Synopsis Paris, 1940. The civilized, upper-class life of film producer Jean Casson is derailed by the German occupation of Paris, but Casson learns tha...moreSynopsis Paris, 1940. The civilized, upper-class life of film producer Jean Casson is derailed by the German occupation of Paris, but Casson learns that with enough money, compromise, and connections, one need not deny oneself the pleasures of Parisian life. Somewhere inside Casson, though, is a stubborn romantic streak. When he’s offered the chance to take part in an operation of the British secret service, this idealism gives him the courage to say yes. A simple mission, but it goes wrong, and Casson realizes he must gamble everything—his career, the woman he loves, life itself. Here is a brilliant re-creation of France—its spirit in the moment of defeat, its valour in the moment of rebirth.
I am a new comer to Alan Furst's novels and to make it worse I am reading them in the wrong order! But I don’t think it really matters.
Good and evil; honour and loyalty...these aspects of the Parisian occupation are laid on the shoulders of this carefree, slightly dissolute, marginally successful film producer Jean Casson.
Casson initially reacts to the war by hoping it will all just go away but he's called up to join the French Army to repel the German invasion, which, which ends in a debacle. Later Jean Casson becomes entangled, albeit reluctantly, in the shady and dangerous world of espionage.
You really get the feel of how it must have been to be part of the French Resistance; Casson is scared, terrified, most of the time. Also he reignites an old flame an actress named Citrine, this romantic liaison adds another layer to the heady mix.
The real achievement of the author is showing the mundane, normal every day experiences like eating, drinking, working, loving against the backdrop of the terror of the occupation and this is what makes the book so "real." (less)
In creating clerical detective Father Anselm William Brodrick, drew upon his own experience first as an Augustinian friar and later as a practicing ba...moreIn creating clerical detective Father Anselm William Brodrick, drew upon his own experience first as an Augustinian friar and later as a practicing barrister plus the actual story in the Sixth Lamentation is loosely based on the wartime experiences of his mother
Elderly Agnes Aubret lived through the German occupation of Paris and the persecution of its Jewish citizens but now time is running out for her as she is dying from motor neurone disease. At Father Anselm's monastery a man has just claimed sanctuary as he has been exposed as an SS officer and alleged war criminal.
This is the premise of the Sixth Lamentation which weaves a huge cast of characters spread over three generations and their interconnecting stories, through German occupied Paris to modern day London.
The only thing wrong with it was my own doing. Where I went wrong was listening to it as an audio book whilst driving… as the first third of the book introduces layer upon layer of story, endless characters and to make it worst I found out after that the hard copy had a list of characters at the beginning for reference!. I think if I had know this I would have read it instead of listening to it as I found it hard to engage with as I was, up until about one third of the way in, struggling with the vast cast and the French, German, Italian names.
I really admired the way the author managed this labyrinthine story with its twists and turns and revelations. The historical attention to detail was superb and as the author states 'I did not want to record a single detail that was not supported by a contemporaneous record.'
This is a novel that requires time and patience to fully appreciate it and I would imagine that it is a remarkable reading experience.
I haven’t been put off and intent reading A Whispered Name by the same author(less)
Slick and sick is how fictional serial killers generally come these days, but not in debut novelist Alex Grecian's historical thriller The Yard, where the murderer stumbles from killing to killing, chases the child he has abducted down London's streets in a black hansom cab and attempts to snaffle damning evidence off an inspector's desk. Throw in two deranged prostitutes and a dead child abandoned up a chimney, poisonings and throat slittings galore, amidst lashings of London fog, and you get a story that is bonkers, exuberant – and hard to put down.
The scene is London, 1889, a year after Jack the Ripper's last victim died, and the city is struggling to come to terms with his crimes.
When the body of a Scotland Yard detective is found in a trunk, his lips and eyes sewn shut, and a series of bearded men are found brutally murdered, their faces neatly shaved, it looks like at least one more serial killer is on the loose. The new man on the Yard's murder squad, Walter Day, just up from Devon, is put on the grisly case, with the help of forensic science pioneer Dr Bernard Kingsley. But can they find the killer before more people die?
Grecian switches between the perspectives of his bald killer, nervously watching the police on his tail and offing anyone who stumbles upon his secret, and those of various policemen on the trail of a tangled array of criminals. He handles their disbelief, their horror, that another serial killer could be plaguing London in the wake of the Ripper, very well. "The Ripper was out there somewhere in the grey city. Or perhaps the Ripper was dead and gone, having destroyed the confidence of The Yard and of the citizens who no longer trusted The Yard to protect them," he writes. "Whether he was gone or not, it hardly mattered. Saucy Jack had gifted them all the idea of himself. Others like him circled like lions around the herd. The city was changed ... He opened a door to certain deranged possibilities and there will be more like him."
The American author, who previously created the graphic novel series Proof, "remarkably never visited London before or during the writing of The Yard", boasts his publisher. He has done well, then, to summon up such an atmospheric, disturbing vision of the city at the end of the 19th century, from the match girl killed by phosphorus poisoning to the horrors of the workhouse. And he's a dab hand at fearsomely gruesome murders and autopsies. It's a shame his research didn't extend to his dialogue, however, which is peppered with anachronisms ("no worries"; "He's gonna hurt me"). And did he really have to call his Welsh coalminers' village Collier, and one of his London detectives Hammersmith?
There are also terrible puns, his policemen have a nasty habit of falling asleep in tight spots, and a few too many subplots. But don't let that put you off. Grecian is making no pretensions to a highbrow literary version of Victorian London, so don't expect one. Instead this debut – the first in a series – is a pell-mell race to a frankly preposterous finale: gory, lurid and tons of guilty fun.
Hours have passed and I am shivering. I could sit down here until I freeze, let frost be my skin and let icicles hang from my chin, l...moreFrom Shade Point
Hours have passed and I am shivering. I could sit down here until I freeze, let frost be my skin and let icicles hang from my chin, let glaciers creep through London and crush my house. It is how I have lived these fifteen years.
