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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-11-09 11:58
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 1 - Calan Gaeaf: Nemo Granny & Greebo Impune Lacessit*
Carpe Jugulum (Discworld, #23) - Terry Pratchett

Well, I guess that's what happens if you p*$$ off Granny Weatherwax (however unintentionally) and make her take to a cave in the Lancrastian mountains ... next thing you know, you have vampires moving into the castle, and into the kingdom as such.  And since they were foolishly invited in to begin with, they're near impossible to get rid of again; and let's face it, Nanny Ogg, Magrat and Agnes between them might be witches; they might even meet the requirements of a proper coven now that Magrat is a mother, but they aren't Granny, not even with all their forces combined.  (Perdita, now ...) 

So all of Lancre and the reader have to jointly suffer for well over half a book before Granny decides she's let things go on for long enough and finally makes an appearance.  And of course she ultimately saves the day, even if only by the skin of her neck and with the assistance of inner voices, a few drops of blood, the general and specific allure of tea, and a meak priest discovering his inner Brutha just in time.  (Of course it also comes in handy that somebody thought of bringing a double-edged axe, and that some vampires of the older generation still have a sense of tradition left.)

(spoiler show)

 

Nice going, at any rate, on the debunking of what "everybody knows who knows anything about vampires" (including the vampires themselves, who however just don't learn ... or didn't until this new breed came around, that is), and big grins all around for the co-starring Wee Free Men.  My favorite moment, however, came courtesy of Greebo -- who by the way also has decidedly too little stage time -- with the incidental appearance of an otherwise entirely negligable vampire named Vargo:

"As the eye of narrative drew back from the coffin on its stand, two things happened.  One happened comparatively slowly, and this was Vargo's realization that he never recalled the coffin having a pillow before.

 

The other was Greebo deciding that he was as mad as hell and wasn't going to take it any more.  He'd been shaken around in the wheely thing, and then sat on by Nanny, and he was angry about that because he knew, in a dim, animal way, that scratching Nanny might be the single most stupid thing he could do in the whole world, since no one else was prepared to feed him.  This hadn't helped his temper.

 

Then he'd encountered a dog, which had triled to lick him.  He'd scratched and bitten it a few times, but this had had no effect apart from encouraging it to try to be more friendly.

 

He'd finally found a comfy resting place and had curled up into a ball, and now someone was using him as a cushion --

 

There wasn't a great deal of noise.  The coffin rocked a few times, and then pivoted around.

 

Greebo sheathed his claws and went back to sleep."

(I think someone else included this in their review recently, too, but it's just too good not to do it again -- all the more since Greebo, overall, really is as woefully long absent as Granny in this one.)

 

Read for Square 1 of the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season, Calan Gaeaf: "Read any of your planned Halloween Bingo books that you didn’t end up reading after all, involving witches, hags, or various types of witchcraft."

 

* "Don't mess with Granny and Greebo."  Or somewhat more literally: "Nobody messes with Granny and Greebo unpunished."

 

Merken

Merken

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text 2017-11-07 18:44
Reading progress update: I've read 175 out of 425 pages.
Carpe Jugulum (Discworld, #23) - Terry Pratchett

 

This is one of my left-over Halloween Bingo books; I'm reading it for the Calan Gaeaf part of square 1 of the "16 Tasks of the Festive Season". 

 

I started this book last night because I urgently needed a comfort read after Val McDermid's disappointing Forensics.  So far, it's not really doing the job, however ... too little Granny Weatherwax!  (And decidedly also too little Greebo, for that matter.)  I trust Granny will return in time for the grand finale, but man ... a Discworld Witches book where she scarcely even shows her face during almost the entire first half of the book?  What was Pratchett doing, trying to demonstrate what an essential part of the Witches subseries Granny is?  Thank you, I already knew that without having it jammed into my face sledgehammer-style!

 

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review 2017-11-07 18:25
Investigative Journalism and True Crime Writing Masquerading as Science
Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime - Val McDermid

I had long rants going through my head on pretty much every page of this book while I was reading, but bottom line, it just doesn't deserve the attention of my detailing them.  I like McDermid's crime fiction (most of it, anyway) and I'd very much wish she'd stick to that in the future.  There is enough writing "for the effect", garnished with sweeping (moreover: repeatedly dead wrong) generalizations about the justice system and legal history in here to last me the next several years at the very least -- and the fact that this is the way she is writing about the one area that I know personally and in-depth only enhances my doubts about her writing concerning the areas with which I am less deeply familiar, and about which I would very much have liked to learn more.

 

As I said in my one and only status update, this isn't science writing -- not even popular science writing.  McDermid lists a number of science books in the bibliography at the end of this book, but there is no indication -- neither in foot- or endnotes nor in any other way -- how, if at all, the contents of those or other books, or other forms of research, personal knowledge and experience actually impacted her writing, are reflected therein, or would provide further information on specific topics that she addresses (by which I don't mean general areas and disciplines such as entomology or toxicology as such but individual aspects of these disciplines that she touches on). 

