Thursday, November 30, 2023

"Death on the Lake" by Jo Allen

Twin 18-year-old boys awaken on a sailboat in a lake in Cumbria. They’ve had something of a drunken, drugged spree with a girl working at a local marina. When they can’t find the girl, they look overboard. And there her body is, floating beneath the surface. Their response: avoid the wrath of their father and hide the body. 

The body is eventually found, and it looks to the police and everyone else concerned that it’s an accidental drowning. That is, except for the girl’s clothes folded neatly and hidden from view. Would a drunken girl actually do that, when she was known for keeping a messy room?


Jo Allen

There’s a second death that looks natural or accidental, but Detective Chief Inspector Jude Satterthwaite isn’t convinced. And then there’s an outright murder. Everything seems to point in the direction of the 18-year-old twins’ family, but Satterthwaite is stopped by his book. It seems the paterfamilias is being investigated for financial fraud, and nothing can be done to alarm the man or make his suspicious.


Death on the Lake is the fifth DCI Jude Satterthwaite mystery novel by British author Jo Allen. Full of unexpected twists and turns, the story moves rapidly to a rather dramatic conclusion. Allen also does a nice job of interweaving the main characters personal stories (that is, love lives) into the major movement of the novel.


Allen is a native of Wolverhampton, England, and has graduate and postgraduate degrees in geography and earth science. After a career as an economic consultant, she began writing short stories, romance, and romantic suspense under the pen name of Jennifer Young. She began writing the DCI Satterthwaite crime novels in 2017.  




Death by Dark Waters by Jo Allen.


Death at Eden’s End by Jo Allen


Death on Coffin Lane by Jo Allen.


Death at Rainbow Cottage by Jo Allen.

Some Thursday Readings


Tiny Acts of Analog Resistance – Seth Haines at Life Examined. 


The repaganization of the West – Ed West at Wrong Side of History.

Le Republique’s Last, Best Hope – Christophe Guilluy at The Free Press.


Light and Shadows at Franklin Battlefield – Chris Heisey at Emerging Civil War.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

"John Ransom's Andersonville Diary"

Much like the Civil War itself, accounts of prison camps can seem at opposite ends of the spectrum. Some, like Camp Douglas in Chicago, are as obscure as the physical sites themselves, buried under city development. Andersonville, the camp for Union POWs in Sumter County, Georgia, has had the most notorious reputation of any camp during the conflict. And yet some Union prisoners, like James Madison Page, reported a very different experience.  

The facts are stark. Over the 13 months of its existence, some 45,000 Union soldiers were imprisoned there, and 13,000 died.  

John Ransom, an acting quartermaster sergeant for the 9th Michigan Cavalry, was captured on Nov. 6, 1863, in east Tennessee. He was first sent to Belle Island, an island in the James River adjacent to Richmond, then to a tobacco warehouse building in Richmond itself, and finally by train to Andersonville. He survived the experience, but only barely. In 1881, he published Andersonville Diary, a memoir of his experiences, using the almost daily journal he kept as the basis.

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

Some Wednesday Readings


Jewish Soldiers in the Civil War: The Union Army by Adam Mendelsohn – book review by Mike Smith at The Detroit Jewish News. 


Check out Paul Lynch’s reaction to winning the Booker Prize – Dan Sheehan at Literary Hub.


‘Mathematization yet!’ Why Exec Comms Pros Don’t Like to Measure (and Why I Don’t Blame Them a Bit – David Murray at Writing Boots.


The Nights of Old London – Spitalfields Life.

Poems to Listen To: Earth Song - 2: A Meeting -- Laurie Klein at Tweetspeak Poetry (for Patreon subscribers). 

Horseshoe Bend, a Dark Teesside short story by Glenn McGoldrick, is free on Amazon Kindle today and tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

"The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson

“X” marks the spot. Pirates hunting for buried treasure. Parrots perched on the shoulders of pirates. Treasure maps.  

