Neil Countryman and John William Barry meet as teens on the running track. John William comes from Seattle’s old money and founding families, Neil is from the other side of the tracks. They develop a love of the outdoors, which for John William results in him becoming, for a time, the Hermit of the Hof.
A novel that I find my brain returns to ponder periodically.
Unwillingly in partnership with Anacrites but happily and lucratively working on Vespasian’s tax census, Falco finds himself investigating the murder of an arena lion.
When the trail grows cold, Falco and family – extended to include drunken sot brother in law Famia and truculent teenage nephew Gaius – travel across the inner sea to the northern shores of Africa in search of Helena’s errant younger brother Camillus Justinus and Baetican heiress Claudia Rufina who we last saw eloping, at the end of Three Hands in the Fountain.
Here the plot lines converge as Falco and Co travel around the main towns of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, culminating in a denouement at the End of Harvest Games in Lepcis Magna.
Falco and new partner Petro are on the trail of a serial killer, whose victims start turning up piecemeal in Rome’s water supply. Helena is nursing new baby Julia and helping to keep their enquiries on track and Claudia Rufina, visiting from Beatica, is engaged to Helena’s brother Aelianus.
Anacrites is still lodging with Ma and becomes embroiled in the investigation on behalf of the Water Board.
Meanwhile Falco and Petro find themselves assigned an official patron/supervisor in the form of ex consul Frontinus.
The Invention of Nature is Andrea Wulf’s biography of Prussian scientist-naturalist-ecologist-explorer, Alexander von Humboldt, whose travels in the Americas gave us Humboldt’s Penguin, amongst many, many other things, and whose renown resulted in place names ranging from Mare Humboldtianum on the moon to Humboldt University in Berlin. Most importantly, via the publications, lectures and correspondence that occupied Humboldt for the majority of his long life, he developed the concept that has been called Humboldtian science – a holistic view of science and nature, climate, the environment and ecology, and by extension encompassing art and society.
Another reading recommendation picked up from listening to Radio Four’s Book Club, Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings follows a group of six young Americans who meet and become lifelong friends at Summer Camp – that American institution and rite of passage that glowed with glamour and exciting opportunities when gazed at from the Birmingham suburbs of my teenage years.
The novel focuses on two of the friends, Julie ‘Jules’ Jacobson and Ethan Figman. Jules, who discovers a passion for performance at the camp, learns the hard way that even with talent (and more talent than she has) the stage is a hard place to forge a career, especially without family money behind you. Ethan is the one member of the group with true talent, and his gift for animation and storytelling brings riches and opportunities beyond belief.
But at the heart of the novel are the events of one night in their late teens when one of the group alleges rape by another, and the consequences that flow for the couple themselves and for the six friends.