Category Archives: murder mystery

#Sunday Post – 13th May, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

A shorter week as it was Bank Holiday Monday – which was also my son’s birthday, but for all that it turned into a very busy one. I worked through Monday and finished the main content edit on Breathing Space and now I’ve got a line edit to do and then I’ll be good to go. I’m aiming to release Breathing Space on 26th June.

On Thursday it was my sister’s birthday – and we spent the day working through Tim’s COPE folders ensuring that every piece of paper was signed and all the front pages were correctly cross-referenced, while my long-suffering sister ensured the page numbers were correct. All fiddley and vital – as any mistake could cause Tim to fail. The folder gets sent away on Monday… I felt terrible imposing on my sister like that – but as ever, she was lovely about it. In the evening we went out for a delicious meal at our favourite Chinese restaurant and had intended to come home and watch a nice film – but we dozed off as we were too shattered. On Friday, I taught Tim in the morning and then my writing buddy Mhairi and I travelled up to Haywards Heath to see Lesley Thomson, Elly Griffiths and William Shaw discuss their attitude to their writing in a fascinating three-way interview. It was a delight to touch base with Lesley again, who is such a warm, likeable person and I came away with a hardback, signed copy of her latest book which I’m dying to tuck into…

We travelled to Ringwood yesterday as one of my sister’s dear friends from France is celebrating a special birthday in Fordingbridge with all her family and we are meeting up with our parents for a meal today. All in all, a busy week in the best sense.

This week I have read:

Scylla and Charybdis by Lindsey Duncan
Anaea Carlisle, raised on an isolated space station populated solely by women, believes the rest of the universe has been plunged into anarchy and ruin by an alien-engineered disease known as Y-Poisoning. On a salvage mission, she helps rescue a hypermental named Gwydion who challenges everything she thought she knew.

Forced to flee the station with Gwydion, Anaea finds herself in an inexplicable, often hostile world permanently divided between the Galactic Collective and the Pinnacle Empire. She longs for some place to call home, but first, she’ll have to survive …
This was another unusual, fascinating read by a Grimbold author… They are not kidding when they say they want science fiction with a difference. Highly readable and engrossing – I stayed in bed far later than I should to see what happens next.

 

Obscura by Joe Hart
In the near future, an aggressive and terrifying new form of dementia is affecting victims of all ages. The cause is unknown, and the symptoms are disturbing. Dr. Gillian Ryan is on the cutting edge of research and desperately determined to find a cure. She’s already lost her husband to the disease, and now her young daughter is slowly succumbing as well. After losing her funding, she is given the unique opportunity to expand her research. She will travel with a NASA team to a space station where the crew has been stricken with symptoms of a similar inexplicable psychosis—memory loss, trances, and violent, uncontrollable impulses.
This was another storming read – a psychological thriller set in space, which when done well, works really effectively because everyone is essentially trapped. This one had me on the edge of my seat, with a fantastic action-packed finish.

 

The End of All Things – Book 6 of the Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi
The Colonial Union’s Defence Force was formed to save humanity when aggressive alien species targeted our worlds. Now Lieutenant Harry Wilson has an urgent new mission, as a hostile universe becomes ever more dangerous. He must investigate a sinister group, which lurks in the darkness of space playing different factions against one another. They’ll target both humans and aliens, and their motives are unfathomable.
I spotted this one in the library and immediately scooped it up – I thoroughly enjoyed the Old Man’s War series and wanted to see where Scalzi would take it next.

