What to read next.

After finishing a good book in the early hours of the morning I often find myself with the problem of what to read next.  I usually go through my ‘to be read’ stack in the order of which books were added to it, but sometimes the book on the top of the pile doesn’t appeal to me at the very moment I need a new read.

This flowchart, found on Upworthy.com may help me, and others in the same predicament, head in the right direction and find something we are in the mood for.  Just because it says summer in the chart doesn’t mean you can’t use it anytime of the year, after all what better way is there to spend a rainy day than curled up in your favourite spot reading?

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Review: Search The Dark (Inspector Ian Rutledge #3) ~ Charles Todd

Search the darkA mind-damaged veteran comes home from the Great War to be told his wife and two children were killed in the bombing of London. Refusing to believe the news, or unable to, the man thinks he spots them on the platform of the station of a small town in Dorset. Then a woman’s body is found there, and Rutledge is sent by his jealous rival at the Yard to locate the children.

 

4 Thumbs-UpI came across this book by accident, hiding on my shelf and opened it to scan the first page; later that day I closed the cover and sat back feeling I have used my time wisely.

The main protagonist in this book and all the other in this series is a Scotland Yard policeman.  Newly returned from the Great War, he has his own personal demons to deal with as well as helping those who are also dealing with their demons from fighting in this war.  Add to that the stress of trying to find the criminals, and it could make for a very unstable and highly strung character but the Author manages to avoid this wonderfully.  Instead he uses this character as a vehicle to bring the reader’s attention to the unseen horrors that many carried with them when they returned home.  This character is vulnerable, unsure whilst at the same time being very capable of doing his job and bringing the wrongdoer to justice.  I felt for this character as I don’t usually do in a cozy mystery, and wished there was some way I could help him find peace in his life.  In this one character the Author managed not only to show the inner turmoil of those who returned from the fighting, but he also shows in the other people he encounters in his enquiries the change in society that had taken place while he was away.  These range from total indifference to the way these returnees were feeling and going through, to those who wanted to cosset them and keep them wrapped up from the hurts that may come their way in everyday and finally to the group of people who refused to believe that, mentally, their loved ones would never return to normal.  This book is not loaded down with a bunch of secondary characters which helps the book move along at a steady clip and keeps the reader on track to the end.

What an end it was.  This is the kind of book I love.  I thought I had spotted the bad guy, then no it took a twist, and another, then another until the end I had no idea who the real criminal was, and when the reveal came I was blown away as I never thought it was this person.  Add to this the feeling of flying down country roads in a little old car when horses and carriages were still in good use, and it all combines to the kind of book that I just couldn’t put down.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of cozy mysteries, and those who enjoy a great read that will keep you guessing until the end.  I will definitely be reading more in this series.

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Review: The Sunne in Splendour ~ Sharon Kay Penman

SunneA glorious novel of the controversial Richard III—a monarch betrayed in life by his allies and betrayed in death by history

In this beautifully rendered modern classic, Sharon Kay Penman redeems Richard III—vilified as the bitter, twisted, scheming hunchback who murdered his nephews, the princes in the Tower—from his maligned place in history with a dazzling combination of research and storytelling.

Born into the treacherous courts of fifteenth-century England, in the midst of what history has called The War of the Roses, Richard was raised in the shadow of his charismatic brother, King Edward IV. Loyal to his friends and passionately in love with the one woman who was denied him, Richard emerges as a gifted man far more sinned against than sinning.

This magnificent retelling of his life is filled with all of the sights and sounds of battle, the customs and lore of the fifteenth century, the rigors of court politics, and the passions and prejudices of royalty.

5 Thumbs-UpI’ve either mentioned this book or the Author several times during the life of my reviews so I have decided it was about time I actually wrote a review on the book itself.  This was the debut novel for this Author.

I was first introduced to both the book and the Author by my History Professor whilst taking my Masters in History many years ago.  She recommended it to me on the basis of it being the most accurate account of the times she had read in fiction form.  Being a Yorkshire woman by birth and therefore, a staunch Yorkist, I was slightly apprehensive when I picked this up as most accounts of Richard III and the House of York are based on Tudor propaganda from the times, and are slewed very much in their favour.  I found none of this when I read this long 936 page book.

