Saturday, 26 March 2016

A Hakka Woman's Singapore Stories: My Life as a Daughter, Doctor and Diehard Singaporean by Lee Wei Ling


Paperback:  Dr Lee Wei Ling, scion of Singapore’s first family, writes about her life as a daughter, doctor and diehard Singaporean.  A Hakka Woman's Singapore Stories (2016) addresses a range of matters affecting Singaporeans in a personal way.  It reflects her personality, profession, relationships, passions and perspective of life, Singapore and the world, and her loved ones.  The chapters are grouped thematically and are capped by an epilogue of six articles which encapsulate the two events that had a major impact on the writer, and resonated deeply with Singaporeans:  the passing of her parents.

"Lee is a natural storyteller.  Her knack for ironic humour and a delivery that replicates speech, offers every article an immediacy which an editor would be foolish to blue-pencil and straitjacket within the confines of conventional writing.  Her forthright, take-the-bull-by-horns-attitude towards life energises her stories an doffers an intimacy that is personal, yet civil.  These three qualities - immediacy, energy and intimacy - drive the telling of her experiences retailed in this book," wrote Yap Koon Hong, editor and journalist with The Straits Times in the About This Book.

"Lee's feisty, funny, open and often unapologetic personality clearly imprints itself in this book.  There may be as many who may disagree with her views as there are those who will nod approvingly.  This collection is certainly not the definitive autobiography of Lee, limited, as it is, by the content of her published writings in the newspapers.  This book is special because it is rare, and readable;  and not because it is the last word by Lee about her family and her life, but the first."

About the author:  Lee Wei Ling is the only daughter of Lee Kuan Yew and Kwa Geok Choo.  Mr Lee was Singapore's first prime minister and Madam Kwa was a managing partner of the law firm Lee & Lee which the couple started.  Mr Lee left the firm when he became prime minister and his brother Dennis Lee Kim Yew ran the firm with Madam Kwa.  The third prime minister Lee Hsien Loong is the elder brother while her younger brother Lee Hsien Yang is a businessman in the private sector.

Dr Lee topped the science stream for the 1972 A-level exam.  She was awarded the President's Scholarship in 1973 and studied medicine at the University of Singapore.  She also topped her cohort in medical school, obtaining a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree with honours in 1978.  She has worked in the public health sector since then.  She was awarded further scholarships by the Ministry of Health to train in paediatric neurology for three years in Boston at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (1981-1984) and for a year at The Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto (1992).  She headed the National Neuroscience Institute as its director between 2004 and 2014, and is currently senior consultant in paediatric neurology at this institute.

Criminal Enterprise (Stevens and Windermere series) by Owen Laukkanen


Paperback:  From the outside, Carter Tomlin's life looked perfect:  a big house, pretty wife, two kids - a St. Paul success story. But Tomlin has a secret.  He has lost his job, the bills are mounting, and that perfect life is hanging by a thread.  Desperate, he robs a bank.  Then he robs another.
As the red flags start to go up, FBI Special Agent Carla Windermere homes in on Tomlin from one direction, while Minnesota state investigator Kirk Stevens picks up the trail from another.  The two cops have not talked since their first case together, but that is all going to change very quickly.

Because Carter Tomlin's decided he likes robbing banks.  And it is not because of the money, not anymore.  Tomlin has guns and a new taste for violence and he's not quitting anytime soon.

About the author:  Owen Laukkanen’s 2012 debut, The Professionals, earned rave reviews from critics and readers alike.  The story of four recent university graduates who turn to kidnapping in a failing job market, The Professionals was hailed as, “a brutally beautiful piece of work” by New York Times bestseller John Sandford, “a high-octane adrenaline and gunpowder-fueled rocket ride” by bestseller C.J. Box, and, “a first-class thriller by a terrific new voice” by John Lescroart.  Mystery Scene Magazine called it one of the year’s best debuts, while Kirkus Reviews named it one of the top 100 novels of the year.

Now, Laukkanen is back with his second book, Criminal Enterprise (2013), which reunites FBI Special Agent Carla Windermere and Minnesota state investigator Kirk Stevens in another explosive blockbuster.  Kirkus Reviews raves, “Fans of crime thrillers shouldn’t miss this or anything else with Laukkanen’s name on the cover. The writing is so crisp, the pages almost turn themselves,” while Booklist writes, “Laukkanen has clearly avoided the sophomore slump.”

