THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE WRITTEN BY RICHARD OSMAN

Book Review

Title The Man Who Died Twice

Author Richard Osman

Published by Viking an imprint of Penguin Books

There are cart loads of praise for The Thursday Murder Club and, this one, The Man Who Died Twice, has been heralded as the best, (my me anyway).

Firstly the ‘jacket’. It’s lovely with vivid reds and a deep sky blue and, of course, some shiny black letters for the author’s name. And there is a sly looking fox on the cover, and scattered all over the inside covers too and just to make sure you have not missed the point, thirteen foxes on the end edge of the pages. Simply stunning, so cunning and worth a hug!

The oldies are out to play again, Elizabeth (she has to have her name in first), Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim. There are some super sleuths in that quartet and with knowledge too of subterfuge and the nasty business of killing. These four are ensconced in a home for the elderly but have the means to get out and to sort it out after a lot of head scratching. They are brilliant at it, of course. Add into that ‘ old-fuddy-daddy’ mix a couple of detectives DCI Chris Hudson and PC Donna de Freitas, a few local criminals and those who work in the higher echelons of M.I 5 or 6 or wherever! There is also a toughey, Bogdan, who comes in very handy to the oldies. Make no mistake about this crime novel is a fun read that moves rapidly from chapter to chapter.

Well, what is it about? In a nutshell only containing a few clues it is about a few million quids worth of diamonds that takes a bit of tracking down, a very pretentious drug dealer and a ‘scrote’ that oversteps the mark and is brought to justice, eventually. Okay, people die, but only the ones that deserve to. That’s it from me as I am no plot spoiler. Get it and enjoy the journey.

I loved it all the way through. It’s fun, fun, fun and entertainment at its best. And there is another one to come to add to this million copy bestseller. Richard Osman must be worth a mint!

They’re good at marketing this lot. You can pre-order, The Thursday Murder Club 3, and the first line line – so Joyce says – ‘Apparently Elizabeth once made love to an American man, and he kept his hat on throughout’ I’m really having trouble with the hat bit!

HERE WE GO AGAIN – IT’S ALL ABOUT CRIME

Harrogate, 27 April 2022: Harrogate International Festivals has today announced the full programme for the 2022 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, the world’s largest celebration of crime fiction and thriller writing.

Curated by this year’s Festival Chair, award-winning novelist Denise Mina, the 2022 programme will see some of the most exciting names in crime fiction take to the stage, with speakers including: broadcaster and crime fiction debut author Rev. Richard Coles; comedian and writer Frankie Boyle; bestselling creator of the Vera Stanhope, Jimmy Perez and Matthew Venn book series Ann Cleeves; TV chef and cosy crime writer Rosemary Shrager; crime novelist and President of the Detection Club Martin Edwards; and New Blood panellist and journalist Bella Mackie. The programme will see a variety of acclaimed crime and thriller authors explore the genre and influences on their writing, including Adele Parks, Mick Herron, Sophie Hannah, Abir Mukherjee, SJ Parris, Sue Black, Will Dean, Andrew Taylor, Fiona Cummins, Vaseem Khan, Elly Griffiths and many more.

This year’s programme will also feature two author dinners, attended by popular crime and thriller writers including: politician and debut novelist Alan JohnsonQI Elf, podcaster, and author Andrew Hunter Murray; bestselling thriller writer Syd MooreSix Stories creator Matt Wesolowski; actor, producer and debut author Tony McHaleAjay Chowdhury, writer of the award-winning thriller The Waiter; talent agent and columnist turned bestselling author Melanie Blake; and poet and novelist Kate Rhodes.

The release of the full programme follows the earlier announcement of the special guests headlining the festival, which includes crime fiction icons Lynda La Plante, Paula Hawkins, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Connelly, Lucy Foley, Charlie Higson, John Connolly, CL Taylor and Kathy Reichs.

The all-star line-up will appear at the festival, which runs from 21 – 24 July 2022 at Harrogate’s Old Swan Hotel. A number of festival favourite events will return this year, including Val McDermid’s New Blood panel, celebrating four debut crime writers, and the popular late-night crime fiction quiz, hosted by McDermid and Mark Billingham.