 

The only thing we may reasonably be assured of is that she talked to a number of scientists and (hopefully) renders the salient contents of their answers with a modicum of faithfulness.  Nevertheless, it is their statements she quotes, not her own independent research and knowledge, and obvioiusly, their answers only cover the topics she asked about, leaving plenty of questions both unasked and unanswered.  Hence, the actual scientific contents of this book is never more than skin-deep.  The vast majority of the book's chapters are a mixture of true crime writing à la Ann Rule and David Wambaugh on the one hand (including lavish, detailed, tabloid-style descriptions of the victims and their suffering), a journalist's description of the physical attributes of her interview partners on the other hand, and a historical and general introduction to the various areas of forensic science that, in any university program, wouldn't merit more than a few minutes' discussion and a recommendation for further reading at home.  Mind you, I'm interested in history, so I did enjoy the individual chapters' paragraph-(or-two-)long introductions dealing with the origins of the respective disciplines, but I most certainly could have done without the plethora of lengthy true crime narration and I also didn't need to know what McDermid's interviewees looked like.  With very few exceptions, I've learned more about forensic science in law school and by reading forensic accident reports in civil cases and pathologists' statements in criminal cases -- and, more specifically, about forensic anthrophology also by reading Kathy Reich's Tempe Brennan mysteries -- than from this book by Val McDermid.

 

On more than one occasion, there is not even any indication how McDermid selected her interview partners in the first place (what exactly do the attributes mean that she uses to characterize several of her interviewees in lieu of detailing their professional background, such as "eminent": who awarded these people those attributes, and on what basis precisely?).  Indeed, in several instances, there is every reason to believe that these just happen to be people she has come across in her day job as a crime fiction writer.  The Professor Bernard Knight she references, for example, is very likely the mystery writer and, according to his own standard short biographical blurb, former Home Office pathologist and professor of forensic medicine who since the early 2000s publishes the Crowner John mystery series and is one of the authors of the "Medieval Murderers" round robins (the first of which appeared in 2005); and the scientists she references from the University of Dundee were involved, last year, in an open university forensics project that used McDermid as a figurehead.  That doesn't mean, of course, that these people don't know what they're doing as scientists (in fact, the frequently plodding nature of Knight's fiction writing makes me suspect that he is probably a better scientist than fiction writer, and from what I saw of the Dundee open university project before I had to drop it due to other commitments, it looked both fun and informative) -- but if McDermid's book had the least bit of claim to being a genuine contribution to (if only: popular) science writing, she would openly state her connection with these sources.  (As an aside, it is not good journalism, either, not to have done so.)

 

Final note on the visuals of the specific edition that I read: I was initially pleased because the cover of this edition seemed to promise a relatively matter-of-fact approach without any recourse to showy effects.  Unfortunately, that proved to be the case with regard to this particular print edition as little as it is with regard to the book's substantive contents, as the fly making an appearance as the cover's sole illustration also makes an appeareance on the book's every single page, for purely "ornamental" purposes and without the slightest reference to the actual contents of those pages:

 

(Scans from the final 2 pages of the chapter on facial reconstruction.)

 

Can you possibly get any tackier -- in a book aspiring to a scientific contents, no less?

 

I read this as the November group read of the Flat Book Society and was planning to use it as my "16 Festive Tasks" book for the "Newtonmas" square: I'm going to leave it on that square provisorially on the basis of the occasional scientific bits contributed by McDermid's interviewees, but will very likely be replacing it by the December rogue Flat Book Society buddy read, The Science of Discworld.

 

 

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text 2017-11-04 16:21
Reading progress update: Finished.
The Golden Age of Murder - Martin Edwards

Finished last night, before starting Val McDermid's Forensics. -- Review to come.

 

Read this for the "free space" / Eric the Skull square of the Detection Club Bingo.

 

 

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text 2017-11-04 11:32
Reading progress update: I've read 137 out of 320 pages.
Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime - Val McDermid

Sigh.  I'd been interested in this book because I'd been wondering whether McDermid, with her background in journalism and crime fiction -- but not science -- had really, actually written a science book.  (Even if only a "popular science" book.)  The answer is, she hasn't.  This is journalism, somewhere between National Geographic and the Notable British Trials book series, with other true crime writing thrown in occasionally -- and a clear agenda, in the pursuit of which objective writing is jettisoned entirely and replaced by manipulation in more than one instance.

 

Mind you, for what it is, it's a compelling read. But to use one of the images McDermid seems to like so much (well, she would; she's a fiction writer after all), anybody taking McDermid at her word alone on significant parts of the contents of this book is doing the same as trusting McDonalds when they're suggesting that a Happy Meal contains all the nutrition you'll ever need.

 

I doubt I'll post any more status updates -- I expect to be done with this soonish and will save the rest of my more detailed comments for my review.

 

I'm reading this as the November group read of the Flat Book Society and for the Newtonmas square (square 15) of the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season.

 

Merken

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