Deep in the muddy fields of the Lincolnshire Fens, a teenage girl is found wandering, delirious, claiming to have been drugged at a party. Metres away, the drowned body of another girl is found on an isolated beach. And all this on a small stretch of land where, nearly 10 years ago, the shocking disappearance of a young girl remains an open case.
DI Rowan Jackman and DS Marie Evans are working a missing persons case seeking the daughter of one of their own coworkers. Finding a body is heartbreaking, but at least an answer.
Unfortunately, there are still questions. The girl's body has signs of drugs she wouldn't have taken willingly. They have another case dropped on them from a neighboring jurisdiction, which claims it's got a work overload.
And an old case, of a disappeared little girl who was never found, is also handed to them, as a high priority, because the mother, who has never given up, is making another media push to get her found.
When one girl is found wandering on a muddy beach, with the same drugs in her system that the dead girl had, and talks about her friend Emily being dragged off, they realize they have a much bigger, much nastier problem on their hands. Missing girls over years, possible police corruption in the neighboring jurisdiction, and an even older case, of an apparent murder-suicide of a couple whose surviving children are now grown, may all be connected.
This is a separate series from the DI Nikki Galena series, but also set on the fens, against the same background. Pathologist Rory Wilkinson appears in both. Yet it's a different jurisdiction, with a whole different cast of police and the regulars of a different town to become familiar with. They are, as with the other series, solid, likable characters determined to do their jobs and serve their community. The pacing moves, and the clues are there. We also get to know the teenagers, and I'll avoid spoilers by simply saying, "other involved parties."
An excellent story. Recommended.
I bought this audiobook.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
In the near future of Robert Charles Wilson's Last Year, the technology exists to open doorways into the past - but not our past, not exactly. Each "past" is effectively an alternate world, identical to ours but only up to the date on which we access it. And a given "past" can be reached only once. After a passageway is open, it's the only road to that particular past; once closed, it can't be reopened.
Jesse Cullum is one of the local employees of the city of Futurity, a man of the 1870s hired first to help build and then to be a security guard for the city.
Futurity is a city built by people from the 21st century, who have technology that allows them to travel into, not their own past, but into an alternate past, a past that appears to be theirs, but in which changes won't affect their own time. The technology is said to be a product of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and licensed to a wealthy industrialist named Kemp when it proved to have no military value. He's using it to run tours of the 1870s for the well-heeled of the 21st century, while offering the natives of the 1870s a carefully selective view of the 21st century. The gateway, the "mirror," will only remain open for five years, allegedly to avoid having too much impact on this alternate world, and it's now the start of Futurity's last year.
Jesse Cullum has been a dedicated and capable employee. He's saving his earnings to help support his sister Phoebe in San Francisco. He generally likes the 21st century people, but there's a distance created by the gulf in experience and attitudes.
Then Jesse prevents the assassination of President Ulysses S. Grant on a visit to Futurity, and the weapon turns out to be a Glock, which should never, ever have gotten into the hands of a man who proves to be a local. Jesse is about to get much better acquainted with his 21st century employers and fellow employees, and at the same time discover some unpleasant secrets about Kemp's plans, the true origins of the technology, and why Kemp has enemies that include his own daughter.
Jesse and his contemporaries knew they were being exploited, but they assumed it was within normal limits. They have no idea of the truth, and Jesse is about to find out. He's assigned to work with Elizabeth DePaul, an Iraq War veteran. It's an education for him, and she gets an education in the 19th century outside of Futurity as they investigate the presence of Glocks in the hands of locals.
This is a really interesting story, an interesting twist on time travel, and really interesting, compelling characters. Neither time frame is portrayed as "better," though each has, from the viewpoints of its natives, some real advantages.
I bought this audiobook.
Miracle Springs is a place of healing. Strangers flock there hoping that the natural hot springs, five-star cuisine, and renowned spa can cure their ills. And, if none of that works, they often find their way to Miracle Books, where, over a fresh-baked scone from the Gingerbread House bakery, they exchange their stories with owner Nora Pennington in return for a carefully chosen book. That's Nora's special talent: prescribing the perfect novel to ease a person's deepest pain and lighten their heaviest burden.
Nora Pennington moved to Miracle Springs after a terrible personal tragedy, and opened a bookstore, Miracle Books. She sells books, and coffee, and for those customers who need it, over a "comfort scone" from the neighboring Gingerbread House bakery, she'll listen to their troubles, and recommend well-chosen books to start them on the path to healing.
