Already Dead, Stephen Booth

already deadAlready Dead travels down multiple, seemingly unrelated story paths.

A possible murder investigation.

An adulterous relationship.

DS Ben Cooper on extended personal leave.

Dianne Fry seconded back to Edendale to replace him.

The events of the previous book have taken a serious toll. Cooper is unfit for work and has become reclusive, worrying his work colleagues.
While they investigate the suspicious death, Cooper conducts a more personal investigation that could lead to the end of his career. Or worse.

Booth takes the reader on this varied journey and then somehow is able to bring the seeming unrelated theads together in a surprising conclusion.

Even a good turn can have unexpected deadly consequences.

I particulalry like the following brief exchange between a potential witness and DS Fry.

Baird seemed to notice the hovering youth outside for the first time, and gestured to him irritably. The young man came in and handed him the file without a word.

‘Thank you, Aaron,’ he said.
He waited until the boy had gone, and grimaced at Fry. ‘Aaron, I ask you. Why do so many parents give their kids these ridiculous biblical names?’

Fry hesitated. ‘Perhaps they’ve never read the Bible and wouldn’t know a biblical name when they heard one, Nathan.’

‘You’re probably right. Ignorance is everywhere.’

Unlike previous books in this series there were no significant music references, however a historical note caught my attention and led me to investigate further to find out more. I wrote a bit about this in my previous post: the 1973 murder of Wendy Sewell in the Bakewell churchyard.

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Town With Blood On Its Hands

A real life Derbyshire case of justice denied, mentioned in the Stephen Booth book (Already Dead).

murder-in-the-graveyardIn trying to find out more about this murder case from 1973, that I first saw mentioned in Booth’s 2013 novel,  I discovered that a book about it was published only a couple of months ago and that there’s also recent podcast series available.

I’ve now ordered the book, (Murder in the Graveyard by Don Hale), and when I get the time I’ll try to access the podcast.

Here’s an old Guardian article about the case.

Guilty secrets of town with blood on its hands by Amelia Hill (11 Feb 2001)

Stephen Downing walked free last week, 27 years after being jailed for the murder of Wendy Sewell. His conviction is certain to be quashed. But if he is innocent, then who is guilty? Amelia Hill reports from Bakewell, which has known the truth all along.

For 27 years, the small town of Bakewell has been living with guilt. Children born long after the horrific events of that chilly, sunny day cheerfully rattle off the tale of the young woman with questionable morals who was murdered in the graveyard on the edge of town and how a gentle, mentally disabled boy was fitted up for the crime.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2001/feb/11/ameliahill.theobserver
I also found this documentary on YouTube.

Endurance, by Scott Kelly

… most problems aren’t rocket science, but when they are rocket science, you should ask a rocket scientist (Scott Kelly, Endurance)

endurance.pngThe first thing I want to say is that Scott Kelly’s book Endurance is probably the most informative book I’ve read about the present day space program, and one of the best books of any type that I’ve read in a long time.

Kelly’s account of his year on board the International Space Station (ISS) is fresh, and authentic, a significant contrast to the staged presentations that can be viewed from time to time when the Station crew interact with the public from space.

Starting out as a disengaged school student who hated study, Kelly’s life changed after reading Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. Inspired by that book, Kelly became determined to be a test pilot and then an astronaut. He needed to force himself to become a more engaged student to make sure the path he wanted to take would be open to him.

While most of the book is about Kelly’s record breaking stay on the ISS, in occasional chapters he also writes about the life journey he took to get there. From school days, through his military service and eventually his career with NASA.

Kelly’s identical twin brother Mark also became an astronaut, and Scott’s year in space gave NASA a unique opportunity to observe the effects of long-term space travel, enabling comparisons to be made between the genetically identical brothers to see what effect a year in space would have, and whether it would lead to any genetic changes.

43While aboard the Station, Kelly had numerous crewmates from a variety of backgrounds: Russian, Italian, Japanese, and British, living and working well with them all.
Daily life could be a challenge. He had regular struggles with the temperamental apparatus that removed carbon dioxide from the ISS atmosphere, and he started to recognise when it was malfunctioning by the symptoms he experienced whenever the CO2 level was high.

exp44

There were also occasional problems with the toilet facilities, which was not only an obvious inconvenience, but seriously compromised the reclamation of water in what was intended to be a closed water recycling system. All water, including urine and airborne moisture from perspiration is supposed to be purified and recycled as drinking water.
A saying I’ve come across a few times (though not in Kelly’s book) is the phrase “todays coffee becomes tomorrows coffee”.

The difficulties faced weren’t all technical. Having no means of laundering clothes, crew members were required to remain in the same clothing for as long as they could tolerate it, wearing underclothes for several days before throwing them in the garbage. Outer clothing was worn much longer.

exp45It might seem a strange comparison, but reading this book brought to mind The Wizard of Oz. While the business of space may have a certain “magic” to someone like me who grew up during the beginnings of the space program, Kelly’s book takes us behind the wizard’s curtain. Apart from problems with malfunctioning toilets and carbon dioxide scrubbers (and lack of laundering and bathing facilities),  Kelly’s space walks revealed the damage caused by micro-meteors to the exterior of the ISS, with serious pitting to the surface. Damage that would have fatal consequences to an astronaut  should it happen during an excursion outside.

