Monday, 29 December 2014

Want You Dead by Peter James


Hardback:  If he can't have her, then nobody can.

Single girl, 29, redhead and smouldering, love life that's crashed and burned.  Seeks new flame to rekindle her fire.  Fun, friendship and - who knows - maybe more?

When Red Westwood meets handsome, charming and rich Bryce Laurent through an online dating agency, there is an instant attraction.

But as their love blossoms, the truth about his past, and his dark side, begins to emerge.

Everything he has told Red about himself turns out to be a tissue of lies, and her infatuation with him gradually turns to terror.

Within a year, and under police protection, she evicts him from her flat and her life.

But Red's nightmare is only just beginning.

For Bryce is obsessed with her, and he intends to destroy everything and everyone she has known and loved - and then her too.

About the author:  Peter James was educated at Charterhouse, then at film school.  He lived in North America for a number of years, working as a screenwriter and film producer before returning to England.  His novels, including the Sunday Times number one bestselling Roy Grace series, have been translated into thirty-five languages, with worldwide sales of thirteen million copies.  Three novels have been filmed.

All his books reflect his deep interest in the world of the police, with whom he does in-depth research, as well as his fascination with science, medicine and the paranormal.  He has also produced numerous films, including The Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes.  He divides his time between his homes in Notting Hill, London and near Brighton in Sussex.

Visit his website at www.peterjames.com or

follow him on Twitter @peterjamesuk or

Facebook on http://www.facebook.com/peterjames.roygrace

Want You Dead (2014) is the tenth book in the Roy Grace series.

The next and eleventh book in the Roy Grace series, You Are Dead, will be released on 4 June 2015.

Rating:  5/5

Dead Man's Time by Peter James


Paperback:  Some will wait a lifetime to take their revenge.

A vicious robbery at a secluded Brighton mansion leaves its elderly occupant dying.

Millions of pounds' worth of valuables have been stolen.

But as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, heading the enquiry, rapidly learns, there is one priceless item of sentimental value that her powerful family cherish above all else.

And they are fully prepared to take the law into their own hands, and will do anything - absolutely anything - to get it back.

Within days, Grace is racing against the clock, following a murderous trail that leads him from the shady antiques world of Brighton, across Europe, and all the way back to the New York waterfront gang struggles of 1922, chasing a killer driven by the force of one man's greed and another man's fury.

About the author:  Peter James was educated at Charterhouse, then at film school.  He lived in North America for a number of years, working as a screenwriter and film producer before returning to England.  His novels, including the Sunday Times number one bestselling Roy Grace series, have been translated into thirty-five languages, with worldwide sales of thirteen million copies.  Three novels have been filmed.

All his books reflect his deep interest in the world of the police, with whom he does in-depth research, as well as his fascination with science, medicine and the paranormal.  He has also produced numerous films, including The Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes.  He divides his time between his homes in Notting Hill, London and near Brighton in Sussex.

Visit his website at www.peterjames.com or

follow him on Twitter @peterjamesuk or

Facebook on http://www.facebook.com/peterjames.roygrace

Dead Man's Time (2013) is the ninth book in the Roy Grace series.

Rating: 5/5

The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in Our Times by Barbara Taylor


Hardback:  "The lived past is never really past;  it endures in us in more ways than we understand.  Sometimes, it doesn't even fell like the past;  it just feels like life itself, like the way things have always been and always will be, now as before, then and for ever."

In July 1988, Barbara Taylor, then an acclaimed young historian, was admitted to what had once been England's largest psychiatric institution:  Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum, later known as Friern Hospital.

The journey that took her there began with anxiety and ended in complete breakdown.

Over the next four years, she lost her home and her career, as her world inexorably contracted around her illness.

The corridor of Friern - the longest in Europe - reduced visiting friends to tears, but Barbara Taylor's experience was not without hope.

Helped by an undaunted psychoanalyst as well as loyal friends, she found a way to recovery.

Formally discharged from the mental health system in 1992 - a year before Friern closed - she ended the decade with a job at a London university, a partner and a family, and a life she wanted to lead.

This searingly honest, thought-provoking and beautifully written memoir is the story of the author's madness years, set inside the wider story of the death of the asylum system in the twentieth century.

The Last Asylum (2014) is a meditation on her own experience of breakdown and healing, but also that of the millions of other people who have suffered, are suffering, will suffer mental illness.

About the author:  Professor Barbara Taylor is a historian whose previous books include an award-winning study of nineteenth-century socialist feminism, Eve and the New Jerusalem (Harvard University Press, 1992);  an intellectual biography of the pioneer feminist Mary Wollstonecraft in 2003;  and On Kindness (2009), a defence of fellow feeling cowritten with the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips.  She is a long-standing editor of the leading history publication History Workshop Journal and a director of the Raphael Samuel History Centre.  She teaches history and English at Queen Mary University of London.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Titan: The Life of John D Rockefeller, Sr by Ron Chernow


Paperback:  In this endlessly engrossing book, National Book Award-winning biographer Ron Chernow devotes his penetrating powers of scholarship and insight to the Jekyll and Hyde of American capitalism.