 

DNF – The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan
It doesn’t happen very often these day – and make no mistake, this is beautifully written with wonderfully portrayed characters – but it is also achingly sad as it deals with children dying. I had a nightmare after starting it and decided not to proceed.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 6th May 2018

Review of Bound – Book 8 of the Alex Verus series by Bendict Jacka

Teaser Tuesday featuring Obscura by Joe Hart

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Outcasts of Order – Book 20 of the Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr

Review of The Cold Between – Book 1 of the Central Corps novels by Elizabeth Bonesteel

Friday Face-off – I was asleep when dinosaurs roamed the earth… featuring West of Eden by Harry Harrison

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Obscura by Joe Hart

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Change in Perspective https://www.spajonas.com/2018/05/11/change-in-perspective/ Indie author S.J. Pajonas explains how a trip to the dentist recently fired up her writing muscle…

Yeah, but, John, if The Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists https://lynns-books.com/2018/05/11/yeah-but-john-if-the-pirates-of-the-caribbean-breaks-down-the-pirates-dont-eat-the-tourists/ Lynn featured a really interesting selection of covers during this favourite meme of mine – plus the complete programme of upcoming covers for the next year…

#writersproblems: #technology #grief https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/05/10/writerproblems-technology-grief/ This should not be happening… really!

What is the point of being a nasty reviewer? http://www.keeperbookshelf.com/what-is-the-point-of-being-a-nasty-reviewer Marcy has some interesting things to say about reviewers who do nothing but write rude, demeaning comments about every book they encounter…

Top Ten Tuesday – Purple Cover Lover – http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2018/05/08/top-ten-tuesday-purple-cover-lover/ Lisa has selected all her favourite purple covers – and a wonderful feast for the eyes they are, too.

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NEGALLEY arc #Obscura by #Joe Hart #Brainfluffbookreview #book review

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I am a sucker for near future crime and recently there’s been so many excellent examples – so when I read the premise for this offering, I immediately requested it. I’m so glad I did…

In the near future, an aggressive and terrifying new form of dementia is affecting victims of all ages. The cause is unknown, and the symptoms are disturbing. Dr. Gillian Ryan is on the cutting edge of research and desperately determined to find a cure. She’s already lost her husband to the disease, and now her young daughter is slowly succumbing as well. After losing her funding, she is given the unique opportunity to expand her research. She will travel with a NASA team to a space station where the crew has been stricken with symptoms of a similar inexplicable psychosis—memory loss, trances, and violent, uncontrollable impulses.

That’s as much of the chatty blurb as I’m prepared to reveal, but the brilliant thing about nefarious scheming on a space ship or station on a planet like Mars – everyone is trapped. Gillian is a brilliant, likeable woman with some profound emotional scars after the tragedy that overwhelmed her family – and unlike most of the others on the ship, she isn’t keen to be in space for a moment longer than is necessary. She takes the decision to stay awake and continue working through the voyage to Mars as she is running out of time to find a solution – when she realises that something isn’t right…

She teeters on the edge of meltdown, as the loneliness, her longing to be back with her sick daughter – and her addiction to the medicine she was taking during her recovery from a serious car crash – all take their toll. So when she begins to feel that someone else is also on the ship, she has to accept the fact that she is losing her mind.

Often, when the intense atmosphere is built up in these types of psychological thrillers, once we learn the reason why our protagonist is in such a lather, the whole episode falls rather flat. It’s why this sub-genre isn’t one my favourites – I’ve been disappointed too often. However, that’s not the case in this tightly constructed, beautifully plotted gem. I loved the whole story arc – including the climactic, action-filled denouement. Plus that final amazing twist… I haven’t read any of Hart’s work before – but I’ll be reading more of it in the future if this is an indication of his writing talent. Highly recommended for fans of futuristic murder mystery thrillers. While I obtained an arc of Obscura from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

Review of Library book #The Cold Between – A Central Corps novel by #Elizabeth Bonesteel #Brainfluffbookreview #bookreview

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I picked this one up at the library as I’m still into my space opera reading kick and it looked very promising.

Commander Elena Shaw is in dire need of shore leave and has tagged along with her firm friend Jessica to a bar that was recommended as ideal for visitors wanting a bit of fun, yet off the tourist trail. But when it comes to it – she finds she would rather be back on board and is just considering leaving, when an intriguing man starts to talk to her. A man that snags her interest, to the extent that she is able to ignore the fact that he is wearing the wrong uniform…

Take my advice and don’t read the very chatty blurb, which gives you some of the main plot points designed to draw you into the story – I just hate it when that happens! Instead, I have given just a introduction to the beginning of the first chapter, though, I hasten to add, while there is a significant love interest in this book, that’s not what is powering this vivid, intriguing mystery.

