Another bookswap experience, this is the first in a series of books featuring Clare Cosi, who has just come back to New York to run her former mother-Another bookswap experience, this is the first in a series of books featuring Clare Cosi, who has just come back to New York to run her former mother-in-law's coffee house. I'm always somewhat suspicious of characters-who-appear-too-much-like-their-creators (along with the same initials, etc...).
Naturally, for this is a crime book, her arrival is coincidental with one of the assistants falling down the stairs and seriously injuring herself - given that the victim is a dancer, and therefore should be quite light on her feet, was it an accident or something more sinister? Clare is determined to find out, with the assistance (or otherwise) of both an NYPD detective and her ex-husband.
Which would all be fine, if a significant chunk of On What Grounds wasn't shoehorned exposition of information loosely about coffee - an infodump of enormous proportions. Once ignored, the story runs along much better, though I can't say I'm desperate to read the next in the series, which is Through the Grinder....more
**spoiler alert** Picked this one up in a swap, mostly because it was the first in a series, though I have to say the garishness of the cover also att**spoiler alert** Picked this one up in a swap, mostly because it was the first in a series, though I have to say the garishness of the cover also attracted me!
From the title, you can probably guess the identity of our protagonist, although the book itself is written from the perspective not of Oscar but of his friend (and later biographer) Robert Sherrard. The basic premise is that Oscar Wilde stumbles across the murdered body of a teenage lad of his acquaintance, killed in what appears to be a ritualistic manner, but then the police seem oddly reticent to investigate the matter properly.
Arthur Conan Doyle, just then writing The Sign of Four, makes a couple of appearances and Wilde takes encouragement from his writings about Sherlock Holmes to launch an investigation of his own. It's pretty clear that from his choice of point of view, the author is looking to try and cast Sherrard and Wilde into the roles of Watson and Holmes respectively, but that seems to be a mistake - Sherrard just doesn't have the humanity of Dr Watson and spends much of his time trying to figure out how to seduce various women.
Another odd factor, which makes Sherrard an even more unreliable narrator and makes me wonder at the views of the author on this subject, is that even looking back on all of this with the benefit of hindsight, there seems to be a concerted effort to deny anything but the most ardent heterosexual interpretations of Wilde. Much effort is put into a depiction of his marriage and happy family home, while any interest in his own gender is brushed away as an aesthetic appreciation and nothing more. For all these reasons, while the next book in the series is Oscar Wilde and the Ring of Death, this series and I will be parting company here......more
This particular author is quite a prolific writer of YA stories in a variety of genres, but it was the mid-European horror story setting that drew meThis particular author is quite a prolific writer of YA stories in a variety of genres, but it was the mid-European horror story setting that drew me to this particular book.
Peter and his father, who drinks too much, have found themselves something of a home as woodcutters for a village, though they choose to live on its outskirts and associate with the villagers as little as possible. The village then sees two deaths, which are blamed on wolves even though it appears unlikely to say the least. Peter's friend Agnes becomes involved in the second death and in his quest to do the right thing by her, he discovers that his own history is much less straightforward than he had thought.
It's an enjoyable enough book, with Sedgwick working hard to create and maintain a suitably menacing atmosphere, though I felt a little let down by the tone of the ending, which didn't really work for me. I'll certainly keep an eye out for other books by this author, based on my experiences with this one....more
I've read standalone novels by Grimwood before but never been able to get hold of this, the first of his Arabesk trilogy of books.
The protagonist in PI've read standalone novels by Grimwood before but never been able to get hold of this, the first of his Arabesk trilogy of books.
The protagonist in Pashazade is Ashraf, recently returned to Alexandria and replete with all the trappings of a rich man's son in a world where the Ottoman empire never fell. The problem is, Ashraf is a phoney, more at home in the American prison he recently left than dealing with the hierarchical society of Egypt and a potential arranged marriage to a girl who's equally unimpressed with the idea.
