Bike Renew and Book Review

Quite a good day. My bike was fixed for a reasonable £18 - £9 for the tyre, £2 for the tube and £7 for an expert to fit them while I was doing something else.

The 'something else' was lending the laptop to Simon M, setting it up for his ISP, and getting him an ebay account. As expected, he wanted the account to sell his own junk, but now wants to buy a load of other people's junk.

He and his brother are trying to get rid of most of the contents of their house. In keeping with their unique approach to reducing clutter, they've picked up four chairs and a fake marble fireplace(!) from a carboot sale.

This was followed by tea and berlinners (chocolate filled and covered donuts, as opposed to men in lederhosen) with the band, who are a lot more relaxed now the recording and mixing is over. Interrupted by a call from a new music club wanting bands to play! It seems word has spread about Strict Machines.

Anna has a stinking headcold, so she left early to overdose on Lemsip and spend as many hours as possible in a warm bed before playing a gig on Friday.

Oh, one not so good thing. I've managed to lose my keys. They'll turn up somewhere staggeringly obvious (unless I lost them in the taxi getting the computer home? Bugger!). But tomorrow will be largely spent trying to find a keycutter to replace them.
I did something this week I haven't done for 8 or 9 years. I read a novel. The last one was Our Man in Panama by John Le Carre in 1997, and this one was Winter Frost by R.D.Springfield.

It struck me that almost all the reading I've done since ploughing through most of Le Carre's back catalogue has been technical. Some political, some about music production or computing, some about linguistics or philosophy.

Winter Frost is a detective novel in that it presents a mystery with clues, but the mystery is a thin excuse for the storytelling. There are several unrelated crimes solved in interweaving simultainious storylines in the course of the book. But of the two major crimes, one is solved entirely by a single clue (which I got :-)), and the other involves no deduction at all.

This book is not a puzzle. There's no scattering of clues which narrows the suspect list by elimination to one. It's the story of a series of ever more desperate attempts to halt the spread of evil (crime).

The formula is familliar and simple - the corrupt methods of an unorthodox cop are eventually vidicated when, after many failures, he suceeds and brings justice to the community under his protection.

The sterotypical cast of dogged antihero (Frost), shallow beaurocrat (Mullett), fiesty underdog (Maud), pratfalling sidekick (Morgan), slimy paedophille (Weaver) and the duo of lesbian psychokillers are infantile on their own.

No one has a clear motive or much psychology - killers kill because they're evil, detectives hunt them because they're good, others impair their progress because they're stupid.

For a story like this to work, the central quest has to be engaging. The reader has to care that the killer is caught, not because it solves the puzzle, but because it defeats the devil. We have to aspire to the unbending principles of the kinght, care that he gets his prize, share in the injustice of his temporary defeat, and in his eventual victory made sweeter by long deferment.

I enjoyed the novel, but I dislike the assumptions which underlie it.

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