I really loved this one. Elena is an appealing protagonist, who has sufficient history to make her wary of being pulled into situations where she is liable to be hurt again. But this story is as much about Greg, a Central Corp captain who is defined by a tragedy in his past and how in the present he still struggles to put it into context. Of course, if the book was all about somewhat damaged characters staggering from the loves and losses of their past, I wouldn’t be giving this one the time of day – what makes it special, for me anyway, is the fact that it is set in a really intriguing corner of space.

Space opera is all about effective world building that gives a clear idea of the political and socio-economic setup across the galaxy without taking pages of dry information to do so. Bonesteel has this one nailed. Within a short space of time, I had a clear idea of how successful the colonisation attempts were and how effective the various terraforming projects have been – or not. Central Corps is the law enforcement agency that gets wheeled in to deal with events beyond the capability of colonists or the planetary police. As such, they need to be prepared for almost anything. So when something untoward happens to one of the crew, everyone is appalled and very shocked. I liked the fact that it really mattered to all the main characters, despite the fact that death is clearly part of the deal. It meant that the stakes mattered.

I stayed up far too late to find out what happens and burned through this one really quickly as I found it unputdownable. As with most mysteries, the good ones anyway, there were plenty of alternatives on offer as to what was happening before we got to the final climactic denouement, which was every bit as exciting and full of action as I could have hoped for. This one is highly recommended for fans of space opera.
9/10

#Teaser Tuesday featuring #Obscura – 8th May, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Obscura by Joe Hart
31% There were some words that never fully encompassed the true depth of their meaning. Some were so small, so insignificant, that what they represented dwarfed them into meaningless and trivial utterances.
“Death” was one.
“Alone” was another.
Gillian caught herself thinking this as she gazed out the window at the passing stars.

BLURB: In the near future, an aggressive and terrifying new form of dementia is affecting victims of all ages. The cause is unknown, and the symptoms are disturbing. Dr. Gillian Ryan is on the cutting edge of research and desperately determined to find a cure. She’s already lost her husband to the disease, and now her young daughter is slowly succumbing as well. After losing her funding, she is given the unique opportunity to expand her research. She will travel with a NASA team to a space station where the crew has been stricken with symptoms of a similar inexplicable psychosis—memory loss, trances, and violent, uncontrollable impulses…

The main protagonist is gritty, courageous and beleaguered – my favourite kind. And we are now out in space – yippee! What happens next? I am looking forward to finding out!

Friday Faceoff – The hand that writes and having writ moves on…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is a cover featuring hands, so I’ve selected The Moving Finger – Book 4 of the Miss Marple Mysteries by Agatha Christie.

 

This edition was produced by HarperCollins in 1995. I rather like it – the gloved hand moving over the ancient typewriter evokes a strong period feel, which is well sustained by the author and title font. I would personally have preferred not to have that unappealing black block in the lower third of the cover, which rather spoils it for me.

 

Published in March 2007 by Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, I also like this cover. The country postbox set in a dry stone wall gives a strong rural feel, with the bright green cloud below gives a strong indication that something is very wrong… Again, the fonts are right for the period. I would have preferred the postbox to have been picked out in bright red, which would have added another splash of colour, thus giving it extra eye appeal.

 

This edition, published by Harper Collins in 2012, is probably my favourite. The black background with the classic Christie signature in red really pops, while the lettering for the title font is simple – but that doesn’t prevent it from being effective.

 

This Bengali edition, produced by সেবা প্রকাশনী in December 2016, certainly catches the eye. There is something very disturbing about that outstretched arm – it looks so horribly vulnerable… And the rose nearby also tells a story. I don’t feel qualified to comment on the font, but this is a cover that stood out in the looong list of options I could have chosen.

