Winters, Ben H. Countdown City.

Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2013.

What exactly does “civilization” mean when it’s a sure thing that a direct asteroid strike is going to put the Earth out of its misery in seventy-seven days? Is there any point in trying to enforce the law, or even to enforce civility? So what if someone commits murder? He’s going to be punished soon enough anyway, along with everyone else.

(more…)

Lippman, Laura. Charm City.

NY: Avon, 1997.

This was the author’s second novel, and the second featuring Baltimore native Tess Monaghan, who was an up-and-coming newspaper reporter until two years ago, when the paper was sold and she was laid off, along with nearly all the rest of the existing staff.

(more…)

Knowles, Elizabeth. How to Read a Word.

Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010.

A great many books have been published over the past fifty years alone on the origin and meaning of various unusual English words, phrases, and idioms. I know, because I’ve read probably most of them.

(more…)

Published in: on 24 December 2013 at 10:02 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Robinson, Peter. Watching the Dark.

NY: Morrow, 2013.

DCI Alan Banks, originally of London but a resident of the East Yorkshire dales for twenty years now, is a copper’s copper. He can be a nuisance to his superiors and is often a trial to his colleagues, but he’s a first-rate homicide detective who gets results, and the whole county knows it. The story this time opens with the murder (by crossbow yet) of DI Bill Quinn who was undergoing some therapeutic work at a police treatment and recovery center near Eastvale.

(more…)

Fields, Nic. Carthaginian Warrior, 264-146 BC. (Warrior series, 150)

Botley, Oxford: Osprey, 2010.

Osprey has published a great many books of military history in a large number of series, none of which runs more than 96 pages (many are half that length), and they’ve been mostly successful in providing generally well-written overviews of individual battles or campaigns, or military units.

(more…)

Published in: on 18 December 2013 at 7:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Grafton, Sue. W Is for Wasted.

NY: Putnam, 2013.

Well, Grafton is working her way down to the end of this thirty-year series now. You have to wonder if she understood what she was getting into back in 1982. The early part of the series was pretty good, when Kinsey Millhone and the reader existed in more or less the same continuum of the mid-1980s. Each book picks up shortly after the previous one left off, though, so while the reader has moved well into the next century, Kinsey has progressed only as far as 1988.

(more…)

Published in: on 15 December 2013 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Jones, Nigel. Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London.

NY: St. Martin, 2011.

I have a longstanding interest in both English history and the medieval period generally, so it follows that my focus is generally on the Norman dynasty, from the Conquest to the coming of the Angevins. I manage to get to London for a visit every few years and on almost every occasion, I make time to wander through the Tower (timing it to avoid the tide of tourists), the most visible and best-maintained Norman structure in Europe.

(more…)

Sykes, Christopher Simon. The Golden Age of the Country House.

NY: Mayflower Books, 1980.

The English country house was a major social institution among the upper classes for a couple of centuries, up to World War I, when society and national political and economic life changed rapidly and dramatically. Because the aristocracy basically ran things, weekend parties at the country house had political consequences, too.

(more…)

Swierczynski, Duane. The Blonde.

NY: St. Martin, 2006.

Jack Eisley, Chicago newspaperman, is drinking boilermakers at the airport bar in Philadelphia, trying to find the energy to go find his hotel and the backbone to face his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s high-powered divorce lawyer in the morning. And then the attractive blonde with whom he’s passing the time says, “I poisoned your drink.”

(more…)

Lovesey, Peter. The Summons.

NY: Mysterious Press, 1995.

Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond of Bath was an old-fashioned sort of copper. Not a bobby-on-the-village-green type, certainly, but he solved cases through careful, plodding investigation, with a specialty in interviewing witnesses and suspects. Besides, he’s terrible with any technology more complex than shoelaces, and he was always quick to point out to colleagues just how unreliable computers are.

(more…)

Published in: on 2 December 2013 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,