Since her superb debut novel The Earthquake Bird, Susanna Jones has been crafting a place as one of this country's most impressive writers. She excels in dark, psychological mystery. Not procedural mystery, with detectives and so on, but the kind of sharp dissection of our devices and desires that reminds me of Du Maurier or Highsmith.
This new novel is her finest, and that's from someone who liked the previous three very much. Something about its chilly madness has stuck with me and I find myself returning often to her alternating worlds of Victorian drawing room and towering mountainside that seem to collapse together - both equally as forbidding and terrorising.
Just before the First World War, Grace Farringdon manages to secure a place at Candlin Women's College - very much against the wishes of her austere parents. There her childhood dreams of ice and exploration will become a reality as she forms an Antartic Exploration Society that will lead Grace and three fellow members into darkness on the alps. Imbued with this sense of adventure by a wounded and tragic seafarer of a father, the novel explores the dreams and fears that steep in the bloodlines of families, and where these single minded obsessions can take us when we let them take over our reason.
In fact, so haunted and chilling did I find this story, that I can well imagine readers lulled by the Romantic cover, the story of derring-do (and there is a wry bit of that here) only to be shocked on finding that here on the snowy peaks there is despair and pain, and locked in the dank rooms of her Victorian home is a madness flooding through all things. In one extremely memorable scene, Grace's forlorn sister Catherine sits on the floor, making endless piles of misshapen ghoulish rag dolls.The whole household at this point seems lost in eccentricity and delusion:
"... there were thirty or forty of them, all misshapen, strangely deformed with heads sewn onto their sides, stuffing falling out, limbs hanging off their bodies. I started at the sight of them. Catherine was snipping intently at a length of blue silk, tongue poking out of the corner of her mouth."
The central mystery at the heart of the novel is a tragedy that takes place on the Exploration Society's first major exhibition - climbing in the alps. It is an event that is described with such a suddeness and breathtaking simplicity that it succeeds completely in framing the rest of the book. It is an unforgettably well crafted moment. From an already unbalanced progress so far, this moment drives Grace into increasingly tighter, more claustrophobic mental spaces. A narrator that had seemed reliable, becomes increasingly unhinged. The reader will be compelled to read the last fifty pages or so in one sitting - driven on by the tension and menace. There are moments towards the end that have almost a surreal, hallucinatory quality, as Grace seems neither in London nor the Alps, but as said before, in some vicious hinterland between the two.
In the end it is a world of ghosts. The reader will move with Grace through one imagining to another, drifting in an out of what seems to be reality, what seems to be the truth of the tragedy in the mountains. But in a way, this is a chaotic world, and nothing is ever as it seems to be. The fiercest of sudden emotions, their reactions and consequences are laid bare in this darkly beautiful book. On a different level, it is about the death of an age - pomp and circumstance and stiff upper lip, dashed and broken on the slopes.(less)
Snowdrop (n): An early-flowering bulbous plant, having a white pendent flower. Moscow slang. A corpse that lies buried or hidden in the winter snows, e...moreSnowdrop (n): An early-flowering bulbous plant, having a white pendent flower. Moscow slang. A corpse that lies buried or hidden in the winter snows, emerging only in the thaw.
Nick Platt is an English lawyer living in Moscow during the wild Russian oil boom. Riding the subway on a balmy September day, he rescues two willowy sisters, Masha and Katya, from a would-be purse snatcher.
Nick soon begins to feel something for Masha that he is pleased to believe is love. As the snow starts to fall, the sisters introduce him to Tatiana Vladimirovna, their aged aunt and the owner of a valuable apartment. Before summer arrives, Nick will travel down to the sweaty Black Sea and up to the Arctic, and he'll make disturbing discoveries about his job, his lover and, most of all, himself.
Snowdrops is a fast-paced drama that unfolds during a beautiful but lethally cold Russian winter. Ostensibly a story of naive foreigners and cynical natives, the novel becomes something richer and darker: a tale of erotic obsession, self-deception and moral freefall. It is set in a land of hedonism and desperation, corruption and kindness, magical hideaways and debauched nightclubs; a place where secrets, and corpses, come to light when the snows thaw.
I have always had a fascination with Moscow, though my romantic idea of crunching through the snow across Red Square, Gorky Park and the Bolshoi are a million miles away from the corrupt, dangerous "…. city of neon lust and frenetic sin" it has become.
Jodie Mullish's quote "AD Miller's mesmerising novel convincingly evokes a hedonistic, seedy modern Moscow; a city simultaneously choked and lubricated with violence and corruption. Expat lawyer Nick's account of his time there is rendered hyperreal with minute details of the rubbish-strewn metropolis.”
The author's description of the city's snow by the end of winter resembling a tiramisu with layers of dirt, rubbish and right at the bottom an oily, unidentifiable black goo. Just like the city, just like Nick and his story....on the surface it looks beautiful but underneath.
"From above you could see the chaos of entangled plots on the other side of the road, and a couple of tough tethered goats, and the glint of a frozen pond somewhere in the trees. Above them the sun was shining vaguely through the milky November sky, old but strong. In April – between the thaw and the jungly green explosion of summer – or in raw mid-October, I bet the same view would have been barren and depressing. But when we stood there all the bits of old tractors and discarded refrigerators, the shoals of empty vodka bottles and dead animals that tend to litter the Russian countryside were invisible, smothered by the annual oblivion of the snow. The snow let you forget the scars and blemishes, like temporary amnesia for a bad conscience."
Some negative reviewers state that nothing of any huge consequence happens but for me it is the journey of a man's moral freefall during a Moscow winter.
No apologies for nicking this review from New York Times . It is perfect and written by Justin Cronin and he knows what he is talking about:)
A Melancho...moreNo apologies for nicking this review from New York Times . It is perfect and written by Justin Cronin and he knows what he is talking about:)
A Melancholy Werewolf’s Existential Howl By JUSTIN CRONIN
It’s easy to see why werewolves might feel under-celebrated these days. While vampires and zombies have stormed the multiplexes and best-seller lists, and Dr. Frankenstein’s monster has completed its cultural infiltration by transforming into the ubiquitous information appliances of daily life (if my smartphone doesn’t count as artificial life run amok I don’t know what does), werewolves have been largely left to idle at the side of the literary road. Where are these Freudian howlers of the night? Theirs has been rather a raw deal.
