June 1st, 2008


June Books 2) Death in Holy Orders

2) Death in Holy Orders, by P.D. James

This is the first Dalgliesh novel I've read - I have a feeling I did once get through An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, so not quite my first P.D. James. (Interestingly, the two books share the theme of the detective being called in to investigate the possible suicide of a young man by his distant, rich, estranged father.) I very much enjoyed it, especially in contrast to Little, Big which I was slogging through at the same time. Of course, the whole thing depends rather a lot on hidden coincidences and secrets (the bit about the consecrated wafer seemed particularly unlikely to me), but it is entertaining and I found the resolution at least psychologically consistent with what we knew of the characters.

The book is set in an obscure High Church Anglican seminary, and there is a certain amount of reflection on the current state of the Church of England - though perhaps it's more that she is doing a conscious (and at one point completely overt) riff on Trollope.

The naming of places on Europa

I wrote before about the Rathmore Chaos, a feature of Jupiter's moon Europa which has been named after an ancient fort in County Antrim (and also shares its name with the grammar school I attended). The features of Europa take their names from: 1) places associated with the Europa legend, which is fair enough; 2) places from Celtic legend, which is OK though Welsh and Irish are rather mixed up, so is the orthography, and so are fact and fiction; and 3) "Celtic" (sic) stone rows and circles.

This last one bothers me a bit. It is certainly a fine thing to name features of another world after your favourite megalithic monuments, but most of those that have been commemorated in this way long pre-date the Celts! The list of places on Europa named in this way is as follows:

Butterdon Linea - after the stone circle and stone row on Butterdon Hill in Dartmoor
Callanish (large ringed feature) - after stone circle in the Hebrides
Corick Linea - after stone circle and stone row near Draperstown
Drizzlecomb Linea - after another Dartmoor stone circle and row
Drumskinny Linea - after stone circle near Fermanagh
Kennet Linea - I suspect after the West Kennet Avenue near Avebury
Mehen Linea - slightly baffles me; supposedly a "stone row in Brittany" but I don't find any monument with that name; could be an error for "Menec"?
Merrivale Linea - after another set of stone circles and rows on Dartmoor
Sharpitor Linea - yet another Dartmoor alignment
Staldon Linea - Once again, Dartmoor, though usually spelt Stalldown
Tormsdale Linea - the explanation says this is after an Irish stone row, but in fact it is in Caithness
Yelland Linea - after a now buried stone alignment in North Devon (but, for once, not on Dartmoor)

I think the IAU might need to do a little more vigorous fact-checking. Apart from anything else, the geographical balance is a bit surprising - only one name taken from Brittany, and that apparently wrong!