Monday, July 31, 2023

"Sam's Song" by Hannah Howe

Samantha Smith, or Sam, as she’s known, is a private detective in Cardiff, Wales. She has a tangled personal history – never knowing who her father was, a mother who was an addict or alcoholic or both (Sam quit school at 12 to care for her), and an abusive ex-husband who keeps showing up like a bad penny looking for Sam’s helping with one of his news reporting stories. 

She’s hired by the business manager of a singer, Derwena de Caro, who’s desperately trying for a comeback for what looks like a fading career. Derwena says someone is stalking her, but only one other person says that might be true. But it will help pay the bills, so Sam takes the case. Eventually, the trail will lead Sam to a murder victim, a mysterious woman who throws strange parties for the rich and famous, and even the possibility of romance with a psychiatrist. Unless Sam gets killed herself first.


Sam’s Song is the first of the 25 (yes, 25) Sam Smith mysteries by British writer Hannah Howe. It’s a gripping story, but at times it’s hard to square a hard-bitten private eye who sneaks into people’s houses with the sniveling mess her ex-husband can reduce her to. It’s also a mystery that includes touches of humor and possible romance, although Sam seems to go out of her way to drive the romance away.


In addition to the Sam Smith mysteries, Howe has published several stand-alone novels, a Golden Age of Holloywood series, a considerable number of novels in the Ancestry series and the Olive Tree series, and many other works. She lives in Glamorgan County, Wales, with her family. 


I found the character of Sam Smith to be somewhat frustrating, but the story is good enough that I’ll give the second in the series, Love and Bullets, a try.


Some Monday Readings


Read W.H. Auden’s 1954 review of The Fellowship of the Ring – Dan Sheehan at Literary Hub


The e-book conspiracy – Mark at Thoughts of a Sojourner.


The Cyprus Street, Bethnal Green, War Memorial – A London Inheritance.


Visiting Historic Kenmore: A Preserved Patriot’s Home in Fredericksburg, Virginia – Kate Bitely at Emerging Revolutionary War Era.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Drowning on dry land

After Hebrews 11:29-31 

Trapped, the water in front,

the army seeking vengeance 

behind, the terror and fear

overwhelming until the man

lifts his staff.

The water, the sea in front,

suddenly divides and parts,

the seabed dries, allowing

the people and escape, and

freedom. The crossing

finishes as the pursuing army

follows, chariots thundering

through the divided waters,

thundering on dry land,

until the man lowers 

his staff. The divided seas

converge. The pursuers

drown on what had been

dry land.


Photograph by Tim Marshall via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Sunday Readings


Act of seeing – poem by Joy Lenton at Poetry Joy.


 Shades and Shadows of Sherwood – Joseph Pearce at The Imaginative Conservative.


In Our Chaotic Times, Some Atheists Are Rethinking Secularism – Carl Trueman at First Things Magazine.


There is Only One Great Book: The Bible – Samuel Klumpenhouwer at The Imaginative Conservative. 

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - July 29, 2023

British Stuff

St. Paul’s Covent Garden, the Actors’ Church – A London Inheritance.


London’s monocultural history – Sam Bidwell at The Critic Magazine.


Jack London’s Photography – Spitalfields Life. 


Writing and Literature


Brian Doyle: Without Stories, We Are Only Mammals with Weapons – John Nagy at Church Life Journal.


Poe vs. Himself: On the Writer’s One-Sided War with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Anne Whitehouse at Literary Hub. In case you didn’t know, Edgar Allen Poe was offended when Longfellow didn’t respond as Poe thought he should to a submission of work. From then on, Poe waged a one-sided war against the poet who’d already become an American icon.


Catch and Release – Stewart Sinclair at The Millions. When we visit New Orleans, we often see street performers in front of St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter. Like jugglers. Stewart Sinclair talks about his days as a juggler, earning money to support himself while he studied writing and literature at Loyola University.


The Kekule Problem: What Lies Hidden in Cormac McCarthy’s Dreams – Scott Beauchamp at Church Life Journal. 




Worldview: Put Your Heart Into It – Hugh Whelchel at the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics.


Hezekiah’s Tunnel: Not Straight, But True – Clint Archer at The Cripplegate.


