Saturday, December 31, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - Dec. 31, 2022

A long-cherished hymn – do I need to name it? – is turning 250 years old. Faith writer Lisa LaGeorge has a two-part discussion on how it came to be. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. You read the lyrics, and they seem timeless. 

If you get your news only from the newspaper or other traditional media, here’s a little of what you would not know about what happened with Twitter. Big-name scientists were suspended or shadowbanned when they questioned whatever happened to be the prevailing government policy. That included tweeting longstanding information from the Centers for Disease Control. The FBI, despite its “nothing to see here, move along, move along” response, was actively involved in suppressing anything about the Hunter Biden laptop or even campaign jokes about then-candidate Joe Biden. And another government agency, only referred to as “OGA” or “Other Government Agency” in emails between the FBI and Twitter, was also involved in managing what was happening. The “OGA” is believed to be the CIA. David Zweig at The Free Press looks at how Twitter rigged the COVID debate. Jennifer Sey at The Spectator considers the unholy alliance between government and Big Tech.


Wendell Berry has published a highly regarded book about racism. But Berry, true to the independent mind and thinker that he is, also has a problem with cancel culture, and he publicly criticized plans by the University of Kentucky to cover up a mural in its Memorial Hall.


More Good Reads




Buried story of 2022? The persecution of Christians keeps surging around the world – Richard Ostling at Get Religion.


C.S. Lewis’ Wartime Sermons – Bradley Birzer at The Imaginative Conservative. 


When the City of Man Creaks – A.W. Workman at Entrusted to the Dirt.


Life and Culture


The great anti-ESG backlash – Oliver Wiseman at The Spectator.


Yearning for Roots – Peter Mommsen at Plough Quarterly.


The Simple Charm of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ – Elizabeth Hance at The Gospel Coalition.




The Present—Tense – Damian Robin at Society of Classical Poets.


Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh – Agatha Christie at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


Freedom in Forgiveness – Dan Tuton at Society of Classical Poets.


Utility – Sonja Benskin Mesher.




Edward Hopper’s America: The popular perception of the loneliness in the painter’s work could not be more wrong – William Newton at The Spectator.




Rummaging the Word Hord – Jesse Russell at Front Porch Republic.




Was the rift between Russia and the West inevitable? – Robert Service at The Spectator.


American Stuff


The Metropolis of Tomorrow – Andrew Wanko at St. Louis History Museum.


Sing We the Song of Emmanuel – Keith & Kristyn Getty

 Painting: Man Reading a Letter, oil on oak panel by Adriaen Brouwer (1605-1638)

Friday, December 30, 2022

Behind the curtain

After Daniel 10:1-14

For a moment, a glimpse

behind the curtain,

of conflict, of war 

to the death. a war

in heaven barely

known on earth, yet

everything hinged

upon the outcome,

everything every day,

with battles and

explosions, attacks

and counterattacks,

a fight to the death,

no compromise,

no peace treaty, 

no armistice, but

a war, total war,

the war behind

the curtain. 


Photograph by Brandon Morgan via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

"Murder at Home" by Faith Martin

She was an elderly lady living in a Council house. A widow and her only child and daughter dead, and a drug-addicted grandson, she still managed to impress her friends and neighbors with her love for life. She’d been ailing, but she was looking forward to celebrating her birthday and then Christmas. She had little financial means, existing on a monthly pensioner’s check. 

So why, wonder Detective Inspector Hillary Greene, would someone drive a razor-sharp letter opener into the woman’s chest, as she was sitting and watching television? Her money from her cashed pensioner’s check was missing, but nothing else in the house had been taken. Find the motive, Greene knows, and you find the murderer. Except in this case, no one seems to be able to find a motive.


Greene has more than a murder to manage. She has a new detective on the team, a young policeman from London under a cloud, that being he had decked his sergeant. The only reason he wasn’t drummed out the force was that the sergeant deserved it. And Detective Sergeant Janine Tyler is in her last days with the team; she’s transferring to another police group because of her impending marriage to Greene’s boss’s boss. And Tyler is keeping tight-lighted about her own growing problem – she’s being stalked, with the incidents and threats getting uglier. She won’t say anything, but Greene figures it out, and learns that the stalker is someone inside the police department.