In the course of his nearly 98 years, John D Rockefeller Sr was known as both a rapacious robber baron, whose Standard Oil Company rode roughshod over an industry, and a philanthropist who donated money lavishly to universities and medical centers.

He was the terror of his competitors, the bogeyman of reformers, the delight of caricaturists - and an utter enigma.

Drawing on unprecedented access to Rockefeller's private papers, Chernow reconstructs his subject's troubled origins (his father was a swindler and a bigamist) and his single-minded pursuit of wealth.

But he also uncovers the profound religiosity that drove him "to give all I could";  his devotion to his family;  and the wry sense of humour that made him the country's most colourful codger.

Titan (1998) is a magnificent biography - balanced, revelatory, and elegantly written.  It has been named New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, Business Week's Best Business Book of the Year, Time Magazine's Book of the Year and the Economist's Best Biography of the Year.

About the author:  Ron Chernow's first book, The House of Morgan (1990), won the National Book Award, the Ambassador Award for the year's best study of American culture, and was named one of the 100 best nonfiction books of the century by the Modern Library.  His second book, The Warburgs (1993), won the Eccles Prize as the Best Business Book of 1993 and was also selected by the American Library Association as one of that year's best nonfiction books.

In reviewing his recent collection of essays, The Death of the Banker (1997), The New York Times called the author "as elegant an architect of monumental histories as we've seen in decades" and chose the paperback original as one of the year's Notable Books.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Poor As I Am


The Purity of Vengeance aka Guilt (A Carl Mørck Novel) by Jussi Adler-Olsen


Paperback:  1987 - Nete Rosen thought she'd put her traumatic youth behind her.  Her caring foster parents and loving husband helped her start again.

However, when a man from her past reappears one night, Nete's new life could be shattered.  But she won't be drawn back into that nightmare.  She won't be a victim again.

2010 - Detective Inspector Carl Mørck from Copenhagen's cold cases division is looking into the disappearance of Rita Nielsen, an escort-agency owner.  The investigation reveals that Rita is only one piece of the puzzle.

Because this is not a one-off incident - but part of a disturbing pattern which has been hidden from prying eyes for over twenty years...

About the author:  Jussi Adler-Olsen was born in Copenhagen and worked as a magazine editor and publisher before starting to write.  Redemption (2013) is the third novel in the Department Q series, following on from Disgrace (2012) and Mercy (2011).  Jussi Adler-Olsen holds the prestigious Glass Key Award, given annually for a crime novel by a Scandinavian author, and is also winner of the Golden Laurels, Denmark's highest literary accolade.

The next book in the Carl Mørck novel series is The Marco Effect (2014) which is available now.

The Purity of Vengeance has been translated from the Danish into the English by Martin Aitken and Steve Schein (Translation Consultant).

Rating:  5/5

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Reading On-Line


Redemption (A Carl Mørck Novel) by Jussi Adler-Olsen


Paperback:  Two young brothers wake tied up and gagged in a boathouse by the sea.

Their bonds are inescapable.

But, just perhaps, there is a way to cry for help...

Years later, in Copenhagen's cold cases division, Detective Inspector Carl Mørck receives a bottle.

It holds an old and decayed message, scratched in blood, from two boys.

Is it real?

Who are they and why weren't they reported missing?

Can they possibly still be alive?

Though the investigation initially appears hopeless, soon Carl and his team find themselves on the trail of not just these missing children but others.

Boys and girls taken, never to be seen again.

And a cold-hearted killer unable to stop...

About the author:  Jussi Adler-Olsen was born in Copenhagen and worked as a magazine editor and publisher before starting to write.  Redemption (2013) is the third novel in the Department Q series, following on from Disgrace (2012) and Mercy (2011).  Jussi Adler-Olsen holds the prestigious Glass Key Award, given annually for a crime novel by a Scandinavian author, and is also winner of the Golden Laurels, Denmark's highest literary accolade.

The next books in the Carl Mørck novel series are The Purity of Vengeance (2013) and The Marco Effect (2014).  Redemption has been translated from the Danish into the English by Martin Aitken.

About the translator:  Martin Aitken holds a PhD in Linguistics and gave up university tenure in 2008 to translate literature.  Since then he has translated a score of books into English and Danish, his work also having appeared in countless literary journals.  His translation of Janne Teller’s Nothing (Simon & Schuster/Atheneum and Strident Publishing) was doubly honoured in the United States in 2011, receiving both a Printz Honor and a Batchelder Honor, the most prestigious awards for young adult fiction in that country.