It's a peaceful, quiet life, until one day, the customer in need of healing is Neil Parrish. He makes an appointment to see her the next day, but is killed by a train before he can keep that appointment. It's not long before the clumsy official investigation into the death connects Nora with three other women who moved to Miracle Springs for their own healing. They form the Secret, Book, & Scone Society. They share their secrets, and launch their own investigation of Neil Parrish's death.
They're all compromised individuals, but they also all prove to be strong and smart women in their own ways. Miracle Springs also proves to have more than just their secrets, and much more dangerous ones, but it also has other strong, good characters along with its venal and corrupt ones. The plot avoids the lazy and the silly, and we see the women discover their strength, learn to trust their new friendship, and also start to make more friends beyond their own immediate circle.
The book reads to me like a well-thought-out, and very promising start to a new mystery series, centered around character.
I bought this audiobook.
Paige Moresco found her true love in eighth grade - and lost him two years ago. Since his death, she’s been sleepwalking through life, barely holding on for the sake of her teenage son. Her house is a wreck, the grass is overrun with weeds, and she’s at risk of losing her job. As Paige stares at her neglected lawn, she knows she’s hit rock bottom. So she does something entirely unexpected: she begins to dig. As the hole gets bigger, Paige decides to turn her entire yard into a vegetable garden. Something big is beginning to take root - both in her garden and in herself.
Paige Moresco met her true love in eighth grade.
They married right out of college, and had a son, Trey.
When Trey was in his early teens, though, Jesse died in a car crash.
Two years have passed,and neither Paige nor Trey has recovered from the loss. Paige isn't really keeping up with house maintenance. Weeds are taking over their yard, and the neighbors in their gated community aren't happy. Jesse and Paige, because of their childhoods in a dangerous neighborhood, were self-protective and contained, and now Paige doesn't really have friends outside of work. Trey has at least one friend at school, but his trauma over the way he lost his father is keeping from taking the driver's ed class that's mandatory for him to graduate high school.
Something has got to give--especially after Paige's boss dies, and his son takes over the company, with a very different approach both to management, and to business development for their small advertising agency. Paige is at risk of losing her job.
When the frustrations and pressures build too high, one night after work, while Trey is staying the night with his friend Colin, Paige drinks wine and digs in the back yard. First all the dandelions.
Then a great big hole.
She's getting her neighbors more nervous than ever, especially after she decides that she's going to turn the whole yard into a vegetable garden.
It's crazy, and it's distracting her from very real challenges at work, and her neighbors start filing complaints.
At first this had me pretty worried, in that it looked like the story would head in the direction of humiliating Paige for laughs, a "humor" I've never enjoyed. Instead, Paige starts to learn things about herself, her neighbors, her coworkers, and even the legitimately hard to like but not stupid new boss. It becomes a really interesting look at how grief and change, while painful, can also lead to growth and discovery.
In the end, enjoyable and interesting, with unexpectedly good character development.
I bought this audiobook.
In lyric, accessible prose, Carlo Rovelli invites us to consider questions about the nature of time that continue to puzzle physicists and philosophers alike. For most listeners, this is unfamiliar terrain. We all experience time, but the more scientists learn about it, the more mysterious it appears. We think of it as uniform and universal, moving steadily from past to future, measured by clocks. Rovelli tears down these assumptions one by one, revealing a strange universe where, at the most fundamental level, time disappears.
This is a book about time--about the nature of time, the ways that we misunderstand it, and what research is revealing about it.
The real nature of time is very different from what we experience in everyday life, in part because what we experience is to a significant degree our own creation. Events, Carlo Rovelli says, don't form an orderly queue like the English; they form a disorderly crowd, like the Italians. (Not an exact quote, because I was listening to the audiobook while driving, but pretty close.)
This is challenging material, but Rovelli and his translators do an excellent job laying it out for the layperson. I had to dig to find the names of the translators, Erica Segre and Simon Carnell, but they did an excellent job and deserve to be acknowledged. I suspect no one will be surprised to learn that it was a pleasure to listen to Benedict reading it.
I bought this audiobook.
Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life - a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancé’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes - just as Blix told her it would. When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness.
Marnie MacGraw is engaged to marry Noah Spinnaker, when she meets his eccentric, unpredictable, matchmaker great-aunt Blix Holliday. Blix takes a liking to Marnie--a liking she doesn't have for her nephew, Noah. When her marriage to Noah comes crashing down around her while they're still on what was meant to be their honeymoon trip, Marnie goes home to Florida and her family, and tries to put the whole thing behind her.