46While there have been countless amazing scientific and engineering achievements, at times the space program isn’t always as controlled and organised as the space agencies may like the public to think. So much relies on chance – such as the unexpected appearance of an old satellite  in the same orbit but in heading in the opposite direction to the ISS, presenting the imminent possibility of a catastrophic collision.

But even facing such a serious threat, appearances clearly needed to be maintained. Emergency procedures were interrupted for a scheduled PR link-up requiring astronauts to face an interview with an earth based group about more trivial topics. Then after the interview they continued the urgent preparations and  sought sanctuary in the station’s Soyuz capsule in case an emergency evacuation was required.

As his time on Station came to a close Kelly started to think about some of the things he missed – and he provides a quite moving list of very mundane experiences that most of us would take for granted, but to someone deprived of them for a year they have significance.

…I miss the sound of children playing, which always sounds the same no matter their language. I miss the sound of people talking and laughing in another room. I miss rooms. I miss doors and door frames and the creak of wood floorboards when people walk around in old buildings. I miss my couch, sitting on a chair, sitting on a bar stool…

One of the common experiences of those who spend time away from earth, viewing it from above, is the awareness of its fragility, and the lack of visible borders.

At one stage Kelly was interviewed by an American politician who seemed to be concerned about him sharing the ISS with a crew of Russians – as if their interaction could compromise US national security, or other American interests. Kelly was quick to point out that all of the ISS residents, no matter what their national origin relied on each other for their very lives, and would do whatever it takes to ensure each other’s welfare.

To those aboard ISS, maintaining the well-being and life of the crew was more important than political posturing.

… following the news from space can make Earth seem like a swirl of chaos and conflict, and that seeing the environmental degradation caused by humans is heartbreaking. I’ve also learned that our planet is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and that we’re lucky to have it. (Scott Kelly, Endurance)

Dead and Buried by Stephen Booth

Another Ben Cooper music reference, a regular part of Booth’s Cooper and Fry series. This song is about the landscape of the peak district, the setting of Booth’s books.

 

______

Dead and Buried starts in north Derbyshire moorland  with fire burning through the dry peat landscape.

dead and buriedInvestigations are reopened into the unsolved disappearance of a wealthy tourist couple when the fires help uncover new evidence.

Diane Fry has been transferred to a city based department, but along with her new senior officer is brought back to Edendale as part of a “serious crimes” investigation. Inevitably old difficulties are rekindled when she has to work with Ben Cooper again.

Those difficulties are exacerbated when Fry discovers the body of a murder victim in an isolated, abandoned pub that Cooper had intended to check out, before being distracted by the nearby firefighting efforts.

This is the 12th in the Cooper and Fry series, and while each book is self contained, with its own specific central crime investigation, there is an increasing overlap between books as relationships develop and characters grow.

In the past few weeks I’ve read four of the series one after the other, being drawn along by the ongoing lives of the characters. I suspect it won’t be long before I start the next book. This one has an almost cliff-hanger ending, with Ben Cooper having to face the life changing consequences of this current case.

When I wrote about the previous Stephen Booth book, I mentioned the mix-up with Diane Fry’s car, where the Peugeot she’d disposed of in book 10 made a reappearance in book 11. With Dead and Buried, Booth restores the new black Audi she’d bought to replace the Peugeot.

I’ve previously (as above) provided videos of Ben Cooper’s musical choices. For a change here’s a song from Diane Fry’s playlist.

Almost Heaven by Bettyann Holtzman Kevles (part 2)

America may have missed out on being the first to send a woman into space, but they did manage an alternative, tragic first: the first female deaths in a space mission.

c mcauliffe

Christa Mc Auliffe

Both “teacher in space” Christa McAuliffe and Judy Resnik lost their lives when the shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after lift-off.

judy resnik

Judy Resnik

It was later determined that Resnik survived long enough to activate her personal emergency air-pack, so for some time was aware of the crew’s dire situation and her inevitable fate.
Resnik had been the second American woman in space and this Challenger mission was her second flight.

The tragedy could have set back the opportunities for female astronauts, but eventually, on the post-enquiry resumption of shuttle missions, only one class of female astronaut was affected.

In addition to the flight crew (none of which at this time had been a woman) and mission specialists (NASA employed engineers, scientists and technicians), Payload specialists had been a category of one-off crew members from the corporate world, who were accompanying satellites or science work, on behalf of their corporate employer.

Christa McAuliffe had been a payload specialist, chosen to be the first teacher into space, from where she would conduct educational broadcasts to the school children of America.  After Challenger, the involvement of American female payload specialists  came to an end, although the allocation of women to that role from other nations continued.

Shuttle pilots were restricted to those with military flight experience, and specifically test pilots.

E Collins.jpg

Eileen Collins

Those opportunities had not been open to female pilots, an outcome that also prevented opportunities in the space program.

