Brittany Murphy Long Term Poisoning?

Brittany Murphy Long Term Poisoning?

The latest shocker from Hollywood has Brittany Murphy as the victim of possible foul play, and a short while later her husband also became a victim by dying under the same circumstances. Murphy, according to recent lab reports, seems to have been murdered by long term poisoning.

 

Dead Men by Stephen Leather: Shepherd Number 5

Stephen Leather‘s Daniel ‘Spider’ Shepherd is an ex-Special Air Services (aka Special Forces, aka SAS) who now works for the newly formed SOCA (the Serious Organised Crime Agency) as an undercover operative. Dead Men is the fifth in the series and like all the other books about Spider, it’s a cracking good read.

As I’ve said before, Stephen Leather writes about the IRA quite often in his books, whether they are Spider Shepherd books or not, showing just how much the IRA are part of British history and life. Despite the peace talks and the fact that the IRA was “absorbed” by Sinn Fein, they are still a painful memory for a lot of Briton’s and only recently have been replaced as the national “boogey men” by Al-Qaeda.

Shepherd lives with his son Liam and their “live-in” housekeeper/nanny/cook Katra. His boss is the hard-as-nails Charlotte Button aka Charlie. She has transferred from MI5 to the new crime unit. He will in this book try to solve a series of IRA revenge killings while trying to keep Liam, Katra and Charlie safe from revenge killings from a different source.

Dead Men takes a closer look at the aftermath of the peace talks and the hard feelings felt by those who felt that justice had not been served regarding the terrorist action of the IRA. When the men and women who participated in Irelands “war” against England receive a “get out of jail free” card that absolves them of all crimes committed, a lot of people are unhappy.

The book opens with the barbaric execution of a local police constable Robbie Carter during “the troubles”. He is “kneecapped” (shot behind the knees) and then summarily shot in the back of the head. All this takes place in front of his wife and son.

Years later, someone is taking out the gang of “executioners” in the exact same manner that Carter was killed. SOCA has the job of finding out who is actually committing the murders. The finger of the law is pointing to Carter’s widow Elaine who, in the years after her husband’s murder, has also lost her son to Leukaemia.

Spider has been tasked to “get close” to her and prove her innocence or guilt. Meanwhile Charlie Button’s MI5 past is catching up with her in the form of an angry father. She and an American operative from “Spooksville” (CIA and black ops Homeland Security)  USA Richard Yokely (a very interesting character who is perhaps a bit more dangerous than Spider) interrogated two men who wound up dying as a direct and not so direct result of their questioning.

Poppa hires a top-of-the-league “hitman” to take them both out, painfully and aware of why they have been targeted. As the gang of IRA murderers gets smaller and smaller, only one is left. He is married “to a Kennedy” and has high political aspirations. But will he live long enough to see them happen?

As with all the Spider Shepherd books, Stephen Leather paints a sharp clear picture of his characters. They are alive and breathing; Leather’s ear for dialogue with all its nuances is, as usual, spot on. Shepherd is  interesting to read about and like the other books in the series you lose nothing by not reading them in order. Spider knows right from wrong and he  also realises that the world is full of a lot of grey areas. He deftly and with no qualms steps from the black and white world into this grey area in his undercover world.

Despite this book being somewhat “early on” in the Spider Shepherd books, the writing is just as crisp as in his later books. Published initially in 2008, Dead Men gives a bit more of an insight on Shepherd and on Charlie, while letting us into Richard Yokely’s world a bit more.

I would give Dead Men a 5 out of 5 stars for not only being a great paced action thriller but also a mystery of very enjoyable difficulty.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow: The Future is Now

I haven’t read a book that scared me this badly since I first picked up Pet Sematary by Stephen King.

You might well ask what it was about this 2008 book that scared me. A book that tells about a world where ‘Big Brother’ has gone crazy. Well, buckle your seatbelts friends and neighbours because I’m going to tell you.

In little brother we meet Marcus Yallow he is a senior at Chavez High School in the San Francisco Mission district. He is seventeen and he has three friends. Daryl, who is his best friend; Van, the only girl in the group and Jolu.

Marcus and his friends are hackers. Not by choice but by necessity.

The world has turned into a police state. CCTV (closed circuit television) cameras are everywhere. Chavez High School has cameras in the hallways that recognise each student’s gait. The students books have tracking devices in them so the school can monitor their movements. The laptops they are required to use are monitored and censored by the school as well.

These are just three of the many government approved tracking systems used not only on students but the whole country’s population.

Marcus and his friends play an on-line Japanese ARG (Alternate Reality Game) called Harajuku Fun Madness. A combination of computer play and ‘real life’ exercises, these games are wildly popular. Marcus talks his friends into ditching school to get a head start on the real life portion of the game. They can ditch school because they have ‘hacked’ the school security system and can ‘fool’ it.

They all meet at ‘the tenderloin’ a rough section of San Francisco.  Using wifinders they have tracked down their clue and it’s in an Asian Massage Parlour. Marcus and his friends bump into another group of ARG players and are in the middle of an argument  about who was there first, when an explosion rocks the tenderloin area.

The city emergency sirens go off and the populace are told to take shelter in the BART stations. *BART  (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is a public transport system like the underground (UK) or subway (US)*

As Marcus and his friends get just inside the BART, they decide to take their chances up ‘top-side’ because of the sheer numbers of people in the shelter already. They fight their way back up to the street level only to find that Daryl has been stabbed.

Marcus waves down a passing government vehicle and he and his friends are arrested and taken into custody, not by the police, but by Homeland Security. They have bags put over their heads and are handcuffed. Taken to an undisclosed area, they are tortured and interrogated. Homeland Security wants them to confess to being the terrorists who planted the bombs.

Marcus and his friends are held and ‘interrogated’ for six days. All of them are released except for Daryl. Marcus is told that if he ever tells anyone about what was done to him and his friends  he will disappear forever.

Once Marcus gets over the initial terror of his captivity and interrogation he gets angry. He is certain that Daryl is dead or worse. He decides to start a war with Homeland Security and enlists the aid of other students. Soon they have formed a ‘revolutionary’ group  known as the XNETTERS by the underground and Cal Queda by the press.

In an instant, the government starts taking away people’s rights and freedoms in the name of protecting the country from terrorism. The agents of Homeland Security are now in charge of teaching the youth of the country and the first thing they teach is that the constitution is not really a Bill of Rights at all. They maintain that the rights are more  suggestive in nature and open to interpretation and removal at the government’s discretion.

This book grabbed hold of me before I had gotten through the first chapter. I stopped and put it down and thought about all the CCTV’s there were in the world. I then thought about the information that anyone can glean from your credit card usage.

I could go on, but, I’m sure you get the point. Everything we do now is computerised and easily monitored. In the book, when government security pump up their surveillance on everyone in the San Francisco area and use the BART passes to monitor everyone’s movements, the vast majority of the population are okay with it.

Exactly how it would be in real life and almost was earlier this year. In the book, the government immediately start a rigid cyber-security program that mimics China and Syria. Sound familiar?

Does the name SOPA mean anything to you? How about PIPA? Use the acronym of your choice, but they all mean the same thing…Cyber-security. The government has been, and still is, desperate to control the internet. Not just in the U S borders, but across the world.

The last presidential administration ruled by fear. It appears that our current administration has learned a thing or two from the last president elect. Get the people worried enough about terrorist threats within the country’s borders and you can write your own ticket.

Luckily, we, the people, won the SOPA fight, but the powers that be still want that cyber-control. The current administration is still waving the cyber-terrorism flag around like nobody’s business.

If you want to see what living in the United States would be like under a government that controls everyone and takes away rights and freedom. Read this book.

Or you could just read the newspaper or magazine of your choice. You could read a few internet blogs, magazines and newspapers, but you’d better hurry.  If the government have their way, that kind of internet won’t be around much longer.

And that is what scared me about the book. In Doctorow’s world the technology is a little more advanced, but not a lot. What is exactly the same though, in both his world and our real one, is the government’s answer to the terrorist problem. The taking away of rights and freedom in the name of national security.

It all sounds a little too real to me.