OH, my goodness, I love this trilogy, and one of the best things is that is was written by a woman!!!!!   Yea, us.  Ancillary Sword  is the second novel in Leckie’s “Imperial Radch” space opera trilogy, which began with Ancillary Justice, which I wrote about here.  

An ancillary is the term for a human who has been turned into an AI, usually unwillingly, with implants, and is used to supplement the work and activities of a ship’s AI.  It took me all three books in the series to have the aHA! moment concerning the titles.  The series features one ancillary from the troop transport ship Justice of Toren, Breq,  so the first book is not so much about justice, as it is about setting up the full storyline which is about Breq’s fight with the head of the Radch who has splintered off into different factions of herself (or possibly himself, we don’t know since the female pronouns are used exclusively throughout the series.)  There is some justice served, but it is not the main plot point.

This second book has Anaander Mianaai, the Lord of the Radch – or the part of her personality that opposes further militant expansion of the empire – adopts Breq into her house, appoints her Fleet Captain, puts her in command of the warship Mercy of Kalr, and charges her to protect the remote Athoek system. Breq’s crew includes her old comrade Seivarden and the young Lieutenant Tisarwat, who is revealed to be an ancillary copy of Anaander herself. After Breq recognizes Tisarwat as an ancillary of Anaander, she has her ancillary implants removed, allowing Tisarwat to develop an independent personality.

At Athoek Station, Breq seeks out Basnaaid, the sister of Awn, an officer Breq, as the ship Justice of Toren, once loved and, on Anaander’s orders, killed. She meets Dlique, translator for the alien Presger, who is killed in a scuffle with ancillaries of Sword of Atagaris – the other warship on station, commanded by Captain Hetnys, Breq’s nominal subordinate. To hopefully placate the powerful aliens, Breq and Hetnys enter formal mourning on the estate of Fosyf, a prominent tea planter who holds her workers, transportees from other Radch-conquered worlds, in conditions akin to serfdom.

After Breq survives an attempt on her life by Raughd, Fosyf’s abusive heir, she suspects that somebody abducts suspended transportees, possibly an ancient warship seeking to replenish its ancillary crew. Hetnys and her ship move against Breq, apparently serving the other half of Anaander Mianaai, but they are subdued after Breq holds Hetnys hostage.

Plot description stolen from Wiki.  So sue me.

I finally, after reading the third in the series, Ancillary Mercy,  realize …. (I’m a slow learner) that the series is named after classes of space ships in this fictional world.  Justices are huge carriers, Swords are warships,  and Mercys are small fighters.  And that each volume addresses the concept suggested by each class of ship.  This second volume is about fighting and potential warfare.

Just LOVE this series.  It is space opera.  Well, for me, not so much space opera but a story of loyalty, betrayal, and just trying to get by with a little help from our friends, all wrapped up in some of the absolutely coolest futuristic space ideas ever.  If hard science sci fi flips your tortillas, then this series is a must read.

BAD DEBTS by Peter Temple

This is the first in the Jack Irish series.   Set mainly in Melbourne, once a criminal lawyer, John (Jack) Irish is now making his way out of a dark period of life that he drifted into after the death of his second wife who died at the hands of an unhappy client. Trying to deal with his pain, Jack drowned his sorrows in alcohol and became a collector of “serious debts,” as well as a gambler betting on the ponies. He does some odd work for a couple of men in the horse racing business. (I lifted that plot description in its entirety from a review on Goodreads.  I have no shame.)

I am becoming fascinated with the current trend for damaged yet lovable protagonist detective types.  Ain’t nobody mentally healthy anymore?  If you read enough crime fiction, you will be convinced that everyone in the murder-solving business is flawed, impaired and just generally messed up.  Well, OK, this isn’t exactly a recent book, it was written in 1996,  but you know what I mean.

It is a wonderfully crafted typical crime fiction piece.  The protagonist, said ex-criminal lawyer who is now learning cabinet making,  is drawn into an investigation involving high-level corruption, dark sexual secrets, hinky property deals and murder. We have  hit men after him, shady ex-policemen at every turn, and a rising body count.  And a possible romantic relationship.  What’s not to like?

The bad debt of the title refers to a former client who was convicted for a hit and run death, nothing Irish could do to keep him out of jail as he confessed to it, served time in prison, and when he got out, tried to contact Irish and when our boy finally got back to him, he was found murdered.  That made Irish start to poke into the old investigation of the matter to find that his now deceased client may have been set up for the hit, and he feels he owes his client a full investigation to exonerate him.

Good start.  I plan on reading the next in the series very soon.


AN IRON ROSE by Peter Temple

Another former law enforcement person — in Australia — who has left the force and is now a ….. wait for it ……. blacksmith in some tiny back of beyond town.  Let me see — there was one who was a falconer,  and one who was …. oh crumb, I forget.  But they never seem to just leave the force and get a job as a bartender or truck driver.  They all seem to take up some nifty occupation.

What I did know was that all the self-respect that I had lost with one bad judgment had been slowly given back to me by my ordinary life in my father’s house.  A simple life in a simple weatherboard house.  Working with my father’s tools in my father’s workshop.

Well, Mac Faraday, our smithy,  is called on by the grandson of his older friend, to find the man hanging in his barn.  Mac is sure that the guy is not the suicide type, and gets to sniffing around, although the local police do seem to be doing a good job.

What comes to light is a girls reform school, yeah, way out here in the boonies, that is still in operation.  When a skeleton is found in an abandoned mine shaft, things start to fizz around.  What could be the connection between the suicide of an old man and the body in a mine shaft.

Mac is a smart guy, and persistent, and after poking around, stirs the interest of some darker forces.  This is never a good thing.

“Have you noticed,’ she said, ‘that evil people have a kind of force about them?  A kind of independence?  It’s a very powerful thing to have.  It’s a stillness, an absence of doubt, an indifference to the world.  It draws people to them.  the moral vacuum sucks people in.  The weak go to the strong.”

I like this writer, I like his style, I like his characters and his plots. I have a couple more of his books to read.  But if you want to know what I thought of a couple of his other books, just put in Peter Temple in the search box.  I am too lazy to give you links today.  Some days are like that.  Some days you can just click, and other days you have to do a little work.



This is the 8th in the Tubby Dubonnet mystery series.  Tubby is a lawyer  working and living in The Big Crawfish, AKA New Orleans, who seems to have enough time on his hands to investigate an old cold case.  In fact, it isn’t so much a cold case as it is a nothing case.  Back when he was a kid, he saw a young war protester  get murdered in the French Quarter, it has haunted him all these years, and for some reason, he starts to investigate it.  As in all the Tubby Dubonnet stories, he gets himself involved in police corruption, government messes, and people with secrets.

The title comes from a mysterious person who seems to be helping fate along.

“I remember hearing he drowned in Katrina.”  “Yeah, but he had some help.  Don’t you know that the Night Watchman got him?”

Lots of great characters, a decent mystery.  What I like about mystery series is you get to know the several main characters, and you feel like, “Hey,  hi!   Haven’t seen you in a while.  How’re you doing?”  So, yeah.  Another fine offering.  I got no complaints.

“Take one cup of Raymond Chandler, one cup of Tennessee Williams, add a quart of salty humor, and you will get something resembling Dunbar’s crazy mixture of crime and offbeat comedy.” – Baltimore Sun

If you want to see what else is in the series, just put in Tony Dunbar in the search window and you will get the list of the others in the series that I have read.



THE CUCKOO’S CALLING by Robert Galbraith

Why were you born when the snow was falling?
You should have come to the cuckoo’s calling,
Or when grapes are green in the cluster,
Or, at least, when lithe swallows muster
For their far off flying
From summer dying.
Why did you die when the lambs were cropping?
You should have died at the apples’ dropping,
When the grasshopper comes to trouble,
And the wheat-fields are sodden stubble,
And all winds go sighing
For sweet things dying.
              Christina G. Rossetti,  “A Dirge”
I really like literary allusions.  Adds a touch of highbrow-ness to what would otherwise be a typical genre detective novel.  And of course, you know who Robert Galbraith is, right?  That is the pseudonym for …… ta dah …..  J. K. Rowling.
Really good book, good mystery.  Did you expect less from the redoubtable Mz. Rowling?  Of course not.   After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.
His last temp secretary/receptionist left, and into his life walked Robin Ellacott, temping only temporarily until she found a real job.   What a surprise both were to each other, as he whipped open the door to rush out just as she was about to knock.  Turns out she is a treasure, I tell you, a treasure.  She is clever and resourceful, and has always secretly wanted to work as a detective, so this job is just the ticket.  Except that Strike has no money, and can only find money to pay for one more week of temp service.  And then, in walks a client … well, talk about fictional good luck!  It seems that his sister,  the famous supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but her brother refuses to believe that.
So it is a lot of fun, the world of the rich and famous and sometimes stupid, the world of designers, and ambition, and …. oh, never mind.  It is a murder mystery.  Go enjoy it.
I think Rawlings suffers from being Rawlings in that her critics tend to do too much comparison.  Some people don’t like her writing style.  For me, it was fine.  It was a British detective fiction; I guess I expect the characters to all sound like they just stepped out of an Austin novel.


TRUTH by Peter Temple

Peter Temple is fast becoming another one of my favorite authors.  He is an award-winning Australian crime writer,  and so far, his works have an intriguing mix of character development and a mystery to be solved, and it is not clear which is more important.  Really nice stuff.

Truth is his second novel, but is set in time before the events in The Broken Shore, which I wrote about here.   It features DI Stephen Villani, who has only a peripheral role in The Broken Shore.  The city is Melbourne, there is definitely a body, in a classy apartment, in a bathtub.  The body is of a young woman, who reminds Villani of his own daughter.  The dead woman is famous and rich, and has a dubious boyfriend.  There are actually three more bodies.  Not a decent crime novel without a minimum of two bodies, right?

The story has a lot of characters, so if you are looking for an easy read, look elsewhere.  This one you have to pay attention to.  It all starts with this murder of a young woman in the city’s newest luxury high-rise, followed by horrific torture killings of three hard-core drug-dealing criminals.  As Villani and his fractured team investigate, he finds himself heading into murky political waters.

The dialog is sparse, spare and terse.  The politics rough.  The connections between the two story lines seemingly non-existent.  But as in all good crime fiction, little by little, it gets woven together.  It features the requisite flawed homicide detective.  If I ever read a police procedural where the detective is an average Joe with a healthy relationship with the wife and family, I will probably fall over in a dead faint.

What I like about this writer is that he just dives into the story.  The dialog and exposition suggest back stories which are never fully explained, but eventually you catch on.  An interesting technique, which adds to the verisimilitude of the story.  How do you like my ‘verisimilitude’?  See how it plays on the title, Truth?

This is all about truth, what is, what isn’t, what passes for, what bypasses it altogether.   Really good book.

TERRADOX by Craig A. Falconer

Falconer wrote Not Alone, which you can read about here, and which I really loved. Now, although I did not mention it in my comments on Not Alone,  the writing wasn’t the best, but good enough, and the story line was so good it carried the book.

I am sad to say that although most of the story of Terradox was good,  the actual writing was not even as good as in Not Alone.  It is hard to explain what I mean by this.  It didn’t have a really polished, professional tone.  Almost juvenile, in a way.  I am not talking about typos or grammar or those kinds of issues;  it was very well edited.  I am talking, I guess, style.

The story is about an earth that has been so badly destroyed that a single governing body has been created.  There is awful pollution and a raging world wide famine.  The space program which had begun with an outpost on ummmm Venus, yeah, Venus.  (I hate it how I tend to forget these little details.)  Holly(wood) was the face of the space program, until the head of the program sent her and some others on what the crew thought was a doomed space landing, only to discover later (after two of their number died on that landing) that it was a fake (think fake moon landing, dudes), to test how people behaved in dire situations.

Now she is escorting some high profile elite passengers on a flight to the station on Venus, but at some point, something goes wrong and the ship crashes on an unknown and unseen planet, a whaddyacallit oh yeah, cloaked planet.

As they explore the planet, they discover some strange things….. strange as in earth artifacts that shouldn’t be there, strange as in weather zones which are exact quadrants, with one weather system terminating exactly on a line where a different system begins.  Gol-darn!  This looks like a created planet.  By whom?  For what?

It all ties into politics and Evil Persons and seems scarily like today’s current political situation.  Without the space program.  I am not mentioning any names, being politically neutral as I am.

Final verdict:  this author has a great imagination and can certainly work out some mighty fine story lines.  But the writing…. the writing.  Sigh.

WILD LIFE by Molly Gloss

It is the early 1900s and Charlotte Bridger Drummond is a thoroughly modern woman. The sole provider for her five young boys, Charlotte is a fiercely independent, freethinking woman of the West who fully embraces the scientific spirit that is sweeping the nation at the dawn of the industrial age. Thumbing her nose at convention, she dresses in men’s clothes, avoids housework whenever possible, and proudly supports her family by writing popular women’s adventure stories. Ready to show off her knowledge of the local flora and fauna and have an adventure of her own, Charlotte joins a search party for a child who has disappeared in the deepwood wilderness on the border between Oregon and Washington. But when she gets lost herself, she is thrust into a mysterious world that not only tests her courage but challenges her entire concept of reality.

Starving and half dead from exposure, Charlotte is rescued by a band of elusive, quasi-human beasts. As she becomes a part of the creatures’ extended family, Charlotte is forced to reconsider her previous notions about the differences between animals and humans, men and women, and above all, between wilderness and civilization.

