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Preview: The View from the Blue House

The View from the Blue House





Updated: 2017-11-18T21:11:17.214+00:00

 



All he wanted was a Tahini steak and falafel

2017-11-18T11:09:16.968+00:00

Flashing red and blue lights lit up the ceiling.

Kathy risked a glimpse over the counter. The store was a mess. Display stands and fridges were toppled over; food, drink and packaging covered every surface.

The man was pounding a fridge with a shelf.

‘Drop the board! Raise your hands and kneel on the floor!’

The man twirled towards the megaphone.

A single loud retort and his head exploded.

Kathy screamed.

‘Mam, put your hands on your head.’

‘All he wanted was a Tahini steak and falafel,’ Kathy blubbered.

‘Mam!’

‘But we don’t sell them.’ She thrust her hands up.




A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.



Review of Real Tigers by Mick Herron (Soho Crime, 2016)

2017-11-16T14:45:03.820+00:00

Slough House is where disgraced British spies are put out to pasture; whiling away their hours doing pointless and soul-destroying admin in the hope that they will call it quits and leave the service. Each resident, however, hopes that they might put their career back on track and make it back to Regent’s Park. Catherine Standish, secretary and recovering alcoholic, doesn’t seem a likely candidate to be kidnapped, but when she’s snatched from the street by an ex-soldier, her colleague River Cartwright impetuously leaps into action, which is the reason he’s no longer trusted with operations any longer, and tries to steal a secret file to ensure Standish’s release. Slough House’s misfits play into the ambitions and scheming of the kidnappers, but also into a three-way power play between the home secretary, head of MI5, and one of her deputies. But there’s life in the slow horses yet and their boss, arrogant, bullying Jackson Lamb, is an old hand at department politics and scheming himself.

Real Tigers is the third book in the Slough series that follows the exploits of the slow horses – spies who’ve been put out to grass because of some major blemish in their careers. While the first two books in the series are good, Herron really hits it out of the park with this outing. The two key elements – plot and characterisation – are excellent. The slow horses are pawns in a much larger game between a vengeful ex-army senior officer, a clownish but ruthless politician, the head of MI5 and her internal rival. There’s plenty of scheming, backstabbing, action, and twists and turns, and Herron ratchets up the tension with the slow horses stumbling and fumbling towards a resolution, led by Jackson Lamb, who respects his charges just as little as the rest of the organization but believes the only person who should make their lives a misery is himself. Rather than being a simple linear tale, Herron creates a multi-threaded and layered story with the strands being drawn to a climatic showdown and intriguing fallout. Along with the insufferable, abrasive Lamb, the slow horses are a delight – Catherine is a recovering alcoholic, Shirley has a coke habit, Marcus has a problem with gambling, River acts before thinking, and Roddy is a delusional geek with zero social skills. Added into the mix is a home secretary clearly modelled on Boris Johnson, and two scheming, hard-headed spymasters in the Stella Remington mould. The dialogue and social relations between characters is nicely done as is the storytelling in general. There is also a delicious streak of dark humour running throughout and I laughed out loud at several points. Overall, a wonderful read.





Review of Birds in a Cage by Derek Niemann (Short Books, 2012)

2017-11-13T19:08:19.176+00:00

Birds in a Cage tells the story of four keen birdwatchers - Peter Conder, John Buxton, George Waterston and John Barrett - who met in a German prisoner of war camp and spend their days undertaking scientific research on bird migrations and behaviour.  Post-war the four men each became part of Britain’s wildlife conservation movement, maintaining professional and personal relationships for the rest of their lives.  As is often the case with popular history books the subtitle is somewhat misleading – “Four secret birdwatchers, the unlikely beginning of British wildlife conservation”: (1) their birdwatching was not secret either from other prisoners or guards, many of whom helped, (2) nor was it the unlikely beginning of British wildlife conservation, which was already underway pre-war, including by the protagonists, and was driven by many more actors than just these four.

