This has been another fun-filled week for this old, retired guy. The one decidedly un-fun highlight was that another Whirlpool repairman tried and failed to fix my washing machine, which broke over six weeks ago. Since the 1-year warranty doesn’t say how long the manufacturer can take to fix it, I’ve been stuck without one while they try to get the parts they need. (I’ve blogged about this a few times as my frustration has grown.)
I also finished reading a few books last week. Two were mysteries set in 1958 and 1959 London. I gave a 3-star rating to both on Goodreads. They weren’t bad but not ones I’d highly recommend.
Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder by T.A. Willberg
1958 London. An apprentice private investigator for an underground (literally) organization stumbles upon several secrets as she tries to discover who among her coworkers has committed a brutal and seemingly inexplicable murder inside their own secret lair. The recipe for this story starts with a mix of classic Agatha Christie, adds a touch of cozy mystery, a good helping of Harry Potter, and a pinch of James Bond. It may be a bit underdone, but it’s really not too bad. I cant say I was taken by any of the characters, and sometimes their actions and motivations had my scratching my head, but it’s a fine historical mystery written in a classic style.
Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose by T.A. Willberg
1959 London. There’s been a mysterious murder. Miss Brickett’s secret underground detective agency is investigating, but it may have been infiltrated by, well, someone untrustworthy. And someone within the organization is rabble-rousing. Marion lane, apprentice detective, finds herself in the middle of things.
This second book in the series is much like the first. It reads like an old YA mystery (Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, that kind of thing) with a bit of Harry Potter thrown in, but none of the characters are under 20 years old. I can’t say any of them stand out. Actually, neither the good guys or the bad guys come across as especially competent or clever, and their plans and plots often seem to rely heavily on serendipity. There are some cool (albeit unlikely) gadgets and gizmos, including some battery tech that would be impressive even today.
I also read a pretty good nonfiction book about people losing their ability to focus their attention. I gave this one 4 stars and wrote a fairly long review. I won’t share all of that here, but you can see it on either Goodreads or the Avery Slom Philosophical Laboratory site if you are so inclined.
Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention- and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari
Are we losing our ability to focus? Is it harder now than in the past to pay attention to things? If so, do our work habits, lifestyle, diet, environment, and (especially) social media habits have anything to do with this? The author of this book, a writer and journalist who has consulted with experts in the field of behavioral science, believes the answer to all these questions is “Yes,” and although he brings up many valid points, I’m not convinced he’s entirely right. I think the real problem may be something else. It’s not that we can’t focus, it’s that our basic human instincts are being exploited to manipulate our behavior. A side effect of this is that our focus gets diverted.
You can see the rest of this review here https://philosophylaboratory.wordpress.com/2022/05/18/stolen-focus/ or here https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4731524969
Last, but not least, I finished the sixth book in the Skullduggery Pleasant Series. I rated this one 4 subjective stars and would recommend it because it’s fun.
Death Bringer by Derek Landy
The necromancers are nurturing a Death Bringer to bring about a better world, but “better” can be a matter of opinion, and what necromancers see as better may not be what most others see as better. Meanwhile, another group is trying to reestablish the Church of the Faceless Ones. Why anyone would want gods like these is difficult to imagine, but some people seem to have a deep need for that kind of thing. And while Skulduggery and Valkyrie are dealing with these threats, both are hiding an inner darkness and very powerful magic, which they are doing their best to suppress. Adding to and slightly complicating these things are a couple of inept zombies for comic relief.
This is another fast paced and extremely entertaining episode in the continuing adventures of the Skeleton Detective and his (still) teenage apprentice. Like the previous books, it is a fest of witty banter and wordplay that sometimes had me laughing out loud. It has it’s dark moments, and the characters (even the “good” ones) can be unpleasantly snarky, inconsiderate, and rude, at times, but these flaws do not dominate their personalities. They still come off as fairly likeable.
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