David Lagercrantz and The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye – Another one in The Millennium Series

Book Review with reference to The Millennium Series of Stieg Larsson & David Lagercrantz

Title. The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye

Author. David Lagercrantz

Translated from the Swedish by

George Goulding

Published by. Maclehose Press Quercus – London

The Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson with the trilogy of;

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest

And The Millennium Series by David Lagercrantz with another trilogy of:

The Girl in the Spider’s Web in 2015

The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye in 2017

The Girl Who Lived Twice in 2019

Review of The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye: I have enjoyed and been intrigued by characters created originally by Stieg Larsson and all of the plots and sub-plots that have been entertaining and absorbing. This second book in the David Lagercrantz series is no different. There is so much to take in and many characters that makes it essential to concentrate throughout.

There have been new elements brought into this book with the honour of a family brilliantly interwoven that adds another nasty element. Then there is all of the action that occurs in Floderberga Prison with Lisbeth Salander incarcerated, would you believe! And the unfortunate Faria Kali there too. The action involving these two women is one story among many and then as in many a prison, an evil gang leader, Benito Anderson and her mob make it dangerous for Kali.

There is so much that I could say about all of the 430 pages. Salander qualities are needed again and her physical strengths are tested and, of course, her mental abilities. How much physicality can she stand and I marvel at her recovery skills. I was absorbed all the way through and marvel at the mind of the author to be able to create the plots.

As in the other books there are maps of Stockholm and suburbs with a full list of those involved. It means that with that information any book in this series can be a stand alone, but why not start at the the very first novel? I also love all the detail of the movements in the city. Location then can become a another character.

If that was not enough an award winning author, Karin Smirnoff, has accepted and will write three more books to add to the published six. More drama to anticipate with Lisbeth Salander and other immense characters to entertain us.

EASTER SUNDAY – MY POEM – ASH PATH AT DINNER TIME

I wrote this poem awhile ago and I have left it

as it appeared then. My style has changed and

I may have another go at it later.

In many ways it is a nature poem and

that is one reason why I should re-visit it

as it it is a reminder of beauty and I may

include it or a version in a future collection.

Easter time was always special for me and

our small family. When I was young

roast chicken was a real treat

and my mother was a great cook. Living in a very

Catholic San Miguel de Salinas I am reminded of

its importance although for different reasons.

Ash Path At Dinner Time

I remember this time.

The image of feeling – every one

of them float across the mind

as a new earth gives birth,

shares growth, allows

this new sense of purpose.

Greens hurry to appear, seemingly

in a rush with stunning yellows,

as they strike the eye with

their strong sense of shape.

Swagger, they do, as they

sway in an ever present breeze.

Some remaining snow helps

to accentuate the image with glistening

crystals amongst the black soggy

earth and then the proud trumpets

and pheasant eyes seem to poke

fun at it all. Laugh with my daffodils.

On the ash path, dividing plot

from plot, the frost erupts

from the frozen crust as the sun

begins its melt. Releases the

odour of warming earth and ash

from the frigidity of night-time cold

Then the call. A welcoming, teasing

smell escapes from the kitchen doorway

The richness of roast chicken, roast

potatoes and then that image of crispy

golden Yorkshire pudding. What else

can matter for a family at meal-time?