 

This Turkish cover, published in June 2014, is the weakest one this week. The idea is okay – but the execution is very clumsy. Why would there be a spatter of blood across a poison pen letter? What compounds this mistake is the fact it looks so false, as no attempt has been to blend it so that it looks as though it belongs on the paper in the typewriter. So which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc #Head On – Book 2 of the Lock In series by #John Scalzi #bookreview #bookblogger #Brainfluffbookreview

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I enjoy Scalzi’s books, but the one that blew me away was Lock In – see my review here – his futuristic murder mystery featuring Haden-sufferer, Chris Shane, as his investigative protagonist. It has stayed with me where so many other books have faded into the furniture. Would I enjoy Head On as much?

Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers. The main goal of the game: obtain your opponent’s head and carry it through the goalposts. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible. But all the players are “threeps,” robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden’s Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real and the crowds love it. Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field.

Is it an accident or murder? FBI Agents and Haden-related crime investigators, Chris Shane and Leslie Vann, are called in to uncover the truth—and in doing so travel to the darker side of the fast-growing sport of Hilketa, where fortunes are made or lost, and where players and owners do whatever it takes to win, on and off the field.

So there you have the blurb. This book is designed to be read as a standalone and as it is a fairly complicated setup, where the role of Haden’s Syndrome and how it has impacted on the sufferers and US society in general has to be explained, it takes a while for the story to really get going.

The game of Hilketa initially had me cringing, but I’m not used to watching massively armoured American football players charging at each other with the force of a small truck. Once I factored in the US national sport, this next step of ripping apart the robot avatars didn’t seem so extreme.

As with Lock In, for me, the joy of this book is the worldbuilding. Scalzi’s take on how this terrible syndrome has impacted on society, as well as the individuals who have contracted the illness, is beautifully nuanced. Throughout the book, there is the on-going discussion about the initial, very generous financial support package for Haden’s sufferers – and the effects now that has been drastically scaled back. I love the unforeseen consequences of both the government handouts and what happens to a number of the characters once those payments are suddenly withdrawn.

Chris Shane is an engaging, sympathetic protagonist, with an extra edge. His famous, wealthy father was in vanguard of finding new therapies and road-testing the threeps – the robot bodies that Haden’s patients use in daily life while their biological bodies remain bedbound and apparently unresponsive. So Chris became a posterchild in the political fight for recognition of the Haden’s Syndrome – and even now, he is moderately famous. I’m aware that I’ve been discussing the world rather than commenting on the murder mystery. I enjoyed that every bit as much as the futuristic setting and I particularly appreciated reading about a crime that wouldn’t be able to take place now, because we simply don’t have the technology or those circumstances.

Scalzi’s plotting and pacing is skilful, the mystery is suitably twisty with a satisfying number of suspects and I also liked the denouement and the reasons for the crime. Once again, they are all too plausible. There is plenty of drama with several memorable action scenes featuring these tough robots – I could see this world making a wonderful TV series. Once again, Scalzi has nailed this one and it is highly recommended for fans of futuristic murder mystery adventures.
10/10

Sunday Post – 22nd April, 2018

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

The sun is shining! The last few days have been glorious as Spring has finally sprung. Grey skeletal branches are now fuzzed with the vivid new green of unfurling leaves and Friday was actually hot. I finally got to take my sister to Highdown Gardens and we wandered around in a haze of cherry blossom and primroses, while the bluebells are readying themselves for what promises to be a wonderful show this year. We have several fabulous bluebell woods nearby and this year, I must take her to see them.

I’ve had one of those weeks where I’ve been working hard without much to show for it. On Tuesday, I was at Northbrook for our catchup session that was cancelled due to the blizzard in March, while Tim and I are rolling up our sleeves and working through past papers, so he is thoroughly prepared in just over a month’s time when he sits his exam. On Wednesday, I was supposed to be out in the evening for my writing group, but had to cry off as I was smitten with a headache – unusual these days, but just occasionally it happens. I still felt a bit washed out on Thursday morning, but when Mhairi came over and continued helping with my latest marketing effort and we were able to load the new Dying for Space cover, I suddenly felt a great deal better – she has done such a fantastic job on it.

