‘Well of the Winds,’ by Denzil Meyrick

Well of the Winds

This is more like it. I was disappointed with Denzil Meyrick’s previous DCI Jim Daley novel, The Rat Stone Serenade (reviewed a little south of here). But Well of the Winds is (to my taste) a much better novel, showcasing the strengths of this engaging police series.

On the island of Gairsay, near Daley’s town of Kinloch, a Jewish family has lived for years. They came as refugees during World War II, and settled well into community life. But one day the mailman arrives to find them all vanished. Shortly afterward the body of the oldest of them, the grandmother, is found washed up on a beach in Ireland.

When Jim’s sergeant Brian Scott goes to investigate, he discovers a hidden cellar under the house – concealing a trove of old documents in German, apparently Nazi in orientation. Who were these people, really?

Although Special Branch and MI6 rush in to take over the investigation, Jim’s new superior, Superintendent Carrie Symington, insists that they carry on their own inquiries, in secret. Jim himself is contacted by a mysterious stranger, who gives him an old journal dating back to 1945. It was written by one of Jim’s predecessors in Kinloch, a detective named Urquhart who disappeared mysteriously in the wake of an unsolved murder. As Jim studies the journal, old secrets come to light.

Unlike the overblown and overcolored previous book in the series, Well of the Winds keeps the story smaller, simpler, and more local, as well as more character-driven. I liked it a lot, right up to the end, which was somewhat frustrating – but probably on purpose, to prime us for the next installment. Some skepticism about the European Union seems to be in evidence here, which doesn’t lose the book any points with me.

Recommended, with the usual cautions.

R.C. Sproul Now Sees the Lord Face to Face

R.C. Sproul (1939-2017) passed away this afternoon at age 78. Go buy three or four of his books for yourself and family.

Stephen Nichols summarizes Dr. Sproul’s life in this post at Ligonier Ministries’ site.

R.C. Sproul was a theologian who served the church. He admired the Reformers not only for the content of their message, but for the way they took that message to the people. They were “battlefield theologians,” as he called them. Many first heard of the five solas of the Reformation through R.C. Sproul’s teaching.

R.C. often recalled his first encounter with the God of the Bible. As a new Christian and a freshman in college, he devoured the Bible. One thing stood out from his reading: God is a God who plays for keeps. The Psalms, the story of Uzzah, Genesis 15:17, Mary’s MagnificatLuke 16:16–17, and, of course, Isaiah 6—the drama of these texts captivated R.C. from the moment he first read them.

May the Lord bless us with 1,000 just like Dr. Sproul in our generation and the next, men and women who will lift up the cross by the power of His Spirit for the perseverance of His kingdom.

New release: ‘The Last Closet,’ by Moira Greyland

The Last Closet

Moira Greyland is the daughter of Marion Zimmer Bradley, the late best-selling feminist sci-fi and fantasy author. A while back I passed along some published revelations about the abusive sexual practices Bradley and her husband indulged in, particularly in regard to their daughter. Just today, Castalia House has released Moira’s book, The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon, in a Kindle edition.

Here’s the blurb:

Marion Zimmer Bradley was a bestselling science fiction author, a feminist icon, and was awarded the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement. She was best known for the Arthurian fiction novel THE MISTS OF AVALON and for her very popular Darkover series.

She was also a monster.

THE LAST CLOSET: The Dark Side of Avalon is a brutal tale of a harrowing childhood. It is the true story of predatory adults preying on the innocence of children without shame, guilt, or remorse. It is an eyewitness account of how high-minded utopian intellectuals, unchecked by law, tradition, religion, or morality, can create a literal Hell on Earth.

THE LAST CLOSET is also an inspiring story of survival. It is a powerful testimony to courage, to hope, and to faith. It is the story of Moira Greyland, the only daughter of Marion Zimmer Bradley and convicted child molester Walter Breen, told in her own words.

Moira Greyland is a born-again Christian today. I bought her book within minutes of its announcement. This, in my opinion, could be just the book we need at this time in history. If not, it’s a good thing to set the record straight on any day.

‘Empty Nets and Promises,’ by Denzil Meyrick

Empty Nets and Promises

Author Denzil Meyrick takes a semi-departure from his series of Jim Daley novels to conduct us back in time in the same location as those books – the picturesque Kintyre village of Kinloch, Scotland. The year is 1968, and Empty Nets and Promises offers only one of the regular cast of characters – Hamish the drunken fisherman with the second sight, a man in his prime at the time of this story.

Hamish, first mate on a fishing boat, is concerned like all his friends about the bad catches that year. Never have they taken so few herring in any man’s memory. He and his friends have a theory as to the cause – it’s the supersonic test flights coming from a nearby Air Force base. It’s Hamish himself who comes up with a “brilliant” plan to stop the tests, which involves getting a couple pilots drunk and taking them away to a remote croft so they’ll be AWOL.

Well, it makes sense to them.

But they don’t reckon with the local fisheries inspector, who suspects them of smuggling whisky, and the skipper’s wife and daughter, who suspect them of planning to play a trick on the daughter’s fiancé on the eve of the upcoming wedding.

