Tag Archives: crime

Review of KINDLE Ebook #Willnot by James Sallis #buddyread #bookreview #bookblog #bookblogger

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My book blogging friend Emma Littlefield and I decided to teamread a book recommended by the other – and as James Sallis is a favourite author of Emma’s, we started off by reading Willnot.

Did you pick this book up thinking it was going to be a murder mystery?
No. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. Having read quite a few Sallis books now, one thing I like about his stories is that they never quite end up where I think they might. A number of his trilogies have detectives or private investigators as central characters and they do investigate murders but it’s never the be all and end all of everything. Sometimes, they don’t even get solved. It’s more about the journey’s the characters take and that’s what I like.

Is this book a classic example of James Sallis’s writing?
Yes, I would say so. I always end up describing it to people as quite sparse as there isn’t a word wasted. Some people I’ve recommend him to say that nothing happens in the books but I disagree, I think a lot happens to the characters it’s just it tends to be small things that build up to big changes.

When you finished the book were you elated and blown away, or just the tiniest bit disappointed?
I was very happy. The last Sallis book I read (The Killer is Dying) is actually the first one I haven’t enjoyed and I was a bit worried I had burnt out on the author. I was also a bit worried that he’d lost his writing way. This had all the elements I love in his work and, while it wasn’t the best of the books I’ve read, it was by no means the worst. Content is maybe the best way to describe it.

How does this rate alongside other books by this author?
I would say it’s probably right in the middle (maybe high middle). My favourite books are Drive and Driven and his Turner Trilogy because I just feel in love with his characters in these books.

As you can see from her answers, Emma is a thoughtful, intelligent reader whose opinions I value – you can pop over to her blog here to read her questions to me along with her review of Willnot. And here is my review…

In the woods outside the town of Willnot, the remains of several people have suddenly been discovered, unnerving the community and unsettling Hale, the town’s all-purpose general practitioner, surgeon, and town conscience. At the same time, Bobby Lowndes–his military records disappeared, being followed by the FBI–mysteriously reappears in his hometown, at Hale’s door. Over the ensuing months, the daily dramas Hale faces as he tends to his town and to his partner, Richard, collide with the inexplicable vagaries of life in Willnot.

I love the writing style. Sallis builds up a vivid picture of daily life in this small, US community with a wealth of everyday occurrences, delivering them with pace and a vividness that pulled me into the book. Hale, his protagonist, is a thoroughly nice chap who is one of those lynchpins that all communities need. His duties as the town’s doctor, surgeon and coroner put him right in the centre of all the major events in Willnot in a manner that appears completely unforced and realistic.

Sallis’s smooth, accomplished prose has a lovely rhythm that evokes Hale’s character and the setting without ever putting a foot wrong – there is so much about this book that is an absolute delight… However, if you’re sensing a but – you’d be right. My quibble isn’t with the writing, or the characterisation, or even the plot progression and storyline – all that works beautifully. What wrongfooted me was after reading the blurb, I was expecting a murder mystery – a whodunit where this busy, responsible man takes it upon himself to solve the puzzle of those bodies discovered right at the beginning of the story and clearly rock the small town, where daily life is generally quieter and more peaceful.

But that wasn’t where the focus or impact of this story lay – and while appreciating all the strengths that I’ve already enumerated about this book, I kept turning the pages, waiting for the denouement and drama surrounding this mystery. Or any mystery… While there is some drama and an unexpected shooting, the overall plot didn’t seem to be about that at all, which is absolutely fine – apart for my expectations.

Would I read another James Sallis novel? Oh yes – he’s evidently a fine writer and I really enjoyed being introduced to him – thank you, Emma!
8/10

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Review of KINDLE Ebook A Pair of Docks – Book 1 of the Derivatives of Displacement by Jennifer Ellis

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I’ll be honest – I’m not quite sure how this book ended up on my Kindle. I have a hunch Himself bought it, but however it got there, I’m really pleased it did.

Fourteen-year-old Abbey Sinclair likes to spend her afternoons in the physics lab learning about momentum and gravitational pull. But her practical scientific mind is put to the test when her older brother, Simon, discovers a mysterious path of stones that allows them, along with Abbey’s twin, Caleb, to travel back and forth between their world and what appears to be…the future. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones who know about the stones, and they soon realize their lives are in danger from a man known only as Mantis. Abbey, Caleb, and Simon must follow a twisting trail of clues that will lead them from their autistic neighbor, Mark, to a strange professor who claims to know the rules of the stones, and to multiple futures—some of whose inhabitants don’t want to stay put.

This book is categorised as a Children’s book, but please don’t let that put you off. Given the complexity of the story, the layering of the characters and the pacing, it feels far more like a YA offering to me. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The time travel element has been done very well, with the initial hook pulling the reader into the story and then learning the very rich backstory as the adventure continues. The story progression and overall pacing are deftly handled.

Abbey is one of twins, and I enjoyed the fact that the siblings – along with their older brother – get together to try and sort out what is happening. Given they have very busy parents, they are quite a tight-knit unit, although that doesn’t prevent there being strains in their relationship. Ellis has provided a strong protagonist. Nerdy and very clever, Abbey is also observant and people-smart. I did enjoy her awareness, as I have become just a little tired of young protagonists who seem to do nothing but lurch from one major mistake to another.

There is an atmosphere of quiet menace pervading this book, which works very well and had me turning the pages long after I should have put the light out and gone to sleep. As for the antagonists, it was also refreshing to have nuanced, clever villains who are convinced they are doing nothing terribly wrong. In fact, it seemed to me that this book could quite as easily have been written from the viewpoint of at least one of them, desperately trying to search for a lost relative, and have us all terribly sympathetic with him.

The ending was suitably climactic, but left some important questions unanswered, and I am delighted that I have the sequel also on my Kindle as this is a world that won’t leave me alone. Highly recommended for fans of time travel adventures.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 10th April, 2018

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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:

The Blood – Book 3 of the Jem Flockhart series by E.S. Thomson

16% ‘What will you do?’
She sat up and put her pipe on the hearth. ‘Well, sir—’
Sir, I thought. That’s not a good sign. ‘No,’ I said.
Her face sagged. ‘But you don’t know what I were about to suggest!’
‘You were about to suggest coming here to work.’
‘No,’ said Will. ‘Definitely no.’
Mrs Speedicut sank back. ‘I will die in the streets,’ she said. ‘You’re all I got! What would your dear father say if he were to hear you treating me with such cruelty?’ Tears filled her beady eyes and she covered her face with her apron. The sight would have been quite affecting had it not been for the fact that I could see her peeping craftily out at me from around the edge of it.

BLURB: I knew the smell of death well enough. But here the sweetness of decay was tainted with something else, something new and different. It was a curious, moist smell; a smell that spoke of the ooze and slap of water, of gurgling wet spaces and the sticky, yielding mud of low-tide…

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.

I have just started this one – it’s a vivid world, full of grot and effluvia, but I like the protagonist and the prose is well written and smoothly engrossing. I don’t normally read historical whodunits back to back – but my arc schedule has thrown two together and so far, I’m thoroughly enjoying the change from my usual reading pattern.

Sunday Post – 8th 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.

We had a fairly quiet Easter week-end, partly due to the weather which was atrocious. It rained unceasingly with a biting wind. We hunkered down indoors and I appreciated not having to turn out for lessons and plunged back into bleeping Miranda’s Tempest. This book is driving me crazy – as soon as I think I’ve nailed the story, another aspect suddenly occurs and I need to add that into the mix. I managed to get to my writer’s group on Wednesday evening. It was the first time I’ve made it in a month, where – after regaling my long-suffering writing buddies with yet another instalment – we were wondering whether turning Miranda into a porn story would work. Lots of hilarity ensued when we worked out that a number of torrid sex scenes could be set on the good ship Titania, culminating in the underwater orgy involving nereids… I really needed that chance to laugh at the whole thing and I don’t think it was an accident that the next time I got a real run at it, the writing suddenly went a lot better. Bless them – nothing like friends to help ground you…

And talking of friends – my mate Mhairi came over on Thursday with her arm in a sling, having broken her radius. It was great seeing her and having a chance catch up. Other than that, I’ve been working and spending time with my sister, popping out for cups of tea and the occasional sticky bun. We haven’t yet got to Highdown Gardens to see the spring flowers because I’m not up for trudging in the rain or braving the biting wind. We have the grandchildren staying over this week-end and we’re hoping to get there today – fingers crossed! In the meantime, have a lovely week and I hope Spring is finally warming up with you – it’s still on the chilly side here.

 

This week I have read:

Remnants of Trust – Book 2 of the Central Corps novels by Elizabeth Bonesteel

Six weeks ago, Commander Elena Shaw and Captain Greg Foster were court-martialed for their role in an event Central Corp denies ever happened. Yet instead of a dishonorable discharge or time in a military prison, Shaw and Foster and are now back together on Galileo. As punishment, they’ve been assigned to patrol the nearly empty space of the Third Sector.

But their mundane mission quickly turns treacherous when the Galileo picks up a distress call: Exeter, a sister ship, is under attack from raiders.
I love a really quality space opera adventure where characterisation powers the story through a detailed, interesting world – and that’s exactly what I’ve got with this engrossing second book. I’m delighted that the third one will shortly be on the library shelves, ready for me to scoop up.

 

School for Psychics – Book 1 in the School for Psychics series by K.C. Archer

Teddy Cannon isn’t your typical twenty-something woman. She’s resourceful. She’s bright. She’s scrappy. She can also read people with uncanny precision. What she doesn’t realize: she’s actually psychic.

When a series of bad decisions leads Teddy to a run-in with the police, a mysterious stranger intervenes. He invites her to apply to the School for Psychics, a facility hidden off the coast of San Francisco where students are trained like Delta Force operatives: it’s competitive, cutthroat, and highly secretive. They’ll learn telepathy, telekinesis, investigative skills, and SWAT tactics. And if students survive their training, they go on to serve at the highest levels of government, using their skills to protect America, and the world.
I’ve always got a soft spot for school–based adventures and I enjoyed this one, too. Though there were times when I did wonder a bit about the behaviour of the protagonist – she seems very impulsive and rather self destructive in her behaviour. But as the story progresses some intriguing aspects surface and she matures sufficiently to start trusting the team of friends and colleagues around her. I am keen to know how the dangling plotpoint will play out in the next slice of this adventure.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 1st April 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Meet Me in the Strange by Leander Watts

Teaser Tuesday featuring School for Psychics – Book 1 of the School for Psychics series by K.C. Archer

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet McKenna

Friday Face-off – It’s a family affair… featuring The Rolling Stones by Robert Heinlein

Review of Children of the Shaman – Book 1 of the Children of the Shaman series by Jessica Rydill

Running Out of Space is free today!

 

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

A Dictionary of Unusual and Preposterous Words https://interestingliterature.com/2018/04/06/a-dictionary-of-unusual-and-preposterous-words/ If you are remotely interested in words, then this is something to check out…

Fatalism and Futility in Film Noir https://silverscreenclassicsblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/27/fatalism-and-futility-in-film-noir/ This is a fascinating indepth article I came across that will interest anyone who loves the film noir genre.

Why are reviews unpopular as blog posts? #Bookblogger #Bookbloggers #Blogger #Bloggers #Blog https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2018/04/01/why-are-reviews-unpopular-as-blog-posts-bookblogger-bookbloggers-blogger-bloggers-blog/ An interesting – and slightly depressing post – for those of us who write LOTS of books review…

Romance in Fantasy: Love is Not Dumb, it’s Dopamine http://fantasy-hive.co.uk/2018/03/romance-in-fantasy-love-is-not-dumb-its-dopamine/ I found this article really interesting – if you are a fantasy fan, it’s worth reading…

A Follycon comedy video and a podcast on The Green Man’s Heir http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2914 This is an article from Juliet McKenna, just pleased at the reaction for her stormingly good novel The Green Man’s Heir – but please also check in for the spoof panel on Men in Science Fiction Writing. Hilarious, but also with a real point to make. I haven’t seen women patronised to QUITE this extent over the years on panels at Cons – but at times, it’s been very close…

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

Shoot for the Moon 2018 Challenge – February Roundup

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Mhairi Simpson, and I, once again, sat down to write a series of very ambitious targets for 2018 when the year was only a few days old. After the success of the last few years, I have become a real fan of this process as it has given me clear targets to work towards throughout the year and then at the end of every month, hold myself to account in fulfilling these goals. So how did I do in February?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
After completing Miranda’s Tempest and sending it out last year, I am hoping to have my rewrite completed by the end of March, using the feedback from an agent who has shown interest in the manuscript. She further suggested that I send it to a professional editor before resubmitting it to her, which I intend to do.
 As is often the case, now that I have the completed manuscript, I can see how to improve it further. Though I shall be glad to finish this one – it rides on my shoulders like a demon… I have contacted an editor who is willing to plough through the manuscript in June – so I now have a hard deadline to work to, which is always a help.

• Learn to market my books
I conducted my first giveaway for Running Out of Space along with an Amazon ad and given it was only for 24 hours, I was pleased with the result. I have some extra keywords to add and I’m going to be tweaking my description on Amazon. I have also added the covers for my two self-published novels to my blog site.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
I read 13 books in February – and the standout ones for me were the space opera adventures – Into the Fire by Elizabeth Moon; The Hyperspace Trap by Christopher Nuttall and Queen of Chaos by Sabrina Chase.
I have undertaken to read at least 24 books this year written by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s post. In February, the 4 books I’ve read towards my Discovery Challenge 2018 are:-

Keeper of the Watch – Book 1 of the Dimension 7 series by Kristen L. Jackson
Chase Walker is beginning to doubt his own sanity. From the moment he turned eighteen, a strange paranoia has taken over his mind. It all started the moment he discovered his uncle’s old watch… The watch calls to him. Though it beckons, he resists. His body strains toward it, blood pulsing, heart pounding in a mysterious and primitive need to connect with his uncle’s old beat up watch.
An entertaining parallel dimension adventure that really got going after an unexpected twist halfway through which I found original and engrossing.

Going Grey – Book 1 of The Ringer series by Karen Traviss
Who do you think you are? Ian Dunlap doesn’t know. When he looks in the mirror, he’s never sure if he’ll see a stranger. After years of isolation, thinking he’s crazy, he discovers he’s the product of an illegal fringe experiment in biotechnology that enables him to alter his appearance at will…
Tense contemporary sci fi thriller tale with plenty of action and adventure. While the writing is good, there were aspects regarding this book that I didn’t like, so I decided not to review it.

Fire and Bone – Book 1 of the Otherborn series by Rachel A. Marks
Sage is eighteen, down on her luck, and struggling to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. Everything changes the night she’s invited to a party — one that turns out to be a trap.
Thrust into a magical world hidden within the City of Angels, Sage discovers that she’s the daughter of a Celtic goddess, with powers that are only in their infancy. Now that she is of age, she’s asked to pledge her service to one of the five deities, all keen on winning her favor by any means possible. She has to admit that she’s tempted — especially when this new life comes with spells, Hollywood glam, and a bodyguard with secrets of his own. Not to mention a prince whose proposal could boost her rank in the Otherworld.
I really liked how this story draws on the myths of the Celtic gods and goddesses and look forward to reading more about this world.

The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s English Mystery – Book 1 of the Black and Dods series by Diane Janes
The night before she’s due to make a speech to the Robert Barnaby Society on the subject of the famous writer’s ‘magic chair’, committee member Linda Dexter disappears. When her body is discovered two days later, fellow members Frances Black and Tom Dod determine to find out the truth about her death. Could Linda have discovered something about Robert Barnaby that got her killed? Or does the answer lie in the dead woman’s past? As they pursue their investigations, Fran and Tom find the Barnaby Society to be a hotbed of clashing egos, seething resentments and ill-advised love affairs – but does a killer lurk among them?
I loved this one, which firmly follows in the footsteps of Agatha Christie’s whodunits in realising the time and the intricate plotting. Highly recommended for fans of historical murder mysteries.

• Continue teaching TW
We are now working on the final elements of this two-year syllabus for Tim’s COPE project, which needs to be handed in by Easter, so it’s a rather stressful time. Tim is also in the throes of editing the film that was shot last autumn and making very good progress with that. When I see what he now achieves on a daily basis and measure that against what he could manage only a couple of years ago, I cannot get over just how much he has progressed and continues to do so.

• Continue to improve my fitness
I have now resumed my Pilates and Fitstep classes – I wish they weren’t on the same day, but at least I get to jig around once week. With the continuing cold weather, I have gained more weight than I wanted, though I’m hoping to lose most of it for the summer. My hip has been a bit grumbly during the cold, but it is easily sorted out, these days.

I have read a total of 24 books this year, including 7 towards my 2018 Discovery Challenge and 5 towards my Reduce the TBR Pile Challenge. My wordcount for the month, including blog articles and teaching admin as well as work on my novel, was just under 43,000, bringing my yearly total to the end of February to just over 86,000 words.

