September 19th, 2004

earthsea

September books 7) Judgement Day: The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic

7) Judgement Day: The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic, by Chris Stephen.

The title makes it sound as if this is a book restricted just to the one event, the Milosevic trial. In fact it's not, and what you get is a very good quick summary of the entire Yugoslav crisis from the beginning, and then also an account of the politics of the establishment of the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, before we get to the dramatic events surrounding the fall, arrest and prosecution of Milosevic. There have been surprisingly few books written since the immediate aftermath of the Bosnian war that covered the developments of the years afterwards - Tom Gallagher has had a go but it expanded into a trilogy of academic hardcovers without him really meaning it to.

We got to know the author well in 1997 when we were living in Banja Luka; I reckon I'm on first name terms with about half of the people he thanks in the acknowledgements section. Chris always struck me as a fun person, who doesn't let his sense of humour leak into his journalism perhaps as much as he should. Of course the appropriate tone for much of the testimony of the victims of Milosevic's wars is restrained outrage, and Chris does this very well. His depiction of the towns of Prijedor and Kozarac, which were very much part of my patch at the time, is totally accurate. The only factual error I caught was that Zoran Djindjic was kicked out as mayor of Belgrade in 1997 very shortly after he got the job, rather then hanging on until 2000.

I think this is a particularly good book to use as ammunition against the wingnuts who see the entire thing as a massive conspiracy against the Serbs. He doesn't quite address the ludicrous US reservations about the new International Criminal Court, but since he's not really writing for that audience I suppose it's fair enough. I see a couple of other reviewers have picked up on the fact that the book ends half-way through, before Milosevic has started defence let alone the trial being over. Well, I hear rumours that the timescale for the rest of the trial may not quite be what people have expected so far, so Chris may be able to produce an updated edition before too long...
earthsea

September Books 8) To The Nines

8) To The Nines by Janet Evanovich

I first got into Janet Evanovich by picking up some of her earlier Stephanie Plum books at Vienna Airport. And since I was changing planes there again, and failing really to get engaged by the Classic Science Fiction Novel I had been reading on the flight from Chisinau, and saw the latest in the (excellent) bookshop, I bought it and read it. My verdict: don't bother, folks. The formula of a sexy yet insecure woman working as a New Jersey bounty hunter was great, indeed usually hilarious, while she was tracking down small-scale miscrents. Internet-surfing serial killers just somehow aren't as funny. Plus there were huge gaping plot holes, especially with regard to her boyfriend's frequent breaches of police standard operating procedure. Fairly cheap, at least.