On Friday, Sally and I had a meeting with our local school regarding the COPE folder, which needs a fair amount of work before we hand it in, but we needed further advice on how to tackle some of the issues regarding cross-referencing and record-keeping sheets. Today I will be hard at it, getting the last of my admin and paperwork prepared for my Summer term courses, which start this coming Monday – and all three classes are running again this term, which is marvellous. I hope the weather is finally warming up for everyone else, too – I can’t believe what a difference just a few days of warm sunshine has made. Have a lovely weekend, everyone.

This week I have read:

Still Me – Book 3 of the Me Before You series by Jojo Moyes

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life.
I loved the first book in this series, Me Before You, and if you have read it then you’ll know that Lou has had a time of it… This book doesn’t perhaps hit the high emotional peaks and lows of that amazing read – but nevertheless, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable story with some interesting things to say about the faultlines in US society, amongst the mayhem and Lou Clarke quirkiness. I’ll be reviewing this one.

 

Head On – Book 2 in the Lock In series by John Scalzi

Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers. The main goal of the game: obtain your opponent’s head and carry it through the goalposts. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible. But all the players are “threeps,” robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden’s Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real and the crowds love it. Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field.

Is it an accident or murder? FBI Agents and Haden-related crime investigators, Chris Shane and Leslie Vann, are called in to uncover the truth―and in doing so travel to the darker side of the fast-growing sport of Hilketa, where fortunes are made or lost, and where players and owners do whatever it takes to win, on and off the field.
I was definitely suffering withdrawal symptoms from science fiction goodness, so scooped this one up. And loved it. The worldbuilding is really interesting with a fascinating dynamic around the Haden’s Syndrome that sees sufferers trapped in their paralysed bodies and using robots to once more integrate into society. A worthy successor to Lock In – see my review here.

 

One Way by S.J. Morden

It’s the dawn of a new era – and we’re ready to colonize Mars. But the company that’s been contracted to construct a new Mars base, has made promises they can’t fulfill and is desperate enough to cut corners. The first thing to go is the automation . . . the next thing they’ll have to deal with is the eight astronauts they’ll send to Mars, when there aren’t supposed to be any at all.

Frank – father, architect, murderer – is recruited for the mission to Mars with the promise of a better life, along with seven of his most notorious fellow inmates. But as his crew sets to work on the red wasteland of Mars, the accidents mount up, and Frank begins to suspect they might not be accidents at all.
As regards the setting and the colonisation efforts, I felt this aspect of the book was very well done. I was less convinced about the thriller holding it all together, though.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 15th April 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Blood – Book 3 of the Jem Flockhart series by E.S. Thomson

Teaser Tuesday featuring Still Me – Book 3 of the Me Before You series by Jojo Moyes

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Ashes of London – Book 1 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor

Cover reveal – Dying for Space – Book 2 of the Sunblinded trilogy

Friday Face-off – Where there’s fire there’s… featuring Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Review of The King’s Name – Book 2 of the Tir Tanagiri series by Jo Walton

 

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Women in SF&F Month: Claire North http://www.fantasybookcafe.com/2018/04/women-in-sff-month-claire-north/ Claire North of 84K fame has written this punchy, thought-provoking article at Kristen’s marvellous blog site. If you celebrate, or abhor the trend for strong, warrior women in SFF, then this is required reading…

#BookReview: Wheelchairs, Perjury & The London Marathon by Tim Marshall @AuthorightUKPR @Authoright https://rathertoofondofbooks.com/2018/04/20/bookreview-wheelchairs-perjury-the-london-marathon-by-tim-marshall-authorightukpr-%e2%80%8fauthoright/ I don’t normally single out book reviews in this section – but I’m making an exception for this one. I was shocked at just how much I didn’t know about this slice of modern history…

5 of the Best Literary Travel Guides to Britain https://interestingliterature.com/2018/04/18/five-of-the-best-literary-travel-guides-to-britain/ Once again, this excellent site delivers…

From the ‘Predicament’ series https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/from-the-predicament-series/ A pictures tells a thousand words – and sometimes a handful tell a lifetime.