Nonetheless, the book is an interesting account of both life as a British prisoner of war in Germany and the practices and comradery of birdwatching. Although isolating, demoralising and full of hardship and danger, prisoners regularly exchanged correspondence and parcels with family and friends at home, meaning that food and books made their way to the camp and poems, drawings, scientific papers went the other way. In addition, the men corresponded with the head of avian zoology at Berlin zoo, receiving homing tags and books from him. Given the long hours with little to do, the four men made pioneering, in-depth studies of certain birds and general counts and migrations. They often enrolled the help of other men, treating the whole enterprise as scientific study. Studying birds also gave them cover to act as lookouts for escape attempts, including participating in the wooden horse scheme. All four endured five years as a prisoner, overlapping in different camps, but often were alone from the others as they were moved about.

Niemann tells the tale with a sympathetic voice, drawing on diaries, letters, drawings and other secondary sources, to tell each man’s story as well as how they intertwine. The result is an engaging tale of how birdwatching suffused each man’s life, particularly during the war.





Lazy Sunday Service

2017-11-12T12:19:52.567+00:00

Having only read/reviewed four books during October, I suddenly find myself with three reviews to write and another book nearly finished. Expect reviews of Birds in a Cage by Derek Niemann, Real Tigers by Mick Herron, Ten Dead Comedians by Fred Van Lente, and Codebreakers by James Wyllie and Michael McKinley shortly. A slight review spoiler - Real Tigers was a cracking read.


My posts this week

The moon is extra bright today
Review of A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee
Slow computing: A workshop on resistance in the algorithmic age
October reads



The moon is extra bright today

2017-11-11T10:15:57.472+00:00

‘Here he comes!’

‘He’s cheating! He’s using fans.’

‘And shoes.’

The lumbering, naked figure of John Carter danced around startled shoppers, tracked by several smartphone cameras.

Someone shouted, ‘Go-on Boy!’

He didn’t notice Jane’s presence until the fan was snatched free.

Instinctively he moved the fan covering his arse to his shield his cock.

‘You’re meant to be naked! That was the forfeit.’

‘I am fecking naked!’ He was caught between wanting to argue and flee.

‘Cheat!’ Jane grabbed for the other fan.

John leapt sideways and resumed his run.

‘The moon is extra bright today,’ Jane yelled after him.



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.



Review of A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee (Vintage)

2017-11-08T10:31:09.909+00:00

1919, Calcutta. Captain Sam Wyndham, former Scotland Yard detective, has arrived in India after surviving the trenches of the Great War to return to an empty home, his wife dead from influenza. Only a week in the city and he is asked to investigate the death of a senior British civil servant found stabbed in an alley behind a brothel. He’s partnered by Inspector Digby, a long-time police officer in India, and Sergeant ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee, a Cambridge graduate who has defied his family wishes to join the police. While trying to orientate himself to colonial rule and policing, and local, national and cultural politics, Wyndham makes slow progress, made more difficult by the interference of the military police. To add to his load he’s also asked to investigate a train robbery. The evidence suggests that the murder and robbery are related, the work of Indian separatists, but Wyndham is not convinced.

A Rising Man is the first book in the Captain Wyndham series set in Calcutta just after the First World War. A historical murder mystery, there are a couple of compelling strengths to the story. First, the story is a nicely told crime tale, with the perpetrator and reason for the crime reasonably well covered until the reveal. Second, there is a good sense of place, culture and political context. Mukherjee details the segregated geography of the city, the power-laden architecture of the British Raj, and streetscape of Indian neighbourhoods. He also does a nice job of detailing the inherent racism and expressions of colonial British power, and forms of violent and non-violent resistance of Indians, as well as the complex social relations between British, Indian and Anglo-Indians. Where I struggled a little was with the character of Wyndham, who I couldn’t quite pin down – somehow he seemed both worldly and naïve, resolute but uncertain. This was perhaps personified by being a drug-addict-cum-recreational user – he lost control to the cravings, yet was still in control of his habit. He should have had depth, but somehow seemed a little hollow. The ending was also reliant on a plot device I’m never really comfortable with, which I won't discuss as it'll provide a spoiler. Nonetheless, the positives really outshone my nitpicking and I look forward to reading the next book in the series, A Necessary Evil.