In 2012 he was awarded the American-Scandinavian Foundation’s Nadia Christensen Translation Prize.  His translation of Pia Juul's The Murder of Halland (Peirene Press) was longlisted for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012 and for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2014.

Recent translations are The Elephant Keepers' Children by Peter Høeg (Harvill & Secker/Other Press), likewise longlisted for the IMPAC award in 2014, and Dorthe Nors' Karate Chop (Graywolf Press/A Public Space), a collection of stories that has quickly garnered attention in the US.  He has also recently translated three crime thrillers by Nordic noir phenomenon Jussi Adler-Olsen for Penguin (Dutton in the US).

Forthcoming work includes novels by Helle Helle (to be published in November 2014 by Harvill Secker) and Kim Leine (2015 by Atlantic Books).  Martin Aitken lives in rural Denmark.

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Enigma of China (An Inspector Chen Novel) by Qiu Xiaolong


Paperback:  Enigma of China (2013) is the eighth book in the Inspector Chen Novel series and is dedicated to the Chinese netizens who fight for their citizenship in the cyberspace - unimaginable elsewhere - in the face of authoritarian control.

Chief Inspector Chen Cao - a poet by training and inclination - was assigned by the Party to the Shanghai Police Department college.

Now he's a rising cadre in the Party, in line to take over the top political position in the police department, while being one of the most respected policemen.

As such, he's brought in by the Party to sign off on the death of Zhou Keng.

Zhou Keng - son of a major Party member - was head of the Shanghai Housing Development Committee when a number of his corrupt practices were exposed on the Internet.

Placed into extralegal detention, Zhou apparently hanged himself while under guard.

The Party is anxious to have Zhou's death declared a suicide, and for the renowned Chief Inspector Chen to sign off on that conclusion, but the sequence of events don't quite add up.

Now Chen will have to decide whether to investigate it as a possible homicide and risk angering powerful people, or to seek the justice that his position requires him to strive for.

About the author:  Qiu Xiaolong is a poet and author of several previous novels featuring Inspector Chen, as well as Years of Red Dust, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010.  Born and raised in Shanghai, the Cultural Revolution began in his last year of elementary school, and out of school, out of job, he studied English by himself in a local park.  In 1977, he began his studies at East China Normal University in Shanghai, and then the Chinese Academy of Social Science in Beijing.  In 1988, he came to Washington University in St. Louis, U.S. as a Ford foundation fellow to do a project on Eliot, but after the Tiananmen tragedy of 1989, he decided to stay on.  He lives with his family in St Louis, Missouri.  Qiu's Inspector Chen series is a many-faceted study of contemporary China.

The next and ninth book in the Inspector Chen Novel series - Shanghai Redemption - will be released on 28 July 2015.

Rating:  5/5

Don't Cry, Tai Lake (An Inspector Chen Novel) by Qiu Xiaolong


Paperback:  Chief Inspector Chen Cao, of the Shanghai Police Department, is taking a vacation at a private resort near the once-legendary Tai Lake.

Inspector Chen arrives to find the lake, renowned for its clear waters, all but covered by fetid algae, polluted by toxic runoff from local manufacturing plants.

When the director of one of the plants responsible for the pollution - a man from whom Beijing expects "bigger things" - is found murdered, the police arrest a local environmental activist for the crime.

Drawn into the case by a young woman connected to both the victim and the accused, Inspector Chen has to tread carefully.

Surrounded by corruption, party politics, and long-buried resentments, Chen must unearth the truth behind the brutal murder if he is to find a measure of justice for everyone involved.

About the author:  Qiu Xiaolong is a poet and author of several previous novels featuring Inspector Chen, as well as Years of Red Dust, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010.  Born and raised in Shanghai, the Cultural Revolution began in his last year of elementary school, and out of school, out of job, he studied English by himself in a local park.  In 1977, he began his studies at East China Normal University in Shanghai, and then the Chinese Academy of Social Science in Beijing.  In 1988, he came to Washington University in St. Louis, U.S. as a Ford foundation fellow to do a project on Eliot, but after the Tiananmen tragedy of 1989, he decided to stay on.  He lives with his family in St Louis, Missouri.  Qiu's Inspector Chen series is a many-faceted study of contemporary China.

Don't Cry, Tai Lake (2012) is the seventh book in the Inspector Chen novel series set in China and addresses the issue of the polluted lakes and rivers in China.

Rating:  5/5

Friday, 12 December 2014

Money Logging: On The Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia by Lukas Straumann


Paperback:  A unique way of life in the rainforests has been destroyed in a single generation.  Read this book and weep.  But then get angry. - Wade Davis, author.

Money Logging (2014) investigates what Gordon Brown has called "probably the biggest environmental crime of our times" - the massive destruction of the Borneo rainforest by Malaysian loggers.

