Banned Books and the literature of ideas

September 24 – October 1, 2011 is Banned Books Week.

What is Banned Books Week? Or maybe the question should be, why is Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week is sponsored or endorsed by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Library Association, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of American Publishers, the National Association of College Stores, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the National Council of Teachers of English and the PEN American Center.

These organizations all have something in common. They all want to protect everyone’s freedom to make their own reading choices.

The U.S. Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, protects the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It says nothing about the listener’s right to hear what is said, or the reader’s right to read what that free press publishes. If a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears it fall, does it matter whether the tree fell or not? Writers write so that their words are read, so that their voices are heard. If their works are suppressed, then the tree might as well not have fallen.

Every year books are challenged, and sometimes banned, from libraries across the United States. In a case this summer, the Republic Missouri School District banned two books from their high school library. Twenty Boy Summer, by Sarah Ockler, an extremely well-reviewed book targeted at grades 9-11, is still banned. Slaughterhouse-Five, a classic from Kurt Vonnegut, has been placed on such restricted access it might as well be banned. What do I mean by restricted? In order for a high-school student to check out Slaughterhouse, their parent has to come to the high school library to check it out for them.

Slaughterhouse-Five is Vonnegut’s science fictionalized version of his experiences in World War II. It is not the only work of science fiction on the frequently challenged list. Far from it. This week, SF Signal put together an incredible flow chart of the top 100 science fiction and fantasy books from the recent NPR poll. Looking at the chart, it’s amazing, and frightening, how many of those works overlap the banned and challenged list. Not just Brave New World and Animal Farm and 1984, either. But also Flowers for Algernon and The Handmaid’s Tale. Even The Lord of the Rings has been challenged more than once. And there’s always the never-ending irony that Fahrenheit 451 gets challenged frequently.

But it’s not really surprising if you think about it. Science fiction is the literature of ideas. New ideas are always challenging. And challenged.

As part of the observance of Banned Books Week, there is a Virtual Read-Out on YouTube of participants reading from their favorite Banned Books. Check it out.


Debris, by Jo Anderton, is the first book of The Veiled World Trilogy. It is the story of the catastrophic fall, and eventual stumbling rise, of Tanyana Vladha. It is Tanyana’s story, and it is told in her incredibly compelling voice.

Tanyana starts out as a pion-builder in the great city of Movoc-under-Keeper. Pion-builders are a combination of architect, engineer and designer, working with a substance that is part molecule, part light and part magic. It also turns out to be part myth, but that comes later. Most people in Tan’s world can see pions, but few can do what she does, bend them to her will to create masterpieces–not just buildings, but also art and sculpture.

800 feet in the air, erecting a statue unfortunately named “Grandeur”, in the middle of a surprise inspection by the strange government creatures known as the “veche”, Tan’s world falls apart. Literally. Her formerly obedient pions go wild, bringing the statue crashing to the ground, on top of her. Her injuries are extreme. Although pions later heal her physical damage, her great statue also struck her in the head, knocking out her ability to even perceive pions.

Tan falls from the elite of the builders to the lowest of the low. Damaged people become “Collectors”, those who can see the debris that pion factories produce. Collectors are necessary. Pion factories power the lights, the heat, the water supply–everything we use electricity and fossil fuel for in our world. But debris collecting is dangerous as debris is toxic. So Tan, like all collectors, is fitted with a special collecting “suit”, a suit that is bonded to, and extrudes from, her very bones. Her suit provides armor, weapons, and even locator beacons for debris. It also permanently marks her as “other”.

Tan tries to juggle her old life and her new one. She doesn’t want to fall. She saw what happened at Grandeur, and she knows it was deliberate. But every person involved has been exiled or their career has been derailed or they have been hushed up in some way. She has been changed almost beyond recognition. And in her fall, she discovers a different world, one that might be more genuine than the glittering but superficial society she left. But just as Tan begins to adapt, she learns that, just as the pions at Grandeur were deliberately agitating to crush her, now the debris is increasing, searching for her.

Escape rating A: The first time I sat down with this book, I picked myself up about 100 pages later. Tan is a character that just gets hold of you and doesn’t let go. Writing a book in first person perspective is hard, and Anderton made Tan someone I wanted to get to know. I felt for her struggle, even on the occasions when I wanted to slap her to “get real already”.