October reads

2017-11-07T10:30:10.690+00:00

Another slow month of reading. My read of the month was Moth by James Sallis, the second Lew Griffin book set in New Orleans.

Flashman’s Lady by George MacDonald Fraser ***.5
A Dangerous Man by Charlie Huston ****
Moth by James Sallis ****.5
Whisky in Small Glasses by Denzil Meyrich**.5



Lazy Sunday Service

2017-11-05T16:21:07.221+00:00

On my way to Brighton to present at a workshop and to launch a new centre at the University of Brighton. Haven't been visited Brighton for a few years, so looking forward to having a stroll around the town. I didn't have a novel set in the town on my TBR so I've bought Mick Herron's Real Tigers instead.

My posts this week
Review of Map of the Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey by Rachel Hewitt
Collecting failed dates



Collecting failed dates

2017-11-04T19:37:53.185+00:00

‘Seriously, you go bird watching?’ Tanya said, glancing at her watch.

‘You think it’s a waste of time?’

‘It just seems so …’

‘Boring.’ David said, sensing the change of mood.

‘Well, I wasn’t going to put it like that.’

‘Though that’s what you’d mean. And yes, it can be a bit tedious, but it has its moments.’

‘Such as?’

‘Seeing a rare species, or a bird behaving unusually. Many of them are really quite beautiful.’

‘And would you expect … a partner to watch as well?’

‘Not really. Do you have a hobby?’

‘Does going on failed dates count?’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.



Review of Map of the Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey by Rachel Hewitt (2010, Granta)

2017-11-03T15:58:35.825+00:00

In Map of a Nation, Rachel Hewitt tells the story of the formation of the Ordnance Survey. The book should really have a title that frames the time period of the content since it almost exclusive covers the period 1745 to 1870, with practically no discussion of the history of the organization in the twentieth century. The use of the term biography in the title is, I suppose, a nod to the biographical approach to history telling, with Hewitt plotting the history of the organisation principally by tracing the lives of its key actors – David Watson, William Roy, William Mudge, Thomas Colby and others. Throughout the narrative there are a series of asides, with some context relating to politics, military conflict, scientific advances, philosophy, popular culture, and social relations, some of which aid the tale, some a bit of a distraction. Hewitt’s starting point is the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 and the inability of English soldiers to navigate the Highlands, which led to a government-led mapping survey. Additional surveys were undertaken throughout the late eighteenth century, with the British collaborating with the French to create an accurate triangulation survey to document the precise location of key sites. These trig points became the basis for a national survey starting in 1791, under the office of the Master-General of the Ordnance, to underpin new, accurate maps. The survey first covered South East England leading to the first OS map in 1801 of Kent, and then continued across England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland during the first half of the nineteenth century.

While it is evident that there is a substantial body of research underpinning the narrative, and there is a richness of detail, for my liking the account is somewhat an uncritical in charting Ordnance Survey’s history. There are very brief references to a more critical reading of how OS was a political body doing important work to maintain the Union and certainly no attempt at a postcolonial reading of OS’s work, particularly with respect to Ireland and Scotland. Instead the OS is framed as a somewhat neutral, yet civilising and Enlightenment endeavour, with some fairly weak defence of its colonial work. The result is an account that presents people, events and endeavours in a straightforward, face-value way but largely skims over the wider subtext. Overall, an interesting history of the formation of Britain’s national mapping agency, but lacking a critical edge.




Lazy Sunday Service

2017-10-29T09:35:11.428+00:00

It would have been nice to attend the Noireland, An International Crime Fiction Festival in Belfast this weekend, but family commitments prevented me from making it. From social media it seems to have been a success, so hopefully it will continue and I'll make it next year.