The alternate history is well thought out, as is the world-building, and though Ashraf is quite ruthless at times, he's also a sympathetic character who is out of his depth and knows it. I'm not really sure where the rest of the trilogy is going to take these characters, but I'm looking forward to it - the next book in the series is Effendi....more
**spoiler alert** This is another of those occasions where bookswapping has saved me from wasting my money on a book Amazon recommended to me but whic**spoiler alert** This is another of those occasions where bookswapping has saved me from wasting my money on a book Amazon recommended to me but which is nothing like the kind of thing I want to be reading...
The basic premise of The Scent of Shadows is that it's about Joanna, daughter of a Las Vegas billionaire, who somehow survived a vicious attack when she was a teenager and now discovers a much darker side to reality than she had ever thought existed. She's dedicated the last few years to becoming a fighter rather than a victim, mastering martial arts and honing her weapons skills.
Now Joanna finds out that she is meant to be part of an organisation that fights evil (yes, really!) where all the signs of the zodiac have their dark and light (or should that be Dark and Light, given the nature of randomly occuring capital letters to imply importance?) personifications. Where it starts to get dumb is when Joanna is attacked and her sister is killed, only for Joanna to wake up and discover the organisation has used plastic surgery to turn her into her sister. Who is, of course, a busty blonde that nobody would expect to be kicking arse when she could be maxing out her credit cards.
The main problems I had with The Scent of Shadows were that the worldbuilding was so sledgehammered home that we were treated to regular chunks of exposition masquerading as plot, and then the whole MarySue nature of Joanna herself. Clearly all she needed to be the perfect warrior was bigger boobs and a bottle of peroxide, as suddenly she's the dogs bollocks. I gave up about two thirds of the way through, tired also of the wangst over Joanna and her former boyfriend who she got to shag once before she had to lie to him about who she really was. *yawn* The series continues in The Taste of Night, but there's plenty, much better written urban fantasy out there and that's what I'll be reading instead!...more
**spoiler alert** The basic premise of Kiss of Midnight, which is the first book in a series, is that of Gabrielle whose mother had always claimed she**spoiler alert** The basic premise of Kiss of Midnight, which is the first book in a series, is that of Gabrielle whose mother had always claimed she had been bitten by a vampire. Since her mother had committed suicide shortly afterwards in an asylum, Gabrielle had never really believed anything she had been told about her. However, what Gabrielle doesn't know is that her mother was telling the truth, though only part of it - not only was she attacked by a vampire, both their lives were also saved by another.
Gabrielle discovers that vampires are very real, but that she is also something even rarer - a woman who can successfully give birth to a vampire's child. As such, she would be sought after by vampires and the one who rescued her as a child wants her to go into a refuge elsewhere. At least when he isn't soliloquising about how much he'd like to get together with her etc. etc. Yes, this time it's the vampire with the Tragic Past, blah blah blah.
The series continues with Kiss of Crimson, but I found Gabrielle so vexing I just wanted to shake her, along with the whole premise of the series, which is very much about how the women sit around barefoot and pregnant (since that's why they're special, after all...) while the big butch vampires protect them. Meh.
Time to add another book to the 'wanted to like it, really' pile, courtesy of a good initial idea added to an incomprehensible (to me) plot, seasonedTime to add another book to the 'wanted to like it, really' pile, courtesy of a good initial idea added to an incomprehensible (to me) plot, seasoned with a whole load of wtf-was-that?
Here's another first book in a new series and it starts out really well - our protagonist, Maxine Kiss (no, really), is the latest in a long line of female warriors whose job it is to slay demons and the like. Part of the heritage of these Hunters (with a capital H, naturally) is a snazzy set of tattoos which are actually a bunch of small demons that act as Maxine's armour in dangerous situations. We have a return to the Highlander/Buffy trope of 'there can be only one' since Maxine could only inherit 'the boys' on the death of her mother.
Sounds like a neat idea? Absolutely, and then the author begins to metaphorically disappear into the abyss of her own plotline as the veil between this world and where demons inhabit thins, various demons appear who may or may not be Bad, and Maxine's family history vies to compete with her own Tragic Past. All in all, it feels a little like five pounds of plot in a two pound bag, with too much emphasis on telling me how special Maxine is and not as much chance to see it for myself.