A graduate of the University of British Columbia’s Creative Writing program, Laukkanen spent three years in the world of professional poker reporting before turning to fiction.  He currently lives in Vancouver.  His latest and fifth instalment - The Watcher in the Wall (2016) - in the excellent Stevens and Windermere series is out now.

Rating:  5/5

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson


Hardback:  Lisbeth Salander, computer genius and woman of independent means, has learned to use every weapon in the book to achieve her ends.  She does not forget and she does not forgive, and wherever she finds corruption or abuse - most especially of women - she is relentless.

She decides to wage war on the elusive figures of the sex-trafficking industry, using her prodigious skills as a hacker to further an investigation launched by her one-time friend Mikael Blomkvist, the publisher of Millennium magazine.  But hardly has she emerged from her hidden apartment than she is embroiled in a double murder, and sought by the police for a third.  Not only does evidence point to her being mentally deranged, but her prints are on the murder weapon.

The only way Salander can be reached is by computer.  But she in turn can break into almost any network she chooses.  For cunning, for resolve, for ruthlessness she cannot be matched.  But now, hunted not only by Inspector Bublanski's team but also by every force in Sweden, she is beyond the reach of any protection.  She is also the prey of terrifyingly violent men, who will stop at nothing to protect their criminal schemes.  Salander must unearth and expose the truth before her pursuers find her.

The Girl Who Played With Fire (2009) is the second volume of Stieg Larsson's magnificent Millennium Trilogy.  It was nominated for the Anthony Award for Best Novel and the Dilys Award for Best Book.

About the author:  Karl Stig-Erland "Stieg" Larsson (1954-2004) was a Swedish journalist and writer.  He is best known for writing the "Millennium trilogy" of crime novels, which were published posthumously.  Larsson lived much of his life in Stockholm and worked there in the field of journalism and as an independent researcher of right-wing extremism.

He was the second best-selling author in the world for 2008, behind Khaled Hosseini.  The third novel in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, became the most sold book in the United States in 2010 according to Publishers Weekly.  By March 2015, his series had sold eighty million copies worldwide.

His family and Norstedts have instituted an annual award of 200.000 Swedish Krona in memory of him since 2009.  The prize is awarded to a person or organization working in Stieg Larsson's spirit.  The recipient in 2015 was Chinese Yang Jisheng for his notable work, Tombstone, which describes the consequences of the three years of the Great Chinese Famine.

Rating:  5/5

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson


Paperback:  "I want you to find out who in the family murdered Harriet, and who since then has spent almost forty years trying to drive me insane."

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared off the secluded island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger family.  There was no corpse, no witnesses, no evidence.  But her uncle, Henrik, is convinced that she was murdered by someone in her own family - the deeply dysfunctional Vanger clan.  Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist is hired to investigate, but when he links Harriet's disappearance to a string of gruesome murders from forty years ago, he needs a competent assistant - and he gets one:  computer hacker Lisbeth Salander - a tattoed, truculent, angry girl who rides a motorbike like a Hell's Angel and handles makeshift weapons with the skill born of remorseless rage.
This unlikely pair form a fragile bond as they delve into the sinister past of this island-bound, tightly-knit family.  But the Vangers are a secretive lot, and Mikael and Lisbeth are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves - and each other.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2008) is the first book in the praise-worthy Millennium trilogy.  It won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the Barry Award for Best Crime Novel, the Macavity Award for Best First Novel, another Barry Award for Mystery/Crime Novel of the Decade, the ITV3 Crime Thriller Award for International Author of the Year, UK, the Exclusive Books Boeke Prize, South Africa, and the Galaxy British Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year, UK.  It was nominated for the Anthony Awards in the Best Novel category.

About the author:  Karl Stig-Erland "Stieg" Larsson (1954-2004) was a Swedish journalist and writer.  He is best known for writing the "Millennium trilogy" of crime novels, which were published posthumously.  Larsson lived much of his life in Stockholm and worked there in the field of journalism and as an independent researcher of right-wing extremism.

