Murder and Mystery in Malaysia

I’ve always been interested in international mysteries, and I’ve covered many of them in this blog, such as the strange death of Natalio Alberto Nisman in Argentina; the authorship of the Stuxnet virus; the nature of Number Stations; the massacre in Coahuila; the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370Cicada 3301chronic kidney disease in Central America; lost nuclear weapons in Canada; the death of Walter Benjamin; the hijacking of the Arctic Sea; the Vela Incident; the lost island of Bermeja; the attack on a South African nuclear site; and the strange case of Witches Broom and bioterrorism in Brazil. This last blog post on Brazil received more attention than any other blog post on mystery, and certainly the most feedback from readers. …

Book Review: Sylvia Wrigley, The Mystery of Malaysia Flight 370

Indian Ocean, CIA map from Wikipedia Commons
Indian Ocean, CIA map from Wikipedia Commons

The tragic loss of a Malaysian Flight 370, which was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014 with over 200 passengers, has obsessed people around the world. Sylvia Wrigley, who is a professional pilot, has written a careful study of the disappearance, based on what is now known. In her forward, she says that she “purposely wanted this book to be accessible to my mother and the cleaning lady at the office, to people who were extremely interested in understanding the situation but lacked the aviation background and experience to be able to make sense of all the contradictory reports, especially with the media rush to present half-truths as fact.”  What is remarkable is that a book as factual and reasoned as this work could be written in such a short period of time. This book provides a much-needed balance to some of the wilder material available in the press and other venues. …

A book review of Robert Kaplan’s Asia’s Cauldron

Robert D. Kaplan is a well-known journalist who has authored popular works on international issues, such as Balkan

South China Sea from Wikipedia Commons.
South China Sea by NASA from Wikipedia Commons.

Ghosts and the Coming Anarchy. Kaplan has a knack for writing books on topics about to rise to international prominence; in his most recent work, he has sought to understand the international competition in the South China Sea, which is in the global news this week because of a naval confrontation between Vietnam and China.

Kaplan’s works typically try to show the legacies of history for contemporary issues, and this book is no exception. He begins by describing the historical influence of India upon Vietnam, which he depicts as a kind of cultural shatter zone between two great Asian powers. One of the strengths of his work is that he has traveled widely in Asia while writing it, so he can draw on conversations that he has had from Vietnam to Singapore. He also has read widely in history, so the work is interspersed with allusions to Walter Benjamin, Livy, Machiavelli and Thucydides, which are are generally well-chosen and insightful. It is this ability to put contemporary issues into a broad historical and geographical context that is Kaplan’s strength. …

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