Blix has other plans.
Blix told Marnie she was destined to have a "big life." Marnie doesn't want a "big life." She wants a husband and children. She's connected again with her old high school boyfriend, Jeremy, when she receives a lawyer letter telling her Blix has died, and she's inherited Blix's brownstone in Brooklyn, NY.
There are conditions, though, the most important of which is that she has to live in it for three months before getting full ownership.
Marnie hasn't just inherited Blix's brownstone. She's also inherited Blix's neighbors and friends, her "projects" who need a little help finding their way toward happiness. Blix told Marnie several times that she shares Blix's talent for matchmaking and magic. Marnie doesn't believe it. Yet, at certain times, she sees the golden sparkles...
Marnie is sweet, and kind, and wants happiness not just for herself, but for people around her. She also has a small gift for snark. This Nice Southern Girl doesn't know what to make of Brooklyn, where the buildings are old and well-worn, no one has a car and you have to shop every day, and you meet the most amazing diversity of people, just going about your daily business.
Meanwhile, her family is nagging her to just sell the building and come home, and her ex-husband, Blix's great-nephew, has settled in to Blix's apartment in the brownstone with her. He says he's taking classes; he seems unduly interested in why Blix decided to leave the building to her, rather than to her niece, Noah's mother, with whom she has always had a really bad relationship.
I'll just say right here that, if Marnie were a Sensible Northern Girl rather than a Nice Southern Girl, she'd have changed the locks on Noah, fairly early on. He's got nothing good to offer; he doesn't even like the dog who adopts her.
The tenants, Jessica and her son Sammy, and Patrick, the curmudgeonly ex-artist who was badly burned in a gas explosion, along with Blix's friend and neighbor Lola, and the bodega owner across the street, Paco, are all great characters who add to the flavor and enjoyment of the book.
This book is just a lot of fun. Recommended.
I bought this audiobook.
Why is glass see-through? What makes elastic stretchy? Why does a paper clip bend? These are the sorts of questions that Mark Miodownik is constantly asking himself. A globally renowned materials scientist, Miodownik has spent his life exploring objects as ordinary as an envelope and as unexpected as concrete cloth, uncovering the fascinating secrets that hold together our physical world.
Most of us don't spend much time thinking about materials science, but that might be a mistake. The materials that make up the tools and products we use every day, from the most mundane (paper clips, anyone?) to the ones you probably don't know exist (I certainly never heard of concrete cloth before), are fascinating not just for what they do, but for how they get that way and how we figured it out.
This is a fascinating tour through the world of materials science, and Miodownik is very effective at sharing his joy in it.
I bought this audiobook.
Gerbert was a farmer's son in an obscure town in France, but his gifts of mind and intellect were so remarkable that even in the feudal world of the tenth century, he could rise far above his station. Princes and prelates courted him; emperors called him friend and teacher. He brought the lost art of mathematics back into Europe; he was an astronomer, a musician, a builder of strange and wonderful devices. In the end he reached the pinnacle of the world, a seat so lofty and an authority so great that he answered only to God Himself. But Gerbert was more than a simple professor of the mathematical arts, or even a prince of the Church.
A real, historical person, Gerbert de Aurillac started life as a farmer's son in an unimportant town in tenth-century France. He died Pope Sylvester II in 1003.
Along the way, he became an important scholar, teacher, mathematician, and by tenth-century standards, scientist.
According to legend, he may also have been a master of the magical arts. This is that story, starting with young Gerbert meeting his first tutor in the arts of magic.
This is a good, solid, engrossing story of mediaevel magic, politics, and history, with really excellent characters. Tarr as always knows the history more than well enough to do believable but interesting things with it, and make a stronger story overall.
Gerbert, his friend Richer, his rival Arnulf, his first teacher of magic, the Saracen Ibrahim, Emperor Otto II, and the other significant characters all have the complexities, mixed motives, strengths and weaknesses. For this reread, I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator is very good.
I bought this audiobook.
History was made at the 2015 Belmont Stakes when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown, the first since Affirmed in 1978. As magnificent as the champion is, the team behind him has been all too human while on the road to immortality.
In 2015, American Pharoah became the twelfth horse to win American thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown, the first to do so since Affirmed in 1978. This is the story of his racing career, his breeding and training, and the owner/breeder, trainers, jockeys, and competitors that were a part of his journey to that accomplishment.
