RogerBW's Blog

Autumn Barbecue 2016 31 August 2016

On a very bright and warm day, there was a select gathering of fans of pig and goat.

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The Nursing Home Murder, Ngaio Marsh 30 August 2016

1935 classic English detective fiction; third of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. In a private hospital, the Home Secretary was operated on for appendicitis: shortly afterwards he was dead, poisoned with hyoscine (scopolamine). And all sorts of people seem to have had motives.

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Sleepy Hollow season 3 29 August 2016

2015-2016: Ichabod Crane, survivor from the American Revolutionary War, and Abbie Mills, FBI agent, continue to fight supernatural beasties in the present day. (Spoilers for all seasons.)

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The Hanging in the Hotel, Simon Brett 28 August 2016

2004 mystery; fifth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Jude is helping out at the Hopwicke Country House Hotel, but the morning after a boozy meeting of the Pillars of Sussex, an organisation of local businessmen, one of them doesn't come down to breakfast… because he's hanging from a beam of his four-poster bed. Obviously a suicide…

…or obviously not, but proving it will be hard work, especially when the Pillars of Sussex close ranks to disassociate themselves from the victim. Everybody's far too willing to talk to Carole and Jude, as usual, but a key player appears for the first time three-quarters of the way through the book, which doesn't help matters.

Most of the investigation is a trudge through local businesses, and Brett's usual cast of horrible people. Everyone has something to hide, of course, and it usually reinforces how ghastly they are.

As in The Torso in the Town, the ultimate villain goes unpunished, which again seems to be a violation of the principles of murder mysteries: the detectives find themselves stymied and essentially give up and go home. But they do that seemingly because there are only a few pages left; if it were half-way through the book they'd go after some alternative source of information, and for their behaviour to be so blatantly affected by a non-diegetic element breaks my suspension of disbelief.

But in this book, the mystery is the bread on which the pâté of human drama is spread: what are these people's secrets, and how do they react as things come out? Also, this marks a significant achievement in the process of Carole's transformation into a human being, as she finds herself become able to talk with her son and his fiancée in a way she certainly wouldn't have been when the series started. (However, I think Brett realised that without having Carole as a pompous prig he loses the contrast she strikes against free-spirited Jude, so her progress from this point on is much slower and sometimes even reversed.)

Followed by The Witness at the Wedding. [more]

Connected 27 August 2016

2015 short science fiction, dir. Luke Gilford, Pamela Anderson, Dree Hemingway: IMDb.

An ageing fitness instructor is dissatisfied with her life, in particular feeling disconnected from the world, and looks for a way to fix it.

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The Castlemaine Murders, Kerry Greenwood 26 August 2016

2003 historical detection, thirteenth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Phryne investigates a mummified corpse found in a carnival attraction.

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Failing to Fix Operation Hard Sell 25 August 2016 - 2 comments

Operation Hard Sell was the adventure that convinced me I should stop running Torg, at least for a while. Spoilers for this adventure follow.

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Murder in the Museum, Simon Brett 24 August 2016

2003; fourth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Bracketts, an Elizabethan house, is to be turned into a museum celebrating the life and work of the local poet Esmond Chadleigh, its most famous resident. Then a skull is dug up in the garden.

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SpringCon 23 July 2016 23 August 2016

Back to this small quarterly boardgames convention in Watford, the first one I've got to for a while as it's usually announced at fairly short notice. With images; cc-by-sa on everything.

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The Shattered Sphere, Roger MacBride Allen 22 August 2016 - 5 comments

1994 science fiction, sequel to The Ring of Charon. This review contains spoilers for that first book.

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Subete ga F ni Naru 21 August 2016

2015 mystery novel adaptation, 11 episodes: AniDB, vt "Everything Becomes F" or "The Perfect Insider". Shiki Magata killed her parents when she was fourteen, but her mind was clearly disturbed, and she's a brilliant programmer; for the fifteen years since then, she's been confined to a few rooms within a research lab, with extremely restricted communication with the outside world. And yet, someone has managed to murder her.

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The Torso in the Town, Simon Brett 20 August 2016

2002 mystery; third in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). The couple who've just moved into the Big House in Fedborough, inland up the river from Fethering, throw a dinner party to try to get into the local social scene… which is somewhat spoiled when a limbless body is discovered in the cellar.

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Suburbia component enhancements 19 August 2016

I wanted to improve the experience of playing Surburbia, so I designed some organisational aids.

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Enter a Murderer, Ngaio Marsh 18 August 2016 - 3 comments

1935 classic English detective fiction; second of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. When Arthur Surbonadier is fatally shot on stage during the last act of The Rat and the Beaver, there's no question about who pulled the trigger: the shooting was part of the play. But there wasn't supposed to be live ammunition in the gun.

