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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 7 July, 2020

Sitdown Sunday: A murder mystery - and the PI who cracked the case

The very best of the week’s writing from around the web.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. Two strangers, the same genetic mutation

Athletics - Aviva British Grand Prix - Gateshead Stadium Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

They look very different: A woman with muscular dystrophy, and a Olympic runner with huge muscles. But Jill Viles knew that when she saw sprinter Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, that they both had something very rare in common. Her quest to prove that took years.

(Pro Publica, approx 36 mins reading time)

A few days later, I got a package from Jill, and it was… how to put it?… quite a bit more elaborate than I had anticipated. It included a stack of family photos — the originals, not copies; a detailed medical history; scientific papers, and a 19-page, illustrated and bound packet. I flipped through the packet, and at first it seemed a little strange. Not ransom-note strange, but there were hand-drawn diagrams with cutouts of little cartoon weightlifters representing protein molecules. Jill had clearly put a lot of effort into this, so I felt like I had to at least read it. Within a few minutes, I was astounded.

2. Nice parties and casual racism

Nicole Chung writes about what it’s like to experience casual racism, the kind where someone casually asks something they don’t think is racist, but is.

(The Toast, approx 10 mins reading time)

Every Asian American has fielded some variation on “all look the same.” As racial microaggressions go, it’s common as dirt. I know I should be able to come up with an answer, something brisk and witty, and bury this moment in the same place where I keep all such awkward memories. But for some reason, my brain just won’t cooperate. My face is burning, my heart pounding too loudly, and it’s painful to even consider making eye contact with anyone at the table.

3. He solved his own murder

Britain Poisoned Spy Source: AP/Press Association Images

Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian spy, was working for British intelligence when he was poisoned by a cup of radioactive tea. Here’s the story of how he traced his killers. Earlier this week, a report was issued in Britain that said he was probably killed on Vladimir Putin’s orders.

(The Guardian, approx mins reading time)

Latterly, Litvinenko had been supplying Her Majesty’s spooks and their Spanish counterparts with hair-raising information about the Russian Mafia in Spain. The Mafia had extensive contacts with senior Russian politicians. The trail apparently led to the president’s office, and dated back to the 1990s when Putin, then aide to St Petersburg’s mayor, Anatoly Sobchak, worked closely with gangsters. In a week or so, Litvinenko was to testify before a Spanish prosecutor. Hence, it appeared, the Kremlin’s frantic efforts to kill him.

4. Trying to walk again

shutterstock_192237287 Source: Shutterstock/Minerva Studio

Darek Fidya’s spinal cord was damaged during a stabbing – it was nearly cut in half.  He lost feeling in his legs bit by bit. This article follows his quest to regain movement in his legs.

(The New Yorker, approx 40 mins reading time)

Later, the therapist worked with Fidyka to build his strength. He lay on his back and pushed one leg out against the flat of the therapist’s hand. His quadriceps visibly tensed—making clear that he has regained some control over the muscles below his waist. This development is remarkable and has almost no counterparts in the clinical histories of people with spinal injuries. And it suggests that an operation he received at the Wrocław University Hospital, in 2012, was a success.

5. The pick-up artist 

shutterstock_248492215 Source: Shutterstock/Rommel Canlas

Jared Rutledge was a pick-up artist who became a pariah, after an anonymous blog unmasked his secrets. This essay delves into the world of pick-up artists, the Game, and the ‘red pill, blue pill’ world inspired by the Matrix.

(NY Magazine, approx 28 mins reading time)

Word of Jared and Jacob’s double life online was spreading across town. Women who’d slept with Jared, including C.’s three friends, found themselves picked apart on his list: “damaged goods”; “headed towards cat lady status”; “not very hot.” Sarah Winkler, a coffee-shop employee who had worked for Jared and Jacob for two and a half years, read their analysis of “female behaviours” and assertions that “logic is not a woman’s strong suit” and immediately quit.

6. What really goes on in a casino

Missouri Casinos Credit Source: AP/Press Association Images

Whether you’re someone who has been to high-end casinos, or you’re just fascinated by how they work, then this will shed some light into the world. Warning: you might realise things aren’t always what they seem.

(Playboy, approx 19 mins reading time)

Dealers use a range of signals to alert colleagues that heat or brass (management) is on the floor—for example, tapping the craps stick on the edge of the table. Dealers instinctively assess players, sometimes based on how they’re dressed, but more often on how they play. A dealer will instantly clock those exhibiting game, knowledge or strategic play. Dealers can spot off-duty dealers by certain tells, such as encouraging other players to tip, riffling or drop-cutting chips and, in poker, pitching cards into the muck when they fold.


A corpse is found in a hotel in Texas. Police can’t find any motive for why someone would kill Greg Fleniken – or how he was killed. But a private investigator cracked the case.

(Vanity Fair, approx 41 mins reading time)

At some point during the loud, computer-generated showdown at the end of the film, amid all the fake violence, Greg was struck from nowhere with a very real and shattering blow. A blow so violent it would blind a man with pain. He managed to get off the bed and move toward the door before he fell, legs splayed and face-first. He was probably dead by the time his face hit the green rug.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

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