No longer. For now we have Jake Marlowe — the centerpiece of Glen Duncan’s playfully brainy new novel, “The Last Werewolf” — a 200-year-old, Kant-reading, chain-smoking aesthete whom one could easily imagine curling up with a bottle of single-malt Scotch and a copy of The New York Review of Books. He is prone to mordant observation, as in: “The point of civilization is so that one can check in to a quality hotel.”
He also happens to eat people, one for every full moon.
The challenge for any writer working within an established genre, especially a genre with a reputation for high camp, is to bring something new to the table while adhering to tradition. On both points, Duncan, the author of seven previous novels, scores high marks. No Gothic convention is left unacknowledged. Here are the silver bullets. Here is the forest’s “massy green consciousness” and the thrill of the moonlit hunt. Here are the heirs of Van Helsing, tirelessly pursuing their prey to the ends of the earth. (Here too is a great deal of heroically athletic sex — a werewolf should deliver nothing less — reminding the reader that the transports of the body aren’t all bad.)
None of which would carry the day were it not for Marlowe himself. Some characters are destined for labor, others management. Not every fictional creation is up to the demands of narration, but Marlowe proves himself more than capable, delivering his lengthy confession — the novel is, ostensibly, a diary — with the pounding energy of water shot from a fire hose. Two centuries of undead living have endowed him with a vast pile of cultural capital and a linguistic style that swings gleefully between the wisecracking cynicism of his noir namesake and the syntactical curlicues of Humbert Humbert. Like Nabokov’s dandified pedophile, Marlowe imparts the contents of his inner life and his impressions of the world around him in a series of succulent verbal morsels. A friend’s gold tooth is a “dental anachronism”; the topography of Wales is a “stack of vowel-starved hills: Bwlch Mawr; Gyrn Ddu; Yr Eifl.” Even at the novel’s most bluntly biological, its register scrapes the ceiling. Not a few readers will find themselves scrambling to the dictionary to look up words only vaguely recalled from SAT prep courses. (I did.) Our natural antipathy for a serial cannibal notwithstanding, it’s hard not to extend some readerly warmth to a narrator who’s so darned fun to listen to.
Apart from the ethical head-scratcher of devouring a dozen human beings a year — “There’s always someone’s father, someone’s mother, someone’s wife, someone’s son. This is the problem with killing and eating people” — Marlowe’s quandary boils down to a bad case of existential exhaustion. The tale begins in well-fed languor. “Two nights ago I’d eaten a 43-year-old hedge fund specialist,” Marlowe offers with trademark insouciance. “I’ve been in a phase of taking the ones no one wants.” Sated with the kill, Marlowe receives the bad news of the title’s promise from his human minder, Harley, a silver-haired, old-world gentleman of the sort found only in fiction (think Alfred to Marlowe’s Batman). “They killed the Berliner two nights ago,” Harley gravely intones — “they” being a shadowy group known as the World Organization for the Control of Occult Phenomena (Wocop for short).
Despite his friend’s insistence that he go into hiding, Marlowe has other plans. Two centuries of traipsing the earth in search of unlucky hikers to devour has sunk him into a bona fide midlife crisis. He is weary of the “inestimable drag of Being a Werewolf” and its “endless logistics.” “I don’t have what it takes,” he tells us. “I still have feelings but I’m sick of having them. Which is another feeling I’m sick of having. . . . I just don’t want any more life.”
He elects instead to let the end come, but the path to one of Wocop’s silver bullets soon takes a number of complicating turns. “Life,” Marlowe trenchantly reminds us, “like the boring drunk at the office party, keeps seeking you out.” When Marlowe discovers that one of Wocop’s henchmen has gotten to Harley and subjected him to unspeakable acts, he goes on the lam, if only to take some of the bad guys with him when he exits the stage.
In due course he discovers that Wocop is not his only pursuer. Duncan’s off-kilter world comprises paranormal phenomena of every sort, and a virus carried in Marlowe’s blood that may possess the power to bestow upon vampires (yes, them) the ability to move in daylight has the bloodsuckers on his trail. Vampires are presented as a kind of rival gang, or a competing corporate entity fighting for market share; each side hates the other precisely because they’re so alike (though vampires dress like aging hipsters). Marlowe also learns that a splinter group within Wocop, facing a midlife crisis of its own, is waging a coup within its ranks to restock the world’s supply of werewolves.
It all plays out in splendid good fun, bouncing from one James Bondian locale to another, bon mot to bon mot, the text saturated with literary and cultural references from Joseph Conrad to Susan Sontag, often more than one per page. (The novel’s most enjoyable meta-moment comes when Marlowe, for reasons that cannot be revealed here, quotes the first few sentences of “Lolita.”) Duncan skillfully manages to keep all of this spinning while maintaining our suspension of disbelief. When Marlowe discovers a reason to go on living — and, presumably, eating people like you and me — it’s weirdly impossible not to root for him.
Are there problems? The language occasionally overheats, and Duncan escorts us to the buffet table to heap our plates a few too many times. A person can eat only so many éclairs, no matter how good; I sometimes felt as overstuffed as Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote, contemplating the final mint. Likewise, the story’s nominal assertion that we are in fact reading Marlowe’s journal doesn’t wash, and Duncan seems to know it. Rarely does this largely unnecessary conceit peek above the book’s novelistic surface, and then only as a matter of transparent convenience. The story grows tangled in a what-the-heck way (if plot is good, more plot is better), a Gordian knot of villainy Duncan works gamely to unravel, though by the end I found myself flipping backward through the pages to recall which bad guy was which.
Can the book be overly, you know, frank? That depends on who you are. Is the whole thing just a little too italicized? Yes.
But these minor hiccups come to feel endemic to Duncan’s glorious, chatty project and the morally and physically ambiguous character he’s created. I can’t help thinking that wry, world-weary Jake Marlowe would make a fabulous dinner companion. Just not during a full moon.