Historian and campaigner Lukas Straumann goes in search not only of the lost forests and the people who used to call them home, but also the network of criminals who have earned billions through illegal timber sales and corruption.

Straumann singles out Abdul Taib Mahmud, current governor of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, as the kingpin of this Asian timber mafia, while he shows that Taib's family - with the complicity of global financial institutions - have profited to the tune of fifteen billion US dollars.

Money Logging is a story of a people who have lost their ancient paradise to a wasteland of oil palm plantations, pollution, and corruption and how they hope to take it back and highlights the role of corruption as a key driver of tropical deforestation.

"This book investigates two crimes.  The first is how a single man, Abdul Taib Mahmud, along with a small group of very rich politicians and businessmen could destroy the richest ecosystem on earth despite not owning it, despite local and global outcry, despite international laws and regulations.  Simply put:  Who has stolen our trees?"

"The second crime is more subtle.  Surely, if my people have lost their ecosystem, their traditional way of life, their clean drinking water, and their freedom to roam the forests, they must have gained something.  Yet they haven't.  Many of the people of Sarawak are as poor as they were when I was born.  And yet, the value of the trees that have been felled is estimated to exceed US$50 billion.  This profit has fed corruption, kept oligarchs in power, been used to commit further crimes.  Fortunes have moved through the world's financial system, mostly secretly, to places as distant as Zurich, London, Sydney, San Francisco, and Ottawa."

"This book should be essential reading for anyone who uses a bank, buys property, or invests in the stock market.  Only by understanding how a rainforest can be converted into a building as far away as the FBI headquarters in Seattle can we hope to stop the kind of corruption that threatens the world's natural places and the people for whom these are home." - Mutang Urud, Kelabit tribe native to the tropical island of Borneo, July 2014.

About the author:  A historian by training, Lukas Straumann is the executive director of the Bruno Manser Fund, a human rights and environmental organization that champions the rights of the indigenous peoples of Borneo.
Before joining the Bruno Manser Fund, Lukas was a research fellow with the Independent Commission of Experts Switzerland - Second World War, which was tasked to probe Switzerland’s wartime past.  He is the co-author of a widely-reviewed study on Swiss Chemical Enterprises in the “Third Reich”.

Lukas was born near Basel, Switzerland, in 1969.  He holds a PhD in History from Zurich University and worked as a freelance journalist for various Swiss media.  His first book, Nützliche Schädlinge (2005), covered the history of applied entomology and the discovery of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane).

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Chinese Proverb No 11


White Ginger by Thatcher Robinson


Paperback:  Fierce loyalties, staunch compassion, and a weakness for strays lead Bai Jiang, San Francisco's best-known souxun - people finder - into violent conflicts that test her pacifist beliefs.

Armed with Buddhist philosophy and wicked knife skills, Bai works at being a better person by following her conscience, while struggling with a quick temper, smart mouth, and what she likes to think of as "aggressive assertiveness."

When a girl goes missing in San Francisco's Chinatown, Bai, herself the mother of a twelve-year-old girl, is called on to find her.  The trail leads to wannabe gangsters, flesh peddlers, real estate deals gone bad, and eventually to those who have marked Bai for death.

Enlisting the aid of her closest friend and partner, Lee - a sophisticated gay man who protects her, mostly from herself - and Jason - a triad assassin and the father of her daughter - Bai follows the dangerous trail of the missing girl, hoping to avoid the inevitable violence.

She confronts paid assassins and triad hatchet men, only to find that being true to her beliefs as a Buddhist and staying alive are often at odds.

At the same time, fighting a faceless enemy who seems committed to having her killed fills her with anger and fear that sometimes turns into a burning rage that threatens deadly consequences for her and those around her.

Flavoured with dark humour, White Ginger (2013) serves the perfect cocktail of wit, charm, sex and violence mixed with Chinese philosophy and heart-pounding action.

About the author:  Thatcher Robinson is a full-time writer.  He was previously employed as the chief operating officer of an Internet security firm that develops top-secret cyber-warfare materials for the military and various government agencies.  Prior to that, he was a software specialist at IBM research laboratories in Research Triangle Par, North Carolina.  He lives and writes in Northern California with his wife and two cats, all of whom boss him around.  When he's not writing, he likes to swim laps and restore old cars.

White Ginger (2013) is the first book in the White Ginger series.

The second book in this series, Black Karma (2014), is out now.

Rating:  5/5

It Is Time To Take Action - Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize Winner 2014


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

I Am A Monogamist, Extrovert and Altruist Reader


Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States and the World by Graham Allison and Robert D Blackwill, with Ali Wyne


Hardback:  When Lee Kuan Yew speaks, presidents, prime ministers, diplomats and CEOs listen.

Lee, the founding father of modern Singapore and its prime minister from 1959 to 1990, has honed his wisdom during more than fifty years on the world stage.