Horse racing can be a questionable sport with a lot of questionable people. Joe Drape doesn't focus on that more than he needs to, but also doesn't ignore it. A horse can't ask for a second opinion on whether the stuff his trainer wants him to take to help him perform better is either safe or legal.
But the horses are beautiful, and as long as there are no accidents on the track, it's a joy to watch them run.
There are a lot of colorful characters in racing, too, and the people around American Pharoah (I should mention that yes, that is the correct spelling of his name) are no exception. Breeder/owner Ahmed Zayat is Egyptian, an Orthodox Jew, and made his money selling beer in mostly Muslim countries. Trainer Bob Baffert is a Hall of Fame trainer, with a long history in the sport, loud, often arrogant, and intense. Jockeys Martin Garcia and Victor Espinoza rode him and played roles in his training, and have their own interesting life stories.
This is an enjoyable and interesting book, though it helps to have an interest in the geeky details of horse racing.
I bought this audiobook.
Richard H. Thaler has spent his career studying the radical notion that the central agents in the economy are humans - predictable, error-prone individuals. Misbehaving is his arresting, frequently hilarious account of the struggle to bring an academic discipline back down to earth - and change the way we think about economics, ourselves, and our world.
Richard Thaler is one of the founders of behavioral economics, and he gives us a clear, enlightening, and entertaining account of its origins, principles, and findings.
Traditional economics operates on the theory of the rational economic person--homo economicus, or as Thaler shortens it for convenience, Econs. For the purposes of economic theory, Econs are assumed to always make rational and fully informed choices, for maximum economic benefit. The problems should be obvious; we are rarely fully rational in our decision-making, and almost never have complete, and completely accurate, information. The more important our decisions are--career choice, marriage, retirement planning, the less likely we are to have enough information to make "correct" economic choices.
Over a period of forty years, Thaler and others, recognizing, sometimes dimly, sometimes clearly, that humans don't make purely rational decisions, often not even when we do have "enough" information, began to tease this out. They needed to prove not only that humans make economic decisions based on incomplete information, emotion, impulse, and what economists consider irrelevant factors, but that it matters. If the collective effect of all our individual decisions adds up to the same result as if we had made those decisions rationally, it wouldn't matter, and rational economic theory, "efficient market theory," would still be fully sufficient for economic analysis.
The book is lively, filled with stories and anecdotes, but also clear explanations of the basic principles. It's clear, and in some ways more rational than traditional economic theory that assumes human economic behavior can be accurately predicted based on a model of human behavior that resembles no human being who has ever lived. As an example of the divergence between Econs and humans, Thaler offers the example of a bowl of cashews on the coffee table before dinner. You may like cashews. You may enjoy having cashews before dinner--but you probably don't want to eat so many that you spoil your dinner. What's the sensible thing to do?
The Econ, homo economicus, who always makes completely rational decisions, just stops eating the cashews when he decides he's had enough. The ordinary, real, human being who really wants to stop eating before eating enough to spoil dinner, is more likely to take that cashew bowl and put it away, so that it's not sitting there as a temptation.
And, once you allow for the fact of real human beings rather than Econs, that's a completely rational decision. It's also one that the Econ would never understand. Either you prefer to stop eating cashews, so you do, or you prefer to keep eating cashews, so you do. No need to move the bowl!
More directly economic matters are the cab driver who works each day until he's hit his target income for the day, and then ends his work day. This means he works more hours when earning is low, and fewer hours on the days when earning is good. From the point of view of homo economicus, this is insane. It's just not worth working that many hours when pay is bad, but on the days when pay is good, he could boost his total income by working more hours! From the viewpoint of income maximization, this is completely rational, and Thaler agrees. It's a mistake not to take advantage of the high-pay days, and knock off early when the pay is bad. I'm not sure income maximization is the only consideration here, but it's quite reasonable for an economist to think it should be.
More interesting are strange anomalies in the part of the economy that, it would seem, should be most rational, the stock market. Surely most of the money in the stock market is invested or managed by professionals able to master all available information and make rational decisions, right?
Turns out, not so much. Even the professionals can succumb to irrational exuberance, over- or under-estimate value and risk, and find themselves unable to properly exploit market inefficiencies (which are not supposed to exist), even when they recognize them.
It's a fascinating, enlightening, entertaining book, well worth your time. Recommended.
I bought this audiobook.