Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Aztecs by Nigel Davies

The flute is one of my favorite instruments, especially music written for it in the last century.  There is something reflective and ephemeral about it.  Here is C.M. Widor's Suite for Piano and Flute.

Empires of Early Latin America (The Maya, the Aztecs, the Incas,) 3 Boxed SET Folio SocietyEmpires of Early Latin America (The Maya, the Aztecs, the Incas,) 3 Boxed SET Folio Society by NORMAN HAMMOND NIGEL DAVIES

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have reviewed the Maya earlier and I have not yet read the book about the Incas. This review is about the second book, The Aztecs.

This book was a rewarding read and more enjoyable than the first book on the Mayans. Probably because we have so many more written resources about the Aztecs while the writers of the Mayans had mostly to rely on speculation from what they could glean from artifacts. Consequently their history is sketchy at best.

The Aztecs, however, are well documented and we are treated to how beautiful, sophisticated and also how awful and barbarous these early inhabiters of Mexico and Central America were.

The Aztecs had a large, complex religious system with many gods, but all pointed to a sun god who had to be appeased through human sacrifice. Hundreds of thousands of victims were sacrificed to ensure the sun's daily rising. Most of these sacrifices were conquered people and prisoners of war.

The Aztecs were not a peaceful people and war was a constant necessary, not just for economic reasons, but because the religion and values of the their culture demanded constant glory which was accomplished through warfare, conquest and the sacrifice of humans to their gods.

While there is no doubt that the Aztecs were barbaric, they also possessed an elaborate mythology expressed through poetry, which is as beautiful and sophisticated as anything the ancient Greeks composed.

Nigel Davies does a good job writing in a fluid style that brings the Aztecs to life as well as documenting the succession of leaders, ending with Monteczuma (his spelling) and the final confrontation with the Spanish.

Cortez' diplomacy, where he achieved so brilliantly and where he failed so abysmally is worthy of a book all to itself. The impression the Spanish made to this heretofore cloistered race was astounding. The Spanish did many things right and also many things wrong. People today love to refer to the "Black Legend" which attributes all sorts of atrocities to the Spanish conquistadores. One need look only at how the Aztecs and particularly Monteczuma treated their own people as well as the tribes enslaved in their empire and it is easy to see the Spanish as some sort of judgment passed by God. At least the human sacrifices stopped.

The missionaries also did much good and earned the trust and devotion of many of the tribal members. Not all were perfect as not all the Spanish soldiers were perfect, but howsoever, complicated humans acted in complicated situations, it is now history and Mexico today would not exist as we know it if it did not happen.

In fact, would it exist at all? Was the birth rate of the ancient Indians fast enough to replace the thousands that were daily sacrificed, or would the population have been ultimately self-annihilated?

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Paris, A Love Story: a Memoir by Kati Marton

I probably should not write negative reviews but this book did leave an impression on me so I cannot say that did not have its merit.  In the past I have mostly only read books where I knew I would agree with the authors world view.  I think this is narrow of me so I decided to read a book by someone I would not normally care for.  Here is the result.  Hopefully the cheerful sounds of Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik will smooth over any dissonance one may experience when reading my review.

Paris: A Love StoryParis: A Love Story by Kati Marton

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was interesting in certain respects. It gave me an insight into the life and culture of people who run with the big dogs. Kati Marton is a writer and journalist who was married for several years to Peter Jennings. She met him as she was an up and coming news reporter. After their divorce, she married Richard Holbrook, an American diplomat.

One would hope that getting a book titled "Paris: a love Story" the story would be largely about, uh, well, Paris for one thing and love for another. This book is about neither. What it is about is one woman's relentless ambition to be a Very Important Person. The entire story is fueled by ego.

We first hear about her last moments with her husband Richard shortly before he dies. She chooses to write this in present tense, perhaps to give it an existentialistic flavor. It worked for Jean-Dominique Bauby in his memoir "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", which he wrote to a scribe by blinking one eye, the only part of his body he could move after a stroke. It does not work for most writers and it does not work for Marton.

They are in Paris, true, and she writes about living in Paris as young woman studying there after escaping Eastern Europe with her family. She faintly describes her surroundings, some student revolts, but I have been numerous times to Paris. She does not paint Paris; not the Paris I know.

