Posted by: billpurdue | October 25, 2008

28 Crime in a cold climate

The place is Moscow, the time is around the turn of the century, when the Czar was still firmly in control. Corruption is rife, affecting the police as much as any other aspect of public life. Our hero, Court Counsellor Erast Fandorin has two cases to solve, the first a quest to trap a swindler who has an infinite number of tricks up his sleeve and the second, a series of grizzly murders where ladies of the night are murdered and carefully dissected. The link between these two cases is Fandorin’s new assistant, Tulipov, who starts as a complete novice in the field of detection, but soon learns the trade. Could the murderer be the man nicknamed “Jack the Ripper” who may have emigrated from England to continue his brutal trade in Moscow ?  If all this sounds familiar, then you might have already read Special Assignments by Boris Akunin  [ Phoenix £6.99 9780753823484] – real name Grigory Chkhartishvili  – or one of the other titles in the series of adventures of Erast Fandorin.  I have only read this one, but it has whetted my appetite for more, though I’m not a regular crime reader. Reading about the adventures of this dashing detective requires some degree of concentration sometimes, as many of the characters have long names and fancy titles and may be referred to by their surname, title or just first name(s), so be warned! I would say about 7 or 8 on a scale of 1- 10 for excitement!


Bees – essential to our existence


From time to time we hear in the news about problems with bee colonies disappearing or about parasites or other diseases affecting bees. The news stories never seem to make the main headlines, yet many people do not realise how important bees are to our food production. In A World without Bees [Guardianbooks £9.99 9780852650929 ] Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum examine the problem of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and what might be the cause. It’s a sobering thought that in one area of China, bees have been completely wiped out by pesticides and so many farmers have to enlist the help of their families using home made feather dusters to pollinate pear trees by hand. Pesticides may not be the only cause – in the USA,  transporting bee hives thousands of miles across the country so that the bees can pollinate crops, such as thousands of acres of almond trees in California, could be seriously affect the long term future of bees in the country. If you’re concerned, then this book is for you: it might get a bit technical at times, but it’s well worth the effort.


Weather – again!


Weather is often the first topic of conversation when any two people meet (at least in Britain, that is) and that probably accounts for the seemingly ever increasing numbers of books connected with the weather appearing on bookshop and library shelves. Published this year, Since Records Began [ Collins £9.99 9780007284634 ] by Paul Simons is a pot pourri (if that’s an appropriate term) of short pieces about a wide variety of weather events and phenomena that have affected Britain in some way during the past 1000 years. There’s the spectacular thunderstorm on Derby Day in 1911, how the wind helped the invasion of England by William of Orange in 1688, the reason why brilliantly coloured clouds were seen in the stratosphere in 1996 and 2008 and much more. An ideal book to dip into. If you prefer a little more detail and more of a story, then Under the Weather by Tom Fort [Century £14.99 1844133699 ] might be more up your street. This book, by a one time BBC Radio News journalist, looks at the people throughout history who have made it their business to record weather statistics and develop theories about the causes of different types of weather. It starts with the theories of Aristotle who postulated that our dispositions and state of health were determined by the elements and ends with the author’s take on the arguments about climate change. An absorbing read; of the two, I prefer the latter.

By the way, read about Tom Fort’s latest book (Downstream – across England in a Punt) here.


That’s all for this time, but in the near future I thought I would put together a list of my suggestions for books to give for Christmas, so that will appear sometime in November.

Happy reading!

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