Book Review: The Devil’s Priest by Kate Ellis

Summary (from back of book)

In 1539 King Henry VII is completing his ruthless destruction of England’s monasteries and the ripples of this seismic change are felt even in the small northern port of Liverpool.  A pregnant novice nun, Agnes Moore, ejected from her convent and staying with resentful relatives, claims to have been attacked in the ancient chapel of St Mary del Quay on Liverpool’s waterfront by Satan himself.  Her former abbess, Lady Katheryn Bulkeley, comes to her aid but Agnes refuses to identify her lover.

When a young priest is found dead in the River Mersey, his right hand hacked off, Katheryn realises that Liverpool harbours some disturbing secrets.  Then Agnes is brutally murdered after which corpses are subsequently found mutilated in the churchyard.  What is the link with Agnes’ death?

Katheryn slowly uncovers the secrets of Liverpool’s dark side as she seeks Agnes’ killer amongst the town’s highest and lowest citizens.  As she draws closer to the truth, she faces the most urgent question of all, Why has such evil come to Liverpool and who is The Devil’s Priest?

Favourite Quote

It was difficult to calculate his age, but it must have taken many years to cultivate the characteristic stoutness of an ardent ale drinker.

Review

This is the first book I’ve read by Kate Ellis and I enjoyed it.  I liked the author’s style of writing and I am looking forward to reading some of her other books.

The Devil’s Priest is an interesting tale, full of interesting characters and with plenty of twists and turns.  Lady Katheryn Bulkeley was a real former abbess living at the time the story was set.  Her backstory combined with this fictional mystery makes for entertaining reading and a gripping yarn.  The supporting cast of characters were also good: Valentine, the apothecary; Bartholomew, the ferryman; and Jane, Katheryn’s young maid who enjoys a good gossip.

The Liverpool in the book is pretty unrecognisable compared to the great port city of today, so it was interesting to learn about how it would have looked nearly five hundred years ago.  Before reading this, I didn’t know that the famous “ferry across the Mersey” was run by the monks of Birkenhead Priory up until the dissolution of the monasteries.

I sincerely wish that this hadn’t been a standalone book – it would have made the perfect historical mystery series.  So, I am going to deduct half a star from my rating because of my disappointment.  Only joking – that would be mean and this book fully deserves it four stars.

Rating

Advertisements

Book Review: The Traitor’s Mark by D.K. Wilson

The Traitor’s Mark is the second book in the Thomas Treviot series by D.K. Wilson.

Summary (from Goodreads)

The Real Crime: Hans Holbein, King Henry VIII’s portrait painter, died in the autumn of 1543. A century later a chronicler reported that the artist had succumbed to plague, yet there is no contemporary evidence to support this. Suspicions have been raised over the centuries, but the mystery of what actually happened remains unsolved to this day.

Our Story: Young London goldsmith Thomas Treviot is awaiting a design for a very important jewelry commission from Hans Holbein. When the design fails to turn up, Thomas sends a servant to track Holbein down, only to discover that the painter has disappeared. In his hunt for Holbein and the lost design, Thomas is led into a morass of dangerous political intrigue, Spanish spies and courtiers that is more treacherous than he could ever have anticipated…

Favourite Quote

‘Dear God, the games these kings and great men play, using us for their cards and counters.’

Review

I find this series so interesting.  The idea of presenting a possible solution to a mystery or a crime approaching 500 years old is fascinating.  Having read the first book in the series, The First Horseman and the third, The Devil’s Chalice, I knew I would enjoy this one too.  And I did.

I like Thomas Treviot – he is a likeable main character.  He has enough status to get him the contact he needs with some of the greatest personalities in the land, but he is also happy – happier even – amongst those of lower-standing, meaning that he can move fairly easily between social groups.  Ned – a former monk who after the dissolution puts his knowledge of medicines to use as an apothecary – is also a great character.  Though I think my favourite is Lizzie: she’s strong, intelligent, sensible and compassionate.