He was the second best-selling author in the world for 2008, behind Khaled Hosseini.  The third novel in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, became the most sold book in the United States in 2010 according to Publishers Weekly.  By March 2015, his series had sold eighty million copies worldwide.

His family and Norstedts have instituted an annual award of 200.000 Swedish Krona in memory of him since 2009.  The prize is awarded to a person or organization working in Stieg Larsson's spirit.  The recipient in 2015 was Chinese Yang Jisheng for his notable work, Tombstone, which describes the consequences of the three years of the Great Chinese Famine.

Rating:  5/5

White Sky, Black Ice (A Nathan Active Mystery) by Stan Jones


Paperback:  Born to a poor Inupiat girl in Chukchi, Alaska, north of the Arctic Circle, State Trooper Nathan Active was adopted and raised by a white family in Anchorage.  Now, an unwelcome job reassignment has returned him to the stark, beautiful landscape of poverty-stricken Chukchi.  Two suspicious suicides in the span of a week and rumours of trouble in the village and at the local copper mine lead Active to believe there is a killer at large.  As a nalauqmiiyaaq, or someone regarded by the community as “halfwhite,” he must fight for every clue before the killer strikes again.

While this tough, gritty mystery generates only modest suspense, its exotic setting will hold readers throughout.  Jones has a real knack for depicting the daily life of a small Inupiat community, and the toll that alcoholism has taken on it.  White Sky, Black Ice (1999) has been nominated for the Barry Award for First Best Novel.

About the author:  Stan Jones (born 1947) is an American writer of mystery and science fiction novels, and is co-author of a non-fiction oral history book.  Jones was born in Anchorage, Alaska, where he lives today but his parents were from Tennessee and moved back there when he was about two.  He spent his boyhood through age twelve on a farm near the Tennessee-Mississippi border.  All of his books to date are set in Alaska.  He is married to Susan Jones, an epidemiologist, and has two children, both adults.  Other than his family and the Arctic, his personal passion in life is photography, particularly photography of the North.  

He has written four books in the Nathan Active mystery series.  In order of publication, they are

White Sky, Black Ice (1999)
Shaman Pass (2003)
Frozen Sun (2008)
Village of the Ghost Bears (2009)
Tundra Kill (2016)

He is also the co-author (with Sharon Bushell) of The Spill: An Oral History of the Exxon Valdez Disaster (2009).  

Rating:  4/5

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Merchants in the Temple: Inside Pope Francis's Secret Battle Against Corruption in the Vatican by Gianluigi Nuzzi


Hardback:  March 2015 - Hidden microphones are discovered in the offices of the Holy See.

From a bestselling author with unprecedented access to Pope Francis, Merchants in the Temple (2015) is an investigative look at the recent financial scandals at the highest levels of the Vatican.

A veritable war is being waged in the Catholic Church:  on one side, there is Pope Francis's strong message of one church for rich and poor alike;  on the other, there is the old Curia with its endless enemies, and the old and new lobbies struggling to preserve their not-so-Christian privileges.

Some in the old guard do not back down;  they are ready to use all means necessary to stay in control and continue the immoral way they conduct their business.  They resist reforms sought by Pope Francis and seek to delegitimize their opponents, to isolate those who want to eliminate corruption.It is a war that will determine the future of the Church.  And if he loses the battle against secular interests and blackmail, Pope Francis could resign, as did his predecessor.

Based on confidential information - including top secret documents from inside the Vatican and actual transcripts of Pope Francis's admonishments to the papal court about the lack of financial oversight and responsibility - Merchants in the Temple illustrates all the undercover work conducted by the pope since his election and shows the reader who his real enemies are.  It reveals the instruments Francis is using to reform the Vatican and rid it, once and for all, of the overwhelming corruption traditionally encrusted in the Roman Catholic Church.

Merchants in the Temple is a startling book that will shock every reader.  It is a story worthy of a Dan Brown novel, with its electrifying details of the trickery and scheming against the papacy - except that it is real.

About the author:  Gianluigi Nuzzi is an Italian journalist, nonfiction writer, and TV anchorman.  He is the author of two bestselling titles, Vaticano SpA and Sua Santità, which sold more than one million copies in Italy, Germany, France, Spain, the United States, Brazil and the Netherlands.  He lives in Milan.

