Review: Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson ~ Lyndsay Faye

Dust and ShadowISBN ~ 978-1416583301
Publisher ~Simon & Schuster
No. Of Pages ~325 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster

From the gritty streets of nineteenth century London, the loyal and courageous Dr. Watson offers a tale unearthed after generations of lore: the harrowing story of Sherlock Holmes’s attempt to hunt down Jack the Ripper.

As England’s greatest specialist in criminal detection, Sherlock Holmes is unwavering in his quest to capture the killer responsible for terrifying London’s East End. He hires an “unfortunate” known as Mary Ann Monk, the friend of a fellow streetwalker who was one of the Ripper’s earliest victims; and he relies heavily on the steadfast and devoted Dr. John H. Watson. When Holmes himself is wounded in Whitechapel during an attempt to catch the savage monster, the popular press launches an investigation of its own, questioning the great detective’s role in the very crimes he is so fervently struggling to prevent. Stripped of his credibility, Holmes is left with no choice but to break every rule in the desperate race to find the madman known as “the Knife” before it is too late.

2 Thumbs-UpFor a debut novel, this book was OK.  Yes, I said OK as I had a love hate relationship with this book from the very first chapter.

For anyone to take on writing about the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson takes guts, but if it is pulled off well as in the case of the House of Silk (reviewed here) it can be a glorious thing, that was not the case here.  Despite a valiant effort, this Author was unable to capture all the character nuances that combine to make the detective readers of other Holmes missives have come to know and expect.  By writing the book from the perspective of Dr. Watson a lot of the internal debates and musings Holmes has with himself are lost along with a lot of his eccentric qualities.  In this book Holmes comes across as an arrogant, pretentious ass that has no lovable qualities to his name at all.  Unfortunately, Dr. Watson does not come out of this novel unscathed; as a character I’ve always seen as being the stable and steadying force behind Holmes, here he is depicted as bumbling fool who would be well pressed to dress himself in the morning.  The portrayal of Jack the Ripper was also flimsy, and would have benefitted greatly with a lot more fleshing out and back story.

The novel is extremely dry, the language at times definitely at odds with the era in which it is set.  The Author does a good job of portraying Whitechapel at the time of the murders but apart from that there was very little to keep me interested, and this was definitely not the page turner that had been promised.  For me there was not enough tension, and the discovery of who the Ripper was became obvious about partway through the book; surely not a mystery worthy of calling in Holmes to solve.

If you like Sherlock Holmes, you may enjoy this book; as for me I don’t think I will be reading anymore by this Author despite their valiant attempts to recreate the works of Arthur Conan Doyle.

divider

Advertisements

Review: The Quick ~ Lauren Owen

the quickLondon, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.

5 Thumbs-UpSo, what can I say about this book?  Three things really, a) it is a debut novel for this Author b) I really didn’t see that coming and c) Noooooo!!!

I found this book by chance on a rummage through my local lending library the other day, and was intrigued both by the cover and the synopsis, so home with me it came and I’m glad I took a chance on something so unknown to me.  If other readers have already heard of this novel they may think I live under some rock and rarely venture out; that is not the case, I never read reviews on books and choose them purely on their own merit when out and about and this was the case with this one.

From a character point of view they are plentiful in this novel, and they are morose, they are arrogant; you may love them or you may hate them, but each of them will bring about a reaction in the reader of some description.  In my opinion it was hard to pinpoint one main character in the whole of this novel, as so many come and take centre stage in a way that will impact all those around them; and once they step away from the limelight they do not fade out of the plotline entirely as many Authors have their lesser characters doing.  Despite the time period in which this novel was set, there was one particular character I really connected with and I was rooting for her every time she appeared in the story; there were also others that no matter how hard I tried I could not find anything redeeming in their character and found myself chuckling when rough things happened to them.

Because of the way in which this book is written it is hard to write an in-depth review without giving away the plot.  It is written from a multi-perspective point of view , as each character comes to the front and also includes journal entries; all the good stuff that combine together to make an exceptional Victorian gothic novel.  It is very apparent from the way in which the Author addresses class issues and gender expectations that they have done an extensive amount of research into this period of history; the shock one woman expresses at seeing another wearing trousers is a good example.  The location descriptions are the best I have read in a long time, and in this area put me in mind of Dickens and Conan-Doyle in the way the Author uses the surroundings to propel the storyline along.  The grandeur of some buildings is, in the next paragraph startling contrasted against the poorer areas of London; along with smells and attire I could almost feel I was back in this time with the characters.

