It’s a Mystery: Killer Smile, by Lisa Scottoline

Killer Smile (Rosato & Associates, #9)Long buried crimes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The focus is on Atty. Mary diNunzio in Ms. Scottoline’s ninth novel featuring the all-woman law group, Rosato & Associates. Mary takes on a pro-bono case at the request of family friends, that of WWII internee Amadeo Brandolini, who apparently committed suicide during his confinement. Most of the principals are now deceased as well. As Mary checks things out, however, she receives threats on her life, and when a fellow attorney is murdered, she suspects that Amadeo did not die by his own hand. The closer Mary gets to the truth, the more perilous the case becomes.

Killer Smile is a light, interesting legal thriller, though after the first few pages, it lacks the tension that characterizes much of Ms. Scottoline’s other work. There are some problems with the plot – it’s never made clear why Mary would take such risks for a man who died sixty years ago, one who had no grand estate to recover, and she is prone to taking some impulsive risks that are genuinely inane. Nevertheless, the outcome is a satisfactory one that would not have come about without her persistent sleuthing.

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Sci Fi: To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis

To Say Nothing of the DogTo Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ned Henry and Verity Kindle are severely “time-lagged” historians living in mid-21st century England. Both work for the Oxford time travel research center, and when the book opens, Ned must find a Victorian vase known as the bishop’s bird stump, last seen in Coventry Cathedral on the evening when it was bombed by the Nazis. What ensues is a post-modern comedy of errors, for the science of time travel is still in its infancy, and glitches abound. This novel is a delightful pastiche of missteps and suppositions as Ned and Verity travel to late Victorian Warwickshire, to, among other things, return a cat (cats are now extinct in England) that mistakenly reached the future, and foster two seemingly impossible romances, to locate the bird stump, and to catch up on their sleep to get over the time lag. Filled with literary references, Victorian personalities, fish, and a frenetic plot, TSNOTD is a refreshing, witty, hilarious, intelligent way to lose yourself in a good book.

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A Walk Around Paris

My husband and I spent a wonderful two weeks in Paris in February of this year. It wasn’t easy getting there, due to the snowstorms that plagued the Washington D.C. area last month. We were scheduled to leave Hartford for a hop down to D.C., then make a connection to Paris. We’ve made many a long trip in February over the past ten years, and not once has the weather interfered. But this time, we were rerouted to Chicago, where we had what we thought would be an eight hour layover. It was snowing lightly when we arrived. By 6:30 PM, however, the snow was really heavy. We boarded on time, then spent the next four hours taxiing around the runways, being de-iced, being refueled, and being nervous. Really nervous. Long story short, we took off at 11:00 PM. The rest of the flight couldn’t have been smoother.

Our first week in Paris was exceedingly cold, with continual snow flurries. The Parisians were more bothered than we were. The temps moderated during the second week. We spent some days walking the city. We’ve been there several times before, and were visiting sites off the tourist trail. Some days we took the train to other cities to visit medieval cathedrals, a special interest of mine.  In this article, I’m posting photos taken in Paris itself. Hope you enjoy them.

Boulevard S. Michel, site of many a local protest. This one had something to do with the rights of immigrants from the middle East.

Cake, I mean garden, at Musee Carnavalet, dusted with snow. This museum highlights Paris history, and was once the residence of Madame

Sevigny.

Collection of commercial signs from old Paris, mostly iron.

Rodin’s The Thinker, in the garden of the Rodin Museum. The Eiffel Tower is  barely visible through the mist.

More of the garden.

The infamous “Rose Line” from Da Vinci Code, at S. Sulpice. The church didn’t used to get all that many visitors, but they do now. The placards along the right wall do their best to debunk the movie.

Checking out the well at Musee du Moyen Age, my favorite museum in Paris.

Louvre Courtyard.

La Defense. There’s more to Paris than its icons.

Chateau Malmaison, where Josephine retired after her divorce from Napoleon.

Speaks for itself.

Tuileries. You can just make out the  Odelisque and the Arc de Triomphe in the background.

Impromptu Sunday morning dance at the foot of  Rue Mouffetard. The vocalist is under the umbrella.

This should give you a flavor of our trip. We had such a good time………..

Monday Morning Poem: Paris lll

by Alan Seeger

III

Choral Song

Have ye gazed on its grandeur
Or stood where it stands
With opal and amber
Adorning the lands,
And orcharded domes
Of the hue of all flowers?
Sweet melody roams
Through its blossoming bowers,
Sweet bells usher in from its belfries the train of the honey-sweet hour.

A city resplendent,
Fulfilled of good things,
On its ramparts are pendent
The bucklers of kings.
Broad banners unfurled
Are afloat in its air.
The lords of the world
Look for harborage there.
None finds save he comes as a bridegroom, having roses and vine in his hair.

‘Tis the city of Lovers,

photo by katknit

There many paths meet.
Blessed he above others,
With faltering feet,
Who past its proud spires
Intends not nor hears
The noise of its lyres
Grow faint in his ears!
Men reach it through portals of triumph, but leave through a postern of tears.

It was thither, ambitious,
We came for Youth’s right,
When our lips yearned for kisses
As moths for the light,
When our souls cried for Love
As for life-giving rain
Wan leaves of the grove,
Withered grass of the plain,
And our flesh ached for Love-flesh beside it with bitter, intolerable pain.

Under arbor and trellis,
Full of flutes, full of flowers,
What mad fortunes befell us,
What glad orgies were ours!
In the days of our youth,
In our festal attire,
When the sweet flesh was smooth,
When the swift blood was fire,
And all Earth paid in orange and purple to pavilion the bed of Desire!

The Trulli of Alberobello

A trullo (plural, trulli) is a traditional stone dwelling with a conical roof. The style of construction is specific to the Itria Valley in the Murge area of the Italian region of Apulia (Puglia). Trulli were generally constructed as dwellings or storehouses, traditionally built without any cement or mortar. These gleaming houses (whitewashed each year) are curious, rounded structures with gray, stone, cone-shaped roofs. They are common in the province of Bari and Taranto, yet unknown in the rest of the world. A great number of trulli may be found on the hillside of the town of Alberobello, which my husband Tony and I had the pleasure of visiting in November, 2006. The town’s historical center , amid the scent of almond and olive trees, and has been declared an International Human Resource by UNESCO. It is made up of a hundred trulli some 5 centuries old. The origin of their odd stone teepee design is unknown. Although some theories date the Trulli back 5000 years, the most popular story of their creation claims that such buildings were first constructed during the Middle Ages, when anyone who built a dwelling on the King’s land was heavily taxed. With this in mind, the Pugliesi cleverly devised the drywall stone Trulli solely for purposes of tax evasion. As the story goes, upon word of the taxman’s arrival (perhaps by means of a smoke signal), the Trulli were rapidly dismantled and moved out of sight. After the visit was over and that hated official successfully ducked, the homes were re-erected. Nowadays, Trulli are firmly planted and buttressed with stucco. A cone still comprises a single common area and the interiors, though charming, are spartan. With the exception of bathroom doors, the rooms are separated by colorful curtains in sharp contrast to the stark whiteness of the interior walls Mostly handmade furnishing of olive wood, quite beautiful by any standard, are representative of the work of the traditional peasant artisans of the area. The hearth remains the source of heat to this day.

Often their owners will paint large symbols on the trullo roof, which of course have a certain significance.

typical kitchen more geometry in the park

Mirepoix in Pictures – a French Bastide

Situated in the heart of Southern France’s Cathar Country in the Ariege region, Mirepoix is a late 13th century Bastide, or fortress town, stunningly preserved. In the center, half timbered houses painted in pastels surround the central square, with their upper stories forming an arcade (Les Couverts) over the shops and walkway.

Mirepoix and its environs were part of the Cathar movement, and it is believed that the town housed as many as fifty of the Cathar Parfaits, leaders of the religious movement, which was ruthlessly persecuted.

Under the ceiling of the Council House (Maison des Consuls) are a fascinating series of carved heads, both animal and human, which were once painted in vibrant hues.

The town also hosts an open air market on Mondays and Thursdays, where everything from haricots to used clothing can be purchased. Part of the market is housed under a timber and iron canopy.

Mirepoix is also home to Cathedrale Saint-Maurice, which has the widest unsupported nave in France. It also owns a medieval labyrinth, on glazed stone tiles, but alas, it it no longer on view. Quel dommage!

A Visit to Poe’s Cottage, the Bronx

In honor of the bicentennial of the birth (1/19) of Edgar Allen Poe , the Bronx Historical Society threw a party of sorts at his last place of residence, a tiny wooden cottage now located a few hundred yards from its original site. When Poe lived there, the Bronx was considered a healthy retreat, offering lovely views and fresh country air. Now standing at the top of Poe Park, the site provides a small oasis of tranquillity amid the rush of the city. Here, after the death of his wife, Virginia, from tuberculosis, Poe wrote some of his most famous poems, including Annabel Lee, Ulalume, The Bells, and Eureka. The house is open for tours ( website here ) and is currently undergoing much needed restoration, but Poe’s spirit is evoked by a few pieces of his furniture, photographs, and a bronze bust of the writer.

The cottage then and now.

On Sunday, January 18, the ghost of Poe, in the form of actor Tristan Laurence, hosted a gathering in his parlor, where he sat at his desk penning something mysterious, posed for photos with his visitors, and answered questions. Looking remarkably fit for a 200 year old, EAP also treated his audience to a dramatic reading of the poems composed on that very spot, his larger-than-life shadow looming evocatively behind him. He invited guests to visit the narrow chamber in which his beloved died, where his rocker still sits, empty and forlorn, beside the bed .

kitchen

On the upper floor played a video production of a new play that tells the story of Poe’s demise. There are many hypotheses surrounding the actual causes and circumstances, and this drama portrays him as a victim of “cooping”, the practice by which voters are captured and forced to cast multiple votes for a particular candidate.  It also included a talk by education director Anthony Green, whose enthusiasm for Bronx history is contagious. After a publicity campaign and the planned construction of a new visitor’s center in the park, it is hoped that tourism in the borough will markedly increase.

Next time you’re in NYC, do consider a short pilgrimage to the home of one of America’s legendary authors. It’s well worth a visit; there’s much more here than Yankee Stadium and the zoo.