It all came from a single source.


In 1883, Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson published The Sea Cook: A Story for Boys. It has been first serialized in 1881 and 1882 in a children’s magazine, Young Folks, under another title – Treasure Island, or the Mutiny of the Hispaniola. It was under the title Treasure Island that the novel became what may be the most adapted book of all times, inspiring films, radio programs, comic books, television series, theater plays, musical compositions, and even video games.


It was the first book by Stevenson I read, about age 10. Not long after, I read his 1883 novel The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses, his adventure (and romance) story of the War of the Roses. I recall reading it three times; I found it far more compelling that Treasure Island.


If I read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), I’ve forgotten when it was. It’s become so much of the general culture that it’s difficult to know if I read it or saw the movie(s) a dozen times. I read the edition just published by T.S. Poetry Press, illustrated by Sara Barkat, and it surprised me. It’s not the story of the stark contrast of the good and evil in all of us, or the dangers of scientific experiments. 

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

Some Tuesday Readings


Poetry book – poem and artwork by Sonja Benskin Mesher.


T.S. Eliot and the Fight to Recover What Has Been Lost – Douglas Murray at The Free Press.


The enormous humility of C.S. Lewis – A.N. Wilson at The Spectator.

Monday, November 27, 2023

"The Genius of Israel" by Dan Senor and Saul Singer

Before the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel on Oct 7, the major news from Israel seemed to be the massive protests within Israel against the government’s plan to reduce the power of the Supreme Court. What was missing from the stories was the reason the Netanyahu government wanted to change the court.  

I found the answer in The Genius of Israel: The Surprising Resilience of a Divided Nation in a Turbulent World by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. Israel does not have a constitution. In 1995, Israel’s High Court of Justice declared that the court had the power to strike down ordinary statutes that the court determines are in conflict with what is known as the Basic Law. Essentially, the court decided, on its own, that the Basic Law was Israel’s constitution, even if no one, including Israel’s Knesset, had ever previously determined that.


The Netanyahu government determined to change what it saw as the court’s overreach (imagine courts legislating in America!). A lot of people liked what the High Court had done, especially in overriding other laws that couldn’t be passed by the legislature. Protests and riots were the result.


Dan Senor

To read American newspapers, what is going on is a power grab by the Netanyahu government. The cause, the original overreach by the courts, is conveniently omitted. Like everything else these days, the media report a narrative instead of the news.


This is why books like The Genius of Israel are important. The discussion about the court is a small part of the overall book. The main theme of the book is how has Israel, a country in which no two Israelis ever seem to agree on anything, managed to pull off what it has – economically, militarily, socially, and culturally. The answer lies in the Israeli character, and the authors make a convincing case.


Senor and Singer tell stories, give examples, and show data. From that, they reflect on how these things have happened – everything from winning a competition to land a spaceship on the moon, move it 500 meters, and take pictures to how two orthodox Israelis, exempt from military service and other group-building programs, became tech entrepreneurs. It delves into Israeli history, noting that Israelis were disagreeing with each other from the beginning (in 1948, the new nation was not only fighting for its life against all the Arab nations around it, Israelis were also fighting and often killing each other). Despite the internal conflicts and differences, As the title indicates, Israel does have a particular kind of genius, one marked by hevre, or the group a person is part of, and gibush, how people are brought together to deepen the bond between them. 


Saul Singer

The Hamas attack did one thing that Israelis often seem incapable of doing on their own, and that was to unify the country. It created both a national hevre and a national gibush.


Previously, the two authors published Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle. Senor is a former U.S. Defense Department official based in Baghdad and Qatar; a columnist for such newspapers at the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post; and currently a media communications and public policy executive at a global investment firm. Singer is a former editor and columnist at the Jerusalem Post; advisor to U.S. members of Congress; and a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and other publications.


The Genius of Israel is a timely book. Published Nov. 7, it doesn’t address the Oct. 7 attack. But it goes a long way to explaining why and how Israel will respond. Enemies underestimate Israel at their peril.


