What I Did on the Weekend (Saturday and Sunday)

Saturday took a different path to the one we’d expected. Instead of another day in Canberra and a visit to the swap meet we decided to have a look at lap tops and tablets at the local computer shop.
We’ve been connected to the National Broadband Network for about a week now, and will be paying for the internet access it provides whether we use it or not. Until recently we’d never had the internet at home, and we wanted to see some of the options available. Our home computer is about 7 years old and not compatible to the Wi-Fi connection provided through the NBN.

The salesman was surprisingly helpful and was able to explain things simply without any confusing, show-off computer-speak. He worked out prices for the two options we favoured and we went away to decide between them. Later that day we returned and bought a laptop, anti-virus software, and Microsoft Office.

We went home, eager to set it all up.

But!

Firstly instead of merely turning on a computer that was immediately usable (as had been the case with previous computer purchases) we had to go through a registration and set-up process. It seemed simple enough, but took longer than I liked. Part of the process was selecting the kind of “English” keyboard layout we wanted. Foolishly I selected UK English, not realising that I wasn’t choosing something associated with spelling, where a choice for American English would have given me the foreign versions of English that are becoming increasingly and annoyingly common even outside of the USA.

Instead I was choosing a keyboard layout that meant the @ and ” keys were reversed. Annoyingly it seems like its a selection I have to correct every time I turn on the computer. The UK Keyboard layout has been made the default and I can’t seem to change that setting.

And then I had to try installing the anti-virus. I won’t go into detail, but I tried unsuccessfully several times before I realised I was following the MAC instructions instead of those for PC. That realisation didn’t help because I couldn’t find the PC instructions on the installation leaflet. By the time I realised I could go no further the computer shop was closed, so I had to put it all aside and wait until the next day to try and get the problems resolved.

I had a very restless night. I easily get stressed about technology that doesn’t seem to work as easily as it should. The next day I took everything back and after an hour with the salesman, most of the issues were resolved and I could return home to start using the new computer. (I still had to install Microsoft Office – something that presented a few new problems, but nothing I couldn’t eventually work out for myself).

We’ve now had home internet for about three days, and have realised that we weren’t missing out on a lot by not having it.

We’ve watched several YouTube videos. I’ve played around with my emails and blogs. We’ve checked the weather and viewed the weather radar, watching rain approach our town on screen before hearing it on the roof.

Overall there’s not been a lot that we’ve been able to do with it yet.
We don’t paly games, we’re not interested in Netflix, there’s no one to Skype… but it will make things easier when I’m away from work. I can keep my email inbox cleared, so I don’t return to countless unread messages after two or three weeks.

One of the few immediate benefits was being able to subscribe to Sarah Ward’s newsletter. I tried to do it from my work computer, but my employers security system didn’t like the subscription site. Newsletter subscribers are sent occasional short stories by Sarah. That’s something I’m looking forward to receiving.

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What I Did on the Weekend. (Friday)

I remember in my very early school days, when my class were developing basic writing proficiency, we had to write short accounts with the title “What I did on the weekend”.

As I rarely did anything really interesting on weekends, I sometimes embellished my reports – occasionally with embarrassing results.
One of these times was when I spun a story about a burning piece of coal falling from the grate onto the hearthside rug, starting a fire at home that needed a visit from the fire brigade.

Classmates shared the exciting story with their parents who later, either expressed their concern about the averted emergency, or berated me for being a liar. I don’t remember what happened when the story got back to my parents – but I suspect they wouldn’t have been too upset about me stretching the truth for a school writing exercise.

The only other thing I remember writing about (and this time it was a GENUINE experience) was when I saw my very first helicopter, a rarity around my childhood home at that time. These days’ living next door to a hospital, low flying helicopters are reasonably frequent.

Those memories, stirred up by my title, have nothing to do with what I intended to write. What did I do last weekend?

Firstly, it was a long weekend because I also had Friday off.
Gloria and I had intended to stay overnight in Canberra on Friday, so we could attend a “swap meet” on Saturday morning. For those unfamiliar with that term, it’s a kind of trash and treasure market where we’ve seen a lot of rusty car parts but have also found some interesting collectables (art glass, porcelain, militaria).

We had been anticipating this weekend for many months and I booked a hotel room several weeks ago – but as we got closer to the date of the swap meet the weather forecast became a concern, with predictions of rain and possible storms. At the beginning of the week we therefore decided to forget about the market, and I cancelled the overnight accommodation. Instead we made our time in Canberra a day trip (a four hour drive there and back).

