Tag Archives: historical murder mystery

Sunday Post – 15th 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.

In the event, we didn’t make Highdown Gardens last weekend as the wind and rain was unceasing – until the grandchildren went home on Tuesday morning, when a rather watery sun appeared. In something approaching desperation, on Monday I took them to see Peter Rabbit at the local cinema. They were underwhelmed and I’m sure that odd scuffling sound I could hear was poor Beatrix Potter spinning in her grave…

I’ve continued to make progress with Miranda’s Tempest – to the extent that Himself is trudging through the manuscript, looking for the inevitable mistakes and plotholes. Oh, the things that we writers put our long-suffering spouses through… It was back to Pilates and Fitstep on Wednesday morning, so I have been working through the subsequent stiffness as throughout the holiday period I’ve been wearing out my glutes on the typing chair. On Wednesday evening, I was invited to a meal with some writing pals, where we ate an excellent vegetarian casserole – I’ve already nicked the recipe and will be trying it out very soon – and read aloud our current WIPs. It was a wonderful evening – I’m very lucky to have such lovely friends and thank you, Sandra, for being a fabulous host.

On Thursday, Mhairi came over. Her arm is still in a sling, but I’m mightily impressed at just how much she can now do singled-handed. We went out for lunch and discussed books and advertising campaigns – after which she decided that I needed space vessels on my spiffy new covers. Running Out of Space is now up with the latest improvement and I’m thrilled with it. Dying for Space should be appearing, complete with exploding space yacht, in the coming week. Friday was destined to be a day where I cleared a lot of routine admin in preparation for my catch-up class on Tuesday – but Sky evidently had plans of their own as the internet went down without any warning and it wasn’t until some two hours later that I realised it wasn’t anything to do with me or my equipment. Thank you Sky for the non-notification! I now need to crack on over the weekend to ensure I stay on schedule with my workload and get everything done before the end of my Easter break.

This week I have read:

The Ashes of London – Book 1 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor

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…
This well-written, historical murder mystery set during the time of the Great Fire of London held me throughout as Taylor’s vivid depiction of this difficult political period gives a wonderful backdrop to the crime. I’ll definitely be looking out for the next book in this series.

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

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.
Yep. Two historical murder mysteries set in London in a row… It doesn’t happen to me all that often, given that my go-to genres are science fiction and fantasy. But this was an amazing read – I’m still reeling from the vivid portrayal of the hospital ship peopled with some strongly eccentric characters that wouldn’t look out of place in a Dickensian novel. I now need to go back and find the previous books in this engrossing series – though this book could easily be read as a standalone.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 8th April 2018

Cover Reveal for Dying for Space – shiny, new and more appealing!

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

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Obscura by Joe Hart

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of School for Psychics – Book 1 of the School for Psychics series by K.C. Archer

Friday Face-off – The more I see, the less I know for sure… featuring Cryoburn – Book 14 in the Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

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

#Music & ComicArt Help Fill The #Imagination Room for #Writers https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/04/12/music-comicart-help-fill-the-imagination-room-for-writers/ Once again, this clever and amusing author has some insights on the process of writing that I’ve found really helpful…

Bullet Through Apple (detail) https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/bullet-through-apple-detail/ What a fascinating pic…

Exasperating Men https://readlorigreer.com/2018/04/12/exasperating-men/ This thoughtful article pinpoints the reluctance of many men to take themselves off to the doctor for necessary medical attention – with sometimes fatal results…

10 of the Best Poems About Music https://interestingliterature.com/2018/04/11/10-of-the-best-poems-about-music/ Another cracking list of enjoyable poems from this excellent site.

A Flying Visit – Seeing the Details https://scvincent.com/2018/04/06/a-flying-visit-seeing-the-details/ Sue Vincent features some delightful details on a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon. This is a gem…

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 NETGALLEY arc The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross – Book 2 of The Curious Affair series by Lisa Tuttle

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My attention was snagged by this title and Lisa Tuttle is an author who is been on my radar for a while, so I requested it.