BUCHA – A TOWN DESTROYED BY TYRANNY

Bucha

grief is a teardrop

sliding gently and deeply

into the crevice of your sadness

and our horror

I see the emblematic hand of freedom

rising upward from pools of blood

on city streets

of our European War

decades pass and generations

sipped their chilled wine on honey coloured beaches

enjoying enjoying enjoying

ignoring or unconcerned

no hands dipped into

their peacetime treasure chest of pleasure

for now the price is butchered bodies

shattered homes and families

we have failed them

with the price still to be paid

grief lasts longer than peace

John Edwards (C) 5th/7th April 2022

ANOTHER UKRAINE WAR POEM – TWO IMAGES

Two Images

a wave surge smacks against

this super-yacht languishing

marina-bound and impotent now

portals still gleam in clear sun

looking out on peace

no sound of incendiaries here

an explosive surge exposes living rooms

opening them as a can-opener would

soul less eyes of the apartment block

glare out onto shattered shards of windows

holding fingers with broken chairs

a silence grieves

John Edwards (C) 30th March 2022

The War in Ukraine – My poem – LVIV

LVIV – EAST WEST STREET

I have wanted to go to Lviv

where national borders moved

without a citizen crossing a line

from Poland to Ukraine

speakers of languages

doctored by oppressors

Third Reich to Stalin

and now a new war

I want to go to Lviv

step softly back into time

walk their streets

tread the path of Jewish law students

who studied and brought

human rights to the juror’s table

survivors not all just one or two

as many were lost to ashes

I still want to go to Lviv

where citizens understand

who they are

why they remain

united in defiance of

Putin’s ‘special operation’

to subjugate

remove their choices

I want to go to Lviv

see Ihor Tokarivsky’s

metal men weld steel crosses

into tank traps and voracious

‘hedgehogs’ to shred tyres

for invaders’ funeral pyres

innovators deviance absolute

to survive to save their country

I want to go to Lviv

feel the pain

of their survivals

John Edwards (C) seriously revised

30th March 2022 with thanks to many

LARA THOMPSON – ONE NIGHT, NEW YORK

Book Review

Title. One Night, New York

Author. Lara Thompson

Publisher. Virago

Lara is the winner of the Virago/The Pool New Crime Writer Award and was one of ‘the new bloods’ panel at Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Awards in Harrogate in 2021. She deserves all of the plaudits for this is an immense piece of writing. It is poetic on many pages.

Set in the fourth quarter of 1932 in New York City. A place that hides, filth, corruption and riches, but before all of that two important characters have been moulded and hardened in a farming family in Kansas. Yes, they were dirt poor.

Stanley, the older brother escapes first, followed by Frances. She is the one person that Lara uses to travel with the story. She is an illiterate farm girl who, despite her age, becomes an exceptional human being. I will stop there and only say that has the book runs on, parts of her childhood, is expertly woven into her New York life. It is something that could have been over-done but it wasn’t. It is all pertinent as the drama unfolds.

I never reveal the plot although some pointers are easily included. The skyline is being created and to get things built, Kane, a major protagonist needs money, and people in the right places for the ability to get buildings high in the sky. It’s inspirational to read and have the images flashing through one’s head.

Alright, in a nutshell it is about many things. Depravity being a huge driver and you could be forgiven in believing the whole bloody city is corrupt. Drugs, violence and abuse seem to go hand in hand.

And then we come to the best bit. Deeds are done that deserve to be revenged. There is some very skillful telling and the way it is told – the words Lara uses give more images.

I loved it for several reasons; one is, it’s a love story too. And to finish it off, the last lines of acknowledgements, are about love too.

KINDER SCOUT AND THE RIGHT TO ROAM

KINDER IN COLOUR

Hi everyone

We hope you are really well

apologies for not being in touch for so long, we’ve been really busy.
We have expanded our team and have been preparing for the 2022 Year of Trespass. The aim this year is to get people out there, over the fences, demonstrating that public access to nature is not only something we need for our health, but something that will improve the health of nature as well.

Much more to come on this, but first we must tell you of our initial action, to kick off the year of trespass.

KINDER IN COLOUR

Access to nature in England is not only paltry, it is unequal. Last year, Black and people of colour (BPOC) made up only 1% of visitors to national parks. Just 39% of “BAME” people lived within a five-minute walk to green spaces compared to 58% of white people (Thomas Reuters Foundation). Additionally more than two-fifths (42%) of people from ethnic minorities live in England’s most green space-deprived neighbourhoods, compared with just one in five white people (The Guardian).

But recently groups such as Muslim Hikers and Black Girls Hike have been creating safe spaces for people of colour to gather and walk. They show us that the right to roam in England is much more than recreation, it is in fact the Right to Belong.

For our first action, we will be gathering on Kinder Scout to commemorate the Kinder Trespass, but also to highlight how much more work needs to be done. Because of the work of Benny Rothman and the other 400 trespassers in 1932, we will not be trespassing any forbidden ground, but instead crossing the invisible barrier that blocks so many people of colour from the countryside – the atmosphere that BPOC are unwelcome in English nature.