Marton describes her rise in her career where she rather glibly mentions an abortion she had because "it just wasn't the right time"; her career, you know...

She then proceeds to inform everyone of just what a horrible person Peter Jennings was. They had two children (after the first one) and she tried to be a good mother, but Jennings seemed to think she should stay home and raise the children. This seems to be where his horribleness lies, preferring a family life over a career. One wonders what Jennings feelings were about her abortion since it was also his child.

She could not take the lack of support and after an affair with a man who "understood" her, she finally divorced him. Interestingly Jennings did not want a divorce, even after she confessed her infidelity. Her children begged her to stay with their father. She found that hard to take, but not too hard apparently, because after she met Richard Holbrook who "left Diane Sawyer for her" she divorced Jennings and married Holbrook.

We then get a dissertation on how very, very wonderful Richard Holbrook is and also a list of all the famous politicians and celebrities they met at parties (others and their own).

Yet she cheats on Holbrook as well. She feels terrible about it but it was like in the movies. She met a drop dead gorgeous man from Hungary, her home country, and, well, one thing led to another. I'm surprised she didn't write that "it was like it was happening to someone else", a popular movie line.

But you know how wonderful Holbrook is. He did not care and did not even want to know the name of the man and he never asked her any questions about the episode. Ever.

Methinks Ms. Marton is keeping something from the readers,or maybe Holbrook was keeping something from Ms. Marton.

Other than what restaurants they ate at in Paris (and the aforementioned celebrities) we never learn much about who Holbrook was as a man, aside from the subjective terminology that tells us how loving and supportive he is.

In the end we learn very little about the men in Marton's life, her family, her friends are non-existent, unless you count the parties with famous people, but we learn nothing about them either (well, Hillary was a great gal. She cried when she hugged Marton at Holbrook's funeral.).

The people in this book are as thin as its pages. Marton, narcissistic personality aside, is the thinnest of them all.

Now, narcissism does not prevent a book from being good. After all, look at Joan Didion's books about the deaths of her daughter (Blue Nights) and her husband (The Year of Magical Thinking). Didion's writing is extremely self-centered, but it is also poetic, which makes it worth reading even if it is all about herself disguised as grief for her family.

Marton's writing is surprisingly wooden. For someone who has made her living as a journalist, she does not write with much color or flow. Every sentence dead ends and the reader must mentally pick up each successive sentence. It gets tiring. And boring.

Well, the perceptive reader will pick up that I did not really care for this book, but that doesn't mean you should not read it. Especially if you want a career in the media. It will help you realize just how aggressively egotistical you need to be.

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Wondrous Strange: the Life and Art of Glenn Gould

I had a couple of hours between rehearsals so I thought I'd grab some lunch at a local restaurant but I must have something to read while I eat.  I forgot my book back home (which is forty minutes away from where I work) so I thought I'd pop over to the local library which usually has some books to sell.  Below is what I left the library with.  How much did they all cost?  At ten cents a book, I came out a dollar poorer.  None of these are brilliant reads but they will be quick ones and I may or may not review any of them but at least they will go toward my book reading goal, which, according to Goodreads I am lagging behind by seventeen books.

 Like the yellow film on my car?  It's pollen season here.

I once tied in a piano competition because I played a Bach Toccato in a manner inspired by one of my heroes, Glenn Gould.  The judge informed me "I don't like Glenn Gould."

I love Glenn Gould.  Here is William Byrd's Sixth Pavan and Galliard played more beautifully than you will every hear it by any other pianist.  When my son graduated from high school, we played this work to his life slide show.  We also played it to my life slide show at Josh's and my wedding.  It is also the ring tone to my son when he calls me. Yes, I really, really love this song.  As played by the master.

Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn GouldWondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould by Kevin Bazzana

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first and so far only biography of one of my favorite pianists but I do not know how it could be improved upon.

Kevin Bazzana gives a thorough and balanced account of one of the more controversial concert pianists of the twentieth century.

Bazzana documents his subject in a variety of ways: he gives us a chronology of Gould's life, his development as an artist, his concert years and finally his recording years.

