Jimmy & Christina 11 November 2016

My wee (!) ¬†brother Jimmy got married to the most exquisite bride I ever saw, Christina, on Friday. I know it hasn’t fully sank in yet! I had the honour of being a bridesmaid, and we had the most wonderful day.

My family is literally still on a high. It was such a blessed and genuinely happy day. It’s hard not to be totally happy for them as they have been the epitome of true love for many’s a year.

It’s been a beautiful experience. From sunrise in the gorgeous RoCo hair, giggles and the most perfect make up by Kendra. We were pampered and felt like princesses, I also feel like I have made a few new friends as we have been living in each other’s pockets this last week or so! I feel like the colours and happy memories of getting ready have been emblazoned into my mind. I really had a special, happy morning. Thank you Christina and Kendra, Clodagh and Kim at RoCo for such a great start to the big day.

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These are just wee snapshots, a bridesmaid doesn’t have much time for photos, so we will rely on Natalie Doherty photographer extraordinaire for the ceremony photos and more. I’m not doing the day justice but I just wanted to document it a little.

The ceremony was at St. Patrick’s Church Pennyburn and we were delighted that Fr. Gerard Mongan officiated. He has been a great family friend from way back when when myself, Jimmy and best man Paddy were altar servers and he was a deacon 15 years ago! He made the Mass so personal and he was so generous and funny. It all ran completely smoothly and every guest was commenting on what a beautiful mass it was. Jimmy and Christina just lit up when they saw each other and it was an absolute privilege to witness their official and spiritual union.

 

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The venue, The Redcastle Hotel and Spa is an absolute dream and I wish I could have stayed in the peaceful ocean view hotel for a week! It’s just across the border in Donegal and we got whisked there in a beautiful vintage car.

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It rained but it hardly mattered and it was such a warm and right feeling to have all your family surrounding you to help two very loved and special people commit their lives to each other. It was touching to see how much my parents enjoyed it, how proud they were and how blessed they felt. I barely have a photo here but my 7 siblings and I are a source of pride (for some reason! Ha) to my mammy and daddy and they said they preferred it to their own wedding day because we were all there this time!!

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How absolutely divine is my new sister-in-law?

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Jacob really stole the show. He danced with 18+ people (he counted in bed the next morning) and he had the time of his life. My Daddy also had a great line in his tear inducing speech ‘For 20 years until Jacob came along, it was just you and me in a house full of hormones.’ He spoke directly to Jimmy about how much he loved and was proud of him and everyone was fighting down the feels. I was actually really proud of my Daddy and his speech (although he was so nervous) was just amazing. A lady came up and called him ‘heart man’ after it. Love is the most important.

Jimmy was almost annoyed at my Daddy for nearly setting him off before his speech. Jimmy also spoke straight from the heart and got choked up when he spoke about his new beautiful, kind and intelligent wife. I have the best men folk.

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We danced the night away and some of the special requests were perfect. My parents had asked for The Obvious Child by Paul Simon as they always danced in the kitchen with the wee siblings to it. Everyone was up and it was a moment. Also the best man requested ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ by the Undertones and it was hilarious. The first dance was a Coldplay song Against the World and they were so beautiful and in love it would break your heart in the best possible way.

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If I could always look this good at 2.am!

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My room had a helicopter pad right outside. And the sea!

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The view from the honeymoon suite balcony after breakfast next morning!

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Way homeūüôā

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This beautiful photo from Ann-Marie Appleton.  Looove it. 

 

So once more a huge and heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS to the new Mr and Mrs Mc Callion. I love you two so much and am so very proud of you. Your wedding was a dream. Thank you for everything. So many people have been touched by this love story and this beautiful celebration. Have an unforgettable honeymoon in Mexico and New York. See you when you come home, for the next chapter.

x

 

Happy Birthday Josh Ritter! 40 Lyrics

So, the most joyful of 40th Birthdays to Josh Ritter, the best singer/songwriter, lyrical genius, happiest smiling performer, political commentator, novelist, sound tracker of my life! Anyone who knows me knows of Josh, because I am such a fan of all his work, and have been for many years. Age 16 I was swept away by the lyrics on a random CD my first ever boyfriend gave me, it was a copy of 2002’s Hello Starling, and from the first song, Bright Smile, I was captivated. The music has gone in many wonderful directions since then, but I have to say that one little pretty song has always held a special place in my heart.

