I loved this book! I can easily see why Straub and Stephen King have collaborated because the feelings this book evoked in me are very similar to what...moreI loved this book! I can easily see why Straub and Stephen King have collaborated because the feelings this book evoked in me are very similar to what I have felt while reading some of King's works. King and Straub are definitely kindred spirits. I just love the creepy and this book delivers big time in that regard. It's really hard to believe (well, not really) that the 1981 film based on this book is from this book at all. There is so much here that would have made the film better, but I digress. Straub takes his ghost story and turns it outside, inside, upside down. We have ghosts that are 'werewolves' and 'vampires', figuratively. It is alluded to in the book that perhaps ghosts such as these are where the old legends come from. We have mutilated livestock/horses drained of all blood...and humans too. Then there are seemingly benign girls and women who, with a certain knowing smile or look, give the chills as well. It's the subtlety of the writing, I think, that makes what would not normally be scary really damn scary. I think the tenets of this story are 1) if you do something bad, it will come back to haunt you and 2) don't sit around telling ghost stories. You just might find yourself in one.
I can't believe this is the first Peter Straub book I've ever read. It certainly will not be my last (since I own all/most of his books, reading them won't be a problem). If you haven't read Ghost Story, I recommend that you do posthaste!(less)
What can I say about this wonderful book which I knew would be wonderful before I even read it! I'm really not going to say too much, because haven't...moreWhat can I say about this wonderful book which I knew would be wonderful before I even read it! I'm really not going to say too much, because haven't we all read it anyway? Oh, you haven't? Well, what are you waiting for? Jane Austen had such a knack with her characters and settings. Even as much as I love the films based on the books, the book really is a literary masterpiece. These people and their stories never get old because, although set in a different era, they are just like us. They hurt, love, hate, jest, and experience joy in every day things, just as we do. Such simple stories really, but how can we not identify with them when they could very well be happening to us. This is why I think Jane endures. Not just for her beautiful settings and her pretty and sometimes funny characters, but for her true insight into the workings of the human heart. Well done, Jane! (less)
I could not put this book down! As he did with Juana of Castile in The Last Queen, Gortner has once again taken a historical queen and made her as int...moreI could not put this book down! As he did with Juana of Castile in The Last Queen, Gortner has once again taken a historical queen and made her as interesting and exciting as any modern day heroine. It's interesting to me how little I knew of Isabella of Spain; one who was so instrumental in allowing Columbus to open the way for the future settlement of what would become America. Of course, that is what we were taught when I was in elementary school so many years ago. The implications of what came after Columbus's discovery is entirely another story. And yes, this is a fictional depiction of a historical figure, but there is no denying the historical accuracy here. Gortner does his research well.
Isabella rose to power in a tumultuous time in Spain. To say that she was a steadfast and determined woman is saying little. The conventions of the time did not allow a princess to choose their own husband and yet she did. Spurred by her own will and her strong Catholic faith, Isabella was a force to be reckoned with. Her marriage to a prince of Aragon was a love match, yes, but also a strategic move for the uniting of Spain. Together they brought about the change of many conventions in Spain.
However, her reign was not without its blemishes. The Inquisition and the expulsion of the Jews are two events that have brought much negativity to history's portrayal of Isabella. However, Gortner has succeeded in depicting a possible reason for her decisions by giving us a multifaceted woman who believed in compassion and yet was driven by a faith that had no tolerance for other religions. To truly judge a person's actions, we would need to know more about the real person and yet we must rely on the history books. Gortner has done a good job of giving us a very human woman who truly felt her actions were for the good of her kingdom.
I have now been inspired to read more about the history of Spain and its ruling class. Once again, historical fiction has done its very important job; that of leading us to further learning about history. Something only a well written book can do. This is that book.
Note: There is an excellent author's note at the end of the book with further resources for reading about Isabella and her times. Also, a special note about a cause dear to my heart. The plight of Spanish greyhounds. Be sure to check it out.(less)
Murder as a Fine Art is exactly the kind of book I love. An historical mystery/thriller with just the right elements for it to have one leg in the hor...moreMurder as a Fine Art is exactly the kind of book I love. An historical mystery/thriller with just the right elements for it to have one leg in the horror genre. The opening chapter of the book is so shocking, it's like reading about a murder committed in our modern times. Hard to believe that it occurred in Victorian times. From the moment I started reading, I knew this was the book for me.
What I found most interesting was the criminology aspect of the book. The action takes place just ten years after the newly established detective bureau of the Scotland Yard had its detectives educated in France by the father of modern criminology, Eugene Francois Vidocq. There is a reason that all of these television shows, such as CSI and the new Hannibal, are so popular. We are fascinated by the solving of crimes. Morrell fills the bill with his meticulous investigator, Sean Ryan and his assistant, Constable Becker.
It is also the allure of Victorian times with the gaslight and the fog that make for great storytelling. Conjuring images of a dark figure intent on malicious acts walking the streets of London gives the reader a feeling of dread in the pit of the stomach. The palpable fear of the public as they live in fear that they might possibly be the next victim. This is edge-of-the-seat reading!
Morrell has impressed me previously with his thriller, Creepers--a book that has stuck with me since the day I finished reading it. There is no doubt that he is a masterful storyteller and this new foray into historical mysteries is something I hope he plans to continue. If you are fascinated by Victorian London with all its dark underbelly, then I highly recommend that you read this book...now!