Tag Archives: historical thriller

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton #BrainfluffNETGALLEYreview #TheDevilandtheDarkWaterbookreview


Once again, it was the cover that drew me to this one – and the fact it was a historical thriller set on a ship. I’d also read many glowing reviews of The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, so I was delighted to be approved to read this one.

BLURB: It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent. But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A twice-dead leper stalks the decks. Strange symbols appear on the sails. Livestock is slaughtered. And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel. Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes? With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger onboard. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board…

REVIEW: This one starts with a wallop – a shocking incident occurs on the quayside as the ship is being loaded for the dangerous voyage back to Amsterdam, and we are immediately plunged into the reactions of the main protagonists who feature throughout the story. I wasn’t exactly floundering for the first few chapters, but I did flip back a couple of times to ensure that this wasn’t a second book – and I’m used to crashing midway into series. And then the pacing slowed up a bit as we learnt more about the passengers and what they are doing on the ship.

We have a number of crucial characters, as well as a number of bit players, so it did take a while to properly get going. But once it did, this was a tense read with plenty going on and danger oozing from the creaking timbers of the ship – which made an excellent locked room for this mystery, where no one could escape. It took me a while to fully bond with the main characters, given the large character cast and the fact that this is an action-led story, but I fully sympathised with poor Sara, married off to her father’s enemy and beaten and badly treated ever since. Arent was also better drawn than most of the other characters, and also had a fascinating backstory. I liked the fact that while looking like a brute whose size and strength guaranteed he always brought down the wrong sort of attention, he was in reality a thoughtful, idealistic and highly intelligent man.

Turton manages to mostly depict an impressive number of characters successfully, but I didn’t find Lia particularly convincing. We were told several times that her awkward habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time had caused problems in the past. But given that she’d been sequestered away by both parents most of her life, she seemed far too smart and savvy, particularly during the denouement. And while I appreciate that children during that era had to grow up fast, after all as a young teen, she was considered old enough for marriage – she seemed to be handling a very difficult situation with a tough-minded stoicism that most of the adults around her couldn’t muster.

That said, the denouement to this twisting tale of demons and devil worship is a solid pleasure to read, especially as Turton resisted the temptation to scurry through the necessarily complex explanation. He brought all the trailing threads together in a tour de force that provided me with a tingle of satisfaction that I don’t get all that often. Highly recommended for fans of historical thrillers. While I obtained an arc of The Devil and the Dark Water from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

Sunday Post – 7th March, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost


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

I was AWOL last week – as I was ill and in a rather dark place, I didn’t have much to report, other than a dreary recital of my misery. Fortunately, I am now recovering and fit once more for civilised company. I have finally completed Mantivore Warrior which has contributed to feeling so bleak – I always struggle once I’ve finished writing a book and as this is the end of the series, it’s a double whammy. But at the same time, I’m also glad to see it done.

Himself is also recovering from a heavy cold. The weather has mirrored our mood – February proved to be the wettest on record, and after day after day of pelting rain and grey skies felt neverending. Daffodils and primulas now flowering in the garden are brave splinters of sunshine in the winter gloom…

Last week I read:
Death of a Bean Counter – Book 12 of the Maggy Thorsen mysteries by Sandra Balzo
Maggy Thorsen’s head is spinning thanks to partner Sarah Kingston’s latest idea – selling luxe espresso machines in their Wisconsin coffeehouse, Uncommon Grounds. But Maggy soon faces a far bigger problem when her fiancé, sheriff Jake Pavlik, makes an official call on the coffeehouse’s star barista, Amy Caprese. Amy’s wealthy new beau, investment adviser Kip Fargo, has been shot dead in his bed – and Amy is the last known person to see him alive…
This is an entertaining whodunit featuring official nosy-parker Maggy, who decides to unofficially discover who killed Kip, despite being engaged to the local sheriff. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess…
I was blown away by Circe last year. So treated myself to the Audible version of this one and I wasn’t disappointed. The writing is lyrically beautiful without losing pace or compromising the nuanced characterisation. And despite knowing the ending, I was gripped throughout. Review to follow.

Feathertide by Beth Cartwright
Marea was born to be different – a girl born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets. When her new tutor, the Professor, arrives with his books, maps and magical stories, he reveals a world waiting outside the window and her curiosity is woken. Caught in the desire to discover her identity and find out why she has feathers fluttering down her back like golden thistledown, she leaves everything she has ever known and goes in search of the father she has never met.
The writing is lyrically beautiful and the setting and worldbuilding is wonderful, but I did feel the pacing and narrative needed more work. Review to follow.

The Last Protector – Book 4 of the Lovett and Marwood series by Andrew Taylor
Brother against brother. Father against son. Friends turned into enemies. No one in England wants a return to the bloody days of the Civil War. But Oliver Cromwell’s son, Richard, has abandoned his exile and slipped back into England. The consequences could be catastrophic.
James Marwood, a traitor’s son turned government agent, is tasked with uncovering Cromwell’s motives. But his assignment is complicated by his friend – the regicide’s daughter, Cat Lovett – who knew the Cromwells as a child, and who now seems to be hiding a secret of her own about the family.
I read the stormingly good first book in this series, Ashes of London – see my review – and so was thrilled to see this one appear on Netgalley – and be approved to read it. I inhaled it, finding it impossible to put down. Review to follow.

A Dying Fall – Book 5 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
Ruth’s old friend Dan Golding dies in a house fire. But before he died Dan wrote to Ruth telling her that he had made a ground-breaking archaeological discovery. Could this find be linked to his death and who are the sinister neo-Nazi group who were threatening Dan? Ruth makes the trip to Blackpool to investigate, wary of encroaching on DCI Harry Nelson’s home ground. Soon Ruth is embroiled in a mystery that involves the Pendle Witches, King Arthur and – scariest of all – Nelson’s mother.
This series is one of my favourite whodunits – see my reviews of The Crossing Places, The Janus Stone and A Room Full of Bonesyet again, Griffiths provided an excellent adventure, while continuing the fascinating dynamic between her main characters. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce

Friday Faceoff featuring Skeleton Crew by Stephen King

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Night Train to Murder – Book 8 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Greene

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

Review of U is for Undertow – Book 21 of the Kinsey Millhone series by Sue Grafton


This is the latest offering in the long-running and very successful series from Sue Grafton featuring her female protagonist Kinsey Millhone, set in the 1980’s. I suppose it could be parked on the shelf in the ‘Historical Thriller’ section…

uisforundertowIn 1960’s Santa Teresa, California, a child is kidnapped and never returned. Twenty years later, Michael Sutton contacts private detective Kinsey Millhone for help. He claims to have recalled a strange and disturbing memory which just might provide the key to the mystery. He now believes he stumbled across the kidnappers burying Mary Claire Fitzhugh’s body…

Michael’s account is indistinct – he was only six years old at the time of the kidnapping – and even members of his family try to discredit his evidence. But Kinsey is certain there is something vital within Michael’s recollections. And even when what is eventually unearthed isn’t what anyone expected, she can’t quite let go of the case.

As the protagonists of the tragedy are gradually brought to light, from Country Club parents to their free-living, hippy children, the truth finally begins to emerge. And while stepping back into the past, Kinsey discovers more about her own history too…

Those of you already acquainted with Kinsey in her alphabetical adventures that started back in 1982 with A is for Alibi will be familiar with Grafton’s slow-burn style and steady build of everyday details giving us yet another slice of life in Santa Teresa back in 1988. Those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure perhaps need to be aware that Grafton offers a series of cinematically sharp scenes through Kinsey’s eyes, complete with an eclectic mix of characters – including Henry, Kinsey’s octogenarian landlord; Rosa, the Hungarian owner of the local café and the stand-alone cast of characters that make up the scenario in this particular book. If this is the first time you’ve stumbled across this series, go for it and dive into U is for Undertow. While you may not be completely up to speed with the ins and outs of Kinsey’s background, Grafton doesn’t assume that you are a long-time fan and so the books can be read and enjoyed without any knowledge of the rest of the canon – a refreshing change, these days.

If graphic gore, two-dimensional victims and a clichéd protagonist have lost their lustre, then Grafton’s careful plotting and quirky heroine might tick your boxes. Her solid characterisation gives us a real insight into what makes Kinsey tick – her stubborn refusal to give up when an investigation gets difficult; her fear of commitment; her short-fused reaction to authority; her love of junk food – well, any food she hasn’t had to cook, really… all these foibles along with a dozen others makes her an enjoyable mass of contradictions in the grand tradition of the best fictional detectives. In my opinion, Kinsey ranks right up there with Morse, Rebus and Lord Peter Wimsey.

As with all long-running series, some books are better than others. If Grafton has a besetting sin, at times she rushes the final denouement to the long build-up, so that the final flurry of action rounding off the mystery feels a tad unsatisfactory. Not so in U is for Undertow. Grafton manages to tie up all the lose ends in this plot completely successfully – leaving me with only one nagging worry. Now there are only five more letters of the alphabet left, what will I do for my fix of Kinsey Millhone once Grafton has reached the letter Z?