Detective Catherine McLeod was always taught that in Glasgow, they don’t do whodunit. They do score-settling. They do vendettas. They do petty revenge...moreDetective Catherine McLeod was always taught that in Glasgow, they don’t do whodunit. They do score-settling. They do vendettas. They do petty revenge. They do can’t-miss-whodunit. It’s a lesson that has served her well, but Glasgow is also a dangerous place to make assumptions. Either way she looks at it, she recognises that the discovery of a dead drug-dealer in a back alley is merely a portent of further deaths to come.
Elsewhere in the city, aspiring actress Jasmine Sharp is reluctantly – and incompetently – earning a crust working for her Uncle Jim’s private investigation business. When Jim goes missing, Jasmine has to take on the investigator mantle for real and her only lead points to Glen Fallan, a gangland enforcer and professional assassin whose reputation is rendered only slightly less terrifying by having been dead for twenty years. Cautiously tracing an accomplished killer’s footsteps, Jasmine stumbles into a web of corruption and decades-hidden secrets that could tear apart an entire police force – if she can stay alive long enough to tell the tale.
Having not read any of Christopher/Chris Brookmyre previous novels so cannot comment on how this ‘off piste’ novel compares but I loved it! The two female leads were especially well drawn, the contrast between middle aged, married, world weary Catherine and innocent, fragile teenager Jasmine. I love it when a male author ‘gets’ the female psyche .
The writing is fast paced with enough twists, turns and red herrings to satisfy the most demanding of crime readers. It is only as you finish the book that the reader can appreciate how tightly y the story was woven. The sardonic, dark wit is pitch-perfect and made me smile far too often considering the subject matter. This is very, very good crime fiction.
'This is Glesca.'... 'Any time you're confused, take a wee minute to remind yourself of that inescapable fact: this is Glesca. We don't do subtle, we don't do nuanced, we don't do conspiracy. We do pish-heid bampot bludgeoning his girlfriend to death in a fit of paranoid rage induced by forty-eight hours straight on the batter. We do coked-up neds jumping on a guy's heid outside a nightclub because he looked at them funny. We do drug-dealing gangster rockets shooting other drug-dealing gangster rockets as comeback for something almost identical a fortnight ago. We do bam-on-bam. We do tit-for-tat, score-settling, feuds, jealousy, petty revenge. We do straightforward. We do obvious. We do cannaemisswhodunit. When you hear hoofbeats on Sauchiehall Street, it's gaunny be a horse, no' a zebra...'..
"It didn't really seem like Glasgow at all. Apart from the guy lying on the deck in the advanced stages of a severe kicking. That was as authentically local as haggis suppers and lung cancer." (less)
There are some breath- taking set pieces, in which Ronson, armed only with a notebook, meets some of the 21st Century's more powerful movers and shakers (and mass murderers) and asks them if they are psychopaths.
His quest begins with a bunch of neurologists, puzzled recipients of an indecipherable book. Ronson, as amateur sleuth/reporter, tracks down the author, and finds a (benign) "crackpot". What intrigues Ronson, however, are the ripples this one crackpot's actions create; is our world as rational as we like to think, or is it built on insanity? And, have we gone overboard on the insanity stakes, labelling even normal human behaviour as a mental condition, and coincidentally, inviting Big Pharma in to "medicate"?
A quick trawl through the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders), once a slim volume outlining 30 or so mental disorders, now a 886-page beast, boasting 374 disorders -- including such gems as Arithmetic Learning Disorder (being crap at sums), Caffeine Induced Disorder (the jitters from skulling too many espressos), Nightmare Disorder (too much rich food before bye-byes), tees Ronson up nicely for the next stage -- Bob Hare, and the Psychopath Test, or the 20 personality traits checklist now used by psychiatrists and mental health workers around the globe.
Hare's checklist scores potential psychopaths on a scale of 1-40 for superficial charm, proneness to boredom, pathological lying, lack of empathy, lack of remorse, parasitic lifestyle, promiscuous sexual behaviour and so on.
Hare believes that psychopaths are different, almost an alien species. No doubt if you worked with people such as Peter Woodcock, who killed because he "wanted to know what it would feel like to kill a human being", you would get a bit cynical, but a checklist that determines whether or not you are the worst kind of lunatic seems a tad extreme, and counter-intuitive -- if all you need is a checklist, why do we need mental health professionals?
There were some crazy experiments in the past, such as at Oak Ridge, Canada, where an idealistic young psychiatrist got permission to work with psychopaths, employing mammoth, naked psychotherapy sessions fuelled by LSD and lots of screaming. That ended in disaster (when freed, 85 per cent of the patients went on to savagely reoffend).
And then there those with psychopathic tendencies who are not locked up, but are rather at the top of the tree, such as very successful businessman Al Dunlap of Florida, who was responsible for stripping assets and thousands of workers from hundreds of firms (and enjoying it). Was he a psychopath? Ronson's interview is a minor masterpiece. Or the television researcher who spent years tracking down people who were "just mad enough" to make cheap entertainment for a reality show -- was she part of a media machine that borders on psychopathy? Is the "madness industry" itself -- now mainly a labelling system, delivering patients to Big Pharma, including the thousands of under-fives in America "diagnosed" as bipolar and on up to 20 pills a day -- psychopathic?
The most chilling line in the book has to be from a psychopath who was shown a photograph of a terrified woman and asked to identify the emotion. He didn't know, but it was the same expression he saw on the faces of victims just before he killed them.
In the end Ronson eschews the Hare checklist, and the outer reaches of conspiracy theorists (lizard people, etc), and argues for a less formulaic approach to mental illness overall, an acceptance that we are all a bit mad, "that there is no evidence that we have been placed on this planet to be especially happy or especially normal ... in fact, our unhappiness and our strangeness, our anxieties and our compulsions are quite often what lead us to do rather interesting things".
The Psychopath Test is a terrific contribution to the madness debate, but I'd still like to know what (human) events produce such damaged people -- long before the professionals or the pills get to them. (less)
"Is there a spell on this place?" I remember asking my mother. "Don't be so stupid, Thomas," she said. `Magic isn't real." Thomas Penmarsh has always l...more"Is there a spell on this place?" I remember asking my mother. "Don't be so stupid, Thomas," she said. `Magic isn't real." Thomas Penmarsh has always lived at Finisterre, the house by the sea. He sleeps in the room with the barred window and looks down on the cats in the garden. He is 48: but he has been an old man since one evening in 1967 when he lost everything he valued. Then Cousin Esmond came back and rescued him from despair and the cats; Esmond always looks after Thomas. But now Alice wants to come home too. Alice will spoil it all if she returns, because she brings the past with her. From the moment of her conception, she has been a child of enchantment, madness and death.