Constantine’s Foil: How Peace in Rome Led to Persecution in Persia – Donald Fairbairn at Desiring God. This is a subject I was completely unfamiliar with. We know that Christians were persecuted regionally and locally until the empire-wide persecutions of the late 200s, but it also happened in Persia. 


These Are the Top Christian-Themed Movies of the Century and ‘Sound of Freedom’ Reveals Rising Power of Jesus in Hollywood – Paul Bond at Newsweek


Life and Culture


Beyond Barbie and the Bomb: It’s time for religion-beat pros to prepare for #BarbAslan – Terry Mattingly at Get Religion. From the patriarchy to Aslan: The director of the movie Barbie has been contracted by Netflix to direct two Narnia films. 


American Stuff


The Indomitable Mrs. Bell – Michael Connolly at The Imaginative Conservative. 


Richard M. Barancik, the last living Monuments Man, has died, aged 98 – Wallace Ludel at The Art Newspaper. Europe and the rest of us owe these men a deep, deep debt. They saved a considerable amount of European art from the Nazis, including from an order to destroy as the Nazi regime collapsed.


“Here Come The Boys”: Morgan’s Last Days in Kentucky – Caroline Davis at Emerging Civil War. Something the rest of us missed out on in American history classes: Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan led his Confederate troops on a raid into the Union states of Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia, a few weeks after Major Benjamin Grierson led his Union troops on a raid through Mississippi.




Ben Jonson’s “To Penshurst” – Jeffrey Hart at The Imaginative Conservative.


The Light of Gerard Manley Hopkins in the Dark Victorian World – Mitchell Kalpakgian at The Imaginative Conservative. 


News Media

The Most Embarrassing “Facebook Files” Revelation? The Press, Exposed as Censors and The New “Facebook Files” Show Everything the first Amendment Was Designed to Prevent – Matt Taibbi at Racket News.

The end of the Washington Post – Mark Judge at The Spectator. Out local newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, publishes news and op-ed articles from the Washington Post. Some days, it looks like the Washington Post has taken over the op-ed page. Increasingly, the news stories are more and more resembling opinion stories. Mark Judge calls it out, noting even Bob Woodward called the newspaper to task for accepting the Russian collusion narrative with once questioning it.


Bogoroditse Devom All-Night Vigil by Sergei Rachmaniov – MDR Rundfunkkoror

 Painting: The Ghost Story, oil on canvas by Frederick Smallfield (1829-1915)

Friday, July 28, 2023

He makes a choice

After Hebrews 11:24-27

He had a choice

to be known by

his adopted name,

his position and

title, or to embrace

his lowly, enslaved

birth, to choose

the way of ease and

wealth, or the way

of the slave, toil

and hardship and


He knew the cost.

Did he surprise

himself when he

chose the harder,

wiser way?


Photograph by Jon Tyson via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Friday Readings


On Lies and Liars: A Double (Petrarchan) Sonnet – James Tweedie at Society of Classical Poets.


Birds That Alight on Faith – poem by Claude Wilkinson at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin). 


Greek to Us: The Death of Classical Education & Its Consequences – Christian Kopff at The Imaginative Conservative. 


Thursday, July 27, 2023

"Missing in the Snow" by Ann Cleeves

British mystery writer Ann Cleeves, she of Shetland and Vera, fame, faced the kind of disaster that strikes fear into every author’s heart. She lost her laptop, which just happened to contain the only copy of her latest manuscript. Happily for Cleeves, a young woman found it – buried in snow – and turned it in.  

Cleeves did what any writer would do – she used the story as the basis for a short story. Missing in the Snow isn’t about a missing laptop; instead, it’s not the laptop that’s missing, but the author.


Jimmy Perez no longer works on Shetland. He, his wife Willow, and their young son live in Orkney, but he arrives at Lerwick in Shetland to help with a case. Nicholas Manners, a writer of thrillers, had come to Shetland for research. He’d been at his usual table in the Lerwick library and had chatted with the librarian. And then he was gone. The librarian assumed he’d gone to where he was staying. 


When a friend who’d invited the author for drinks gets concerned when her guest is a no-show, she checks his house. The door is unlocked, the mobile phone and laptop are there, but there’s no author. The thriller writer is truly missing – and it’s been snowing.


