Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell

imageI would like to read Flesh and Blood by best selling Crime thriller Author Patricia Cornwell. It starts with Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta enjoying a leisurely morning while celebrating her birthday and upcoming vacation in Miami with FBI Profiler husband Benton Wesley, until they are rudely interrupted By a telephone call from Detective Pete Marino, who tells her there’s been a homicide five minutes away, involving a high school music teacher, who has been shot with uncanny precision as he unloaded groceries from his car.

No one has heard or seen a thing. The master forensic sleuth finds herself in the unsettling pursuit of a serial sniper who strikes chillingly close to and leaves no incriminating evidence except fragments of copper. The shots seem impossible, yet they are so perfect they cause instant death. The victims appear to have had nothing in common, and there is no pattern to indicate where the killer will strike next.

Her investigations take her firstly to New Jersey, then Massachusetts, and as Scarpetta investigates, she uncovers details that only she can analyze, and begins to suspect that the killer is sending her a message. Adding to Scarpetta’s growing unease is the sense that those closest to her are keeping secrets. And when her pursuit of the sniper eventually takes Scarpetta to the murky depths of a shipwreck off the Florida coast, she comes face to face with shocking evidence that implicates her niece Lucy – Scarpetta’s very own flesh and blood…

Kenneth Grahame

Scottish Writer Kenneth Grahame sadly passed away 6 July 1932.  born on 8 March (1859) in Edinburgh, Scotland. When he was a little more than a year old, his father, an advocate, received an appointment as sheriff-substitute in Argyllshire at Inveraray on Loch Fyne. Kenneth loved the sea and was happy there, but when he was 5, his mother died from complications of childbirth, and his father, who had a drinking problem, gave over care of Kenneth, his brother Willie, his sister Helen and the new baby Roland to Granny Ingles, the children’s grandmother, in Cookham Dean in the village of Cookham in Berkshire. There the children lived in a spacious, if dilapidated, home, “The Mount”, on spacious grounds in idyllic surroundings, and were introduced to the riverside and boating by their uncle, David Ingles, curate at Cookham Dean church. This delightful ambiance, particularly Quarry Wood and the River Thames, is believed, to have inspired the setting for his later novel The Wind in the Willows.

He was an outstanding pupil at St Edward’s School in Oxford. During his early years at St. Edwards, a sports regimen had not been established and the boys had freedom to explore the old city with its quaint shops, historic buildings, and cobblestone streets, St Giles’ Fair, the idyllic upper reaches of the River Thames, and the nearby countryside.Grahame wanted to attend Oxford University, but was not allowed to do so on grounds of cost. Instead he was sent to work at the Bank of England in 1879, and rose through the ranks until retiring as its Secretary in 1908 due to ill health, which may have been precipitated by a strange, possibly political, shooting incident at the bank in 1903. Grahame was shot at three times, all of them missed. While still a young man in his 20s, Grahame began to publish light stories in London periodicals such as the St. James Gazette. Some of these stories were collected and published as Pagan Papers in 1893, and, two years later, The Golden Age. These were followed by Dream Days in 1898, which contains The Reluctant Dragon.Grahame married Elspeth Thomson in 1899; they had only one child, a boy named Alastair (whose nickname was “Mouse”) born blind in one eye and plagued by health problems throughout his short life.

On Grahame’s retirement, they returned to Cookham where he had lived as a child, and lived at “Mayfield”, now Herries Preparatory School, whewhere he had been brought up and spent his time by the River Thames doing much as the animal characters in his book do—namely, as one of the most famous phrases from the Wind in the Willows says, “simply messing about in boats”—and wrote down the bed-time stories he had been telling his son Alistair. Tragically Alastair eventually committed suicide on a railway track while an undergraduate at Oxford University, two days before his 20th birthday on 7 May 1920. Out of respect for Kenneth Grahame, Alastair’s demise was recorded as an accidental death. Kenneth Grahame died in Pangbourne, Berkshire, on 6 July 1932. He is buried in Holywell Cemetery, Oxford. Grahame’s cousin Anthony Hope, also a successful author, wrote his epitaph, which reads: “To the beautiful memory of Kenneth Grahame, husband of Elspeth and father of Alastair, who passed the river on the 6th of July, 1932, leaving childhood and literature through him the more blest for all time”