As usual, the series continues (when does it ever not? I understand it's incredibly hard to get a book deal nowadays without at least a 3-book series to fall back on...) with 'Darkness Calls'....more
I picked this book, and its sequel Witchfire, up while I was on holiday and was pleased to have done so, at least until I came to try and read this fiI picked this book, and its sequel Witchfire, up while I was on holiday and was pleased to have done so, at least until I came to try and read this first book featuring novellist Connor Hawthorne.
Set partly in Washington and partly in New Mexico, Deceptions begins with the murder of Connor's former lover, an Italian model. When Connor, who used to be a district attorney, starts to probe a little deeper into Elena's life, she discovers that her lover was unfaithful to her and that there's also a possible link between Elena's murder and her father, who works for a shadowy government agency. The first third of the book focusses on that, before Connor goes off to Albuquerque for a writer's conference and finds herself on the run with Laura Nez, her Navajo driver/bodyguard.
Essentially, I found myself tolerating the Washington-based part of the book in the hope the story would improve, particularly since I found Connor decidedly unsympathetic to say the least. Initially, when the action moved to New Mexico, things were quite promising and then Connor started to annoy me again. I couldn't bring myself to continue much past halfway, so I have no idea how Deceptions works out, or indeed any interest in picking up Witchfire to find out what happens next, even with the potential lure of American-writer-writing-about-England when some/all of that book is set in Glastonbury....more
This is the second book in this particular series, following on from Fool's Puzzle, and once again, our protagonist is Benni Harper, recently widowedThis is the second book in this particular series, following on from Fool's Puzzle, and once again, our protagonist is Benni Harper, recently widowed and now running a small folk art museum and artist's cooperative. In Irish Chain, Benni becomes involved in the history of her small town, when two senior citizens are murdered in a local nursing home and there's apparently more to the past than meets the eye.
Interestingly enough, there seems to be a link with the treatment of Japanese immigrants during the War and Benni is also writing a book on the subject, so she has lots of opportunity to investigate, whether that's wise or not. Her boyfriend, the local Chief of Police, understandably is less than impressed by Benni and her activities.
Like in Fool's Puzzle, the author is working on both a romance sub-plot and a mystery sub-plot at the same time, though for me the romance angle is significantly less interesting. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that some of the behaviour between Benni and her boyfriend would strike me as being a likely deal-breaker in terms of a long-term relationship succeeding. Anyway, the series continues in Kansas Troubles. ...more
Picked this one up as a bookswap, as I'm always on the lookout for first books of new series so I can try stuff out...
There's a comment on the cover oPicked this one up as a bookswap, as I'm always on the lookout for first books of new series so I can try stuff out...
There's a comment on the cover of Evans Above that likens the series to the Hamish Macbeth novels of MC Beaton and that should have told me everything I needed to know about this one. Like the aforementioned novels, Evans Above is about a big-city police officer coming to a small village, this time in the heart of Snowdonia.
The eponymous Evans becomes involved in a mystery when two bodies are found on the mountain and there seems to be a connection with the death years before of a soldier on training manoeuvres. Naturally, his superior officer doesn't really pay much attention to Evans' theorising and equally naturally, Evans is right and there is a connection.
Evans Above is an enjoyable enough read, even if Bowen pretty much telegraphed who is responsible very early on (or maybe I'm just good at picking these things up?), requiring very little in the way of mental engagement. The series continues in Evan Help Us and clearly this is a series to avoid if you're allergic to bad puns in titles. ...more
First in a new series, set in Victorian London, even though I ought to know better about picking up books when the sequel isn't out yet...
The basic prFirst in a new series, set in Victorian London, even though I ought to know better about picking up books when the sequel isn't out yet...
The basic premise of 'The Incendiary's Trail' is that it's the story of a fledgling Scotland Yard, desperate for success in the eyes of a sceptical public. In pursuit of this aim, one individual comes up with a daring plan, looking to turn a criminal into an accessory for the police by means of blackmail - this plan comes into action after the grisly death of a Siamese twin, whose freakshow associates create almost as much horror as the murder.
