Cold Granite Logan McRae #1

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Cold Granite by Stuart MacBride

Book Cover - Cold GraniteThis is the first in the Logan McRae series. I’m not sure how I picked up on this probably a recommendation from somewhere. Anyway, Stuart MacBride has created a great character in Logan McRae. The book is really accessible I just fell into reading quite a bit during the first sitting. This is always a good sign for me. Our hero is the reluctant Logan McRae and we drop straight into his world. There is a back story he’s just returned to work after sustaining a very serious injury in the line of duty. In fact, so serious was the injury that he is referred to as Lazarus. He’s surrounded by a coterie of characters.

He is supposed to be on light duties on this return to work but of course falls right into the thick of things. Investigating child murders in a cold and bleak winter in Aberdeen. The way that MacBride paints Aberdeen its hardly inviting. There is also a good amount of humour in the book. At one point the locals who are struggling along the footpath in the rain are described as “looking murderous and inbred”.

In the end Logan McRae does get his man, a good and enjoyable yarn with lots of red herrings.

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Ratcatcher (Matthew Hawkwood #1) by James McGee

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Ratcatcher by James McGee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ratchatcher is is the first in a series of novels featuring Matthew Hawkwood as the main character written by James McGee. Based on the Bow Street runners before the advent of more formalised police investigations. Certainly, an atmospheric novel and quite the page turner. Our hero Matthew Hawkwood is part detective and part action hero. Lots of murders and shadowy deals.

I did think that the book was getting into fantasy land but the notes at the end of the book put some context to the goings. I like historical fiction so long as it doesn’t stray too far from what’s plausible. The early 19th century isn’t a period of history that I’m overly familiar with so I was thankful for the notes at the end.

This was holiday read that I picked up quite cheaply and was an enjoyable read. Looking forward to reading another one in the future.

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The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre

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The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I heard the author being interviewed on radio. I am trying to write this in a way not to give too much away. The story of Oleg Gordievsky is fascinating and, in many ways, mirrors a Le Carre spy novel. The big difference is that it actually happened. It’s just fascinating with so many twists and turns and turns. Oleg Gordievsky is from KGB aristocracy his father and brother both were in the service. This makes his eventual defection to MI6 really intriguing. Much of what happens follows a maxim if you have to choose between “a stuff up and a conspiracy always go for a stuff up”.

Ben Macintyre has put together an easy to read and entertaining book straight form the annals of the cold war. It provides and insight into how some of the KGB operations worked and the machinations of its bureaucracy. I thoroughly enjoyed the spy and the Traitor.

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Working from Home and Covid19

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It’s the start of my 5th week working from home during the time of Covid19. I am lucky to be living in South Australia where we have had a relatively low death rate from the virus. So far only four deaths and over 90% of people who have contracted Covid 19 have fully recovered. Our restrictions have not been as severe as in other states of Australia. So we can still go to the shops and make so called non essential purchases. This is of course tenuous and could reverse if people become complacent about social distancing and hand hygiene these are basic public health initiatives.

We have not ventured out in this time other than to the grocery shop and hardware shop. We have started leaving our shoes outside or just inside the front door. We wipe down the car door handles steering wheel and anything else that we may touched when out. This also includes the door handles in our house. We have even been washing our reusable shopping bags. On the plus side we have done lots of work around the house. Catching up on maintenance and gardening. Far from being bored we are trying to use our time productively.

I have taken a self imposed break from the news limiting myself to a 15 minute bulletin in the morning and no TV news. The media are really caught up in a cycle of disaster porn. Endlessly repeating the stats that are publicly available and speculating on what horrors are in the near future. This is embellished by experts who really do not know more than the published information. Largely our politicians seem to be behaving more sensibly than they usually do and listening to sound advice from the relevant bodies. Maybe that why we are having such a low rate of community transmission of Covid19 in this country. We are of course fortunate to live on a large island which prevents people sneaking in.

This does not take away from the absolute tragedies that are taking place in Europe and the United States. The death toll on the United Kingdom will no doubt be much higher than the stated numbers when deaths in nursing homes and domestic dwellings are taken into account. The likelihood of a miracle cure or vaccine seem distant now we can only hope that something will emerge.

Walking and Covid19

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I walk near our home , out the front door and into a conservation park. The dogs love it and they walk off leash . Usually we encounter about four or five people on our walks and some dogs. Last night a balmy evening we encountered about 25 people . I dont think that I have ever seen that many people on the walking track in the 25 or so years that I have been living here . Young and old all out walking this may be a small silver lining to the whole flattening the Covid19 curve.

I am guessing that once all the Covid19 restrictions start to return to normal the numbers will go down again. I have seen many posts on social media imploring people to take this as as a moment to reset their lives. Perhaps I am a pessimist but I suspect that most people will go back to their old ways as the Covid19 restrictions are gradually lifted. Enjoy some pictures of the dogs walking in the conservation park .

Alpacas at Dawesley

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We stayed at an AirBnB in Dawesley in the Adelaide Hills. As it turned out this was our last holiday before the Covid 19 pandemic. We stayed at the Carlisle Alpaca Farm Stay B&B which was booked through AirBnB. Set on acreage it’s a lovely location. The accommodation was very comfortable and relaxing. Lots of Alpacas to see and they were very friendly and curious. Dawesley itself is a collection of houses and has no services. However there are many towns quite close. We enjoyed some lovely weather as well.

Hahndorf on a Sunday

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Hahndorf is a small town located in the Adelaide hills which has interesting German history. The original settlers Lutherans from Prussia name their town after the Captain of the ship that brought them to South Australia Dirk Meinerts Hahn,  hence Hahndorf. Hahndorf is the oldest surviving German settlement in Australia being founded in 1839.

Today its a thriving town which is relies heavily on tourism. Sundays are particularly busy with lots of day trippers from Adelaide. Lots of food of German style is available. If its Wurst you are after Hahndorf is the place.

Two Days in Cairns

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Our cruise in January 2020 departed from Brisbane and took us to Cairns via Airlie Beach. The P&O Aria docked overnight. We have been to Cairns before so took the opportunity to just relax. Cairns is a reasonably large city with about 120,000 people. There are lots of tourist attractions which we have seen. I’m sure that a ship with 1700 passengers injects something to the local economy.

There is a dedicated cruise terminal which luckily has a craft brewery called Hemingways right on the wharf. I can report that the beer is good. Ships dock right in town and its only a ten minute walk to town and the main shopping areas.

Having been to Cairns before there is not much to do. We walked around town a couple of times. Amusingly there were bats in residence near the town hall quite a large colony. Surprisingly noisy and active in the daytime. I thought that bats were exclusively nocturnal. We did have a beer at the Grand Hotel which has a carved crocodile head in the front bar. Full of local drinking XXXX beer in very dirty stubby holders. Local colour I guess. According to the pub’s website it was founded in 1926 so its part of the fabric of Cairns.

Something amusing were the bats hanging around the town hall. I’m not sure is this is a cryptic metaphor for what goes on in the town hall. Initially it sounded like colony of birds. I was surprised how noisy the bats were in the daytime.

Then it was back on the ship and onwards to Willis Island. A small island far enough of the coast to make the cruise eligible for duty free shopping. Just a small speck in the ocean. Then south toward Brisbane.