Friday, 18 March 2016

University Education


An Exorcist: More Stories by Gabriele Amorth


Paperback:  Following up his international best-selling book, An Exorcist Tells His Story (1999), Fr Gabriele Amorth, the renowned chief exorcist of Rome, expands on some of the key topics of his previous book, covering important details about demonic or occult issues.  He uses concrete examples from his own experiences and those of other exorcists to illustrate and substantiate his points.

Since satanic sects, occultism, séances, fortune-tellers and astrologers are so widespread today, Father Amorth asks the question why is it so difficult today to find an exorcist, or a priest who is an expert in this field?  The example and the teaching of Christ is very clear, as clear is the tradition of the Church.  But today's Catholics are often misinformed.

Exorcisms are reserved for appointed priests, while all believers can make prayers of liberation.  What is the difference?  What norms must be followed?  What problems are still open and unresolved in this field?

An Exorcist:  More Stories (2002) by Father Amorth answers these and many other questions, supporting his discourse with a rich exposition of recent facts.  A valuable, practical and instructive manual, for priests and lay people, on how to help many who are suffering.

"My previous book, Un esorcista racconta (An Exorcist Tells His Story) (1990) was successful beyond my most optimistic expectations, generating more interest than what I thought was warranted.  I can explain this phenomenon only by referring to Provertbs 15:23, "Sermo opportunus est optimus", that is:  the best sermon is the one delivered at the right time.  I believed there was an immediate need to discuss the topic of exorcism, and I felt an urgency to write about it..." wrote Father Amorth in the Introduction of An Exorcist:  More Stories.

About the author:  Gabriele Amorth (born 1 May 1925) is an Italian Roman Catholic priest and an exorcist of the Diocese of Rome who is reputed to have cleansed tens of thousands of demonic possessions.  Amorth authored two books specifically on exorcism.  The two books - An Exorcist Tells His Story and An Exorcist: More Stories - are not official Roman Catholic documents, rather personal accounts of his office as Chief Exorcist under the tutelage of Candido Amantini.  The books use witness accounts and personal experience as evidence.  The two books include references to official Roman Catholic teachings on demonology, however the main emphasis is on Amorth's experience as an exorcist.  Both include references to the diagnosis and treatment of spiritual problems.  In 1990, he founded the International Association of Exorcists and was president until he retired, at 75, in 2000.  He is now honorary president for life of the association.  In an interview with the London Sunday Telegraph in 2000, Amorth stressed that "People need to know what we do."  (Wikipedia)

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

John Waters' Quote No 163


Conviction: The Untold Story of Putting Jodi Arias Behind Bars by Juan Martinez


Hardback:  Over the course of five years, America watched as Arizona prosecutor Juan Martinez relentlessly battled to convict Jodi Arias for the vicious murder of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander on 4 June 2008.  The salacious case wrought with sex, manipulation, and deceit rocked the nation as the prosecution exposed shocking evidence of how Arias planned and executed the crime, building an irrefutable case that would result in a guilty verdict and a controversial life sentence.

Now, speaking openly for the first time, Martinez shares the inside story of his tireless work to put Jodi Ann Arias behind bars.  Beginning in the hours immediately following the discovery of Travis' body, Conviction (2016) examines every aspect of Martinez' case, showing how over the course of five years his prosecution came together one piece at a time, and revealing how, almost from the very start, it seemed Arias believed she could get away with murder.

Going inside the case files, Martinez chronicles the truth behind the multiple facades of Jodi Arias - a killer who played the victim with incredible skill, but was capable of unspeakable violence.  Shedding light on the never-before-told story behind the most damning piece of evidence against Arias - the gas cans - Martinez recounts how he learned of their existence as well as the lengths he went to in order to ensure that they remained a secret from the public until precisely the right time.

Addressing his critics and supporters alike, Martinez also details his approach during the trial, describing how his much-criticized cross-examination of Arias was actually a highly deliberate and carefully crafted strategy designed to keep a deceitful woman from becoming too comfortable on the witness stand.

Complete with never-before-published evidence from the case and sixteen pages of photos, Conviction is the definitive account of the case that shocked and captivated America.

Arias was convicted of first-degree murder on 8 May 2013 and sentenced to natural life in state prison on 13 April 2015.

