The Last Policeman: A Novel by Ben Winters

This is a book that has been in contention in my house since it has been stolen from me mid-read, see post here.  I finally had it returned to me and finished it in one sitting.

Excellent pre-apocalyptic, Sci-fi, thriller, mystery read.  There is so much good about this book, I almost don’t know where to start. I don’t like repeating the blurb but a brief overview is that the world is going to end.  There is a giant comet headed to earth and we now have  a landing date in about six months.  There are a variety of actions from people all over the world.  Some people go “bucket list”, which is they take off and try to do all those things they always meant to do. Others commit suicide.  One woman shaves her head so she doesn’t have to spend time doing her hair for the final six months.  In this setting, Detective Hank Palace continues to do his job, solve crime.

Detective Palace is whose eyes we observe the story through and being a detective his observations are keen and clear.  The characters are well drawn and realistic with a full range of human emotion amid this setting of soon-to-be mass destruction.  The author creates characters that as a reader I cared about.  I wanted to know what was going to happen to them.

There are some funny moments or black humor,  such as when Palace is convinced the latest body is murder made to look like another suicide and no one else really is:

I’ll tell you what,” says Dotseth genially.  “We’ll call it an attempted murder.”

“Sorry, sir?”

“It’s a suicide, but you’re attempting to make it a murder.  Have a great day, Detective.”

The plot is thrilling and drives you to keep going until you finish. There are moments of misdirection and false clues that Palace follows doggedly trying to solve the case,  Elements of a police procedural here, but one in which the “procedures” are all being turned on their head by the “end of the world”.  The mystery is well crafted and comes to a believable conclusion.  A great murder mystery even if you are not someone who would normally read this apocalyptic type fiction.

This book is first in a trilogy.  The second book is Countdown City and I am going to get that ASAP.  This really was that good.

 

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Sundays in Bed: The Siren by Tiffany Reisz (minor spoiler/warning?)

This is a meme hosted by Midnight Book Girl to be found HERE

Yesterday, I received in the mail a book I had read about on someone else’s blog and thought it sounded interesting.  The book is The Siren by Tiffany Reisz.

A beautiful cover is what drew me in, I’ll admit that I’m that shallow :).  The book is erotica, but definitely better written and attempts more depth than most.  There is funnily enough not  an overabundance of actual penetrative sex, but there is scads of talking about sex and agonizing about sex, and reminiscing about sex.  There are the obligatory BDSM club scenes.  The main character, Nora, is a switch, so while she is Dominant and the aggressor with some characters, she is then the submissive with others.

Ironically, there is some discussion of the movement of BDSM away from being defined as a pathology towards being an acceptable “lifestyle” choice.  I say ironically because in Nora’s case you are left wondering if this would have been a choice.  I don’t say this as a spoiler but more as a warning for other readers who might be turned off, not interested, upset by, etc. the idea that Nora was “introduced” to the “lifestyle” by an authority figure while she was still a minor (under 16).  She and her Dom attempt to excuse this by saying that they did not have “penetrative” sex until she was 20.  Doesn’t really fly with me, but maybe that is because I am mother of teens and an authority figure to other people’s teens and know the responsibility to be above reproach with them.   And then there is another minor child sex incident, for which no excuse is offered, and in fact the sex is held up as “therapeutic”.  I had a real problem with that.  Finally, there is a third character with the appearance of a teen who is the object of 33 year old Nora’s love/lust based on his looks, he is an adult but looks like a teen.  Problematic for me.

In all, the book is better written than many of the erotica offerings out there, but I did not find it erotic, if that makes any sense.  It seems like all the pseudo-psycho babble was a turn-off for me and many of the main characters came across as severely damaged, which is exactly the image BDSM practitioners are trying to shed.

 

Weekend Cooking – Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

 

Weekend Cooking is a meme from Beth Fish Reads to be found HERE.

 

 

 

Today has been a good foodie day – started with lunch after a hard morning shopping.  Sat in the back yard with:

  • a delish pate (from Wegman’s not homemade this time)
  • fresh bread
  • soft, creamy brie
  • olives
  • Jersey Peach wine (actually a very nice tasting white, has a peach scent but doesn’t taste of peaches)

Basically ignored the chores calling to me and sat with a book and my mom and read.

Dragged myself in from the lounger in the sun and started to make dinner.  My daughter had been bugging me for Jambalaya and so I used my Epicurious App and it spat out this recipe from the March 2011 Bon Appetit magazine credited to Anna Beth and Vince Chao.

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces applewood-smoked bacon, diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds smoked fully cooked sausage (such as linguiça), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick semi-circles
  • 1 pound andouille sausages, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 pound tasso or smoked ham (such as Black Forest), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 pounds onions, chopped (4 to 5 cups)
  • 2 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 8- to 10-ounce red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 8- to 10-ounce green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 6 large skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper
  • 3 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes and green chiles
  • 2 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 3 cups (19 to 20 ounces) long-grain white rice
  • 8 green onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley

Preparation

  • Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Cook bacon in very large pot over medium-high heat until brown but not yet crisp, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes. Add smoked sausage, andouille, and tasso. Sauté until meats start to brown in spots, about 10 minutes. Add onions, celery, and bell peppers. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes. Mix in chicken. Cook until outside of chicken turns white, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Mix in paprika, thyme, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Cook 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes with chiles and broth; stir to blend well. Add more cayenne, if desired. Mix in rice.
  • Bring jambalaya to boil. Cover pot. Place in oven and bake until rice is tender and liquids are absorbed, 45 to 48 minutes. Uncover pot. Mix chopped green onions into jambalaya; sprinkle jambalaya with chopped parsley and serve.

