Mystery, history, fantasy and mayhem seem to drive the assorted plots and themes for the summer’s reading. Of course as an admirer of Winston Churchill, it was mandatory to plow into Michael Shelden’s close-up and personal chronicle of a young Winston making his foray into politics and romance – Young Titan. Shelden has a knack for “getting the rest of the story” to presumed events and actions, as they relate to young Churchill. His early move from Tory to Liberal is less crass opportunism than a more familiar lament heard today about a politician switching parties because the old party literally left him (or her.) Who knew Churchill as an early force for many of the social services now entrenched in government, such as housing assistance, employment assistance, essential health care and such.
Very curious is his logical support for women’s suffrage during that tumultuous time of the early 20th century. His reward? Hosts of angry women clanging bells, pelting him with rocks and whips to disrupt his campaign speeches and even plotting to kidnap his child. And, of course, Winston the romantic. Although very much the Victorian, Winston early in his career was still decades in front of his peers, for better or worse.
Rich with history and perplexing murders is Dan Baldwin’s Desecration. I’m reading the pre-publication edition. Baldwin is a western lore specialist who moves east to Northwest Louisiana, East Texas, and Southern Oklahoma and Arkansas to craft a mystery filled with the lore and culture of the Caddo Indians who once dominated the land. Baldwin is detail rich in peeling the layers of Caddo history by means of contemporary archaeologists, professional as well as amateur. A series of brutal murders in several states have curious consistencies relating to Caddo Indian lore and presumed practice. The investigating detective links up with a young specialist in Caddo heritage to help weave the evidence threads into something evident.
When is collecting historic artifacts of bygone cultures (or more accurately removed cultures now greatly diminished) science and history and not desecration? It’s an old debate that continues. Baldwin frames the debate with his usual lively characters, travelogue and “stop and smell the roses” style. And, I’m having a lot of pun with it.
I surprised myself with the degree of delight from Sarah Hoyt’s Darkship Thieves and decided to continue the saga of Athena Hera Sinastra in the second book of the series Darkship Renegades. Rollicking future space opera centering on the headstrong Athena who learns that she was, well, designed for purposes not in keeping with her fierce independence. It’s all about a human diaspora aided and abetted by enhanced and highly manipulated uber-human forms. A surviving colony lives within an asteroid, stealing power sources from the ruling elite. It’s this clandestine realm that Athena stumbles in the first book and allies in the second. As described: “After rescuing her star pilot husband and discovering the dark secret of her own past on Earth, Athena Hera Sinistra returns to space habitat Eden to start life anew. Not happening. Thena and Kit are placed under arrest for the crime of coming back alive.” I’ve got a ways to go to see how they get out of this fine mess.
I recommend Hoyt’s almost-daily-epistles at her blog. The lady writes, copiously, and with a nifty perspective brought to the USA from her native Portugal.