What follows is an amusing comedy of errors that almost leads to nuclear war.

Empty Nets and Promises is a funny story, full of vivid, idiosyncratic characters and well-painted landscapes. It’s somewhere between a short story and a novella, and good value for your book-buying dollar at the price. Minor cautions for language.

‘The Rat Stone Serenade,’ by Denzil Meyrick

The Rat Stone Serenade

I’m quite enjoying Denzil Meyrick’s DCI Daley series of rural police procedurals. So I’m sorry to say that The Rat Stone Serenade was a little disappointing.

Our hero, Detective Chief Inspector Jim Daley, has decided to resign his post and leave police work altogether. It’s partly weariness after the mayhem he’s been witnessing, and partly because he’s grown desperately in love with a subordinate, Sergeant Mary Dunn (with whom he had an affair earlier), and he wants to save his shaky marriage for the sake of his baby son.

His final duty is to help with security for the Annual General Meeting of the Shannon Group, “the world’s largest corporation,” which sprang originally from an estate in a nearby town on the Kintyre Peninsula. Once a year the Shannon heirs and other corporate officers meet at the great manor house on the cliff. It’s a haunted place, cursed by a blacksmith from whom an ancestor stole the land, and by the mysterious, unsolved abduction of the heir apparent years ago, when he was a small boy.

What follows is kind of a mess, in my opinion. There are so many plots and counterplots going on, so many double-crosses, so many generational secrets to be revealed one after another, that it’s pretty much impossible to keep up. (Also there’s a convenient once-in-a-century snow storm to isolate most of the cast of characters. And a sinister ancient blood cult, in case things get dull.) I found it all pretty unconvincing.

And I didn’t care for the direction Daley’s relationship with Sergeant Mary took (although a surprise is coming there, too).

I like the series and plan to continue with it, but The Rat Stone Serenade was built a couple stories taller than building codes ought to allow.

Cautions for language and sexual situations.

‘Det lyser i stille grender’

I almost posted something about My Senator, Al Franken, tonight. But the more I thought about it, the less I had to say. In my opinion this is pretty much all political triangulation — on both sides. No actual repentance is apparent anywhere.

Christine Keeler, the “party girl” at the center of the Profumo Scandal which brought down an English Conservative government in my youth, died the other day, old and poor. I was reminded of Mark Steyn’s obituary on John Profumo, the disgraced politician in the case. Profumo gave up politics and gave his life to good works, working in soup kitchens, etc., for the rest of his life. I think we can be fairly sure Al Franken will not be doing that. Nor will Roy Moore (or, less likely, President Trump), if things should go so far.

Instead, here’s an old film clip of one of my favorite Christmas songs from Sissel — one that, for some reason, seems to have fallen off her Christmas repertoire. The song tells, very broadly, of how the light of Christmas spreads gradually over the whole earth on Christmas Eve night.

‘Authentic Christianity,’ by Gene Edward Veith and A. Trevor Sutton

Authentic Christianity

What [Reformation thought] meant in practice is that the “spiritual disciplines” moved out of the monastery into secular life. Celibacy became faithfulness in marriage. Poverty became thrift and hard work. Obedience became submission to the law. Most important, prayer, meditation, and worship – while still central to every Christian’s vocation in the Church – also moved into the family and the workplace.

What does the Church require to reclaim lost ground in the 21st Century? How can we answer postmodernism? What can unite the countless feuding – and dissolving – denominational groups into a force for reclaiming the culture? We do not lack for books offering answers to those questions. My friend Gene Edward Veith, along with co-author A. Trevor Sutton, maintains in Authentic Christianity that the perfect solution is one already in place – Lutheran theology. (I did not receive a review copy, for the record.)

The “star” of the book is a Lutheran philosopher of whom (I have to admit) I’d never heard – Johann Georg Hamann (1730-88). Goethe, we’re told, called Hamann “the brightest mind of his day.” A convert from Enlightenment thinking, Hamann deconstructed rationalism and insisted that reason was useless and destructive when separated from faith. According to the authors, he anticipated postmodernism in his critique of autonomous reason. He may, they suggest, have been the father of that linguistic analysis which so dominates modern philosophy. But for him this line of thought led, not to absurdity and despair, but to trust in Jesus Christ, His Word, and His Church.

Veith and Sutton go on to analyze the (self-destructive) thinking of the modern world, and they explain how Lutheran theology answers the inherent questions of our time and fills basic human spiritual needs.

The book works itself out as a systematic apologetic for Lutheranism, aimed at modern readers. If you’re looking for a stable church home, you could do far worse than reading this fresh and interesting book. Recommended.

‘The Heretics of St. Possenti,’ by Rolf Nelson

The Heretics of St. Possenti

Not what I expected, that was what Rolf Nelson’s The Heretics of St. Possenti was. I figured it for a military sci fi novel, set in a dystopian future. In fact it’s a utopian story of a sort, set in the present or the very near future.