Gould was a child genius and had the good fortune to have indulgent parents with the financial resources to give him everything he required in order to cultivate his unique talents. This included changing his piano every couple years. Gould's quest for a perfect piano was a life long journey for him and he spent scads of money making sure his beloved Steinway was in impeccable working order until it met with a tragic accident (it was dropped in transit and ruined).

There has been speculation whether Gould was autistic or had Asberger's. The author does not offer any conclusion but simply presents Gould as honestly as he can with all of his idiosyncrasies. These included a largely anti-social personality, hypochondria, and many, many rituals and demands that hampered his concert career which he finally abandoned in favor of studio recording.

Love him or hate him Gould was an utterly fascinating individual but that would not matter to the world so much if he was not a truly incredible musician. Watching him sit at his low chair (it was his chair and he would sit only in it, even when the seat deteriorated away and he was sitting on the frame), reaching up to the piano (he felt this physical approach determined the exact sort of sound he wanted to produce).

Gould was fascinated by Arnold Schoenberg and his twelve tone compositions and he was also obsessed with Bach and other Baroque composers. His performances of the Hindemith Sonatas are as wonderful as they are unique. His performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations are legendary (and you can buy them on Amazon for a mere $100.00 - or like me download them from Spotify).

He was interesting to watch, too, as he conducted himself from his chair, as he played and sang. Yes he sang and the record technicians earned their pay trying to filter out Gould's voice on his recordings. They did not always succeed.

This was a great read and I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. If I were to find some complaint it would be that Bazzana tended to jump around on the time line. We would be discussing Gould's final years in the 1980s and then we'd be back in the 1960s.

This is, however, a minor complaint and I am glad I have gotten to know better a personally well-loved pianist.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire by Alan Palmer

Here is Prokofiev's Violin Concerto no. 1 performed by the incomparable Itzhak Perlman.

After Josh and I read Orlando Fige's history of the Crimean War, it whetted our appetites to know more about the history of the Turks.  As much as we enjoyed reading Palmer's history of the Ottoman's decline, we now are looking for a book that will tell us about their rise to power.  One book seems to lead to another.  I wonder which book we will want to read after we read about the Ottoman's rise?

The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman EmpireThe Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire by Alan Warwick Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In lieu of today's world events I think it pertinent that we read about the history of one of the most significant Empires to affect the Western world. For some reason it is little known and most of us in the west are guilty of a profound ignorance as to the culture and influence of the Ottoman Empire, and consequently, the religion of Islam and its aggressive spread through out the world.

The Ottoman Empire was created by Turkish tribes in Anatolia, also known as Asia Minor and what today is known as the country, Turkey. During the 15th and 16th centuries they became one of the most powerful states in the world, the empire stretching as far as the gates of Vienna, across eastern Europe, and most of what we know today as the middle east: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and northern Africa, including Egypt.

Alan Palmer's fine history starts in the seventeenth century, when the Ottomans have become weak and corrupt. Their demise seemed imminent; however, they tottered on for the next couple of centuries, even surviving several European powers and kingdoms.

One problem that contributed to their demise was the way the Sultans assumed control. The sultanate stayed in the family but the usual practice of the ruling Sultan to assassinate his siblings was deemed "inhumane" (really?) and so instead he would imprison them in quarters inside his palace where they stayed until it was their turn to rule, if at all. This limited life was hardly training for leadership and it showed in the increasingly incompetent way the succeeding Sultan's ruled.

Palmer gives us a nice soap opera ride as we learn of the various sultans, some mentally ill, some paranoid, most of them inept as they try to deal with the ever encroaching European powers hungry for a warm water port. Not to mention oil rich lands.

We see the small yet crucial role the Turks played in the initiation of the Crimean war, their diplomatic relations with Russian Tsars, English ambassadors and French and Austrian Kings and Emperors.

What led to their demise was the Sultan's increasing dependency on European money. Instead of properly governing their citizens and providing for their welfare, they considered the leadership in the form of an all expense-paid vacation. Their luxuriant lifestyles and extravagant palaces made their states bankrupt and they turned more and more to Europe to borrow money. Even this had its limit and a time came when no country would lend to them.