Naturally their plan does not take into account the criminal (one Noah Dyson) and his own desire for revenge; fortunately for Scotland Yard, the subject of such revenge and the driving force behind the murder are one and the same, the eponymous firebug who has been setting fires all over the city.
It's an interesting enough book, though sadly let down by frequent changes of point of view and the use of 'authentic' spelling that grates on the modern eye. Likewise, in my opinion, not quite enough effort is put into building the character of the main detective in comparison to his criminal counterpart. Hopefully this may be resolved in the next book in this series, The Vice Society....more
Another bookswap experience, but I'm not completely sure that I even finished it. I think I did, but it made so little impression on me other than 'thAnother bookswap experience, but I'm not completely sure that I even finished it. I think I did, but it made so little impression on me other than 'thank god, it's over' that I couldn't be certain.
The premise of Greywalker is that our protagonist, Harper Blaine, a private investigator whose case turns fatal, discovers on recovering from her injuries that she can both see and have contact with something beyond what everyone else does. This 'other world' is called the Grey (hence the title) and Harper needs to learn how to control her experience otherwise it will drive her over the edge.
As with many urban fantasy books, Greywalker has someone discovering there's much more to the world they inhabit than they had formerly thought - in this case definitely magic that works, ghosts and vampires, to name but a few. An apparently clear-cut missing persons case turns out to be anything but simple, while a request to find a missing pipe-organ (yes, really) turns out to be sinister as well.
If only Harper herself weren't incredibly annoying, let alone assisted by an even more vexing walking stereotype of the flame-haired brogue-spouting Irish witch. It's hard to do dialogue with accents well and sadly Greywalker is not an example to hold up for comparison. The series continues in Poltergeist, but we'll be parting ways long before that...
This is the next book in the series after Anything Goes and, like the previous book, it features Lily and Robert Brewster, a brother and sister who haThis is the next book in the series after Anything Goes and, like the previous book, it features Lily and Robert Brewster, a brother and sister who have inherited a large house in the middle of the Great Depression, but not the money to keep it going and live in the style to which they used to be accustomed.
This time around, they hit on the idea of trying to make some cash by inviting well-known people to stay and then getting other people to pay to spend the weekend with them. After a couple of disappointments, the Brewsters manage to snag the services of a bad-tempered writer whose books draw strongly on the horrors of the Great War - their scheme seems to be paying off, till one of the guests is found dead and then another disappears.
In the Still of the Night is another well-written story that makes you want to know what's going on, and though I figured out some of the overall mystery from the hints that are dropped quite early on, it's not as clear-cut as all that. The series continues in Someone to Watch Over Me, for which I shall be keeping an eye out. ...more
Apparently this is the first book of a trilogy, set in Rome at the time of the fall of its empire.
Our protagonist is Aelric, who is looking back at hiApparently this is the first book of a trilogy, set in Rome at the time of the fall of its empire.
Our protagonist is Aelric, who is looking back at his life from the perspective of being an elderly monk in Jarrow, telling tales of when he used to be a lusty (literally) young man. One of a family whose inheritance has been stolen, Aelric finds himself in trouble for having his way with the wrong woman and is forced to flee the country, reluctantly travelling to Rome with the missionary Maximinus.
The empire is in its death throes, overrun by invaders and struggling to maintain a grip on power while, in contrast, the power of the church continues to grow. In Rome, Aelric makes both friends and enemies after his fellow traveller is murdered and he determines to know the truth about who killed him and why.
I'm a bit of a fan of historical detective stories, but sadly I guessed who was ultimately responsible for what had happened before the author revealed it, which is always a disappointment. At times, also, the anachronisms got a little too much as the story got bogged down in very unRoman attitudes and mores, as well as the feeling the author is trying to shock and not always managing it. The trilogy continues in The Terror of Constantinople, but I'm not sure I'll bother....more
There's always been a trend of UK publishers buying up the rights to translated versions of foreign crime novels and recently their attention seems toThere's always been a trend of UK publishers buying up the rights to translated versions of foreign crime novels and recently their attention seems to have focussed more on Scandinavia.