Some Monday Readings


Was this the America our veterans fought for? In one elementary school, yes – will Bardenwerper at The Pittsburgh Gazette.


Business Musings: All Good Things – Kristine Kathryn Rusch says goodbye to her writing / publishing blog.


‘The Exorcist’ at 50 – If demons are real, what about angels? What about an eternal soul? – Terry Mattingly at Get Religion. 

Poetry Prompt: Abstract Poetry -- Tweetspeak Poetery. 

Sunday, November 26, 2023

The unexpected

After I Samuel 16:1-13

The choice is made,

the anointed is chosen,

and one by one

the sons pass by.

This one, surely, he

thinks. Of course, it

most be this one. No?

Then it must be

this other one. One

by one, seven sons

pass by. One by one,

sevens sons are

rejected. Do you have

any others, he asks.

Only the youngest,

the one in the hills

tending the sheep.

The boy is summoned;

the boy is chosen and

anointed. The prophet 

shakes his head: 

the ways of the Lord

are not the ways

of man.


Photograph by Pawan Sharma via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Sunday Readings


Man of War and Grace: The Greatest of Israel’s Kings – David Mathis at Desiring God.


12 Phrases Shakespeare Coined That We Still Use Today – Inspiring Quotes.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - Nov. 25, 2023

It was another wild week in the story of Israel and the Palestinians. After Osama bin Laden’s “Message to America” went viral online, The Guardian removed it from its web site and even Tik Tok took down the posts while denying it gone viral. (Tik Tok is looking over its shoulder at the U.S. Senate, and with good reason). Meanwhile, the reporter at The Los Angeles Times who signed a protest letter over how the paper was covering the war found themselves banned from doing any stories on it for three months. 

If you’re wondering why the Global Left is marching for Palestine, Jeffrey Herf at American Purpose explains that Hamas revised its charter in 2017 – and when it did, it tapped into the narratives of the Left. That also partially explains what happened on American college campuses, including attacks on and threats against Jewish students. As Roger Kimball at The Spectator writes, the cheerleading for Hamas has provided a rather shattering moment of moral clarity


When Disney dropped The Sound of Freedom movie (rescuing children from sex trafficking isn’t Disney’s thing), it likely didn’t expect that its rejection would lead to a $200 million success story. But it did. Like everything else, the movie became a football in the culture wars (surprise). Considering the movie and others, Robert Jackman at The Spectator takes a look at 2023’s rise in Christian cinema


More Good Reads


Writing and Literature


The Stories of William Faulkner: Mississippi’s Talebearer – review by James Campbell at The Wall Street Journal.


Shouldering the Burden of Belief: Reviewing Shusaku Endo’s Historical Novels ‘Silence’ and ‘The Samurai’ – Joel Miller at Miller’s Book Review.


José Donoso Saw the Future of the Latin American Boom – Zachary Issenberg at The Millions.


Lessons on Limiting Liberty from Hannah and Burley Coulter – Isaac Wood at Front Porch Republic




Things Worth Remembering: The Solitary Lines That Stick – Douglas Murray at The Free Press.


A Guide to Finally Understanding T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (Audio Lecture) – Andy Patton at The Rabbit Room. 


Tywyn – poem and photograph by Sonja Benskin Mesher.


How the Poet John Milton Responded When He Blind in His 40s – Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition.


Life and Culture


Modern world knows how to hoard lots of ‘stuff,’ but struggles with the higher virtues – Terry Mattingly at Get Religion.


When Things Fall Apart – Martin Gurri at The Free Press.


News Media


US lost more than two local newspapers a week this year, new Medill report finds – Angela Fu at Poynter.




Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s conversion from Islam to Christianity: Such a big story, so little coverage – Julia Duin at Get Religion.


Finding a Bigger Story – Isabel Quinlan at Seth Lewis.