Faith Martin

Murder at Home
is the sixth of the DI Hillary Greene mysteries by British author Faith Martin, and it’s another winning story. Martin manages her characters exactly right, keeping Greene (and her love life) at the center of the story. It’s fast-paced, with a few clues for the reader to grasp as you try to solve the mystery with the detective.


In addition to the DI Hillary Greene novels, Martin (a pen name for Jacquie Walton) has also published the Ryder and Loveday novels as well as the Jenny Sterling mysteries. Under the name Joyce Cato, she has published several non-series detective stories. Both Cato and Martin are also pen names for Walton. (Walton has another pen name as well – Maxine Barry, under which she wrote 14 romance novels.) A native of Oxford, she lives in a village in Oxfordshire. 




Murder on the Oxford Canal by Faith Martin.


Murder at the University by Faith Martin


Murder of the Bride by Faith Martin.


Murder in the Village by Faith Martin.


Murder in the Family by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Obsession by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Mistake by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Flaw by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Secret by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Truth by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Affair by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Night by Faith Martin.


A Fatal End by Faith Martin.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

"Hymns of the Republic" by S.C. Gwynne

During the last year of the Civil War, roughly April 1864-April 1865, everything changed. And “everything” includes more than the collapse of the Confederacy and the surrenders of the Confederate armies. At the beginning of that year, the eventual outcome was not a foregone conclusion. How the waging of the war itself changed made the outcome inevitable. 

Popular historian, author, and journalists S.C. Gwynne explains what changed in Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War. This is popular history at its best, with an account filled with anecdotes, written in a broad sweep og events, and written so well that the book sweeps the reader up and places him right in the middle of the narrative.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Dancing Priest.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

“A World of Curiosities” by Louise Penny

After reading The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny, her 17th Inspector Armand Gamache mystery novel, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the next one, only that there would likely be a next one. Something seemed off with The Madness of Crowds, and I couldn’t precisely say what it was, only that when you try to write fiction about a COVID pandemic, what you write can easily be out-of-date by the time the book is published.  

The 18th Gamache novel is A World of Curiosities. The title is taken from an actual artwork, “The Paston Treasure,” painted about 1663 and now in the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery in Norfolk, England. The artist is unknown; the painting is not signed. In A World of Curiosities, what looks like the painting is discovered in a hidden room in the home of Myrna Landers, who lives and operates the bookstore in Three Pines, where the Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache now live. On close examination, however, it’s realized that the painting is really a copy of the original, with a considerable number of changes.


How did it get there? How and when was the room hidden, when even Myrna Landers herself didn’t know it was there? What does it have to do with the death of a woman who may, or may not have, committed suicide in a nearby town? And someone in Three Pines is not who they say they are and may be determined to destroy Gamache and his family.


Penny combines the story of the painting with the back story of who Gamache and his chief lieutenant (and son-in-law) Jean-Guy Beauvoir came to work together – a horrific case in a small, isolated provincial town in Quebec in which the body of woman was found in a lake. It turned out that the woman has been prostituting her two young children, a brother and a sister. And now the two are living in Three Pines, and one, or both, may be psychopaths.


This is a dark, dark story. It has a fascinating, involved premise based on the painting. Penny writes a good story; she’s a wonderful storyteller. The last 50 pages will have you jumping up every two or three minutes to take a break from the tension.


Louise Penny

What is disappointing, however, was something too many authors seem to be falling into. Instead of simply telling a story, some authors feel compelled to share their political views with the reader. Putting words in the mouths on beloved characters isn’t going to convince me that the author’s political views are correct. And it seems forced. I know now how Penny feels about gun control, police forces, the Catholic church, and religion in general. And it’s a problem for the story. Based strictly on the expressed political views, I predicted who the killer would be. And I got it exactly right.  All of this detracts from what would be an otherwise fascinating, if very dark, story.


I bought the book in anticipation of reading another good Armand Gamache mystery. The story premise is indeed a good one. But injecting personal political beliefs into it makes it something less than what it might have been. I don’t need to spend $30 to learn about how a mystery writer feels about contemporary political issues.