The book itself could be broken down into thirds; the first brings into the light that confusing history of the Wars of the Roses, and for readers who are not up to speed with the ins and outs of this time it is a great way not only to get to know the key players, but where they fit together in the whole sorry mess.  Yes it does sound a little like a history lesson, but it is given in such a manner that it skilfully and neatly pulls the reader so far into the novel that they have no choice but to read to the end. Just by reading the first part of the novel it can be clearly seen that this Author has done extensive research into the period, and this comes through in way in which locations are described and characters react to their environment.  The remaining two-thirds catalogue the reign of Edward IV and also the life of Richard.

Character development is stunningly done within the pages of this book.  The reader is not thrown huge chunks of back-story and motivational traits, but slowly includes them as the plot progresses.  Their fears are revealed, sometimes surprising the reader, and the political machinations that ruled their everyday lives are uncovered slowly, rather like peeling the layers from an onion.  Obviously the main focus of the book is Richard, and it follows him from a very young age when he is very much in the shadow of his brothers through to his death on the battlefield.  The Author does not portray him the same light as Shakespeare, but rather gives him a more human face than the one constantly given to him of that of monster.  A compelling and believable case is presented regarding his nephews in the Tower of London, which rather makes the reader consider that this could be a case of the wrong people mishearing words said at the wrong time and in frustration, as in the case of Thomas Becket when King Henry II uttered ‘who will rid me of this meddlesome priest’; we will never know.

I could write for hours on this book, but to do so would have me revealing spoilers and getting into the whole White Rose versus red rose debate (yes the capitalization error was deliberate *smile), so I’m going to leave this review short, and I hope tantalising enough to make someone want to actually pick this up and read it.

I would highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good read.  I have read it several times and yes, my History Professor was right it is the most accurate account of the times in fiction form.

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Guest Article: Adventures In Crime ~ Anthony Boucher

Over 50 years ago, on January 5th 1964 to be exact, the following article appeared in The New York Times and, as can be seen by reading it the mystery novel was a big thing back then.  I have shared this with you as I found it interesting, but it also made me wonder how much the article would differ from the original if Mr. Boucher were to write it today.

Anthony Boucher

Anthony Boucher

“The past few years have seen something of a revolution in the publishing of paperback mystery novels. From the very beginnings of the paperback industry; murder has been a trade staple, but the emphasis used to rest almost exclusively upon fast‐action novels of violence and sex, with only a very few of the most famous practi­tioners of more reasoned and contemplative detection represented on the newsstands.

Violence‐and‐sex has not disappeared: it will always (and quite rightfully) have its market. But now the paperback repertory cones to embrace more and more of the serious novels of murder and deduction which were once assumed, on no particular evidence, to be com­mercial poison in paperback. This trend is evident not merely in the more expensive “quality” paperbacks (Dolphin, Collier)

Berkley has published, and kept in print, the entire work of the subtly perceptive Josephine Tey. Lancer is well launched on a project of the complete works of the versatile and rewarding Andrew Garve. Ace’s “giant double‐books” each contains two novels by female writers of the enviable stature of Ursula Curtiss, Charlotte Arm­strong and Elisabeth Sanxay Holding. And both Ballantine and Pyramid have established carefully edited lines of mysteries for connoisseurs.

Indeed, if any university were so wise as to offer a course in the mystery novel as a branch of literary history, a more than adequate reading list could be built up from paperbacks cur­rently in print—including the obvious major textbook for the course, Howard Haycraft’s splendid critical anthology

Such a reading list would start with any one of the 11 available story collections of the founding master, Edgar Allan Poe. and go on through Wilkie Collins—with the complete text of the “The Moonstone” (Dolphin), and not its truncated form (Pyramid), plus the less detectival “The Woman in White” (Dolphin, Everyman) as collateral reading—to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Since most of the Sherlock Holmes stories are now in the public domain, they are to be found in innumerable editions, none of them textually ideal; but the nod should go to the Berkley edition (now almost complete) because it is legitimately authorized and royalty‐paying, and because its jackets, by W. Teason, are the most tasteful that I have yet seen on any Doyle books. And with the stories themselves should go William S. Baring­Gould’s definitive biography, “Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street” (Popular), the one significant work of Baker Street Irregularity to appear in a newsstand paperback.