Teaser Tuesday – 20th March, 2018

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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:

Burn Bright – Book 6 of the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs

26% Charles frowned. “Both of us left our cell phones at home. They’re in the office – you can check to see if he called.”
“We know, we did. And there’s been nothing. We were hoping that maybe he’d gotten in touch the other way.”
If something had happened to his phone, Bran could talk to his pack mind to mind. He couldn’t hear them in return, but it was still a handy thing.
“No.” And wasn’t that odd? And unlike Bran. Almost as unlike Bran as taking a vacation in Africa.

BLURB: They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm.

With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf–but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills–his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker–to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn…

Yep. I’m up to my old tricks – starting a series right in the wrong place. But so far, this has been a marvellous read. It started with a bang and hasn’t let up so far. I’m looking forward to tucking into the rest of it very soon.

Review of NETGALLEY arc Blunt Force Magic – Book 1 of The Monsters and Men trilogy by Lawrence Davis

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I read several positive reviews of this one and took one look at the cover – and requested it…

Janzen Robinson is a man lost between two worlds. Five years removed from a life as an apprentice to a group of do-gooding heroes who championed the fight against supernatural evils, the once-promising student is now a package courier going through the daily grind, passing time at a hole-in-the-wall bar and living in a tiny, run-down apartment on the south side of Cleveland, Ohio. Then fate (or a case of bad timing) brings him face to face with a door that’s got his old life written all over it. From the ancient recesses of unyielding darkness known as the Abyss, a creature has been summoned: a Stalker, a predator whose real name is forbidden to be spoken aloud. It’s a bastardization of the natural order, a formidable blend of dark magic and primal tenacity. Its single-minded mission? Ending the life of a fiery, emerging young witch.

Though the cool cover shouts otherwise – at least to me, who thought this was going to morph into epic fantasy, this story is very much within the urban fantasy genre. That said, there are some striking differences that make this one stand out. Yes, Janzen has been selected as an apprentice due to his natural talent – however, that was a while ago. In the meantime, something terrible has happened to his mentor and he has spent the last five years just getting by. Therefore, while he does have raw talent, there is relatively little skill or finesse in his workings. I really like the idea that he is only half trained and that because of his chippy, mouthy character, he is also tricky to help, as he is often his own worst enemy.

That doesn’t stop him plunging into a desperate situation against a very dangerous opponent without too much thought about the consequences. This is partly due to his own bloody-minded nature and partly due to the survivor guilt he still feels.

While I’m always wary of assuming authors necessarily shoehorn their own lives into their writing, I was interested to read that Davis is a war veteran who served in Iraq. The young soldier who befriends Janzen is very well depicted and all the action scenes are effective and realistic.

In short, this one held me throughout. I liked the dynamic and the fact that there was no romantic relationship running throughout – a refreshing change in urban fantasy, these days. I also liked the scrabbling, somewhat desperate nature of Janzen’s opposition to the nasties ranged against him. I particularly appreciated the monsters – especially the stalkers, which are truly terrifying creatures.

All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable new series and I very much look forward to reading another slice of Janzen’s adventures – I hope Davies writes quickly. While I obtained an arc of Blunt Force Magic from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Into the Thinnest of Air Book 5 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green

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I have read two of the previous four books in this entertaining series by prolific author, Simon R. Green – read my review of Death Shall Come – and thoroughly enjoyed them. So I immediately jumped at the opportunity to read this latest offering.

Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny are attending the re-opening of Tyrone’s Castle, an ancient Cornish inn originally built by smugglers. Over dinner that night, the guests entertain one another with ghost stories inspired by local legends and superstitions. But it would appear that the curse of Tyrone’s Castle has struck for real when one of their number disappears into thin air. And then another . . .

This entertaining locked-room mystery takes place in a creepy Cornish Castle with a long-standing curse hanging over it. After winning a substantial sum on the lottery, the couple hosting this particular evening have transformed it into an inn with a fine-dining restaurant and Penny, Ishmael’s partner, has been sent an invitation. They seem particularly keen for her to attend, although they were really friends of her father. So she feels obligated to go along and is sure that Ishmael will be equally welcome. However as he walks through the door, he realises that not only were they not expecting anyone to accompany Penny, they are not remotely pleased to see him.

