Prime Suspect, Blue Lightning

This is one of those multiple point-of-view novels, and the murder victim keeps slipping in and out of view. Damn! Who could the murderer be? The cook who was just fired by the murder victim? The birder who lives for his annual trip to Fair Isle? The older husband tired of his wife’s many infidelities?

Self has ruled out the dysfunctional sixteen-year-old stepdaughter, Perez and his fiancée, and Perez’s parents.

Jane, the cook, is so creepy! She’s been snooping in everyone’s rooms, opening laptops, rifling through drawers, etc. All from a desire to be helpful to the investigation. There is something she isn’t saying! And she is entirely too envious of others. And she’s manipulative. She’s as eager for attention as everybody else, but since she’s old and self-effacing, this fact is not immediately evident.

The Jane point of view, pp. 137 – 138:

  • Mary arrived just as Jane reached the lobby. She’d brought Perez’s fiancée with her. Jane thought Perez and this Englishman made a strange couple; Perez was so straight and silent, very Shetland despite the dark hair and olive skin, and Fran so full of energy and questions, stylish in a bohemian sort of way.

Self thinks it’s JANE! But since it’s only halfway, it’s probably not Jane.

Stay tuned.

The Opinion of a Character on Mail-Order Brides

Whoa whoa whoa whoa

A character in an Ann Cleeves novel considers the possibility of MAIL-ORDER BRIDES.

Self was dreading seeing the name of her native country on the page, but it was some other Southeast-Asian country, NOT the Philippines.

Some of his mates had gone to Thailand to find a bride, and at one time Dougie had been tempted to go down that route. He imagined a small, pretty woman, mild-mannered and grateful to be in the UK. He would be her hero: after all, he would have rescued her from poverty, perhaps from a life on the streets. She would provide companionship, laugh at his jokes, come birding with him. There would be sex. Regular sex. But his acquaintances’ Thai brides turned out to be strong and forceful women. They laughed at their men and made their lives a misery.

Blue Lightning, p. 51

Battle of Bunker Hill, Summer 1775

Chapter 15 of Liberty Is Sweet is a very exciting chapter (Coming clean: Self skipped pages and pages having to do with laws/taxation etc etc She’s going for the exciting parts: the battles.)

On the side of the American colonists: Colonel William Prescott, 1500 – 1700 troops and Dr. Joseph Warren, newly commissioned as general by the Massachusetts provincial congress

On the side of the British: Gen. Henry Clinton, General Gage and General Howe, approximately 1500 enlisted soldiers and light infantry, and a few Royal Navy vessels on the southern shore of Boston harbor

Amusing anecdotes about both sides:

General Howe “has been accused of blithely marching his men up Breed’s Hill with no earthly idea that the mass of undisciplined provincials occupying its summit could possibly slow his progress. A recent account has one of his servants accompanying him with a silver tray with a decanter of wine.”

Newly named general Dr. Joseph Warren “occasionally suffered from crippling headaches, and on the morning of June 17, as he conferred with his Committee of Safety colleagues in Cambridge, an attack came on, forcing him to retire to a darkened room to drink chamomile tea, which was said to reduce the black bile that caused melancholia.”

The Battle Itself:

General Howe implored his men “to rely upon their bayonets rather than their firelocks, and he vowed to remain with them throughout . . . as in fact he did.” When “Howe’s force came within thirty yards of the rebels, their entire line opened up. Working in pairs, one reloading while the other let fly, the colonists provided nearly continuous fire. Never before had a British army suffered such heavy casualties. The stunned survivors turned and ran.”

The British forces attempted to take the hill while keeping to the shoulder-to-shoulder formation, which must have been a tremendous gift to the colonists waiting for them at the top!

John M’Cullough, Raised by the Delawares

In July 1756, a Delaware war party abducted John M’Cullough from western Pennsylvania “to replace a dead kinsman.” He was ritually “dunked” in the Allegheny River (he said he was “nearly drowned”) by way of purification, and was told he was “then an Indian.” He was eight.

Seven years later, when his birth father tracked him down, he “wept bitterly.”

M’Cullough’s father tied him atop a horse and headed for Pittsburgh, but that night the boy slipped his cords and escaped back to the Delawares.

Liberty Is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution, p. 48

The Ojibwa Women: 1763

Chapter 2 (Really speeding along here!)

During a baggataway game held just outside the walls of Fort Michilimackinac, near Lake Michigan, Ojibwa women played a crucial role. The fort’s gates were open, as it was also a trading post, and most of the people conducting the trade were Ojibwa women. During the baggataway game, an Ojibwa lobbed a ball inside the fort and went after it in hot pursuit, accompanied by his brethren. Once inside, their women “drew tomahawks, knives, and other weapons from under their blankets and handed them to their brothers and husbands, who set upon the garrison. The warriors’ victory was as complete as the soldiers’ surprise.”

Result: “16 redcoats and one trader” killed on the spot.

