Bryant and May and the Memory of Blood by Christopher Fowler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another solid addition to a reliably entertaining series. The actual case in this one, a series of gruesome murders involving a theatre troupe and Punch and Judy puppets, wasn’t my favorite of Fowler’s inventions, but as usual the complicated web of London trivia, history, geography and mythology made up for everything else. After living in London for a year, I admire Fowler’s use of London almost as the “third character” (as he puts it himself) even more, and I finally have an inkling of what it means that Bryant is from Whitechapel and members of his staff are from Bow or Bermondsey. I can picture the block of flats off Jamaica Road where a murder victim lived, and if I haven’t been to the ironically 40s-themed tea room on the Caledonian Road where middle-class young women in red lipstick and victory rolls serve Battenburg cake to the detectives, I’ve been to several other versions of it. I loved the vivid and eccentric image of London I got from these books before I lived there but now, picking up a new Byrant and May is like being teleported back to the crazy bustle of the city, almost right down to the smell of the canals and train tunnels and the taste of strong tea and sausage rolls.
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I’ve been neglecting the “read” part of this blog’s mission, so here is a brief and belated review of a great book I read last month.
The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht won the Orange Prize so it was on my radar when I was in London but I didn’t get around to reading it until I found it on the shelves at the school library where I work. Obreht skillfully mixes the serious (the breakup of Yugoslavia, a death in the family) with the fantastical (the “deathless man” and the titular “tiger’s wife”) and paints a vivid picture of an unfamiliar region.
Perhaps oddly, I often found myself hungry while I was reading. Shortly before I read The Tiger’s Wife, I saw an article in Saveur magazine about the food and drink of Transylvania, which must overlap a little with what Natalia and the other characters eat, especially in the rural villages she travels to. And I bet a nip of plum brandy, a slice of apricot cake and The Tiger’s Wife would make for a great evening in.
Heart to Heart socks by Wendy Johnson. I never used to like making or wearing knitted socks but then I discovered Wendy Johnson’s books. I’m still not a “sock knitter” but suddenly I want to knit nothing but socks. Except when I want to spin, or knit lace (I’m on track for 12 in 2012 at the moment!), or sew, or swatch for a sweater…
Proof that eating alone can be at least a little bit nice: Tonight I made a leek and bean salad from River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I thought it would be a great dinner because it’s basically leeks vinaigrette (one of my favorites) tossed with white beans, piled on toast (also a favorite).
Alas, I think the salad will be better tomorrow when it’s good and cold. But still not a total failure. I even had a smidge of prawn cocktail as an “appetizer,” never mind that it was really just some leftover shrimp from last night dabbed with cocktail sauce while I stood by the stove waiting for the pan to heat up, and some leftover pound cake for dessert. How civilized.
Rock Island is my favorite of the lace shawls I’ve made so far. I love its construction (knit the edging first, then pick up yarn-over loops along the edge to make the middle) and the airiness of the lace.
But my favorite part of this project is the yarn I chose. Most people, including the designer, use sleek, smooth hand-dyed lace yarns in luxurious fibers like silk and alpaca. But given the shawl’s traditional Shetland patterns and construction, I decided to go for a lofty, sheepy fingering-weight wool (J.C. Rennie Supersoft Lambswol 4ply). It’s soft, springy and very economical, and the finished shawl is big and warm without sacrificing too much drape.
Bonus: the blue is a perfect match for one of the accent colors in my new plaid winter coat!