By “utopian story” I mean the kind of story that proposes a major societal change and tries to demonstrate how well it will work. The books of this sort I remember best are Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, and B. F. Skinner’s Walden Two. I suppose Ayn Rand’s novels are the same sort of thing (quite close to the kind of story this is), but I’ve never read Rand.

The Heretics of St. Possenti introduces us to Bishop Thomas Cranberry, who through misadventure spends a night in jail and is then given a leave of absence by his archbishop. Intrigued by the complaints of the men he’d met in jail – who said the Church offered them nothing that was of use here and now – he decides to get to know some of these “marginal” men. In a dojo and in a bar he meets military veterans, many of them suffering from PTSD, who can find no place in the world. They encounter nothing but Catch-22s in the VA, the welfare offices, or drug treatment centers. They can’t get work with a living wage. Many are deeply in debt. Continue reading ‘The Heretics of St. Possenti,’ by Rolf Nelson

The 18th Century Habit of Reading Aloud

In The Social Life of Books, Abigail Williams, a professor of 18th-century studies at Oxford, says . . . the old tradition of reading out loud remained alive and well [during the 18th century contrary to suggestions that reading alone began trending].

She offers many good reasons for reading aloud along with some of the trends and ideas of the day, including this satirical take from  An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting:

Should he be a man of genius and should employ his leisure hours in writing; be sure to shew a tasteless indifference to every thing he shews you of his own. The lame indifference, also, may you put on, if he should be a man who loves reading, and is of so communicative a disposition, as to take delight in reading to you any of our best and most entertaining authors. If, for instance, he desires you to hear one of Shakespeare’s plays, you may give him perpetual interruptions, by sometimes going out of the room, sometimes ringing the bell to give orders for what cannot be wanted till the next day; at other times taking notice (if your children are in the room), that Molly’s cap is awry, or that Jackey looks pale ; and then begin questioning the child, whether he has done any thing to make himself sick.

(via Prufrock News)

‘Walkin’ in my Winter Underwear’

Why is this the best time of year? Because when I’m reading a long book, as I am now, I can share wonderful musical moments like this in lieu of a review. It’s a precious memory from my childhood, from a kid’s show called “Lunch With Casey,” broadcast in the Twin Cities in the 1960s. I’ve shared it before, but I’m doing it again because I know how much it means to you.

‘The Awful Truth About Forgetting,’ by L. Jagi Lamplighter

The Awful Truth About Forgetting

I’ll confess right here that I feel a little embarrassed following a Christian Young Adult fantasy series starring a girl character. But the Rachel Griffin series is delightful, rewarding, and uplifting. The Awful Truth About Forgetting is just as good as its predecessors.

In this episode, Rachel returns to the Roanoke Academy of the Sorcerous Arts after a visit home, following the traumatic battle that ended Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland. Rachel, as you know if you’ve been following along, lives in an alternate world where magic is real and neither Judaism or Christianity has ever been heard of. She is one of the “Wise” – those who see and understand magical things, as opposed to the “Unwary” – ordinary folks who know nothing of Rachel’s world. In other words, Muggles. Rachel is the daughter of an English duke who is also a top law enforcement agent in magical matters.

Rachel has an eidetic memory – she remembers everything, which makes learning easy. But she’s in an odd situation now, since false memories were implanted in her mind after her recent traumas (for her own protection). This means she has a double set of memories. She can fool the people who gave her the false memories by pretending those are all she has, but then her friends – who do remember what she’s supposed to have forgotten – would know something was wrong, and they might get drawn into the whole mess. But she has the help of a very powerful supernatural protector, which also comes in handy when the school comes under magical attack.

There’s also a lot of typical school story material here, about who’s best friends with whom, and how different friendships are ranked against each other. And boyfriend stuff, and a new attraction.

But what I love about the Rachel Griffin books is that there are Narnia moments. Not only moments of homage to those books (“Jack” even gets a mention), but scenes that evoke the feelings I get from Narnia stories. That’s what really makes this series shine.

Recommended for teens and up – except that there’s a lot of magic and wizardry and mythological stuff which some Christian families will find unacceptable.

The Author May Be Dead But He Continues to Publish

Here’s a list of new books from dead authors, including an Umberto Eco essay collection taken from L’Espresso magazine, Chronicles of a Liquid Society. Eco “sees with fresh eyes the upheaval in ideological values, the crises in politics, and the unbridled individualism that have become the backdrop of our lives—a ‘liquid’ society in which it’s not easy to find a polestar, though stars and starlets abound.”

Also, Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales by P.D. James. These are not unpublished stories, but stories written as far back as 1973 that have never been collected.

‘Glade Jul’

I’m between book reviews tonight, so I thought, “Hey, I can post Christmas videos now.” And what do I discover on YouTube, but a Sissel video I haven’t seen before? This one’s a treasure, because it shows her just when she was beginning to be famous in Norway. You’ll recognize the song as “Silent Night,” as they sing it over there. “Glade Jul” means “Happy Christmas.”

This is the young Sissel I modeled the character of Halla after, in The Year of the Warrior.

Book Reviews, Creative Culture