Hazel McHaffie

Kathy Reichs

By the way

The old brain is somewhat discombobulated by rather too many competing demands at the moment. Not a time for deep analytical reading or serious long distance writing, but  even in the busiest times, my obsessions won’t allow me to abandon writing and reading altogether. And it’s curious what life throws in your path when you’re not looking, or when you’re tramping through the autumn leaves.

Who’d have thought to find the ethics of stem cell research buried in a Kathy Reich‘s murder mystery?! Grave Secrets is billed as a chilling murder in the searing heat of Guatemala. Forensic anthropologist, Dr Temperance Brennan, is searching for the remains of twenty-three women and children, victims of a brutal massacre. She’s then somewhat distracted by the disappearance of four teenagers who go missing, not to mention being physically involved in the retrieval of a skeleton of a young woman from a septic tank. I confess I got rather bogged down in the complexity of the plot at times, but interest was reignited by the excursion into my field of ethics.

And the newspapers yielded their usual challenging real-life sensations.

In the central German state of Hesse, for example, police are investigating a woman who forged documents to pass herself off as medically qualified, to see if she’s responsible for multiple deaths. She worked as an anaesthetist/anaesthetic assistant – different papers, different claims – either way, the mind boggles! How could she not be detected in that high-risk arena over two years? It’s reported that evidence links her with repeated medical failures and botched procedures, and many more are likely. If I’d put that in a novel, the critics would deem it ‘too far fetched to be credible’!

A birth coach has resigned from an association called Doula UK, claiming she’s been driven out because transgender activists took offence at one of her Facebook posts. Reacting to the trend towards gender-neutral descriptions she wrote: ‘I am not a cervix owner … I am a woman; an adult human female … Women birth all the people.’ Up flew the activists objecting to ‘trans exclusionary comments’. Out went the mother-of-four birth coach. Hello?

A 29-year-old Christian man who uses a wheelchair after breaking his back in a climbing accident, has become the first person to be arrested and prosecuted for praying in public outside an abortion clinic in Ealing, west London. A Public Spaces Protection Order is in place creating a buffer zone around that particular clinic, forbidding anyone to show either approval or disapproval with respect to issues relating to abortion. However, the case has collapsed because there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. Cue another outcry re injustice!

Never a shortage of challenges to keep the grey cells buzzing whatever else my hands and feet are busy with in this gloriously autumnal month. In those situations, what would I do? What do I think? Could I defend my position?

What would YOU say?

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Pride and prejudice

I do a fair amount of travelling by train nowadays, and it’s safe to say Birmingham New Street station is one of my least favourite haunts. Not only is it fearfully busy, but platforms aren’t revealed until close to leaving time, and literally-last-minute alterations occur with alarming frequency. Me, I like to be ready and waiting in plenty of time. Mad dashes from 8a to 9b with leaden cases through seething crowds of single-minded commuters do nothing for my health.

In all the years that I travelled regularly to the Westcountry, I went to great lengths to avoid changing in Birmingham, but these days I can’t avoid it, because my mother is now being cared for out in one of its leafy suburbs. Anyway, I was down there again this week, during the heatwave. Quietly melting on Moor Street station waiting for a connection, I noticed, across the track on the far platform, not one but eight massive posters – all identical. All advertising Kathy Reich’s latest book, 206 Bones.
A SHALLOW GRAVE; AN UNKNOWN VICTIM ran the heading. EIGHT times! Lots and lots of spooky black and white. All very tempting. And eloquent.

I was just comparing her marketing strategy … her sales figures … her royalties … with mine, in a fairly green-eyed, if-only, tone of thought, when my eye caught another message on a stand-alone poster:
Everyone that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD.

Brought me up with a jolt I can tell you. Back to being Ms Unknown Writer; and humble with it.

Sigh. I guess I’ll never know what world-wide acclaim would do to my character. But I can always blame my marketing team – or lack of!

Since that eureka moment, I’ve been admiring the huge range of gardens and exhibits at the Chelsea Flower Show, and I’ve taken heart again. We can’t all be gold medallists. Very few of us will reach ‘Best in Show’. But there’s room in this world for us all.

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