The Distant Echo by Val McDermid

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There are definite echoes of A Place of Execution here: a two part story of the investigation into the death of Rosie Duff, a nineteen year old found stabbed to death just before Christmas 1978 in St Andrews. Four students drunk on their way home from a party find her in the snow and become the chief suspects. Nothing can ever be proved and twenty five years later, 2003, the cold case is reopened.

I like books like this a lot; seeing people in two different ages and seeing how they change in themselves and how their relationships change. And then seeing how the unsolved murder has affected all of their lives makes a great character study.

As with A Place of Execution it’s quite possible to see the twist coming without it spoiling the story for you. I like the fact that the clues are all fair and above board. It seems a bit obvious in places but mostly that’s just hiding the fact that McDermid is being very devious indeed.

Well worth a read.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.
Purchased on 20th April 2003.

Death in Holy Orders by PD James

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I get annoyed with PD James because of the feeling that surrounds her that says that she’s head and shoulders better than every other crime writer around. That and the fact that she only writes about terribly posh people as if that’s all there is in the world. This is a version of the very traditional English detective story – deaths in a small community where only an insider can be guilty. The story is nothing terribly inventive and there are a hundred crime writers out there writing tales set around much better plots.

The characters here are pretty well drawn though; I find them all slightly unbelievable just because of who they are but they do appear real all the same. There’s a sense that James is taking the mickey out of herself when someone comments that not all of the twenty students at the theological college the book is set at have had priviledged upbringings – one of them actually came through the state school system.

I haven’t read any James for quite a while, apart from rereading the two Cordelia Grey books on audio last year, I read most of them as a teenager and I’m not sure I’d be able to put up with the characters for long enough to read them all again now. I always find Inspector Kate Miskin to be a shadow of what she could be. Her background is one of poverty and working her way up the ranks of the Met and it never rings true. Kate sometimes feels out of place in the circles Dalgleish moves in, both social and literary, but I always feel she’s just been put in for show. Perhaps it’s just that at the end of the day she is the sidekick and Dalgleish is the main attraction but I do wish James had made her more than she has.

This isn’t a bad book just not a terribly exciting, interesting or innovative one.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.
Purchased on 24th April 2003.

The Mortal Sickness by Andrew Taylor

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This is the second volume in the Lydmouth series and had more depth to it than the first volume. Along with the central church based setting this felt more of the Roth Trilogy than An Air That Kills did.

Jill Francis is now permanently based at the Lydmouth Gazette, though she’s still staying with the paper’s owner and editor, Charlotte and Philip Wemyss-Brown. Charlotte’s politeness and care of Jill whilst wanting her out of the house at the same time portrays English manners very well to me. I presume the series is heading to the point where Jill gets involved with the married Inspector Thornhill and I’m a bit disappointed that Thornhill’s wife Edith isn’t featured more though perhaps letting the reader be sympathetic towards her (as she seemed quite nice to me in the first book) wouldn’t make too much sense.

I don’t remember any of the other characters I haven’t mentioned here from the first book but I hope some of the characters here recur in future books. I especially enjoyed meeting the vicar’s wife, Mary Sutton, who I think would make a good friend for Jill.

I did think the plot was a bit over busy with characters at some points though I had forgotten about the cast list in the front that would have helped me keep them straight. The only other thing that bugged me in the book really was the exceptionally short chapters and the division of the book into nine parts. This seemed to give the book a structure but I didn’t grasp what the structure was. Usually when a book has several parts there is an obvious change in the emphasis of the story or the narration from one part to another but here I didn’t have a clue as to why each part was demarcated from the previous part.

All in all a decent and enjoyable read though.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.
Purchased on 1st April 2003.


this science puzzle from the bbc is like a history/logical test combined with a game of simon; i’m never going to get the full 16 to go green!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

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The BBCs recent Big Read project brought up a few missing volumes in ‘things I think I ought to have read’; there are plenty of the 100 books chosen that I have no interest in reading, and then there are others, like Jane Eyre, that I’m not quite sure how I’ve managed to avoid reading.

I did read the beginning of this as a child up to the point where Jane skips quickly from being a ten year old to being an eighteen year old. Jane’s schooldays were fascinating to me and I reread them any number of times but at the time I wasn’t much interested in the life of a post-eighteen year old adult. I’ve at last remedied the situation and read the rest of the book. I thought that I pretty much knew the story anyway but there was plenty that was new to me.

One of the problems with having read The Eyre Affair first is that I kept expecting Japanese tourists to pop up whenever Jane wandered outside but if anything the antics that that conjures up in my head makes the book even better.

The best book ever? I’m not sure, but certainly one of the best.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

better piccies

i’m going through all my photo albums and converting them to use the photopal script – it doesn’t do everything i’d like but it’s a lot closer to what i’d like than anything i feel like writing myself at the moment.

a couple of things i’d like to add on to it are the ability to set the date of albums and photos off something other than the file dates. when i download pics from my camera and to my web server they always get new dates and i’ve still got another 50 odd albums to go through and ‘touch -t’ to the right dates. that probably wouldn’t be a major annoyance if i didn’t have such a quantity of albums to jiggle with. and the other thing is i’d like an easy way to add long descriptions to photos as well as short titles. though i’ve not even added any short titles yet. and i might prefer to do long descriptions that fit in with the spiralling mass of code that runs the rest of this site.

anyway, now i like the look of things more i’m planning to sort my scotland photos from a couple of weeks ago out soon and post them.

A Perfect Match by Jill McGown

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Small, but pretty well formed. I liked the look of a couple of the later books in the Lloyd & Hill series but received advice that the character development was such that it was a series worth making the effort to read in order so I’ve started at the first book.

There’s a good plot, nothing too deep or complicated, just enough complexity for a two hundred page book in fact. You don’t feel like things are being dragged out or too much is being squeezed into the last few pages. I like both the main police characters and am looking forward to seeing where McGown takes then. All in all a good start to a series.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.
Purchased on 8th May 2003.