My posts this week:
Review of Flashman’s Lady by George MacDonald Fraser
New paper: A smart place to work? Big data systems, labour, control, and modern retail stores
Forgotten in his own life time



Forgotten in his own life time

2017-10-28T08:55:15.813+01:00

‘This is it?’ Turner put the photograph of a young woman back on a shelf and picked up a folder.

‘Yes,’ the duty manager replied. ‘He arrived with a suitcase and one box.’

‘And he’d no relatives?’

‘Not that we know about. No-one’s visited since he arrived three years ago.’

Turner pulled a sheet of paper free. ‘It says here he won a Gairnder Award.’

The manager shrugged.

‘It’s a major international award for medical science. A stepping stone to a Nobel prize.’

‘He never talked about himself.’

‘Jesus. Forgotten in his own life time.’

‘Even by himself. Alzheimers. Poor bastard.’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.



Review of Flashman’s Lady by George MacDonald Fraser (1977, HarperCollins)

2017-10-25T09:45:49.243+01:00

Harry Flashman is back in London and has been asked to reprise his cricketing prowess at Lords. Unwittingly he’s dragged into a gambling racket and into the orbit of Don Solomon, a man with great wealth but an unclear past rooted in the Far East, who has taken a shine to Elspeth, Flashman’s beautiful but ditzy wife.  Solomon wants to take Elspeth and her doddery, scheming father on a cruise to the far-side of the world. For once, Flashman acts with chivalry towards his wife and when Solomon gets his way he tags along to keep an eye on her. The journey takes them down the African coast, round the Cape of Good Hope, into the Indian Ocean and to Singapore. There, Flashman is set upon and Elspeth kidnapped. Flashman hooks up with James Brooke, the White Rajah of Sarawak, to pursue his wife into the wilds of Borneo and a battle with pirates, ending his adventure on the island of Madagascar where he’s enslaved by despot, Queen Ranavalona.

Flashman’s Lady is the sixth book in the Harry Flashman series, but the second in chronological order, set in 1843-45. As usual, Fraser interweaves Flashman into real-world events and places from the time – in this case, cricket in London, James Brooke’s battles with pirates in Borneo, and the tyrannical reign of Queen Ranavalona in Madagascar, a deadly place for Europeans to visit. To a large degree these are three separate adventures just about held together by Flashman’s global chaperoning and pursuit of his air-headed wife, Elspeth. Moreover, Flashman almost slips out of character, for although he is his usual bawdy-self for once he is chivalrous to Elspeth, seeking to make sure she is safe rather than simply looking after himself as normal.  Of course, that doesn’t stop him getting up to high-jinks with other women. And Flashman continues in his misogynist, racist, imperialist ways – very much reflecting a certain British, nineteenth century mentality that feels somewhat uncomfortable in today’s politically correct times. Fraser plays the bawdiness and humour to good effect to deliver a swashbuckling adventure with plenty of social and historical commentary. Overall, an enjoyable if a little uneven addition to the series.




Lazy Sunday Service

2017-10-22T09:23:50.012+01:00

I've not travelled that much in the last six months; just to the UK a couple of times.  Heck, do they need to sort out their rail system. It's a mess. Whatever the timetable says double the time. I might write a short story at some point about a man who loses the plot on a train - but actually externalizes it rather than it unfolding only in my head. The only thing keeping me sane was first 'Flashman's Lady', then 'Map of a Nation', a biography of the Ordnance Survey.

My posts this week
Review of A Dangerous Man by Charlie Huston
Wanting to scream



Wanting to scream

2017-10-21T08:22:36.861+01:00

The two shopping bags hit the floor. A yoghurt pot jumped free, landed and split.

Tom was hanging naked above the stairs.

She wanted to scream – inside her head and body that’s all she could hear and feel – but couldn’t externalise it.

Instead her legs collapsed under her, though she fell still gazing up, unable to avert her stare.