The Russian names of the characters add to the gritty feel. This is a dark, urban landscape, and it feels like it’s only going to get darker and grimmer from here. There were glimpses of an older mythology that had been lost in the mists of time that were very nicely done. I’m amazed that this is Anderton’s first novel. And I’m truly glad that Suited, the second book in the trilogy, is scheduled for April 2012.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

In anticipation of the new Sherlock Holmes movie (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) being released on December 16, 2011, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes has been reprinted with a new cover that bears the stamp “Inspiration for the Major Motion Picture.”

I decided it would be a good excuse to re-read some of the Holmes Canon. I’ve read them all, some more than once, but not for quite a while. I looked over the new printing to see that it contained the same stories that have usually been included in the Memoirs, and then, I chose a different approach this time.

We have a copy of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, and, well, I’ve never indulged. So for this foray, I read the Annotated version.

First, I’d forgotten what a treat it is to read the original stories. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes contains a dozen short stories. They were all written at the height of Conan Doyle’s, or perhaps I should say Dr. Watson’s, literary powers. Each is a gem.

One story in this collection, The Greek Interpreter, is notable for being the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes’ brother, Mycroft — that mysterious accountant somewhere in Whitehall who occasionally was the British Government. The entire government. Mycroft’s tentacles still linger. It is speculated that the mysterious “M” who runs the agency that James Bond works for is a direct bureaucratic descendant, hence the name, “M”.

But it’s the last story in the book that caused it to be republished for the movie. The last story in Memoirs is the most famous,  The Final Problem. In that story, Holmes meets his nemesis Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls. At the end of the story, both Holmes and Moriarty are presumed dead.

When the story of Holmes’ death reached the public in 1893, very real people wore mourning for this supposedly fictional character. Subscription cancellations to the Strand Magazine, which published the Holmes stories, were reported to have reached 20,000. The campaign to resurrect Sherlock Holmes may have been the first successful fan campaign in entertainment history because, as we all know, Sherlock Holmes eventually returned from Reichenbach. Conan Doyle published The Hound of the Baskervilles (set before Holmes’ supposed death) in 1901, and the first stories from  The Return of Sherlock Holmes in 1903.

Escape rating A: The stories are just as good as I remember. It was a joy to read them again. Reading the annotations was interesting and strange. The ones that define terms we no longer use are fascinating. The minutiae of horse-drawn carriages, for example, or the difference between what we think of as a bus and what the Victorian era called an ‘omnibus’. The various printing histories of particular stories is less interesting. On the other hand, the illustrations are fabulous, since the Annotated version includes the original Paget drawings, the Harper’s Weekly drawings from the US, plus illustrations from advertisements of the time to explain things like what was an ‘antimacassar’ anyway?

If you think you remember these stories–indulge yourself–read them again. If you’ve never had the pleasure, then you are in for a treat. Holmes is timeless.

Sparks in Cosmic Dust

Sparks in Cosmic Dust by Robert Appleton is a rollicking, adventurous science fiction romance. The emphasis is on the adventure and the science fiction, not so much on the romance. But that was fine by me.

Sparks is the story of five hard-luck characters in search of their tickets to fortune. None of them are interested in fame. In fact, a couple of them have already been there and done that. What they all want is a one-way ticket out of hardscrabble and into the ranks of the mega-rich, as well as a one-way ticket back to civilization from the intergalactic boondocks.

Grace Peters has the map and the ship. The map leads to a planet chock-full of a hard-to-mine but very desirable mineral used to power rocketship engines. Grace is a crusty old woman who has been there, done that and seen and done everything. She also can’t resist commenting about it.

Clay and Lyssa are both on the run. Neither of them knows what the other is on the run from, and neither of them cares. But Clay’s secrets are a lot bigger and more important than Lyssa’s.

Varina and Solomon are also on the run. Solomon is mostly running from his immaturity and insecurity. But Varina, Varina has lots of secrets she needs to keep track of, and hers catch up to her even before Clay’s catch up to him.

But all those secrets, and all that running, mean that everyone is more than happy to take off with Grace to mine very secret and very expensive rocks for three months, just to get away from being chased.