The first third of this century is not copiously represented in today’s paperbacks; but our imaginary course could get on adequately with R. Austin Free­man’s “Mr. Pottermack’s Over­sight” (Collier), E. C. Bentley’s “Trent’s Last Case” (Ballan­tine), Anthony Berkeley’s “The Poisoned Chocolates Case” (Dolphin) and Dorothy L. Sayers’s “Strong Poison” (Harper)—classics all, though these authors need more representation on the lists—plus two colIections of superb short stories, G. K. Chesterton’s “Ten Adventures of Father Brown” (Dell) and Melville Davisson Post’s “Uncle Abner” (Collier).

From there on, the problem becomes one of selection from stores of treasures. In the classic formal detective story, there are any number of books in print by Ellery Queen (Pocket Books), Rex Stout (Bantam), Elizabeth Daly (Berkley), Ngaio Marsh (Berkley) Mar­gery Allingham (Penguin, Mac­fadden) and Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr, each of whom appears on the lists of many publishers. Each of these authors has produced so many of the best works in the genre that the choice would be up to the individual taste of the instructor. Oddly though Carr is everywhere, his alter ego Carter Dickson is rare in paperback: but Berkley is starting to remedy that deficiency. The superlative Michael Innes has not had quite his due in reprints as yet; but he can be well represented, in his Collinsian detectival manner by ”Lament for a Maker” (Collier) and, in his vein of romantic adventure, by “The Case of the Journeying Boy” (Berkley).

It will consider the feminine­gothic novel of romantic terror, from the work of the Brontes (many editions) through Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca” (Pocket Books) to Victoria Holt’s “Mistress of Mellyn” (Crest). It will at least touch upon the spy novel, from John Buchan’s still incomparable “The 39 Steps” (Popular) to the contemporary contrast between Ian Fleming and William Haggard (both Signet).

It will look into the exotic of detection: the fine Australian regional novels of Arthur W. Upfield (Berkley), the work of Georges Simenon, especially the revolutionary early Maigret novels (Penguin); the Argentine “Ficciones” of Jorge Luis Borges (Evergreen); the glori­ous Chinoiserie of Robert Van Gulik, whose Judge Dee novels both Dell and Avon begin re­printing in the same week

It will notice the occasional isolated masterpiece by an author who wrote nothing else in the field—such important ice­breaking detective stories as Helen Eustic’s “The Horizontal Man (Dolphin) or Leo Perutz’s “The Master of the Day of Judgment” (Collier).

And it will not overlook, among all these reprints, the original paperback novels, the legitimate heirs to the dead pulps in which Hammett and Chandler flourished—their serious and substantial authors, such as John D. MacDonald, Charles Williams, Donald Hamilton and Vin Packer (all Gold Medal), and their highly competent purveyors of light amusement, like Carter Brown (Signet), Richard S. Prather (Gold Medal) and Henry Kane (many publishers).

Starting as paperback originals and later as reprints from hard‐cover are the 87th Precinct novels of Ed McBain (Permabooks). all still in print and invaluable for the course as prime specimens of the modern novel of police procedure—to which should be added J. J. Marric’s novels of Commander Gideon of Scotland Yard (Berkley).

Only on fifth Thursdays of the month will the lecturer regret that he is unable to make a point by reference to current paperbacks. There is, for instance, no novel in print by Freeman Willis Croft, the great master of the perfect timetable alibi, or by Craig Rice, the most warmly humorous personality ever to communicate with her readers through murder.

The more I talk about this hypothetical course the more I hope you might enjoy enrolling in it. And why not? It’s available at your nearest bookstore.”

Anthony Boucher, August 21, 1911 – April 29, 1968

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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.

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Review: The Devil’s Workshop (The Murder Squad #3) ~ Alex Grecian

The Devil's WorkshopThey thought he was gone, but they were wrong. Jack the Ripper is loose in London once more.

Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad faces the most shocking case of its existence, in the extraordinary new historical thriller from the author of the acclaimed national bestsellers The Yard and The Black Country.

London, 1890. A small group of the city’s elite, fed up with the murder rate, have made it their business to capture violent criminals and mete out their own terrible brand of retribution. Now they are taking it a step further: They have arranged for four murderers to escape from prison, and into the group’s hands.

But the plan goes wrong. The killers elude them, and now it is up to Walter Day, Nevil Hammersmith, and the rest of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad to hunt the convicts down before they can resume their bloody spree. But the Murder Squad may already be too late. The killers have retribution in mind, and one of them is heading straight toward a member of the Murder Squad, and his family.

And that isn’t even the worst of it. During the escape, one of the killers has stumbled upon the location of another notorious murderer, one thought gone for good, but who is now prepared to join forces with them.

And Saucy Jack has learned some new tricks while he’s been away.

2 Thumbs-UpI thought this was going to be a gripping historical police procedure, but the only thing gripping about it were my hands on the cover to stop me throwing it across the room unfinished.  Yes, I was disappointed in this book, and have read far better thriller/mysteries from Authors who are releasing their works to the reading public for the first time.  However, this really isn’t just one book as there is the main story that centres around the Scotland Yard Murder Squad shortly after the Ripper killings, and then there is the secondary, and in my mind much more enjoyable story, about the criminals the squad are pursuing.

The main character was not at all likeable, and in fact came across as a bit of a wimp at times.  The Author apparently wanted him to appear as a stalwart of Scotland Yard but in the end he appeared to be nothing more than a self-righteous man.  He was very much in awe of his mentor, even though this man had left the force under a cloud, he deferred to him at every turn even when he had made it clear it was not the right thing to do.  His indecisiveness was definitely at odds to the character I had expected in one of his importance when embarking on this book.  On the flip side, I found his ‘sidekick’ to be a lot more interesting and likeable, and found myself wanting to read more about him than his Inspector.  He was full of energy and stuck to a single course once his mind was made up, even if this meant going against the wishes of his superiors; the Author gifted this character will the kind of mind I had expected in the main protagonist and, rather than it being annoying to find in a secondary player, I found it one of two things that kept me reading to the end.  As to the villains their story made the hair on the back of my neck stand up in places.  Through a great deal of imagination and maybe some psychological research, the Author was able to bring these criminals to life in all their shocking and violent glory, while at the same time showing that you can never truly spot evil when it walks among us.  It was the tale of the criminals that produced the second reason I kept reading.

From a historical point of view there was obviously a great deal of research done into the time period in which the novel is set, although at times the descriptiveness of locations did have a tendency to take over the page and pull my attention away from what was actually happening.  I’m not sure if it is just me, and there may be readers out there who enjoy this, but I do like sentences in a novel to be more than a few words long, and flow in a manner that does not make me feel as if I were on a tiny boat on a choppy sea.  Not all the sentences were written in this way, and it was a relief to come across those that had a nice flow and rhythm to them; only to have this taken away shortly after and be back in my storm-tossed boat.

I now know this is the third book in the Murder Squad series, but to be quite honest that doesn’t really matter to me as I doubt that I will read anymore by this Author.  I’m also slightly hesitant in recommending this book to anyone, but if you do like a police procedural mixed in with some history you might want to take a look at this book.  If this novel had been written purely about the criminals, from their point of view of themselves and the world they walked through, this book would definitely have rated more thumbs than it did.

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Books, Boobies and Beheadings… Oh My!!

Unless you are a hermit living on a small rock in the Outer Hebrides, Game of Thrones will be a part of your life whether or not you like it.  Since being adapted as a series by HBO this tale of murder, intrigue and politics is being discussed at the water cooler everywhere.  But winter is definitely coming, if it hasn’t already arrived for these fans, as the show is now taking a ten month break before the next instalment.  So, to prevent withdrawal symptoms in GOT fans becoming so severe they turn into White Walkers, below is my suggestion of reads that will keep you going through the break:

Wheel of timeTitle – The Wheel of Time Series
Author – Robert Jordan
There are fourteen books in the series, all of which continue the same story, weaving towards the ultimate climax. Books 12 through 14 were completed by fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, who was chosen by Robert Jordan’s widow after he passed away. Robert Jordan left behind an abundance of notes and audio recordings, which allowed his family and Mr. Sanderson to tie up the series in a way that very closely matches his original vision.

