Dead Men’s Bones

Dead Men's Bones (Inspector McLean, #4)Dead Men’s Bones by James Oswald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this one McLean is investigating the suicide of a prominent Scottish MSP, who before he had turned his gun on himself, had murdered his wife and children. The MSP is a cocky, confident SOB, so why would a man like that do what he did? McLean, bought onto the case by his arch enemy Dugwood, who for once wants to utilise the DI’s ability to ‘over complicate things’, doesn’t think the reason why everyone else thinks the MSP did it is correct.

As well as the MSP murder-suicide, there is also a mysterious tattooed body in a river to investigate and of course things aren’t going smoothly for McLean and his bad luck is spreading to his team.

In this one the supernatural element is even subtler, for most of the book until close to the end anyway. I am really liking how this is going, I think I may even start fan-girling over Mrs. McCutcheon’s cat, who definitely plays more of a role in this compared to your average detective’s pet!

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On the menu: the jarred edition (with raspberry ice lolly special appearance)

Monday

jar salad

There is just something infinitely satisfying about eating something on anything but a plate, specially bowls, jars and baskets (1980s chicken and chips anyone?), maybe because they’re dishes that just keep on giving as you literally dig in. Anyway, much as I work from home (so really I could just eat a salad off a plate), I thought I’d have a go at jarred salads, using Anna Jones’ A Modern Way to Cook for guidance. Under the section ‘at your desk salads’, she has a table of suggestions on how to build up a salad in a jar and you can pick and mix from the various possibilities. She suggests starting with a ‘hearty base’, then adding one or two of your favourite vegetables, then some light leaves, followed by some crunch, then some flavour and then a dressing. I went for torn up sourdough rye bread, carrot, spinach, Food Doctor seeds, pickled cabbage and a pesto dressing. I think the torn up sourdough rye bread was possibly a mistake, it was too bulky and took up way too much of the jar, however where it crumbled and mixed in with the seeds and the vinegar from the cabbage and the pesto dressing, now that was scrummy. Maybe I just didn’t tear the bread up enough, it was pretty tough (and to be honest, on it’s own, not that nice, sourdough bread can be so variable), if I were to use it as a base again, I would tear it up somehow almost into giant crumbs. Other than that though, it was a pretty nice salad and actually, much as I work from home, I am out and about quite a bit, often over meal times and when I am I can make really bad food choices. Also even when working from home, my shifts often end or start at a meal time, so having something I’ve already made would be good. And also I am going to be working away from home on something soon, so yay, lunch sorted!

Tuesday

pour over soup

Also from A Modern Way to Cook, this is pour over soup and it was lovely. I have a guilty love of noodle things you can pour hot water over, I won’t eat the Pot Noodles from my youth (yeugh) but I occasionally treat myself to the posher (hopefully healthier) versions you can get in the supermarket, I also like Graze’s soups too. Again this would be a really useful dish to take to work or even take on a day out if you’ve got space enough to also carry a thermos of hot water, you’d need to be able to keep the jar reasonably cool though before you prepare it, so not for a really hot day (not that you’d perhaps want this soup on a really hot day anyway). And talking of hot, if you do prepare it in a jar (you don’t have to), be careful, the glass gets really hot!

The soup has miso in, something I’ve tried and failed to like in the past but it’s really nice in this, with the soy sauce, sesame oil and coconut cream. I will definitely be having this again, I will probably be inventing some variations too.

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“Muuuummy, I want to make ice lollies!”

“Muuuummy, when can we make ice lollies?”

etc

etc

etc

Until I get organised enough to ask Girl Lacer exactly what ice lollies she wants to make, she picks the most ‘boring’ recipe in the People’s Pop book (straight up raspberry), I buy the raspberries, they sit in the fridge getting perilously close to the use by date and then I end up making them. The result was nice though, although they didn’t seem to have set very hard (despite ages in the freezer).

The Hangman’s Song

The Hangman's Song (Inspector McLean, #3)The Hangman’s Song by James Oswald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think this one is my favourite of the series so far. It leads on pretty much from book 2, with a character in a coma (I’m trying not to give spoilers for book 2). When the character wakes, they have regressed to a childlike state and McLean feels obliged to look after them. Meanwhile there is a spate of suicides across the city, all deaths by hanging and something is not right with them. McLean is having his usual luck with his career (ie none) and he has been transferred to the vice unit, where he investigates the death of a pimp.

On a gruesomeness scale, book 3 is not as gross as book 1 but it has some very gross moments. I also feel like I now know way too much about hanging. The supernatural element is still there and it really helps make the book stand out, as well as giving the series a subtle arc of sorts.

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Kew Spice Festival

Kew August 2015-8

Now obviously having a hole in your neck can put a dampener on holiday activities with the kids, so there hasn’t been much going out of the house. However I’m back at work now and although I’m not completely mended yet, I could just about stagger around Kew, specially as it’s local to us and having a membership means you don’t have to worry about getting your money’s worth out of the entry price, so you can just pop in and out.