Five people, all alone on an otherwise deserted planet. Relationships forged out of dire necessity start to unravel. So do people.

Escape rating B: This was a good read.  Grace is an absolute hoot. She’s everyone’s crazy aunt. Very crazy. Everyone in this story had lots of secrets, and they all got revealed when it had maximum value for the story. It did keep me guessing on a couple of things right up to the end. The story is much more about the adventure, and about the power of greed than it is about anything else. The romance is very much secondary but that suited the story.

For an extremely interesting take read Heather Massey’s comments on Sparks in Cosmic Dust over at The Galaxy Express. She saw the story as an homage to John Huston’s classic western, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. While your mileage may vary on the comparison, her commentary on science fiction romance is always fascinating.

The Usual Apocalypse

“With great power comes great responsibility.” Isn’t that how Peter Parker’s uncle said it? Then there’s the flip side, “Who watches the watchers?” In other words, who makes sure that the ones who have that great power use it responsibly?

In Christine Price’s futuristic The Usual Apocalypse, the great powers involved are of the paranormal variety, and the ones who take responsibility just call themselves “The Society”. The Society polices those who have paranormal ability. It also finds children who have talent, and it solves crimes against the talented. It’s a combination of the police and the FBI and the CIA. It even has its own Internal Affairs division!

The story in The Usual Apocalypse is the one about all the chickens coming home to roost, and not in a good way. I mean the chickens, not the story. The story was great.

The Society went through a really, really dark patch during a time when it was run by a group that treated the talented as experimental subjects rather than people. Talent doesn’t seem to be native to the human population. Anyone with significant talent can be thought of as not human, because they are descended from someone who wasn’t. Truly.

But the housecleaning was swift, thorough and brutal — and nearly a generation ago. But Agent Matt Whitman is tying up one of the loose ends. One mad doctor tried to recreate her sick, twisted experiments. Matt shut her down, finally, but wanted to give something back to the men whose lives she nearly destroyed. Six months later, he finally got a lead on Brennan Kincaid, one victim’s younger brother.

Matt finds Brennan and brings his  brother back to him. Reuniting the two brothers should have been the close of a long and brutal case. But then, senior agents start dying, and it all ties back to the bad old days, and all the deep, dark secrets come out of the shadows. No one is able to hide, not even the super-secret head of the Society. Because someone is trying to bring the bad old days back again.

Escape Rating B: I got wrapped up in the story, and wanted to know more. The Society is interesting. It reminded me of what the Council might have been like in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series if the Psy had kept their humanity and managed to police themselves instead of going completely Darkside. The Society went over the edge and pulled themselves back. I enjoyed the way that Matt and Brennan’s relationship developed. How to get a workaholic to stop being a workaholic is all too easy to relate to.  Matt and Brennan both have paranormal talent. Brennan hears people’s thoughts. Matt can make anyone spill their secrets by asking a question. This is an incredibly cool talent for a cop. One of the neat things about futuristic stories is exploring the differences. In this author’s world, there is way more prejudice against Matt and Brennan because they have paranormal talents than because they are gay. Good romance, good mystery, neat world-building.

Queen of the Sylphs

L.J. McDonald’s Queen of the Sylphs is her latest book set in the same world that she began in The Battle Sylph.

As the story begins, Solie has settled in as Queen of Sylph Valley. She has also grown into her new duties and responsibilities. She may sometimes mourn the days when she was a carefree girl who could afford to have simple friendships, but she is confident in the role that she has taken on, and she has every right to be.

The surrounding kingdoms are threatened by Sylph Valley. Their unorthodox treatment of their sylphs, allowing them to talk, to assume human form, to be educated and to  have an equal say in the way the Valley is governed, threatened the belief systems of every country that surrounds them. The battle sylphs protect all the woman in the Valley from every perceived threat, making Sylph Valley women the equals of men as they are nowhere else. Their more conservative neighbors are appalled. Sylph Valley women are called trash, whores, and sluts, but not within the confines of the Valley.

But Solie is Queen because all the Sylphs in the Valley are bound directly to her, and they will all protect her. Which means that she is the target of repeated assassination attempts by neighboring kingdoms. Especially from the Kingdom of Eferem, the land she escaped from in The Battle Sylph.