The Traitor’s Mark is a enjoyable mystery that will take you on a journey through Tudor London and the surrounding counties, which come to life with ease.  The historical detail that is woven through the story is rich in depth though not heavy enough to weigh it down and slow its unfolding.  There’s plenty of action and drama, and twists and turns to keep the story moving at a good pace.  The political and religious turmoil of the times is clearly depicted and the story shows just how easy it was to get caught up in things, whether you wanted to be involved in them or not – a scary thought.

I really hope that there will be more books in this series, because all three of them have been excellent reads.  I can’t recommend them high enough.

Rating

Book Review: The Iron Hand of Mars by Lindsey Davis

The Iron Hand of Mars is the fourth book in the Falco series by Lindsey Davis.

Summary (from back of book)

AD 71: Germania Libera: dark dripping forests, inhabited by bloodthirsty barbarians and legendary wild beasts, a furious prophetess who terrorises Rome, and the ghostly spirits of slaughtered Roman legionaries.

Enter Marcus Didius Falco, an Imperial agent on a special mission: to find the absconding commander of a legion whose loyalty is suspect.  Easier said than done, thinks Marcus, as he makes his uneasy way down the Rhenus, trying to forget that back in sunny Rome his girlfriend Helena Justina is being hotly pursued by Titus Caesar.  His mood is not improved when he discovers that his only allies are a woefully inadequate bunch of recruits, their embittered centurion, a rogue dog, and its innocent young master; just the right kind of support for an agent unwillingly trying to tame the Celtic hordes.

Favourite Quote

“Are foreign priestesses virgins, sir?”

“I believe it’s not obligatory.”  Only Rome equated chastity with holiness; and even Rome installed ten vestals at a time, in order to give latitude for mistakes.

Review

I have read this series from beginning to end a number of times, and my enjoyment of it only grows with each reading.  The witty style of the author combined with the historical detail and interesting mysteries is a winning formula, and as such this series is one of my absolute favourites.

The Iron Hand of Mars is quite different to the books that came before it in the series, whose focus tended to be more political rather than military.  However, this book is as much of a success as the others.  The story of Varus and the lost legions in the Teutoburg Forest is fascinating if haunting, and as “Rome’s greatest defeat” as it is often referred to, it is largely responsible for stopping the spread of Roman expansion into the northern reaches of Europe. And this is the back drop, many years after the event, to the story and Falco’s mission.

The story is cleverly-crafted and as Falco goes about the Emperor’s business, he finds himself in more danger than he has so far working for the Palatine.  Due to the nature of his task and the events of the past, the tone is darker and you can feel the oppressiveness of the Tuetoburg Forest as Falco travels through it.

The characters in this book are entertaining and varied:  Xanthus, a former imperial barber who wants to the see the world; Helvetius, a despairing centurion in command of untrainable new recruits; Veleda, the priestess – prophetess of the Bructeri who lives in a tower; Justinus, the younger of Helena’s brothers, stationed with the First Legion…However, it is always Helena and Falco who star in the story; they are both endearing, strong-willed, personable and funny, and you can’t help but root for them all the way.

The descriptions of the empire beyond Rome and into the more wild provinces vividly come to life as we follow Falco’s progress.  From boat trips down the Rhenus to Samian-ware ceramic factories in Lugdunum and everything else in between, we are given are unforgettable tour of this part of the empire as it was in the first century.

Action, adventure, comedy and even romance, this is historical crime fiction at its best (in my opinion, of course).  So, if you are looking for an entertaining read set in the ancient world to immerse yourself in, I would highly recommend you give this book a read.

Rating

Book Review: Ruso and the Root of all Evils by R.S. Downie

Ruso and the Root of all Evils is the third book in this Roman mystery series by R.S.Downie.

Summary (from Goodreads)

At long last, Gaius Petreius Ruso and his companion, Tilla, are headed home—to Gaul. Having received a note consisting only of the words “COME HOME!” Ruso has (reluctantly, of course) pulled up stakes and brought Tilla to meet his family.

But the reception there is not what Ruso has hoped for: no one will admit to sending for him, and his brother Lucius is hoping he’ll leave. With Tilla getting icy greetings from his relatives, Lucius’s brother-in-law mysteriously drowned at sea, and the whole Ruso family teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, it’s hard to imagine an unhappier reunion. That is, until Severus, the family’s chief creditor, winds up dead, and the real trouble begins…

Engrossing, intricate, and—as always—wonderfully comic, Ruth Downie’s latest is a brilliant new instalment in this irresistible series. This is everything we’ve come to expect from our charming, luckless hero.

Favourite Quote

“Anyway,” continued Cass, “I can’t pray to Christos.  You’ll have to do it.  You’re not married.”

“Does that matter?”

“Christos’ followers are supposed to obey their husbands.”

Review

This book was enjoyable to read and well-written, full of engaging characters and entertaining storylines.  My favourite character has to be Tilla.  She is simply fantastic: brave, unrepentant, compassionate, and independent. And poor Ruso – he has so much to put up with, and things just keep getting worse for him.

I guessed the culprit but not the ending.  Indeed, towards the latter part of the book, I was driven to keep reading by a need to find out just how the story would conclude.

I liked the author’s style of writing; fairly short chapters that mostly end with a new twist or turn in the plot.  This gave the story a good pace and instilled in me an insatiable desire to read just one more chapter, then another, then another…more or less until I finished the book.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy their historical fiction set in the ancient Roman world, and, if you love Lindsey Davis’ Falco series, I think you will love this one too.

Rating

Book Review: A Dreadful Penance by Jason Vail

A Dreadful Penance is the third book in the Stephen Attebrook Mysteries by Jason vail

Summary (from back of book)

November 1262 is an unlikely season for war.  But war nonetheless is coming to the March, the wild borderland between England and Wales.  Not the war that most fear between the supporters of the King and the rebellious barons uniting around Simon de Montfort, but with Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, the Welsh warlord who styles himself Prince of Wales and who has united the fractious tribes of his land against the English.

The English are uncertain, however, where and when the blow will fall.  So, Sir Geoffrey Randall, coroner of Herefordshire, dispatches his deputy, the impoverished knight Stephen Attebrook, to the border town of Clun to make contact with a spy in order to learn Llewelyn’s plans.

At the same time, Randall directs Attebrook to investigate the murder of a monk found dead in his bed at the Augustine priory of St. George at Clun.

The assignment casts Attebrook into the middle of a desperate feud between the priory and the lord of Clun and reveals a forbidden love that can only result in suffering and death.

Favourite Quote

Although he could not help looking clownish – a little round man with his head wrapped in linen who could barely keep his place upon his mule – any fool was dangerous with a sword.

Review

This is the first book I have read in the Stephen Attebrook Mysteries and I loved it.  I have added the other books to my TBR list, but this novel works well as a standalone.  The author provides enough information on what has gone before to ensure the reader can, not only keep up with the storyline, but enjoy it also without feeling like they needed to have read the first two books before this one.

Stephen Attebrook is an interesting character.  I like his fairly abrasive personality and the antagonistic camaraderie he shared with Gilbert Wistwode,a clerk also in the employ of Sir Geoffrey Randall.

I thought the story was a little slow to get going at first, but a couple of chapters in and the pace and the drama suddenly picked up.  What followed was an entertaining, gripping read, that I struggled to put down.  The historical detail was fascinating, with sufficient depth to bring the time and place to life.  The only thing I didn’t like was that I felt the ending was too abrupt.

I am eager to read more of this series, and would recommend this books to anyone who has an interest in the Marches during the medieval period and to those who enjoy historical fiction in general.