There’s been 5 albums since, I have had 11 or so years of listening to this wonderful wordsmith. I have never found any lyrics or music that spoke to, comforted me in difficult times and buoyed up my successes like the works of, or should I say the Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. I think I have saw him in concert here in Ireland 10 times, and met him on a handful of happy occasions. My favourite time was the porch of the Empire Music Hall in 2009, during my first month or so of University. We bonded over Muriel Spark if I remember rightly.

My bestie Aisling and me bumped heads trying to hug Josh after one of my first times seeing him in Letterkenny, probably in 2007. My Mammy still feels a little ill when she listens to Kathleen because she was pregnant with Ellen when she listened to the album a lot and it calls up the morning sickness. Josh was there when relationships came and went and the words surrounded me on my best and worst days. Every workplace I was in or class I took I always converted a few to the Book of Ritter! To the point of being teased.

I have made so many memories, and met some good friends. This music has really enriched my days and I’m not doing it justice here.

As part of the celebrations, to let the birthday boy know how much all his songs are loved and appreciated, I bullied  requested that my friends and family help me out on a little lyrical project. Aisling gave me the idea of my 40 favourite lyrics, and I loved that idea, so these are at least 40 significant lyrics (I probably could go on forever.) And then to make it interesting, I assigned different people in my life some lyrics to hand write, and decorate as they saw fit. There are some works of art here. I think I might finally get an idea for a tattoo…

These lyrics all mean something to me, so take a wee minute to be inspired. 

In no particular order, I give you 40 lyrics from the man of the moment, Idaho legend Josh Ritter! Happy Birthday, Josh. Thank you for writing such rich and magical poetry to music. These songs have genuinely made a big difference in my life.

I think I will let the lyrics mostly speak for themselves. It’s only little snippets, but I strongly advise you chase the song up and give it a listen. Enjoy!

#JoshRitteris40

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Beginning how it began, Bright Smile.

@thebadactress is now my username for most things… including Twitter. Where Josh follows me! Huzzah.

 

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I find more and more depth to this song every time. Considering ending the world just to stay in an underground bunker with your love…

 

 

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A magical story of a ‘cursed’ Egyptian Mummy falling in love with an archaeologist.

 

 

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Beginning of relationship questions and wishes!

 

 

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Like, what a compliment… and Ellen did a great job of the mini Aurora Borealis.

 

 

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A beautiful story song that gets me right in the feels every time. Also cleverly inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee. The first time I heard it I assumed it was an old cover of a classic song.

 

 

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A definite ‘up there’ for my favourite song.

 

 

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This song was a bit of a commentary on the Bush administration 10 years ago… but so apt today.

 

 

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If you’re familiar with the next line, Jacob (7) drew a blackbird, a starling and winter being over by spring flowers. Awww.

 

 

 

Joy to you, Josh, wherever you are on your 40th Birthday. You have done the music world, and the world in general so much good by being here. Thank you for keeping me company through music, and offering so much inspiration through your words. Keep doing what you’re doing, and please come back to Ireland when you can.

Happy Birthday!

Fiona x

Huge THANK YOU to my artistic contributors who were put under some pressure! I am so impressed and I owe you :

A. Breslin

Dr. A. Duffy

L. Gilmour

C. Lafferty

R. Harley

Dr. M. Montague

E. Mc Callion

J. Mc Callion

P. Mc Callion

S. Rooney

M. Turner

C. Tracey

And an extra special thank you to A. Nelson who really made me want to get my friends involved cause of her calligraphy skills. Beautiful! 

The power of words. A ramble.