Kew August 2015-7

I had actually planned on taking the kids to Kew before my operation but the weather had been pretty miserable and as it turns out the weather is still miserable but it’s forecast to remain miserable all week and there was only so much more sitting in the house I could take. So after I finished my morning shift, come rain or shine, we were going to Kew.

Kew August 2015-2

As it happened it stopped raining pretty much as soon as my shift ended, so we headed out and got a rain free (at first) Kew pretty much all to ourselves and a quiet Kew is pretty unusual in the school holidays. There’s a spice festival on there at the moment (it finishes when the schools go back, although already we couldn’t find several things that were listed on the festival map, although that may just have been the bad weather) and we wanted to see that and we also wanted to see the Amorphophallus titanum, which I had been following on Twitter and which I knew had recently flowered and was meant to smell to high heaven. Amorphophallus titanum  flowering is meant to be rare and unpredictable and absolutely massive, I think (from what I can remember on Twitter), the large flowering structure reached way over two metres at the weekend.

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However when we saw it today the sticky up pointy thing (aka the phallus) had collapsed, so we were just left with this, it wasn’t really stinky either but still pretty striking.

Kew August 2015-4

The spice festival part was pretty good too, although like I said, some of it didn’t seem to be there. There was an impressive display of different chilli plants, arranged from no spiciness at all (i.e. bell peppers) to the absolute extreme chilli plants, Boy Lacer was very interested in that. There were also display points throughout the Gardens with information about different spices plus a pavilion made of glass jars of spices (the photos at the top of this post).

Kew August 2015-6

I think the best bit though was an activity called The Dough Kitchen, where the kids could make cinnamon flavoured korvapuusti, which were made from pre-prepared pulla dough flavoured with cardamon. The guys running the activity were extremely helpful, specially with Boy Lacer, who, although a bright boy, is not the most dexterous with some practical stuff (and I was flaked out on a nearby chair). The korvapuusti were absolutely delicious too, we will need to make more.

Kew August 2015-3

We did wander around some more, managing to find bits of Kew that we hadn’t seen before, like an ice house and a ‘cage’ of wisteria  (despite going frequently there since the kids were babies) as we don’t normally visit the Princess of Wales conservatory end of the Gardens. It rained a little bit, on and off but it soon looked like it was going to start bucketing it down again, so we made our escape, not making it quite in time to shelter, before getting a soaking.

Kew August 2015-5

The Book of Souls

The Book of Souls (Inspector McLean, #2)The Book of Souls by James Oswald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second of the Inspector McLean series is nowhere near as gruesome as the first but it still has the elements I enjoyed in the first book; the camaraderie and the subtle supernatural element, although it is still a bit cliched. In this one a series of fires is cropping up across Edinburgh and the backstory of the murdered fiancée, alluded to in the first book, is bought to the fore, as a number of very similar murders occur. As required of all modern fictional Scottish detectives it seems, McLean is having a very tough time.

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On the menu: the Girl Lacer edition

I’m still not back to cooking anything more complicated than toast, a sandwich or one of my smoothies yet but Girl Lacer has been cooking, this is what she made.

Friday

  

We had some bananas that needed using up and not that much else in the cupboard, so I found a recipe for banana bread made with spelt here, a Sophie Dahl recipe. Girl Lacer tackled the recipe with ease and the result was delicious.

Natural Causes

Natural Causes (Inspector McLean, #1)Natural Causes by James Oswald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn’t looking for another Tartan Noir series but I wanted something ‘fun’ and absorbing to listen to (I read this as an audiobook) and Natural Causes definitely fitted the bill. Or maybe just stick a grim stone building under stormy skies on the cover with a big, distinctive, bold font and I’m anybody’s girl.

I say ‘fun’ for Natural Causes, it wasn’t really that really, what it was was pretty gruesome but, as with a lot of Tartan Noir, I liked the camaraderie between the police officers and the descriptions of a part of the UK I really don’t know at all but would like to know.

What made Natural Causes particularly stand out was the fact that it has a very definite supernatural element, which I hadn’t been expecting. It’s like Natural Causes is the bastard child of Stuart MacBride’s McRae series (‘straight forward’ Scottish police procedural) and Paul Cornell’s London Falling series (an out and out supernatural police series), except Natural Causes has inherited more of McRae’s characteristics than London Falling’s, with the supernatural element being much more subtle. There are other slightly cliched similarities between Natural Causes and the McRae series too; the loved one in a coma, the grumpy boss, the incompetent superior who hates the hero’s guts, past alluded to tragedy, the older lazy slightly comical lower ranked colleague, the romance between the police and the scene of crime officers etc etc, but hey it works.

Natural Causes is the first in a series and I will definitely be reading more. I thought the book set things up really well for further books in the series, with supernatural question marks over the hero’s family.

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