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Richard Demma "Crime Scene Reviews" (Prague)

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Blood on the Bones: British Detective Series (Rafferty & Llewellyn Book 9)
Blood on the Bones: British Detective Series (Rafferty & Llewellyn Book 9)
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crackling Crime Mystery with Depth and Laughs, 11 Dec. 2014
Blood on the Bones is the 9th book in British author Geraldine Evans' Rafferty and Llewellyn cozy mystery series and I found it a very absorbing read. This is a crime novel with depth and substance, which exchanges cheap thrills for some very meditative ruminations on religious faith and doubt, spiced with a bit of wry humor and some wicked plot twists that made me laugh out loud. A body has been discovered buried in the gardens of the Carmelite Monastery of the Immaculate Conception. Detective Inspector Joseph Rafferty, a lapsed Catholic of long repute, is assigned to the case and finds himself confronting the demons of his own harsh Catholic upbringing. As Inspector Rafferty follows the tangled clues in the case, he finds himself confronting his own religious and spiritual yearnings. Is a spiritual awakening on the horizon or even a full re-conversion to his Catholic past? Hardly likely for the astute, acutely rational Rafferty. But then one never knows. This case is bringing to the surface more questions than the simple `whodunit'. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and appreciated Geraldine Evans' quiet restraint in avoiding all sensationalism. She has managed to combine some serious reflections on religious themes of doubt and faith and the abuses of a repressive religious system together with a crackling police procedural that is both funny and shocking at the same time. Speaking as a former Trappist monk, I can say that her characterizations of the nuns in this contemplative order are spot on! Philosophical reflections, shocks and laughs all blended smoothly together in one crime novel. That's quite a feat. I've now started the 3rd book in the series, Death Line, about a famous psychic, adviser to the stars, who fails to predict his own grisly murder. The author had me laughing by the second page! Well done!

Read my full review at crimescenereveiws.com


Prague Palimpsest: Writing, Memory, and the City
Prague Palimpsest: Writing, Memory, and the City
by Alfred Thomas
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £30.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful, Sensitive Treatment of Prague's Literary Uses, 10 Dec. 2014
A hauntingly beautiful, sensitive treatment of Prague's literary tradition and the uses authors - both Czech and foreign - have made of the City as a 'palimpsest' of changing images through which they can exorcise their own personal demons and the traumas of the past century. This is especially so of German authors dealing with the traumatic guilt of the holocaust. I also found the book quite sad, as it recounts such immense suffering witnessed and experienced by the city and its inhabitants. Almost unbearable. It also makes for an excellent review of the Czech literary tradition, from its early past to its 19th century giants like Jan Neruda, all the way up to the contemporary lights of Michal Ajvaz and Sylvie Germain. Also invaluable is the author's treatment of Prague's most famous literary son, Franz Kafka. For the first time, I finally understood Kafka's place in the Czech literary tradition, and yes, he does have a place. He would not have become the author so well known today without the profound literary influences upon him of the great Czech authors of the past. The fact that he self-consciously chose to distance himself from this tradition (to universalize himself) and to eradicate from his writings any specific, concrete references both to the literary tradition and to Prague itself as a specific city does not take away from this fact. In this fashion, he somewhat resembles Samuel Beckett in relation to his own Irish literary tradition and the great Western dramatic tradition. For the first time I understood that Kafka does not simply float disembodied in space as an alienated German speaking Jew in the Czech lands. He grew out of the Czech literary tradition, was nourished by it, and in his own countervailing way contributed immeasurably to its enrichment. I book I will surely read again. HIghly recommended.


Double Spy
Double Spy
Price: £4.28

5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Account of Life as a Double Agent, 8 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Double Spy (Kindle Edition)
Dutch citizen Peter van Wermeskerken has quite a story to tell, and he tells it with considerable wit, humor and style. In 1967, at the young age of 27 and with no formal education, he was recruited by the notorious East German spy agency HUV, popularly known as the Stasi, to work for them as a secret agent in the Netherlands. Wisely, Peter immediately reported this contact to the Netherlands’ own secret police agency, the BVD, who took him under their wing and used him as a double agent. What follows in Peter’s account is a series of fascinating episodes and adventures that give us a unique insight into this murky world of double espionage from a very human, down to earth perspective. Some of the adventures are quirky and strange, many are absurdly funny – casting light on the incompetence and naivete of his East German handlers, and occasionally even the ineptitude of his ‘friends’ in the BVD. All the adventures, however, are colored by Peter’s remarkable personality, which is marked by an astonishing bravura and self-confidence. I marveled at Peter’s capacity to sail through some harrowing experiences and close calls with such lighthearted aplomb, coming through these ordeals with enough energy to spare to bicker for a pay rise! This is a remarkable book told by a remarkable man.