The first book, The Eye of the World was published in 1990 by Tor Books and has been in continuous print ever since. It is published in the United Kingdom by Orbit Books. Each book the series has appeared on the New York Times best-seller list, and each one since the eighth (The Path of Daggers) debuted as #1.

Description ~ Wheel of Time is a story that takes place both in our past and our future. In his fantasy world, the Dark One, the embodiment of pure evil, is breaking free from his prison. The overall plot is about a man who learns that he is the reincarnation of the world’s messiah and is once again destined to save the world from the Dark One — but possibly destroy it in the process. This saga is not only his story, but the story of an entire world’s struggle to deal with war and change, destruction and hope.

memory sorrow and thornTitle – The Memory, Sorrow and Thorn Trilogy
Author – Tad Williams
Description ~ In Osten Ard, a land once ruled by an elvishlike race known as the Sithi, the human High King is dying. And with his death, a long-dormant evil is unleashed on the land as the undead Sithi ruler, the Storm King, seeks to regain his lost realm through a pact with one of human royal blood. Driven by spell-inspired jealousy and fear, prince fights prince, while around them the very land begins to die, poisoned by a sorcerous force sworn to annihilate the humans whose ancestors had driven the Sithi from their rightful home long ages ago.

Only a small, scattered group, the League of the Scroll, recognizes the true danger faced by Osten Ard, only they hold the knowledge of times past, of threats fulfilled, and of a riddle of swords, which holds out the one small hope of salvation. And to Simon — unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League, and unwittingly touched by magic both good and ill — will go the task of spearheading the search for the solution to this riddle of long-lost swords of power, a quest that will see him fleeing and facing enemies straight out of a legend-maker’s worst nightmare!

ElderlingsTitle – The Realm of the Elderlings Series
Author – Robin Hobb
This series currently includes 13 books, which should be read in order to make the story more logical and cohesive; The Farseer Trilogy, The Liveship Traders Series, The Tawny Man Trilogy and The Rain Wild Chronicles.  Also coming out in August 2014 will be the next trilogy in the Realm of the Elderlings, The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy.

Description ~The first in this series of books, the Farseer trilogy, takes place in a part of the Realm of the Elderlings known as the Six Duchies. It is the tale of Fitz, son of Prince Chivalry, a royal bastard born on the wrong side of the sheets then cast out into the world, friendless and alone. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as the Wit – gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility. So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and learn a new life: one of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners… and lessons in how to kill a man secretly as he trains to become a royal assassin.

mistbornTitle – The Mistborn Series
Author – Brandon Sanderson
Mistborn is the name of Brandon’s epic fantasy trilogy. The first book is technically Mistborn: The Final Empire, though people just tend to call it Mistborn or Mistborn 1. The entire series consists of The Final Empire (2006), The well of Ascension (2007), and The Hero of Ages (2008).

Description ~ A thousand years ago, the prophesied hero from lore rose up to overthrow a great and terrible evil. Only, he lost, and the Dark Lord took over and has been ruling with an iron fist for a thousand years. Ash falls from the sky in this barren land, and mists come every night, deep and mysterious. In this setting, a gang of thieves decides that the prophecies were all lies and that they can’t trust in some fabled hero to save them. They decide to take matters into their own hands, and plan a daring heist of the dark lord himself, planning to use the emperor’s own wealth to bribe his armies away from him and take over the empire.

And finally a novel (excuse the pun) suggestion:

GOT Title – Game of Thrones Series
Author – George R.R. Martin
Calling this the Game of Thrones series is a lie really, the actual title of the series is A Song of Ice and Fire, with Game of Thrones being the first of five books to date.  The other four are;  A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons.