Almost single-handedly responsible for transforming Singapore into a Western-style economic success, he offers a unique perspective on the geopolitics of East and West.

American presidents from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama have welcomed him to the White House;  British prime ministers from Margaret Thatcher to Tony Blair have recognised his wisdom;  and business leaders from Rupert Murdoch to Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, have praised his accomplishments.

This book gathers key insights from interviews, speeches, and Lee's voluminous published writings and presents them in an engaging question and answer format.

Lee offers his assessment of China's future, asserting, among other things, that "China will want to share this century as co-equals with the US."

He affirms the United States' position as the world's sole superpower but expresses dismay at the vagaries of its political system.

He offers strategic advice for dealing with China and goes on to discuss India's future, Islamic terrorism, economic growth, geopolitics and globalization, and democracy.

Lee does not pull his punches, offering his unvarnished opinions on multiculturalism, the welfare state, education, and the free market.

This little book, Lee Kuan Yew (2013), belongs on the reading list of every world leader.

The Interviews and Selections from this book were compiled by:  Graham Allison is Douglas Dillon Professor of Government and Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School.  The Belfer Center is the hub of the Harvard Kennedy School's research, teaching, and training in international security affairs, environmental and resource issues, and science and technology policy.

Robert D Blackwill is Henry A Kissinger Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ali Wyne is an Associate at the Belfer Center.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Emma (A Modern Retelling) by Alexander McCall Smith


Hardback:  'I'm not at all sure that Emma will be the sort to want a husband,' she said quietly.  'I know I'm talking about a twelve-year-old girl here, but character;  Mr Woodhouse, is formed at a very early stage in our lives, and there are some girls who, even though only just twelve, give very clear indications of what lies ahead in the amorous department.'

Prepare to meet a young woman who thinks she knows everything.

Emma Woodhouse's widowed father is an anxious man, obsessed with nutrition and the latest vitamins.  He lives the life of a country gentleman in contemporary England, protectively raising his young daughters, Isabella and Emma.

While Isabella grows into a young woman, marries a society photographer for Vogue at the age of nineteen and gets down to the business of reproducing herself, Emma pursues a degree in interior design at university in Bath, and then returns to set up shop in her home village.

With her educated eye for the coordination of pattern and colour, Emma thinks she can now judge what person would best be paired with another, and sets about matchmaking her young friend, Harriet, with various possible suitors.

Little does she know she is not the only person encouraging romantic pairings in the village.  As Emma's cupid-like curiosity about her neighbours, both young and old, moves her to uncover their deeper motives, there is only one person who can play with Emma's indestructible confidence, her friend and inscrutable neighbour George Knightley - this time, has Emma finally met her match?

Ever alive to the small courtesies and customs that allow society to flourish, Alexander McCall Smith brings his signature warmth, wit and invention to Jane Austen's much-loved Emma (1815) in his modern retelling of Emma (2014).

About the author:  Like Mr Woodhouse, Alexander McCall Smith is the father of two daughters.  Unlike Mr Woodhouse, he achieved global recognition in 1999 for his award-winning series The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and he now devotes his time to the writing of fiction, including the 44 Scotland Street and the Isabel Dalhousie seres.  He is the author of over eighty books on a wide array of subjects, and his work has been translated into forty-six languages.

Before becoming a full-time writer, he was for many years Professor of Medical Law at Edinburgh University and served on national and international bioethics bodies.  He lives in Edinburgh with his wife, Elizabeth, a doctor.

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Handsome Man's De Luxe Café by Alexander McCall Smith


Hardback:  One quiet morning as she sips her redbush tea, the proprietress of the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency has the firmest impression that turmoil is coming to Tlokweng Road.

In this, as in almost all matters, Precious Ramotswe is right.  Change is heralded by Mma Makutsi's arrival bearing a business plan for Mma Ramotswe and an outline of her own ambitions as a restaurateur with the Handsome Man's De Luxe Café.

Before the day is out, the agency has both gained a dubiously qualified new Assistant Detective and taken on the challenge of identifying a lady with no name and no memory, her sole landmark the premises of Sengupta Office Supplies.

'I hope that you will discover something,' said Miss Rose.  'Mrs is very keen to find out who she is so that she can go back to her own home and her own people.'

Mma Ramotswe nodded reassuringly.  She had no idea how to proceed in this case.  But she wanted to try, because she had taken to Mrs, and could imagine how terrible it must be to find yourself cast adrift in the world, not knowing who or where you are, but aware that there must be people who are missing you and wanting you home.

But when Mma Makutsi's weakness for the underdog threatens her entrepreneurial future, Charlie is led astray and Violet Sephotho turns restaurant critic, only Mma Ramotswe's infallible instincts - that no one comes from nowhere, and however meandering the dusty path through the Botswana bush, it will lead you home - can transform disruption into a force for good.