This is a moody, dark and gritty novel which really doesn’t show London at its best, but this is what adds to the novel.  There is no sugar coating of the privations some suffered and the excesses others enjoyed.  Because of its abrupt ending however, I am hoping that this may be the start of a series, one that I will definitely be following.  If not, and the Author decided to leave the reader with a cliff-hanger, I don’t really mind as I will definitely be reading this Author again.

I would highly recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction, and those who enjoy a good gothic novel.  Also those who enjoy Victorian crime fiction may find this to their liking.

divider

12 London Literary Spots

union-jack

If you are thinking of going to London this summer, here are some off the beaten track spots all book lovers should take time to visit.   of Buzzfeed.com also wrote an article on this theme on May 2nd, 2014 and, although the concept is the same a lot of the descriptions have been changed for the purpose of posting on this site:

the fitzroyWhat:  The Fitzroy Tavern
Where: 48 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LX
Of Special Interest to: Dylan Thomas, George Orwell lovers
Why:  The Fitzroy Tavern was once right in the heart of London’s Artists Quarter, and was known as a meeting place for writers, artists, intellectuals, and Bohemians in the 1930s and ’40s. Two of the more notable regulars were Dylan Thomas and George Orwell, whose pictures can be seen on the walls of the downstairs Writers and Artists Bar.

dickens museumWhat:  Charles Dickens Museum
Where: 77 Borough High Street, Camberwell, London SE1
Of Special Interest to: Charles Dickens and the Victorian era lovers
Why:  The Charles Dickens museum, based out of the only remaining London home of the writer, he lived here from 1837–1839, and wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickelby within its walls. The shop is stocked with such Dickensian delights as plaster and bronze busts, ceramic figurines, stationery sets, embroidered towels, and feather quill pens.

If you decide to pay the entrance fee and tour the four floors, you will not be disappointed.  The museum is a reconstruction of what Dickens’ home would’ve looked like when he lived there, with period furniture — some, like his custom-made lectern or writing desk, originally owned by Dickens himself. The dining table is set for one of his dinner parties with place cards for writers like John Foster and William Thackeray, the library is preserved with walls of books written by Dickens and by those who inspired him, and portraits line the walls. It’s a good glimpse into Dickens’ life, but things like the kitchen re-creation also showcase upper-class Victorian life in general.

charing cross roadWhat:  The Bookshops of Charing Cross Road
Where: 77 Borough High Street, Camberwell, London SE1
Of Special Interest to: Bookshops, Book lovers… need I say more!  One of my all time favourite spots in London!
Why:  Charing Cross Road is a book lover’s Mecca for its second-hand and independent bookshops. Quinto & Francis Edwards (72 Charing Cross Road) offers an eclectic selection of rare and antique books on its ground floor, and a more general (and often pulpy) inventory in the basement that is completely restocked every month. Any Amount of Books (56 Charing Cross Road) is the almost magical kind of shop where it feels like the books are spilling out of the walls — and it’s got an impressive collection of paperbacks on the pavement.  Also, while you are here take time to visit Marks & Co (84 Charing Cross Road), yes it is the shop that featured in Helene Hanff’s 1970 book.

If you want something of a grander scale, there’s the flagship branch of Foyles’ (113–119 Charing Cross Road), which sells a comprehensive selection of both new and second-hand books, spread out among five floors. And if you’re still itching for more you can turn onto Cecil Court, which has its own collection of rare, specialist, and second-hand bookshops.

The french houseWhat:  The French House
Where:  49 Dean Street, Soho, London W1D 5BG
Of Special Interest to: Dylan Thomas, Brendan Behan lovers
Why:  This Soho pub is another onetime Bohemian hot spot, with a claim to poets Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan as regulars. Dylan Thomas is reputed to have once left the only original, handwritten manuscript for his radio drama Under Milk Wood at the bar, which sent the BBC into a frenzied search. It prides itself on being a place for conversation it has a strict “no music, no machines, no television and no mobile phones rule,” though the phone rule might not be quite as rigid as the others, and it’s a lively gathering place. The problem is that it’s so lively, conversation is difficult without shouting. But if you’re down for shouting, and if you’re OK with cozying up next to strangers, it’s a great stop.

