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October 2019 Reading Round Up

My October  2019 reading round up may be my last one for a while. I’m back to reading books that I might want to write full posts about. Already this month I’ve reviewed books by Jann Arden and Margaret Feinberg. This likely means that I will be doing less  reading for pleasure. As it is, although I have four titles this month they only add up to three and a half books. I think I might do one at the December, and then go to quarterly next year. That aside, here’s what I read this month

October 2019 Donna Leon novel
The cover of Death at La Fenice, the first of the Brunetti novels.

Donna LeonDeath at La Fenice

Leon’s creation, Inspector Guido Brunetti is one of my favourite detective characters. Although I’ve watched most of the TV movies, this is the first of the books that I’ve read. Death at La Fenice is the first novel in the series, but on TV it was the fifth episode.

The story opens with the death of a renowned German conductor by the name of Helmut Wellauer. The conductor is pretty clearly a stand in for Herbert von Karajan, right down to the Nazi ties. He is highly disliked, he holds everyone else to a higher moral standard than himself, and can and will ruin careers. However, his talent is so great that he is forgiven much of what he does.

He is found dead at the theatre between acts of La Traviata. The cause of death is cyanide poisoning and it appears self-induced. However, as Brunetti starts to look around, it becomes clear that there are things which appear off. The list of suspects is long, including the conductor’s much younger wife, the prima soprano, the gay producer, the soprano’s lesbian lover, and even perhaps an old affair.

As the story unwinds we find that Wellauer’s character is even darker than we may have suspected. The reveal of the cause of death and the culprit comes as a bit of surprise, as does Brunetti’s dealing with it.

Book Vs TV

One of the interesting things about the TV version is that the episode comes after the characters of Brunetti and his wife had been changed, so that actors playing them were, if not better looking, neater and tidier. Having read the books I think the original actors were more in keeping with the characters as described in the book.

On the plus side, food plays a prominent part in the book, and the  children Rafi and Chiara also appear in much the same way as they do on TV.

Dark Sacred Night
Michael Connelly’s Dark Sacred Night.

Michael ConnellyDark Sacred Night 

Dark Sacred Night is a follow up novel to Two Kinds of Truth, and The Late Show, which introduces the character of Renee Ballard. I know I read The Late Show, but I apparently didn’t write it up.  In this novel, Harry Bosch

working the late shift, Ballard comes across Bosch looking through some files. He’s investigating the murder of Daisy Clayton, a cold case. Clayton is the daughter of the female addict that Bosch is trying to help kick her drug habit. After Bosch leaves, Ballard takes a look at the file for herself. Soon she is teaming up with Harry to try and help him solve the case.

Along the way Bosch finds himself a target while investigating another cold case, this time involving a local drug lord. At the same time, his decision to let Daisy Clayton’s mom crash at his place while she recovers, is causing problems for Harry in his relationship with his own daughter.

The novel contains many twists and turns as it hurtles to its conclusion. One of the most interesting parts of the story is the relationship between Ballard and Bosch. It’s clear that each has trust issues with the other, and it always seems that they are on the brink of reaching a point where they will cause great damage to each other.

While pursuing Daisy’s killer, we find Bosch pushed to his limits. Even when the case is resolved, we are left wondering if Bosch will perhaps go to far one day. In the end he comes to a truce with Ballard, but we are not sure how well it will hold if tested in the future.

Chocolate Wars
Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury.

Deborah CadburyChocolate Wars

Chocolate Wars: The 150- Year Rivalry Between The World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers, recounts the rise of chocolate from the mid-18th century to the beginning of the 21st century. From a food that was almost exclusively served in beverage form, to the many varieties of bars and other products we have today. The author, a non-chocolate making relative of the legendary chocolate making family, takes us on a fairly detailed journey, focused mainly on the first 50 years or so, but covering the whole period.

What I found really interesting in this book, and was new information to me, is that most of the big chocolate makers in England were Quakers. This includes the Cadburys, Frys, Rowntree, MacIntosh, and a few others. One thing the book chronicles is how the development of the chocolate industry placed created challenges to their Quaker faith practices. Most notably it seems that in each generation there was a movement further and further away. They struggled with questions of what to do with the wealth this business generated. Whether or not advertising was an acceptable practice.

The biggest challenge they faced was discovering that there cocoa was coming from slave plantations and trying to walk the tightrope between keeping the business running and helping to end the slaving practices. In this one they fell off the tightrope. On the other hand they built model communities and did much to help raise their workers out of dire poverty(These were later spun off into trusts that still carry out socially beneficial programs up to today).

American Chocolate History

Over in America, Maynard Hershey followed their example to a certain degree. Meanwhile chocolatiers such as Forrest Mars Sr.., concentrated on building successful companies but with less emphasis on social welfare. This was largely the case for European companies such as Nestle as well. The book concludes with the purchase of Cadburys by Kraft foods(It has since been spun of into Mondelez foods).

Chocolate Wars is an interesting look at an industry. It is also an interesting look at a different approach to how a capitalist business could be run.

Andrew Carnegie – The Gospel of Wealth

My last reading for October 2019 is more of an extended magazine article. I read it, because Deborah Cadbury mentioned it as a contrasting model to the approach the Quakers took to capitalism.

There are some good things in here. Carnegie for example, didn’t believe in familial inheritance. That is, he thought children should be provided for, but on a relatively modest scale. He describes wages as the finest form of redistribution of wealth. In his own life he practiced the setting up of libraries, free to all. He is also correct in stating that industrialization had made it even for a greater number of people than ever before to acquire the basics of life.

Nonetheless, he believes the wealthy should make the decisions as to how the money is distributed. He describes this as a law of nature. The rich do the best job of earning money, so clearly they are bested suited to distribute it. Of course, this says nothing about how it is earned. For example, although Carnegie states wages are the highest form of distribution, his own practices in this area were more than a little suspect.

It’s pretty clear that Carnegie’s ideas came to dominate American and subsequently worldwide capitalism.

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By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.