The Wind in the Willows focuses on the adventures of four anthropomorphous animal characters in a pastoral version of England. It is notable for its mixture of mysticism, adventure, morality, and camaraderie and celebrated for its evocation of the nature of the Thames valley. The story starts during Spring, when Mole, decides to do a bit of spring cleaning but gets bored so he sets out to enjoy the sunshine and take in the air above ground instead. He ends up at the river, which he has never seen before and meets Ratty (a water Vole), who at this time of year spends all his days in, on and close by the river. Rat takes Mole for a ride in his rowing boat. They get along well and spend many more days boating, with Rat teaching Mole the ways of the river. One summer day shortly thereafter, Rat and Mole find themselves near the grand Toad Hall and pay a visit to their incorrigible friend Toad. Toad is rich (having inherited wealth from his father): jovial, friendly and kind-hearted but aimless and conceited, he regularly becomes obsessed with current fads, only to abandon them as quickly as he took them up. Having only recently given up boating, Toad’s current craze is his horse-drawn caravan. In fact, he is about to go on a trip, and persuades the reluctant Rat and willing Mole to join him. The following day (after Toad has already tired of the realities of camp life and sleeps-in to avoid chores), a passing motor car scares the horse, causing the caravan to overturn into a ditch. Rat does a war dance and threatens to have the law on the motor car drivers, but this marks the immediate end of Toad’s craze for caravan travel, to be replaced with an obsession for motor cars. When the three animals get to the nearest town, they have Toad go to the police station to make a complaint against the vandals and their motor car and thence to a blacksmith to retrieve and mend the caravan. However Toad refuses to pay so Rat and Mole find an inn from where they organise the necessary steps.

Meanwhile, Toad makes no effort to help, and orders himself a motor car instead.Mole wants to meet the respected but elusive Badger, who lives deep in the Wild Wood, but Rat -knowing that Badger does not appreciate visits – refuses to take him, telling Mole to be patient and wait and Badger will pay them a visit himself. Nevertheless, on a snowy winter’s day, whilst the seasonally somnolent Ratty dozes unaware, Mole impulsively goes to the Wild Wood to explore, hoping to meet Badger. He gets lost in the woods, sees many “evil faces” among the wood’s less-welcoming denizens, succumbs to fright and panic and hides, trying to stay warm, amongst the sheltering roots of a tree. Rat, upon awakening and finding Mole gone,guesses his mission from the direction of Mole’s tracks and, equipping himself with a pistol and a stout stick, goes in search, finding him as snow begins to fall in earnest. Attempting to find their way home, Rat and Mole quite literally stumble across Badger’s home, and, warmly welcomes Rat and Mole to his large and cosy underground home and hastens to give them hot food and dry clothes. Badger learns from his visitors that Toad has crashed six cars, has been hospitalised three times, and has spent a fortune on fines. So they decide to protect Toad from himself. Upon the arrival of spring, Badger visits Mole and Rat to do something about Toad’s self-destructive obsession. The three of them go to visit Toad, and Badger tries to make him see sense eventually putting Toad under house arrest, with themselves as the guards, until Toad changes his mind. Feigning illness, Toad manages to escape, steals a car, drives recklessly, accidentally crashes and gets arrested by the police and sent to prison for twenty-years.

During Toad’s absence Badger and Mole look after Toad Hall in the hope that Toad may return. Meanwhile in prison, Toad gains the sympathy of the Jailer’s Daughter who helps him to escape disguised as a washerwoman and he comes across a horse-drawn barge, whose Owner offers him a lift in exchange for Toad’s services as a “washer woman”. This does not go well and Toad finds himself tossed into the canal. However he manages to steal the barge horse, which he then sells to a gypsy, Before flagging down a passing car, which happens to be the very one which he stole earlier. The car owners, not recognizing Toad disguised as a washerwoman, permit him to drive their car. Once behind the wheel, he is repossessed by his former passion and drives furiously, declaring his true identity to the outraged passengers who try to seize him. This leads to an accident, after which Toad flees once more. Pursued by police, he runs accidentally into a river, which carries him by sheer chance to the house of the Water Rat. Toad now hears from Rat that Toad Hall has been taken over by weasels, stoats and ferrets from the Wild Wood, who have driven out its former custodians, Mole and Badger. So Badger formulates a plan to drive the unsuspecting weasels out while they are holding a party in honour of their leader, and reclaim Toad Hall.

Dame Hilary Mantel DBE FRSL

imageEnglish novelist Dame Hilary Mary Mantel, DBE, FRSL née Thompson; born 6 July 1952 in Glossop Derbyshire. She grew up in the mill village of Hadfield. She attended St Charles local Roman Catholic primary school. Her parents separated and she did not see her father after age eleven. The family minus her father, but with Jack Mantel (1932-1995) who by now had moved in with them, relocated to Romiley, Cheshire, and Jack became her unofficial stepfather. She took her de-facto stepfather’s surname legally. She has explored her family background, the mainspring of much of her fiction, in her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost (2003). She attended Harrytown Convent in Romiley, Cheshire. In 1970, she began her studies at the London School of Economics to read law.[She transferred to the University of Sheffield and graduated as Bachelor of Jurisprudence in 1973.

After university, Mantel worked in the social work department of a geriatric hospital and then as a sales assistant in a department store. In 1972, she married Gerald McEwen, a geologist. In 1974, she began writing a novel about the French Revolution, which was later published as A Place of Greater Safety. In 1977, Mantel moved to Botswana with her husband. Later, they spent four years in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She published a memoir of this time, Someone to Disturb, in the London Review of Books. McEwen gave up geology to manage his wife’s business affairs.They divorced, but remarried a couple of years later.