Ishmael’s enhanced senses tell him there is something not quite right about this evening, so instead of a weekend getaway where they could pretend to be an ordinary couple, they find themselves pitchforked into the middle of yet another bloody adventure. Once again, Green’s snappy writing and effective scene setting swept me up into the story and had me turning the pages until it was all over. I really enjoy Ishmael as a character. While he is supposedly on the side of the angels, there is a darker side to him and I liked the fact that at one point in this story, he simply lost his temper and took it out on his surroundings.

One of Green’s strengths is his ability to give us plenty of back story and motive for all of the suspects that Ishmael and Penny, who are an interesting mix of characters and I enjoyed the fact that Green doesn’t necessarily play them to type – for instance, the vicar is far weaker than his wife. As for the denouement, while I didn’t see it coming, it had crossed my mind before I dismissed it a couple of times during the book. However, in this story, it is as much about the why, as it is the how, which I found reasonably convincing.

This one certainly managed to make a train journey to London and back far more entertaining and is recommended for fans of murder mysteries with a paranormal twist. While I obtained an arc of The Thinnest of Air from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 7th March, 2018

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – The Blood by E.S. Thomson

#crime #murder mystery #historical

I knew the smell of death well enough. But here the sweetness of decay was tainted with something else, something new and different. It was a curious, moist smell; a smell that spoke of the ooze and slap of water, of gurgling wet spaces and the sticky, yielding mud of low-tide…

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.

On shore, a young woman, a known prostitute, is found drowned in a derelict boatyard. A man leaps to his death into the Thames, driven mad by poison and fear. The events are linked – but how? Courting danger in the opium dens and brothels of the waterfront, certain that the Blood lies at the heart of the puzzle, Jem and Will embark on a quest to uncover the truth. In a hunt that takes them from the dissecting tables of a private anatomy school to the squalor of the dock-side mortuary, they find themselves involved in a dark and terrible mystery.

I’ll be honest – after reading the blurb, I am slightly spluttering and wondering WHAT was going through my mind as I requested this one… That said, it never hurts to step out of your comfort zone from time to time – right? And even if it is a tad grittier than I generally like, it certainly looks like it’s an excellent read…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s English Mystery – Book 1 of the Black and Dods Mysteries by Diane Janes

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Once again, it was the cover that attracted me to this offering, along with the emphasis on it being a 1920s murder mystery. I really like that era, being a fan of Agatha Christie and an even bigger fan of Dorothy L. Sayers, so I hoped that Janes would prove to be an entertaining read.

1929. The night before she’s due to make a speech to the Robert Barnaby Society on the subject of the famous writer’s ‘magic chair’, committee member Linda Dexter disappears. When her body is discovered two days later, fellow members Frances Black and Tom Dod determine to find out the truth about her death.

This is the very simple premise that sets up the story, where a guest speaker inexplicably disappears during a conference and when her body is later discovered, it is assumed she has committed suicide. Both Frances Black and Tom Dod don’t believe this is the case and are determined to get to the bottom of why Linda is murdered.

I loved this one – Janes has taken care to set up the story and establish the characters in much the same way as Christie did. There is also no shortage of likely candidates when it comes to working out who the murderer is. As the investigation proceeds, we also learn more about Frances and Tom – and why the pair of them might be very willing to spend time and energy worrying about a problem that has nothing to do with their own daily routines. Despite this story consciously harking back to the past, there is no sentimentality in Janes’s depiction of the 1920s. The shadow of the Great War is still lying heavily across the country and although women have been granted the vote during the previous year, the manner in which Frances is frequently dismissed makes me very glad that I wasn’t born in that era.

I was also impressed with the worldbuilding and the level of historical detail throughout – at no time did any of it jar. What you don’t get with this book is foot to-the-floor action as the story builds steadily while Frances and Tom discover yet more facts and clues surrounding Linda’s life. Nonetheless I was immersed in the world and wanting to know exactly why Linda was murdered and who did it.

One of the pleasures in reading this type of crime novel is trying to guess the culprit and while I won’t claim to be particularly good at it, I can report that I didn’t guess whodunit, yet the murder and why it was committed made complete sense. I came to really like Frances and I’m going to be looking out for more books in this series – luckily it seems that Diane Janes is a prolific author. Yippee! While I obtained an arc of The Magic Chair Murder from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10