Ohh I loved this...a lovely slow burning, suspenseful gothic novel with more than a touch of the Daphne du Mauriers. Beautifully written with a gripping plot and one of my favourite fiction devices; the possible unreliable narrator. Subtle, disturbing, beautifully paced with memorable characters and a story that creeps along with a whispering dread to the shocking denouement.
The Crown has been described as a cross between a Dan Brown and Philippa Gregory novel. Set in Tudor times this historical thriller...moreSolid debut novel
The Crown has been described as a cross between a Dan Brown and Philippa Gregory novel. Set in Tudor times this historical thriller features young Dominican novice, Joanna Stafford, who has just left her priory to attend the public burning of her beloved cousin, Lady Margaret, for treason against King Henry VIII.
"When a burning is announced, the taverns of Smithfield order extra barrels of ale, but when the person to be executed is a woman and one of noble birth, the ale comes by the cartload."
A good entertaining read with likable characters, extensive historical detail throughout and a juicy blend of lust, murder, conspiracy, and betrayal. (less)
I have loved Andrew Pyper darkly, seductive novels, all of them are very different on the surface but underneath they all have similar characteristics...moreI have loved Andrew Pyper darkly, seductive novels, all of them are very different on the surface but underneath they all have similar characteristics, human anxieties and secrets and misgivings.
'The Guardians' has shades of Stephen King's IT and The Body in this coming of age 'supernatural' thriller but there is nothing wrong with that and Pyper doesn't put a foot wrong! The local haunted house has become part of urban mythology and the Thurman House in the Guardians represents that old abandoned spooky house in our town that we all ran past as children.
Trevor, Randy, Ben and Carl were boyhood friends until, looking for a missing person, they went into the Thurman House and what they found there changed them forever. They are bound by a vow of silence about what they found and the terrible things that happened in the house. Years later Trevor returns to Grimshaw for the funeral of Ben, the only one who stayed behind 'to watch the house' and to makes sure whatever was in there didn't escape. He committed suicide...Accompanied by Randy, Trevor arrives in Grimshaw, Carl joins them for the tragic reunion to find history has a nasty habit of repeating itself and once again, they are forced to venture into the malevolent Thurman House.
The author uses a wonderful duel narrative from Trevor, present day and the past, his 'Memory Diary' using a Dictaphone on which he records episodes from his childhood. The pacing is superb, giving the reader precious little time to contemplate events before hurtling you into the next incident. The story has a perfect balance between the believable and the paranormal and Pyper's imagery is vivid and visceral full of compelling menace
Of course it really is all about friendship, rite of passage, what it is to become a man, and to be a man but as someone said it is a terrifying and breathless and as a midnight dare to run through your local graveyard...(less)
Three years ago, David Hunter moved to rural Norfolk to escape his life in London, his gritty work in forensics, and a tragedy that nearly destroyed h...moreThree years ago, David Hunter moved to rural Norfolk to escape his life in London, his gritty work in forensics, and a tragedy that nearly destroyed him. Working as a simple country doctor, seeing his lost wife and daughter only in his dreams, David struggles to remain uninvolved when the corpse of a woman is found in the woods, a macabre sign from her killer decorating her body. In one horrifying instant, the quiet summer countryside that had been David's refuge has turned malevolent—and suddenly there is no place to hide.
The village of Manham is tight-knit, far from the beaten path. As a newcomer, Dr. Hunter is immediately a suspect. Once an expert in analyzing human remains, he reluctantly joins the police investigation—and when another woman disappears, it soon becomes personal. Because this time she is someone David knows, someone who has managed to penetrate the icy barrier around his heart. With a killer's bizarre and twisted methods screaming out to him, with a brooding countryside beset with suspicion, David can feel the darkness gathering around him. For as the clock ticks down on a young woman's life, David must follow a macabre trail of clues—all the way to its final, horrifying conclusion
Cut above the usual formulaic ‘nasty, yet inventive, serial killer’ book. The writing is excellent (curiously old fashioned style I thought) and Dr David Hunter an appealing and believable lead with a fine supporting cast. The creepy atmosphere of the book was excellent especially around the village of Manham with its paranoid/hostile community which put me in mind of the film The Wicker Man. Good stuff (less)
An Pendle: a place synonymous with witches and Britain's most notorious diabolism trials. The candle-passing parlour game says, if it dies in your hand, you've a forfeit to give. If you're going to write a book about famous witches, it had better fly.
Winterson's novella is set in 1612, during the feverishly paranoid reign of James I. It describes the plight of a group of paupers, mostly women, accused of evil practices and tried at the August assizes. In the previous decade, the gunpowder plot almost did away with the king. Heresy is his obsession. Author of the instructive Daemonologie, he is, as Pendle's local magistrate puts it, "a meddler". In this fraught climate disfigured elderly ladies aren't safe, alchemists can be arrested for creating mechanical beetles, and Catholics are thumb-screwed. "It suits the times to degrade the hoc est corpus of the Catholic mass into satanic hocus pocus," notes William Shakespeare, who features briefly, and not preposterously, in Winterson's book.
Outlawed beliefs have been dangerously elided. "Popery witchery, witchery popery," Thomas Potts, recording clerk for the prosecution and the crown, is fond of chanting. Potts arrives in Lancashire, one of the wildest corners of the country, desperate to preside over a trial as sensational as North Berwick, where the sorcerers responsible for the king's shipwreck were prosecuted. He stakes out Pendle Hill, a landscape of moors and mists, mossy baptismal pools and forests, ready to accost beldames on their broomsticks.