For some time I’d been trying to visit a second hand bookshop in one of Canberra’s suburbs, but on recent visits the owner had been sick and the shop remained closed. This time, after a couple of months, it was open again and I was able to look for some of the books on my personal wish-list.
I was happy to find four books by the authors on my list, but what made their discovery even more exciting was the fact the books were the ones I wanted most – books that bridged a gap in the sequence of a series of stories I’ve been reading, or wanted to read.

Books I found:
Sinister Intent, Karen M Davis. First book by Davis. I’d already purchased a new copy of her second book and had tried to order a copy of this one. however after making the purchase online, the bookseller contacted me to say that they couldn’t guarantee a timely fulfilment of the order, so allowed me to cancel it. The copy I found was the same edition that I’d tried to order, an edition that may now be out of print.

Still Midnight, Denise Mina. I haven’t read anything by Mina, but have heard some radio interviews with her. This is the first book in one of the series she’s written, so I thought it would be a good introduction to her work, without having to spend more on something I potentially might not like.

Deity, Steven Dunne. The third of Dunne’s books. I’ve already finished the first two and this one was on my wish list to follow up in the future. At this stage there are other books on my list with a higher priority, but I couldn’t miss the chance of getting a cheap copy now. Dunne is one of my recent discoveries of writers basing work in Derbyshire. His settings are in Derby itself, only 12 or so miles from where I used to live.

The Devil’s Edge, Stephen Booth. Another writer with a Derbyshire setting. I’ve bought several of his books so far, about half new and half second hand. There are so many to get that I feel justified not buying them all new.
If affordable, and still in print, I prefer to buy new so the author doesn’t miss out on the tiny portion of royalties they’d get from my purchases.

From the Midlands to the North and then Further North Again.

This week I finished Sarah Ward’s A Deadly Thaw, and posted a review of it yesterday. I loved the book but not my review.

I’ve now started Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves, and I can easily see how her work helped draw me into crime fiction. She has an exceptional talent for telling story through character and place.

The first episode of the Vera TV series was based on this book.
I saw it a few weeks ago and was disappointed. I later saw other episodes based on books I’d already read and found them disappointing too. They cut and changed the stories far too much and didn’t capture the heart of Cleeves’ books.

That all changed when the series moved on to original stories with the same characters. They work far better than the adaptations and I’ve enjoyed the few original stories that I’ve seen so far.

I’m now most of the way through Shetland series two, another drama based on Cleeves’ characters. The first season was all adapted from published books, and in my opinion they were far better than the Vera adaptations. While there are still considerable differences between book and TV show, the first Shetland series worked for me.

Like Vera, the second Shetland series moves into original story territory and so far it has me hooked. I have two episodes to go, so I can only hope that the quality is retained right up to the final story resolution.

After I started Hidden Depths, my copy of Sarah Ward’s third book, A Patient Fury arrived in the mail. If it had come a little earlier I think I would have jumped right into that book, continuing my Derbyshire journey with Detectives Sadler and Childs. However I know I still have that to look forward to – and then there will be a long wait for book four, currently being edited.

I still have another route available on that Derbyshire trip, with the second novel by Stephen Booth, Dancing With the Virgins waiting on my bookshelves. I enjoyed Black Dog , a book I wrote about at the beginning of November (here) and have since started to order his subsequent books.

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For more I’ve written on TV adaptations of Ann Cleeves’ books see here:
https://outshadows.wordpress.com/2017/11/02/ann-cleeves-book-and-screen/

A Deadly Thaw, by Sarah Ward

A Deadly Thaw starts with the discovery of a murder victim. Clearly nothing out of the ordinary for a crime story, however DI Sadler recognises the victim as Andrew Fisher, a man who’d been murdered 10 years earlier, so how could his fresh body be there at this new crime scene?

Obvious questions arise. Who was the original victim? How did his real identity remain unknown? And where has the current victim been for the past ten years before being murdered “again”?

Lena Gray, wife of the victim, newly released from a jail term for the first murder is the only one with the answers, and yet, as soon as her “resurrected” husband’s recent murder comes to light, she disappears.

Is she now responsible for killing the man she was thought to have murdered a decade before?

This book follows a similar format to Sarah Ward’s previous book, alternating the police investigation with the story of another character who has family connections to the crime, in this case Lena’s sister Kat. It’s an effective technique that keeps us in mind of the human cost of the situation, so that the book‘s appeal remains much more than an intriguing legal puzzle to be solved.

We also see more of the personal lives of detectives Sadler, Palmer and Childs, how they become affected by a case, and also how their work on a case can be affected by their non-work related interactions.

Another feature the books have in common is the way the past and present both collide. In this book suppressed secrets are drawn out to the cost of victims, perpetrators and investigators alike. As one character says towards the end:

“Mistakes from our past are coming back to haunt us.”