My review of Kingdom of the Blind.


My review of Glass Houses.


My review of A Great Reckoning.


My review of The Long Way Home.


My review of How the Light Gets In.


My review of The Beautiful Mystery.


My review of The Hangman.


My review of Penny’s A Trick of the Light.


My review of Penny’s A Fatal Grace.


My review of Penny’s Still Life.


My review of Penny’s The Cruelest Month.


My review of Penny’s A Rule Against Murder.


My review of The Brutal Telling.


My review of Penny’s Bury Your Dead.


My review of A Better Man.


My review of All the Devils Are Here.


My review of The Madness of Crowds.

Painting: The Paston Treasure, oil on cavas circa 1663 by an unknown artist; Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

Monday, December 26, 2022

"The House Uptown" by Melissa Ginsburg

Ava has lived in Iowa for the 14 years of her life. Most of that life was on a farm, until her father lost the property and then his own life. Her mother works in a factory, but she, too, dies, from a rare disease. The only relative Ava knows of is her grandmother, Lane, who lives in New Orleans. And that’s where Ava is sent. 

Lane is not only an artist; she’s a highly gifted one. She lives in the only family home in what’s called Uptown – the area that was built along St. Charles Avenue and encompasses the Garden District, Tulane and Loyola universities, and Audubon Park and Zoo. Lane also stays in something of a personal fog, the result of almost non-stop marijuana smoking. Her hired assistant, Oliver, manages her bills, her life, and her marijuana supply. Ava is thrust into the middle of this world, and Lane is struck at how much the girl resembles her mother. 


But this is New Orleans, a place where everyone has secrets. Like the young man running for city council, following in his father’s footsteps. He and Lane share a secret from years ago, when he was the same age Ava is now. Long-buried secrets have a habit of erupting into daylight. And that can result in violence.


Melissa Ginsburg

The House Uptown
 is the second novel by author Melissa Ginsburg. It’s a story of New Orleans, and remarkably it’s the New Orleans I remember growing up in. Few writers get the sense of the city right, but Ginsburg has managed to do it.


A native of Houston, Ginsburg has also published the novel Sunset City; two poetry collections, Doll Apollo and Dear Weather Ghost; and three poetry chapbooks. She studied poetry at the Iowa Writers workshop, and her poems have been published in numerous literary journals. She is currently an Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, and she also serves as associate editor of Tupelo Quarterly


The House Uptown is a compelling read, difficult to put down. Ginsburg has a way of keeping the reader focused on the story and the page. You think you know how the story is going to end, and you discover you can be right and wrong at the same time. 

Sunday, December 25, 2022

A girl's song

After Luke 1:46-56

Startling news, indeed,

what the angel said 

to the young girl, that

she would bear the son.


And when the news

was greeted first

by a cousin as a miracle

and with praise,

the young girl sang.


She sang in praise,

she sang in gratitude,

she sang in recognition,

she sang in worship,

she sang in understanding,

she sang in acceptance,

she sang in awe.


Photograph by Miguel Bautista via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - Dec. 24, 2022

Good literature can be informative and entertaining, but it can also give you insights into the current moment, even if the literature in question is more than 150 years old. Timothy Noah at The New Republic writes about Sam Bankman-Fried, he of the FTX crypto-currency scandal, and how Charles Dickens had his number.  

Did you know that actor Paul Newman wrote poetry? You can read one of his poems, and a bit of the backstory, at The Nation.


Dan Doriani is a professor of theology at Covenant Theological Seminary here in St. Louis. Before that, he was the pastor at our church. In an article for Crossway, he considers the nativity story, and takes a look at the magi. Who were they, and why did they worship Jesus?


Merry Christmas to all, and God bless us, every one!


More Good Reads


Life and Culture


How race politics liberated the elites – Matthew Crawford at UnHerd.


C.S. Lewis’ “Old Western Men” – Bradley Birzer at The Imaginative Conservative. 




Melchizedek & the Loins – Matthew Hosier at Think Theology.


A Gentle Reformation Update – Barry York at Gentle Reformation.


A Christmas Selection Box – Seth Lewis.


