Monthly Archives: October 2014

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Blood on the Water’: Events of Twentieth William Monk Novel Resonate with Today’s Headlines


Astute readers of the William Monk detective novels by Anne Perry can always relate the events of the books set in the 1860s with today’s headlines. “Blood on the Water” (Ballantine Books, 320 pages, $26.00), the twentieth novel in the series, is no exception.

Blood on the Water jacketIt’s 1865 in London. While on patrol on the River Thames, Commander William Monk of the River Police witnesses an explosion on board the pleasure boat Princess Mary. The explosion is so severe that Monk himself is blown into the water.

Some 200 people die immediately or shortly thereafter in an explosion that, as the investigation later discovers, uses the new Swedish invention dynamite. Monk begins his investigation — only to find shortly thereafter that the case has been taken over by Sir John Lydiate, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, no friend of Monk.

The Home Office, in charge of the police, apparently believes that because of the important people who died in the explosion, Lydiate is better suited to handle the case, even though the logical investigative body is the River Police.

An Egyptian man, Habib Beshara, is quickly arrested, tried and sentenced to die. Monk tries to convince Lydiate and the Home Office that Beshara, who may have been involved in the plot, couldn’t possibly have acted alone.

Could the crime be connected with the soon-to-be opened Suez Canal, which would impact the British shipping industry and its ports in South Africa, among other places? Or was it an act of revenge for the continuing British colonial activities in Egypt, the Sudan and other places? (Historical note: Construction delays and diseases resulted in the 102 mile long canal — connecting the Mediterranean with the Red Sea — opening in November 1869, four years behind schedule).

Ably assisted his wife, Hester, Scuff, their more or less adopted street lad, and his old friend, disbarred lawyer Sir Oliver Rathbone, Monk vows to find answers — but instead finds himself treading the dangerous waters of international intrigue, his questions politely — and not so politely — turned aside by a formidable array of the powerful and privileged.

Monk is convinced that he’s on the trail of the perpetrators, when the small ferry boat he’s on is rammed and Monk and the ferryman are almost killed. In an about-face, the case reverts to the force that should have handled the investigation in the first place, the Thames River Police.

All the Monk novels feature outstanding character delineation and twists and turns. “Blood on the Water” is no exception. It’s an outstanding historical novel, as are all of Perry’s works.

anne perry c Diane Hinds



Anne Perry
Photo copyright by Diane Hinds
About the author

Anne Perry, born in 1938, is the bestselling author of two acclaimed series set in Victorian England: the William Monk novels, including Blind Justice and A Sunless Sea, the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels, including Death on Blackheath and Midnight at Marble Arch. She is also the author of a series of five World War I novels, as well as eleven holiday novels, most recently A New York Christmas, and a historical novel, The Sheen on the Silk, set in the Ottoman Empire. Anne Perry lives in Scotland and Los Angeles. Her website:



PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Mortgage Interest Rates at or Near All Time Lows…BUT Isn’t This Going Too Far?

Ben S. Bernanke

Ben S. Bernanke


Mortgage interest rates are at or near all time lows, but many applicants face rejection when they apply for a loan, according to many sources I’ve read.

Both the Realtors (National Association of Realtors) and the home builders (NAHB) regularly and loudly complain about highly restrictive lending guidelines that enable lenders to deny loans to many applicants.

Now comes a most unusual rejectee: former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.

Bernanke was a speaker at a Chicago conference Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014 and he told moderator Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics Inc. “just between the two of us”….”I recently tried to refinance my mortgage and I was unsuccessful in doing so.”

When the audience laughed, the Augusta, GA native — who grew up in Dillon, SC — said “I’m not making that up.”

From the Tribune story: “Bernanke, addressing a conference of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care in Chicago … said that the first-time home buyer market is ‘not what it should be’ as the economy in general strengthens. ‘The housing area is one area where regulation has not yet got it right.'”

According to the most recent — Oct. 2, 2014– Freddie Mac mortgage rate survey, a “30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.19 percent … for the week ending October 2, 2014, down from last week when it averaged 4.20 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.22 percent. A 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.36 percent … unchanged from last week. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.29 percent.”

I don’t know what kind of mortgage Bernanke, 60, wanted — I’m guessing he’d go for that ultra low rate 15-year fixed-rate mortgage — but maybe the Realtors and homebuilders have a point. At least they’ve got Bernanke on their side!