Karl Marx Has Won the Culture, But He Will Not Win the War – Jim Hamilton at Eikon / The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.




Morris Goldstein, the Lost Whitechapel Boy – Spitalfields Life.


American Stuff


Battlefielding with Family – Sherritta Bitikofer at Emerging Civil War.


A Change in the Air – The Piano Guys

 Painting: Nouvelle de labsent, oil on canvas by Alfred Stevens (1823-1906).

Friday, November 24, 2023

All changes

After I Samuel 16:1-13

It seems that all

is well, a surface

of calm and continuity.

But all is changed;

the light has passed

from one to another.

The prophet is told

to go to a new one,

newly anointed,

a mission fraught

with fear, fraught

with uncertainty.

But he goes, down

to Bethlehem,

the city where

it will all begin,

the anointing and

ushering in of

a new king. When 

this prophet is

tasked, this prophet



Photograph by Niklas Ohlrigge via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Friday Readings


The Hand – poem by Marly Youmans at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


4 Aspects of Being Made in God’s Image – D. Eaton at Fight of Faith.


Reversing Babel – poem by Cynthia Erlandson at Society of Classical Poets.


Lewis the Prophet – Rhys Laverty at The Critic Magazine.


Thomas Onwhyn’s London – Spitalfields Life.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

"Murder Never Misses" by Faith Martin

I’ve discovered I don’t like stalker novels, even when they’re well-written and gripping.  

Murder Never Misses, the 14th novel in the DI Hillary Greene series by British author Faith Martin, is the third in a row with a substantive stalker sub-theme. We know who the stalker is – a policeman working in Greene’s own Oxford / Kidlington police station. And we know who the victim is – Greene herself. We also know that he has stalked before, and he likes to visit a nearby woods and talk with “his girls.”


Narrowly escaping a serious injury at the hands of the stalker in the previous story, Greene convinces her superintendent to allow her to investigate the cold cases of three missing women, while another officer investigates her stalker case. It’s a dicey request – they know the same stalker was involved in the earlier disappearances.


As the investigations get underway, a college student assigned to Greene’s team is unknowingly feeding details about the cases to the stalker himself, and Greene and her colleagues are finding themselves outguessed at every turn. All the time the tension is mounting.


Faith Martin

Murder Never Misses
 is the kind of story you can’t read in one sitting with a experiencing a serious case of high blood pressure. Better to set it down for a time while you recover.


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.


This installment of the Hillary Greene books will keep you on the edge of your seat, even with frequent breaks. My advice: read it, but make a point of not reading it before falling asleep. 




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.


Murder at Home by Faith Martin.


Murder in the Meadow by Faith Martin.


Murder in the Mansion by Faith Martin.


Murder by Fire by Faith Martin.


Murder at Work by Faith Martin.


Murder Never Retires by Faith Martin.


Murder of a Lover by Faith Martin.


Some Thursday Readings


The Practice and Place of Thanksgiving – Robb Brunansky at The Cripplegate.


2023: Ten Reasons I’m Thankful This Week – Brian Miller at A South Roane Agrarian.


A Thanksgiving to Remember – Jacob Gerber at The Imaginative Conservative.


Civil War Cooking: “What do you call this stuff, anyhow?” – Sarah Kay Bierle at Emerging Civil War.

Thanksgiving: a sonnet -- Malcolm Guite.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

"Shiloh" by Shelby Foote

Shelby Foote (1916-2005) was a journalist, writer, and historian best known for his three-volume The Civil War: A Narrative, published between 1958 and 1974. His writings about the war and the South generally tilted in the direction of the Lost Cause, which means he’s as far out of favor with historians today as he can be. And yet his scholarship and depth of research were impressive. 

