard to read, and I’d never decided if he was a good poker player or simply slow.
  • He was exactly the sort of detective I avoided when given a choice – a cock of the walk and absolutely unreachable.
  • It was idle speculation to go back to the beginning and try to figure out what had gone wrong. Occasionally I thought about it anyway. What it was about me. I had been polite to Marino the first time we met, had offered him a firm and respectful handshake while his eyes went as flat as two tarnished pennies.

Being disappointed with a role model is an odd sensation. It’s an even odder sensation when it’s a fictional role model and when you didn’t even realise they were one in the first place. Turns out that Kay Scarpetta was one of mine and re-reading Postmortem may have been a mistake. There is no warmth to her character and it all feels very clinical.

The story itself is engrossing, in fact the whole book is. Horrific and calculated murders by an unknown assailant are guaranteed to add an edge. The actual solving of the crime was entirely based on luck and instead of detailing the methods to catch the guy, the crimes were left as easy infodump exposition at the end of the book after his death. This seems odd in a series which is all about the methodical gathering of evidence by a medical examiner! The guy would not have been caught had he not been provoked, however, the provocation and everything else was left to so much chance – I would have expected him to have commited plenty more murders out of spite and I don’t think I’d have blamed him.

I clearly read this as someone who knew the story and the characters which is probably clouding my judgement a bit. I knew the husband wasn’t the killer and didn’t provide any info except the smell which rendered his entirely long interview pointless. I knew the handsoap and the lit up traces were important but going through the lengthy discovery wasn’t necessary something I needed. Knowing the book allowed me to really focus on the writing though. The dialogue flowed well and never didn’t feel natural. The descriptions were enough without being overbearing and the book flowed well between sections.

5/5 – With all that I have written I feel it wouldn’t be a 5/5, but this is a great book and my dislike of the book is in credit on how good it is and how complex the characters are. I really hope the other books in the series continue to be this great.

My Goodreads updates:

  • 01/22 26.0%
    – Scarpetta is a cool aunt: pouring ten year old Lucy a glass of wine!
    – Benton’s arrival actually made me smile broadly – I’d not remembered him turning up in the first book!
    – The husband interrogation scene took way too long, but felt really organic. I think this is why I love Patricia Cornwell’s writing.
    – I am remembering bits and pieces from when I first read it.
    – A lot of foreshadowing.
  • 01/23 48.0%
    – I’d not realised before how different her style is – so far the book has mostly consisted of very long dialogues.
    – Who is Bill and why don’t I remember him especially as he seems so nice!
    – I don’t think I understand Scarpetta’s dislike of Marino, seems overly harsh at times.
  • 01/24 60.0%
    – I now remember why I didn’t remember Bill.
    – Marino helping Scarpetta makes no sense with their relationship
    – The way Scarpetta/Cornwell is gushing about computers I’m really looking forward to the next books in the series when technology advances.
  • 01/25 74.0%
    I’d forgotten how uncomfortable her scenes can be – the last 14% were pretty much just the Abby Turnbull scene followed by the Marino one in the car [though most of theirs seem to be in the car!]. Very uncomfortable listening.
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Snow and some travelling [Week 3] – #carocat2017

  • Sunrise after snowfall is usually quite pretty. 15/365
  • Snow covered old cemetery in #Hameln. 16/365
  • Pieces of the Berlin wall on the #Giessen train station square, adapted by art collective. More info here. 17/365
  • The ‘oh crap, I can’t use any other pictures for my daily picture as they include people not on the internet’ picture. 18/365
  • Snowy landscapes near Göttingen. [Yes, that’s train window glare] 19/365
  • I’d been looking for a small bag to store cables etc for travel for ages. Found it at @FlyingTigerDe. I love the slogan! 20/365
  • Realising late in the evening that I’ve not been wearing my Fitbit all day. 21/365

I went down to Hessen on the train for a few days this week to catch up with a friend. There was even more snow there than here and the countryside visible from the train was magical.

I only spent a little bit of time in Giessen and don’t think I had ever been there before. The town centre was an odd mix of shops and felt a bit disjointed and the shopping centre felt very soulless. I think I expected a bit more seeing it’s a well-known university town though it’s also possible that I didn’t give it enough of a chance perhaps.

I can’t remember the last time I’d seen my friend, we both did the mental maths on that and came up with 2014 though I think it may have been before that. Our friendship is different in the sense that we’ve never kept constant contact and have gone many months without speaking, but everything feels completely natural when we do meet up or talk.

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The Klüt hill in Hameln

klut-panoramaClick for full sized image.

On Saturday I went up the Klüt hill in Hameln. I had tried to the previous weekend, but a mix of bad weather and it being too late in the day meant I had only made it halfway then. Overall the trip was 15km over 22k steps. The actual part around the hill was 5.4km and I was out of the house for around five hours.

klut-roundtripThe path up was incredibly steep and halfway up I questioned my wisdom of walking up the very steep ‘shortcut’ which was still completely snowed in instead of, you know, taking the sensible longer way. Just below the tower I did actually loose my footing and did a bit of a clumsy climb holding on to snow with my hands. It’s one of those ‘you need to have been there to understand’ kind of moments. I think this path would be lovely with no snow and am looking to go up it again then. Otherwise, it actually is dangerous and, seeing how I am not an expert at this, I really shouldn’t have done it as I could have seriously harmed myself all for having a shorter walk.

View towards Pyrmont The view from the top is breathtaking on both sides and the sunshine on the day was gorgeous plus there was enough crisp white untouched snow to turn everything into some kind of winter wonderland. The tower and the walkway were restored a few years back and are pretty and apparently the tower is open during some summer days. There’s also a hotel next to it which is currently between owners. Waking up to these views would be surreal!

The Klüt tower and a walkway

There are meant to be some remnants from an old fort around the tower and the overall area, however, due to the snow I couldn’t see that nor any historical monuments. The snow, whilst nice and pretty, isn’t great for seeing things like that!

Walking away from the tower is a long road to the Forsthaus Finkenborn which is a country pub/restaurant next to a massive playground which had over 30 children playing there on the day. There is also a section with several outdoor climbing walls. From there is another long and winding road back down the hill.

There are a lot of info panels around paths about the trees, upkeep, history, and animal life aimed at both children and adults. It was a little bit too cold to read them all, but there’d be enough up there for more than one trip. I really liked that the area was clearly looked after well.

There are a few other hills around here plus a lot of the Klüt that I didn’t get to see and I’m looking forward to exploring all of that!

These are some of the pictures I took in the order of the walk. There are also pictures of the lower section of the hill on last week’s post. Continue reading

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