I work in a shop at present. A book shop, mostly, but also newspapers and magazines and lots of stationery for Back to School. ¬†I get a little defensive when people judge me. All my work friends seem to be doing second degrees or other courses and I feel left behind a lot. I don’t like to be negative here but I kind of wanted to share this experience.

On Saturday I was serving customers and an elderly lady with a stern manner and a white bob bought the Daily Mail. She pointed out the front page and agreed wholeheartedly with Theresa May bringing back grammar schools. She seemed to press the point and said ‘All my children went to grammar school, it’s not about your upbringing it’s about how hard you work.’ She really seemed to be trying to judge me or something so I said truthfully, I went to a grammar school. In all seriousness, she looked at me, smiled, and asked ‘What happened to you?’ I was so shocked, and so disheartened. My fears coming true. I don’t even know what I said back, I listed my achievements like degree and Journalism qualification, and she still smirked and made me feel like absolute rubbish. The rest of the exchange was horrible, and she went away with a big smile on her face. I really hope she feels better about herself by trying to tear someone down. Even if, and especially if I didn’t have ANY qualifications, what right had she to judge someone?

On Saturday night after too many gins I stood crying outside the bar to my Book Manager, about this and general life insecurities. I wish hateful people didn’t have the power to make me feel like this. I wish they and more importantly, I didn’t compare myself to all my friends, siblings and colleagues who are ‘winning’ at life when I seem to be floundering or stopped dead.

I will go through surges of applying for jobs in Belfast, Edinburgh, but in truth I have no focus, I don’t know what to apply for and I get so bummed out with the rejections that come about 2 months later if ever.

When a colleague who is about the same age as me but who’s been with the company for a long time, got engaged recently and now has a fantastic new job, I was so, so happy for him, but also I was jealous. Or more, just felt terrible about how I was doing. And that’s horribly selfish and I don’t want to feel like that.

My Mammy is right, as she mostly is. I need to concentrate on all the things I have, and not pine for things I don’t. Apart from people leaving all over the shop, the people I work with in the humble shop have become really good friends and support and I’m truly grateful to have them in my life. I have been asked to do a really interesting bit of freelance which I am having extreme anxiety about after so long, but really chuffed to be asked to do and appreciate the flexibility I am allowed.

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Although I know I could be doing more, I am choosing to hope and to trust and to try to live my life in the moment. I try to make a difference where I am, and keep an open heart. What else can I do when I’m not sure what I’m doing. I obsess about being 27 but I am blessed and that’s still young (isn’t it?) and I know I can do a little good for those around me.

I’m surrounded by good people, and beautiful friends and family. Really I want to thank people for being so kind and patient with little broken record me. And encourage anyone who feels like giving up, or that they aren’t keeping up. You’re good enough, no matter what you do, it’s who you are that’s important and all your human interactions. Be someone who builds people up, and doesn’t tear them down.

31

My Name is Leon

A brother chosen.

A brother left behind.

And a family where you’d

least expect to find one.

My Name is Leon is a heartbreaking story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how- just when we least expect it – we manage to find our way home.

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I had a good feeling about this book, and had been saving it for a while. I gobbled it up in a day and a half. Leon is nine in 1980 England, he is mixed race, his Mum has baby Jake with another guy and he is white. This does not stand between them in any way, and Leon soon finds himself having to change, feed and look after Jake for longer and longer periods of time as his Mum descends into post natal depression or maybe something else. Leon doesn’t mind too much. He loves his brother and he is good at it, and only goes to Tina Downstairs for help when there is no food and no money left.

Kit De Waal is astounding at getting into Leon’s head, the way he has learned to tell Social Workers what they want to hear, and not believe what any of them say. He distracts himself with Action Man and swiping fifty pence pieces when things get too hard. He is a good, lost child and your heart really breaks for him.

Leon and Jake go to live with Maureen, an older lady who has been fostering forever. I LOVED Maureen. She is no nonsense but wise and loving, larger than life and is always cooking up fabulous grub and endless snacks for the boys. She asks Leon about Jake’s routine and what he does and doesn’t like so she doesn’t get it wrong. She gets out a pad and pencil and writes down two pages of notes on what Leon says‚̧

Leon licks the sauce off his fingers and looks around. Maureen’s house smells of sweets and toast and when she stands near the kitchen window with the sun behind her, her fuzzy red hairstyle looks like a flaming halo. She’s got arms like a boxer and a massive belly like Father Christmas.

Maureen is amazing. The boys and the reader trust her implicitly.

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Each chapter was headed by a teeny cute illustration which were a joy and totally instagram-able. 

Something devastating happens, Jake is adopted. Maureen believes because he is white. Poor Leon trashes his room and starts grinding his teeth in his sleep, and can’t cope very well. There’s a heartbreaking but wonderful chapter where Maureen has to wake him from a nightmare and she sits him down and ‘has words’ about how she knows a thing or two about children.

‘Answer me this. How many children have I fostered over the years? I know you know the answer because I saw you ear-wigging the other day when I was talking to the neighbours.’

Turns out its twenty-two. And including her own children, grandchildren and Leon it’s thirty. She tells him how she knows he will be alright and that he will see his brother again. It might not be until they are adults, but Leon will see Jake again. ‘He hasn’t gone forever.’

Despite this safe environment there are still a lot of trials for Leon and even Maureen. His Mum sometimes doesn’t turn up to see him, he doesn’t hear from her for months. He makes friends with some older men at nearby allotments when he acquires a bike, and for a long time it’s not clear what their motives are and it left me a bit uneasy.

But there is a whole sub-plot about police brutality against black men which I wasn’t aware of, in England in the 80’s. And Tufty, who has an allotment is key to this, and teaching Leon about Black Power, and racism and dignity.

This is a brilliant first novel, so real and genuine and tender. Beautiful stuff, and well worth a read. Book 32 of 2016.

Magazines To Make You Happy

The only magazines I buy are ones that don’t push beauty or fashion or promote female body shaming. I have never been interested in those type of magazines. What’s that line from Baz Luhrmann’s Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) ‘Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.’

I totally agree. Lately I have been spending a little more money on these, and gaining so much comfort and joy and inspiration.

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Despite these particular covers, neither of these magazines dwells on woman’s bodies and how they should look at all.

Flow magazine is my especial¬†favourite. A magazine for paper lovers, one back issue claimed. I thought it was going to be about crafts, but the pages are made from different weights of paper, you always get a free wonderful gift, in paper form, this time it’s a Tiny Pleasures Art Journal. I have a little¬†flip calendar that I had to press out and loop on a ring by my bedside and the daily thoughts, advice and illustrations brighten my day no end. I sometimes Instagram them under #366daysofflow via @thebadactress. I love Instagram. In fact I think I may have first heard of Flow through @miekesmakes.

‘Celebrating creativity, imperfection and life’s little pleasures.’ In this issue, the gorgeous letter from editors Irene and Astrid celebrates the ordinary. There’s an article within this issue from Flemish psychiatrist and professor Dirk de Wachter. It’s a Dutch magazine, so I think translated into English quite recently so you get to discover all kinds of experts and creators who you would normally have no way of finding. Anyway I can’t wait to read Dirk’s article which is quoted here, ‘The coincidence of fate, finding without searching, noticing the little things¬†and being open to whatever crosses your path: that’s where the beauty of life can be found.’

This is a beautiful magazine inside and out, so far I have found a lovely thoughtful article that talks about when we are feeling unhappy, we tend to think we need to make drastic changes in our lives. ‘But solutions can often be found in small things, and much closer to home.’ Also a celebration of rain, a story of how a journalist lost all her pictures including baby pictures on her hard drive, and how bad of a loss was it really? And the art of good conversation, and how the writer craves deep conversations. (Me too!)

It’s the most wonderful, different and amazing magazine, four per year. My work stocks it, and you can subscribe or order individual issues at flowmagazine.com

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Oh Comely is next up. Again, a beautiful quiet magazine, this one is printed in London. So many curiosities here, and I gobbled it up on my little propeller plane to Edinburgh recently. The girl beside me was reading Marian Keyes’ Under the Duvet on her ereader and I really should have made friends with her. I was hoping I looked cool with this magazine.