Her first novel, Every Day is Mother’s Day, was published in 1985, and its sequel, Vacant Possession, a year later. After returning to England, she became the film critic of The Spectator and a reviewer for a number of papers and magazines in Britain and the United States. Her novel Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988), which drew on her first-hand experience in Saudi Arabia, uses a threatening clash of values between the neighbours in a city apartment block to explore the tensions between Muslim culture and the liberal West. Her Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize-winning novel Fludd is set in 1956 in a fictitious northern village called Fetherhoughton, centring on a Roman Catholic church and a convent. A mysterious stranger brings about transformations in the lives of those around him.

Her second novel, A Place of Greater Safety (1992) won the Sunday Express Book of the Year award, for which her two previous books had been shortlisted. A long and historically accurate novel, it traces the career of three French revolutionaries, Danton, Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins, from childhood to their early deaths during the Reign of Terror of 1794.

Her third novel, A Change of Climate (1994), set in rural Norfolk, explores the lives of Ralph and Anna Eldred, as they raise their four children and devote their lives to charity. It includes chapters about their early married life as missionaries in South Africa, when they were imprisoned and deported to Bechuanaland, and the tragedy that occurred there.

Her fourth novel, An Experiment in Love (1996), won the Hawthornden Prize, takes place over two university terms in 1970. It follows the progress of three girls – two friends and one enemy – as they leave home and attend university in London. Margaret Thatcher makes a cameo appearance in this novel, which explores women’s appetites and ambitions, and suggests how they are often thwarted. Though Mantel has used material from her own life, it is not an autobiographical novel.

Her next book, The Giant, O’Brien (1998), is set in the 1780s, and is based on the true story of Charles O’Brien or Byrne. He came to London to earn money by displaying himself as a freak. His bones hang today in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. The novel treats O’Brien and his antagonist, the Scots surgeon John Hunter, less as characters in history than as mythic protagonists in a dark and violent fairytale, necessary casualties of the Age of Enlightenment. She adapted the book for BBC Radio 4, in a play starring Alex Norton (as Hunter) and Frances Tomelty.

In 2003, Mantel published her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, which won the MIND ‘Book of the Year’ award. That same year she brought out a collection of short stories, Learning To Talk. All the stories deal with childhood and, taken together, the books show how the events of a life are mediated as fiction. Her 2005 novel, Beyond Black, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. Set in the years around the second millennium, it features a professional medium, Alison Hart, whose calm and jolly exterior conceals grotesque psychic damage. She trails around with her a troupe of ‘fiends’, who are invisible but always on the verge of becoming flesh.

Wolf Hall, about Henry VIII’s minister Thomas Cromwell, was published in 2009 to critical acclaim.Set in England in the period from 1500 to 1535, Wolf Hall (which is named after the Seymour family seat of Wolfhall or Wulfhall near Burbage, just outside of Marlborough, Wiltshire, is a fictionalized biography which follows the exploits of Thomas Cromwell, who rises from humble beginnings as the son of a brutal blacksmith in the slums of Putney to become a mercenary, merchant and member of Parliament finally becoming the right-hand man of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, adviser to the King, After surviving Wolsey’s fall from grace Cromwell eventually takes his place as the most powerful of Henry’s ministers, during this time he oversaw Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, was present during the religious upheavals of the Protestant reformation, the English church’s break with Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries.

The story exposes the political machinations of Henry’s court and the vicious realities of the court of Henry VIII, Cromwell’s manipulation of the king and the court and how he re-shaped English politics and the balance of power. The story has more betrayals, affairs, alliances and scheming than a soap opera and also shows the nation on the brink of disaster and the very real threat of civil war looming large because the ageing king has no male heir. The book won that year’s Man Booker Prize and Mantel was presented with a trophy and a £50,000 cash prize during an evening ceremony at the London Guildhall, by a panel of judges, led by the broadcaster James Naughtie, and On receiving the prize, Mantel said that she would spend the prize money on “sex and drugs and rock’ n’ roll”.

The sequel to Wolf Hall, called Bring Up the Bodies, was published in May 2012 to wide acclaim. It won the 2012 Costa Book of the Year and the 2012 Man Booker Prize; Mantel thus became the first British writer and the first woman to win the Man Booker Prize more than once. Mantel is working on the third novel of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy, called The Mirror and the Light.She is also working on a short non-fiction book called The Woman Who Died of Robespierre, about the Polish playwright Stanisława Przybyszewska. Mantel also writes reviews and essays, mainly for The Guardian, the London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books. She won her first Booker Prize for the 2009 novel, Wolf Hall, a fictional account of Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power in the court of Henry VIII. She won her second Booker Prize for the 2012 novel, Bring Up the Bodies, the second instalment of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy. Mantel was the first woman to receive the award twice, following in the footsteps of J. M. Coetzee, Peter Carey and J. G. Farrell (who posthumously won the Lost Man Booker Prize).The third instalment to the Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, is set to be published in 2015.