Read my complete review here: http://crimescenereviews.com/book-review-double-spy-by-peter-van-wermeskerken/


Dosha, Flight of the Russian Gypsies
Dosha, Flight of the Russian Gypsies
Price: £5.84

5.0 out of 5 stars A Stirring Epic of a Persecuted People, 4 Dec. 2014
This deeply moving account of the tragic plight of Russian Romany gypsies deals with a horrific crime of state against a persecuted minority, the Romany. This event was all the more poignant because in the past Russia was the one European country that most welcomed, appreciated and loved its Gypsy communities. They were loved for their unique music and dance, their rich culture, the freedom of their lives, and their passionate loyalty to one another. Gypsies felt safe in Russia for centuries. Sadly, after 1956, this protective haven was destroyed and the Romany were forced to flee for their lives, including many who had fought for Russia as loyal partisans in World Word II. Those who could not escape were herded into starvation camps in Siberia and left to die.

However, Sonia Meyer has not simply written an historical tract or a sociological essay. She has crafted a richly detailed, deeply moving fictional account of Gypsy life, both within the forests and plains of Russia and during their flight to freedom in the West. She has personalized the tragedy of an entire people by taking us into the lived experience of a remarkable young Gypsy girl, Dosha, granddaughter of Khantchi, the King of her Lovara tribe. We follow Dosha through a series of harrowing adventures as she seeks to escape to freedom in the West, together with her beloved stallion Rus. For Dosha is a highly gifted rider of horses, and through the training of her father, she is transformed into a master of the horse. This mastery, together with her magnificent stallion, will catch the eye of Russian agents recruiting for the renowned Leningrad dressage team. Because of this fortuitous event, Dosha will discover her pathway to freedom, and map out a path of escape for the rest of her tribe....


The Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray
The Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray
Price: £6.96

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The kindle edition is neither annotated nor illustrated., 19 Nov. 2012
This is just a warning to prospective kindle customers - the digital version of this book is not "lavishly illustrated" and most shocking of all to me, Nicholas Frankel's extensive notes, which run alongside the text and which exceed the actual length of the novel itself, are not included! Yes, there are two rich scholarly introductions, replete with notes, and some three pages of notes to the actual text, but the "annotations" which have excited so much comment from reviewers are in fact missing from the kindle edition. There was no warning from Amazon that the kindle edition is completely without the textual notes and illustrations. In fact Stonewall Riot Press has a complete, uncensored edition on Amazon for 9.19. The editor himself, JOHN MCARTHUR, praises Nicholas Frankel's annotations:

"I was already at work on my edition of the text when I received my copy of Nicholas Frankel's P-book edition published in 2011 by Harvard University Press. Though I was somewhat dismayed at having been scooped, I could only admire the quality and thoroughness of Professor Frankel's scholarship. His notes, which run alongside the text, exceed it in length, and he also provides lavish illustrations and other resources. I heartily recommend this edition for readers seeking a scholarly edition for research purposes. I frankly cannot see how it can be superseded."

A very generous endorsement, but for those who are seeking a scholarly edition, beware of the kindle edition which is very much a truncated version. Far better to go for Stonewall Riot Press' edition, which is actually four dollars cheaper.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 1, 2013 2:39 AM BST


Deadly Inheritance: An Ursula Grandison Mystery (Ursula Grandison Mysteries)
Deadly Inheritance: An Ursula Grandison Mystery (Ursula Grandison Mysteries)
by Janet Laurence
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Spiritually Uplifting Mystery, 25 July 2012
Rarely do I finish a crime/mystery novel with the sense of being spiritually uplifted and renewed, but such was my experience when I finished Janet Laurence's exquisite tale of murder, mystery and intrigue set in the world of the English aristocracy at the opening of the 20th century. Because the fictional world was so richly realized and because so many of the characters were so fully developed and, more importantly, allowed by their author to freely exist within their fictional world, this really felt like reading a mystery novel by Henry James, Jane Austen or even George Eliot. Both the moral sensibility of the work and its fictional craft are of a very high order, and as a result, we come to 'know' these characters and their fictional world so intimately and so deeply. The usual elements of the Gothic mystery romance are in place, aristocratic families with dark secrets, first born sons living decadent lives, frustrated daughters trapped in arranged marriages, younger aspiring daughters seeking true love, and ferocious matriarchs dominating all family members to ensure that everything is done to protect the reputation of the family, such reputation having been elevated to the status of an idol which corrupts. And lastly, as the jacket blurb makes clear, we have impregnated servant girls discovered dead in a ditch. And where there is one body, there will undoubtedly be more and Ms. Laurence does not fail to oblige, concluding with a genuinely shocking denouement that took me completely by surprise. The bare outlines of the plot sound like the usual Gothic romance cliche. But what Ms. Laurence has done is to take the convention and, while fully respecting its requirements, transform it into a deeply absorbing "look" at the inner workings of the British class system. She does this by creating with subtlety and nuance the fictional world of an English aristocratic family and examining the effects of this family's follies and pretensions upon the lives of those around it, including their servants and the towns folk who must deal with the estate in one way or another. There are so many realized characters in this book who are lovingly respected by their author and allowed their own independent existence.