About the author:  Alexander McCall Smith is the author of over eighty books on a wide array of subjects.  For many years, he was Professor of Medical Law at Edinburgh University and served on national and international bioethics bodies.  Then in 1999, he achieved global recognition for his award-winning series The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and thereafter has devoted his time to the writing of fiction, including the 44 Scotland Street and the Isabel Dalhousie series.  His books have been translated into forty-six languages.  He lives in Edinburgh with his wife Elizabeth, a doctor.

The Handsome Man's De Luxe Café (2014) is the fifteenth book in The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

Rating:  5/5

Monday, 1 December 2014

Singapore Black by William L Gibson


Paperback:  Singapore/Malaya, 1892.

When a dead American is found floating in Rochor Canal, Chief Detective Inspector David Hawksworth begins an investigation that quickly leads into a labyrinth of deceit and violence the polyglot steam-cooker of turn-of-the-century Singapore.

As Chinese gangs verge on open turf war and powerful commercial enterprises vie for control of the economy, a stolen statue that houses an ancient Hindu goddess becomes the object of a pursuit with a mounting body count, and it seems that everyone is suffering from maniacal erotic nightmares.

Will Hawksworth be able to restore order before the colony is tipped into a bloodbath?

Explore the dark underbelly of nineteeth-century Singapore's Chinatown and colonial district in this trilogy of hard-boiled historical thrillers, comprising Singapore Black (2013), Singapore Yellow (due for release in 2015) and Singapore Red (?).

About the author:   William L Gibson is a writer and educator based in Southeast Asia.  He is currently the Campus Academic Coordinator and Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at SAE Institute, Jakarta.  William holds a PhD from the University of Leeds.

William's work has appeared in numerous publications, including academic journals as well as commercial magazines such as Signal to Noise and Asian Geographic:  The Read.  His nonfiction book Art and Money in the Writing of Tobias Smollett was published in 2007.  In 2009, he collaborated with the record label Sublime Frequencies to release a compilation of 1960s Singapore-Chinese go-go music.  His other crime fiction book is Crime Scene Asia Volume 1:  Crime Fiction from India, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam (2013).  More information can be found on the author's website.

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Woman Who Decided To Die: Challenges and Choices at the Edges of Medicine by Ronald Munson


Hardback:  Traci had the best room in the hospital, one that overlooked a stunning green lawn and a shimmering oval pond. She was young and vibrant.  But she also had a terrible disease.  Her leukemia had not responded to treatment, and how her doctor wanted her to try another round of chemotherapy.  This time, though, the odds of success were minimal.  Should she grasp at the straw offered or reject it, because of the burden more treatment would place on her husband and their two small children?

Whose decision was it anyway?

In The Woman Who Decided to Die (2009), novelist and bioethicist Ronald Munson takes readers to the very edges of medicine, where treatments fail and where people must cope with helplessness, mortality, dread and doubt.

Using dramatic personal narratives that place us shoulder to shoulder with doctors, patients, and caregivers as they wrestle with uncertainty and struggle to make decisions, Munson explores ten riveting case-based stories, told with a writer's eye for illuminating detail.

Munson suggests that the axiom "With great power comes great responsibility" is more than a slogan for a superhero.  Rather, it could be adopted as the basic rule guiding decision making in contemporary medicine.

The time when doctors were forced to stand helpless at bedside and let nature takes its cruelest course is long past.

Advances in technology have multiplied the powers of medicine so extensively that they force us to struggle with new and often gut-wrenching decisions.

How do we know when someone is dead and not just in a coma?

Should a child be removed from a respirator?

When is a patient not competent to make a decision?

Can parents donate the organs of their deceased adult daughter?

The cases Munson presents include a convicted felon who needs a new heart, a student who believes she is being controlled by invisible Agents, a stepfather asked to give a lobe of his liver to his stepson, and a psychiatrist-patient who prizes his autonomy until the end.

Raising fundamental questions about human relationships, this is an essential book about the very nature of life and death.

About the author:  Ronald Munson is a nationally acclaimed bioethicist who has worked with the National Institutes of Health (Eye and Cancer).  He is also a member of the Washington University School of Medicine's Human Research Protection Committee and an Associate Editor for ethics at the American Journal of Surgery.

Educated at Columbia (PhD) and Harvard (Postdoctoral Fellow), he is Professor of the Philosophy of Science and Medicine at the University of Missouri-St Louis.  He has been a Visiting Professor at the University of California-San Diego, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.

His books include the award-winning Raising the Dead:  Organ Transplants, Ethics and Society (2002) - named a "Best Book in Science and Medicine" by the American Library Association, Reasoning in Medicine (1998) with Daniel Albert and Michael Resnick and Intervention and Reflection:  Basic Issues in Medical Ethics (1983) - in print for thirty years and is the most widely used bioethics text in the United States.

Munson is also the author of the novels Nothing Human (1991), Fan Mail (1993) and Night Vision (1995).