Rating

Book Review: The Case of the Bygone Brother by Diane Burton

The Case of the Bygone Brother is the first book in the Alex O’Hara series by Diane Burton

Summary (from Goodreads)

After taking over O’Hara Palzetti, Confidential Investigations from her dad and his partner, Alex O’Hara’s bottom line has taken a plunge. So when a femme fatale offers her the case of a lifetime along with a huge advance, Alex sees her finances on a definite upswing. But someone doesn’t want her to find the long-lost brother. Complicating matters is the return of Alex’s old heartthrob, Nick Palzetti. Is he really there just to see her or does he have an ulterior motive? The Lake Michigan resort town of Fair Haven is abuzz with the news that O’Hara Palzetti are together again.

Favourite Quote

While my cheeks burned at the memory of that unwanted kiss, I silently cursed my fair Irish complexion.  Genetics betrayed me every time.  “Knuckle-dragger is right,” I said.  “I guess you didn’t stay long enough to see me deck him.”

Review

This is an entertaining little read; romance, suspense, humour, danger…it has everything an interesting cosy mystery needs.

I liked both Alex O’Hara and Nick Palzetti.  She’s determined to make it on her own and is a right little miss independent, while he just wants to protect her and keep her safe.  So, of course, this creates a great deal of tension between the main characters.

The pace felt a little off (too fast) towards the end but throughout the rest of the book, the story moved along at a good pace.  There were enough plot twists and turns to keep me wondering what was going to happen next.  Fair Haven was the perfect setting for this story, with it’s small shops and people who know everyone else (and everyone else’s business).  There were a number of references, especially close to the beginning that were reminiscent of old-school detective novels, which I found charming.

The second book in the series is The Case of the Fabulous Fiance, which sounds just as entertaining as the first.

Rating

I read The Case of the Bygone Brother by Diane Burton via Wattpad

Book Review: Shadow of Doubt by Linda Poitevin

Summary (from Wattpad)

When police officer Kate Dexter runs over a man on a dark country road, the last thing she expects to discover is that he’s also been shot. Unable to get help because of the storm that caused the accident in the first place, she takes the unconscious stranger to her family’s farm, intending to alert the local authorities.

Then Jonas Burke regains consciousness, and his shocking blue eyes and incredible story give her pause. Is he the victim of the conspiracy he claims? Or is he the dirty cop-turned-murderer that’s the subject of a Canada-wide warrant?

With a manhunt underway for the fugitive she’s now harboring, Kate finds herself torn between career and instinct. Even as everything cop in her insists she turn him over, her heart tells her he’s innocent…but can she trust a heart that’s gone as rogue as the cop she may be falling for?

Favourite Quote

The gesture of familiarity twisted through Jonas with all the subtlety of a prison-made shank.

Review

This was one of those books where, on reaching the end of the chapter, I found myself saying, “Just one more”.  Again and again and again.  I just couldn’t stop reading until I reached the end.

The story, set in Canada and then the United States, is told from the perspectives of both Kate Dexter and Jonas Blake.  Their characters are so different from each other that you are pulled along by their toing-and-froing, and the tension between them was palpable throughout. I also liked Todd Jennings, Dexter’s partner.

There is plenty of action in this story, and so many twists and turns to keep you wondering where the next threat is going to come from.  After all, the odds are stacked against them from the start. The pace of the story was just right; fast enough to keep the reader engage but not so fast that they got lost.

As I read, I could clearly envisage each place Dexter and Blake visited.  From the country road where the story began, to the dark alleys, diners and motels that they called into.  The ending wasn’t unexpected, but I was kept guessing as to how the story was going to get there, which made for a fresh and captivating read.

This is one of the best books I’ve read on Wattpad, and I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially to those who like their crime novels to have a romantic suspense element to them.  I will certainly be reading more by this author, without a doubt.

Rating

4.5 / 5

I found Shadow of Doubt by Linda Poitevin on Wattpad.