In Queen of the Sylphs, it is not just external threats that Solie has to fear. There is an internal threat as well, but one that is deeply entrenched within the Valley. Battlers can sense the emotions of those around them, but only when there actually are emotions to sense. A person who feels nothing, but commits terrible crimes anyway, in other words, a sociopath, is undetectable. A female sociopath presents a tremendous threat, because battlers are conditioned to protect females at all costs.

I didn’t enjoy Queen of the Sylphs as much as I did The Battle Sylph. The newness of the world has worn off, so I was expecting more growth from more of the characters, or a story with new twists and turns, preferably both. Solie is the one character who keeps moving forward, but the other characters are increasingly stock characters, particularly the villains. King Alcor is the distant big, bad, sending assassins to do his dirty work for him. The closer evil was the standard beautiful and manipulative witch. And, as a bonus added attraction, since she had no emotions, there wasn’t any way to get into her head to understand why she was committing her evil acts. I didn’t want to sympathize, but I did need to get the point, or at least, her point. I know she wanted to take over the Valley and get power. But why?

There is a secondary story, that of a healer sylph on the other side of the portal. This sylph is on her way to morphing into a sylph queen, but wants to remain a healer. She has a battler who has been exiled from the hive who wants her to become a queen and form her own hive, in the hopes that he will be her consort. It was an interesting idea for the author to try to show the other side from the sylph’s point of view before they cross over, but it is difficult to tell a story with characters who don’t have names.

Overall, this was an okay read. But I stayed up late to finish The Battle Sylph. I didn’t stay up to finish Queen. I went to sleep and waited until the next afternoon.  Escape Rating C.

Hobbit Day

September 22 is Hobbit Day. Remember? The beginning of The Lord of the Rings, the very first part of The Fellowship of the Ring, starts out in Hobbiton. It starts with Bilbo and Gandalf discussing Bilbo’s upcoming eleventy-first birthday. A birthday he shares with his nephew Frodo. Frodo will be thirty-three on that day, his “coming-of-age”. In hobbit legal terms, Frodo will be an adult.

J.R.R. Tolkien named that birthday as September 22. Then he backtracked and said that the Shire Calendar might not be quite the same as the other Western Lands, and maybe the date was off a little. But the American Tolkien Society went with the text as written, and declared that September 22 was THE day in 1978.

Hobbit Day made me look back at the books and what they mean to me. I read The Hobbit for the first time when I was 9, give or take. And read The Lord of the Rings in the next year or so after. A friend’s older brother loaned them to me. Eddie, wherever you are, I still remember you fondly for that.

I sometimes wonder how many other kids read Narnia after LOTR? It’s supposed to be the other way around. Narnia was way more age appropriate when I was 10 or 11. I know I didn’t get everything that was going on in LOTR the first time I read it. Didn’t matter. I kept re-reading it. All the way through the rest of grade school. And high school. And college. I lost count somewhere after the 25th re-read. I kept re-reading because I got more out of it each time. I understood more as I grew up.

I got more annoyed too. I loved the story. Still do. But there was no one for me to identify with. There are no strong female characters except Galadriel. I wanted to write a new version with at least one girl added to the fellowship. Fantasy has changed since Tolkien, and now women are heroes. But before Tolkien, fantasy wasn’t even considered literature. As always, today’s writers stand on the shoulders of giants. Tolkien was one, even if he didn’t intend to be.

There are recommended ways to celebrate Hobbit Day. Hobbits regularly eat 7 meals per day. They also walk barefoot–all the time–even outdoors.

A movie marathon would be good, too. Peter Jackson’s vision of Tolkien’s world was pretty close. When I saw the opening scene of Fellowship, Hobbiton came to life, and I teared up. My fantasy was suddenly in front of me. But movies are always compromises. Please never judge a book by its movie.

The best celebration of Hobbit Day would be to visit Tolkien’s world as he wrote it. If you have read them before, maybe it’s time to read The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit again. If you have never had the pleasure, I envy you the journey of discovery that awaits you. Me, I plan to dip into some of my favorite scenes again.

Tolkien was right. The road does goes ever on and on. I still love to travel a bit of it with him.