“Witch!” cries the young man after stumbling unexpectedly into the London address of the consulting-detective partnership of Mr. Jasper Jesperson and Miss Lane. He makes the startling accusation while pointing toward Miss Lane . . . then he drops dead. Thus begins the strangest case yet to land—quite literally—on the doorstep of Jesperson and Lane. According to the coroner, Charles Manning died of a heart attack—despite being in perfect health. Could he have been struck down by a witch’s spell? The late Mr. Manning’s address book leads Jesperson and Lane to the shrieking pits of Aylmerton, an ancient archaeological site reputed to be haunted by a vengeful ghost. There they sift through the local characters, each more suspicious than the last: Manning’s associate, Felix Ott, an English folklore enthusiast; Reverend Ringer, a fierce opponent of superstition; and the Bulstrode sisters, a trio of beauties with a reputation for witchcraft. But when an innocent child goes missing, suddenly Jesperson and Lane aren’t merely trying to solve one murder—they’re racing to prevent another.

I haven’t read the first book in this series, but while I have clearly missed a slice of the adventure, that didn’t hamper my understanding or enjoyment of this story. Tuttle doesn’t hang about – she tips us straight into the case which I appreciated. While this series has been compared with the Sherlock Holmes adventures, I don’t think that Miss Lane, the narrator of this case, is all that much like John Watson. She isn’t overly gushing about Jasper Jesperson’s detecting skills, for starters – indeed, there are times when she is quite sharp about him, which I enjoyed.

The other aspect that I hadn’t expected and very much liked – while both Jesperson and Lane are middle-class and reasonably comfortably off, that doesn’t prevent Tuttle from lifting the façade on apparent Victorian respectability by depicting a young serving girl’s plight after suffering a rape. The detective duo also uncover a shocking lack of respect towards women who have the temerity to refuse or thwart a couple of apparently eligible men, who portray themselves as perfectly reasonable, educated gentlemen. Miss Lane isn’t particularly happy about the state of affairs, but isn’t overly surprised. What it reinforced for me is how much women were simply not regarded as on a par with men. Not only did they not have the same protection in law, they were not felt to be capable of the same understanding or intellect as a man – so when a woman demonstrated any independence of spirit, she frequently incurred anger at her temerity – how dare she defy him!

That said, I don’t want you to go away thinking this entertaining, engrossing whodunit is focusing on the gender inequality of the time – it is a mere side issue in this adventure. An adventure full of twists and turns as Lane and Jesperson then find themselves desperately looking for a baby. And the resolution to that puzzle had my jaw dropping…

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and will definitely be tracking down the first instalment in this series. Recommended for anyone who enjoys their historical crime series with a twist of fantasy.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Eleventh Hour – Book 8 of the Kit Marlowe series by M.J. Trow

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As anyone who has visited this site will know, in addition to my passion for science fiction and fantasy, I am also a real fan of historical murder mysteries. When I saw this offering on Netgalley, it was a no-brainer that I would request the arc and was delighted when I had the opportunity to read and review it.

April, 1590. The queen’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, is dead, leaving a dangerous power vacuum. His former right hand man, Nicholas Faunt, believes he was poisoned and has ordered Kit Marlowe to discover who killed him. To find the answers, Marlowe must consult the leading scientists and thinkers in the country. But as he questions the members of the so-called School of Night, the playwright-turned-spy becomes convinced that at least one of them is hiding a deadly secret. If he is to outwit the most inquiring minds in Europe and unmask the killer within, Marlowe must devise an impossibly ingenious plan.

Of course, what had escaped my notice was that this is the eighth book in this series. However, once again, I managed to land on my feet in that at no time was I floundering or adrift as Trow is far too an experienced and capable writer to let that happen. When Francis Walsingham dies, it falls to Kit Marlowe to try to discover who is the culprit. In this twisting Elizabethan plot there are no shortage of suspects and I really enjoyed reading about Marlowe’s investigations as characters I’ve known from history books leapt to vivid life in this Tudor whodunnit.

