Frank Denton - The Rogue Raven

Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

What you have here is an old guy. In education for 30 years, started teaching elementary, ended as library and media director of community college. I've enjoyed mountain climbing, sports car rallying, was pipe major of a bagpipe band, played guitar and sang during the folk revival, walking and hiking later in life. Now fairly sedentary. Enjoy reading, esp. mysteries and fantasy, but my reading is pretty eclectic. Enjoy movies, giving Netflix a workout.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Broken Token by Rich Nickson

I quite often read mysteries with foreign settings because I have not been to these countries and I can learn a bit about them. Some examples: John Burdett - Thailand, Colin Cotterill - Laos, James Church - North Korea, Donna Leon - Italy. English mysteries I sometimes read because I’ve been to the places where the novel is set. I recently discovered Elly Griffith whose mysteries are set in Norfolk. Sometimes I read for the historical background, such as Bernard Knight’s ‘Crowner John’ novels set in 14th C. Exeter.

I’ve just finished The Broken Token by Rich Nickson. Nickson has written two novels set in Leeds, England in 1730. Leeds was then much smaller than it is today. Central Leeds now has a population of almost half a million people and Greater Leeds nearly a million. A far cry from 1730. Richard Nottingham is Constable of Leeds. Someone is committing murders in pairs, man and woman, or more correctly, man and prostitute. What begins as two murders soon becomes six. The woman in the first murders was once a servant girl in the Constable’s house. The new mayor is threatening Nottingham with firing if he does not get results soon. The constabulary force is small; Nottingham has an assistant, John Sedgwick, and no more than six officers. They are also expected to catch a cunning cutpurse.

Nickson writes well of the town with its wealthy cloth merchants, its tavern keepers, its poor people and its many prostitutes. Nottingham is having trouble with a younger daughter and Sedgwick with his wife, who ultimately leaves for another man, taking his three-year-old son. In the end Nottingham finds some unlikely assistance in catching the murderer. His childhood had been spent as an urchin on the street and what he learns about his own heritage is revealing. The Broken Token is an interesting beginning to a series which I hope will be a long one. Chris Nickson was born in Leeds but has spent part of his life in Seattle.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Janus Stone

A touch of food poisoning for the last three days. I won’t give you the awful details. It gave me a chance to sit in my recliner all day and alternate sleeping and reading. The book was a recent discovery of a writer I did not know, Elly Griffiths. She writes a series of mysteries set in Norfolk in England. This is an area of broads (rivers) and coast and saltmarsh on the east coast. It was an area that we visited on one of our many trips to England. I was happy to find a mystery set there. Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist sometime called in by the police to help in investigations. DCI Harry Nelson is the policeman in this case, The Janus Stone. There is a dig near her home which is being supervised by a colleague from Sussex University. But the crime involves a child’s body being found under a doorway in a building which is being remodeled into condos in Norwich. Turns out to be a five-year-old girl. At one time the place was an orphanage and a girl did disappear, along with her older brother, during that time. Was this the missing girl? Or is the skeleton much older, Roman or even Iron Age? There are several suspects; the dig’s supervisor, the priest who ran the orphanage, some one in the developer’s family. And among several interesting turns, Ruth Galloway finds herself pregnant, a single university professor, overweight and nearing forty. Altogether a pretty good mystery, interesting characters, and to me at least, a setting with which I was fairly familiar, Norwich, the Norfolk broads and the coast.

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