Foote also wrote six novels, one of which was entitled Shiloh, published in 1952. As the title indicates, it was about the Battle of Shiloh, fought April 6-7, 1862, in southern Tennessee very close to the Mississippi border. It was something of a seesaw battle, in that the Confederates under Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard clearly won the first day, only to see their victory turned into defeat the second day by the Union forces under Ulysses Grant and Don Carlos Buell. There were some 24,000 casualties, the total of both sides, and Shiloh has the dubious distinction of being one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

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

Some Wednesday Readings


Final Resting Places: Reflections on the Meaning of Civil War Graves – book review by Tim Talbott at Emerging Civil War.


‘I am very uneasy to know if my husband is alive or dead’: Memorial highlights Irish in US civil war – Sen O’Riordan at Irish Examiner.


Don’t Burn Down the Ivory Towers – Joshua Katz at The Free Press.


The Return of the Progressive Atrocity – Susie Linfield at Quillette. 


MeToo unless you’re a Jew – Nicole Lampert at UnHerd. 

C.S. Lewis: A Sonnet -- Malcolm Guite.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

"The Book in the Cathedral" by Christopher de Hamel

It’s a small book about a significant topic. 

Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170 by underlings of King Henry II. The archbishop, once a close confidante of the king, had shown himself stubbornly a man of the church once Henry had named him archbishop. He was struck down in a side chapel of Canterbury Cathedral on Dec. 29.


Becket became an instant martyr, and three later he was made a saint. For hundreds of years, Christians made their way to the martyr’s shrine, like the fictional pilgrims in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. For many years, a number of relics were associated with the saint. Some were real, and some were undoubtedly invented for the pilgrims (and their coins). 


Also associated was Becket’s library, a list of whose contents could be found in the 14th century library catalogue of Canterbury Cathedral Priory. A few of the books had eventually made their way into the hands of British university libraries and private collectors. The disposition of Becket’s most treasured book, a psalter, was unknown. It was likely in his hands when he was struck down with a sword.


With an impressive bit of detective work, Christopher de Hamel tracked it down. The psalter still existed, and it was almost hiding in plain sight. He tells the story and its context in The Book in the Cathedral: The Last Relic of Thomas Becket


Christopher de Hamel

De Hamel does more than explain the find. He succinctly (the book is all of 58 pages, including index) describes how an object came to be considered a relic, the story of Becket’s martyrdom, the known contents of the man’s library, and how, over the course of a lunch with a Biblical historian in Cambridge, realized that a particular book was Becket’s long-lost psalter. It’s a fascinating story, well and concisely told. 


A fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, de Hamel (born 1950) is a librarian and expert on medieval manuscripts. He received the Duff Cooper Prize and the Wolfson History Prize for his book Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts. Before his university career, he worked for Sotheby’s Western Manuscripts Department. He’s published numerous books and studies on manuscripts, and he’s formed a manuscript collection under his own name at Cambridge. 


The Book in the Cathedral is a fascinating tale of detective scholarship around one of the major saints of the medieval church in England. 




The Relics of Thomas Becket by John Butler.


Augustine of Canterbury by Robin Macintosh


Some Tuesday Readings


November Poem a Day 2023, Week 3 – Kelly Belmonte at All Nine.


Aedmund of England – Paul Kingsnorth at The Abbey of Misrule.


How to Win the Fight for America – Katherine Boyle at The Free Press.

Monday, November 20, 2023

"Kayaking with Lambs" by Brian Miller

I grew up in a rather stereotyped suburb of New Orleans. Except for residents' last names, which reflected the post-World War II migration out from the city center, it could have been a suburb in Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, or any other American city. Suburban kids learned early that food came from grocery stores and supermarkets. An uncle had a small farm across Lake Pontchartrain, and we visited a time or two. There’s even a picture of five-year-old me on a horse to prove it. 

Decades later, I found myself working for a company in the agriculture business. I had one the best jobs imaginable – I gave money away. For years I traveled back and forth across the country, funding programs for wheat growers, corn growers, soybean producers, farm youth, farm broadcasters, and more. I’d visit farms, tour grower associations, and visit research centers. And I’d attend their conventions – in Nashville, Des Moines, Reno, Denver, San Diego, Orlando, Phoenix, and more. Once I was even forced to spend a week – on business – in Honolulu.