Oscar WildeWhat:  A Conversation with Oscar Wilde
Where: Adelaide Street near Trafalgar Square
Of Special Interest to: Oscar Wilde lovers
Why:  This sculpture celebrates one of the greatest playwrights of the English language, and was commissioned following a campaign and public appeal to finally honor and memorialize the famous playwright in the city where he lived, and where his plays were most performed. The sculpture depicts Wilde emerging from a low granite sarcophagus, and according to the sculpture’s creator, Maggi Hambling, “The idea is that he is rising, talking, laughing, smoking from this sarcophagus and the passerby, should he or she choose to, can sit on the sarcophagus and have a conversation with him.” On the granite, a quotation is inscribed from his play Lady Windermere’s Fan, “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars”. Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854, and he was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and Magdalen College, Oxford. After he graduated, he moved to London to pursue a literary career. In the early 1890s, he wrote several extremely successful society comedies that continue to be popular with theatre audiences today, including An Ideal Husband, and The Importance of Being Earnest. Oscar Wilde’s personal life became tumultuous when he began an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. After fighting a disastrous court action over accusations of gross indecency, Wilde was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to two years of hard labour. Following his imprisonment, he lived the remainder of his life in exile, and died in Paris on 30 November 1900. A Conversation with Oscar Wilde was unveiled on the 98th anniversary of Oscar Wilde’s death.

the globeWhat:  Shakespeare’s Globe
Where: 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9HS
Of Special Interest to: Charles Dickens and Shakespeare lovers
Why:  The original Globe Theatre, where many of Shakespeare’s plays were first staged and which he co-owned, burned to the ground in 1613 during a performance of ‘Henry VIII’. Nearly 400 years later, it was rebuilt not far from its original site, using construction methods and materials as close to the originals as possible.  The open-air, free-standing Yard is the best bet for those after complete authenticity, the absence of seating may test your stamina, while the Middle and Upper Galleries afford an atmosphere of their own.  The Globe has a commitment to faithfully recreating an original ‘Shakespeare in performance’ experience, with the season running from April to October.

In the UnderGlobe beneath the theatre is a fine exhibition on the history of the reconstruction, Bankside and its original theatres, and Shakespeare’s London, including elegantly displayed costumes from early productions in the new theatre, filmed video interviews and touch screen exhibits on Elizabethan special effects; visitors can also edit a page of ‘Hamlet’ to their own specifications and print the result. Guided tours of the Shakespeare’s Globe theatre run throughout the year and seasonal festivals take place on the riverside area outside the Globe.

The goerge innWhat:  The George Inn
Where: 77 Borough High Street, Camberwell, London SE1
Of Special Interest to: Charles Dickens and Shakespeare lovers
Why:  The George Inn dates back to the late 16th century, and it stands as the last remaining original coaching inn in London. A placard in the courtyard counts both Shakespeare and Charles Dickens among those who “knew the hospitality of the inn,” and the spot even has a mention in Dickens’ Little Dorrit. The 300-year-old building is pretty stunning, with two floors of interlocking, oak-beamed dining rooms, latticed windows, open fireplaces, and long galleries.  It’s a busy spot — it attracts tourists for its proximity to Shakespeare’s Globe, and it’s often used for conferences and events — but because it’s so large, you don’t really feel cramped, and you can explore the less crowded nooks and crannies and convince yourself that you’ve actually travelled back in time.

bloomsburyWhat:  The Garden Squares of Bloomsbury
Where: Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A
Of Special Interest to: Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, T.S. Eliot, Mary Shelley lovers
Why:  Set aside out a full few for exploring the garden squares of Bloomsbury. This idyllic area is most famous for being a home and meeting grounds to the great writers, artists, and intellectuals of the 1920s and 1930s known as the Bloomsbury group, but it’s had a long history of literary ties. There’s Gordon Square, where you can spot blue plaques, some of which you may have to look closely for, marking the homes of Lytton Strachey (51 Gordon Square), John Maynard Keynes (46 Gordon Square), and Virginia Woolf (50 Gordon Square). You can enjoy the fountain plaza at Russell Square and check out where T.S. Eliot once worked, at Faber & Faber. Swing by 87 Marchmont Street and find the former home of Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Or you can just claim a spot on the grass at Tavistock Square and read until you fall asleep.