There is a lot of white space on the page, and the white cover make it feel clean. There are beautiful illustrations and interviews. I especially enjoy the readers letters. There is actual photographs of the snail mail the magazine receives which I find charming. There was a letter and illustration from a girl who is like my soul sister @cerezinspring. I feel exactly like you about snail mail!

I loved this article by Lara Watson about Freya Stark (Women who changed the world) It reminded me of you, Abbye.

Stark took advantage of her gender to experience the aspects of women‚Äôs lives hidden from her male counterparts and, when she wanted, to bend the rules. ‚ÄúThe great and almost only comfort about being a woman is that one can always pretend to be more stupid than one is and no one is surprised.‚ÄĚ

I remember the first time I saw this magazine in a WHSmith in Belfast there was a piece where all this strange stuff had been put through the post, maybe a banana that looked like a gun, icing sugar that looked like drugs etc to see if they would reach their destination. And then just silly things too.

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Illustration By Meera Lee Patel

Other articles I enjoyed was ‘Cocktails: A brief history in six drinks’ by Jason Ward. ‘The main ingredients of Sex on the Beach are peach schnapps, vodka, melted Rubik’s Cubes, a Wham! cassingle and orange juice.’ A piece on climbing trees as an adult, and a beautiful article by Becky MacNaughton called The Adventurous Aisle in which she writes ‘You can learn a lot about a person in a supermarket, you know.’ ‘I decided I loved him in a Tesco. It was partly in the way he spent a little too long choosing a fabric softener.’

I used to have a subscription to this magazine, I think I will again.

I felt more warmth towards those than I thought, thank you for bearing with me! And do check out these magazines, I don’t think you’ll regret it. Magazines still sell surprisingly well, one of the biggest jobs at work is ‘The News’ and they work really hard and get through a big pile of magazines every week. I am obvs also a ‘Hero’ gang member of Standard Issue, Sarah Millican’s ‘no bullshit’ magazine. Love that also. Happy reading!

Everyone Brave is Forgiven

War was declared at 11.15 and Mary North signed up at noon.

The cover of this book has the most beautiful photograph of an extremely well dressed woman posting a letter into a post box in a square that is reduced to rubble.

Backdrop: London, 1939 to 1942. ‘It was a city in love with beginnings.’ I find WWII endlessly fascinating. Chris Cleave the author speaks about why World War II is so vital for novelists very eloquently here:

I had high hopes for this book, I received it twice on my birthday because I had been talking about it so much. Every Chris Cleave novel (The Other Hand, Gold, Incendiary) has floored me. He writes in a truly beautiful but hard-hitting way. This is first historical novel.

In a powerful combination of both humour and heartbreak, this dazzling novel weaves little-known history and a perfect love story through the vast sweep of the Second World War- daring us to understand that, against the great theatre of world events, it is the intimate losses, the small battles, the daily human triumphs that change us most.

Mary is thrust into teaching, as all the school masters are away at war. She is quite indignant about this at first. But she accepts it. ‘Mary almost wept when she learned that her first duty as a schoolmistress would be to evacuate her class to the countryside. And when she discovered that London had evacuated its zoo animals days before it’s children, she was furious.’ What Mary actually ends up doing, is teaching the children that have been rejected and sent back from their temporary homes in the countryside.

Mary, as an aristocrat goes from quite enjoying the novelty of the idea of war, herself and her friend Hilda go by train to view the first bombed site in London, never dreaming it would soon be them, to truly suffering. They both sign up to drive ambulances almost on a whim.

The other main characters are Tom Shaw, an education administrator who reluctantly gives Mary her first job and becomes her lover. His best friend and flatmate Alistair signs up for the war as soon as it begins. Alistair sees so much horror from early on, and he becomes rather distant. The humour of Tom’s letters revive him, and he is jealous of Tom’s newfound love, but this is nothing until he actually meets Mary.

Tom gives Alistair a homemade jar of Blackberry Jam before he leaves for war, and Alistair keeps it, through starvation and being shipped to further and further battle zones, to share with Tom when it is all over. It’s a really beautiful symbol of friendship.

It’s such a human story. Even against such a dramatic and seemingly well known background¬†as the Second World War. Chris Cleave makes the most familiar, yet surprising observations:

One didn’t understand, until one had seen a great many bodies, the unconscious effort that one must be making every minute simply to keep one’s hands and face and clothes clean. The world’s surfaces were so filthy that the living touched them only with the tips of their fingers and the soles of their shoes. How grubby it was to die, to give up making that effort.

There’s a graphic description of something Alistair witnesses in Malta, a German pilot crash lands in the street, and the locals attack him. I completely zoned out in Starbucks, it was so vivid and brutal. You completely understand Alistair trying to stop them.

If you’re interested, you should watch these short videos of Chris Cleave speaking about the book.¬†I really enjoyed them and he talks about his work so much better than my rambles.

This, my 29th read of the year could be the best book of 2016 so far. I have been talking about it to anyone who would listen and trying to thrust it into customer’s hands in work. A love story, but so much more than that. It did not disappoint, I didn’t want to finish reading, and I’m proud that I must be descended from the Mary Norths and Alistair Heaths of the world.

Career of Evil – Strike 3

I was biding my time, waiting to read this, as I didn’t want the series to be over. (For now) Once again, I absolutely loved it. This is the first time Robert Galbraith/ JK Rowling had the villain speak in alternate chapters, and what a scary dude. She says it’s the first time her own writing has given her nightmares.

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.

Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible- and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the three other men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them.

I am perhaps more interested in the unlikely Cormoran and Robin’s undeniable chemistry than the cases, the characters are wonderfully developed and the plot really draws you in, and keeps you guessing. Robin’s wedding to Matthew is looming and neither Robin nor Cormoran seem too happy about it.

Robin is such a brilliant character, we finally find out why she abandoned her Psychology degree, and why she sticks with seemingly reliable accountant Matthew. I really love that she has advanced driving training and self defence.

Maybe it’s the major girl in me but I love the passages where they are grabbing a quick bite to eat in a pub, always well described, (Strike loves his grub) and usually a pint of Doom Bar or glass of wine as they update each other on Donald Laing, Noel Brockbank and Jeff Whittaker.

These are three seriously dangerous men, the first one Strike is responsible for getting life imprisonment, second a suspected paedophile who blames Strike for brain damage, and the third, ex-husband of Strike’s super-groupie mother Leda, whom he suspects killed her.

The leg owner’s body turns up, seemed she had BIID (Body Integrity Identity Disorder) otherwise known as amputee identity disorder, she felt that she was meant to be disabled, and she wanted to amputate her leg. She believed that Strike, also an amputee (Afghanistan) had done the deed himself, she had tried to contact him and someone had replied.

It’s a really fast paced and keeps you guessing. More women are killed, sometimes we see it happen as the unnamed killer goes about his horrible misogynistic business.

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I loved all three of the Cormoran Strike (Or should we say Robin Ellacott) novels, and feel they get better and better. It wouldn’t even be necessary to read them in order, as Galbraith does a wonderful job of updating the story without being repetitive.

The writing is often funny, and there are other dramas such as the few day to day cases that Strike and Robin are following, a spurned father stalking his children, and a suspicious boyfriend distrustful of his stripper girlfriend.

Strike always has an hallelujah moment near the closing chapters, but the author doesn’t tell us his conclusion straight away, and the timing and suspense is very well executed.

Another interesting theme is, the book is named after a song by Blue Oyster Cult, and there are references to tattoos and obsessions in the book, and each chapter opens with a short lyric from Blue Oyster Cult’s back catalogue. A lot of times the lyrics are by Patti Smith.

I was surprised and delighted with the revelation of  the identity of the killer. And the question mark about Robin and Strike is underlined more than ever by the end. Loved it!