In the shadowy hallway of the clockmaker's old house a policeman is found murdered, a steel clock hand embedded in his neck. A thing with gilt-painted hands scuttles across London roof-tops. These are just two of the frightening scenes in Dr. Gideon Fell's most frightening case- a case that starts with a knife-wielding shoplifter and ends with a portly detective using a mad-man to capture a murderer.
Originally published in 1935, DEATH-WATCH is the fifth book in the Dr Gideon Fell series by "golden-age" writer John Dickson Carr.
After marrying an Englishwoman, Dickson moved to London, the setting for many of his novels. Referred to as one of the "Golden Age" writers of mysteries, most of the books relied on complex plots, although Dickson was a particular proponent of the "locked room" style of puzzle. Dr Gideon Fell is one of the great solvers of the seemingly impossible crime and in DEATH-WATCH he is working closely with Inspector Hadley to solve the odd mystery of the death of an undercover policeman. The house in which the policeman died is that of clockmaker Johannus Carver, who is then connected to another case - the wounding of a store detective - and the theft of jewellery and a unique watch, also connected to the house via the maker.
DEATH-WATCH really is a classic "Golden-Age" mystery, with a complex plot relying on connections and circles within circles. To say nothing of wading through a lot of red-herrings and around a lot of possible suspects. Much of the investigating relies on the keen observation of Dr Fell, who notes, sees and considers all the actions, and comments of everyone who lives in the house. Needless to say the police are there to run errands, pick up evidence and generally serve the machinations of the Great Detective.
Obviously this is old style mystery writing, so it is very wordy compared to current standards, and quite convoluted in places. There's also a decided propensity to write hysteria and oddity into just about every female character in the book - they are either prone to suspicious behaviour, over the top outbursts, mad personal affectations, or completely bland. In DEATH-WATCH this tendency seemed to be even more pronounced than normal even allowing for the time that the novel was originally written.
If you are a fan of Golden-Age mystery writing, then you might already have come across the Dr Gideon Fell novels. If they are new to you, and you can handle the wordiness and the attitude towards women then this book is perfectly readable as a starting point, or a point in the middle, or even if you're in the mood to work your way through the series from the beginning.
Review - THE TRUTH WILL OUT, Jane Isaac
Eva is horrified when she witnesses an attack on her best friend. She calls an ambulance and forces herself to flee Hampton, fearing for her own safety. DCI Helen Lavery leads the investigation into the murder. With no leads, no further witnesses and no sign of forced entry, the murder enquiry begins.
Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle start to come together. But as Helen inches towards solving the case, her past becomes caught up in her present.
In THE TRUTH WILL OUT, author Jane Isaac has created the beginnings of a classic British police procedural series. At the heart of the book is DCI Helen Lavery, a cop leading a team of murder investigators. She's a widow with two teenage sons, living in a shared caring arrangement with her own mother, balancing the difficulties of raising kids with a full-time demanding career. Because of that slightly different angle, Lavery as a widow, there's a slightly different feeling about the personal. The arrangement with her aging mother assisting with the raising of her grandkids, the loss of her husband at a very young age, and the sense of moving on, trying out a new relationship (with a fellow cop), gives her a slightly different perspective. Especially with the new relationship having gone pear-shaped, and suddenly finding herself face to face with him again, competing as it were, over investigation territories.
The concentration is not fully on the personal though. At the heart of the story is the brutal killing of a young woman, with another slightly unusual twist in that the only witness to the attack is her best friend, who sees everything via a Skype call, and then can't work out if she's running from the reality of what happened, or from the killer herself. The twisty nature of Eva's involvement is mirrored by the twisty nature of the possible suspects as well, as the lay down case established by Lavery's ex is picked apart by her team due to their persistence and her failure to believe the easy answer.
The combination of plot and characters are really good, although there are some issues with pace towards the middle of the book. There's a nice sense of realisation that builds throughout the book, with just enough red herrings and doubt sprinkled through to keep the reader guessing, right up to the last few chapters. At that point things do seem to get a little ragged, with some daft decision-making leading to something dangerously close to good old fem-jep. The biggest problem, however, is that the style suddenly flips into "now we'll wrap up the resolution in a few well crafted revelations". Granted there's no living room with all the characters sitting around in a half circle while the great detective espouses their theory. But it was hard to shake that perception.
Early series books, being early series books, there's always something that the dreaded picky reader can nitpick, and to be fair, up until those few minor quibbles at the end, THE TRUTH WILL OUT was working on just about every level. Definitely a series to keep an eye out for, especially if you like a good old British police procedural, with the violence, blood and gore kept to a minimum, and a central detective who doesn't come across as never needing a battery change.
Review - DEATH CAN'T TAKE A JOKE, Anya Lipska
When masked men brutally stab one of his closest friends to death, Janusz Kiszka – fixer to East London’s Poles – must dig deep into London’s criminal underbelly to track down the killers and deliver justice.
Shadowing a beautiful Ukrainian girl he believes could solve the mystery, Kiszka soon finds himself skating dangerously close to her ruthless ‘businessman’ boyfriend. Meanwhile, his old nemesis, rookie police detective Natalie Kershaw is struggling to identify a mystery suicide, a Pole who jumped off the top of Canary Wharf Tower. But all is not what it seems…
The second book in the Kiszka and Kershaw series set within the Polish community in London, DEATH CAN'T TAKE A JOKE has been a much anticipated arrival, which does not disappoint.
In the first book, WHERE THE DEVIL CAN'T GO, Lipska builds a terrific partnership between the distant, slightly standoffish, Polish PI Janusz Kiszka and an ambitious, young, British detective Natalie Kershaw. This is not your traditional police procedural relationship, there's no love interest (not even a spark of sexual tension), and there's no enforced working relationship (they aren't colleagues). In DEATH CAN'T TAKE A JOKE this relationship is expanded further as once again, their investigations overlap deep within the complex world of the Polish expatriate community centred around the area of Kershaw's police beat. It's a clever way of pulling together an unlikely pairing like this, particularly as Kiszka's involvement here is initially that of a suspect.
Part of the reason this pairing of characters works well is the contrasts. The life of the immigrant forced from a country he loves by circumstances beyond his control, a broken marriage and fractured relationship with his only child, versus that of someone British born, whose major life change is moving in with partner, and fellow cop Ben. Although there are some similarities in that their love lives always seem to be teetering on the edge of not quite getting it right, they both fare slightly better with friendships. In particular, Kiszka's long-term friends have been a source of real enjoyment in both of these books, particularly the magnificently batty Oskar, who is the perfect foil for the taciturn Kiszka in every way. Their enforced abode sharing in this book is the source of a series of particularly funny one-liners. There's also a good working relationship between Kershaw and her boss - he's not the stereotypical thorn in our hero's side for once, and there's a great sense of understanding, camaraderie and co-operation.
Whilst the characters are a big part of why this series has worked so well, they are supported by good, believable and complex plots. There's no surprise in the death of Kiszka's friend being an official investigation, and the focus of his own attention. There's also something elegantly realistic about the way that the connections between a Ukrainian mystery woman, a ruthless Romanian gangster and the unknown Polish man who seemingly jumped to his death fall into place. There are even touches of history lesson woven in - we're learning more and more about the political tensions in Poland, and the reasons why so many people have fled or been forced out.
All of which leads us to the underlying reason for this series heading into firm favourite stakes. Lipska is a consummate storyteller. The characters, the place, and the plots are realistic. The dialogue is well structured, and even the inclusion of Polish terms and slang flow into place without ever bogging the reader down in translation thinking. The combination of plot, personal and pace are perfect. There's real impetus to keep reading here, and that's not because of any impending sense of doom or gloom, it's because of a genuine engagement with the investigators, their friends, family and colleagues, and the victims.
If you've not read the first book WHERE THE DEVIL CAN'T GO, then you could dive straight into DEATH CAN'T TAKE A JOKE. There's enough feel for the back-story of all the main characters that you're not going to be completely lost and bamboozled. Although you'd be missing a real opportunity to catch up with, and then wait impatiently for the third book in the series. Just like the rest of us welded-on fans.
Review - THE CABINETMAKER, Alan Jones
The Cabinetmaker, Alan Jones’ first novel, tells of one man’s fight for justice when the law fails him. Set in Glasgow from the late nineteen-seventies through to the current day, a cabinetmaker's only son is brutally murdered by a gang of thugs, who walk free after a bungled prosecution.
It’s young Glasgow detective John McDaid’s first murder case. He forms an unlikely friendship with the cabinetmaker, united by a determination to see the killers punished, their passion for amateur football, and by John’s introduction to a lifelong obsession with fine furniture.
THE CABINETMAKER was offered to me as a review book, no conditions, although it did come with a warning about the inclusion of some strong language. Even allowing for a tendency to think that the pile up of bodies in crime fiction is more discomforting than the occasional burst of swearing, there's not a lot that's particularly noticeable, especially compared to the levels that you find elsewhere.
This is an unusually styled novel, focusing on the 30 year friendship between cop John McDaid and Francis, cabinetmaker, footballer and father of Patrick who was bashed to death one night. Despite a number of suspects being identified, and the case being bought to trial, somehow the likely perpetrators walked away. In an interesting twist in the Scottish legal system most of them let off with a verdict of "not proven" as opposed to "not guilty".
McDaid and Francis are drawn together from the very moment they both meet as a result of the case. That friendship expands into their shared football life, and into the workshop where McDaid steps into the role of apprentice cabinetmaker, learning the skills that Francis has honed over a lifetime. Building a touching friendship along the way, through the failure of marriages, relationships and into older age. McDaid and his colleague climb the policing ladder, and Francis quietly continues his art form of furniture making, while they both regret the lack of justice for the death of Patrick.
Whilst there is a sense of drift and lack of purpose at points in the story, there's also positives in both their lives. Francis may end up separating from his wife, but they stay friends, and his work and his love of football seems to be sustaining him. McDaid eventually seems to have found a good, albeit slightly odd, relationship with an unlikely woman. He has mates, he has his job, and he has his increasing love of furniture making and wood work.
Obviously, there is the question of where all this is heading, and despite any doubts early on, it's not long before the friendship becomes engrossing and the story of McDaid and Francis involving despite that seeming lack of an obvious direction. Of course, it's crime fiction, so you know / hope / think that perhaps eventually Patrick's death with be solved and justice served. Once the story starts to twist and turn, how that is going to be resolved becomes even more intriguing.
THE CABINETMAKER is a slow burner. There are points where some judicious editing might up the pace a little and hold the reader's attention more firmly in its grasp. But it is intricate and in the main engaging. In looking past the murder, into the lives of those left behind, the fallout from the death of a young man on his family, and on a policeman who feels some responsibility for the failure of a court case, THE CABINETMAKER was a welcome change from standard crime fiction fare.
Review - A LOVELY WAY TO BURN, Louise Welsh
It doesn't look like murder in a city full of death. A pandemic called 'The Sweats' is sweeping the globe. London is a city in crisis. Hospitals begin to fill with the dead and dying, but Stevie Flint is convinced that the sudden death of her boyfriend Dr Simon Sharkey was not from natural causes. As roads out of London become gridlocked with people fleeing infection, Stevie's search for Simon's killers takes her in the opposite direction, into the depths of the dying city and a race with death. A Lovely Way to Burn is the first outbreak in the Plague Times trilogy.
Normally I'm avoiding post-apocalyptic scenarios like the plague they are often employing. There is, however, absolutely no way in this world that I'm going to miss anything written by Louise Welsh no matter how leery of the subject matter I may find myself. So could one of my favourite authors make me accept the whole pandemic thing? To save you wading through the rest of this. Yes.
At the centre of A LOVELY WAY TO BURN there is the mystery of how surgeon Simon Sharkey died. Given the pandemic raging it seems likely that his girlfriend Stevie Flint is the only person that cares. Which is kind of understandable. As 'the Sweats' starts to take grip, the city of London is in chaos. There are riots, gridlocked traffic, emergency services struggling with personnel going down with the same virus, hospitals filling with sick people and the bodies of the dead.
Stevie has had her own battle with the virus and somehow she's now one of the survivors. She should be of great interest to authorities, if they weren't preoccupied, or compromised. Whilst she battles against the city and population gone mad to find out what happened to Simon, friends, colleagues and support systems crumble.
It's a real testament to how good a writer Welsh is that the whole pandemic, riot, madhouse thing works despite there not really being a lot of new ground to be mined in there. The interweaving of the murders does add a strikingly "normal" aspect to life - and you can almost feel the pointless of Stevie's quest. It's also a testament to Welsh's writing that makes you care about what happened to Simon, even when the details of his involvements are eventually revealed. The pace of this book is terrific, and the plot, in the main solid. Stevie, however, is a real standout - determined and fair, she's driven initially by a desire for the truth for Simon, despite the unravelling of his solid reputation.
A LOVELY WAY TO BURN is the first book in Louise Welsh's 'Plague Times' trilogy, which means that for a while to come, I'm going to be pointing out I don't like post-apocalyptic scenarios.. except when Louise Welsh is writing them.
Review - SOLO, William Boyd
It is 1969 and James Bond is about to go solo, recklessly motivated by revenge.
A seasoned veteran of the service, 007 is sent to single-handedly stop a civil war in the small West African nation of Zanzarim. Aided by a beautiful accomplice and hindered by the local militia, he undergoes a scarring experience which compels him to ignore M’s orders in pursuit of his own brand of justice. Bond’s renegade action leads him to Washington, D.C., where he discovers a web of geopolitical intrigue and witnesses fresh horrors.
As the first of the restarted Bond franchise novels that I've tackled I wasn't really sure what to expect. Especially as we've been doing a rewind of all of the movies recently so there's a certain perception of Bond jammed in my brain that's obviously going to take precedence over and above memories of the original books / writing.
At the start of the book this was definitely not Bond as I thought him. There's something oddly thoughtful, considered and reflective in the early chapters that really threw me. Badly. Obviously too many movies where, I have to admit, things got a bit too cartoonish. But I can definitely see how the opening part of this book has appeal. This is a human Bond - somebody that reminds me very much of Daniel Craig's version.
Once the action parts of the book get moving then we're back into more familiar territory, although the idea of filling in a back story around World War II works, providing a bit of continuity for the African civil strife to follow. SOLO also uses this scenario to provide a much more realistic threat for Bond to go up against. Even though I sort of did miss mad evil geniuses, shark tanks, mysterious islands, massive cities in space and all the other daft lunacy.
What Boyd does seem to have done is write a book within the Bond franchise that works as a thriller in its own right, with sufficient of the original framework to be true to the spirit, without trying for a direct copy.
To be honest I wasn't really looking forward to reading SOLO, so I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it became.
Review - A SONG FOR THE DYING - Stuart MacBride
Detective Constable Ash Henderson has a dark secret…
Five years ago his daughter, Rebecca, went missing on the eve of her thirteenth birthday. A year later the first card arrived: homemade, with a Polaroid picture stuck to the front – Rebecca, strapped to a chair, gagged and terrified. Every year another card: each one worse than the last.
The tabloids call him ‘The Birthday Boy’. He’s been snatching girls for twelve years, always in the run-up to their thirteenth birthday, sending the families his homemade cards showing their daughters being slowly tortured to death.
Said it before, should say it again. Will read anything Stuart MacBride publishes... eventually. And yes I know they are extremely violent, dark, with a warped sense of humour and slightly mad edge. What, therefore, is not to love.
A SONG FOR THE DYING isn't, however, a Logan McRae novel but don't let that make you lose hope. There's an equally good cast of misfits, mad buggers, scrappers and fighters here. Which is just as well as it's not easy for an ex-cop like Ash Henderson to survive a spell inside. Especially as even there, arch-enemy, gang boss and evil bitch Maeve Kerrigan can still seem to get to him with impunity.
This is the second Ash Henderson book and I'm shocked, somewhat amazed, and more than a bit disappointed in myself to find that I've not read BIRTHDAYS FOR THE DEAD (despite having it in my stash since release). I plead insanity. Having said that, it was only half-way through that I twigged that there was another book, so the lack of back story didn't matter a jot. Not when Henderson is in jail, not when he refers to deaths in his family in the past, nor when he's tagged and released to help out with the investigation into the return of the bizarre and sadistic killer nicknamed "The Inside Man". Out of circulation for a quite a while, the return of the Inside Man means Henderson's called upon as he's the only cop that even came close to nicking him in the past.
Needless to say the details of The Inside Man's modus operandi are revolting. After grabbing and drugging women, they are "operated on" and a cheap plastic doll inserted into their abdominal cavities, before being stitched up, dumped and then in a particularly cruel twist, their own pre-recorded message played to emergency services from the nearest payphone. Everyone is very keen to get this monster before more women have to suffer, although Henderson isn't likely to follow the rules as closely as authorities would like. Being electronically tagged to team member psychiatrist Dr Alice McDonald isn't going to stop him from going after The Inside Man in his own way, and hoovering up the problem of Maeve Kerrigan along the way.
So many of the elements of Stuart MacBride's books are there. Complicated team member relationships, put upon heroes, a bit of bizarre behaviour on both sides of the law, some whatever it takes goings on, and some mightily pissed off people with some scores to settle. The plot gallops forward and the physical damage inflicted on Henderson would make a lesser man at least take a nap sometimes. We're not, however, in Aberdeen anymore but that doesn't stop the rain and the general bleakness of the weather. There's also a certain level of violence and depravity that I've come to love in MacBride's writing. It's fiction after all, and I've always maintained I like my worst of human nature on the page rather than the streets or TV screens.
The interesting thing about A SONG FOR THE DYING is that Henderson is a lot more suspect than Logan McRae will ever be. Anti-hero he might be, as wrong as it might feel to be on his side, he's a tremendous character who you can't help but cheer on. From a long way off in the sidelines mind you. As with all the characters around him, if you get too close, you're going to get a bit of heat rash.
WRONGFUL DEATH - Lynda La Plante
Six months after the body of Josh Reynolds, a London nightclub owner, was found and determined by police and coroner to be a suicide, DCS James Langton tasks DCI Anna Travis to review the case. Reynolds died from a single gunshot wound to the head, the gun held in his right hand. But details are emerging that suggest someone else may have fired the gun... As soon as she wraps up the case, Langton tells Anna, she can join him at the FBI Academy in Virginia for training.
WRONGFUL DEATH is the ninth book in the Anna Travis series from Lynda La Plante. Which therefore requires a confession. I started to struggle with this series around book 4 (DEADLY INTENT), and never managed to finish book 5 (SILENT SCREAM) or book 6 (BLIND FURY). So on the upside, I did manage to finish WRONGFUL DEATH. On the downside it was a disappointment.
Whilst the central premise, the re-investigation of the death of Josh Reynolds was an interesting idea, the cast of characters flat out didn't work for me. Can't remember the last time I've encountered so many characters that it was almost impossible to understand or connect with. In the earlier books I did finish, Anna Travis was a complicated and prickly character, but a dedicated investigator. In WRONGFUL DEATH she's still prickly and complicated, but considerably less convincing about it. A caricature.
Having said that, for the life of me I could not work out why Senior FBI Agent Jessie Dewar. What on earth she was doing there, why she had to be so universally unpleasant, difficult, opinionated, escaped me completely. Unless she was there to be the token out of step foreigner? Still can't get it straight in my own mind.
Then there's the rest of the office staff with the token over-worked, put upon one; the lazy, flittery one who never does anything but makes a lot of noise anyway, and the steady bloke in the background. Just a few too many caricatures.
Not helped by the presence somewhere in the upper echelons of DCS James Langton which also seemed odd. He seemed to bounce in, all in charge, and then bounce out all flustered by the higher up-upper echelons having it in for him. And then there was something about his marriage, and his past relationship with Travis, and then... to be honest I lost interest. Not quite before Travis heads off to the US, gets into another relationship, solves the local problems and steams back to the UK all ready to pick up the Reynolds case and solve it in one big bound....
And therein lies the biggest problem with this book, it starts out as slow as treacle, with only the characters to engage interest. And they don't. The plot then heads off into somewhere-else land and when everything's righted there, our hero returns to the UK to save that day as well. Which left me wondering even more what on earth Senior FBI Agent Jessie Dewar was there for.
Reading, as I do, rather a lot of crime fiction in a year, it's normally possible to find something positive. In the earlier books, even in the last one I finished, Travis was a good character who could lift a book's ranking, even one that has a flawed plot, or a lot of filler, or some daft red herrings. In WRONGFUL DEATH, however, she's not strong enough for that much heavy lifting.
WHEN THE DEVIL DRIVES - Christopher Brookmyre
Is the devil merely the name we give the worst in ourselves?
When private investigator Jasmine Sharp is hired to find Tessa Garrion, a young woman who has vanished without trace, it becomes increasingly clear that there are those who want her to stay that way. What begins as a simple search awakens a malevolence that has lain dormant for three decades, putting Jasmine in the crosshairs of those who would stop at nothing to keep their secrets buried.
Christopher Brookmyre is appointment purchasing in these parts, but even allowing for that obsession, I do really like the way this Jasmine Sharp series is shaping up. WHEN THE DEVIL DRIVES is the second book now, and whilst it would be better to read them both in sequence, you could get away with just picking up this one, especially if you're aware there's a story behind Jasmine becoming a Private Investigator.
There is a cast of central characters, built around Sharp, featuring hardman Fallan and DS MacLeod. Since Sharp took over running her Uncle Jim's detective agency, it's become increasingly apparent (to her) that she's not completely useless at this PI game. She's particularly good at finding long lost relatives, so when a woman walks through the door looking for her long-lost sister, it's a bit business as usual for Sharp.
For MacLeod, business as usual is the shooting of a well known patron of the arts and man about town, although the location, in the Highlands, and the manner, long-range sharp-shooting are less run of the mill.
More straight-laced than Brookmyre's satirical novels, that doesn't mean that WHEN THE DEVIL DRIVES is without humour, or absurdity or a bit of in your face goings on. But it all fits well into the scenario of PI's, cops and crims. Nicely plotted with intersecting lines that come together in a believable fashion. Combined with a nice line in lurking protection from Fallan again, I do really like this series. It's not dark and noir, it's not light and fluffy. It's not cuttingly satirical. It is, however, very engaging, and enjoyable and I'm really looking forward to following where it goes in the future.
THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS - Erskine Childers
Tempted by the idea of duck shooting, Carruthers joins his friend Davies on a yachting expedition in the Baltic. But Davies has more on his mind than killing fowl. As they navigate the waters and treacherous, shifting sands on board the Dulcibella, Carruthers learns the real reason behind their trip – and how the safety of Britain depends on it. The Riddle of the Sands is full of danger, double-crosses, and discoveries on which the fate of nations hangs by a thread.
First published in 1903 THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS, is an early espionage novels that I remember reading ... way back. The re-release as part of the Penguin Green Classics series, provided an excellent opportunity to revisit it. Interesting to look back now with adult eyes and to discover that it was, at the time, considered to be a prime example of British anti-German paranoia. Until a few years later. I think I've also read somewhere that Childers may have also had in mind a bit of rev up for British naval strategists.
Narrated by the uber-British Carruthers, this is the story of what starts out as a bit of yachting holiday around the coast of Germany and ends up a lot more sinister. Carruthers, classically foppish, obsessed with the minutiae of the life of a gentlemen, is a minor functionary in the Foreign Office. Despite reservations, he accepts the invitation of old-school-chum Davies to join him on his yacht. The facilities of which he somewhat under-estimates. Arriving with stacks of luggage and a series of parcels made up of the shopping requested by Davies, he finds that the "yacht" is a thirty-something foot, converted lifeboat. Despite a momentary concern that Carruthers is simply going to whinge and complain, he quickly adapts and finds himself enjoying the life of a hard working, journey-man sailor.
Whilst the story starts out somewhat light-heartedly it quickly becomes apparent that Davies' might actually be onto something. There's something afoot in the area, with skulduggery and very unsportsmanlike sailing eventually convincing Carruthers that Davies might be right to suspect the mysterious German tycoon / sailor and his very attractive daughter.
THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS is a book that comes equipped with maps. And frequent map references as Carruthers narrates events directly to the reader. Needless to say if you're a fan of maps, then this is the perfect use of them. Not that you need to follow too closely exactly where the goings on, are going on.
Told in language exactly like that you'd expect a minor functionary of the Foreign Office from 1903 to be using, this is immersion reading. Knowing the not too distant future of the British / German relationship does provide the reader with an interesting perspective, and the notion that perhaps Childers was trying to make a point some resonance. But really, you can just read this as a straight out spy / espionage thriller of its time. Perhaps a little less action packed than current day thrillers, but a ripping good yarn to boot.
(According to Wikipedia, Erskine Childers was executed by firing squad in 1922, during the Irish civil war. The article claims that his last words were a joke at the expense of his executioners: "Take a step or two forward, lads. It will be easier that way." John Bucan later wrote of him "no revolution ever produced a nobler or purer spirit.")