The Sacred Cut – David Hewson

This is the third in the author’s Detective Nic Costa series (see here and here). Again set in Rome, the author branches out slightly by moving away from the lines of a traditional police procedural, and going more for the mystery conspiracy market.

It begins with Rome covered in snow, and the discovery of a dead, posed, body in the Pantheon. Before our hero and his colleagues can get the investigation started, along come a couple of FBI agents from the USA embassy who want the body for themselves, and the investigation to be run their way. Cue inter agency rivalry as the Italian secret service are also involved. Of course, Costa is not for letting things go, though the investigation is somewhat problematic as the only potential witness has gone on the run. From there, the action heats up, with the target of their sleuthing seemingly always one step ahead of them.

I confess to being disappointed in the book. The story was OK, but the writing felt somewhat heavy handed and oppressive compared to the previous books. Also, the characters didn’t seem to grow very much in this book. Even the Roman backdrop was described in dark, Gothic terms, so that the atmosphere was more of a ghost or horror story. Since I know the writer’s recent output has been excellent, I am hoping this was a minor bump in the development trail of his talent. So, I will be trying out the next one. But if it is more of the same, I will not be happy.

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The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair – Joël Dicker

This is a book by a young author about a young author writing a book. As someone else has described it, there’s a kind of Russian doll feeling of stories within stories within stories. In essence, it’s a crime and mystery tale wrapped inside the narrative of a young author trying to follow up his first novel success with the help of his original inspiration, Harry Quebert.

The backstory is this: in 1975, in sleepy Somerset, New Hampshire, wannabe author Harry fell in love with Nola Kellergan. As in fifteen year old Nola Kellergan. Some 33 years later, Nola’s body turns up in Harry’s back garden, and Harry is accused of her murder. Quebert’s most talented student, the now successful author Marcus Goldman, walks away from his second novel project to prove Harry’s innocence. And from there on, things get more complicated. All is not what it seems.

There are plenty of funny and touching moments that writers will appreciate, and somehow the author does a more than creditable job of unraveling the murder mystery, with a fair amount of tension and plot twists. In addition, the main character is interesting, if not necessarily so likeable, and some of the supporting cast are noteworthy.

But…

You knew there was going to be a but, didn’t you?

This book is way too long for my tastes. The length adds nothing of substance to the plot, the atmosphere, or the impact. A heavier editorial touch would have been welcome. Because I am interested in writing, I kept going to the end. But readers with less stamina might give up; many are likely to complain. So, in summary, a fluffed opportunity – not that author will care, as the book has been highly rated by the critics and endlessly promoted as something wonderful. I beg to disagree.

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BKOA Games Night

Saved for another occasion

With the help of Peleg and Sheer, I hosted a games night for Beit Knesset Ohel Ari. I had no idea what the response would be, and while I would always prefer more people to come along and play games, those who did come appeared to have a good time. (I am open to correction, folks…)

“This is a game of survival!”

We started things rolling with The Walking Dead to get everyone into the mood. After counting up the bullets we had one survivor: Helena. A fine win to start the session.

After that we split into smaller groups.

Splendid action with Splendor

Sheer hosted Shelley and Stuart and Rosalynn. He led them through one game of Splendor (won by Rosalynn) and then Reibach and Co (won by Sheer).

This was a well fought game

Peleg hosted Emma, Naomi, Azriel, and Nechamia. He led his merry crew through Ticket to Ride Europe. Although Peleg won on points, we awarded the win to Naomi because it felt right. Emma picked up a prize for – I think – trying to complete the longest route in a five player game of Ticket to Ride, a tough, tough challenge.

Decisions, decisions

Meantime, I hosted Richard, Laurie, and Helena. At this table we played Alhambra. We had a bonus because Richard was able to give us some of the secret Jewish history of the real Alhambra. Absolutely fascinating. Unfortunately, I won according to the rules of the game, but I awarded the prize to Laurie.

Some happy prizewinners

That was it. Good fun (I hope) and a chance to spread the word: playing games is great!

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Guess who’s paying for Gaza’s electricity?

You cannot have failed to see the angst in the media about the poor Gazans due to have their electricity cut off because Hamas refused to pay for it, and the PA wasn’t going to either. You cannot have failed to notice that, with some honorable exceptions, Israel was blamed. If you ever wanted another fine example of how the West (in particular) treats the Palestinian people and their leadership as immature and unable to determine their own way in life, the electricity supply narrative is as good as any. Hamas isn’t responsible for the electricity supply. The PA isn’t responsible for the electricity supply. Neither of them has any obligation to look after their people, or pay for the electricity they consume. Or so they say. What nonsense. Would any other group of people be treated in such a manner? Of course not. It only works when you can blame the damn Jews Zionists.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the crisis. The electricity supply wasn’t turned off. Why? Because, as the Elder reports, Israel is paying for it.

Think about it for a moment: a people who hate us, who are incited daily to hate us more, and kill us at every opportunity, and yet we supply electricity to them when we have no obligation, moral or otherwise. And, since the situation does not fit the narrative, this is not reported. Arguably, that failure to report by bastions of anti-Israel hate like the Guardian, the BBC and – of course – Haaretz – is as much incitement against Israel as anything Hamas and the PA get up to. But it is a guilt and trouble free incitement with no downside. By their actions, these media outlets are complicit in stoking the fires of anti-Israel feeling. They are, indeed, the enemy.

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