XO – Jeffery Deaver

Setting: Mostly Fresno, USA.

Story: Kayleigh Towne is a rising star of the country music scene. Unfortunately, it appears she has acquired a serious stalker; one who plays verses from her songs, and then kills somebody in a way that’s related to the song lyrics. Kathryn Dance, California Bureau of Investigation investigator, and friend of Kayleigh, is in town when the terror starts. Can she help her friend and the authorities to stop the killer before he kills again?

The Good Stuff: Deaver has always been good at doing the research, and with this book he does a very good job of turning the cold, hard facts, and the fuzzy, warm feelings of the country music scene into a believable and interesting backdrop. Further, he fashions a solid character out of Kayleigh, and allows some of the support characters to rise to their moment of glory. Dance is, as you would expect, given the best of attention, and is the star of the book (if not the stage).

But Deaver is famous for his u-turn plot twists, red herrings, and surprises, and this time he delivers one of his best performances for quite a while. If you are looking for the twists, you might well spot them. But Deaver’s plotting and writing in this book is so polished, it probably doesn’t matter. This is a book that keeps up the action, suspense, and intrigue until the very end.

Not So Good Stuff: To go with the country scene, we get Deaver’s country song lyrics – a whole flipping album of them. Off putting is me being polite, but maybe that’s because I do not like country music.

I also wasn’t that keen on the guest appearance of Lincoln Rhyme (another Deaver character) to help in the hunt using his forensic skills. It would appear today’s audience demands high level forensic performances, the likes of which they are used to from endless runs of CSI. That part added nothing very much to the book; it was ok, but unnecessary.

Score: 7.5/10

Another first

In many ways, today was the culmination of our aliyah: our first vote in an Israeli election.

Due to the election, the office was closed, so we had a lie in before heading out to the polling station mid morning.


Yes, it’s January. Yes, Susan is wearing her sunglasses. Yes, the weather was hot, sunny, and clear blue skies – an amazing 24 degrees!

The polling station (actually several polling stations in one location) was in a large school complex, situated in a park. The atmosphere was very relaxed; families out for a stroll, kids playing on the grass, and party political workers on standby in case you needed some last minute information.

First, we had to work out which of the individual stations we should go to.

It's telling you where to go, not whether to vote for the right, center, or left!

It’s telling you where to go, not whether to vote for the right, center, or left!

We were upstairs at station 101. (No, the numbering system does not make any sense to me either.) It seemed that lots of people had the same idea as us – there was a wee bit of a queue. We met friends and neighbors there, and the time passed quite quickly. (One neighbor joked that instead of voting for a political party, we should be voting for a new builder, but that’s another story for another time.)

Some of these people do not look old enough to vote...

Some of these people do not look old enough to vote…

Eventually the historic moment arrived. Susan went first. In the classroom polling station, the officials checked Susan’s ID, then gave her an official voting envelope. As Susan noticed, it was in a lovely blue color with an official Israeli seal. Then, Susan had to go behind the screen.

A secret ballot

A secret ballot

Then, Susan selected the little paper slip representing her chosen party, put the slip in the envelope, and sealed it. I suppose if you put in two (or more, or no) slips, that’s what counts as a spoiled ballot. And so, the real moment of truth: the vote.

A dream come true

A dream come true

I followed on, and that was that. We felt terrific.

We walked back to the car through the park, stopping for a chat with some friends and acquaintances, and enjoying the holiday atmosphere. Truly, we were walking on air. A memorable day in our lives. Whatever the outcome, we had exercised our democratic right, and joined in the Israeli political system. Later we will have to deal with the result. Whoever gets elected, the real power struggle is afterwards – in the bid to form a working coalition. But for now, we are on a high.

[While I remember, I wanted to mention that this was a computer free election system. Apart from the generation of the voter lists, it’s all done manually. They check your name off the list by scoring it out with a pen, they hand you a paper envelope in exchange for your ID, and you put in a paper party slip, and you put it in a cardboard box, and get your ID back. Very simple. No hanging chads to go wrong, or computers to crash. I think people here are suspicious of electronic voting systems and I can understand why.]

Election day!

At last, here we are:

Front page news

Front page news

Here’s a shot of the ballot papers from the same paper:


Notice the voting slips are in Hebrew and Arabic.

And the last piece of pre election political observation from me, is this last Likud advert in the paper:


Leader of the country? There’s only one real contender – for now. But, in exercising my democratic right, I won’t be voting for Likud…

Whatever you are doing, have a great day. I’m going to have a great election day.

Fine for now

From the Times of Israel, a follow up to my earlier post about the Bayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) political advert:

The Central Elections Commission on Sunday fined the Jewish Home party NIS 72,000 ($19,300) for failing to obey orders to remove billboards showing party leader Naftali Bennett alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a petition filed with the commission Thursday, Likud officials argued the ad would mislead voters into thinking that voting for Bennett was like voting for Netanyahu.

The Likud claimed the ad, which features the slogan “Strong together,” was designed “to deceive right-bloc voters, mislead them and instill in their consciousness through manipulation the mendacious message of ‘Do not vote for [Likud-Beytenu]… We have enough votes and victory is assured.’”

Rubinstein said in his Thursday ruling that he had ordered the ad removed because it could mislead potential voters into the belief that the two parties were running together, or that they have some sort of agreement.

Likud’s annoyance at the ad underscores the gadfly role Bennett and his resurgent nationalist party have played. Though Bennett once served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff, the two reportedly had a falling out and in the run-up to elections the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list has found itself losing support to Jewish Home.

A Jewish Home representative said Thursday the ad was intended to convey the message that the party intends to work together with Netanyahu toward a stronger Israel.