Taking place in Iceland, Last Rituals is the first book of a series that benefits from that interest and I was intrigued by the sound of it - a body is found with all kinds of arcane sigils carved into it and the eyes removed, all of which seems to be related to the dead man's interest in the history of Icelandic witchcraft.
The dead man also happens to be part of a wealthy German family, who are determined to find out exactly what happened. They send a representative to Iceland who enlists the help of our protagonist, Thora, a lawyer who desperately needs the money and is therefore prepared to become involved in something slightly outside of her usual purview. The author is clearly pushing for some kind of romantic sub-plot as well between these two, but sadly (to my mind at least) they have about as much chemistry as two dead fish.
It's always difficult to judge a translated novel, since I have no idea whether the way it's translated reflects the overall tone of the original work. Sadly, I found Last Rituals a dull read with unsympathetic characters and gave up about halfway through - the series continues with My Soul to Take, but I think I've had enough......more
I've got a terrible soft spot for historical detective stories, so usually the thing that slows me down the most is getting hold of the first book inI've got a terrible soft spot for historical detective stories, so usually the thing that slows me down the most is getting hold of the first book in the series, rather than lack of interest in a particular author's work.
Our protagonist is a housemaid become private detective in the 1920's, who engages in that line of work after she has both been educated at Cambridge and returned from nursing in the First World War. In Maisie Dobbs, our eponymous sleuth gets involved in the mysterious goings-on at a place for disfigured war heroes, which has seen a number of deaths.
So far, so good. Except for two things, one being the massive info-dump the author decides to shove in midway through, derailing the A storyline for MarySue Maisie's heroic tale of how she got to go from blacking grates to sleuthing, not to mention the Tragic Past necessary for many fictional detectives. The second issue I had was with the way she resolves the situation she eventually finds herself in at The Retreat, which was just ludicrously easy after the supposed tension beforehand. The series continues in Birds of a Feather but my interest in continuing with it is not particularly strong......more
At least the write-up on here is honest about the length of this - just over 100 pages - even if the Kindle version is padded out with a couple of chaAt least the write-up on here is honest about the length of this - just over 100 pages - even if the Kindle version is padded out with a couple of chapters of the next book. That's common practice, but a little disingenuous to then add it in to the overall length and make the original story seem longer than it actually is.
Anyway, on to the actual story rather than its packaging.
It's never good when my first thoughts are 'I really wanted to like this' but that's the case for this series. I have to be honest, I have had my fill of feisty first-person urban fantasy, only currently making an exception for Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series. While I liked aspects of this book, the main character didn't really seem 3-D enough, more a bunch of stereotypes thrown together without really fleshing them out. Same went for pretty much all of the other characters, with a quite heavy-handed romance storyline paying out much too quickly all things considered.
Yep, as I'm writing this I've just gone from 3 stars down to 2. Don't think I'll be back. ...more
**spoiler alert** Another bookswap book, this time the first in what I thought was a series but which may only be a trilogy?
It's the 1920's and Englan**spoiler alert** Another bookswap book, this time the first in what I thought was a series but which may only be a trilogy?
It's the 1920's and England is still recovering from the aftermath of the War, with visible scars in the shape of missing sons and less obvious ones in terms of those who came home but left a part of themselves in the trenches. There's been a series of horrific murders, originally blamed on a robbery gone terribly wrong, but our protagonist Inspector Madden has seen those kind of wounds before, on the dead and injured of the battlefield.
Determined that this is the work of one man, a man obsessed with what happened during the War and now wielding a bayonet as his weapon of choice, Madden tries to understand what drives a man to do this kind of thing, while also getting involved with the local doctor who is equally intent on embracing life.
River of Darkness is an odd book, because it doesn't feel as though it's sure what it is - on the one hand, it's an attempt at a golden age crime novel but then there's the element of the psychopathic serial killer to deal with, since Sayers and co. don't really come across that sort of thing in such an explicit fashion. Perhaps it's this, not to mention the romantic sub-plot which seemed a bit like wish fulfillment, that left me ultimately somewhat unsatisfied and uncertain whether I'd continue with the next in the trilogy, The Blood-Dimmed Tide. ...more