The Disappeared – Kristina Ohlsson

First up, be aware that this is the third book of a series. So, if you want to read them in chronological order, start with Unwanted, then Silenced, and then The Disappeared.

Second, to cut to the chase, this is a well written police procedural, with an excellent plot, and believable (albeit sometimes bumbling) police characters.

The book starts with several apparently unconnected threads which the author skillfully weaves together, gradually. The main investigation starts with the discovery of the dismembered body of a missing female student. As shocking as that is, the discovery of other bodies signals that this is no isolated incident, though the nature of what exactly is going on eludes the police until the finale.

To varying degrees, the key detectives are personally connected to the investigation. Perhaps that explains their less than stellar progress, although it is also possible this is more realistic than the literary version of criminal investigation.

Without giving away too much of the plot, I just want to mention that although I had a rough idea of the baddie’s identity from early on, the author does a terrific job of making the red herrings part of the misdirection, but still relevant. And the fine pacing that makes this a real page turner, helps towards making this a great read.

In short, recommended.

 

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Dancing in the dark country

From the Associated Press:

Saudi Arabia’s morality police detained a group of young men for dancing at a birthday party and referred them to prosecutors, according to a state-linked media report.

The news website Ayn al-Youm reported Saturday that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice raided a private property in the city of Buraydah, arresting the men inside for “loud music and inappropriate dancing.”

Buraydah is the provincial capital of Saudi Arabia’s Qassim province, which is home to some of the kingdom’s most conservative clerics, who practice a strict interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism.

An unnamed official told the website that when members of the morality police raided the private property, they found the young men in “a comprising situation in their dance and shameful movements.” The official said there was also a cake and candles to celebrate one of the men’s birthdays.

I bet it was the cake and candles that did it. Everybody knows the revolution starts with marzipan and wax…

Read it all – but do try and keep a straight face – here.

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Back to the stronghold

caption

I know they are in here somewhere…

At the recent meeting of the Israel ASL club, Josh and I played scenario T3 Ranger Stronghold. This was a scenario I had previously played against Ran, when I was the Germans. This time around, Josh took the Germans and I tried my luck with the USA Rangers defenders. Continue reading

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And what if Bibi is right?

It appears that Bibi’s criticism of the proposed nuclear deal with Iran may be well founded. The Times of Israel, not known for its blind adherence to the “Bibi is right” doctrine, has this:

Arab nations have joined Israel in expressing concern over the emerging details of a US-led international nuclear deal with Iran, indicating in private talks with US officials that they are worried about the apparent terms of the agreement, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

Though Arab officials have been careful not to side with Israel in their stated positions, their worries over the possibility of a nuclear-armed Tehran are in fact similar to those of Jerusalem, and their attitudes towards the current state of nuclear talks between Tehran and Western powers are similarly pessimistic, according to the report.

Leaders of Sunni states such as Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia fear a bad deal with Tehran would allow it, with the removal of sanctions, to become a nuclear threshold state, the WSJ reported. They say it could also lead to a nuclear arms race in the region.

“At this stage, we prefer a collapse of the diplomatic process to a bad deal,” an official from an unnamed Arab nation told the paper.

Remarkably close to what what Bibi has been saying for a while.

Note the following, too:

The prime minister believes that the Iranians are negotiating in bad faith and that world powers are walking into a bad deal which would allow Tehran to come very close to a bomb while removing all sanctions on the regime…[snip]…“We know that Tehran knows the details of the talks. Now I tell you that Israel also knows the details of the proposed agreement,” Netanyahu said. “I think this is a bad agreement that is dangerous for the state of Israel, and not only for it.”

Bibi believes the Iranians are negotiating in bad faith, or Bibi knows they are negotiating in bad faith? How does Bibi know the details of the proposed agreement? Is that bluster? A bluff? Does it mean that Israel has a high level intelligence source in Iran? Or is it meant to suggest this, to keep the Iranians (if not the Americans) off balance?

The position was somewhat muddied by Kerry’s suggestion (see here) that the USA was ready to walk away from the talks with Iran if no progress made, as there are still “significant gaps” between the sides.

It’s too early to say, but I cannot help myself from fearing that this is another arena where too many miscalculations by Obama (not to say downright naivete) may have doomed the prospects of success, right from the start. I hope that fear is misplaced.

[And no, I’m still not voting for Bibi!]

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Five for Friday

Thursday night smachot are something special, because there’s no work for most of us the next day, and there’s a certain added depth to the sense of relaxation and enjoyment that can flow from the event. So it was last night. Thank you to the new Mr and Mrs M whose wedding we are at. The complete Simpson clan wishes you all the best for a long, happy, healthy, and prosperous life together.

And now straight on to the business of the post: this week’s set of links:

Bonus

This one is a story with a Scottish connection that should make you warm all over. Read and enjoy:

 

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Peter and his principles

The Telegraph is a UK news institution with a reasonably honorable history. Though generally ranked behind the Times for gravitas, and behind the Guardian for its online credentials, it can claim at least one giant-killing political story in the UK: the abuse of parliamentary expenses. Lately, it’s being going through a bad patch, struggling with the mastery of its online presence, and in the eyes of some being too content (sic) to promote click bait in a desperate campaign to boost its standing.

Private Eye has been running several detailed stories about what has been going on behind the scenes, with not even a whisper of a libel writ in the air, strongly suggesting that the Eye’s sources are well placed, and the stories are materially accurate. And these stories have featured, among other elements, infighting, editorial interference, and pampering to advertisers. (Not that this will be the only media company hosting such challenges.)

