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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Stories on Saturdays: Birdman

Title: Birdman
Author: Mo Hayder
Publisher: Transworld
Published: 2000
Genre: Crime Thriller

Find it at Amazon UK

The Blurb says ...

Greenwich, south-east London
DI Jack Caffery - young, driven, unshockable - is called to one of the most gruesome crime scenes he has ever seen.

Five young women have been ritualistically murdered and dumped on wasteland near the Dome.  Subsequent post-mortems reveal a singular, horrific signature linking the victims.

Soon Caffery realises that he is on the trail of that most dangerous offender: a serial killer.  Beset by animosity within the police force, haunted by the memory of a very personal death long ago, Caffery employs every weapon forensic science can offer to hunt him down.

Because he knows that it is only a matter of time before this sadistic killer strikes again ...

My Verdict: Grisly and gripping, a really strong police-focused crime thriller (recommended for crime fiction fans)

The crimes in this book are not for the faint-hearted (fans of Val McDermid and Kathy Reichs are likely to find much to enjoy here), but the strength of the novel lies in its plotting and characterisation.

Caffery is a realistic and sympathetic character: flawed, complex and interesting.  His problems are not limited to needing to catch the killer, which allows Hayder to space out the main plot's action while still satisfying the reader with progression of a subplot.

The novel also occasionally features a chapter from the killer's point of view which doesn't in any way spoil the Big Reveal, but increases the tension by creating missed opportunities and unfollowed clues.  More than once, I was close to telling the police out loud what they should be concentrating on - which is not good when you read on the train!  Incidentally, this book also taught me that it is bad to read at the bus stop at dusk when you are reading a tense crime thriller, no matter how keen you are to keep reading. 

This is the first Jack Caffery novel - there are currently five available.  I will certainly be reading more of them.  Mo Hayder has also written standalone novels, which are also now on my ever-increasing 'to read' list. 

I received this book via Transworld's Great Crime Caper, but this did not influence my judgement.
This review is my third for the British Books Challenge, since Mo Hayder is a British novelist.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Midweek Magic: Seeing in the Spring

Many of us are looking for ways to feel more connected.  Having left organised religion behind, and living in ways that aren't really community-focused, it can be hard to add meaning to the daily routine.  That said, routine can be just the thing to refresh our spirits and regain that connection to the earth.  In these posts tagged 'parenting with spirit', I'll share some ideas for using old traditions to awaken our families' spirits.

OK, so we're not here yet - but it's coming!

Last week, it was Imbolc: the earliest Spring festival in the pagan year.  In the Christian calendar, it's Candlemas or St Brigit's Day (derived from Bride or Brigid, a maiden goddess of poetry and blacksmithing, amongst other things).  Imbolc is variously rendered as deriving from 'ewe's milk' and 'in the belly', and is the quiet time before Spring really begins.  The first little flowers may be out (we've spotted snowdrops) and the days are beginning to noticeably lengthen.

Things we've done to mark this turning of the wheel include:

making or decorating candles
Yellow Moon sell brilliant candle pens, although we had more success with decorating big pillar candles than the little votive ones they stock for this.  Obviously, making beeswax candles is more in keeping, but that isn't always easy for the littlest ones.

spring-focused crafts
Again, Yellow Moon's range is excellent.  We discovered last Hallowe'en that tissue paper and silhouette decorations are great fun to make and it's fairly straightforward to cut out flower shapes from dark paper and stick tissue paper over to make the petals.  Ideally, use folded-over dark paper, so that you can hide the tissue in between.

other spring creations
My kids like writing (such a proud Mummy :-) ), so spring-themed poems and stories are good.  Prayers or songs to the earth, celebrating the shift from dark to light also go down well.  It's also traditional to make St Brigid's crosses at this time (a folded cornstalk equal-armed cross).  We've made them out of art straws in the past pretty effectively.

spring-focused walks
Just drawing kids' attention to the signs of the earth on a woodland or park walk is valuable and enjoyable.  They might look for signs of life on the ground or in the trees, or listen and look for bird life.  An old tradition has people (especially kids) stomping to wake the ground up after the worst of the winter, but you need to be careful where you do this.

Have you been celebrating the changing of the seasons?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Transworld Great Crime Caper

I've just signed up for a crime reading and reviewing fest courtesy of Transworld.  Sign-up is open until February 14th.  There are 12 nominated titles, and you choose 3 to review.  Thanks to Nikki-Ann for pointing me in this direction!

I've opted for 3 writers I haven't read before:
Mo Hayder's Birdman
Ariana Franklin's Mistress in the Art of Death
Niamh O'Connor's If I Never See You Again 

Watch this space for the reviews!
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