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Second Chance, season 1 17 August 2016

2016 science fiction crime drama, 11 episodes. Jimmy Pritchard is a 75-year-old, corrupt, disgraced, but unrepentant former sheriff. When he's murdered, secretive tech billionaire twins restore him to life, youth and extreme vitality (as a side effect of their own plans). Formerly known as Frankenstein, The Frankenstein Code and Lookinglass.

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Death on the Downs, Simon Brett 16 August 2016

2001 mystery; second in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). While out exploring the South Downs, Carole stumbles on a human skeleton. Jude thinks she knows who it might have been.

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GURPS Magic: Death Spells, Sean Punch 15 August 2016

This supplement adds to the standard GURPS magic system, with spells designed not just to injure or curse but to kill.

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Ruined City, Nevil Shute 14 August 2016

1938 fiction. Henry Warren, a successful banker, works all his waking hours, travelling across Europe to sort out financial deals, particularly share issues. His digestion is bad, and his wife's having an affair with a foreigner. When all the stress catches up with him, he winds up in the hospital of a northern town, one that's been without significant employment since the shipyard closed, and decides to do something about it. (US vt Kindling.)

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Boardgaming At Home, July 2016 13 August 2016

A five-player games session on a hot afternoon at home. Images follow: cc-by-sa on everything.

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The Body on the Beach, Simon Brett 12 August 2016

2000 mystery; first in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Carole Seddon, conventional, divorced, and retired from the Home Office, moves to the small seaside town of Fethering (inspired by the real Tarring in West Sussex). But her neighbour Jude turns out to be distressingly bohemian, and she finds a dead body while walking her dog on the beach… but by the time the police turn up, it's gone.

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New Passport 11 August 2016

My passport was a few months away from expiry, so when I got back from the latest foreign trip I renewed it. It only took two weeks, which isn't bad, though I think the Passport Office might take a tip or two from an enthusiastic amateur; their professional advisors don't seem to be doing a terribly good job.

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Retribution Falls, Chris Wooding 10 August 2016

2009 steampunk fantasy. Darian Frey is the captain of the Ketty Jay and her crew of misfits, as they go about doing small-time jobs for small-time people. But they're all about to play for much higher stakes than they were ever expecting.

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Colony, season 1 09 August 2016

2016 science fiction drama, 10 episodes. Aliens have landed and conquered Earth, ruling through drones and human trusties. But there is, of course, a resistance.

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Viper Strike, Keith Douglass 08 August 2016

1991 military fiction; second in the Carrier series. A complex plot sees Burmese, Thai and Chinese renegades orchestrating a breakup of SEATO for purposes unclear at first. Carrier Battle Group 14 is going to get caught in the middle.

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GURPS Power-Ups 7: Wildcard Skills, Sean Punch 07 August 2016 - 3 comments

This supplement clarifies and gives comprehensive examples of Wildcard Skills, a relatively under-used element of GURPS 4th edition.

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Another Man's Poison, Ann Cleeves 06 August 2016

1993 detective fiction; fifth of Cleeves's novels of amateur private detectives George and Molly Palmer-Jones. Elderly Ursula Ottway lives in a cottage on an estate in the Cumbrian fell country; when she finds her cats dead from eating poisoned bait, she threatens to expose her landlord, rising politician Marcus Grenville, since he's obviously been illegally poisoning raptors to improve the grouse shooting. The next day she's dead. But she was Molly's aunt, and George and Molly were on their way to visit.

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Thirsty Meeples July 2016 05 August 2016 - 2 comments

Back to the boardgame café again. With images; cc-by-sa on everything.

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Carrier, Keith Douglass 04 August 2016

1991 military fiction; first in the Carrier series. An American intelligence ship and her crew vanish on the high seas; the North Koreans admit nothing. Carrier Battle Group 14 is sent in to get them out.

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Agent Carter, season 2 03 August 2016 - 1 comment

2015-2016 superheroic fantasy, 10 episodes. In 1947, Peggy Carter, still working for a secret government agency, travels to Los Angeles to investigate strange goings-on there.

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Brotherhood in Death, J. D. Robb 02 August 2016

2016 SF/mystery; fifty-third (roughly) of J. D. Robb's In Death series. Dennis Mira went to confront his cousin Edward over plans to sell the family house, but found him tied up in a chair; then someone knocked Dennis on the head. Now Edward's missing. Fortunately Dennis is married to Charlotte Mira, police profiler and friend of Lieutenant Eve Dallas.

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July 2016 Trailers 01 August 2016

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

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