6 Important Money Management Tips for Kids https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/from-the-predicament-series/ As a former teacher, I always felt this was a woefully neglected subject at school – Wanda, as ever, provides sensible, helpful advice for parents trying to put children on the right track with managing their money in a world where gambling has become an acceptable hobby and we can buy whatever we want with the click of a mouse.

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Ashes of London – Book 1 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor

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I requested this one after being attracted by the eye-catching cover and reading the premise, which was very intriguing.

London, September 1666. The Great Fire rages through the city, consuming everything in its path. Even the impregnable cathedral of St. Paul’s is engulfed in flames and reduced to ruins. Among the crowds watching its destruction is James Marwood, son of a disgraced printer, and reluctant government informer. In the aftermath of the fire, a semi-mummified body is discovered in the ashes of St. Paul’s, in a tomb that should have been empty. The man’s body has been mutilated and his thumbs have been tied behind his back. Under orders from the government, Marwood is tasked with hunting down the killer across the devastated city. But at a time of dangerous internal dissent and the threat of foreign invasion, Marwood finds his investigation leads him into treacherous waters

So did this live up to my expectations? Oh yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it. As to be expected with a story that starts in the middle of the Great Fire of London, this one starts with a bang. James Marwood watches the destruction of St Pauls Cathedral, with a vivid description of the heat and violence as the fire ripped through the interior and then destroyed the quantities of stationery and books that was stored in the crypt, in the belief that they would be safe.

Taylor has clearly done his research – there is a wealth of historical detail here woven into the everyday lives of the people caught up in the drama and terror. I was interested to learn that the official version – that there was a surprisingly small loss of life, given the ferocity and speed of the flames – is contradicted in this book. As the fire storms across tenements at a speed faster than a man can run, there is a general acceptance that whole families and communities were immolated. The reason why there is no official recognition of this loss of life is simply that the destruction was so thorough, nothing is left of the poor souls caught up in the conflagration but ashes.

That said, most of the action takes place in the days, weeks and months after the fire. I really liked this. That single event has caused havoc in the capital, which is nicely reflected in the political turbulence that is still being played out after the Civil War. Once Charles II regains his throne, one of his missions is to track down the handful of people responsible for executing his father. The young protagonist is caught up in this business – as are a number of other people in the story, even though they were either children or not yet born when the execution occurred.

I am conscious that I have managed to make this book sound as if it is some sort of historical account of the aftermath of both the Civil War and the great Fire of London, when of course, it’s nothing of the sort – it is a murder mystery adventure. That said, after the initial drama, the pace necessarily slows down. We are not in an era of fast car chases, or fast anything for that matter. This mystery reflects the fact that most people walk everywhere and the majority of tasks are still done by hand. So this mystery spools out over a period of time, which gives the denouement an extra kick as it takes place among the shattered remains of St Paul’s Cathedral. There were a number of intriguing twists, with one in particular I certainly didn’t see coming. I am delighted that this is the start of a series featuring James Marwell and I shall certainly be getting hold of the next book. Recommended for fans of historical murder mysteries. While I obtained an arc of The Ashes of London from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Blood Book 3 of the Jem Flockhart series by E.S. Thomson

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For once, it wasn’t the cover that caught my eye with this one – it was the premise. I recall reading about these hospital ships with horror and reading a murder mystery that was based on one of these floating hulks seemed quirkily original.

Summoned to the riverside by the desperate, scribbled note of an old friend, Jem Flockhart and Will Quartermain find themselves on board the seamen’s floating hospital, an old hulk known only as The Blood, where prejudice, ambition and murder seethe beneath a veneer of medical respectability.

Thomson does a marvellous job of vividly recreating the grim and effluvia of this stinking corner of London. At this point, the poor old Thames is little more than an open cesspit and London is generally draped in sooty smoke, with far more mists and fogs than you’d normally expect, caused by the runaway air pollution. Unsurprisingly, there is a high rate of illness, though The Blood specialises in the ailments brought into London from sailors and passengers who have returned from the Empire with all sorts of nasty complaints.

Jem Flockhart is an interesting protagonist – he is a young apothecary, continuing his father’s business and producing herbal remedies and medicines for the physicians coping with the high rate of illnesses. The team working on The Blood are mostly young medical practitioners without any money or support behind them, seeking to make a reputation by either publishing a brilliant paper on one of these new diseases, or catching the eye of an established medical man. However, the likes of Dr Proudlove, a black doctor whose mother ran a brothel, is highly unlikely to gain the reputation he wishes, despite being both clever and hard-working.
Jem teams up Will Quartermain, a young architect, when investigating this entangled case that lays open the seamiest side of London life, after they discover the body of a young woman in a derelict boatyard. While it’s evident she was drowned, the water in her lungs is clear, whereas she was discovered floating in a vile-smelling thick soup that could scarcely be described as water…

I thoroughly enjoyed this. Jem is a wary character who despite his obvious youth, clearly knows his way around this lawless, blighted area – and has an almighty secret of his own. This means that he is relatively free of many of the prejudices of the time – which also rings true. While there is clearly a rich backstory to his and Will’s current relationship, I had no difficulty in working out exactly what was going on and this book works well as a standalone, despite being the third in the series.

As for the mystery itself, it is one of those very twisty affairs, where one apparently solitary murder triggers a string of other incidents so that more people die, pulling in a wider circle of potential suspects. I thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle and the vivid world unflinchingly on display – though I’m humbly grateful that I don’t live in that time and place. I’ve thought about this one a lot since I finished reading it and will be looking out for the other books in this series. Recommended for fans of vividly depicted historical fiction, especially Victorian noir.
9/10

 

Friday Faceoff – The more I see, the less I know for sure…

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As luck would have it – I was running behind and hadn’t completely written up my Friday Faceoff yesterday before the internet went down – for the rest of the day. Thank you Sky for picking and choosing WHICH of your customers got the advance notification that you would be messing around with the phone lines (my sister did get the warning text – I didn’t!). So this article didn’t get posted and please accept my apologies for the lack of interaction on the blog in general…

This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is a cover featuring a panorama, so I’ve selected Cryoburn – Book 14 of the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold.

 

This Hardcover edition was produced by Baen in October 2010. It’s a panorama of the edifice where thousands upon thousands of people are stored in cryogenic stasis, which is the setting for this particular murder mystery. It’s a classic Baen cover, with large, blocky lettering featuring the author and title font. In this case, it’s shame they are quite so large as they blot out a lot of the excellent cover art – but it’s Baen’s trademark and I can’t fault them for their astute marketing model.

 

This Kindle edition was published in May 20111 and is, quite frankly, horrible. The clunky, charmless effort gives no hint about the genre or the fact this book is part of a highly successful series and an awesome read.

 

This Croatian edition, published by Algoritam in 2010, has attempted to recreate the vast scale of the cryostasis repository with Miles walking down one of the aisles. I’m interested to see that there is some attempt to depict his physical deformities, which is something the US covers often don’t do – although he is still without his cane. However, it is rather crude, even though it’s miles better than that dreadful, blobby egg-timer shown on the previous cover.

 

This edition, produced by Blackstone Audiobooks in October 2010 has taken the original cover and tweaked it, so that the title and author fonts don’t cosh you between the eyes. The result is a far classier version of the original cover which also shows the wonderful artwork. This is my favourite cover.

 

This French cover was published in November 2011 by J’ai Lu. I really like this cover. The dark tones reflect the fact we are dealing with a futuristic cemetery and the birds-eye view creates an eye-catching effect. They have even managed to give an echo of the Baen treatment of the title font without blotting out too much of the action – this is a very close contender for the top spot for me this week – which is your favourite?