What Your Nativity Really Means – Pierce Taylor Hibbs at Westminster Magazine.




Noel: Christmas Eve 1913 – Robert Bridges at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


All the Ways You Can Stay – Wall Chamberlain at Front Porch Republic.


Dig It Up Again: A century of The Waste Land – Ryan Ruby at Poetry Foundation.


On Bosch’s ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ Triptych – Jeffrey Essman at Society of Classical Poets.


Three Poems by Robert Walser, translated by Daniele Pantano – at Literary Hub.




Heaven and Nature Sing: Handel’s Messiah – Jeffrey Gedmin at American Purpose.




Video: Caught on Camera, Traced by Phone: The Russian Military Unit That Killed Dozens in Bucha – The New York Times.


British Stuff


The twilight of British Christianity? In the dimness of the secular gloom, the Christmas message shines brightly – The Critic Magazine.


Artúr mac Áedáin of Dál Riata and his time – Marco Mazzi at English Historical Fiction Authors.


Writing and Literature


Charles Dickens partied HARD after finishing A Christmas Carol in just six weeks – Jonny Diamond at Literary Hub.


American Stuff


1862 Christmas: “Despite the Present Distress” – Sarah Kay Bierle at Emerging Civil War.


O Holy Night – Josh Groban

 Painting: Old Man Reading a Book, oil on canvas by Joseph Malachy Kavanagh (1856-1918)

Friday, December 23, 2022

In a word: conflict

After Daniel 10:1-14

The word came 

that day,

the vision came,

in conflict, a war,

in fact, with 

its anxiety, its fear,

its uncertainty, and

it came to me alone,

the others with me

not hearing, not

seeing, but knowing

and seized by trembling,

tremors, and shaking.

The word, the vision,

overwhelmed me,

driving my face,

my lips, to the dirt,

to sleep, unable

to understand what

I saw, I heard,

the vision of what

was to come.


Photograph by GR Stocks via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

“The Family Tree Mystery” by Peter Bartram

Colin Crampton, reporter (and usually crime reporter) for the Brighton Evening Chronicle accompanies his girlfriend, Shirley Goldsmith, on a visit to a nearby town. Shirley has discovered she has a relative living in England, with connections back to Shirley’s Australia. The man has told her he wants to give her something and needs her help. When they arrive at the man’s home, they discover his body. He’s been murdered. 

Colin Crampton is on the case. Not only does he get to scoop the rival newspapers, of which there were many in the 1960s, he may also be able to help solve two murders in Australia. A number of people have died, and they all seem to be connected – they’re part of the same extended family. Just like Colin’s girlfriend, Shirley. 


And Colin had a second mystery with which to contend, this one inside the newspaper. Someone has purloined his editor’s draft memoirs, right from the filing cabinet in the editor’s office. The memoirs may not seem particularly valuable, but they are potentially embarrassing – and career-threatening, not only to the editor but to Colin himself.


Peter Bartram

The Family Tree Mystery
 is the latest installment in the Colin Crampton mystery series by British author Peter Bartram. They read like what you imagine reporters and newspapers used to be like (and, I can testify, not terribly unlike the newspaper I worked for a long time ago). The stories are intriguing, doused with a healthy measure of fun (and bad jokes). Crampton is nothing if not irreverent, and I suspect Bartram has pulled considerably from his own journalism experience.


Bartram has published several Colin Crampton mystery novels and story collections. He had a long career in journalism, including being a reporter on a weekly newspaper, an editor for newspapers and magazines in London, and freelance journalism – all of which have been utilized in creating the character of Colin Crampton. Bartram is also a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association.




My review of The Poker Game Mystery by Peter Bartram.


My review of The Comedy Club Mystery by Peter Bartram.


My review of The Tango School Mystery by Peter Bartram.


My review of Murder in the Morning Edition by Peter Bartram.


A Journalist and Crime – Stories and a Novella by Peter Bartram.


My review of Front-Page Murder by Peter Bartram.


My review of The Mother’s Day Mystery by Peter Bartram.


My review of The Beach Party Mystery.


My review of The World Cup Mystery by Peter Bartram.