So it comes to pass. A coven of aggrieved relatives meets in a remote tower on Good Friday for a mutton supper and to orchestrate the escape from Lancaster prison of their grand-dam, Old Demdike, who is suspected of sinister crimes. They conduct blood rituals. Into the fray rides Alice Nutter, astride rather than sidesaddle. A noble widow who owns Malkin Tower, she's implicated in the proceedings after the group is confronted by the authorities. Alice is a different kettle of fish from the rabble. Having made her fortune with a magenta dye and a royal warrant from the previous monarch, she's fiercely independent, and prone to charitable acts and harbouring fugitives. She's also mysterious, a realm-crosser. Strangely youthful though old, crackling with erotic appeal and a lover to both sexes, Alice is the kind of woman who makes Potts "feel less important than he knew himself to be".
That the story is predetermined does little to dry up the narrative suspense. Winterson's version has all the grisly freshness of a newly exhumed graveyard corpse. Hangings and burnings are coming, but along the way there are revelations, plot twists, celebrities and trysts – all very bold inventions.
The narrative voice is irrefutable; this is old-fashioned storytelling, with a sermonic tone that commands and terrifies. It's also like courtroom reportage, sworn witness testimony. The sentences are short, truthful – and dreadful. "Tom Peeper raped Sarah Device. He was quick. He was in practice." Absolutism is Winterson's forte, and it's the perfect mode to verify supernatural events when they occur. You're not asked to believe in magic. Magic exists. A severed head talks. A man is transmogrified into a hare. The story is stretched as tight as a rack, so the reader's disbelief is ruptured rather than suspended. And if doubt remains, the text's sensuality persuades. Teeth raining from the sky into Alice's lap click and patter like pebbles. A mouth painted on to a door feels soft as a lip, because it is a lip, momentarily. There's a forensic quality to the paranormal manifestations – smells, lesions, blood – that convinces, horribly. Occasionally, the daylight gate as a descriptive phrase becomes repetitious. By virtue of titular importance it's the most potent incantation, and could perhaps have been used more sparingly.
The usual witchy tropes are present – warts, cauldrons, familiars – but they are upgraded, made suitable and sensible. If a toadstool features it's because Old Demdike knows which ones growing in prison are edible. Enchanted mirrors are by-products of mercury experimentation in laboratories. To avoid clichéd associations would be coy. Winterson would rather take these motifs on, activate and invigorate them.
And she knows where true horror lies. Not in fantastical dimensions, but in the terrestrial world. Most grotesque and curdling are the visceral depictions of early 17th-century Britain – the squalor, inequality and religious eugenics. The subjugation of women and prostituting of children. The degloving and castration of Catholics. Poverty. Sickness. Desperation.
As well as being a gripping gothic read, the book provides historical social commentary on the phenomenon of witchcraft and witchcraft persecution. Fear is a relative thing; its effects are relative to power. If you are king and have nearly drowned in a conjured storm, why not expunge the old practices from your sovereignty? If an ugly woman's pet has mauled your leg, duck her in the river to reveal her true identity. If you are destitute, starving, with nothing to lose but your soul, a deal with the Dark Gentleman may be a very attractive prospect. If you believe in such things. (less)
Synopsis: The Sufia Elmi case left Kari Vaara with a scarred face, chronic insomnia, a constant migraine, and a full body count's worth of ghosts. Now...moreSynopsis: The Sufia Elmi case left Kari Vaara with a scarred face, chronic insomnia, a constant migraine, and a full body count's worth of ghosts. Now it's a year later, in Helsinki, and Kari is working the graveyard shift in the homicide unit, terrified that his heavily pregnant wife will miscarry again after she lost the twins just after Christmas.
Kari is pushed into investigating a ninety-year-old national hero for war crimes committed during World War II. The Interior Minister demands a conclusion of innocence, preserving Finland's heroic perception about itself and its role in the war, but Germany wants extradition.
In a seeming coincidence, Kari is drawn into the murder-by-torture case of Iisa Filippov, the philandering trophy wife of a Russian businessman. Her lover is clearly being framed for the crime-and Ivan Filippov's arrogance and nonchalance point the finger at him. But he's being protected from above, leading Kari to the corrupt corridors of power. Soon the past and present collide in ways no one could have anticipated.
I read James Thompson's first Inspector Vaara novel,Snow Angels,when it first came out and loved it. So I was really pleased to see this follow up (a very worthy one)and more recently a third book Helsinki White...is this becoming a series?!
The strengths of the book are the fluid, intense writing and engaging characters framed within an absorbing and well-constructed plot.
But the main character is Finland; cold, cruel, unforgiving but intensely beautiful...
“My home, Finland. the ninth and innermost circle of hell. A frozen lake of blood and guilt formed from Lucifer’s tears, turned to ice by the flapping of his leathery wings.”
“The snow, already almost waist-high, pours down in a torrent. Lucifer does not relent. Dante states that the devil resides in the ninth circle of hell, trapped in the ice like the rest of us, and I feel that he’s here, watching over us with approval.”(less)
Synopsis: Arlen Wagner has seen it in men before--a trace of smoke in their eyes that promises imminent death. He is never wrong. When Arlen awakens o...moreSynopsis: Arlen Wagner has seen it in men before--a trace of smoke in their eyes that promises imminent death. He is never wrong. When Arlen awakens on a train one hot Florida night and sees death's telltale sign in the eyes of his fellow passengers, he tries to warn them. Only 19-year-old Paul Brickhill believes him, and the two abandon the train, hoping to escape certain death. They continue south, but soon are stranded at the Cypress House--an isolated Gulf Coast boarding house run by the beautiful Rebecca Cady--directly in the path of an approaching hurricane. The storm isn't the only approaching danger, though. A much deadlier force controls the county and everyone living in it, and Arlen wants out--fast. But Paul refuses to abandon Rebecca to face the threats alone, even though Arlen's eerie gift warns that if they stay too long they may never leave.
Michael Koryta does American Gothic very, very well and The Cypress Tree is no exception with its dazzling blend of noir ingredients - small-town corruption, lies, deceit and the Great Depression. The whole blend is shot through an atmosphere that drips with menace and fatalism, impending doom and just a touch of supernatural shenanigans.