Underneath all of this were divisive groups within the Empire. The Young Turks had become disenchanted with the way the Sultans led and they led a revolutionary regime against the absolutist reign of the Ottoman Sultanate.

Finally, during WWI, the Ottomans picked the wrong team. They sided with Germany and when Germany lost, they lost. England, France, and Italian forces came in to divide up the lands occupied by the Ottomans, creating the world map of the area we know today.

Armenia and Kurdistan lost their land and those unfortunate people have been homeless and persecuted ever since.
This book is instrumental in increasing one's understanding of today's world events in the middle east by enabling us to know its past.

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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s

This post will only be a review of three of the novels in this collection.  I have reviewed the Talented Mr. Ripley here.

And you can listen to some crazy music by John Cage here.  Cage was a twentieth century composer who strove to redefine music.  His most famous "piece" is "Four Minutes and Thirty-Three Seconds".  You can listen to it here on Youtube or simply listen to silence for the same amount of time, unless you like watching someone sit in front of a piano doing nothing for, you guessed it, four minutes and thirty-three seconds.  If you do watch it I hope you will appreciate the guy who coughs in the beginning and gets shushed by someone.

Judging by the "bravos" at the end somebody enjoyed it, but I found it a trial of endurance.  The best part was when the artist stood up and bowed, acknowledging the clapping and hollering and thanked the crowd. 

Pick-UpPick-Up by Charles Willeford

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

OK. This is the third and last time I am going to write this review. If it disappears yet again, too bad.

First of all, I did not even like this story. It is about two people who can think of nothing better to do with their lives than get drunk and finally, out of the emptiness and despair relentlessly gnawing at their souls from which they can no longer run they agree to kill themselves.

This does not go as smoothly as they anticipated; however, one of them succeeds in dying and the other one gets to spend a lot of time getting examined by psychiatrists and sitting in jail cells.

The story was about as interesting as following two alcoholics around and watching them drink. The last sentence of the story provides a crucial detail that forces the reader to consider the entire story in a new light. It is something that was probably considered shocking in the 1950s but today would be regarded as merely surprising.

If Crime Noir is your cup of tea, then you may very well enjoy this novel and I won't judge you.

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Down ThereDown There by David Goodis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I find Crime Noir hard to get into. This one took a little warming up, however, I did find myself caring about the characters as their personalities developed and we begin to see them as humans with vulnerabilities as they yearn to matter to other people and to themselves.

A man named Turley staggers into a bar bleeding and dazed. He grabs a chair and pulls it up to a man playing the piano. The piano man's name is Eddie and a disheveled, injured man sitting near him and trying to talk to him, does not seem to disturb him.

That is because Eddie has had a lot of experience shrugging off uncomfortable experiences. In fact, he has chosen to shrug off tragic experiences. Which explains his indifference to a man sitting next to him who is in trouble and also his brother.

Granted he hasn't seen his brother in many years and for good reasons. Both his brothers are selfish louts that can't stay out of trouble. Turley is currently trying to escape two mobsters he cheated. Before long, the mobsters arrive at the bar. Turley runs out the back with the mobsters in hot pursuit.

Without knowing exactly why, Eddie stands up, walks over to a pyramid of beer cans and topples them directly into the path of the mobsters. Now he is on their radar. Eddie becomes involved in a dangerous drama he did not anticipate or desire.

He does not have to go it alone however. Lena, the waitress comes to his rescue, much to Eddie's annoyance. He likes being alone and does not want to be rescued by anyone, much less a waitress, even if she is beautiful.

She is also dumb as we find out. Not that she is meant to be viewed that way, but I found her to be dumb and I don't care if Lena doing stupid things was a device to move the plot along. It did not make her look tragic, it makes the reader think, "What did you think was going to happen?"

The strength of this story is the psychological analysis we receive by reading the inner thoughts of certain of the characters. It is what ultimately makes the story poignant.

The author, David Goodis, is as interesting as his stories. His life is somewhat of a mystery. After a brief period of popularity in Hollywood and pulp fiction magazines, he returned to Philadelphia to live with his parents and care for his schizophrenic brother. He spent nights prowling the boweries and ghettos of Philadelphia where he got much of his material for his fiction. He died, probably due to injuries sustained a couple of days prior while resisting a robbery.