My family really liked it, but it made tons of food and there are only four of us.   The flavors all melded well together and the consistency was near to perfect.  I gave it an extra 10 minutes to get the rice the right consistency, but that may have only been my oven.  It can be  a little tempermental.  I don’t think it will freeze well with the rice in it, so I guess it is lunch for tomorrow as well.

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill ***slight spoiler***

Laying in the backyard, watching the grass grow long past the point where it needs to be mowed,   and drinking a bottle of Jersey Peach wine, I finished this book.  If you would have asked me, up to around Chapter 40 I would have have said, “Great mystery, good read, 4 stars.”  Unfortunately I continued reading for another 14 chapters and the book dropped down to a 3 star.

The main character Simon Serrailler is almost incidental in some ways, he is not the main investigator for the crime, but this is the first in the series so that might account for that.  He is a good character, isolated somewhat from his family due to his life choices, divided into policman and artist, and afraid of commitment or maybe just unaware of the possibility.  He comes across as an good police officer, a fair boss, an all round decent human being.  Other characters are equally appealing, Freya, Nathan, and Cat to name a few.

The issue for me is that the reveal (to the reader anyway) occurs in a separate piece just prior to Chapter 39, but then the book goes on and on, until chapter 54 and in the end we still really don’t know why.  It most definitely was the author’s purpose to leave it that way, making the statement that we never really know another human being and often we are in the dark about people’s motivations, but it just didn’t work for me.   Certain segments in the book are told in a form of a final confession letter/journal written by the villain and so hints of his motivations, mad though he may be, are peppered throughout them.  It just was frustrating to me that they were not followed up on or resolved.  On the last page Simon is thinking about the murderer and has this one thought that made it clear that this was all very purposeful of the author:

“Cat had said that his kind could only be left to the understanding of God.  Simon wondered.”

Interesting characters and a page turner, but frustrating to me as a reader.

Library Read-a-thon Wrap Up & Posted to Death by Dean James

I have quite enjoyed this Library Read-a-thon and I finished quite a bit of reading of library books as well.

In total I read:

  1. File M for Murder by Miranda James 
  2. Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason,
  3. The Blackhouse by Peter May
  4. In Sickness and in Death by Lisa Bork
  5. For Richer, For Danger by Lisa Bork
  6. Without Trace by Katherine John

and finally this morning:

7. Posted to Death by Dean James

Hope everyone else enjoyed the read-a-thon!

Now just a quick note about Posted to Death.

 

This is a series new to me…however, I have read books by the author under another name, Miranda James.  I found this series because I enjoyed the Miranda James’ A Cat in the Stacks Mysteries so much that I was looking for other books by “her”.  I then found out Dean James writes under the names of Miranda James, Honor Hartman, and Jimmie Ruth Evans.  So, there is lots to read by him.

Anyway, Posted to Death was great!  Funny, well written, full of quirky characters and a very interesting take on the traditional English village mystery.  I wouldn’t call it a parody, just a humorous take on the paranormal cozy genre.  The big twist is that the Dr. Simon Kirby-Jones, our sleuth is a man, just like in the Cat in the Stacks mysteries and he is also gay and a vampire.  The character is done so well; I really enjoyed it.  It could have been over the top bordering on ridiculous but it doesn’t go there.

The other village characters are traditional examples of village life with secrets to hide and reputations to protect. Very much centered around village committee life and the small political battles that entails.  That aspect reminded me of the BBC series Clatterford (US title) or Jam and Jerusalem (UK title).

I will definitely read more in the series and more by Dean James in all his incarnations.

 

Library Read-a-thon Day 6 & File M for Murder

Today’s prompt for the Library Read-a-thon was to think of library words.  Here are mine:

  • data
  • information
  • Page
  • classes
  • community
  • service
  • meetings
  • magazines
  • newspapers
  • clubs

I actually went back to my library today to drop off File M for Murder and to pick up some of my holds that came in:

 

I finished File M for Murder by Miranda James this morning.  This is the 3rd book in the series.

I love the characters in this series, particularly Charlie Harris, his son Sean, and Diesel, his Maine Coon cat.  Characters are definitely the main strength of  the  “A Cat in the Stacks” mysteries.  The setting and all the auxiliary characters are becoming more fleshed out as the series has progressed.  Charlie’s daughter has arrived in this book and we get to know her as well.  I love that the main protagonist, Charlie is a man and that gives this cozy a little bit different feel.  I also like that he is not involved in a love triangle that occurs in so many mysteries.

I did figure out the mystery prior to the reveal, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the book.  I don’t know exactly why this one was easier to solve than the others but I just had a hunch right away upon meeting the culprit that something was off about them.  There is a major misdirection in the form of a new character but that seemed a little to obvious to be anything but a red herring.

An enjoyable, quick read and I will continue to read more in this series.

 

Library Read-a-thon Day 5

 

I have to say that I know most of my librarians to see them but I don’t know their names.  They are always happy to see patrons and really helpful.  Most of the ones who work the desk know me because I’m always in picking up stacks of books at a time:)
In fact today, I jut picked up: