The Waters of Eternal Youth – Donna Leon

Commissario Brunetti’s wife’s family are part of Venetian high society. So it is not unusual that our hero occasionally finds himself forced to attend social events in which he has little interest. But, ever the gentleman, he participates with apparent willingness, an easy smile, and constant inward reflection. Following on from one such society dinner, his hostess – Contessa Lando-Continui, a friend of his mother-in-law – asks for his help. In her advancing years, the Contessa is increasingly troubled by the sad state of her granddaughter, Manuela. The girl was rescued from drowning, but suffered severe brain damage and lives out her life like a young child, the eternal youth of the book’s title. She cannot remember what happened. But the Contessa believes there must be an explanation, and wants Brunetti to get to the bottom of it.

Opening up an old case with no good reason is typically challenging fare for Brunetti, and it is a challenge he rises to, using his long experience of the system, and his deep understanding of how his boss thinks. Brunetti starts investigating, recruiting a sympathetic fellow policewoman to help him connect to Manuela, thus beginning and developing a friendship that assists the police to slowly make some progress.

While this is ongoing, the backdrop of modern Venice, with all its corruption, cronyism, and peculiarities, are portrayed as lovingly as the central character is. Brunetti’s family are also neatly sketched stars in their own right, offering a clear contrast to the world around them.

This is a fine, gentle, yet powerful book that shows yet again one of the greatest fictional detectives in all his glory.

What Israel needs…

Parked? Abandoned? (Yes, that’s the pavement.) Who cares about pedestrians anyway?

…more traffic police!

I have this fantasy that as part of an improved diplomatic relationship between Israel and the Scottish National Party, there would be a winning exchange. Israel would send some sunshine, and in exchange Scotland would send some traffic police. Now, wouldn’t that be good?

Before the Fall – Noah Hawley

At the core, this book is a simple story about a private plane that crashes, leaving two survivors: the four year old son of parents who died in the crash, and Scott Burroughs, a struggling artist. What makes the book that much more enthralling and rewarding is the well crafted way the author takes us through each of the personalities on the plane, and breathes – somewhat ironically – real life into these doomed individuals. Of course, the fact that there’s a mystery to unravel as to what caused the crash, also helps.

The passengers on the plane include a right wing TV news tycoon, and a (er….) high flying business man with lots of money, lots of influence, and lots of dodgy deals to his credit. However, the shining star is Burroughs, as he discovers the joy and pain of suddenly being the center of attention. This is another irony, given that he has spent his life trying to achieve recognition for his art. His canvases portraying disasters, including a plane crash, allow some to form unfavorable opinions about the man. We readers, however, get to see the whole view, and should benefit from the perspective we are given.

There are several strong undercurrents as the author offers a peak into media incitement, power, and corruption, as well as the embattled human spirit trying to cope with a chaotic world. The investigative forces deployed following the crash also get some coverage, with no lack of attention to the quality of the characters and the pitching of their involvement in the story.

It seemed to me that the author’s care and consideration for his characters – good and bad – was reflected in the high quality of the writing, and that the story flowed easily, carrying the reader along. At the same time, there are no flashy flourishes, nor attempts to show how clever the author is. (He’s clever, but he’s not boastful.)

I highly recommend this book as an example of a well written, well rounded, thoughtful, entertainment.

Charles and Eddie

Would I lie to you baby? is the 1992 hit, written by Mike Leeson and Peter Vale, performed by Charles & EddieCharles Pettigrew and Eddie Chacon. The song is on their album, Duophonic. I heard the song being played on the radio (Galgalatz) recently, more than once. That triggered a desire to hear it again – I do remember when it first came out – so I went to YouTube, found it there, and played it again.

It’s a great song. I don’t typically like this kind of music – R&B? Soul? – but this song calls to me. That’s the best way I can put it. Their voices are wonderful.

Watch the video, and and tell me what you see. (By the way, Charles has the short hair, and Eddie has the long hair.)

I see Charles Pettigrew performing. His smile is inspiring. he is alive, and his outward appearance matches the upbeat, joyful, loving nature of the song. But I see Eddie Chacon hesitating, holding back. It’s as if he didn’t want to be there.

I did some quick research on the internet and found this:

In the late 1990s, Pettigrew was diagnosed with cancer; he succumbed to the disease on April 6, 2001, at the age of 37.

So sad. When I read about his death, it shook me. I mourned his passing. It hurt. Illogical, but that’s how it was.

And then I wondered if I had found an explanation for Eddie’s hesitancy in the video. Did he somehow sense that Charles was going to die an early death? Did he somehow know that Charles’ incredible talent was going to be taken so soon? Did he feel pain about the joy Charles was exhibiting? Was he just camera shy?

The only consolation I can offer is that Charles Pettigrew will live forever because of this performance.

Bloody Mary – J A Konrath


The second in the Jack Daniels series, this is a bloody, tense, crime book that rarely lets up. It’s another hunt for a serial killer, but one which comes with a genuine mid book twist that turns things completely around. (I am not going to offer any details that might spoil the plot.) The pace builds up again to the inevitable final scene showdown.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read, with a good main character, and some real signs of life from the supporting cast. The cat is something new in my reading experience, but that may be because I am not so fond of the damn things. Jack’s partner Herb is a good foil, and the dialog between the partners is one of the strongest parts of the book. The humor sometimes falls flat, but that is often a hit or miss affair, and there were far more occasions when it was laugh out loud funny.

I would like to get a bit more of the city backdrop, though I can well see the author’s clinical devotion to avoiding anything that would unnecessarily slow down the plot or reduce the tension.

I think I’ll keep reading this series.