If you like Crime Noir, you may like this one, especially if you are someone who wants to care about the characters.

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The Real Cool Killers (Harlem Cycle, #2)The Real Cool Killers by Chester Himes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this Crime Noir better than usual, since I have discovered that Crime Noir is not my favorite genre.

A white man is at a bar in Harlem looking around. Why is he there? This is Harlem in the 1950s and he is the only white man in the bar. A black man approaches him with a switch blade saying that he knows why the man is there and he's not going to "diddle his little gals". He slashes at the man with his knife.

The bartender prevents the man from injuring the white man by seriously injuring the man with the knife. I won't go into it but it is really violent.

The white man exits the bar but is accosted by another man named Sammy who yells, hey, you're the one that was with my sister and pulls a gun on him. The white man runs down the street with Sammy in hot pursuit.

A gang of teenagers called The Real Cool Muslims, see what is happening and join the chase. Sammy shoots at the man and he goes down. By this time two local policemen arrive and run up to the white man who is now dead. They get ready to arrest Sammy but also ask the gang members questions. The young thugs are belligerent and one throws perfume in the face of one of the cops. This cop, Coffin Ed, is terrified. His face is already scarred from having acid thrown in his face before. He shoots the youth dead before realizing it was only perfume. Now there are two dead people lying on the street.

During the confusion after the second death, the gang and Sammy run off. Coffin Ed and his partner Gravedigger Jones, have already confiscated Sammy's gun and they discover that it is only a stage prop and could not have killed the white man. So who did?

The rest of the story is the police investigation but mostly it is a commentary on life in Harlem. The gang of Muslims are not really Muslims but black teenagers. The story spends a long time with them showing what makes them tick. Just what little it takes to make people violent when they know nothing else and cannot imagine a life greater than being a gangster.

The story is dark, violent and extremely sad, probably because even though it was written in 1959, it is sadly reflective of reality in poor neighborhoods today. Only now it is worse because instead of knives, young people are killing each other with automatic weapons.

Chester Himes writes about what he knows. He spent several years in prison for armed robbery where he began writing fiction. Later he achieve literary success and many of his stories were made into films. The Real Cool Killers is one of a series called the Harlem Detective novels with the black detectives Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed. In At Home in Diaspora: Black International Writing, Wendy Walters describes the detectives as "viable folk heroes for the urban community."

Himes later moved to Paris where he became good friends with Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, James Baldwin and Malcolm X. Eventually Himes and his second wife, Lesley, a beautiful white woman of whom he described as "the only color-blind person I met in my life" moved to Barcelona where they lived until he died from Parkinson's Disease in 1984.

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You may have surmised by now that hard boiled fiction is not my favorite genre and I will probably be reading few if any more Noir books in the future.  But, there are still oodles of books to be read and I will be racing through my library to read them all before I die.  Here's to a long life!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich

Not everyone is a fan of twentieth century classical music.  I happen to be one, at least of the first half of the century before it became a "naked Emperor".  Here is a piano sonata by Henri Detilleux, Op. 1.  It was written in 1947 and is here performed by Francois Killian.

Secondhand Time: The Last of the SovietsSecondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the most heart wrenching narratives I've ever read. Svetlana Alexievich spent almost twenty years compiling the stories of men and women of all ages during and after the Soviet government ruled and then collapsed.

The unbelievable cruelty and hardship that many endured under the Soviet Regime has, in many eyes, been replaced by an unbridled chaos and greed. They hate the old years but despise the new.

The first people Alexievich talked to were former members of the Communist Party. They hate the new way and loved the old. Even if it was oppressive, it was epic and they were great. Millions of people starved to death? Necessary for greatness!

Some of these former Soviets speak for the first time of how they betrayed their own families to advance their careers. One man turned in his uncle for hiding crops from the Soviet who were confiscating farmers' produce. His uncle was beaten to death. Afterwards his mother gave him a sack of food and told him to leave and never come back. His grand sons mock his reminiscing of Soviet greatness and when he died he left them nothing but gave all his money to the Soviet Government, even though it no longer existed. He could not shed his Communist identity. It was his god.