About the author:  Juan Martinez began working for the Maricopa County Attorney's office in 1988.  In his twenty-seven-year career with the office, he has spent nineteen years prosecuting homicide cases.  Some of his most noteworthy cases include Arizona v Wendi Andriano, who was convicted of first-degree murder and was the first woman sentenced to death by a jury in Arizona;  Arizona v Scott Falater, which was noted for the use of sleepwalking as a defense to the murder of his wife;  Arizona v Loren Wade, in which an Arizona State University football player was convicted of the shooting murder of an ex-ASU football player;  and Arizona v Rick Wayne Valentini, which resulted in a conviction for murder even though the victim's body was never found.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church by The Investigative Staff of the Boston Globe


Paperback:  "Betrayal hangs like a heavy cloud over the Church today.  While we do not presume to judge anyone's relationship with God, there is no doubt that a betrayal of trust is at the heart of the evil in the sexual abuse of children by clergy.  Priests should be trustworthy beyond any shadow of a doubt.  When some have broken that trust, all of us suffer the consequences." - Cardinal Bernard F Law, Archbishop of Boston, 29 March 2002.

This is the true story of how a small group of courageous journalists uncovered child abuse on a vast scale - and held the Catholic Church to account.  Betrayal (2016) is a ground-breaking work of investigative journalism, now brought brilliantly to life on the screen in the major movie Spotlight (2015).

The question of the Church failing to take the issue seriously had surfaced now and then since 1985 when the first big case exploded in Louisiana.  At that time, most of those implicated were ordinary priests.  Later, when the scandal quickly broadened, it ensnared not only the priests but the bishops and cardinals who protected them.

On 31 January 2002, the Boston Globe published a report that sent shockwaves around the world.  Their findings, based on a six-month campaign by the 'Spotlight' investigative team, showed that hundreds of children in Boston had been abused by Catholic priests, and that this horrific pattern of behaviour had been known - and ignored - by the Catholic Church.  Instead of protecting the community it was meant to serve, the Church exploited its powerful influence to protect itself from scandal by engaging in largely successful damage control - and innocent children paid the price.

The problem in Boston was a microcosm of a festering sore on the body of the entire Church.  If to some defenders it seemed like merely a brushfire, it was to others the greatest conflagration to face the Church in generations.  It spread across the North American continent, stretched to Europe, and scandalized Australia and parts of Latin America.

This is the story from beginning to end:  the predatory men who exploited the vulnerable using emotional means, the cabal of senior Church officials who covered up their crimes, the 'hush money' used to buy the victims' silence, the case of Father John Geoghan, who has been sentenced to ten years in prison and whose 130 victims have been awarded $30 million, the survivors who found the strength to tell their story, and the Catholics across the world who were left shocked, angry and betrayed.

This is the story, too, of how they took power back, confronted their Church and called for sweeping change.

The newspaper maintains that the 2000 related civil suits pending against the Church are just the tip of the iceberg.

Pope John Paul II said the sexual abuse of minors by priests was not only an "appalling sin" but a crime.  In 2013, Pope Francis amended Vatican law to make sexual abuse of children a crime.

Updated for release of the Oscar-nominated film Spotlight in 2015, this is a devastating and important exposure of the abuse of power at the highest levels in society.  Betrayal also provides important analyses of what is at stake and what this "crisis of faith" means for Catholics everywhere.  It builds on the extensive reporting The Globe has done.  Some of the interviews and facts were previously reported in the newspaper.  However, much of the reporting is new and the book was written from scratch.  The clergy sexual abuse story is still unfolding - thirteen years after it broke open in 2002 - and it will likely take years before all the facts are known and all the changes it set off are in place.

If there are any heroes in this squalid tale, they are the victims, who found their voice, who found the courage, after years of suffering in silence and isolation, to step into the light and say, as one did, "This happened to me, and this is wrong."   