The story of A Song of Ice and Fire takes place in a fictional world, primarily upon a continent called Westeros but also on a large landmass to the east, known as Essos. Most of the characters are human but as the series progresses other races are introduced, such as the cold and menacing ‘Others’ from the far North and fire-breathing dragons from the East, both races thought to be extinct. There are three principal storylines in the series: the chronicling of a dynastic civil war for control of Westeros between several competing families; the rising threat of the Others who dwell beyond an immense wall of ice that forms Westeros’ northern border; and the journey of Daenerys Targaryen, the exiled daughter of a king who was murdered in another civil war fifteen years previously and now seeks to return to Westeros and claim her rightful throne. As the series progresses, all three storylines become increasingly interwoven and dependent on each other.

So, here you are.  I hope something in the above list may be able to carry you through until you can once again feast your eyes on Westeros.

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Review: A Charm of Powerful Trouble (The Harry Reese Mysteries #4) ~ Robert Bruce Stewart

A charm of powerful troubleIt’s not surprising that a case that begins with a killing in a faux Chinatown and ends in a séance would include a generous helping of farce. But not even Harry Reese—a man well used to a life only loosely tethered to reality—is prepared for what he encounters that autumn in 1902. Before it’s over, he’ll meet cricket ranchers, vaudeville artistes, white slavers, morality crusaders, circus roustabouts, and wayward Utopians, and frequently become sidetracked by the need to rescue his loved ones from jail, or the clutches of a ruthless tong. Is it any wonder the case was put in motion by the machinations of his dear wife Emmie?

4 Thumbs-UpI have been known to review one or two books in a series, but with this review comes my third in the Harry Reese Mysteries, and no I am not being paid to write them; they are just plain and simply a darned good read.  Like the other books in the series I have reviewed this one does not need to be read as part of the series, it stands on its own very well indeed.  This means that, if after reading this you have no interest in any of the others before it; it will have no adverse affect if you read those following.

Once again, the Author has painted a vivid picture of the time in which the novel is set, and transports the reader fully into the locations and events that take place in this novels pages.  I learnt more about cricket ranchers than I ever realised I wanted to know, and chuckled at the shenanigans and predicaments the dynamic couple found themselves in.

Magnificently and skilfully the Author has managed to continue to keep the main protagonists in this recent instalment right on track, there is nothing added to their personalities or traits that would make a loyal reader of this series think they had missed something in previous books, or the newly initiated reader feel they have to read its predecessors.   Despite the feeling sometimes given that our ‘Detective’ is ruled by his wife, in this novel the impression comes across that he enjoys her side tracking although not encouraging it.  Once again I thoroughly enjoyed the character of Emmie, and still feel as if this is one woman who I could really get along with in real life.

I would highly recommend this novels to anyone looking for a good and easy read that moves along at a fast clip but is laced with humour and mystery.

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Review: Wolinski ~ Ed Morawski

wolinskiThe End Justifies the Means. This is the code Wolinski has followed for over a decade as he operates in the shadows between law enforcement and vigilante, cleaning up his city at the mayor’s behest by executing criminals—a job complicated by the bridge which connects his city with the lawless one across the river.

When the mayor is killed mysteriously and a new one takes over, Wolinski’s methods are no longer tolerated and he finds himself out of a job.

But then a serial killer with unique tastes begins preying on women and racking up more homicides in a month then in the past years, and the new mayor must turn to Wolinski, the only man who can hunt down the monster. The trouble is Wolinski’s past actions have come back to haunt him and he finds himself boxed in on all sides by his own police department, the new mayor, the FBI, and even the Mob.

What’s a Pollack bull in a china shop to do?  Why break things of course…

3 Thumbs-UpThis tough and gritty crime thriller is definitely a book for adults only, full of violence and savagery it will keep the reader turning its pages until the end.

The main protagonist is a man who appears to have no heart, no morals and is entirely comfortable with doing whatever it takes to get a job done.  These would seem to be great traits in certain circumstances, but when the reader discovers the occupation of the main character it actually leaves a feeling of discomfort with them, that follows them throughout the book; but this is not a discomfort born out of wanting to know how this man is allowed to do what he does, but out of knowing that, at times, we need people just like him to keep things under control.  I actually liked the main character immensely, and found it a refreshing change to read of someone in this type of novel that was not bound by the ‘normal’ constraints and truly believed that the ends definitely justified the means.  Some readers may find this too much to handle, and set the book aside purely because of their dislike of him; just keep reading to the end I promise you won’t be disappointed.