Ann Cleeves

Cleeves has published eight mysteries in the Jimmy Perez / Shetland series, including Raven Black (2008), Red Bones (2009), White Nights (2010), Blue Lightning (2011), Dead Water (2014), Thin Air (2015), Cold Earth (2017), and Wild Fire (2019). She’s also published nine mystery novels in the Vera Stanhope series (also a television series), six Inspector Stephen Ramsay mysteries, and several others works and short stories. The Jimmy Perez novels are the basis for the BBC television series “Shetland.” Cleeves lives in northeastern England.


The best part of Missing in the Snow is to find out what Jimmy Perez, Tosh, and Sandy have been up to since the final Shetland novel. And perhaps Cleeves can be encouraged to develop a new story in the series.


Note: Missing in the Snow was offered by Cleeves’ publisher as an inducement to sign up for her newsletter. It’s not yet available through the regular book distribution channels. 




Shetland author’s lost laptop with draft of next novel found in snow – Lucinda Cameron at The Scotsman.


The Long Call by Ann Cleeves.


The Woman on the Island by Ann Cleeves


My review of Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves.


My review of Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves.


My review of Red Bones by Ann Cleeves.


My review of Raven Black by Ann Cleeves.


My review of White Nights by Ann Cleeves.


My review of Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves


My review of Dead Water by Ann Cleeves.


My review of Thin Air by Ann Cleeves.

Some Thursday Readings


Revolve – poem by Sanjeev Sethi at East Ridge Review.


Hunter Biden and the ‘Deep State’ – Eli Lake at The Free Press.


Swan Upping Season – Spitalfields Life. 


What’s in a Name? Solving the Mystery of an Italian Confederate – Joseph Casino at Emerging Civil War.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

My Enchantment with (Addiction to?) the Civil War

My enchantment with, or addiction to reading about, the Civil War has deep roots that go back to early childhood. And it came through both sides of my family. 

From my mother came the romance. If you had asked her, at any time of her life, what her favorite movie was, you would have received the consistent answer of Gone with the Wind. She was 16 when she first saw the movie. I don’t know how many times she watched it, especially after it became a regular staple of television. But the story of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, set against the backdrop of the Civil War and its aftermath, captured my mother’s romantic heart.


The novel by Margaret Mitchell won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. The movie passed into American film legend, and my mother knew all the details, like how the directors searched long and hard for an actress to play Scarlett. Filming had started (like with the scene depicting the burning of Atlanta) when they finally decided on Vivien Leigh. And my mother adored Clark Gable, talking about him long after his death in 1960.

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

Some Wednesday Readings


Remembering the Old Ones – Brian Miller at A South Roane Agrarian. 


Shrouded Veterans: Col. Ignatz Kappner – Frank Jastrzembski at Emerging Civil War. 


Historic Shots at the End and the Beginning – Sarah Kay Bierle at Emerging Civil War.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Poets and Poems: Thomas Kinsella and "Last Poems"

I would like to say I read this somewhere, but I didn’t. The kinds of things, and questions, you’re interested in change as you age. When you’re a young adult, life is about, well, life – dating, marriage, family, and career, and not necessarily in that order. When you older, you discover the pleasures of an art museum, and learning what Monet was trying to say with Water Lilies and what that Hellenistic statue called Running Artemis looked like with a head and limbs; tracing the family genealogy to discover whether or not your great- or great-great-grandfather really fought in the Civil War; and discovering the joy you have with grandchildren that you never had with your own children (all the pressure if off).  

It's a natural thing, I suppose. The concerns of youth aren’t the concerns of old age.


I was reminded of this when I read Last Poems by the Irish poet Thomas Kinsella (1928-2021). The collection was published this year; it’s comprised of the poems of five chapbooks published between 2006 and 2011, along with a selection of new (unpublished) poems, poem fragments, and revised poems Kinsella wrote before his death in 2021. 

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Some Tuesday Readings


Not taken – poem by Kathryn Lasseter at East Ridge Review.


The Unique Challenges of Translating The Brothers Karamazov into English – Michael Katz at Literary Hub.


The Value of Bespoke Worship Songs – Tim Briggs at The Rabbit Room.


Three Love Poems (Sonnets) – Evan Mantyk at Society of Classical Poets.