Trow clearly had a blast with some of these characters – his depiction of William Shakespeare is particularly amusing and somewhat controversial, given that in this incarnation, poor bumpkin Shakespeare is thoroughly adrift in the London theatrical scene and desperate for work. Though Marlowe is reluctant to employ him as a writer or an actor, given that he is not very good at either. I also enjoyed reading Trow’s version of Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir John Dee. However, the character at the centre of all of these shenanigans is Kit Marlowe himself. Written in third person viewpoint, Marlowe is a complicated, somewhat driven character who provides a series of masks depending on who he is with. I really liked Trow’s characterisation – his detached observation of the people around him and his unwillingness to wear his heart on his sleeve makes him an interesting, complex protagonist.

In order for this book to work, the world building also has to be believable and sharp without slowing down the pace by too much description. Trow has nailed this. We never forget that we are in Tudor England with people whose worries and concerns are so similar to ours – yet also so very different. The climax of this story, along with the denouement worked really well. I certainly didn’t see it coming. Yet there is also another surprise at the end of the book relating to the title which leaves this book on a doozy of a cliffhanger. I shall definitely be looking out for the next book in the series and have already ordered the first one from the local library.

This is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys good quality historical mysteries along the lines of C.J. Samson’s Matthew Shadlake series – see my review of his book Revelation.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 27th June, 2017

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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:

Eleventh Hour – Book 8 of the Kit Marlow mysteries by M.J. Trow
13% ‘Lord,’ he intoned, his voice the only sound in the room now that the coals had settled. ‘Demon of the Shedin, Master of the Gaming House of Hell, show me your face.’
He held out both hands as the blood still trickled, intoning the ancient Hewbrew over and over. ‘She me the ram and bull. Let me feel your fiery breath.’
There was a thud at the door and he visibly jumped, his pulse racing.
‘Who’s that?’ He was almost afraid to hear the answer.
‘Carter,’ the muffled voice came back through the oak. ‘Dr Dee’s man. I have a letter for you, Dr Salazar, from the magus.’

BLURB: April, 1590. The queen’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, is dead, leaving a dangerous power vacuum. His former right hand man, Nicholas Faunt, believes he was poisoned and has ordered Kit Marlowe to discover who killed him.

To find the answers, Marlowe must consult the leading scientists and thinkers in the country. But as he questions the members of the so-called School of Night, the playwright-turned-spy becomes convinced that at least one of them is hiding a deadly secret. If he is to outwit the most inquiring minds in Europe and unmask the killer within, Marlowe must devise an impossibly ingenious plan.

As you can see, it is early days with this book. But although once more I’ve done my trick of crashing mid-way into a long-running series, I’m not remotely adrift, while finding the worldbuilding and characters gripping and enjoyable. Trow is clearly comfortable in this vividly depicted world with his cast of vibrant characters – I’m really enjoying this one…

Review of The Yard Book 1 of The Murder Squad by Alex Grecian

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Last term, my Creative Writing students nominated and brought in examples of writing by their favourite author. One of my students presented the opening pages of this book and I was sufficiently impressed to track the book down.

theyard1889. One year on from Jack the Ripper, a new killer stalks London’s streets… But he has not reckoned on Scotland Yard’s newly formed Murder Squad and the team of new-recruit Walter Day and the world first forensic pathologist, Dr Kingsley…

This isn’t Sherlock Holmes’s London, though. This is a far more visceral and frightening view of London from those bumping along the lower layers of the very rigid social strata – and it’s a great deal less cosy if you don’t have a bed for the night, or the money to get one. Grecian has clearly done his homework. With an unprecedented jump in the population of Great Britain and the industrial revolution in full swing, people were flocking to all the major cities. Provision for fresh water and sewerage were inadequate and housing insufficient making all the cities breeding places for disease and crime, which mostly went unchecked. And I’m not taking Grecian’s word for this – I happened to study this period in history for my degree and some of the grim statistics I’d gaped at then, now have become flesh and blood characters in this gritty read.