Bernanke served as the 14th chairman of the Fed, from Feb. 1, 2006 to Feb. 3, 2014. He served both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He’s now a Distinguished Fellow in Residence with the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The York Grand Lodge’: Fascinating Look at York’s Challenge to London’s Freemasonry Dominance


If you visit the United Kingdom, be sure to include the northern city of York on your itinerary. I visited the ancient Roman city in 1979 and was enthralled by its setting at the confluence of the Ouse and Foss rivers and its architecture, including the York Minster and the remnants of the walls and gates like Micklegate.

The York Grand Lodge coverI think only Chester, which I also visited, rivals York for its Roman heritage. And, while you’re in York, don’t forget to visit the Shambles, a picturesque street of overhanging buildings, that was once an open-air slaughterhouse! Every tourist in York has to be photographed in the Shambles!

For more about York:

Smallish (about 130,000 people) York has never been intimidated by the giant city in the south of England, London, and this pride extends to its role in the history of British Freemasonry.

Historian David Harrison, whose books on Freemasonry I’ve regularly reviewed, tells this story in a new quality paperback, “The York Grand Lodge” (Arima Publishing, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England, 144 pages, illustrations, appendixes, index, $16.00, available from

Like all of Harrison’s books, the story of the staunchly independent Grand Lodge of All England at York, is both scholarly and readable. Harrison is a Mason; I’m not, but I’m fascinated by secret societies and alternative styles of living like the Amish, Quakers, Shakers, Mennonites, Mormons, etc. and by “Utopian” communities like Brook Farm, Amana, and New Harmony. “The York Grand Lodge” also appealed to my interest in historical disputes.

The London-based United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) prevailed, but, as Harrison points out, the York Grand Lodge may have survived longer than originally thought and it also influenced that other northern lodge of rebellious Freemasons, The Wigan Grand Lodge. (for my Nov. 21, 2012 review of Harrison’s book “The Liverpool Rebellion and the Wigan Grand Lodge”:

Remnants of the Yorkists and their approach to Freemasonry have surfaced in the 21st Century, as Harrison points out on pages 120-122 in the conclusion of his entertaining book.

To clarify the differences in the U.S. between the York Rite and the Scottish Rite, I emailed Harrison. Here’s his reply:

“Scottish Rite is divided into the northern and southern jurisdictions in the US, they have 33 degrees.

The York Rite is more of a collection of Masonic approved rites and orders such as the Royal Arch, Knights Templar and Mark degree. Again it’s a US body.

Some Masons are so keen they do both ‘pathways’: they progress from the normal blue or craft lodges ( the three main degrees) to enter other orders or grades. Albert Pike was a member if the Scottish Rite Southern jurisdiction – a 33rd degree Mason.”

* * *

Who is Albert Pike, you ask: According to Wikipedia, “Pike published a book called Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in 1871, of which there were several subsequent editions. Pike is still regarded in America as an eminent and influential Freemason, primarily only in the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction.” Pike (1809-1891) was a native of Boston, MA who joined the Confederate Army in the Civil War after long service in the U.S. Army. He reached the rank of brigadier general (one star) in the Confederate Army.

Here’s what Harrison has to say about his new book:

“The York Grand Lodge book was a pleasure to research; I visited the ancient city of York in northern England a number of times and I wanted to visit the places that the York Masons of the eighteenth century visited, places like the Punch Bowl tavern and the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall. It was an honour to research the York Grand Lodge manuscripts, examine the Jacobite links of some of the Grand Masters and look at the Knights Templar ciphers. I thoroughly enjoyed writing the book, and I hope you enjoy reading it.”

I certainly enjoyed reading Dr. Harrison’s latest book and I think many readers will find it informative and enjoyable. This applies to Masons and non-Masons alike.

About the Author

David Harrison

David Harrison

David Harrison successfully defended his Ph.D. on the history and development of English Freemasonry at the University of Liverpool in March 2008. The Ph.D. dissertation became his first book, “The Genesis of Freemasonry,” which was published by Lewis Masonic in 2009. Since then Harrison has written and published numerous works on the history of Freemasonry, his latest being “The York Grand Lodge.”