Monday, July 24, 2023

"Immortalised to Death" by Lyn Squire

June 9, 1870: The great British writer Charles Dickens suffers a stroke and dies in his study at Gads Hill Place in Kent. He’d been working on the next installment of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which now, alas, will remain forever unfinished. 


Dunston Burnett, a retired accountant and distant relative of the writer, arrives to pay a visit, not knowing Dickens is dead. He’s greeted by a tearful Georgina Hogarth, Dickens’ sister-in-law who serves as housekeeper and general factotum. The doctor arrives to certify the death, and immediately pronounces it was death by strychnine poisoning. 



That is the premise underlying the novel Immortalised to Death by Lyn Squire. It may sound farfetched, but when you read this story, it seems perfectly plausible that Charles Dickens was murdered. While the doctor is determined to report his findings, Georgina and Dunston prevail upon him to hold off for a month while Dunston, with the help of Archibald Line, Scotland Yard’s Chief of Detectives, set out to determine what happened – and who did it. 

What they discover is that the answers lie in the writer’s past, and they unexpectedly also lie in the manuscript of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Dickens didn’t intend to be murdered, of course, but, as he tended to do, he often drew his fictional narratives from real people and events. What helps the investigation is that Burnett knows the writer’s novels, and how Dickens often included an unexpected twist at the end. 

Lyn Squire

Burnett and Georgina know that they if they solve the Edwin Drood mystery, they will likely solve the murder of Dickens himself. And that’s the task Burnett sets for himself, tracking down leads across London. 

Squire knows his Dickens. The solution offered for the Drood mystery is ingenious and fully in keeping with the great writer’s style and imagination. And Squire adroitly uses the facts (and some of the rumors) of Dickens’ life. The reader is pulled into solving the mystery alongside the professional policeman and the amateur sleuths. And it’s great fun. Even better, it’s envisioned to be the first of a Dunston Burnett trilogy. 

Squire spent 25 years at the Work Bank, where he published numerous articles and books on international development and poverty. He also served as editor of the Middle East Development Journal and was the founding president of the Global Development Network, which supports promising scholars from the developing world. He was attracted to writing mysteries by developing a solution to Drood, which he incorporated into Immortalised to Death. Born in Cardiff, Wales, he is now an American citizen and lives in Virginia.  

If you’re a fan of Dickens, 19th century Victorian fiction, or historical mysteries in general, then Immortalised to Deathoffers a great read.  

(Note: The novel is scheduled for publication on Sept. 26; it can be pre-ordered on the Amazon link.)


Some Monday Readings


The Autism Surge: Lies, Conspiracies, and My Own Kids – Jill Escher at The Free Press.  

John Leighton’s Cries of London – Spitalfields Life. 

Poetry Prompt: Courage to Follow - Callie Feyen at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Backward and forward

After Hebrews 11:22 and Genesis 50:15-26

He looks backward

and forward, there 

at the end of his life.

It is important

to remind his family

and the people from

where they came. He’d

arrived a slave; he became

a near-king, wielding

unimaginable power.

The refuge would become

a prison; they’d slip

into slavery, quietly,

until freedom arrived. He

reminds them, when they’d

leave, to take his bones

with them, to be buried

in the land promised.


Photograph by ccd20 via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Sunday Readings


A Selection of New Songs for Christians – Tim Challies.


Live for Days You Will Not See – Scott Hubbard at Desiring God.


Just a glimpse – poem by Joy Lenton at Poetry Joy.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - July 22, 2023


Matt Taibbi, Michal Shellenberger, and several others, who used to be journalists at what we call the national news media or mainstream media, have been doing independent journalism for some time – the kind of journalism that used to be common in the United States. Taibbi and Shellenberger were two of those involved in reporting on the Twitter files, which showed the U.S. government was not above attempting to censor any and all who disagreed with it (especially on the subject on the Hunter Biden laptop, which turned out not to be Russian disinformation, despite the FBI’s best efforts to convince us otherwise). 


These journalists were able to obtain the transcripts from an ongoing chat session held in 2020 between the four scientists who were assessing the origin of COVID-19 for what would be deemed the definitive study. Their initial conclusions pointed to the escape of an engineered virus from the Wuhan lab in China, but they quickly discovered that Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and even Nature Magazine were frowning on that, believing it would lend credence to wild conspiracy theories. So, the four scientists in their chat room fretted, worried, discussed, commiserated – and ultimately gave Collins and Fauci what they wanted. Follow the science!


