Daft Parker of the Week

On the way home from the office, I saw this and nearly wept.

“It’s my car, and I’ll park where I want to, park where I want to…”

Bear in mind, this is no quiet side street. It’s one of the two main roads in and out of the commercial area in Ra’anana. This idiot – and I have full politeness mode on – decided to park half on the pavement, half off, directly blocking the pedestrian crossing.

Also note, this is one of the most dangerous pedestrian crossings in the city. (And, believe you me, there are plenty of close contenders.) It is badly signposted, with insufficient warnings, is partly obscured by nearby parked cars, and the white paint sorely needs a touch up.

What happened?

I indicated to the gentleman driver (I may have called him something else. and I may have plumbed the deepest depths of my knowledge of Anglo Saxon expletives …) that he should park elsewhere. He resisted. I insisted. (I gave him some helpful physical indications as to what he should do.) He took the hint. He moved his car. I crossed the road, and wondered at the sheer stupidity and selfishness of the driver.  By the time I arrived home, I was still troubled by it, hence the post.

Now I feel better!

Independently Hostile

The Independent‘s headline about the flareup in Gaza is, in a word, disgraceful.

The Independent is vying for a new low in journalism standards

No-one wants civilian casualties, but outside of video games, that’s what happens in war. And, of course, none of this would have happened if Hamas hadn’t been firing missiles and mortars.

Imagine the outcry if a similar headline had been posted by the Independent about, for example, British bombing attacks in Afghanistan and their civilian casualties. (Funnily enough, you may have missed the detailed coverage. There wasn’t any of substance.) .But, because it’s Israel that is (deliberately) targeted by this vile narrative, whatever criticism is raised will be ignored, and the demonization will continue.

They hate us. And they want everyone else to as well.

Two Kinds of Truth – Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch is in trouble. A killer he put away a long time ago is about to be released because new evidence – evidence that puts Harry in the firing line. At the same time, he is trying to help his colleagues in the San Fernando police department after a double killing at a local pharmacy. Harry is the guy with the most extensive experience of dealing with this type of case, and his bosses have no real option but to let him call the shots. Harry does his best to keep things going in the right direction, while managing the resources and egos around him. And then there’s the small matter of the undercover operation…

If you have read any Bosch books, you will be on familiar territory. Harry’s half-brother, the Lincoln Lawyer Micky Haller, is involved as one of the final showdowns is a courtroom drama. It’s well done, indeed, and confirms that the author is as sharp as ever.

Highly recommended.

Spook Street – Mick Herron

Fourth in the generally excellent Slow Horses series (see here for reviews of 1-3), this is the weakest of the novels so far, primarily because it relies on too high a level of suspension of disbelief. But, if you can get over that, you will be rewarded with being able to enjoy the author’s wonderful cocktail of strong characters, snappy dialogues, and plain good writing.

This book begins with a terrorist atrocity in Britain. At the same time, current spook River Cartwright’s grandfather – an old spook – is rapidly descending into the hell of dementia.  The author does an amazing job – assuming you buy the central idea – of tying these threads together.

There are turns, twists, surprises, and pathos aplenty.

In short, if you have not read these books, start at the beginning. And do it now!

Pen 33 – Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström

First of a series featuring policeman Ewert Grens, this is a no holds barred, graphic, and troubling novel.

At the core, it’s about a pedophile who preys on young girls. Not much is left to the imagination. But the police involvement is only one angle – albeit the main one – as the revenge attempt by the father of one of the victims takes center stage for a fair chunk of the novel.

Set in Sweden, the book does a good job of painting the scene, and making the backdrop believable. Some of the prison scenes, and the politics of it, came across as all too realistic and horrific. The judicial process seems less well rounded. The level of characterization varies, but on the whole is good.

There are times when I think you can see the joins in the book – where the fact it is the work of two authors has had an effect – because there are small unfinished aspects of scenes, and the direction of the story is a bit jerky. However, it’s also possible I am imagining this, and instead what we have is the chaos of real life rendered as fiction.

The plot, such as it is, works well enough, but it is relatively simple and the only major twist is not that much of a surprise. If you cannot see what’s coming, you surely don’t read much crime fiction. On the other hand, the overall story is interesting and did have me thinking about some of the issues after I finished it.

I’m glad I read it, though am not fully convinced. I will probably read the next one to see if it improves, because with the rough edges ironed out, this would have been an excellent book. One for the reserve list.

Incidentally, none of the roughness should be put down to the translator – Elizabeth Clark Wessel – because from that perspective the language was spot on.

Happy 4th of July

I hope all those celebrating the 4th of July holiday have a great day. Whatever political challenges it faces and criticism it deserves, the USA is still a great country.

A Legacy of Spies – John Le Carré

Well, the critics really, really loved this.

They gushed and they gushed and they gushed. Then they gushed some more. I thought it was OK, but certainly didn’t mention a first gush, never mind the repetitions…

This is a spy novel where the author’s favorite (or most famous) character, George Smiley, is always in the background. But in the center of the stage is Peter Guillam, an ex spy, retired and living in France. One day, he is dragged back to the establishment by litigation from family members of some who died in the Cold War. Guillam and others are blamed, and the Secret Service is trying to cover its backside. Just what was going on between Guillam and Smiley, and the other spooks? All will be revealed.

The narrative flits from past to present, in nice flowing language which manages to glide over the death and tragedy unfolding in its pages. Then you realize what has happened, and you go back and read it again. Chilling.

The lead character is a good one: likeable, a bit of a rogue, and with his own (flawed) moral compass.

The atmosphere, especially when the book touches on the Cold War events, is terrific. The modern perspective is best when the author shows us the hard edge of the sneaky civil service, and a different type of dicing with death.

A Legacy of Spies is good, but not this author’s best work. Oh, and for the avoidance of doubt, it is still absolutely worth reading. Just don’t let all that gushing get in your way.

Two from Stav Sherez

These two novels, starting with A Dark Redemption, are police murder mysteries featuring DI Jack Carrigan and DS Geneva Miller.

The first book is about the dreadful slaying of a Ugandan student, the second about a horrific fire in which several nuns die. In both, the author does an excellent job of sprinkling a veritable shoal of (credible) red herring clues about the place to keep the reader off balance. However, as a seasoned crime fiction reader, I spotted the solution in Eleven Days as soon as a particular family relationship was exposed. Regardless, the plots are very well put together.

So far as the characters are concerned, A Dark Redemption is largely about Carrigan’s background, with Miller more up front in Eleven Days. They are both well rounded characters, but Miller could do with a bit more padding out, some of which may come to the fore in the third of the series.

The rest of the police squad are cardboard cut outs with a clear notion to tick the diversity box.

The backdrop that is consistent in both is London, and the author presents it well, with enough fresh perspective and nice language to make it more than just a familiar set of place names.

These books reflect a mountain of research and hard slog, which the author has put in so as to deliver fine examples of the crime writer’s craft. Not up with the best, but getting there. Recommended.

And now for a little good news

From Harry’s Place:

The PSC site has this in their commentary on the defeat:

Campaigners are concerned about threats to freedom of expression in the UK on Palestine as well as Westminster overreach in local democracy.

Yeah, right. BDS is all about freedom of expression. So long as you have the same views as BDS, that is.

I would be pleasantly surprised if the PSC went bust. Probably some crowdfunding campaign will ride to the rescue. Even if they do go bust, they will rise from the ashes, walk away from their debts, and reform as the Campaign for Palestinian Solidarity, or the People’s Campaign for Palestinian Solidarity, or something similar. Judean People’s Front, anybody?