Strong characterisations, rich sense of time and place, a well written plot and the hint of a tragic love triangle make this a steamy, southern slow burner to savour. Loved it!(less)
“Shipcott in bleak midwinter: a close-knit community where no stranger goes unnoticed. So when an elderly woman is murdered in her bed, villag...moreSynopsis
“Shipcott in bleak midwinter: a close-knit community where no stranger goes unnoticed. So when an elderly woman is murdered in her bed, village policeman Jonas Holly is doubly shocked. How could someone have entered, and killed, and left no trace? Jonas finds himself sidelined as the investigation is snatched away from him by an abrasive senior detective. Is his first murder investigation over before it’s begun? But this isn’t the end for Jonas, because someone in the village blames him for the tragedy. Someone seems to know every move he makes. Someone thinks he’s not doing his job. And when the killer claims another vulnerable victim, these taunts turn into sinister threats. Blinded by rising paranoia, relentless snow and fear for his own invalid wife, Jonas strikes out alone on a mystifying hunt. But the threats don’t stop – and neither do the murders…”
I loved Belinda Bauer's Blacklands so was looking forward to Darkside...I was not disappointed.
Darkside has a very different feel to Blacklands, it is almost a tragicomedy and with a much more complex story that is as chilling and as menacing as the freezing ice and snow of the midwinter setting
The book is again set in the isolated community of Shippcot and as in Blacklands the village and the land surrounding it play a large role in the novel but this time events are seen through the eyes of the local policeman, Jonas Holly, and his wife, Lucy, who suffers from MS. I love the way Bauer writes 'people'…. realistic and highly readable, even if they only appear briefly in the story she imagines such strong characters you feel you really come to know them as the story develops.
The sharp humour comes from the conflict between the countryside hating townie Detective Chief Inspector Marvel, brought into solve the mystery, and the local policeman whom Marvel views as an incompetent slack jawed yokel.
The novel is beautifully paced and shot through with remarkable chilling little segments of startlingly imagery such as the incident with the moor pony and the killer’s footsteps in the snow.
I loved and loathed Detective Chief Inspector Marvel, the big shot brought in from the 'Big City' to head up the investigation and as an other reviewer states he ends ups stealing every scene he appears in.....comparing environs to Middle Earth and …"It was like investigating a murder in Brigadoon,"
Some reviewers have said they guess the identity of the murderer early on but this reader has about as much of a clue as the police....
Excellent stuff...perfect for a winter’s evening read
WHEN Samuel Colt sets up a gun factory in the heart of Victorian London, his new London secretary sees only career advancement and excitement ahead. B...moreWHEN Samuel Colt sets up a gun factory in the heart of Victorian London, his new London secretary sees only career advancement and excitement ahead. But it is not long before Colt’s deadly product brings conspiracy, bitter deception and bloodshed to the streets of Westminster. Among the workforce Colt has gathered from the seething mass of London’s poor are a gang of desperate Irish immigrants, embittered refugees from the potato famine, who intend to use these stolen six-shooters for a political assassination in the name of revenge. As pistols start to go missing, divided loyalties and hidden agendas make the gun-maker’s factory the setting for a tense story of intrigue, betrayal and murder. This detailed and gripping historical novel draws the reader deep into the overlapping worlds of Victorian London, from the drawing rooms of the political elite to the worst slums of the desperate poor. A revealing portrait of an exhilarating period in English history.
With her third novel (after the acclaimed Sharp Objects and Dark Places), Flynn cements her place among that elite group of mystery/thriller writers w...moreWith her third novel (after the acclaimed Sharp Objects and Dark Places), Flynn cements her place among that elite group of mystery/thriller writers who unfailingly deliver the goods. On the day of her fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne vanishes from her home under suspicious circumstances. Through a narrative that alternates between Amy's diary entries and her husband Nick's real-time experiences in the aftermath of her disappearance, the complicated relationship that was their marriage unfolds, leaving the reader with a growing list of scenarios, suspects, and motives to consider. Meanwhile, the police, the press, and the public focus intently on Nick, the journalist-turned-bar owner who uprooted Amy from her comfortable New York life to return to his Missouri hometown.
This monster of female noir is just what I have come to expect from Gillian Flynn - a razor sharp, intelligent and expertly plotted thriller with characters so real you know think you know them even if you hate them.
The two leads; both narcissists, one a sociopath, give their alternative unreliable versions on the ticking time bomb marriage from hell.
Fast, entertaining read, darkly funny and listening to it on audio book saved me that naughty flick to the last page which I know I would have done - so compelling was the desire to find out the truth.
Ingenious, spiteful tale with a head spinning dénouement that is initially disappointing but is on reflection is inevitable and perfect. Not sure how I feel about Flynn having rewritten the ending for the forthcoming David Fincher’s film…
“My gosh, Nick, why are you so wonderful to me?'
He was supposed to say: You deserve it. I love you.
But he said, 'Because I feel sorry for you.'
'Because every morning you have to wake up and be you.”
It is surely a simple case of hysteria. Four young women allegedly witness a terrifying apparition while walking in the woods. Has the devil r...moreSynopsis
It is surely a simple case of hysteria. Four young women allegedly witness a terrifying apparition while walking in the woods. Has the devil really revealed himself to them? Are they genuine victims of demonic possession? Or, as most suspect, is their purpose in claiming all of this considerably more prosaic? The eyes of the country turn to a small Nottinghamshire town, where an inquiry is to be held. Everyone there is living through hard, uncertain times. The king is recently dead. It is a new century -- a new world looking to the future. But here, in the ancient heart of England, an old beast stirs.
Going by the blurb you think you are going to get a nasty, shivery little tale about pastoral superstition - however all is not as it seems and that is not all together a bad thing.
You expect a read full of supernatural shenanigans when what you get is people being devilishly mean to each other and not much else. But the quality of the writing, the frighteningly good characterisation and the underlying tension of this sad story more than make up for any lost expectations of a satanic romp. It is quite extraordinary that a story about a non story where not much happens can be quiet so compelling.
Edric is an author who makes his reader work hard and you have to really think what is going on beneath the surface in this dreamlike, claustrophobic village and of course there is no nice, easy ending. As someone said on Amazon it is like watching episode 1 of a series...and then it is cancelled.