Happy Hobbit Day!

Kindle OverDrive

Kindle books have arrived at an OverDrive library near you!  Or they will any minute now. The two libraries I have access to (I only moved in June, my old library card hasn’t expired yet) both have it.

Does it work? Yes, it works. I tried it, and got an  ebook. It works for Kindle apps, not just Kindles.

So, what does this mean?

This is a classic good news/bad news scenario. The good news is that more people will want to use the library’s resources. The good news  is that more people will be aware that the library has something that they want. In the ereader marketplace, more than 70% of the market is owned by Amazon and its Kindle.  And it’s a very big market. The Harris Poll released on September 19 shows that one in six Americans has an ereader. More than two-thirds of those ereaders are Kindles. Until this week, Kindle owners were unserved by libraries, today they aren’t. That’s a big influx of users into an already rising tide.

The other huge part of this is mindshare. When most people see someone using an ereader, they automatically think “Kindle”, no matter what the device is. I have an iPad, and to most folks of the even slightly geeky persuasion, iPads are very different from Kindles. But in airports, people will still ask me, “Is that a Kindle?” To a lot of people, Kindles mean ebooks. Now that libraries serve Kindle books, we’ve arrived. We know we were already there, but this is a major PR moment that libraries can grab.

And we need to grab it, because this is going to have some…not so good impacts too. Ebook usage was already rocketing skyward in public libraries. Adding the huge number of Kindle owners to the borrower pool is going to send those numbers into the next galaxy. So this will increase demand on a finite supply. Not a finite supply of bits and bytes, but a finite supply of dollars and cents. Library budgets have been slashed everywhere. If demand for ebooks increases exponentially, that does not mean that demand for print books will decrease exponentially. Yes, it is possible, even probable that some users will switch from print books to ebooks if ebooks are available, but not everyone in every format.

We should use this opportunity to promote ourselves and get all the good spin out of this we can. Amazon certainly is. When a Kindle user selects the “Get for Kindle” option from the library’s OverDrive site, they go through a normal library checkout process, and then they are transferred to Amazon’s site for the download. When the user completes the download, what do they see? Other Amazon Kindle titles recommended for them to purchase, based on whatever they just downloaded from your library.

Today, Kindle users can borrow ebooks from their local library. The Harris Poll also confirmed previous studies that ereader owners read more books and buy more ebooks. Amazon gets the library borrowers out of the library site and onto the Amazon site in order to try to sell them more ebooks. There isn’t anything wrong with that. That’s why Amazon is in business in the first place. OverDrive finally gets to offer a Kindle option. That piece has been missing from their service for eons. This is a very big win for OverDrive.

And this is a big win for libraries. Not just because we can finally say “yes” when Kindle owners ask us if they can borrow ebooks. Saying “yes” is definitely better than saying “no”. But because being part of this revolution/evolution could be a way of getting focus on the library for something relatively cool, and we have a chance to leverage that focus into support.

Lord of Rage

Goldilocks and the three bears was never this hot.

Lord of Rage is Jill Monroe’s entry in the Royal House of Shadows multi-author series. The three bears in this story are brothers, and the Goldilocks is an exiled princess. A princess who learns to kick some serious ass. But otherwise, the fairy-tale thing totally works. With a slight dose of Snow White (mostly the dwarfs) added in for comic relief.

The Royal House of Shadows is the story of the fall of the house of Elden. The country is overthrown by a Blood Sorceror, and the last, desperate act of the King and Queen is to send their four children away from the carnage in the hopes that the princes, and one princess, might avenge their deaths. But the compulsions of royalty and parental love have different agendas.  With the force of their dying breaths, and the force of their death spell, the royal pair’s last spell compels their adult children to two almost diametrically opposed agendas. Their father’s spell obligates them to revenge themselves on the Blood Sorcerer. Their mother’s spell requires them to survive at all costs.

Breena has been a protected princess all of her life until the night that the Blood Sorceror invaded Elden. Now in her mid-20s, she has become restless and yearns for freedom from the restrictions that have bound and controlled her life. She should have married long ago, but her father has been saving her for the most advantageous political marriage. Her mother has promised her that her magic will come to her when she is married. Until the attack, her only magic was in the ability to walk in dreams, and the dreams she walks in are those of a warrior who may be real, or may be a construct of her imagination.