As much as I enjoyed this fast paced read, the reason for my three thumbs rating is the constant shifting between the first and third person narratives, as well as the tense shifts from past to present.  When these occurred it seemed not only unnecessary but also injected a definite distraction from the rest of the novel which is either narrated or described from the point of view of the main character.  I had a feeling, in one of these particular instances, that the Author had done this as it was expected when writing this particular genre of novel; I say they should have stuck with the break in convention they had already started with the main character, and done their own thing which, aside from these departures from the plot worked really well.  This novel is not hard boiled crime and gruesome detail, the Author takes the time to inject a small portion of romance and humour into the book towards the end; an end which is not tied up in a neat and pretty bow, but left wide open and heralding a possible sequel to the ‘Wolinski’ story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to all who enjoy and gritty crime thriller, however, those with a weak stomach may need to either give it a miss or have a bowl on hand.

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Review: Snow White Must Die (Bodenstein & Kirchhoff #4) ~ Nele Neuhaus

snow white must dieSnow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus is a tremendous new contemporary mystery series and huge international bestseller—with more than 3.5 million copies in print! On a rainy November day police detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein are summoned to a mysterious traffic accident: A woman has fallen from a pedestrian bridge onto a car driving underneath. According to a witness, the woman may have been pushed. The investigation leads Pia and Oliver to a small village, and the home of the victim, Rita Cramer.

On a September evening eleven years earlier, two seventeen-year-old girls vanished from the village without a trace. In a trial based only on circumstantial evidence, twenty-year-old Tobias Sartorius, Rita Cramer’s son, was sentenced to ten years in prison. Bodenstein and Kirchhoff discover that Tobias, after serving his sentence, has now returned to his home town. Did the attack on his mother have something to do with his return?

In the village, Pia and Oliver encounter a wall of silence. When another young girl disappears, the events of the past seem to be repeating themselves in a disastrous manner. The investigation turns into a race against time, because for the villagers it is soon clear who the perpetrator is—and this time they are determined to take matters into their own hands.

An atmospheric, character-driven and suspenseful mystery set in a small town that could be anywhere, dealing with issues of gossip, power, and keeping up appearances.

5 Thumbs-UpAfter reading Stieg Larson’s Millennium trilogy, and also listening to it on audio book (which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end), I was eager to read another ‘import’ of the same genre regardless of the country or origin.  I was intrigued to see if the aforementioned book was a rarity in that it translated well, or whether there was a new generation of foreign Authors whose works also responded with the same impact; I’m glad to be able to say that this book checked all the blocks.

It would be unfair to compare this novel with Larson’s work, as they are not alike in any way apart from the fact they are well worth picking up and reading.  It wasn’t until I was mentally bemoaning the lack of character development in this book that I realised I had entered the world of the two main protagonists four books into their story, and so based on this I had to take them at face value.  Again I was not disappointed; all the characters in this novel are tightly and expertly written, with all their European mannerisms and quirks translating wonderfully for the American reader.  As I read about the characters, some of these mannerisms brought to mind our time living in Germany and actually made me miss it somewhat.  The two main characters are very reminiscent of Lynley and Havers from the books by Elizabeth George, but a lot less gentile and polite, and it was this kind of familiarity that made me warm to them even more.

The complexity of the plot grows as the reader progresses through this mystery, but due to the skilful handling of the Author it does so without throwing too much information too quickly at the reader.  Like a fly fisherman, this Author plays with the reader through hints and innuendos, but never reveals anything early than is necessary for the continuation of the storyline.  Because of this, and even though it is number 4 in a series, this novel works exceptionally well as a standalone read; one that will have the reader promising themselves just ‘one more chapter’ well into the night.

I will definitely be reading more by this Author, and hope that my German skills are up to the task, if not I will just have to pray to the literary gods that they translate the other books in this series.  I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a gritty and often brutal police procedure and also those who enjoy and good mystery/thriller.

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