Into the limelight steps Peter Oborne with a resignation on principle, described as follows:

The Daily Telegraph’s chief political commentator has resigned and launched a blistering attack on the paper’s management and owners over its lack of coverage of the HSBC tax story, which he described as a “fraud on its readers”.

The rest of the Guardian piece fills in some of the details.

And, largely, that’s the line that is being taken. Oborne says HSBC was treated differently because the Telegraph needed its advertising money, and he couldn’t stand it.

Al well and good.

Except Mr Oborne’s principles are a bit of a mixed bunch.

For example, he was the writer and presenter of the infamous Dispatches program on British TV about the “Israel Lobby.” (Have a look here for an idea of some of the nasty approach taken by the program and its people.)

And there’s this:

“At the end of last year, Oborne spoke at the IHRC conference on Islamophobia. The IHRC is an Islamic Republic of Iran aligned “human rights” organisation which proposes a vision of “Islamic human rights” that – unlike normative human rights – is free from Zionist Jewish influence.”

There’s more where the man has, for sure, blotted his copybook. Read the rest at Harry’s Place, here, and note the conclusion. Worth considering the next time Mr Oborne pops up again. Because he will.

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The Blinded Man – Arne Dahl

This is a Swedish crime novel dealing with the investigation into the killing of several businessmen. Is this, as it appears, the work of a serial killer? And what is it that connects the victims?

The lead character for us is another defective detective, Paul Hjelm. He does a Rambo impersonation at a hostage scene, and although that puts him in the target sights of the internal affairs type investigators, he is rescued by being plucked from there and dropped into a brand new team tasked with sorting out those multiple killings.

Hjelm is moderately defective. Some of his colleagues are more quirky, and even less suitable as candidates to be stuck in an elevator with. However, that’s what the forces of law and order have, so off they go in their merry little way, hunting through the forest and swamp like mess of clues, red herrings, lies, deception, corruption, and evil. It’s a dirty job, and they do it as best they can.

One of the quirks here is the apparent importance of some obscure jazz music. That comes to be a crucial clue.

The plot is OK, and serves as a decent platform for some of the sharp observations the author makes about society. However, I wasn’t impressed with one detail where the ease of access to the victims’ homes is explained in a throwaway line that does not convince. It’s almost as if the author didn’t have a solution he had faith in, and so tried to skip past it. That annoyance apart, it’s certainly a page turner, freshened up with some interludes of fine writing that seem to go off on loose tangents, but end up joining the main story.

There are moments of great pathos and humor, and some darkness as well. I found it, on the whole, an enjoyable and engrossing read, with just enough raw edges to keep it from the top rank of crime fiction. But it’s about 90% of the way there. I will be following the series to see if the author can build on this solid start.

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When the cards fall right

In this week’s session, I hosted John, Sheer, and Yehuda.

We started with an extended session of Tichu. This is a trick taking partnership game. It uses a special deck of cards consisting of the usual 52 members, plus four extras with different abilities. Instead of the more usual trick taking of playing a card at a time, here the tricks can be – according to the first type of combination led – the best pair, triple, run of five, and so on. You score points for the cards you have at the end of each round of play which is when only one player has cards left. You have the ability to beef up your score by going out (ie having no cards left) first, and by declaring your intention to be first, and so on.

Sheer and I lined up as a partnership against Yehuda and John. The lead swung about a bit until we were around the 500 mark. Then a couple of declarations by Yehuda and John saw them reach the 1,000 point winning line.

i don’t particularly like the game because of the luck element. Unlike Bridge, for example, this is all or nothing. You are either out of cards, or you are not. So, what you are dealt makes a material difference. The one time I was dealt good cards, I went out first. Easy! I dare say skillful (and practiced) players like Yehuda play much better than novices like me (and Sheer and John), but I think there’s more skill in playing the classic Whist variants like O Hell! In short, it’s an OK filler game, but anything more than that is not for me.

ats

Next up was Among the Stars. This is a variation on the 7 Wonders type of game, here themed as building a space station. We played the basic game which has very little player interaction, but allowed us to get familiar with the cards. This will help when we add in the alien races, the goals, the challenges, and the other juicy add ons.

John and Sheer were the early leaders. I caught up and took the lead around the end of round two (out of four). But after that, I slipped back, with everyone else overtaking me. Yehuda’s long term VPs – the special ones you only score at the end of the game, gave him the win. Short, sharp, easy. I am looking forward to playing the more meaty version.

Thanks to my three guests for making a good night of it, again.

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Scientist of the week

I wasn’t going to post anything else today, then I saw this at Elder of Ziyon and could not resist:

Admit it – you’re convinced by his amazing logic, powers of persuasion, and grasp of basic science. Or maybe not…

I think they have a wee bit of an educational problem there.

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Letter of the week

By way of follow up to my post Send in the clowns, here’s the wonderful letter appearing in today’s Guardian, from Ashkelon resident Stephen Malnick:

“As a citizen of Ashkelon who was nearly killed in the recent conflict with Gaza when part of a missile missed my car by a few metres, I have a message for those artists with a selective communal conscience. I do not want you to visit my city and insult 120,000 people who were under daily attack in violation of international law. There are no military targets in Ashkelon but lots of Jews.

After you make a stand against the extrajudicial killing of people in Gaza, and after you make a stand on the whipping of a blogger in Saudi Arabia, and you apologise to the citizens of Ashkelon, I will consider extending you hospitality.

I will continue my daily tasks, including treating Gazans who are brought to the medical centre I work in for advanced medical treatment. Odd, isn’t it, that they visit but you won’t? Even odder that I will welcome them and not you.

Well done that man!

Silly artists. And looking sillier by the day.

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