I was a latecomer to agriculture and farming, but once I was in it, I learned that farming is something for life. Even when you retire from it, you still pay attention.


Brian Miller came to agriculture considerably earlier. I found his blog, A South Roane Agrarian, through a site called Front Porch Republic. Miller posts weekly about weather, raising cattle, sheep, and pigs, weather, farm life, neighbors, weather, crops, life in rural East Tennessee, family (he’s a southwest Louisiana boy), weather, and more. Oh, did I mention weather? (No one in the planet is more concerned about weather than a farmer. That’s true for every culture, climate, and continent.)


The book arm of Front Porch Republic has published Miller’s first book, Kayaking with Lambs: Notes from an East Tennessee Farmer. The title is based on a true story. Yes, it may not be the most expected of activities on a farm, but kayaking with a lamb can happen, not unlike the Biblical story of leaving the 99 and searching for the one lost sheep. Except in a kayak. 


Brian Miller

Miller’s farm is not Big Agriculture. It’s diverse, not monoculture. It’s him, his partner Cynthia, and (usually) one of the neighbor’s farm kids. And, as he points out, there’s a huge difference between a farm kid and a kid raised on a farm. If you get a choice, always, always hire the farm kid. That’s the one with the work ethic.  


With Kayaking with Lambs, what you walk into is a world animated by the values of family, faith, neighborliness, caring for the land, and respect. These aren’t the values of contemporary culture; they are the values the culture has forgotten and for which we’re already paying a tremendous price.


There is a structural emphasis upon the sacredness of the life Miller is describing. The book is organized by eight of the monastic offices of the day, combining Vigil and Matins under Matins. Without ever becoming overtly religious, that organization tells you much about the thought animating each entry in the book. There is a time to be watchful, to pray, to work (and work hard), to rest, to celebrate, to mourn, and to cherish. This is a sacred business to be about.


Miller doesn’t romanticize farm life; it’s extremely hard, physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing labor. But it’s the life he’s chosen, the life he lives, and the life he obviously enjoys. Even with the freezing nights when you find your arm inside a ewe struggling to give birth. 


Since 1999, Miller and his partner Cindy operate Winged Elm Farm in eastern Tennessee, supplying pork, ham, mutton, and beef to customers in Knoxville and Chattanooga. And he updates his blog weekly (I subscribe to it, so I had some idea of what this first book of his would be like). 


Kayaking with Lambs is already one of my top five favorite books of the year. It’s written with humility and self-understanding, and with a deep love of the land and the work that’s organized upon it. It’s also written with a strong sense of dry wit; I found myself often smiling and occasionally laughing out loud as I read it.


Some Monday Readings


The people who ruined the internet – Amanda Chicago Lewis at The Verge.


John Thomas Smith’s Rural Cottages – Spitalfields Life.


A Blank Page – poem by Jerry Barrett at Gerald the Writer.


Employers are fed up with college ‘waste,’ opt for skilled blue-collar workers instead – Taylor Penley at Fox News Business.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

The image holds

After Colossians 1:15-20

He is the image,

invisible, image

of the invisible,

firstborn, creator,

creator of all things,

not only the physical

but also the invisible

yet real – thrones,

dominions, rulers,

authority, government,

all of it. He came first,

and all of it holds 

together because 

of him. In him

the fullness dwells.

Through him, all

things are reconciled.

Even death could

not hold him,

cannot hold him.


Photograph by Ken Cheung via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Sunday Readings


As the High One, Yah, in the Gentle Winds of Eden – poem by Graham Perdun at Sabbath Empire.


2023 Natural Landscape Photography Awards.


Taking It Slow – Glenn McCarty at Story Warren on writing.


Order and Beauty: A Little Theology of Christian Writing – Greg Morse at Desiring God.