The British LibraryWhat:  The British Library
Where: 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB
Of Special Interest to: Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, original manuscripts, historic texts lovers
Why:  The British Library is a necessary stop if only for the fact that it is technically, based on the number of catalogued items, the largest library in the world. Those who are drawn to libraries in general will eat it up: the rare collections, the serene reading rooms, a sprawling piazza, and some truly life-changing upright panels for leaning and reading.  But the biggest draws are the King’s Library and the Sir John Ritblat Gallery — the former an awe-inspiring, six-story glass tower right smack in the middle of the building, containing 65,000 printed volumes, pamphlets, manuscripts, and maps collected by King George III between 1763 and 1820; the latter, a stunning free exhibit showcasing sacred scrolls, historical documents, and original manuscripts — many annotated with the authors’ handwritten notes — including Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, Jane Eyre, Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, Mrs Dalloway, and more. It also has a well-stocked book and gift shop, which is worth a visit.

harry potterWhat:  The Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9¾
Where: King’s Cross Station
Of Special Interest to: Harry Potter, fantasy and magic lovers
Why:  The “Platform 9¾” sign has moved around a bit since the first film was released, but these days you can find it in the western departures concourse at King’s Cross Station. Half of a luggage trolley, complete with owl cage, sticks out of the wall underneath it, and a surprisingly short line of Harry Potter fans weave around, waiting for their photo-op. At first it seems like maybe it will be embarrassing, since you are in the middle of the concourse and you maybe noticeably older than both the friendly employees and the fellow fans, but then you get closer, and you choose a scarf, and the employee validates your choice “Of course you’re a Hufflepuff, look at you!”, and then …

But instead of transporting to Hogwarts, you just give the scarf back to the employee and swing around the corner to the cozy shop, which holds a wonderland of Harry Potter merchandise despite its tiny size. A display of wands lines the back wall, basically straight out of Ollivanders. You can stock up on house cardigans and scarves, Bertie Bott’s every flavour beans, Marauder’s Maps, feather quill pens, and — if you want to drop some more serious money — original, signed posters.

herculesWhat:  Pillars of Hercules
Where: 7 Greek Street, London W1D 4DF
Of Special Interest to: Charles Dickens, Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan lovers
Why:  Situated in Soho, this pub dates back to 1910, but a tavern of the same name has been at the site since as early as 1730. It apparently inspired Charles Dickens enough for him to drop its name in A Tale of Two Cities, and the honor was returned when the road at the bar’s side was renamed Manette Street, after the book’s Doctor Manette. More recently, the spot has been said to draw some of the best of London’s literary scene, including Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, and Ian McEwan. Writer and critic Clive James even named his second collection of literary criticism after the bar, allegedly because that is where a majority of the essays within it were written.

sherlock holmes museumWhat:  The Sherlock Holmes Museum
Where: 221b Baker Street, London NW1 6XE
Of Special Interest to: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, mysteries, the Victorian era, historical re-enactments lovers
Why:  You might think that the Sherlock Holmes Museum is only worth visiting if you intend to pay for a ticket, and it would be an understandable assumption, but a WRONG one. The whimsy is far-reaching, starting with the scattered silhouettes at the Baker Street Tube station and continuing up on the street, where you’re met with a “mysterious “sign of a hand pointing to…

The trail continues down Baker Street, and the silhouette can be found on the signs and windows of both the restaurant and bar across the street; the clothing shop next to those displays capes in the window (which could be a coincidence, but still). Even the dry cleaner isn’t just a dry cleaner — it’s the dry cleaner to Sherlock Holmes. And then you’re there, at “the world’s most famous address”, in the reimagined home of everyone’s favorite fictional detective.

The museum portion is a re-creation of the home of Sherlock Holmes, as described by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The sitting room, bedrooms, study, and laboratory are all set with Victorian-era furnishings, “handwritten” notes and memorabilia about various cases, and life-size figurines.  The museum shop is honestly enough of an attraction in itself if you don’t want to pay admission to the actual museum and it’s filled with standard souvenir fare, However, you can also find some rare and often silly gems (hats, walking sticks, pipes, handcuffs, and, of course, books), and all of the employees are in period garb.

divider

Review: Approach to Freetown (Lion Mountain) ~ Karan Henley Haugh

ApproachApproach to Freetown is the first volume of the completed tetralogy LION MOUNTAIN. It started out as a short story about an American woman who revamps her life in Africa and prepares to have a family without a husband. The protagonist Elizabeth Modra is an American artist from Lansing Michigan, who finishes her B. A. in Art in Boston and then goes to London with her boyfriend. There, he becomes very jealous of her success and becomes violent with her. At her first showing, she meets Peter Safford, a journalist, who becomes very fond of her and asks her to move in with him, which she does. Then when he takes her to cover a story in Sierra Leone, she refuses to leave. The land and people have gotten into her blood so that she wants to make this new country her home. She is determined to find out why these people are so happy and content and good to one another, even after the horrors which had befallen them during the recent Civil war.