Monday, 24 November 2014

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout


Paperback:  The conscience of a people is their power. - John Dryden

1 in 25 ordinary Americans secretly has no conscience and can do anything at all without feeling guilty.  Who is the devil you know?

Is it your lying, cheating ex-husband?  Your sadistic high school gym teacher?  Your boss, who loves to humiliate people in meetings?

We are accustomed to think of sociopaths as violent criminals, but in The Sociopath Next Door (2005), clinical psychologist Martha Stout reveals that a shocking 4 percent of ordinary people have an often undetected mental disorder, the chief symptom of which is the complete absence of conscience.

They could be your colleague, your neighbour, even family.

And they can do literally anything at all and feel absolutely no guilt, shame, or remorse.

In The Sociopath Next Door, Dr Stout teaches you how to identify a sociopath and how to protect yourself from the ones who cross your path - and who may already be wreaking havoc in your life.

"According to the current bible of psychiatric labels, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV of the American Psychiatric Association, the clinical diagnosis of "antisocial personality disorder" should be considered when an individual possesses at least three of the following seven characteristics:

1)  failure to conform to social norms

2)  deceitfulness, manipulativeness

3)  impulsivity, failure to plan ahead

4)  irritability, aggressiveness

5)  reckless disregard for the safety of self or others

6)  consistent irresponsibility

7)  lack of remorse after having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another person.

Given the radically contradictory behavior we witness everyday, we must talk openly about both extremes of human personality and behavior.  To create a better world, we need to understand the nature of people who routinely act against the common good, and who do so with emotional impunity.  Only be seeking to discover the nature of ruthlessness can we find the many ways people can triumph over it, and only by discovering the dark can we make a genuine affirmation of the light.  It is my hope that this book will play some part in limiting the sociopath's destructive impact on our lives," wrote Dr Stout in her Introduction.

About the author:  Martha Stout, PhD - a clinical psychologist in private practice where she specializes in recovery from psychological trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidality - served on the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School for twenty-five years also served on the academic faculties of The New School for Social Research, the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, and Wellesley College.  She is also the author of The Myth of Sanity (2001) and The Paranoia Switch (2007).  She lives on Cape Ann in Massachusetts.

Definition: Clinomania


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum by Sarah Wise


The poetry of history lies in the quasi-miraculous fact that once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone, one generation vanishing into another.  The Dead were, and are not.  Their place knows them no more, and is ours today.  Yet they were once as real as we, and we shall tomorrow be shadows like them. - G M Trevelyan

Paperback:  In 1887, government inspectors were sent to investigate the Old Nichol, a notorious slum on the boundary of Bethnal Green parish, where almost 6 000 inhabitants were crammed into thirty or so streets of rotting dwellings and where the mortality rate ran at nearly twice that of the rest of Bethnal Green.

Among much else they discovered that the decaying 100-year-old houses were some of the most lucrative properties in the capital for their absent slumlords, who included peers of the realm, local politicians and churchmen.

The Blackest Streets (2009) is set in a turbulent period of London's history when revolution was in the air;  award-winning historian Sarah Wise skilfully evokes the texture of life at that time.

She recovers the Old Nichol from the ruins of history and lays bare the social and political conditions that created and sustained this black hole which lay at the very heart of the Empire.

The Blackest Streets is a scholarly and intelligent investigation that shines a light on a turbulent period in nineteenth-century London and also traces the links between poor housing, poverty, criminality and on humanity itself.

About the author:  "I live in central London and as well as writing my non-fiction books, I am currently working on a screenplay of Inconvenient People. I lecture regularly on London history and the history of 19th-century mental health.

I also teach 19th-century social history via fiction.  Details of my courses can be found here: www.bishopsgate.org.uk/Courses and type in course codes LN15101 or WR15118.

I grew up in West London and went to school in Wood Lane, White City. After graduation in English Literature, I worked as a journalist, mostly for arts, architecture and design titles, including the Guardian arts desk and Space magazine — the Guardian's design and architecture supplement.

I did a Master's degree in Victorian Studies at Birkbeck, University of London – jumping ship from Engish Literature to History. A chance discovery (a throwaway quote in a piece of Edwardian journalism) led to the writing of The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave Robbery in 1830s London (2004). I followed this up with The Blackest Streets: the Life and Death of a Victorian Slum in 2008.
The Italian Boy won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. The Blackest Streets was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize for evocation of a location/landscape.

My third book, Inconvenient People, was shortlisted for the 2014 Wellcome Book Prize and was a book of the year in the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, Guardian and Spectator."

Monday, 17 November 2014

Do Your Work, Then Step Back


The Woman I Wanted To Be by Diane von Furstenberg


Hardback:  In The Woman I Wanted To Be (2014), Diane von Furstenberg reflects with signature candour on the extraordinary journey of her life, in a story certain to inspire optimism and confidence in readers of all ages.