·      New Covid Documents Reveal Unparalleled Media Deception.

·      “In Their Labs”: Fifteen Illuminating Passages in the Proximal Origin Chats and Emails.

·      Covid’s Origins and the Death of Trust.

·      “The Guy Isn’t Totally Wrong”: The Curious Case of Covid-19 Scientists and Senator Tom Cotton.


And if you think The New York Times doesn’t try to right the record, it published a story headlined “A Positive Covid Milestone.” Down in the 17th paragraph of the story, you’ll discover that COVID deaths were over-calculated by about 30 percent. When I was in journalism school, we called that burying the lede. And my journalism teacher would have awarded me an automatic F for doing it.


Life and Culture


Ambiguity and Belonging in Oklahoma – Benjamin Myers at Front Porch Republic. 


Digital IDs are coming and they’re worse than you think – Ricky at Council Estate Media. This is a report about the UK, but don’t think the lessons are being lost in the US. China, apparently, has much to teach us.


In 2018, Martin Gurri published The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium, which goes a long way in explaining why no one trusts institutions any more. At City Journal, he’s writing about one of the most curious developments of 21st century American culture: How the establishment Left, once such a champion of freedom of speech (think ACLU), has now embraced government control of digital speech.


In Defense of Libraries – Philip Bunn at The London Lyceum.


A good movie gets smeared – Bethel McGrew at World Magazine.




Man Cannot Live on Feeds Alone – Trevin Wax at Desiring God.


14 Lesser-Known Details about J.I. Packer – Leland Ryken at Crossway.


The Local Church We All Need – Lara d’Entremont.


How Were the Books of the Bible “Chosen”? – Michael Kruger at Canon Fodder.




Poem Found: New Orleans, September 2005 – Martha Serpas at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


Good Friday, Revisiting Glamis – James Sale at Society of Classical Poets.




Arms – Sonja Benskin Mesher.


American Stuff


One of the best Thanksgiving memories my family has is the time (about 1992) we went to Lake of the Ozarks for what was an exceptionally cold holiday. We stayed at Lodge of the Four Seasons (no connection to the Four Seasons hotel chain), enjoyed a lavish Thanksgiving buffet, swam in a heated pool, competed in bowling, took walks, and enjoyed a movie in the lodge’s theater (well, my wife and oldest son enjoyed the movie; the younger son and I found something else to do, as he was not yet a fan of movie theaters). The Lake of the Ozarks has developed in a major way since then; it gained national fame (infamy?) on Memorial Day 2020, when tens of thousands crowded in for the holiday as the country was locked down for COVID (the number of cases that resulted: 2). Max Meyer at The Free Press went to the lake, and he says “Welcome to the MAGA Hamptons.”


“What these heroic souls of the 5th Regiment began, we must complete”: Booker T. Washington’s Address – Sarah Kay Bierle at Emerging Civil War.


The Chicago Mob Vs. the World’s Fair – Anika Scott at CrimeReads. 


Writing and Literature


Blood Meridian is Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece – Aaron Gwyn at The Spectator.


British Stuff


Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Churches – Spitalfields Life. 


Whole Lotta Love vs. Beethoven 5th Symphony – 2 Cellos

Painting: Forbidden Literature, oil on canvas by 
Felix-Henri Giacomotti (1828-1909)

Friday, July 21, 2023

A generations thing

After Hebrews 11:17-22

It threads its way

through generations,

this thing called faith,

expressed in different

ways but passed through

nonetheless. It may be

the willingness to sacrifice.

It may be including all

of one’s children. It

may be helping 

your grandchildren. It

may be how one is

buried and giving

credit when its due

for blessing and

deliverance. But

down through

the generations it

flows, a blessing

of grace not to be

rejected, not to be

ridiculed, not to be

disregarded, but to be

nurtured and grown.


Photograph by Liane Metzler via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Friday Readings


A Birthday Prayer – Jonathan Shoulta at Society of Classical Poets.


John Dryden: The Politics of Style – Jeffrey Hart at The Imaginative Conservative.


Playing in Power – Seth Lewis.