Five Players, Four Laps


Azriel, Peleg, Rosalynn, and Sheer came long this week, and we decided to change things a little by playing a longer version – four laps instead of two – of Automobiles. The rules recommended five laps, and I am glad I was able to cut that down by agreement, as for me the game dragged. Primarily this was because I played it badly. Sheer, on the other hand, played it quite well, and was the eventual winner.

In this card management game (that cleverly uses wooden blocks as the cards) the key is to get the right balance in your deck. For example, I had too many cards in my deck, so struggled to get to the few good cards I needed. That having been said, there was one turn when Sheer was completely stumped and could not move – something I will return to – and was at risk of losing. At that point, Rosalynn and Peleg were mounting a real challenge. (By then, I had already been lapped.) However, poor Peleg and Rosalyyn could not maintain the challenge when it mattered most. Azriel brought on a little burst near the end, but it was too little, too late. Well done Sheer.

Now, that thing I wanted to mention. To move on the board, you need to have the right color of cube (card, if you will) or you are stuck. Sheer might have been only stuck once, but it happened to others, and I suffered so badly. In other card management games, it is rare that there are turns when you can do nothing. Here, it can and does happen often. I suspect my criticism derives more from my poor planning and play – and I have actually won a game of Automobiles – but the game is not one of my favorites. Never mind.

Azriel and Rosalynn retired for the night, leaving Peleg, Sheer, and I to have a quick game of Dominion. Sheer went for an all out Witch card strategy. Peleg and I were far too kind and ignored that, allowing him to clobber us with Curse cards. Both Peleg and I were first to grab the key victory point cards, but our decks slowed down with the accumulation of curses, and Sheer ran out the winner. I hate the Witch card!

Despite playing Automobiles, it was still a fun night. That’s the real beauty of gaming.

Rupture – Ragnar Jonasson

Another crime novel featuring Ari Thor Arason and the fishing village of Siglufjordour, in Northern Iceland. Unfortunately, I found this to be as dull as ditchwater compared to the others. Maybe my tastes are becoming jaded, but while there was a decent historical mystery, and a contemporary crime narrative too, neither excited me.

The cold case goes back to 1955 with two young couples moving to the very isolated Hedinsfjörður. One of their number dies in strange circumstances, but there is no apparent solution to the mystery of what exactly happened.

Meanwhile, there’s a hit and run and a kidnapped baby for the police to deal with. How these cases become connected leads to a potentially stunning conclusion. The potential is not realized.

It was a real slog to finish the book, hoping for an upturn in the excitement or tension. It never came. I could not recommend this. I hope the author returns to form with the next one.

Whiskey Sour – J A Konrath

This is a police procedural novel built on a strong female character with the unfortunately alpha male name of Jack Daniels. Lieutenant Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels is a Chicago detective with more than her fair share of personal challenges, never mind the serial killer the Gingerbread Man who is taunting her and the forces of law and order.

The writing style is a cross between Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct realistic fatalism, and Carl Hiaasen’s comical commentary. Sometimes the humor works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But I have a bigger problem with the serial killer character. I was not convinced about the completeness or authenticity of that person in the book. Fortunately, the Jack Daniels character is just about sufficient quality to carry the rest of the book on her shoulders, and there were moments of genuine tension and excitement. Indeed, this is a pretty good page turner, meaning I will be trying out more in the series.

ASL Catchup

It has been so long since I tried to post any ASL experiences I have quite forgotten many scenarios I have played. But, the last few I have some recollection of are as follows:

Command Schenke

Josh’s Germans attacking my defending Russians.

The victory conditions are simple enough: no unbroken Russians in the fortified building.

The setup conditions forces the Russian player to have some of his forces within easy enough range of the German offensive line, and so the Russian cannot simply hide away in the fortified building and surrounding area, and wait. There has to be some attempt at a delaying force.

Of course, if the Russians lose too many troops in that outer defense, they are doomed. Well, for that part of the game, I couldn’t really complain. I did lose some squads, but also chewed up some Germans and put their timetable under threat.

Eventually, however, it all came down to the last turn, and the last three Russian defenders. Could the Germans win? I said “Yes” and Josh said “No” so you can probably guess quite easily that Josh was wrong. It was a bit sad, because as I looked at the last turn, I could see exactly how his deadly flamethrower survivor (one had broken) and a couple of killer stacks (good leaders and assault engineers) would move and kill. And so it proved to be. The game could have gone either way on the last two close combat die rolls, but Josh got the kills he needed, and so on the last roll of the last turn he had won.

It was infuriating, but great excitement.

Josh had tied up one of my flank guards with a close combat, and that unit spent the last three or four close combats outside the fortified building, doing no good at all. However, in fairness, another Russian squad that had broken early, did manage to rally and get back in to the fortified building. Indeed, if there was a noticeable weakness in the Soviet at start forces, it was leadership. I needed the -1 leader with the HMG in the fortified building, and I swapped the other for a commissar. Where was I going to put him? In the fortified building. That meant all the outer defenders were dead, or pretty much dead, as soon as they broke. The fact I only got one back out of the six I was forced to setup up front says it all. That may hint I where my tactics were wrong: perhaps I should have retreated the outer defenders instead of mixing it up with the attackers? However, they did some damage, so I am unsure.

Throughout the game, Josh gave me several sniper opportunities of which only one (a pinning result) came to anything. He had one sniper and it also got a pin result.

Great stuff, but next time I would like to be on the winning side against Josh!

Bedburg Bite

A Canadian attacker against a German defender with mines and a chunky tank reinforcement. I played as the defender against Ran and diced my way to victory. I played as the attacker against josh and my attack was bloodily, and all too easily, repulsed.

I definitely seem to do better as the defender. So, I clearly need to play more as the attacker…

(There have been others, but they are forgotten.)