The fort’s previous (French) commander, Lt. Charles-Michel Mouet de Langlade, had hung around after the fort’s handover to the British. This was a stroke of luck, because Langlade, who had an Ottawa mother and a French father, was able to persuade the Ojibwa to spare the life of the fort’s British commander, who instead was shipped 500 miles down the Great Lakes to a French outpost in Montreal.

A nearby British fort, Fort Detroit, was spared only because the fort’s British commander had been warned of an impending assault by his “Native American lover.”

So, eyebrows really rising here at the notion that mixed race was common in the colonies by the 18th century (Exhibit A: Lt. Langlade) and were moreover holding positions in the French army. Also: the “Native American lover” of the British commander (probably produced progeny?)

So much fun to speculate!

Stay tuned.

Edward Braddock, 1755: Battle of the Monongahela

Whiplash! Self blazed through Ann Cleeves’ Cold Earth (Four stars) this afternoon and is starting a new read. Goodbye Shetlands, hello pre-revolutionary America.

Edward Braddock, Commander of the British Forces in North America — to think self has reached her great age without knowing anything about him, until half an hour ago, when she began Liberty Is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution, by Woody Holton. Braddock is a man of much perspicacity, having agreed to have 23-year-old George Washington — who, despite his youth was an experienced woodsman — as an unpaid member of his “personal staff.” He also used eight Iroquois (one of whom was Scarouady, the Iroquois “Half King” of the Ohio Valley), as guides.

Fascinating stuff!

Braddock’s army of 1,400 collides “unexpectedly” with the French north of the Monongahela River, and “in short order fifteen of the eighteen officers in the British vanguard became casualties.” The British were not at all good at forest fighting (which this encounter was) and there was a very chaotic scene: “native warriors scalped wounded captives, assailants’ screams mingled with those of their victims, terrifying the remaining redcoats.”

p. 10:

  • All the while, Braddock rode furiously among them, constantly exposing himself to enemy fire as he tried to gather platoons into companies. Four or five horses were successively shot from under him.

He was only felled three hours later, when a musket ball threw him from his horse. It took him four days to die of his wounds.

The British lost a third of their men (approx. 500), the French lost 28 soldiers and 11 “natives.”

Stay tuned.

First Monday of February, 2022: COLD EARTH, p. 247

Can self say just how much she is enjoying Ann Cleeves? She never read the woman before, never watched the TV show either, and here she is starting with # 17 (aargh, TYPO: It’s Book # 7, not Book # 17) in Cleeves’ Shetland series.

There’s just enough backstory to have her intrigued: Jimmy Perez and his sad life, the Hays and their okay maybe a tad dysfunctional marriage, the two Hays boys, Andy and Michael.

And always there is mention of the oil. The oil. The oil!

And the weather, of course. Not huge mentions, of course. Just sentences here and there to remind you that weather is wet and it is usually cold.

  • They walked to the solicitors’ office along Commercial Street. Everywhere people were talking about the weather and turning their faces towards the sun.

This is one mystery where the whodunnit isn’t important. There’s a standard mystery woman, seen with different men, etc etc One of the happily married men will turn out to have slept with her, and that will provide the motive. Standard detective stuff.

She really likes the main character, Jimmy Perez. And his boss, Willow. There’s a little bit of angst brewing there. Perez idolizes his dead fiancée, Willow thinks she wants to start a family, etc

Stay tuned.

Ann Cleeves: COLD EARTH

Opening Paragraph:

  • The land slipped while Jimmy Perez was standing beside the grave. The dead man’s family had come from Foula originally and they’d carried the coffin on two oars, the way bodies were always brought for burial on that island. The pall-bearers were distant relatives whose forebears had moved south to England, but they must have thought the tradition worth reviving.

WOW. Speechless. This is self’s first Ann Cleeves.

Sorry she had to ditch Neverwhere, but. But.

Faster than you can say SET-UP

MC’s girlfriend is DULL. She does all her shopping in Knightsbridge. She is being set-up so that MC can find a more exciting life. After decades of reading novels, self is pretty familiar with every single narrative ‘tell’ in a book. And it’s really disappointing coming from Gaiman.

Listen, you aspiring writers out there: you do not need to set up a girlfriend/straw woman just because your MC is going to go in search of adventure, with a capital A. That is the most tired, cliché trope ever.

MC’s girlfriend provides him with uplifting reading: Dress for Success.

The deck, in other words, is stacked.

Not funny. Self was counting on spending at least a few days with this book.

SquareOdds #3: Fleet Street by Night

What is the SquareOdds Challenge all about? Go find out on The Life of B!

London has so many tiny alleys, so many nooks and crannies. She loves exploring by night. One year, she was in London to attend the annual Journalists’ Mass at St. Bride’s. She stayed at a wee hotel on Fleet Street. One night, she went exploring with Old Map Man, and he led her down narrow alleys and into wee churches, and pointed out the building that housed Friends of Friendless Churches.

Neverwhere, p. 9:

  • He realized that the actual City of London itself was no bigger than a square mile, stretching from Aldgate in the east to Fleet Street and the law courts of the Old Bailey in the west, a tiny municipality, now . . .

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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