About the author:  The Boston Globe is an American daily newspaper based in Boston, Massachusetts, and has a distinguished record of public service journalism, including astute political coverage that digs deep into the issues, processes, and personalities that shape America's democracy.  It has been awarded 23 Pulitzer Prizes since 1966 for coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, for its article "War and Peace in the Nuclear Age", their exposure of political favouritism and conflict of interest by office holders in Somerville, Massachusetts, among others.  The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Innocent Killer: A Wrongful Conviction and its Astonishing Aftermath by Michael Griesbach


Paperback:  The Innocent Killer (2014) is the inside story of one of America's most notorious wrongful convictions, that of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who spent eighteen years in prison for the violent assault of Penny Beernsten.  But two years after he was exonerated, when he was poised to reap millions in his wrongful conviction lawsuit, Steven Avery was arrested for the exceptionally brutal murder of Teresa Halbach.  The 'Innocent Man' had turned into a cold-blooded killer.

Or had he?

Michael Griesbach is a veteran prosecutor who worked with the Wisconsin Innocence Project on the case which led to Avery's exoneration in 2003.  According to the New York-based national Innocence Project, Steven Avery was the 137th wrongfully convicted person in the United States to be freed from prison through DNA testing.

In 2005, Steven Avery became the first exoneree in the United States to be arrested for a subsequent homicide.  Examining both trials in depth and presenting an alternative view of the Teresa Halbach case, The Innocent Killer exposes the failings of the justice system and its devastating consequences for both the accused and the victims.  "It is not just a good read.  It is an important read."

"...but none of that prepared me for the case you're about to read, a true crime story where the good guys are sometimes the bad guys and the bad guys the good.  It's a case of violent crime with a mind-numbing twist.  But mostly, it's a case about innocence and guilt," wrote Michael Griesbach in the Introduction.

About the author:  Michael Griesbach is a veteran prosecutor in the state of Wisconsin where the events recounted in his book occurred.  He wrote The Innocent Killer as a challenge to the system.  He hopes to leave readers better informed about the inner workings of the criminal justice system and more concerned about those whose lives it deeply affects.  He worked on the case to overturn Steven Avery's original rape conviction and has reviewed all of the evidence in the Teresa Halbach case, to produce a work of non-fiction that will make you think again.  He lives in North Eastern Wisconsin with his wife Jody and their four children.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Listening in the Great Silence


City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and The Search for Truth in Tehran by Ramita Navai


Hardback:  Better the lie that keeps the peace than the truth that disrupts. - Sa'adi Shirazi, The Rose Garden of Saadi

This is real Tehran:  a city that is hidden from view and rarely written about, where survival depends on an intricate network of lies and subterfuge.  It is a place where mullahs visit prostitutes, drug kingpins run crystal meth kitchens, surgeons restore girls' virginity and homemade porn is uploaded to the Internet and sold in the bazaars.

Plotted around the city's great central thoroughfare, Vali Asr Street, City of Lies (2014) chronicles the lives of eight protagonists drawn from across the spectrum of Iranian society.  This is a world of gangsters, socialites, dutiful housewives and volunteer militiamen - ordinary people forced to lead extraordinary lives.

Based on extensive interviews and research, City of Lies is an intimate and unforgettable portrait of modern Iran, and of what it is to live, love and survive under one of the world's most repressive regimes.

About the author:  Ramita Navai is a British-Iranian journalist and writer.  For Channel 4's foreign affairs series Unreported World she has reported from over twenty different countries, including South Sudan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Nigeria, El Salvador and Zimbabwe.  She was awarded an Emmy for her undercover report from Syria.  She has also worked as a journalist for the United Nations in Pakistan, northern Iraq and Iran.

While working as the Tehran correspondent for The Times from 2003 to 2006, Ramita Navai began interviewing ordinary people about their lives, and she continued to collect these stories long after most foreign media had been banned from Iran.  City of Lies is her first book and was awarded the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Prize for work in progress in 2012.  In 2015, City of Lies won the Debut Political Book of the Year in the Paddy Power Political Book Awards.  She lives in London.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Being Carried Away


"My imagination functions much better when I don't have to speak to people." - Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995), American novelist and short story writer.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Readers and Leaders


City of Fear (A NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher Series) by Alafair Burke


Paperback:  In a city full of victims, it is hard to choose just one.

Fresh-faced Indiana college student Chelsea Hart is so excited to spend the final hours of her spring break in the VIP room of an elite New York City club that she remains behind when her girlfriends call it a night.  The next morning, as her concerned friends anxiously pace their hotel lobby, joggers find Chelsea's body in East River Park, her wavy blond hair brutally hacked off.

NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher catches the case and homes in on the group of privileged men who were last seen plying Chelsea with free-flowing alcohol.  But before she can even gather the preliminary evidence, the gruesome murder is grabbing headlines and drawing unwanted media attention to the department.  So when Ellie builds a tight case against Jake Myers, a young hedge fund manager, the department brass and the district attorney's office are elated:  the case will soon be cleared, the media will tout the department's quick work, and Ellie will be a dream witness at the trial against Myers.

But Ellie has her doubts.  Chelsea's murder is eerily similar to three other deaths that occurred nearly a decade ago:  the victims were young, female, and in each case, the killer had taken her hair as a souvenir.

Ellie's investigation pulls her into a late-night world of exclusive clubs, conspicuous wealth, and hedonistic consumption.  And her search for the truth not only pits her against her fellow cops but also places her under the watchful eye of a psychopath eager to add the prideful young female detective to his list.

City of Fear (2008) is the second book in the thrilling Ellie Hatcher series by one of the finest crime writers in the world today.

About the author:  Alafair Burke is the author of what the Sun-Sentinel has hailed as "two power house series" featuring NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid.  Alafair's novels grow out of her love for writing, her experience as a prosecutor in America's police precincts and criminal courtrooms, and her ability to create strong, believable, and eminently likable female characters.  According to Entertainment Weekly, Alafair "is a terrific web spinner" who "knows when and how to drop clues to keep readers at her mercy."

A graduate of Stanford Law School and a former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair is now a Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure.  She is the daughter of the acclaimed crime writer James Lee Burke.

Alafair is often asked about the origin of her name, especially by readers who are familiar with the fictional character, Alafair Robicheaux, featured in her father's novels.  Alafair was named for her father's maternal grandmother.  It was a more common name in the United States, particularly the south, at the turn of the twentieth century.  Now it is a name that belongs to her, two of her cousins, and, from what she can find on Google, ten cats, two dogs, an alpaca, and a boat.

Rating:  5/5

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Dead Connection (NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher Series) by Alafair Burke


Paperback:  Dating can be a dangerous game.

When two young women are murdered on the streets of New York, exactly one year apart, NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher is called up for a special assignment on the homicide task force.  The killer has left behind a clue connecting the two cases to First Date, a popular online dating service, and Flann McIlroy, an eccentric, publicity-seeking homicide detective, is convinced that only Ellie can help him pursue his terrifying theory:  someone is using the lure of the Internet and the promise of love to launch a killing spree against the women of New York City.

To catch the killer, Ellie must enter a high-tech world of stolen identities where no one is who they appear to be.  And for her, the investigation quickly becomes personal:  she fits the profile of the victims, and she knows firsthand what pursuing a sociopath can do to a cop back home in Wichita, Kansas - her father lost his life trying to catch a notorious serial murderer.

When the First Date killer begins to mimic the monster who destroyed her father, Ellie knows the game has become personal for him, too.  Both hunter and prey, she must find the killer before he claims his next victimwho could very well be her.

Expertly plotted and perfectly paced, Dead Connection (2007) - the first book in the suspenseful Ellie Hatcher series - advances Alafair Burke to the front ranks of American thriller writers.

About the author:  Alafair Burke is the author of what the Sun-Sentinel has hailed as "two power house series" featuring NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid.  Alafair's novels grow out of her love for writing, her experience as a prosecutor in America's police precincts and criminal courtrooms, and her ability to create strong, believable, and eminently likable female characters.  According to Entertainment Weekly, Alafair "is a terrific web spinner" who "knows when and how to drop clues to keep readers at her mercy."

A graduate of Stanford Law School and a former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair is now a Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure.  She is the daughter of the acclaimed crime writer James Lee Burke.

Alafair is often asked about the origin of her name, especially by readers who are familiar with the fictional character, Alafair Robicheaux, featured in her father's novels.  Alafair was named for her father's maternal grandmother.  It was a more common name in the United States, particularly the south, at the turn of the twentieth century.  Now it is a name that belongs to her, two of her cousins, and, from what she can find on Google, ten cats, two dogs, an alpaca, and a boat.

Rating:  5/5

Gunter Grass (1927-2015), Kashubian-German Novelist, Poet, Playwright, Illustrator, Graphic Artist, Sculptor and Recipient of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature