Tag Archives: historical murder mystery

Sunday Post – 29th December, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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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.

It’s been madly busy and great fun… Yes – I know I used that line last week, but it also nicely sums up this last week. Himself was working until 10 pm on Christmas Eve, so it was something of a blur to get presents wrapped and all the cooking done. My son arrived on Christmas Eve, just in time to start tucking into the homemade vegan mince pies and we had a lovely natter together. Christmas morning was spent cooking – Himself was in charge, despite struggling with a terrible cold. My sister and nephew joined us for lunch and stayed for the evening. We had a lovely time – Rob and Michael hadn’t seen each other for far too long, so were able to have a good catch up. After lunch was eaten and cleared away, we opened presents and played a couple of cracking games – Ticket to Ride and Scotland Yard.

On Boxing Day, we were due to drive over to my daughter’s for the afternoon to play yet more games, when she phoned me to say the conditions on the A27 were horrendous and she didn’t want me driving over. So they bundled into their all-weather terrain jalopy and came to us, instead. She then made a meal for eight in my kitchen before we played the Present Game and I subjected the family to my Christmas Quiz. So much laughter – the walls rang with it…

We have been taking it easy since, while Himself is trying to recover from his cold. He is off work until New Year’s Day, which is a real treat. Rob went back to Cambridge yesterday evening, so the house is a lot quieter… I can’t quite believe it’s all over.

Last week I read:

The Zig Zag Girl – Book 1 of the Stephens and Mephisto mystery series by Elly Griffiths
Brighton, 1950.

When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl. The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of Edgar’s. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men. Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate. But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind.

I’ve enjoyed reading some of the Ruth Galloway series by this author, so was intrigued by this series set in a city I know quite well. This entertaining, historical whodunit did not disappoint. Review to follow.

 

Recursion by Blake Crouch
‘My son has been erased.’
Those are the last words the woman tells Barry Sutton before she leaps from the Manhattan rooftop. Deeply unnerved, Barry begins to investigate her death only to learn that this wasn’t an isolated case. All across the country, people are waking up to lives different from the ones they fell asleep to. Are they suffering from False Memory Syndrome, a mysterious, new disease that afflicts people with vivid memories of a life they never lived? Or is something far more sinister behind the fracturing of reality all around him?

I was lucky enough to win this lovely hardcover edition from Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy in one of her international giveaways. I tucked into it as a Christmas treat and despite not having all that much time, once I opened it, I couldn’t put it down. It truly is an addictive page-turner… Review to follow.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Borderline – Book 4 of the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards

Friday Faceoff featuring Across the Universe – Book 1 of the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis

Christmas Trivia 2019

Christmas has come early – thank you so much, Tammy!

Sunday Post 22nd December 2019

Huge apologies – with all the festivities and my son staying over, I simply haven’t been online enough to interact, comment or be able to recommend any articles. Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

Friday Faceoff – Feed your Faith and your fears will starve to death… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffreligiouscovers

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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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with RELIGIOUS ICONS/CHURCH OR TEMPLE. I’ve selected Dissolution – Book 1 of the Matthew Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom.

 

This edition was produced by Pan in 2004. While I like the idea and the overall design, I think the execution ultimately lets it down. For some reason, this cover looks very washed out. The font is the strongest aspect – that lovely olden-style font nicely pops against the darker background. However that chatter both detracts from the design by cluttering it up and is difficult to read, as it is white against a light background. Both visually annoying and unsuccessful, it really spoils this one for me.

 

Published in April 2004 by Penguin Books, I think this image of a praying monk is a great improvement. Ideally, I would have liked the image to be just a little less gloomy – Sansom’s Tudor thriller is full of vivid description and tension, while his protagonist pings off the page. This cover doesn’t give an inkling of that – other than that ghastly bright red sticker they’ve plonked onto the artwork, which is a dealbreaker for me…

 

This edition, published by Macmillan in June 2003 is the best effort so far. I prefer the lighter colour palette and find that scene of the monks processing through the hall pulls me into the scene. The ornate title works well and while I’m not thrilled about the chatter near the bottom of the cover, at least it isn’t too intrusive. This is a real contender – I so nearly went for this one…

 

This edition, produced by Penguin in 2004, has gone for the split design. This rarely works well in thumbnail and I don’t think this example is all that effective when full sized, either. It feels as if two designers couldn’t make up their minds as to which image to go for – so decided to add both. I find the top image annoying anyway. The monastery buildings were generally repurposed during and after the Dissolution and only ended up looking like that a great deal later – so it isn’t even historically accurate.

 

This Dutch edition, published by De Fontein in November 2011 is my favourite. I love the ruddy light reflected off the monastery wall – there is clearly a fire nearby. And that sounds all too plausible, judging by accounts of how the monasteries were looted once Cromwell’s men got to work. And in the foreground, an elderly monk is praying… Though I’m dismayed to see even the Dutch insist on plastering their covers with chatter that by rights should be on the back cover. Which is your favourite?

Teaser Tuesday – 27th August, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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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 Missing Diamond Murder – Book 3 of the Black and Dod series by Diane Janes

63% ‘Eddie and I went to Sidmouth today,’ Fran said. ‘And according to Mrs Headingham, who is an old friend of your husband’s grandfather, he told her years ago that the diamond belonged to a friend of his, a Frenchman called Georges Poussin.’ She watched their faces for any flicker of recognition, but all that greeted her was astonishment and doubt, part of which, she thought, was probably due to her casually mentioning Mrs Headingham’s name over dinner as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

BLURB: 1930. Frances Black is worried – divorce proceedings are under way and her solicitor has learnt of a spiteful letter sent to the court claiming that there is more to her friendship with her sleuthing partner, Tom Dod, than meets the eye. Fran takes Tom’s advice to get away, travelling down to Devon to help the Edgertons with their family mystery. After meeting the charismatic Eddie Edgerton and arriving at their residence, Sunnyside House, Fran soon learns that Eddie’s grandfather, Frederick Edgerton, died in mysterious circumstances when his wheelchair went off a cliff. Was it really an accident? And what happened to Frederick’s precious diamond which went missing at the time of his death? As Fran investigates, she uncovers family scandal, skulduggery and revenge, but can she solve the mystery of the missing diamond?

I have read and enjoyed the previous two books in this excellent series – here is my review of The Magic Chair Murder and The Poisoned Chalice Murder – and I’m finding this classic country house cold case a real treat.

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?

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.

*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