Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It is difficult to believe that in a time before it was possible to read the Bible in English, the simple act of translating it into the tongue of the common people was a capital offense.  The book Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice by David Teems takes a fascinating look at the man who committed this unpardonable sin.

William Tyndale was born around 1495 (the exact year is uncertain) close to the Welsh border in the county of Gloucestershire.  He attended Oxford and eventually obtained both bachelor's and master's degrees. Unfortunately, these were tumultuous times for religious scholars.  It was a time of Thomas More, King Henry VIII, Martin Luther and Thomas Cranmer.  While King Henry VIII could and certain did question church authority, anyone else who went against the accepted church teachings of the day risked being branded a heretic and burned at the stake.  The early medieval church required unquestioning obedience to the word of church elders.  Tyndale was a great lover of scripture and wanted to bring its message and beautiful language to the common people by letting Englishmen hear the word of God in their own language rather than the officially sanctioned Latin.  He asked permission to translate the Bible into English, but was refused and sailed instead to Germany.  While there he completed his translation and published it, and while copies did make it to England, the officials continued to rail at this blasphemy.  Tyndale was hunted and eventually captured.  He was strangled and burned at the stake as a heretic in 1536.

What I found even more interesting than Tyndale's attempts to bring the word of God to the common people was his great impact and influence on our modern-day language.  We often hear how many words William Shakespeare introduced into the English language.  It turns out that Shakespeare was greatly influenced by the writings of William Tyndale.  The book helpfully provides a listing of some of the English words that appeared for the first time in the writings of Tyndale.  Among them:  brotherly, network, childishness, unbeliever, viper, wave, refused and scapegoat.  The author points out that about 0.02 percent of all quotations cited in the Oxford English Dictionary can be attributed to Tyndale.

The book also contains a timeline of Tyndale's life as well as the text of some letters he wrote to a fellow "heretic" who was imprisoned in the Tower of London.  In Tyndale's own words, we can see the humility and strength of the man who gave God an English voice.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's difficult being a woman in a man's world.  Just ask DC Anna Travis, a new detective trying to fit in and learn the ropes in the new drama Above Suspicion (Set 1).  DC Travis shows up to work in a slim skirt with heels, and is immediately slogging through the mud on her way to view a newly discovered body which has been exposed to the elements for some time.  At her first glimpse of the corpse, she turns and is sick in front of her new colleagues.  Not the impression she was trying to make, I'm sure.

Above Suspicion is a police drama written and produced by Lynda La Plante, known for Prime Suspect.  This first set from the series contains two stories in 5 episodes.  They are:

Above Suspicion (the pilot):  The investigative team of DCI James Langton has realized that there have been a succession of unsolved murders over the past 8 years that bear similarities:  most of the women were prostitutes, all were blond and all were found bound and strangled.  The latest victim, however, is a respectable student who doesn't fit the profile (except for her long blond hair).  Anna Travis, perhaps needing to make up for her disastrous start, flirts with a suspect and even goes on social outings with him in order to feed him information about the case.  Is she putting herself in danger this way?

The Red Dahlia: A woman is found brutally murdered and dismembered.  At first, the team have a hard time even identifying her.  Once they do, they have a hard time unraveling the mystery of her life. She was a mousy, drab girl who transformed herself into a glamorous 1940s-style femme fatale.  They learn she had answered an ad about a job as a personal assistant with lots of foreign travel.  So how did she end up being London's answer to The Black Dahlia?  When another body turns up, it looks like the murderer, like the cases he was copying, has no intention of being captured.

This was an interesting and contemporary mystery series.  While I enjoyed the stories, there wasn't a lot of "whodunnit" suspense.  The detectives generally figured out a suspect fairly quickly, and then through more investigation attempted to prove the case.

Anna has a hard time fitting in to the new station at first, but she's given a chance because he deceased father was a well-respected policeman.  Her DCI, Langton, continually supports her, even when she makes mistakes, by stating that she must be a good copper, based on her lineage.

The thing that I found a little hard to take was the way Langton treated the 3 women officers as his personal slaves.  They were constantly being ordered to get him sandwiches, pick up his dry cleaning, bring him coffee and so forth (none of the dozens of men in the room were so ordered around).  I could imagine that in a 1970s drama, but I found it a little hard to take in these days of legislated equality.  Langton was also old enough to be Travis' father, was obnoxious to women and not particularly attractive, yet we were supposed to believe that there was some sort of attraction between the two.  Langton visited Travis in her flat several times, generally banging into her car and damaging it, but she just shrugged it off and never mentioned it to him.  So the relationship between the two main characters was a bit odd.

Travis herself is also something of a puzzle.  In the first episode several of her co-workers remark on the fact that she's worn the same outfit to work two days in a row.  Well, she wears it much longer than that -- every single day, as far as I could tell.  Not sure what was going on there.  Was it a statement about her salary, or her interpretation of how a professional policewoman should look?

Another thing I found strange was that in the second story, The Red Dahlia, there was a female character who hit several of the police officers.  She was extremely violent, leaving bloody marks on both.  Yet she was never arrested or charged with assaulting an officer.  No one even seemed to think it was at all odd that someone would turn and begin beating on the officers.  I couldn't understand that at all.

A main selling point of this particular series, as told in the "behind the scenes" extras, is the authentic-looking models that are used for the corpses.  Police and medical consultants were used to make the discovered bodies look as real (and disgusting) as possible.  I guess we'll have to take their word for it!  Fans of shows such as CSI will likely really enjoy this, too.

This series of Above Suspicion was shown on UK TV in 2009, with a second series in 2010 and a third in 2011.  A fourth series is going to be shown this year.  If you like a modern British police drama, with a high gross-out factor, this is an enjoyable series!

Disclaimer:  I received a review copy of Above Suspicion from Acorn Media

Final Verdict for Above Suspicion Three Gherkins, for being an inside look at modern police work -- bodies and all!

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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