Nazis, Adultery, Curries, Curates, and Regency

Dear Reader:

A couple mysteries, two biographies, and a novel.

127) Until thy Wrath is Past by Asa Larsson (kindle) #15

Bettan and Simon are young people in love with adventure and each other.  And then they mysteriously die on a dive to see a crashed airplane in a remote lake.  We are led through another murder investigation in Sweden’s far north on the Finnish border with Rebecka Martinsson, now District Prosecutor.

This investigation brings her back into collaboration with the local police and unravels old, treacherous bonds dating to World War II when Sweden allowed all combatants to travel across the country to war with each other.  Bully brothers and elderly friends and family play key roles in determining exactly what happened and why.

I continue to enjoy Rebecka’s character and learning more about this tiny village where she grew up.  I grew up in a town probably about the same size and understand how intertwined and complex histories can become – although I didn’t know of any murders.  Accidental deaths aplenty (kids with a shotgun, drunk driving, kids on a motorcycle, kids swimming etc.).  These books bring together Rebecka’s struggle to find her way and define herself with her deep determination to figure out what happened to the voiceless murder victims.

505) Headhunters by Jo Nesbo (kindle, library) 

This, the latest Jo Nesbo a famous Norwegian mystery writer, is somewhat different from his other books (that I’ve read).  For one, Harry Hole never appears.  For another, we have a story told by a murder victim.

Roger is a top headhunter in the Oslo area working hard to match clients with employers or employees.  He is under massive financial stress as he has works to make up for his lack of height and beauty by providing his wife, Diana, with more than he can afford: gallery, million dollar house, everything but the baby she so desperately wants.  As he works over his clients, he undercovers their art collections for his sideline of art thief.

Diana brings Roger together with Clas Greve, executive extraordinaire, and the perfect addition to Roger’s stable of clients.  But Roger quickly learns that Clas isn’t his normal client intimidated by his use of interrogation techniques to manipulate and score.  And so begins a cat and mouse game involving an endless process of humiliation and injury, including a smash up with a tractor trailer, being buried in human waste in an outhouse, and a strange and unappealing mistress.

This book kept me going, but often skimming through to get to the major plot points.  None of the characters are particularly likeable, but the action is good and Nesbo leaves questions and mysteries sprinkled throughout.  I have The Snowman and The Redbreast left to read – I’m hoping they involve Harry Hole again (actually, The Redbreast is the 3rd Harry Hole, and the first translated into English).

506)  Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey (library, hard copy)

Oh, Madhur, how I love thee!  My absolute favorite food writer and cookbook author.  A wondrously gifted writer, actress, and restauranteur, Jaffrey has written a fascinating story of her privileged mid-20th Century upbringing.

Madhur grew up in a huge extended family with multiple adult siblings living together with their father, the patriarch, in a massive enclave.  Surrounded by cousins, she spent her childhood playing, studying, and eating.  Of course, the descriptions of food are to die for (real Indian food is my favorite to eat and to cook) and Jaffrey includes some recipes at the end.  But I have several of her great cookbooks already, so I doubt I’ll be trying to make these.  This is the marvelous story of a very different way of life, told by someone who has lived in the United States for decades at this point in her life.

507) Affairs at Thrush Green by Miss Read (hard copy, library)

Miss Read, or Doris Jessie Saint, died last month at 99.  So, this seemed a good time to read some of her work.

She is known for the lengthy Fairacre and Thrush Green novels of rural English life.  This 1983 book is about midway through the series.  And you can tell – I got out my notebook to try to keep track of all the characters and quickly filled a page with them.

These books were mostly written in the 70s-90s (!) and they idealize British village life that is likely largely gone.  So far, nothing too shocking – everyone is well-mannered, in an old-fashioned way, although eccentrics and resentments abound.  This book reminds me of the Miss Marple series (which I love) but is maybe a bit less knowing.  It is enjoyable, but I don’t envision gathering up all the other books in the series and charging through them – Pym’s funny and smart portrayal of village life is a bit more my style.

508) Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin (kindle, library)

I haven’t read Austen in a long, long time, but I’m enjoying this biography of her very much.  As Tomalin (who has also written biographies of a long list of Victorians: Dickens, Shelley, Wollstonecraft, Shelley) explains, writing an Austen biography is very challenging as her letters were largely destroyed by family and she left no childhood diary.  So, Tomalin pieces together her story from the writings of her family and contemporaries.  Austen grew up as a member of a large pastor’s family surrounded by her brothers and the boys of the small boarding school her family ran.