The further I got into the book, the more I loved it. As the various seemingly unrelated strands started to come together, the pace increased incrementally to a satisfyingly unforeseen conclusion.
Along the way the story addresses some very serious issues related to the neglect of responsible authority, as well as the abuse and misuse of power.
These matters have become prominently topical in recent news reports.

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More information on Sarah Ward’s website:

https://crimepieces.com/a-deadly-thaw-praise-and-reviews/

Phone Problems and Disrupted Crime Reading

Yesterday I was looking forward to finishing the last few chapters of Sarah Ward’s second book, A Deadly Thaw.
I’d been reading it over the weekend and had to put it down just as I reached that final climactic section where everything was starting to be resolved and revealed to the reader.

But my plans were disrupted by my phone company who were very unhelpful when we found we no longer had a working phone service at home.
I more or less spent a whole day at work trying to contact our service provider to speak to someone who was willing and able to help. At lunch time I even had to drive home to try something one of the customer service people suggested (a 30 km round trip) – and then, when it didn’t fix the problem I had to return to the office and try to contact them again.

After all of that I didn’t have the time or the desire to pick up my book. Fortunately, at about 8pm the phone rang and a technician from the phone company advised me that the issue with the phone service had been resolved.

I won’t go into all of the annoying details of the hours of wrestling with their customer service department. All I can hope is that our phone problems are behind us, and that tomorrow I can get back to my book and complete what has been an increasingly enjoyable reading experience.

Hopefully I can write a “review” of the book in a day or two.

In Bitter Chill, by Sarah Ward

In the late 1970s, two girls go missing after accepting a ride to school from an unkown woman. One girl reappears some time later, with no memory of what happened. The other is never seen again. Decades later, on the anniversary of the disappearance, the missing girl’s mother commits suicide.

Now an adult, the surviving girl Rachel Jones, wants to find out how current events may relate to the mysteries of her past.

Local police are drawn into Rachel’s situation when a body is discovered; a murder victim possibly connected to those childhood events and the recent suicide.

Ward is a reviewer of crime fiction and this is her first book. She has created Bampton, a town in the Derbyshire Peaks to be the setting of her work. She has described how she created Bampton to reflect different aspects of real Peak towns and elements of those towns have been built into the fabric of her fictional location. (see * below)

She also introduces her readers to the town’s investigating detectives who will feature in her subsequent books. Connie Childs is a young Detective Constable given the task of revisiting the investigation into the decades’ old missing girl case, to see if anything was overlooked in previous investigations that might shed light on the recent events.

Similar to the first few Ann Cleeves’ books that set me on my crime fiction journey, the point of view of others in the community complements the police narrative. The book switches between the official investigation and the personal impact on the victims and others who find themselves caught up in the events, telling a story where community and family relationships are no less significant than solving the crimes that draw its characters together.

 

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I’ve now taken care of the last of my Christmas shopping. After reading In Bitter Chill, I ordered copies of Ward’s first two books for my mum and have ordered hardcover copies of all her books (three to date) for myself.

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* https://www.thebooktrail.com/authorsonlocation-fact-fiction-sarah-ward/

https://crimepieces.com/in-bitter-chill-praise-and-reviews/

The Disciple, by Steven Dunne

This is a very good sequel to Dunne’s first book, The Reaper, effectively rounding out the story started in that debut, but I’m not sure how it would work as a stand alone novel.

Having read The Reaper very recently, I found it easy to follow the continuing and developing story, but I think a lot needs to be known from the previous book to make this one work for the reader.

DI Damen Brook is drawn back into the world of the killer he named “the Reaper” when he becomes involved in two separate murder investigations that have clear links to earlier Reaper cases.
Are they copycat killings? Or were his earlier beliefs about the Reaper’s identity wrong?
And considering both cases have strong links to Brook himself, should the reader consider the possibility of his potential involvement in the murders?

Like the earlier book, The Disciple spans two time periods, linked by the man Brook has suspected of being the serial killer.
In this book the earlier time period also includes a shift of location, where a historical murder investigation in the US potentially becomes part of the increasingly complex “Reaper” story.
As in the first book, this one differentiates the time periods with different type face. In this case the American sections were in bold type. Personally I don’t like the technique, but it might work for others. I think I would have preferred the same typeface throughout.

While community fear would be the logical outcome of the apparent return of a brutal murderer, the response is very different. The killer has only targeted those who’ve been holding the community to ransom through violence, theft or general abusive, threatening behaviour. The killer’s work ironically makes those communities feel safer and the Reaper becomes a kind of folk hero to those who have been saved from the thuggery of not-so-petty criminals.
Where the legal system seems to fail, and where society increasingly turns away from any idea of ultimate Divine retribution, The Reaper carries out the justice desired by the community at large, but considering how widespread the desire for “justice” has become, how can the Reaper meet the growing need?