‘Mummy! Rachel won’t let me play.’

Some primordial instinct broke the spell.

‘Stay outside’: Said as she landed.

‘But mummy …’

‘Just stay there.’ She tried to scramble up and towards the door, slipped on the yoghurt.

Then the screaming started.



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.



Review of A Dangerous Man by Charlie Huston (2006 by Ballantine Books)

2017-10-20T17:06:03.376+01:00

Having moved from a man on the run in Mexico to reluctant hitman for the Russian Mob in Las Vegas, Hank Thompson only seems to function if he’s swallowed a cocktail of drugs. Other than the drugs, all that is keeping him going is the need to serve his debt to keep his parents alive, but he knows that his boss’s patient is running thin. He’s somewhat surprised then when he’s asked to babysit a rising baseball star and gambling addict who's visiting the city to blow some of his signing-on-fee from the New York Mets. Hank’s task is to keep the player partying and out of trouble. It’s a bitter pill for the ailing hitman to take given that he was also a hot baseball prospect before events overtook him. Nonetheless despite his resentment he can’t help liking Miguel Arenas. When Miguel heads to his new life, Hank is sent as his chaperone; back to the city where he’s still a wanted man.

A Dangerous Man is the final instalment of the Hank Thompson trilogy. After the trials and tribulations leading up to his present predicament, it’s no surprise to find him struggling as a conscience-wracked, drug-adled hitman for David Dolokhov, a Russian mobster. Dolokhov specialises in fleecing gambling addicts and running rackets, taking the ultimate sanction as a warning to others when they fail him. He keeps Hank on a short tether with a threat to murder his parents. At a low ebb and waiting to find himself in the firing line Hank’s surprised to be asked to mind a rising baseball star with a gambling problem. Huston uses the introduction of Miguel Arenas to inject some hope into Hank’s life, but also more danger as he’s sent back to New York where his descent started. Told in the first person the narrative is pretty bleak throughout with Hank stumbling from one incident to another, constantly shifting from paranoia to scheming for a way out. It’s a little uneven in the telling, but still a solid piece of contemporary hardboiled pulp and it has a very apt noir ending.




Lazy Sunday Service

2017-10-15T22:21:30.328+01:00

Hurricane Orphelia should be a tropical storm by the time it hits Ireland in the early hours of Monday. It's predicted to be the biggest storm in 50 years with winds gusting 90-130 km an hour. Hopefully our nearly complete house and garage will survive. Fingers crossed the storm loses energy very quickly and veers west into the Atlantic.

My posts this week:
Review of Moth by James Sallis
Pharmakon



Pharmakon

2017-10-14T15:02:23.636+01:00

Grogan opened the front door. ‘It’s yourself.’

‘I thought you’d appreciate a personal visit. You don’t look so well.’

‘No thanks to you.’

‘You seem to think I’m the poison, Grogan, but I’m the remedy.’ Phelan held up a bag containing an off-white powder.

‘Ha! A pharmakon.’

‘Pharmakon?’

‘It’s Greek. It means poison and remedy. Both you and the H.’

‘Nobody made you take drugs, professor.’

‘Nobody tried to stop me either.’

Phelan shrugged. ‘You’re an adult, and I’m a businessman. Now, you want a fix, I want my money.’

‘I’m broke.’

‘Then you need remedy that situation. And mine.’



A drabble is a story of 100 words.



Review of Moth by James Sallis (1993, No Exit Press)

2017-10-11T19:50:33.602+01:00

Lew Griffin has lived a meandering life of unfulfilled relationships, sorrow and regrets. After years of working as a private detective, scouring the underbelly of New Orleans, he has become a novelist and university professor, transforming his past into fiction. Shortly after the death of one of his past loves her current partner asks Griffin to locate her missing daughter.  She has dropped out of school and seemingly gone on a drugs-filled bender. Griffin agrees to try and track her down, returning to his old crafts and haunts, and occasional violence he thought he’d left behind. The trail takes him out of the city and to memories of his parents and his own long-lost son.