The first to break through that barrier was Eileen Collins, who after being the second woman to attend the US air force test pilot school, not only became the first woman to pilot a shuttle, she progressed to be the first woman commander of a shuttle mission.

The possibilities available for Russian women to venture into space remained far more restrictive than it was for Americans, and American women even had more opportunity than Russian women  to join Russian missions. Russian men apparently had a harder time accepting their own countrywomen as colleagues in space than accepting foreign nationals.

To date, only four Russian/Soviet women have been flown into space, only one,Yelena Kondakova, made it to the Russian Mir space station, and one other, Yelena Serova, stayed aboard the International space station (the latter in 2014, long after this book was written).

The first Briton into space was a woman. Helen Sharman won a competition to fly to the Russian Mir for a 7 day trip. Working for the Mars confectionary company, she (to her dislike) was often referred to as the “woman from Mars”.

Another female resident of Mir was American Shannon Lucid, who spent 179 days aboard the station in 1996, at the time setting a record for the most continuous hours in space by a woman, as well as by a non-Russian.

Overall this was a fascinating book about a little-told part of the space program story, but could have been improved a little with more attention to factual detail.

I came across a few basic errors – such as naming John Glenn as the first American in space (he was the third) and that NASA’s T-38 jet were used to give astronauts an experience of weightlessness. That’s a role of much larger aircraft with abundant empty space where passengers experience short periods of weightlessness as the plane flies a series of steep, parabolic climbs and dives.

The T-38 is a two seater jet used for flight training as well as personal astronaut transport between workplaces.

kalpana-chawla-1

KC

220px-Laurel_Clark,_NASA_photo_portrait_in_blue_suit.jpg

Laurel Clark

Published in 2003, its Epilogue brings the book to a close with the deaths of two more female astronauts. Laurel Clark and Kalpana Chawla (KC) were part of the STS-107 crew. Their shuttle, Columbia, broke apart on re-entry during their return home from a 15 day mission.

almost heaven

For a list of female “spacefarers” – see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_female_spacefarers

Almost Heaven by Bettyann Holtzman Kevles (part 1)

almost heavenWith the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing only a few days away, this book addresses an overlooked aspect of the space race.

While America and the world were following the achievements of an all-male astronaut cadre, most of us were unaware of attempts to have a female contingent added to their number.

A group of hopeful women submitted themselves to AND PASSED exactly the same selection interviews, medicals and physical tests taken by the men; and yet their candidacy was dismissed.

When asked about the possibility of the inclusion of women in space missions, the responses from senior men ranged from the predictable comments about space exploration being “men’s work”, to the acknowledgement that women would have to be included at a later stage to cook the meals and keep house on any prospective space station.

Those were the more savoury responses. Others were along the lines of a comment from rocket genius Werner von Braun, who agreed to the inclusion of women because there should be room for 110 lbs of recreational equipment on any mission.

sally ride

Sally Ride

The Russians weren’t quite as reticent to fly a woman into space, but they had no altruistic, gender-equality, reasons for doing so. All they wanted was to check another first off the list. After they’d already achieved the first man in space, they wanted to beat America again with flying the first woman into orbit. Once that was done, women were sidelined again, until many years later when America eventually announced that Sally Ride would become the first American woman in space aboard the shuttle Challenger.
The Russians hurriedly rearranged their launch schedule to include their second female cosmonaut in a mission to their Salyut space station.

seddon_rhea

Rhea Seddon

Even after women had started to become accepted members of space shuttle crews, attitudes still needed change. When Rhea Seddon had to make an impromptu space walk to literally stitch up part of a damaged satellite, someone in  Mission control commented on the value of her home-maker skills. On hearing that, Sally Ride corrected the man’s suggestion, advising him that Seddon’s stitches “were the work of a heart surgeon”.

 

The Devil’s Edge, by Stephen Booth

devils edge

A series of home invasions seem to be getting increasingly violent. 
Labelled “The Savages” by the press, the gang responsible, who tend to target the rich, start to get a fan following on social media, being portrayed as modern day Robin Hoods.

In the village of Ridding, overlooked by an escarpment known as the Devil’s Edge, the gang seem to have escalated the violence, leaving a woman dead and her husband critically injured.

Ben Cooper, recently promoted to Sergeant, leads his new team in the investigation, while his former boss DS Dianne Fry has basically been sidelined and sent on a bureacracy-laden course.
Cooper has his suspicions that the local deadly attack had nothing to do with the previous violent robberies, but it’s a view not shared by his superiors.

When it seem like there has been a breakthrough in the case, DS Cooper’s position becomes precarious due to disturbing personal developments, and DS Fry is returned to the local fold to liaise with investigators brought in from another division.

A minor quibble: the author seems to have forgotten that Dianne Fry changed her car in the previous book, in this one the traded Peugeot returns.

Whenever I’ve written about Stephen Booth’s books, I’ve mentioned their mix of local folklore, history and landscape. Also frequently mentioned is the difficulty faced by the farming community, having to face significant change  in the business landscape, often making untenable the farming life that has been passed down from generation to generation. Ben Cooper listens to the following song towards the end of the book.