What I'm Reading Now: 12 July 16

Overture to death-- Ngaio Marsh

Does anyone really care who plays the opening music for the parish theatricals? Someone does-- or why else does the pianist die three notes into her dramatic Overture to death? It's obviously murder, but which of the two women who were fighting for the opportunity was the intended victim? Chief Inspector Alleyn and Inspector Fox are called in to find out what a box, Twiddletoys, an anonymous letter, and an onion have to do with a case of murder, and how deep the undercurrents of love and jealousy run in a small English village. I quite enjoyed Overture to death, and have every time I've read it-- the whole mechanism of the murder is far-fetched, but Marsh realizes this, draws attention to it, and then explains it away neatly. The characters are interesting (if a little period-piece), and Alleyn has become a rounded and intriguing human being as well as an excellent detective.

Just a side note: I now have the complete set of Ngaio Marsh Diamond Anniversary editions, and I still like them a lot. Someone asked if I was now going to start collecting a uniform set of Dick Francis. I don't think I will; I haven't found an edition that I like well enough to track down all the various titles. I consider that there are thirty-eight such titles. This does not include his autobiography or his collaborations with his son, which I don't like as much.

Weeds and our little garden

We have a little garden. It's small enough that you can park a car over it and it would be almost completely covered. So we are picky about what we plant, and we try to maximize the benefits we get from it. So when I found out about purslane, nand we tried a few bites in a salad, I thought, "we might have to let some grow in our garden."

Now you probably think, "Purslane, what's that?" Well you might know it as Fata Han, and probably pull it out as a weed on a regular basis. It turns out that purslane is natures vitamin pill. Wikipedia states:

100 Grams of fresh purslane leaves (about 1 cup) contain 300 to 400 mg of alpha-linolenic acid. One cup of cooked leaves contains 90 mg of calcium, 561 mg of potassium, and more than 2,000 IUs of vitamin A.

Our garden it turns out is a great place for purslane, and we are happy to let it find a place inbetween the other plants we are growing. I found a video that explains some of the benefits of purslane.


What I'm Reading Now: 12 July 09

In the woods-- Tana French
Wildcard-- Ken McClure (medical thriller)
Gone missing-- Linda Castillo
XO-- Jeffery Deaver
Bad faith-- Robert Tanenbaum

Three kids go to play In the woods near their home in Ireland, as they always do, on a summer afternoon. Late that night, one of them is found, shoes soaked with blood, clinging to a tree. The other two are never seen again... Fast forward twenty-odd years, and that found little boy is grown up, a police officer, and hiding from his past. But then a little girl goes missing from his old hometown, and when she's found, she's dead. Detective Adam Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox take on the case, and the two stories criss-cross, then intersect with devastating results. As Ryan himself tells us, early on, "I crave truth. And I lie." When these two things meet, life as Ryan knows it is blown apart. French's writing is lyrical, brilliant, and frightening... and truly gripping. I've been known to put down books when it becomes apparent that things will end badly, but with In the woods, I knew that  from the first few pages, and I couldn't stop reading if I wanted to. I immediately requested her next book, which has Cassie as the protagonist, and I may well be re-reading Faithful Place (reviewed here) before her next book comes out at the end of July.

A man on a flight to England from a small African republic dies horribly of what looks like Ebola virus. The outbreak is contained, and the public  and the National Health Service relaxes... until tests show that it's a previously unknown virus, and there are no outbreaks of any such virus in the areas where the victim traveled. Then a second woman dies of the same virus, in another town entirely, who has had no contact with this outbreak. More wildcard outbreaks show up across the United Kingdom, and Steven Dunbar, an investigator with the SciMed bureau, has only a short time to find and isolate the cause of the outbreaks before the world will be overtaken by an epidemic bigger than the Black Death. Wildcard is tightly plotted and written, and McClure doesn't shy away from killing off important characters. It was a good way to spend a few hours, but I'm not sure I'll go hunting for more of his books just yet.

Sheriff Kate Burkholder, excommunicated and formerly Amish, is called in to consult on a series of disappearances of Amish teenagers. Three girls have Gone missing over the last two years, and when one is found dead and another vanishes, Kate struggles to break through the reserve of the Amish families to find out enough about their children to try to find out what happened to them. Again, Castillo's Kate is intriguing, using her background and her baggage to work through both the case and her relationship with investigator John Tomasetti. (Reviews of the previous Linda Castillo titles here, here, and here.)

Kayleigh Towne is riding high in her career as a country singer, but her fame has attracted some highly unwelcome attention, in the form of a fan who believes her form-letter replies to his emails are both coded messages of undying love and desperate pleas for rescue from her entourage. Edwin's attentions are unnerving her, and when the head of her road crew is murdered, Kayleigh's friend Katherine Dance, a CBI agent, offers to help. It quickly becomes clear that whoever or whatever has Kayleigh in his/her sights is very clever, and the easy solutions will be less than useless. As always, Deaver crafts a twisty plot, and just when you think everything's been neatly wrapped up, you realize that there are too many pages left in the book, and that your understanding of what's been going on is about to take a swift and unexpected turn. XO is one of Deaver's better books, and comes with my high recommendations.

Where do you draw the line between freedom of religion and legal responsibility... say, for example, when parents' belief in faith healing conflicts with their child's evident need for medical intervention? Butch Karp, DA for New York City, knows where he draws the line, and has no compunction about charging parents David and Nonie Ellis with reckless manslaughter in the death of their son in Bad faith. The Ellis' spiritual advisor and his followers protest this with vigor, but are they hiding something behind their claims of constitutional rights? The answer, of course, is yes, and Tanenbaum takes you on a wild ride through New York and Memphis, while running a side-plot about terrorists, revenge, and the people who live underground in the subway tunnels. I enjoyed Bad faith, but I think Tanenbaum has fallen a little too much in love with some of his recurring villians and side-stories. The whole Mole People subplot strains my suspension-of-disbelief just a little too much, and, frankly, I'm a little tired of his endless terrorists. I suspect both will be making appearances in subsequent novels-- he does appear to be setting something up-- and I'm not sure I'm interested enough to find out what the denoument will be. I do, however, recommend earlier titles in the series... up to about 2005, with Hoax. That gives you fourteen or fifteen  titles, which is quite reasonable.

how to make good southern BBQ

I was discussing with some friends how I make BBQ and why I do it the way I do. So I put together some of the resources I've found and thought I'd share it with you as well.

It's not hard to do, but it does take time, lots of time.

Good Eats:
Early show that covers the science. And rubs. Not BBQ, but good info about pork.

Pulled pork.

how to make a smoker with nothing.

All about smoking with various tools. pulled pork and ribs.

Dry Rub:
8 tablespoons light brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon jalapeno seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

shug makes BBQ for a grad party.

95 lbs of pork on a very large smoker. good pics of how it's built. also weird drunk women doing the chicken dance near the end.

Lexington Style Carolina Barbecue Sauce
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8? teaspoon? red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
Combine all ingredients plus 1/2 cup water in saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved. Cool and serve on cooked meat.