Even those who were sent to the Gulag and tortured often saw it as necessary because the Soviet Regime must operate even if sacrifices are made. Not all took it so stoically, however.

One woman was living with her daughter in a house with several other families. This was common; most houses were divided up to house many families, each family getting one or two rooms at the most. This woman was carried off because someone had reported her to be an enemy of the state. As the police were leading her away she begged her neighbor, another woman, to look after her daughter, which she did. Years later, after the woman was released and the records were opened, this woman found out that it was the other woman who turned her in. Why? She wanted her rooms. The woman, even though she endured years of torture in the Gulag, could not endure this; she hanged herself.

There are many such heart breaking stories like this. One man spoke of his engagement to a beautiful woman, but then he got to know her father. Her father was an ancient, unassuming man; he seemed nice and harmless. But then he shared his experiences as an army officer. His job was to execute "enemies of the state", not even people from other countries. The enemies would kneel before him and he shot them in the back of the head. Hundreds of "enemies" every day. His gun hand would badly cramp so a massage therapist was hired to massage the soldiers hands at the end of each day.

The father spoke openly of this with no regret. The man ran away. He could not marry this monster's daughter. He said, "They are everywhere; men like that. They look normal. You can't tell them from anyone else." It made him feel leery because he did not know who was walking next to him on the side walk; sitting next to him on the bus. They looked normal, were they also mass killers?

So many children orphaned, it's a wonder they survived to adulthood. And marriage is wholly unstable. Countless women interviewed speak of leaving their husbands for no other reason than they no longer wanted to live with them. The effect on the children was not considered.

It is unbelievable how a society can be so extensively dehumanized; yet they still have emotion. All of the stories are told in an deeply emotional tone; perhaps it is how Russians express themselves. It reminded me of Dostoevsky's characters.

The language in which each person tells their story is colorful and rich. The reader is sucked into their life for a brief moment. Maybe some people would not like to read their stories because they are so painful, but I think everyone needs to read this oral history of a people who have not only experienced hell but are still trying to climb out.

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Department of Dead Ends: 14 Detective Stories by Roy Vickers

Here's one of my favorites:  The Raindrop Prelude by Chopin performed here by Vladimir Horowitz.

I have found the most wonderful murder writer.  He really is my new favorite.  We all love Roy Vickers.

Me kissing Roy Vickers

 Hercule kissing Roy Vickers

Percy kissing Roy Vickers

See?  We all love him.  I cannot wait to find everything he has written.

Department of Dead Ends: 14 StoriesDepartment of Dead Ends: 14 Stories by Roy Vickers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have found a new favorite murder author. I can't call his stories mysteries because he informs us of who the murderer is, as well as the murdered, in the first paragraph. His stories would be more accurately described as psychological drama.

The Department of Dead Ends is Scotland Yard's name for what we in the U.S. would call "Cold Cases". These are unsolved murders that go dormant or "cold" because not enough evidence was garnered and too much time has passed. Vickers' detectives who work in the Department of Dead Ends usually by chance uncover clues that come together to solve a dead end case.

The stories are told mostly in third person narrator, limited. We read the thoughts and motives of the murderer shortly after we are introduced to him or her.

Sometimes we are listening to the reasoning of a psychopath, sometimes someone who, out of despair and perhaps temporary insanity killed someone but never meant to. Sometimes you are glad the murderer gets hanged (they all get hanged and you know that before you start the story), other times you wish it had turned out otherwise. Or rather, you wish they had not thrown their life away on someone who wasn't worth hanging for.

Sometimes the murders occur in a moment of passion; sometimes the plans are carefully set out. Even when the murder is impulsive, the cover up is still methodically planned. One finds oneself following the murderers steps and holding our breath as we wait to see how the Detectives (it's always Inspector Rason and Chief Inspector Karslake) put random facts together to discover by luck (usually) the incriminating evidence that convicts the guilty.

Sometimes the putting together of facts is a little too "lucky" or Inspector Rason's reasoning is a little stretching, but what makes these stories unique and worthwhile is the psychological study of the personality of the murderer. Vickers' insight is truly perspicacious.

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