So, on the 24th April hundreds of us will be meeting in Edale in the morning, and scaling Kinder Scout with song, ceremony and joy, to celebrate that England is in fact for all of us.

1) please share this tweet with your networks

2) please come along – BPOC people will be hosting this walk, but white accomplices will be welcome to join and support. sign up here to get further details

This is just the start of a very busy year, but for it to work, we are really gunna need your help. Turning up, trespassing, and sharing our perspective on social media all really help to raise this urgent debate of communities and access to nature. We hope to see you out there on forbidden land…

xx


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BIRDING IN THE BIG PLAINS OF SPAIN

Big plains, huge vistas and skies south of Albacete, Spain are one of the areas to go. It is always good to be out there; beautiful things to see and good people to be with. So refreshing for the head. And then we made our minds up to go. We had to do it. After the storms of a few days ago and more rain that followed afterwards we needed to get out there. We watched the forecast, invited a friend along, and the other three wildlife combatants headed past Almansa and towards Albacete.

On Thursday 10th March we headed north from Alicante via A31 stoping at the turn off for Higueruela for coffee and postres. At 9am in a cool 4 degrees we cruised around the quiet byways spotting finches, linnets, spotless starlings with Corn Buntings – Escribano Triguero showing well. However, our target was to see Little Bustards – Sisson Común and their bigger brethren, Great Bustards – Avetardo Común. The smaller ones can be difficult and proved so today. We checked out the great expanses of fields and, drawn by a call, there was a male Great Bustard strutting and displaying. Seemingly talking to no one! We searched more but there was not another in sight. The one sighting was good, especially for our guest, because that was his first view of this species. That find proved to be invaluable as it was the only one we saw. We know where we can usually find them, but not today. So where the hell have they gone?

We had anticipated that many of the farm tracks were to be muddy, but no so. The causeway was almost passable but not quite with a road car. In the shallow lagoons were Lapwings – Avefria Europea always an iconic bird for me, three Wood Sandpipers – Andarrios Bastardo fed and one Water Pipit – Bisbita Alpino was very close by. We took the long way round seeing Common Kestrels – Cernicalo Vulgar often and Marsh Harriers – Aguilucho Luganero (15-20) where ever we went. We had great views of a circling male. Black headed Gulls – Gaviota Reidora were noisy and active.

We searched all these very large fields with no luck for the ‘big one’. We were in full sun all day with only a light breeze and although there were only a few wild flowers several species of butterfly were seen. These included Marble Whites, both large and small whites, and Clouded Yellows.

Calandra Larks – Calandria were evident and on one occasion Sky Larks – Alondra Común were seen and are still here. Crested Larks – Cogujada Común seem to be every where and although we tried hard we never located a Thekla’s.

We investigated one field only to spook Black Bellied Sandgrouse – Ganga Ortega, six in number who quickly sped away. The same happened again when a small flock took off as we drove on past. Bryan spotted one lone Pintailed Sandgrouse – Ganga Ibérico and that was it. You have to be lucky with these birds!

You never know what can be around and on a distant water a group of something. Bryan shouldered the scope and walked off. His visit revealed 15 Ruff – Combatiente with six Reeves. Their plumage varied and some will be getting ready to breed. We presume far and away. That just goes to show you have to keep looking and checking. Good for him.

Lagunas de Petrola was so disappointing. It was devoid of life. What the hell has gone on there!

We began our return by passing through Montelagre and Almansa. We knew of a stretch of water on way and this yielded White Headed Ducks – Malvasia Cabecinegra, both Little and Black Necked Grebes – Zampullin Común & Cuellinegro, Common Pochard – Porrón Europea. I always expect a lot more from this location but it never gives anything exceptional. This time a rat was attracted to Bryan’s feet and was photographed. It showed no fear – if only it was a Water Vole!

Then we showed off with a ‘selfie’.

Winter was still here in this grain growing area and we were surprised not to see Hirundines passing through. It would appear to be a tad early even for other raptors. Looking forward to the summer months and it appears it may be devoid of water. That does not bode well for water loving birds. It will probably be September before we go there again and we will spend time watching our summer visitors close by.

I have not recorded all of the species seen and some photos will appear later.