Moth is the second book in the Lew Griffin series set in New Orleans. In this outing Griffin comes out of retirement as a private detective to track down the missing daughter of an old flame who has recently died. His journey threads him through the underbelly of the city and out into rural Louisiana. There are three real strengths to Moth. The first is the central character of Griffin, who is cloaked in a world weariness, worn down by years of operating as a PI and dealing with oppressors and victims, everyday racism, successive failed relationships sabotaged by his own unwillingness to commit, and his inability to find his missing son, yet remains compassionate and resolute. The second is philosophical observations and asides about human nature and society, as well as some nice intertextuality concerning the authorship and narrative form. The third is the prose and voice; Sallis also writes poetry and it tells in the lyrical nature of his writing.  The plot is engaging enough, tracking Griffin’s progress in locating the wayward daughter, with a second thread added near the end, though the resolution of both are rather flat. However, Moth is really a tale about Griffin himself rather than telling the story of a compelling mystery. And that focus worked fine for me as he’s an interesting character to spend time with, as is Sallis’ prose and reflections on life and society.





Lazy Sunday Service

2017-10-08T22:03:19.455+01:00

I'm finally getting round to reading the final installment of Charlie Huston's 'Hank Thompson' trilogy, A Dangerous Man. It's hardly cheery stuff, but it's rattling along.

My posts this week

The time I wrestled with a tiger
Review of Whisky in Small Glasses by Denzil Meyrich
September reads



The time I wrestled with a tiger

2017-10-07T20:09:02.134+01:00

Tom paused and stared at the fire.  He’d told the story so many times he was no longer sure as to what was truth or embellishment. Perhaps his memory had become so corrupted that it was all just a mutant narrative. Maybe it wasn’t a memory at all, but simply a story about himself; an expression of who he wanted to be.

‘Granddad? What happened next?’

‘I don’t know, son. I’m not sure if any of it happened.’

‘But you have the scar!  There on your hand.’

Tom rang a finger along the pale line.

‘The tiger leapt forward. Roar!’


 


A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.





Review of Whisky in Small Glasses by Denzil Meyrich (Polygon, 2012)

2017-10-03T09:07:15.167+01:00

The body of a young woman is washed up on a Scottish beach in the West of Scotland. Detective Inspector Jim Daley is sent from Glasgow to the remote, close-knit town of Kinloch to investigate. There he discovers that the woman was infamous for performing sexual favours for drink and drugs and that her friend and a local club owner have disappeared. Daley and his team start a search while also hunting for other clues, though their task is not aided by the lukewarm reception of the local sub-divisional commander. Also acting as a distraction is the presence of Daley’s wife. She has followed him to the seaside town with her brother-in-law in tow hoping to try and patch things up despite her infidelity and Daley's hair-trigger temper. When the body count rises further pressure is applied by Daley’s ambitious boss. Soon there is much more at stake than Daley’s job and his rocky marriage.

Whisky in Small Glasses is the first in the DCI Daley series set in the West of Scotland. Daley is for the most part calm, collected and reasonable but he also has anger management issues that flair up when stressed. Given the state of his marriage, the pressure from his boss, and a difficult case, he’s never far from snapping. His sidekick is DS Brian Scott, a no-nonsense cop who’s reached his career ceiling. Together they make an interesting pair. Where the story suffers though is with respect to the plotting and telling. Meyrich uses a succession of plot devices to keep the story moving forward, some of which are seem barely credible, such as the backstory and unfolding drama involving the local chief cop, and Daley’s wife following him to the murder location. Moreover, the identity of the killer is strongly telegraphed from about halfway through in what is meant to be a whodunit. This is not helped by the lifeless, workmanlike prose. The result is a fairly weakly told police procedural anchored by a couple of intriguing lead characters.




September reads

2017-10-02T19:37:21.759+01:00

September proved to be quite possibly the slowest reading month of the last eight years of the blog. I managed one book a week. At least they were good reads! My book of the month was Eva Dolan's After You Die.

Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr ****
After You Die by Eva Dolan *****
Love Story, With Murders by Harry Bingham ****.5
Hanns and Rudolf by Thomas Harding ***.5



Fireflies

2017-09-30T15:23:59.723+01:00

Hannah took a sip of red wine.

‘Do you think this is going anywhere?’

‘What?’ Tom looked up from his meal. ‘Us?’

‘Yes.’

‘I … I thought we were getting on okay?’

‘But is okay enough?’

‘You want more?’

‘I don’t know. I don’t know what to expect any more.’

‘You were hoping for fireworks?’

‘Maybe.’ Hannah shrugged.

‘They’re sparking all around us, but they’re fireflies rather than lightning bolts.’

‘You’re sure?’

‘This is what, our sixth date? I’m sixty three, and I’m too polite to ask your age, and I’m not sure of anything anymore. But I see fireflies.’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.



Review of Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr (Quercus, 2017)

2017-09-26T22:26:59.784+01:00

1956. Bernie Gunther, former Berlin Kripo detective, is working as a concierge on the French Riviera. Gunther has a colourful past including working as a private investigator and for the upper echelons of the SD and SS; the latter under duress as he’s no Nazi. He’s also a wanted man for war crimes he didn’t commit. Ernst Mielke, the deputy head of the East German Stasi, wants Gunther to travel to Britain to murder a female agent that’s fallen out of favour. To make him compliant, Mielke’s brought along a small team led by Friedrich Korsch, an old Kripo colleague. Despite making the penalty for failing the mission clear, Bernie is reluctant to participate and loses his chaperones, making a break for West Germany. As he heads for the border, pursued by the Stasi and the French police who suspect him of a double murder, he recollects the last case he worked with his former Kripo colleague. That took place in early 1939 when he was asked by Martin Bormann and Reinhard Heydrich to investigate the shooting of a SS officer on the terrace of Hitler’s mountaintop retreat in Obersalzberg. Heydrich considers Gunther the best detective in Germany, and one not driven by political ideology. It’s unthinkable that a man can be killed on the Fuhrer’s terrace, especially a week before the leader’s fiftieth birthday, and Bormann gives Bernie one week to catch the killer or face dire consequences. Bernie soon discovers there are no shortage of suspects given the widespread corruption linked to the development in the area. The problem is identifying which snake in the grass is the murderer and to tread carefully enough that he doesn’t end up dead as well. However, full of methamphetamines to keep him at work night and day, Bernie has big feet and the drugs make him emboldened. Prussian Blue is the twelfth instalment of the Bernie Gunther series. As with the last few outings the story is split into related threads, one set in 1956, the other in 1939. In 1956 Bernie is on the run from the East Germany Stasi who want him to murder a rogue agent and the French police who want him for murder. While fleeing from the French Riviera towards West Germany, Bernie remembers the last case he worked with the man now in pursuit of him. That involved him searching for the murderer of a high-ranking SS officer serving at Hitler’s mountaintop retreat, conducting the investigation while trying to deal with several senior Nazis and widespread local corruption. As with the other tales, the undoubted draw of Prussian Blue is the acerbic, world weary lead character whose principles have slowly been eroded over the years, and the historical contextualisation. A bit like Forrest Gump, Bernie has a habit of rubbing shoulders with a range of high profile historical characters and real-world events. Both threads are engaging, but there’s an unevenness in the telling. The 1956 thread is quite linear and operates as a short story interleaved between episodes of the more developed, complex 1939 thread. In many ways the 1956 thread more acts as a framing for the 1939 story and a bridge to the next episode in Bernie’s tale, moving him back to Germany. While the 1939 tale is engaging and rich in historical detail it’s also somewhat drawn out, with quite a bit of unnecessary explication, and in my view would have benefitted from quite a bit of pruning. Overall, despite my quibbles, another enjoyable[...]