There are some familiar elements in this crime thriller. We have an idealistic newbie starting work with an overburdened, harried team whose new boss is causing concern because he’s taking far too much notice of what is happening in his department for the comfort of some of the more experienced detectives. There is a deranged killer with an innocent victim in his clutches, who regards Saucy Jack – the Ripper – as a role model. And a sullen, angry populace who feel let down because in their daily lives they don’t get protection from whatever the local villains feel like dishing out.

There are also flashes of dark humour in this twisting, adrenaline-fuelled story that help leaven the grim backdrop. My favourite character is Dr Kingsley, the hospital surgeon who encounters the stinking hole that went by the name of the City Morgue when looking for his dead wife – and single-handedly takes over the running of it. He is the one who starts examining bodies for clues and reads up on the latest papers, so begins to use shredded charcoal to take fingerprints to help identify potential murderers. I love his unshakeable faith in the power of science to put right the wrongs he sees around him and it certainly encapsulates the can-do spirit of the Victorian educated man.

The climax of the book is deftly handled, giving an entirely satisfactory ending to the various plotpoints weaving through the story, while leaving a couple of openings for the sequel. So will I be tracking down The Black Country? Oh yes – Alex Grecian’s historical crime series is a riveting, enjoyable read.
8/10

Review of Sherlock Holmes: Gods of War by James Lovegrove

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Anyone who has read this blog for a while will know that I really enjoy Lovegrove’s writing – see my review of The Age of Odin here – so I was intrigued when I came across this offering on the shelves. I also happen to be a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories, though it was a while ago when I read them. I love the way his bluff, good hearted doctor is the mouthpiece for the complicated, haunted genius of Holmes. So – does Lovegrove’s addition to the Holmes’ canon pay due respect to the original, while adding fresh exciting stories?

godsofwarIt is 1913 and Dr Watson is visiting Sherlock Holmes at his retirement cottage near Eastbourne when tragedy strikes: the body of a young man, Patrick Mallinson, is found under the cliffs of Beachy Head. The dead man’s father, a wealthy businessman, engages Holmes to prove that his son committed suicide, the result of a failed love affair with an older woman. However, Holmes quickly discovers that certain aspects of the case simply don’t add up – not helped by the hostile attitude of the local constabulary. But when someone attempts to murder Dr Watson, the stakes are raised to a shocking and unexpected climax…

I’ve fiddled around a bit with the blurb, but that sums up more or less the gist of it. Lovegrove’s rendition of his main protagonist, Dr Watson, is pretty much pitch perfect. There is more than a nod to the language and phrasing of the time while keeping it suitably streamlined for modern tastes, which takes a degree of skill to pull off. I also liked Watson’s occasional gusts of annoyance at Holmes’ erratic behaviour, and his fond reminiscences of some of their earlier adventures.

Though both men are now in their twilight years, this is a full-blooded adventure involving desperate clifftop chases in thick fog, kidnapping, murder and attempted murder – several times. So does Lovegrove pull this off? What we don’t want is the Frost scenario where poor old David Jason, overweight and clearly unfit, once more is seen to be running down young men more than half his age and in their physical prime. Fortunately Lovegrove is far too canny to fall into such an obvious hole. In fact, Dr Watson spends a great deal of time grumbling about how he really isn’t up to all this excitement – and is made quite ill by his adventuring. I also liked the notion that Holmes’ housekeeper, Mrs Tuppen, feeds him quantities of a homemade concoction that sounds suspiciously like slippery elm, amongst other things, which has him on his feet again in next to no time.

Some of their exploits strain plausibility – but then, so did some of the original stories. What I love about this tale is that it starts quite slowly, steadily accelerates and doesn’t let up until the end. Which I didn’t see coming. I’d worked out who had done it, but not exactly why or all the ramifications. As ever, Lovecraft’s clever, nuanced plots has extra layers that resonate and I’ve found myself thinking a lot about this story, despite having now read a couple of other books in the meantime.

I shall be looking out other books published by Titan Books in this series – George Mann and Guy Adams are other contributors, also strong, skilful writers whose work I admire and enjoy. And treat upon treat – I’ve also discovered that James Lovegrove has written another Sherlock Holmes book – The Stuff of Nightmares. How can I resist?
9/10