Jane would have been a lot of fun.  She was something of a tomboy and began writing very early, with stories and plays staged by her friends and family.  As so many middle class and upper middle class British families of the 19th Century (I’m thinking of Trollope here) had, the Austens were connected to royalty and wealth, although they themselves had to work hard to finance their large family.  Tomalin brings Austen and her family to life and I expect I’ll read more of her biographies at some point.  And soon I’ll have to dive into some Austen as I find if highly enriching to read an author’s work after learning something of their life.

Ticks and Black Flies

This is a shot from my recent camping trip at a national forest campground I like a lot.  Many of the campsites there are right on the lake, as you can see this one is.  The tradeoff is that this campground tends to be pretty buggy.  You can see my new Coleman “Eight Person” (why do tent makers always exaggerate how many people can comfortably sleep in their tents?) Instant Tent (with rain fly – extra).  As a single woman, I love a great tent but I need to be able to get it up solo.

Coleman brags that you can set this tent up in a minute (and they provide a video showing how it is done) so, of course, the WWW abounds with videos of people making attempts on a one minute setup.  I largely set it up in my backyard to test it out (bummer to get out in the woods and find you can’t set your tent up!) and to learn if I could get it back in the bag after (a common complaint in reviews).  I was able to do both, but was a bit chagrined to learn that I should have fully extended the upper poles before the lower poles – something I didn’t learn until I was in the campground trying (vainly) to outrun an incoming storm.  On one hand, the tent doesn’t need super-detailed directions, but on the other hand, some would be helpful – I didn’t find the heavily image-oriented directions provided to be as useful as I would have liked.

But, ultimately, I was able to get the tent and rain fly up completely solo and the next time around, it will be much easier. And yes, I got it back in the bag.

I LOVE this tent.  I got it mainly because, after last summer’s multitudes of bugs, I wanted a screen house, and, as you see, it has one in front.  This is a really big tent and there is no way I could erect it alone unless it was “instant.”  I’m satisfied with the ease of setup and the tent is perfect for me and the three dogs.

When I’m camping, the dogs spend a lot of time in the tent – dogs sleep most of the time, and they prefer, as we do, to be free of biting insects.  So, they quickly learn that the tent is a refuge and beg to be let back into it when the bugs get bad.  I’ve seen more black flies, no see ums, and mosquitos on other trips, but it was fairly bad this time around (they decline in the drier months of July and August) so the dogs made good use of this spacious tent.

I spread out copious blankets etc. to give the dogs some cushion – usually we’re all a bit crammed together, but not in this tent.  And I really liked having my front “porch” screen house.  Not only did it give me more space for stuff, but I could also set a chair up in front and read in the evening hours – allowing the dogs a better rest (as I was with them) and saving us all from our devourers.

This is a very tall tent (perhaps 6 feet inside).  The only thing I didn’t like about it is the front, main zipper.  As many other reviewers noted, it is tough to get this zipper up and down – forget one-handed (which is desirable), even two-handed is hard. Those brilliant tent engineers (who hold the 50% of US ingenuity not being used by dog costume designers) aimed to make an incredibly water-tight zipper, but in the course of doing so they made the cloth on either side of the zipper really wide and it gets caught nearly every time you use it (not to mention the clever velcro strips along the sides which don’t make things easier).  But you get used to it.

Another challenge was finding a suitable ground cloth (to protect the tent bottom and keep it dry) – I ordered a 10 x 14 foot one, but the company I ordered from didn’t fill the order, so I made due with a partial one. I’m going to try again with another company – the bottom on the tent is sturdy, water-proof and of a bath tub design (it extends up the side of the tent about six inches, providing extra protection).  But we were on top of gravel and I worried about the wear and tear on even such tough material and, because this tent is like an expandable umbrella, it is challenging to completely dry the external bottom after use.

The many windows and ceiling vents make this an airy tent – arguably, the rain fly is not necessary, but I like having that extra insurance against storms which, with climate change, seem to be getting more common and extreme up here (and we just had four thunder and lightning storms in just one week).

A highly recommended tent!  Would be great for a family with kids – it comes with a black partition, which I didn’t use, but it would provide a bit of privacy and allow parents to hang out in front at night when the kids are sleeping in the back.  Parents with a couple kids could be very comfortable sleeping together in the main part – but you could easily put more people in front – the screen room has the same ability to be buttoned up and closed in as the rest of the tent.  Eight adults would be pushing it – definitely would be cheek by jowl.  If you are looking for a very flexible tent, this is a great one.  It also comes in 6 and 10 person versions.

Happy reading, Ruby

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4 Comments

    Trackbacks

    1. The List | A Year of Actually Reading My Own Books
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    4. Milk Bottles and Mango Trees | A Year of Actually Reading My Own Books

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