After exploring her roots in Belgium as the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, she recounts her glamorous travels across Europe as a young, jet-set princess and evokes the freedom of '70s era New York, from Fifth Avenue to Studio 54.

She tells of adventures in Bali and Paris, finding peace in Connecticut, and all that she learned about love, beauty and ageing along the way.

She also revisits the three phases of her business life:  living The American Dream as a fashion tycoon in the '70s, re-emerging after several setbacks as The Comeback Kid in the '90s and finally, the phase she living as she writes, The New Era, in which she works to cement her professional and philanthropic efforts into a lasting legacy.

Reading The Woman I Wanted To Be is like having an intimate conversation with a modern-day muse who is generous with her wisdom and humour.

What emerges is a bold and honest portrait of a woman who was determined to carve an identity of her own and, having achieved that goal, is empowering others to do the same.

About the author:  Diane von Furstenberg first entered the fashion world in 1972 with a suitcase full of jersey dresses.  Two years later, she created the wrap dress, which came to symbolize power and independence for an entire generation of women.

By 1976, she had sold more than a million of the dresses and was featured on the cover of Newsweek.  After a hiatus from fashion, Diane relaunched the iconic dress that started it all in 1997, reestablishing her company as the global luxury lifestyle brand that it is today.  DVF is now sold in over fifty-five countries.

In 2005, Diane received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) for her impact on fashion, and one year later was elected the CFDA's president, an office she continues to hold.  Director of the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, she is an active philanthropist and supporter of emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs.

In 2012, Diane was named the most powerful woman in fashion by Forbes magazine.

As of 2014, she is listed as the sixty-eighth most powerful woman in the world by Forbes and her company has eighty-five stores worldwide.

She is also the author of Diane:  A Signature Life (2009) and Diane von Furstenberg's Book of Beauty:  How to Become a More Attractive, Confident, and Sensual Woman (1979).

Keep Reading and Be Amazed


Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Rita Nitz Story: A Life Without Parole (Non-fiction) by Larry L Franklin


Hardback:  The April 1988 murder and decapitation of twenty-three-year-old Michael Miley in rural southern Illinois horrified and enraged local residents and law enforcement officials, some of whom suspected the homicide was a hate crime.

The Rita Nitz Story:  A Life Without Parole (2005) is an in-depth personal investigation into Miley's murder, for which Rita Nitz was sentenced to life in prison as an accomplice.

Born in 1959, Rita was thirty when she was sentenced in 1989.  Her husband, Richard Nitz, was convicted of the murder.  Detailing the crime and its aftermath, Larry L Franklin uncovers a disturbing set of facts that illuminate a possible miscarriage of justice.

Was Rita Nitz involved in the murder of Michael Miley?  Franklin doesn't purport her guilt or her innocence but instead details the plight of a troubled woman who was a victim of sexual abuse and domestic violence at the hands of family members and spouses and who may also have been a victim of inadequate legal representation and a judicial system more interested in delivering the maximal punishment than in serving justice.

In a journey that included consultations with experts in prosecutorial conduct, jury psychology, and forensic evidence, Franklin discovered details that were withheld from the jury and the public during the trial in 1989.

Drawing on numerous conversations with Rita at the Dwight Correctional Center in Illinois, Franklin divulges the story of Rita's tumultous youth and her three problematic marriages.  He shows her to be a battered woman who didn't fully understand the circumstances and behavior that led to her being implicated in such a hideous crime and who lacked the financial resources and emotional strength to navigate the legal tangle that entrapped her.

Franklin thoroughly examines the fifteen-day trial that led to the conviction of Rita Nitz.  Using the trial transcript, he reconstructs the testimony of key witnesses, the actions and reactions of the judge and jury, and the inadequate defense that left jury members speculating whether the verdict might have been different if the attorneys had been reversed.

He also suggests other theories and names possible perpetrators involved in the murder that further imply shoddy police work and a tainted criminal investigation.

The Rita Nitz Story:  A Life Without Parole illustrates that Rita's conviction was largely due to spurious testimony and woefully inadequate legal counsel and did not rely on any forensic evidence to support the charges.

Franklin also points out the disparity in justice between Rita and Richard, who is up for parole in less than twenty years, while Rita remains sentenced to life without parole.

In attempting to reach the truth about Miley's murder, Franklin highlights abuses in the Illinois correctional system and disparities between the treatment of male and female convicts, sketching a blueprint that could improve law enforcement and justice in rural Illinois.

This should be required reading for all law, criminology, and sociology students, and indeed for anyone who may someday serve on a murder trial jury.

This is a story that must be heard.

About the author:  Larry L Franklin grew up in Illinois and received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Illinois, a master of music degree from Southern Illinois University, and a master of fine arts degree in creative nonfiction from Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland.