FORENSIC psychologist Sheridan Doyle returns to the creepy Pennsylvania coal mining town where he was raised and stumbles into a murder that’s somehow connected to the execution of rebellious Irish miners two centuries earlier as well as the wealthy family that owns the local mine. The skill with which the town’s damaged inhabitants and their secrets are revealed is masterly.

THE ISSUE

Where to start with the Oscar Pistorius books? I read an extract from John Carlin’s forthcoming Chase Your Shadow: The Trials of Oscar Pistorius (Atlantic Books), which dealt with his childhood and the relationship with his hard-drinking mother, Sheila, until her death in 2002. Carlin suggests that it was she who gave him the flawed personality — and the fear of intruders.

“Sheila was terrified of crime,” he writes. “She lived in fear of an intruder breaking into her home, often jumping up in bed when she heard a sound in the middle of the night, then rushing to the phone to call the police. She would wake up her children, take them into her bedroom, lock the door and wait until the police arrived.” And, of course, the ominous precaution: “Every night she went to bed with a loaded pistol under her pillow.”

CRASH COURSE

Here’s something for the armchair spook and aspirant secret agent: The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins (Weidenfeld) by Robert Baer, a former CIA officer based in the Middle East whose books, See No Evil and Sleeping With The Devil, formed the basis of the Oscar-winning George Clooney movie, Syriana. The Perfect Kill is both a meditation on the art of political killing — told in an engagingly conversational, if unhinged manner — and an account of Baer’s failed attempt at killing a notorious Hezbollah agent, Imad Fayez Mughniya.

The laws themselves seem a little bumper stickerish — “The Bastard Has to Deserve It”, for example, “Rent the Gun, Buy the Bullet”, and “Don’t Miss” — but there is no doubt Baer knows his stuff. ‘‘Let me go back to real murder,” he breezily writes. “An ice pick through the medulla oblongata is 100% fatal, for instance. Or jabbing the femoral artery with a penknife. And if you don’t want to get caught, an injection of nucleoside adenosine into the nictitating membrane on the inside of the eye will do it. If you use a tiny .50-gauge needle, no coroner will ever spot it.”

That Hezbollah chap can count himself lucky.

THE BOTTOM LINE

“The higher the case count goes, the greater the likelihood that Ebola virus as we know it might evolve into something better adapted to pass from human to human, something that presently exists only in our nightmares.” — Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus by David Quammen (WW Norton & Company)

Here’s something for the armchair spook and aspirant secret agent: The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins (Weidenfeld) by Robert Baer, a former CIA officer based in the Middle East whose books, See No Evil and Sleeping With The Devil, formed the basis of the Oscar-winning George Clooney movie, Syriana.

 

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