4 Thumbs-UpIn this first of a complete tetralogy, and coming in at only 126 pages in length, explains the reason for my four thumbs rating; it just wasn’t long enough, this Author opens a whole new world to the reader in ways they could not possibly imagine

The main protagonist, a  female, is written in all her vulnerable and confused glory; so much so that any reader would be hard pressed not to want to reach out a helping hand to her, or just give her a cuddle to make her feel better.  As the reader travels with her through her trials and tribulations, the Author is able to make them experience keenly the pain and total destruction of self that this woman feels at times.  This is a character that the reader wants to be about to address and come to terms with her past, and will want to be there every step of the way to support her.  Other characters encountered are equally well written, and will produce a feeling of either like or indifference in the reader or, as in one particular character I just wanted to reach into the pages and slap them.

The locations of this enjoyable read are also beautifully written; the heat virtually rises off the pages in some areas and the inhabitants are written in such a way that they too make an impression on the reader.  It is very plain to anyone who reads this that the Author did careful research into the area she sets her work in and this adds to the authenticity of the storyline and helps carry it along in a very believable manner.

If this series of books is ever published together as a complete novel, I will definitely buy the print copy for my book shelves, and I would highly recommend this first instalment to all readers.  This is going to be a series that doesn’t deserve to be just read, it requires the time taken to savour and enjoy it as one would a fine wine or gourmet meal.

divider

Review: The Mysterium (Hugh Corbett #17) ~ Paul Doherty

MysteriumA mysterious assassin prowls the narrow alleyways of London. February 1304, and a succession of brutal murders shocks London as it comes to terms with the fall from power of Walter Evesham, Chief Justice in the Court of King’s Bench. Accused of corruption, Evesham has sought sanctuary to atone for his sins. When Evesham’s clerk is cruelly murdered, and then Evesham himself is discovered dead in his abbey cell, it appears that the Mysterium, a cunning killer brought to justice by Evesham, has returned to wreak havoc. Sir Hugh Corbett is ordered to investigate. Has the Mysterium returned or is another killer imitating his brutal methods? As Corbett traces the ancient sins that hold the key to discovering the killer’s identity he must face his most cunning foe yet.

3 Thumbs-UpI do like a mediaeval mystery novel occasionally, and was looking forward to reading this when I discovered it.  It wasn’t until I was closing the cover that I realised this was the 17th book in the Hugh Corbett series, making this an ideal novel for those who don’t want to get caught up in yet another long running series.

The characters, both main and minor are written with all the dirt and smell of the middle ages attached to them.  So much so, that at times, I almost turned my nose up at some of the imagined odours spilling from the characters in the book.  It was almost like ‘scratch and sniff’, the scratch definitely coming from the descriptions of the unhygienic place that London was in the 1300’s. As with most historical novels, the dialogue can sometimes become a little bogged down as the Author tries to recreate the speech patterns of the time, and it was no different in this book; it didn’t take anything away from the characters it just had a tendency to slow things down to the point where I felt as if I were trying to walk through one of those filthy streets.

The novel is a classic ‘locked door’ mystery, but with the slow build up and totally unexpected twists and turns in the plot, it didn’t come across as being stale or yet another reworking of a tried and tested plot line.  I enjoyed the fact that when I thought I had everything figured out, something would appear that proved me wrong.  At times however, I felt that this book was a bit too over descriptive, and this did dilute my enjoyment of it to a certain degree.

Would I read any of the other books in this series?  I don’t really know, but I would recommend them to lover of historical mystery novels.

divider

Happy Frankenstein Day.

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

It’s the birthday of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, my all time favourite classic Author.  Born Mary Wollstonecraft  Godwin in London, England (1797), she is the author of Frankenstein ( published January 1, 1818), which is considered the first science fiction novel ever written, and the book that I read over and over again finding new angles in its pages each time I do.

After her marriage to the poet Percy Shelley, the couple went to stay in a lakeside cottage in Switzerland with the poet Lord Byron in the summer of 1816. One rainy night, after reading a German book of ghost stories, Byron suggested that they all write their own horror stories.

Everyone else wrote a story within the next day, but Mary took almost a week. Finally, she wrote an early version of a story about a scientist who brings a dead body to life. She turned the story into a novel, and Frankenstein was published in 1818. She was 21 years old.

