Book Review: Short Stories : Crimes, Cults and Curious Cats by Jonathan Day

Crimes, Cults and Curious Cats

I was attracted to this book by its cover, which is certainly spiffy. A curlicue dragon and a very strange looking cat face. This collection of ten stories by UK author Jonathan Day features “crimes, cults and curious cats,” as its subtitle proclaims, but it also has a lot of cops. Almost every story includes someone who is a PC, DC, DS, DI or DCI, and often more than one of these ranks is present.

“Cock-a-Doodle-Do!” has a couple of women PCs on the trail of a disruptive mechanical cock (rooster) who experience an encounter with a peculiar cat (probably the one on the cover image).

In “Willow Pattern World” a tatooed detective with unique talents pursues a murderous chemist.

In “Feeding the Monster,” an elderly woman with extreme synesthesia helps her detective nephew investigate a derelict windmill with a sinister history.

“The Impossible Detective” is the best of the batch, in my opinion. A feisty female DS (nicknamed Tweet) on the track of a missing child encounters the ghost of a murdered detective, and reopens a cold and grisly case involving an evil cult.

In “Behold, the Face of God!” two privileged young ladies are introduced to a fossil-hunting cult which has combined science and religion in a most startling way.

“Our Lady of the Herbs” features a woman vicar and a scholar of ancient texts digging into the origins of a quaint village festival, and then struggling with whether to reveal the results of their investigations.

In “The Greening of Toby Jug” a ghost hunter hoping to snare a poltergeist has a fatal encounter with greed and destruction.

In “The Hammer of God” a young DC investigating the murders of three elderly eccentrics begins to wonder about his superior, who is a priest as well as a DI.

“Cosmic Cats” is a short, dream-like tale that I found to be the weakest of the ten.

In “The Cult of the Bast Cat” a young PC tracking down the drug-addicted father of an infant ends up working with a Chief Superintendent to discover the fate of a detective who disappeared while investigating the Cult of the Bast Cat.

The sincere and straightforward tone of these stories cleverly conceals occasional subtle social commentary. Several of the detectives are women and a few are from ethnic minorities. The primary characters are sympathetic and distinct. Dialogue is lively and sometimes quite funny. Every one of these stories is engaging and most are thoroughly satisfying.

Short Stories : Crimes, Cults and Curious Cats is available free on Smashwords.

 

 

Junk Mail

Advertising, Hypocrisy and Other Offenses

I just finished processing today’s load of solicitations for funds masquerading as personal letters, full of smarmy sentences such as, “We know you’re passionate about [their cause] and want to be a part of making the world a better place,” followed by several more paragraphs of similar verbiage and a separate sheet with suggested dollar amounts to donate. Then there are the employees of call centres who, after interrupting your supper, writing or blog-reading session, inevitably start off their spiel by asking, “How are you?” As if they care.

This kind of hypocrisy is extremely irritating — dressing up appeals for funds to make them look like friendly, personal attempts to reach out and befriend. While I’m scribbling out my name and address on the paper junk mail before chucking it in the recycle bin, I can’t help but recall the advice I’ve read in countless blog posts about how authors should present themselves on the internet. Never say, “Buy my book.” Not even, “Please buy my book.” Don’t be annoying — instead, create content readers find so fascinating, they will rush to seek out your books without any appeals from you.

Isn’t this a kind of hypocrisy, though? Let’s face it — most of us indie authors started blogging for one reason:  to create an “author platform” from which we could launch our book marketing strategies. After a while some of us figure out that almost all the folks who follow and read our blogs are other authors, and selling books to them works about as well as selling sand to desert dwellers. By that time we may also have found other reasons for blogging — making connections with fellow authors, creating a body of writing in the form of our blog posts, and so on. But in the background is the refrain, even if faint, “Look at my books, check out my books, please buy my books.” Otherwise, why do we display our books’ cover images in our sidebars, complete with links to where they can be bought?

I admit it — I hate advertising of all kinds. That’s one reason I kissed television goodbye decades ago. I’m an expert at avoiding click-bait on websites, and if the first or second thing I see on a website or blog (yes, even fellow writers’ blogs) is a pop-up plea to sign up for a newsletter, I’m gone. When it comes to advertising my own books, I put myself in the place of the recipient of such appeals and imagine them doing what I do when I recognize a sales pitch.

Writing — creating good quality prose or poetry — is a demanding art, with perfection always receding into the distance. Some writers manage to turn themselves into marketers as well. Good for them. I don’t happen to have a natural inclination for that aspect of the book business, so am walking the indie author path in my own fashion.

 

Rose coloured specs

 

How Separate Are We, Really?

Here is a different perspective on our troubled world from Barbara Backer-Gray.

Resident Alien -- Being Dutch in America

image: nairaland.com image: nairaland.com

On July 14, a man ran his truck into crowds of people enjoying the Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, France, killing eighty-some and wounding so many others.

Bastille Day celebrates France’s beginning of the republic, with its motto, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. fraternity means, among other things, communal support, friendship, brotherhood.

A while after the breaking news, we heard that two of the dead were Americans. Even later: they were a father and 11-year-old son from Texas. Then, Lakeway, which is pretty much a suburb of Austin, where I live. And late that evening my 16-year-old daughter R got an email from the acting studio in Austin that is her second home: the boy, Brodie Copeland, was also involved at the studio. She didn’t know him personally, but it hit really close to home for her.

T and I held her as she cried, and we cried with…

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Red, Pink and Blue

Some nice blooms in the garden this week.

 

Dahlia "Bishop of Llandaff" with visiting bee.

Dahlia “Bishop of Llandaff” with visiting bee.

 

The only pink Oriental lily this year (not "Stargazer" but similar).

The only pink Oriental lily this year (not “Stargazer” but similar).

 

Dark blue Delphinium.

Dark blue Delphinium.

 

Zooming in.

Zooming in.

 

Zooming in closer.

Zooming in closer.

 

The garden is probably at its summertime best right now. Any day I’ll start complaining that it’s Going to Hell.

July in the Garden: Planning and Plant Management

July isn’t a month for starting new garden projects. It’s not a good time to move plants around, too early to plant bulbs, too late to start vegetable or annual seeds (except for winter vegetables, maybe) and too hot for serious digging, sod-stripping and other labours.

Maintenance is the thing now: keeping an eye on everything, making sure water is supplied as needed, lawn mowing, edge clipping, and deadheading. While engaged in all that, the gardener inevitably notices Things That Must Be Done. Just not now. All these tasks and projects are written down in the Garden Notebook.

Garden Notebook

Garden Notebook

 

For example:  Blue irises have crowded out the blue Veronica in the Old Front Bed; and Geranium “Johnson’s Blue” and Limonium latifolium are in too much shade. Must remove some of the irises OR move the Veronica, Limonium and Geranium to sunnier spots. I hesitate to rip out the irises, because they bloomed so well this past spring.

An old lavender in the New Front Bed is on its last legs and scheduled for removal. That will free up a spot suitable for “Johnson’s Blue” as well as some of the Siberian irises now struggling along in deep, dry shade near the driveway. The Veronica can go into a spot a few feet to the west of its present location, currently occupied by a rather pushy Sedum that has taken over more space than it deserves. A small, sunny spot in the New Front Bed near Saponaria “Max Frei” is perfect for the Limonium, or at least can be made perfect by judicious removal of other things, keeping in mind that “Max” is a bit pushy when in full bloom.

Sometimes I think gardening is like running a hotel for the fussy and infirm.

On the other hand, there are plenty of plants that need “managing” rather than cosseting. One that does almost too well here is good old Lychnis coronaria, the Rose Campion. Now that I have time, I have managed to keep up with deadheading my dozens of plants, even though that means snipping off each faded flower individually. It helps that most of them are between knee and waist level, and I can get at most of the plants without acrobatics. But it is a seriously tedious task, one best done in a “Zen” frame of mind.

Rose Campion and deadheading equipment.

Rose Campion and deadheading equipment.

Another reliable plant that seeds prolifically is the California poppy, Eschscholzia californica (had to include that Latin moniker, of course!). Years ago, someone gave me a plant of the basic orange form. Then I bought seeds of a strain called “Thai Silks,” and a few years after that acquired seeds of a white or cream-coloured form. These have mixed and mingled, with bumblebees moving pollen around, so every year there is a different proportion of colours.

June 19, 2016

California poppies in 2010.

California poppies in 2010.

The only problem with these easy-going plants is that by mid to late July they lose their looks — floppy, too many seed pods, not enough flowers. The thing to do at that point is harvest some of the seeds by snipping off almost-ripe pods, and then cut the plants to within an inch or two of the ground. They quickly put out fresh growth and are blooming again in a few weeks, much to the delight of gardener and bumblebees. Oh, about those seed pods — when ready, they split and spew seeds all over the place, so put them in a glass or a jelly jar to contain the explosions.

Pink California Poppy and Lemon Thyme.

Pink California Poppy and Lemon Thyme.

And now, back into maintenance mode…

 

IMG_2034

Tools of garden maintenance (except the rock, of course).

 

New Front Bed in July.

Part of New Front Bed in July.

Opening Sundays in August (Edit: Why Wait for August?)

Authors, here’s an opportunity to show your stuff! Just read Charles’s post and do as he says.

Legends of Windemere

Morpheus from The Matrix Morpheus from The Matrix

First, know that this is a sticky post for the week and new stuff is going on below.  I keep finding new posts are ignored when I have something fastened to the top, but I want this here for a bit.

Starting in August, I’m going to be opening Sundays to authors who want to make a guest post or simply promote their books.  All you have to do is make contact, send me the post with links and pictures, and I’ll set it up.  This is going to be a first come, first serve email type of deal.  I figure Sunday is a good day to have one up and leave it at the top.  I’ll be doing a sticky post for it that will last until the next morning when the Monday post goes up.

So, let me know if you’re interested and we’ll try…

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