But during the attack, due the force of her parents’ spell, she reaches out for the one person who can help her survive, and help her find vengeance–the warrior of her dreamscape. And finds herself in a deserted woodlands, far from home. After wandering for days, she practically stumbles into an empty cabin in the woods. It represents food, shelter, and a relatively safe place to rest.

When the residents of the cabin return, they find spilled food, a broken chair, and a blonde woman sleeping in one of the beds. The owners are the last of the Ursans, men who take on the spirit of the bear when they fight. They are berserkers. Or, at least one of them is. Osborn, the oldest, is a true berserker. His two brothers are too young. Their people were slaughtered before the boys could learn the Ursan tradition. But Osborn has kept them safe on Ursan land. “Goldilocks” has been found by the three bears, after she has eaten their “porridge”, tried out their furniture, and is sleeping in one of their beds.

The boys want to keep Breena. They think she will cook and clean for them, not realizing that she has never done such things. Osborn wants to keep her, too, but for much more adult reasons. He has dreamed of her. Many, many nights. But he always thought she was a creature of his own fevered imagination. Breena wakes to find that her warrior is real, and very, very angry.  Osborn thinks Breena has been manipulating him all along, especially when she asks for his help. He’s been a mercenary. He gave up that life to take care of his brothers and to take care of the Ursan lands. He doesn’t want to go back to being just a hired sword. Especially not for this woman who has invaded his dreams.

Escape Rating B+: I liked Lord of Rage even better than Lord of the Vampires, the first book in the series. The relationship between Breena and Osborn develops gradually–even though they’ve been dreaming about each other, dreams don’t translate to instant knowledge. They have a lot of real-world issues to work through first. There’s a big trust issue they need to get past, and the story shows them both working on it. Breena and Osborn earned their happy ending. We just won’t know if they actually get one until the end of the whole series.

Inspector Gamache

I drove to South Carolina last week in the urbane company of Chief Inspector Gamache of the  Sûreté du Québec. My trip to Collection Development Mini-Conference in Columbia was the perfect opportunity to listen to the latest unfortunate incident in Three Pines, Québec, where murder seems to be a cottage industry.

A Trick of the Light is the most recent book in Louise Penny’s series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. For some reason, an awful lot of murders seem to occur in the rather small village of Three Pines, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. So many murders that Gamache and his team have become friends with some of the local residents–even the ones they’ve investigated as suspects.

The “trick of the light” referred to in the title refers to a painting. One of the Three Pines residents, Clara Morrow, is an artist. So is her husband Peter. But it is Clara who has been “discovered” after working in obscurity for almost 30 years. Her one-woman show at the famed Musée in Montreal is a rousing success. But the after-party at her home in Three Pines is ruined by a dead body in the garden. Even worse, the corpse belongs to an old friend turned enemy of Clara’s from childhood.

And the corpse was everyone’s enemy. The dead woman was an art critic. A particularly venomous one. And she was especially good at being venomous–a deadly combination for any budding artist’s career. There was no difficulty in figuring out who wanted to kill the woman. Everyone at the party had a motive. Including the caterers.

Escape Rating: A+ It was an 8 hour trip and an 11 hour book. I kept finding excuses to finish listening to the book. The central mystery is all about the art world, and I did get fooled, so points for that. And, and, and, there is a whole lot of neat, weird, sad and truly angst-ridden stuff going on with the continuing characters and I want to know where that is leading now. Now and not next year, dammit, or whenever the next book will be. I’m really worried about Jean-Guy. And if you’ve read the series, you know exactly what I mean.

In other news, Bury Your Dead, the previous book in the series, was recognized this past weekend with some more well-deserved awards. Mystery Readers International awarded Bury Your Dead their Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel for 2010. And, at Bouchercon 2011, the World Mystery Convention in St. Louis on September 17, Bury Your Dead also won the Anthony Award for Best Novel. In 2010, the previous Inspector Gamache book, The Brutal Telling, won the award.

Also, again, thank you to the person on the Letters of Mary group (Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell) for recommending this series. Which only emphasizes the importance of recommending books to people. I’d never have found the Chief Inspector but for her.