This is particularly true of her central narrator, Ursula Grandson, a woman of uncommon tolerance and wisdom herself, who is an American visitor to the English estate. She is accompanying as a chaperone a rich, slightly spoilt and petulant American heiress who has come to visit her sister, married to the Earl of Mountstanton and herself a countess. Ursula Grandson is unmarried and without means, and thereby heading towards spinsterhood, though this seems not to bother her a wit or to prevent her from having romantic aspirations of her own. Once again, on the surface, the conventional elements of a Gothic romance mystery seem to be in play. Yet the character of Ursula is created without any sentimentality and equipped with a vision of human nature that is wise, tolerant and deeply perceptive, and which well equips her to handle the series of murders that occur and which she feels morally obliged to investigate. She has few illusions, what she does have is the capacity to appreciate the persons she encounters as fully realized individuals separate from herself. We notice her ability to empathize with the lives of the servants in the household, her concern about not taxing them with unnecessary chores on her behalf, and to do so without a trace of condescension. We also note her capacity to relate to individual members of the town with decorum, civility and genuine warmth and respect, qualities the townsfolk sense immediately and which inspires trust in them. Ursula as a character forms the heart of the novel and it is because of her presence and her moral vision, tolerant, wise, yet cunning in the ways of human folly, that we ourselves feel our own moral vision expanded and uplifted. I came to the end of the novel, which is a deeply absorbing mystery, feeling that Ursula was a woman I would very much like to know 'in private life' (to employ an old fashioned phrase). Her own capacity for empathy with the myriad human beings she encounters expanded my own capacity for tolerance and understanding. Living within her fictional world was for me a spiritual experience.


Another Time, Another Life: (The Story of a Crime 2)
Another Time, Another Life: (The Story of a Crime 2)
by Leif G. W. Persson
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for Everyone, 14 Jun. 2012
Another dark, convoluted, meandering political thriller from this master of subtle innuendo and intricate plots extending over years. Yes, the sexism that marked the first book is here again in even stronger terms. And yes for many readers it will seem slow and plodding, but clearly Persson doesn't care and isn't going to change his writing style. Either you are willing to go with him, and to take the time to become totally immersed in his complex worlds, or you are not the kind of reader he is writing for. I admire his integrity in this regard. His books are not page turners in the style of the justly famous Stieg Larsson, they are something else altogether, and I finish his works feeling like I've just returned from the forbidden planet.


Blacklands
Blacklands
by Belinda Bauer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Winning Coming of Age Story, 2 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Blacklands (Paperback)
I picked this up because Belinda Bauer won the CWA Debut Novel award of 2008 for it (contestants must submit first chapter and scenario), and then went on to win the CWA GOLD Dagger award for best crime novel of 2010. I was a bit cautious when first reading it, because of the plethora of sensational 'serial killer' novels out there. Yet it didn't take long to realize this was a completely original piece of work, in which the author has simply taken the cliches of the genre and worked them to her own ends. The result is a brilliant and powerful study of a young boy coming of age (and I would agree with previous reviewers that he sometimes he seems 'too mature' for his age), who faces a moral dilemma which he transcends in a defining moment, as he is catapulted into young adulthood. A completely satisfying read that justifies all of the hype and pays honor to the genre of crime fiction itself. Superbly done.


The Wasted Vigil
The Wasted Vigil
by Nadeem Aslam
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable, 13 July 2009
This review is from: The Wasted Vigil (Paperback)
One of the great books of the year, an extraordinarily powerful and accomplished work that takes us on a harrowing ride through beauty and terror and gives us one of the most insightful looks into war ravaged Afghanistan.


Haas And Janacek: String Quartets
Haas And Janacek: String Quartets
Price: £13.67

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Youthful brilliance, 3 May 2009
This is the Prague based Pavel Hass Quartet's debut album, awarded a Gramophone Award in 2007. The quartet itself was named Newcomer of the Year in the 2007 BBC Music Magazine Awards. The renderings of Janacek's Quartet #2 and Pavel Hass's 'From the Monkey Mountain' are crisp and clear, passionate and devoted, with careful phrasing and sensitive attention to each member's sole parts. A truly stunning debut, especially for performers so young.


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