An extraordinary novel -- Picnic at Hanging Rock meets Howard's End meet The Crucible. (less)
1897. In an isolated station in the Belgian Congo, an Englishman is to be tried for the murder of a native child. Imprisoned in a makeshift jail, Nich...more1897. In an isolated station in the Belgian Congo, an Englishman is to be tried for the murder of a native child. Imprisoned in a makeshift jail, Nicholas Frere awaits the arrival of the Company's official investigator while his friend, James Frasier, attempts to discover the circumstances which surround the charge.
The world around them is rapidly changing: the horrors of the Belgian Congo are becoming known and the flow of its once-fabulous wealth is drying up. Unrest flares unstoppably into violence.
Frere's coming trial will seek to determine considerably more than the killing of a child. But at the heart of this conflict is a secret so dark, so unimaginable, that one man must be willingly destroyed by his possession of it, and the other must both sanction and participate in that destruction.
In a narrative of ever-quickening and growing intensity, The Book of the Heathen explores notions of honor, friendship, justice and reason in a world where men have been forced by circumstance to descend into an abyss of savagery and terror. The Book of the Heathen is a stunning novel that truly evokes a Conradian heart of darkness.
A hauntingly bleak tale sparsely told portrays English imperialism at its worst. A nightmare world filled with casual cruelties,dark secrets and horrifying truths. Compelling and ultimately unforgettable(less)
An unforgettable depiction of the psychological impact of war, by a young Iraq veteran and poet, THE YELLOW BIRDS is already being hailed as a modern...moreAn unforgettable depiction of the psychological impact of war, by a young Iraq veteran and poet, THE YELLOW BIRDS is already being hailed as a modern classic.
Everywhere John looks, he sees Murph.
He flinches when cars drive past. His fingers clasp around the rifle he hasn't held for months. Wide-eyed strangers praise him as a hero, but he can feel himself disappearing.
Back home after a year in Iraq, memories swarm around him: bodies burning in the crisp morning air. Sunlight falling through branches; bullets kicking up dust; ripples on a pond wavering like plucked strings. The promise he made, to a young man's mother, that her son would be brought home safely.
Written by "...the new war poet" Kevin Powers The Yellow Birds is a wonderfully powerful, harrowing, yet poetic account, of a young America soldier Private John Bartle serving in Iraq who befriends new recruit Daniel "Murph" Murphy.
Their fate rests with a useless lieutenant, and the soldiers' real leader, the deranged Sergeant Sterling.
The author tells the haunting story of John's war (and beyond) and all the trauma, guilt and numbness that entails.
An insider's account of one of the deadliest and most controversial tragedies in mountaineering history-the 2008 K2 disaster.
When eleven men perishe...moreAn insider's account of one of the deadliest and most controversial tragedies in mountaineering history-the 2008 K2 disaster.
When eleven men perished on the slopes of K2 in August 2008, it was one of the deadliest single events in Himalayan climbing and made headlines around the world. Yet non of the surviving western climbers could explain precisely what happened. Their memories were self-admittedly fogged by exhaustion, hypoxia, and hallucinations. The truth of what happened lies with four Sherpa guides who were largely ignored by the mainstream media in the aftermath of the tragedy, who lost two of their own during the incident, and whose heroic efforts saved the lives of at least four climbers.
Based on his numerous trips to Nepal and in-depth interviews he conducted with these unacknowledged heroes, the other survivors, and the families of the lost climbers, alpinist and veteran climbing writer Freddie Wilkinson presents the true story of what actually occurred on the "savage" mountain. This work combines a criticism of the mainstream press's less-than-complete coverage of the tragedy and an insightful portrait of the lives of 21st-century Sherpas into an intelligent, white-knuckled adventure narrative.
Rather disjointed writing style that took some getting use to but enjoyed it.
The author focuses on Pemba Gyalje, Tsering (Chhiring) Bhote, and Big Pasang Bhote who were involved in the 2008 summit attempt and looks at the circumstances of Gerard MacDonnell's disappearance on the mountain - for me the most enduring mysteries of the K2 tragedy.
If he had survived his story would have been one of the greatest tales of heroism ever told(less)
It tells the story of private investigator Sean Ward, sent to the seaside town of Ernemouth in Norfolk to investigate a long-cold case, that of fifteen-year-old schoolgirl Corinne Woodrow, convicted for murdering a classmate twenty years ago.
But now, new forensics evidence suggests that there was someone else involved, and Sean is working his way through likely links to the past, including the local press, Corinne’s former classmates, and now-retired DCI Len Rivett, who was in charge of the original case.
What he soon discovers, though, is that more people are complicit than he could have ever suspected, and they’re all invested in ensuring that their secrets stay buried with the past.
While Sean’s new contacts and acquaintances seem to want to help, he still ends up being misled and misdirected at every turn; everyone has a hidden agenda and no-one is quite what they seem.
Like Cathi’s previous novels, Weirdo alternates between past (1984) and present (2003), making it a tense, addictive page-turner. As Sean investigates every available lead in one narrative strand, the other details the events leading up to Corinne’s conviction.
We meet Corinne and her classmates, encounter the corruption behind the bright facade of Ernemouth’s funfair and amusement arcades, and come to a gradual understanding of the powers at play.
Featuring a motley crew of miscreant teens, Ernemouth lowlife, bikers, witches and bitches, Weirdo’s colourful cast, coupled with Cathi’s signature vivid evocations of time, place and subculture, make it a rich and memorable read.
The Norfolk coast, landscape and character is omnipresent, as sinister, stubborn and menacing as Weirdo‘s other villains. And as well as a cleverly-crafted whodunnit, Weirdo has several other important roles.
A love letter to the dark-hearted music and fashion of the eighties, it illustrates the redemptive power of finding your subculture, the comfort that comes with recognising your own, and its uses for finding and defining identity.
It questions the collective small-town mindsets of places like Ernemouth, where Weirdo is set; places whose public image is carefully controlled, where suspicion and superstition are used to trigger trouble or to keep the masses quiet; places that protect their own and have their own brand of justice for when things go awry.
A dark, compelling and original story sure to stop you from sleeping (less)