Yeah, I lifted that plot description directly from Goodreads, because I am behind in writing up my thoughts on what I am reading, and I am also lazier than the guy who drew the Japanese flag. So, in keeping with my motto not to put off til tomorrow what you can put off til the day after tomorrow, I kind of got backed up in my posts.

So.  This book.  It was great until about 2/3 through it, telling the story of of Charlotte, who is definitely a chick you would want to know.  It also has a lot about the logging industry back in the turn of the other century, and gives the reader a real taste of what life must have been like out in the far west as the country was beginning to grow up.  Had the flavor of Angle of Repose  which was based on the life of Mary Hallock Foote.   

And then it got weird.  The granddaughter of her housekeeper is taken by her father up into the logging camps to see what it was like.  She goes missing, and a massive search is on for her.  Charlotte gets it in her head to go up into the mountains around the camps and join the search, she gets lost, and hallucinates and is taken in by some wild creatures.  It went on and on and on, and not being in an introspective mood, but in a mood for the STORY, I lost interest and skimmed and skipped until she is finally rescued and the thread about the missing girl comes to a conclusion.

I still, even thinking back on the work,  cannot figure out what was the point of (a) a pragmatic women who is the widowed mother of 5 boys choosing to go off on the hunt, and (b) the getting lost part, and (c) what WAS that about the half human creatures?   Did we slip ever so slightly into fantasy there?  Anyway, it ruined the book for me, so if you read it, feel free to skip over that part, because the rest is great.

































JAZZ FUNERAL by Julie Smith

Julie Smith is a prolific writer, with several series going.  This one is a Skip Langdon story.  Skip is a homicide detective in New Orleans.  To read a bit more about Julie Smith  and some of her other offerings, just put in Julie Smith in the search window to your right, and you will get the four or five books of hers that I have read and commented on.

I seem to be reading the Skip Langdon series out of order, and this is I believe the third in the series.  This one was really all about the characters, and I truly enjoyed it.

The head of JazzFest is found stabbed to death in his kitchen days before the big bash is to start.  His extremely talented but troubled  16-year-old half sister disappears, and at first it is not clear whether she has been kidnapped and harmed as well, and it is all connected with the murder, or whether she has simply run away.  If so, why?  Well, she got dumped by her boyfriend,  her mother and father are cold and distant, and she wants a music career.

Each character, including the very popular singer Ti-Belle, the live in girlfriend of the dead guy, have their stories, and it is just a wonderful read.  Who done the dirty deed?  You might guess.  It wasn’t all that hard, but still a great story all around.

I am always struck by the comparison between today’s mysteries, which have a lot of character development in them, and the mysteries of yore, where the puzzle was the principle interest.  In today’s mysteries, we often care about the deceased; in the older books, we don’t give a hoot about them.  They serve merely as a vehicle upon which to hang the mystery.


SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones

A story about bigamy.  Yeah, don’t see too many of those, do ya.  It is a story about Black families in Atlanta, which started back in the fifties when Laverne, at age 14, gets pregnant in a one night dalliance.  Her parents throw her out, and Miss Bunny, the matriarch of the family of the young boy who is the father, takes them into her home and teaches Laverne how to be a wife and mother.  At the same time, Miss Bunny’s best friend had a son about the same time as Miss Bunny, decided she didn’t care for motherhood, and Miss Bunny took him in, too, when his mother left.

The two boys, James, the reluctant young father, and his abandoned friend Raleigh, are together all their lives.  Sometime in their twenties, James meets a beautiful woman working the gift wrap counter in a department store, and I guess falls in love with her, but with no intention of leaving his wife of ten years.   They begin to see each other, and the woman gets pregnant.  Shortly after, his wife also becomes pregnant, and the two children are born, both girls.  The ‘outside’ woman wants to be married, and she and Raleigh cajole James into getting married across the state line.

The book is the story of the two girls and the two families.  The outside wife and her daughter, Dana, secretly spy on James’ legitimate family, but those two know nothing of the other woman and Dana.

Dana eventually insinuates herself into the life of the legitimate daughter, Chaurisse.   There is back story on all the characters, and of course, it all comes to a head when the outside woman and daughter come to the beauty shop of the legitimate wife and reveal themselves.

What happens next.  Does James get kicked out of both houses?  Does he have to choose?

This is all about the effects of bigamy and secrets and lying have on families, the fallout of desire, and the issue of trying to have one’s cake and eating it too.

I found it extremely readable, and a really well-done look at the issues involved.  Not everything got tied up with a nice ribbon at the end.  There were still some unanswered questions, because like life, the story doesn’t end until the characters do.