Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Yard, by Alex Grecian

The Yard: A Novel, by Alex Grecian

I enjoyed every word of this novel. Set in a post-Jack the Ripper England the adventure follows Inspector Day, the newest member of the homicide squad, who is trying to solve what begins as a murder of a fellow investigator but eventually encompasses several other grisly deaths and a child abduction as well. Day is joined in his efforts by Dr. Kingsley, Scotland Yard's first forensic pathologist, and the dedicated Constable Hammersmith; the trio makes a formidable and effective team, making use of new and untrusted technologies such as fingerprinting as they work. In this era the failure of the justice system to bring the Ripper to justice has both seriously diminished the police in the eyes of the public, and the thought of another serial killer working London is frightening to everyone. Our heroes are depicted as exceptionally talented, but the disdain of the people they are trying to protect and their own insecurities make for interesting if not quite flawed individuals.

Grecian paints a compelling picture of Victorian London, even including as an active character the real-world Sir Edward Bradford as the Police Commissioner. London doesn't quite manage to be a character of its own here as in Gaiman's Neverwhere, but its influence on the story is commented on often by its citizens. "He had seen idealistic men come and go, the city leaching hope from them too quickly." "We're in the biggest city in the world, ... and I think it's trying to get rid of us." The city's size may be hard to fathom for its inhabitants, but with only a few characters and settings the overwhelming scope didn't really come through to the reader as powerfully as it could have. Ignoring the occasional anachronistic language and the characters constantly bumping into one another in a city as large as London, though, is easy with such a gripping story.

First Sentence:
Nobody noticed when Inspector Christian Little of Scotland Yard disappeared, and nobody was looking for him when he was found.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Friends of Eddie Coyle, by George V. Higgins

The Friends of Eddie Coyle: A Novel, by George V. Higgins

Reluctantly, I'd have to say I enjoyed reading this novel. With not a single likable character and no identifiable heroes or villains the first third is interminably slow as the reader has to wait for the various plot lines to be firmly established and intermingle before it becomes interesting. There is very little descriptive text; nearly the entire story is told with dialogue—it often felt more like a play than a novel other than the widely varying locations. The speech comes across as very authentic rather than something you'd hear watching Law and Order but one mild complaint I had is that many of the voices sound the same: one thug speaks in much the same tone as the next. There isn't really a mystery here, just a story of a handful of crooks and cops going about their business. As far as Boston crime novels go I think I still prefer Parker to Higgins, but if you don't need a sympathetic lead to enjoy a book you could do a lot worse than The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

First Sentence:
Jackie Brown at twenty-six, with no expression on his face, said that he could get some guns.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Version Control with Git, by Jon Loeliger and Matthew McCullough

Version Control with Git: Powerful Tools and Techniques for Collaborative Software Development, by Jon Loeliger and Matthew McCullough

I first came across Git at a previous job, but the person that setup and maintained the system had moved on. None of the other developers (including myself) had any experience with the tool and so we sort of made due the best we could but found the experience frustrating. As I'm starting an exciting new job where Git is in wide use I wanted to have a better understanding of the software; I've had good luck with O'Reilly books in the past so I picked up this one. Once again, O'Reilly doesn't disappoint.

Version Control with Git is a well designed reference, walking the reader through download and installation to the basic underlying principals all the way through advanced manipulations. The examples are both useful and obvious and the illustrations complement the text well; Loeliger makes even complicated topics like altering existing commits clear. There were some editing errors such as diagrams being printed in the wrong order and an odd way of sometimes referring to the very next sentence as if it were in another part of the book entirely, but nothing so major that basic understanding of the topic at hand was impacted. At this point I not only understand why git pull does not behave like svn update but also marvel at the possibilities of true collaborative development. I very much look forward to seeing how Git is used at my new job!

First Sentence:
No cautious, creative person starts a project nowadays without a back-up strategy.

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