Short Story Review: The Chapel of Death by R. W. White

This short story is set in the picturesque Catalan region of the South of France, and centres around Professor Jacqueline Mouchot, a French forensic anthropologist and American Professor Peter Phillips.

The couple are out exploring the area and decide to visit the small chapel of Notre Dame de la Salette.  This particular chapel remains closed to the public except for the annual Harvest Mass, but knowing the keyholder of the only key to the chapel, they are permitted access.

However, as soon as they open the old door to the chapel, they know something is wrong because of the stench coming from within.  It transpires that there are two dead bodies inside, a young couple, who have been missing since the previous spring.

From the injuries visible it is quickly determined that the man and woman have been murdered, but the chapel only had one exit, which was locked, and two windows which were sealed shut.  And of course, there is only the one key to the door.

Who killed the couple, and why?  What were they doing in the church in the first?  And how did they – and the murderer – get inside if there was only the one key?

What unravels is a complex web of secrets going back years, all of which are suddenly brought into the light of day.

Book Review: Enchanter by Sara Douglass (Book 2 of The Axis Trilogy)

Enchanter continues the story of Axis, one time BattleAxe of the Axe-Wielders, now Axis Sunsoar, and his attempt to unite the peoples of Achar and subsequently save the land from the Forbidden as set out by The Prophecy.

This instalment begins with a recount of what happened in Gorkenfort two weeks previously.  Axis and his men served as a diversion to draw the skraelings away from the fort so that Borneheld could lead as many people as possible to safety.  Borneheld is now amassing troops at Jervois Landing, under his own command.  Borneheld’s distrust of everyone is deeping.  Timozel is only one of a few that Borneheld trusts.  However, Timozel, who has sworn to be the champion of Lady Faraday (Borneheld’s wife and the lover of Axis), has fallen further under the spell of the terrifying Gangrael, though Borneheld believes it to be Artor.

After Axis and his men battled with the Skraelings beyond Gorkenfort, he makes his way back to Talon Spike, home of his father’s people, the Icarii, to develop his abilities as an enchanter.  At the same time there is friction between Axis and his father, StarDrifter, mainly because they are both in love with Azhure, and she must choose between them.

However, Azhure, her presence, her abilities, her effect on both enchanters, raises suspicious questions in other quarters.  Who is she really and where did she come from?  Those questions make everyone a little uncomfortable but no-one wants to hear them, especially Axis who is completely besotted with her.

Faraday is also bound up by The Prophecy, and she still loves Axis.  However, her part forces her to remain with her husband, Borneheld.  She knows not about Azhure, or the feelings Axis has towards her.

As we near the end of the book, a number of things come to a head: the tension between Axis and Borneheld, the love triangle between Axis, Faraday and Azhure, and more of The Prophecy comes to pass.  All of this, and more, leads up to a much-anticipated final book in the trilogy.

One thing I noticed whilst reading Enchanter is that I still found, as I had in BattleAxe, that some of the names bugged me a little…StarDrifter, MorningStar, SpikeFeather, RavenCrest…However, Enchanter continues in epic fantasy fashion and it’s hard not to get caught up in the drama that unfolds.  I struggled to put the book down because of the strong need to find out how the book ends.  The many characters weave in and out of the vast story with ease, and the world that the author has created vividly comes to life.  Descriptions are rich, dialogue flows and the story progresses with a mixture of action, adventure, discovery, mystery, secrets, magic and romance.

Short Story Review: A Ghost’s Guide to Haunting Humans by Sarina Dorie

Ever wondered if ghosts are naturally talented when it comes to haunting?  Or whether they need a little tutoring to ensure they create a haunting to remember?  If the answer is ‘yes’, then this guide might be found on a student-ghost’s recommended reading list.

A Ghost’s Guide to Haunting Humans is an amusing, very quick read, teaching ghosts how to haunt the living properly.

Included are eight tips, focusing on a number of areas, such as how to be original and avoid clichés, how to be creative and how to make a lasting impression.

This short story was downloaded for free from Smashwords.

Short Story Review: Sir Thomas and the Abbess Martha by Rosemary Sturge

Sir Thomas and Abbess Martha are both ghosts haunting Mayfield Abbey.  He is boorish, loves money and spends his time counting ‘phantom gold in the strong room of the tower’.  She is virtuous, caring and chooses to remain confined to the original abbey precinct.  They are also harbouring a five hundred year old feud.

Naturally, they don’t get along.

When a television film crew arrive at Mayfield, on the hunt for evidence of ghosts, the two decide to put their differences aside, both agreeing it’s not the sort of thing they want taking place there.

But have they done the right thing?

I thoroughly enjoyed this short story; I even laughed out loud a couple of times as I read it.  It was interesting to read what five hundred year old ghosts might think of ghost hunting, television and celebrities.

The ending felt a little rushed, compared with the pace of the rest of the story, however, it did nothing to detract from my enjoyment of it.  This is a short story I will definitely read again.

This ebook was free to download via Smashwords.

Short Story Review: The Vampire by Sydney Horler

There were strange stories told about the newcomer to the district and his fellow creatures shunned him.  One man was his confidante, and knew his terrible secret.

The story begins with the narrator saying that he used to visit a trusted friend, a Roman Catholic Priest by profession, once a week.  During one of their conversations, the narrator began discussing a novel he was writing about vampires, when he is taken aback to hear that not only does the Priest believe in vampires, but that he had also met one.  And so the Priest goes on to recount the strange experience he had had, many years previously…

Joseph Farington had moved to the area, buying the biggest house in the best location, and spent a fortune furnishing it, sparing no expense.  From the way the man spoke, he sound as if he should be at least sixty years of age, and yet he was almost youthful in appearance and had jet black hair.

Rumours abounded that there was something strange about him.  Even the local doctor is frightened to be in his presence.  Although the man had tried to get along with the locals, they kept away, and he made no friends.

Two months later, a local beauty is found dead in a field.  She had been murdered…’there was a great hole in her throat, as though a beast of the jungle had attacked…’ Suspicion immediately falls on Farington.

Is he a vampire?  Did he murder the poor girl?  And what becomes of him?

A great short story, bringing together superstition and the paranormal.  To some it might read as a little dated, but it’s certainly worth a read.

This short story was found in Great Crime Stories by Chancellor Press.

Book Review: The Somnambulist by Essie Fox

As soon as I saw the cover to The Somnambulist, full of Victorian Gothic charm, I knew I had to read it…

The tale centres on the seventeen year old Phoebe Turner, who has been brought up by a very strict religious mother and carefree aunt, a singer in a London music hall.

One evening, Phoebe accompanies her aunt to the music hall, unbeknown to her mother, and this one act, it seems, sets off a number of life-changing events.

The story is full of twists and turns; secrets are revealed, mysteries unravelled, and soon all becomes clear that life as Phoebe Turner knew it wasn’t real at all…Heartbreak, grief, loss, love, lies, deception, spiritualism…very Victorian…very Gothic…

My only gripe with this book was that there were a few passages that felt slow and even a little hard work.  However, persevering was certainly worthwhile.  Essie Fox manages to capture two vastly different locations with ease…the hustle and bustle of Victorian London as well as the quiet, eerie charm of a country estate, Dinwood Court, a world away in Hertfordshire.

The historical detail is accurate and vivid, helping to bring the story to life, and the characters on the whole were easy to engage with.

Over all, an enjoyable read.

Novella Review: Summer Storm by Elizabeth Baxter

Summer Storm is the first book in The Wrath of the Northmen series by Elizabeth Baxter.

Falen is princess of Variss, but she doesn’t act like one.  She is more interested in science than how to rule a kingdom, and her dream is to to gain admittance to the Ral Toran Engineering Academy, much to the disapproval and annoyance of her father the King.

One day, Falen goes up into the mountains around Variss to collect some of the data from her experiments, when she gets caught in a storm.  As she makes her way home, she comes across a man floating in the river, whom she rescues and brings back to the city.

However, she would never have foreseen just what consequences her actions would have, and not just for herself…

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and exploring the world the author has created.  Her characters were engaging (I love the names she chose), and the descriptions brought Variss and the surrounding area to life.

I came across this free novella on Smashwords  and was so glad I did.  I am looking forward to reading the second book in the series to see what happens next…