There are many reasons that this novel has me returning to it time and time again, not least of all the fact that it was totally different from the works other Authors of her period were writing.  It was dark and haunting in a way that Dickens and Bronte weren’t, and led to many moments where I actually was made to think outside the box and beyond the words on the pages.  It fed my questioning mind, and still does, bringing up questions such as “Could the monster and Victor actually be different sides of the same coin?”

But why has this novel survived the test of time, in fact thrived over the 200 years since it was written?  Ronald Levao, co-editor of “The Annotated Frankenstein” (Harvard Univ. Press), “She articulated our desire for, and fear about, the transgression of fundamental boundaries,” he says, “between vitality and dead matter, the human and the inhuman, ideal aspiration and monstrous consequence.”  It seems he may be right as those monstrous consequences will be in play again this January with the release of “I Frankenstein,” a movie based on the graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux, who graduated from Howard University in Washington.  Although the movie has very little to do with Shelley’s novel, it is still keeping alive the premise she intended when she put a pen to paper.

I will be celebrating Frankenstein Day by pulling my copy off the bookshelf again and settling in to read it over this holiday weekend.  How will you be celebrating?

001

Review: Blackout (All Clear #1) ~ Connie Willis

BlackoutOxford in 2060 is a chaotic place. Scores of time-traveling historians are being sent into the past, to destinations including the American Civil War and the attack on the World Trade Center. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser, Mr. Dunworthy, into letting her go to VE Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shop girl in the middle of London’s Blitz. And seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who has a major crush on Polly, is determined to go to the Crusades so that he can “catch up” to her in age.

But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments for no apparent reason and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, unexploded bombs, dive-bombing Stukas, rationing, shrapnel, V-1s, and two of the most incorrigible children in all of history—to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past.

From the people sheltering in the tube stations of London to the retired sailors who set off across the Channel to rescue the stranded British Army from Dunkirk, from shopgirls to ambulance drivers, from spies to hospital nurses to Shakespearean actors, Blackout reveals a side of World War II seldom seen before: a dangerous, desperate world in which there are no civilians and in which everybody—from the Queen down to the lowliest barmaid—is determined to do their bit to help a beleaguered nation survive

4 Thumbs-Up

This book is actually the first half of the All Clear duo.  Together they come to some 1168 pages and, personally, I feel that they could have been published as one novel rather than splitting them in two.  Both books centre on time travel from Oxford 2060 back into the past to recover historical items, in this case for the rebuilding of a certain Cathedral.

The book is broken down into three episodic narratives, each from the point of one of the historians covered in the book, and it tends to jump from one narrative to another as it progresses.  This can become a little confusing at times if, as a reader you are not used to either this Authors writing style, or the jumping around from one scenario to the next.  However, I didn’t feel that this style of writing hurt the book in any way; after all it is a novel about time travel, which in its nature jumps around from one place to the next.

The three main protagonists are likeable enough characters, and they are instilled with humour, compassion and worry.  They worry if they will get home, they worry if their being in a particular timeline will alter their future, and most of all they care about and worry for those they come into contact with in World War II London.  This brings us to the remainder of the cast of characters, of which there seems to be thousands; there are Soldiers at Dunkirk, civilians in the Blitz and many, many more; but for however briefly they appear in the storyline, this Author manages to write into each one their own personality and traits.  It is a credit to the writing style of this Author that she is able to make these people from the past, not just some image in our mind, but actually come to life as living, breathing people that we care for and cheer on.

The story is long and at times slow-moving, it also has plenty of things that don’t make sense if you really stop to think about it; but the time the Author takes to describe the effect of the bombing of London, the way the population rallies round each family hit and their stoical remarks as one night of air raids runs into another, and another, make the slow-moving pages feel rather like a break from the horror of the bombings.  Regardless of the slower moving sections, the storyline was engaging and gripping enough to keep me reading on to the cliffhanger ending, and then make sure I read the second part of the story.

Despite the topic of the Blitz, the Author manages to capture the dark the wit and humour of that era, and add to it a little piece of mystery and a touch of romance.  The plot is extremely complex and the way in which the Author is able to take a multitude of disjointed plots and subplots and weave them into the cliffhanger ending of this book, makes this a very enjoyable read. The Author succeeds in taking the reader out of their own world for a while and into the Blitz of World War II; it is done in such a way that the serious and tragic nature of the subject matter is served up with enough humour to make it bearable – even uplifting.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy time travel genre, but are also open to satire and humour in their chosen reading material.  As there is nothing offensive in this book, I would also have no problem in recommending it as a YA read.

001