I wonder what that fine is supposed to achieve? It has not stopped the adverts which, presumably, have achieved their desired effect. Clever politicking by Bennett & Co. The party has clearly made an impact – something any neutral could spot judging only the amount of time the other parties spend attacking it. (And spreading scare stories…) But the acid test is with the real voters tomorrow, and not opinion polls.



On the table just now, the game Tobruk from Strategy and Tactics #278. It’s about the battle for the port of that name in November – December 1941. Rommell has the Commonwealth troops bottled up in Tobruk, but Operation Crusader – the Allied Offensive – is about to attempt a rescue.

The game is set up, and I have been through the rules. There were some queries (quickly answered online) but the system seems relatively straightforward. It uses a chit pull to activate a corps on each side, and there are rules for artillery support and airpower. It will soon be time to see how it plays.

Just the two of us [updated]

I spotted this new poster for Naftali Bennett and the Habayit Hayehudi party:


Ignore the text, however, and look at the two individuals pictured. On the left, Naftali Bennett. On the right, Bibi Netanyahu. What the hell is Bibi – prime minister and leader of the Likud party – doing on this poster?

The text across the top reads “Strong together.” At the bottom: “Choose Bennett.” So what is it all about?

According to some friends, the implication is that Bennett and Netanyahu have done a deal. Unsurprisingly, Bibi and Likud are unhappy about this. (I’m unsure if they are unhappy because (a) it’s true and they don’t want people to know or (b) it’s not true.)

It’s the first time I have seen a party political advert using the leader of another party in that way. Bizarre. It’s a funny old country, Israel. That’s for sure.

[Update: see here.]

There will be a blue moon in the sky…

I have posted before about anti-semitic incitement (for example, here) but the recent exposure of a certain President Morsi’s contribution to the hate fest has brought the topic – at least temporarily – into focus. So, it’s no surprise that the Elder of Ziyon produces a damning post about this.

First, his opening quote sets the scene:

One of the more interesting observations about the current kerfuffle over Morsi being caught calling Jews “apes and pigs” is that this rhetoric is mainstream not only in the Muslim Brotherhood – but by the so-called “moderate” Palestinian Authority.

You know, the people that the UN just overwhelmingly decided were deserving of a state.

The Elder then lists a few examples of their continuing incitement.

You should read the whole thing. But, if nothing else, please note his powerful, and persuasive conclusion:

For those who try to argue that these are not representative of Palestinian Arabs as a whole, I have only one request: Find me a news story showing Arabs protesting against any single one of these expressions of Jew-hatred. Find me a columnist in a PA newspaper who criticize these broadcasts. Find me an organization in the territories that fights anti-semitism. Prove that these are the exception, and not the rule.

You can’t.

If the Elder is right – and I think he is – what do you think are the chances of this situation changing anytime in the near future? Certainly, if the USA and Europe continue to ignore the topic as if it were of no significance, there’s no chance short of a miracle happening.

The more important question: please explain to me how you fashion a meaningful peace solution with one party so full of hate? Hate that is regularly topped up. Hate that the West gives a relatively free pass to.

You can’t.

Subcontractor star

From the Register:

Security audit finds dev OUTSOURCED his JOB to China to goof off at work

Cunning scheme netted him ‘best in company’ awards

A security audit of a US critical infrastructure company last year revealed that its star developer had outsourced his own job to a Chinese subcontractor and was spending all his work time playing around on the internet.

Continue reading

Birthdays for the Dead – Stuart MacBride

The Birthday Boy is a serial kidnapper and killer, preying on young girls. For twelve years he has not only committed these murders, but has continued to torment and torture the poor parents with a succession of birthday cards, each one showing the progressive violence visited on their child.

Detective Constable Ash Henderson is one of those parents. However, he has kept it secret – even from his wife – with a cover story about his daughter, Rebecca, running away. He has also intercepted the birthday cards before his wife could see them. Why? Henderson is trying to catch this deadly killer, and knows that if his personal involvement is revealed, he will be kept off the case.

It’s an engrossing (and very troubling) scenario, which MacBride seems to relish.And if you think it couldn’t get any more intense, think again. From the start, the author (figuratively) turns up the heat, and adds more to the mix.

Henderson’s desperate personal crusade is not waged with due respect for law, order and justice. There is violence and there is corruption, with Henderson being unafraid to act in place of the judicial system with not so much as a backward glance.

Inevitably, I have to compare this with MacBride’s other crime series about Logan McRae. How to put it? McRae is no shrinking violet, but he is absolutely as soft as soft can be alongside the one man avenger that is Henderson. In short, Henderson is not a nice person. Ok, that was a bit restrained. Henderson is bad.  Some would call him worse names, and he would probably deserve them. But he is the central figure (and there are more on the way) so whether you like the book or not may depend on your disposition towards such individuals.

Whereas there is plenty to get your teeth into in the character of Henderson, most of the other people in the story do not get too much attention. There are a couple of female characters – Dr MacDonald and Rhona the police colleague – who might develop into worthwhile creations, but other than that it was cardboard cutout stuff. There is a modest organized crime connection, with Henderson in debt to some people who are even worse than him. But, for me, the Mrs Kerrigan character seemed more low level cartoon than low life. And I thought Inglis, the Boss, was just poor.

The story has its twists and turns, and the final disclosure is a powerful one. However, there are too many missed opportunities, or overcooking of the situation, to make this one of his best. I confess I am intrigued enough to want to get the next one – maybe that’s a success for the author – though I would not wholeheartedly encourage others to read it. The Logan McRae material is better. But I would not rule out MacBride turning the tables on us poor readers, and making Ash Henderson a glorious success.

Score: 6/10.