Book Review: Inquisition by Alfredo Colitto

Summary:

Bologna, 1311. Mondino de Liuzzi, a well-known physician is staying late at the university where he teaches.  This is nothing unusual for he often stays late in order to secretly study corpses in an effort to understand as much as he can about the human body.  When a surprise knock on the door disturbs him, he answers it to find one of his students holding the body of a murdered friend.

The victim: a Templar knight.  But what is striking is that there is something very unnatural about the dead body: his heart has been turned to iron.

Mondino’s curiosity is piqued.  How could a human heart be transformed into a solid block of iron?  Is it alchemy?  In order to find out, he is going to have to help a wanted man catch the murderer and in so doing, go up against a dangerous and ambitious Inquisitor…

Favourite Quote:

It was clear to his scientific mind that the transformation of Angelo da Piczano’s heart was not the result of the shadowy spell of a witch, but the much more concrete art of alchemy.

Review:

A few times I’ve had trouble reading books that have been translated into English; they can lack fluidity, creating jarring sentences that inhibit the pace of the story.  Inquisition was translated by Sophie Henderson, and in my opinion, she has done a fantastic job.  It was so well translated that, if it hadn’t been for the brief mention of it at the start of the book, I would never have guessed.

Fourteenth century Italy was vividly brought to life as I worked my way through the story.  Mondino de Liuzzi is an engaging character; he has an interesting job as a physician teaching at a university at a time when science and religion are at loggerheads.  He is a complex character that finds himself in a very difficult, and very dangerous, position.  And as he tries to unravel the mystery of the iron heart, he has much more to contend with.  The rest of the cast are just as well thought out and believable as Mondino, and like the scientist, have their own secrets and agendas, making this a fast-paced, gripping read.

Filled with action and drama, secrets and revenge, Inquisition is a suspenseful read which held my attention from the very first page.  A number of times I wondered how the characters were going to get out of the situations they found themselves in, and there were more than a handful of twists and turns to keep me guessing.  I also thought the ending was clever.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  I recommend it to those interested in any of the following: the history of fourteenth century Europe, the early days of modern science, the Knights Templar and the Inquisition.

Rating:

Short Story Review: Death in the Kitchen by Milward Kennedy

great-crime-stories-front-cover

Summary:

Rupert Morrison is fed up with being blackmailed by George Manning so sets out to put a stop to it once and for all.  The only problem is, when consumed with plotting the perfect murder, in the hope you might get away with it, there is always one thing that has been overlooked…

Favourite Quote:

He glanced round the little kitchen, deliberately looking at the figure which lay huddled on the floor; huddled but yet in an attitude which Morrison hoped was as natural as its unnatural circumstances would permit.  For the head was inside the oven of the rusty-looking gas-stove.

Review:

This is the first work by Milward Kennedy that I have read, and I really enjoyed it.  At only four pages long, this short story is a very short story.  However, it does manage to pack a lot into it and the twist at the end – which I did not see coming at all – was fantastic.

I would recommend this story to those who enjoy their crime stories set during the first half of the twentieth century, as well as to those who are learning how to write a convincing, concise crime story.

Rating:

three-stars

I found Death in the Kitchen by Milward Kennedy in Great Crime Stories by Chancellor Press.

Book Review: The Camelot Code by Sam Christer

the-camelot-code-front-coverWhen an antiques dealer turns up murdered in his shop in Maryland, the local police calls in some expert help in the form of Mitzi Fallon, who has just started her new job with the FBI’s Historical, Religious and Unsolved Crimes Unit, based in San Francisco.  The antiques dealer had had a valuable Celtic cross stolen from him, and so begins a journey that will take Fallon on a journey that is more dangerous than she could have ever guessed and leading her to a secret she will never believe…

I was unsure of picking up this thriller when I first saw it.  I have a keen interest in Arthurian myths and I couldn’t help but wonder if this story would read as silly.  However, for the most part, I was wrong.  The actual story line was very good and the characters engaging, although, naturally with a story like this you have to suspend disbelief.  After all, contemporary thrillers are not fantasy and it is hard to make the fantastical believable in the every day world.

But, that being said, I was very quickly drawn into the story of Mitzi Fallon.  She was an interesting if flawed character which made it easy to relate to her and want her to succeed.  She was strong, independent, but with a well-defined mothering instinct.  Irish was also an interesting character as was Sir Owain Gwyn but there were a handful of minor characters that I found a little annoying.

The story itself is well paced, full of action and suspense, and did a good job of blending the mythical and the modern.  The author very cleverly modernised names for the story, which showed you who they were based on without labouring the point, which would have added in too much backstory and slowed the pace.  I would certainly read more from this author in the future.

Have you read this book?  What did you think to it?

Book Review: Death of a Cad by M.C Beaton

death of a cad by mc beaton front coverDeath of a Cad is the second book in the Hamish Macbeth mystery series by M.C Beaton.

Captain Peter Bartlett is by general consensus, a cad.  Not many people have a good word to say about him – quite the opposite.  Except, he seems to have a way with the ladies.

So when Priscilla Halburton-Smythe returns from London, bringing her fiance, the famous playwright, Henry Withering, home to Lochdubh, her family throw a party and invite a number of people to stay at Tommel Castle.  Only Captain Peter Bartlett turns up murdered…

Can Hamish Macbeth solve the case when it seems nearly everyone at the party detested the man and had a motive to kill?

I love this cosy mystery series.  Hamish Macbeth is a fabulous character and the books are just so easy to read.  Effortless, indeed!

The Highland setting is well-described and the story’s unfolding is easy to visualise.  Lochdubh is the perfect location for a gentle, humourous piece of cosy crime fiction.

M.C. Beaton has a great way of portraying her characters; not too heavy on the detail but provides enough for the reader to get to know them.  This helps when the cast is as vast as the one we see in Death of a Cad.

This is simply a wonderful instalment in a great series.  Death of a Cad is an entertaining read, one that I would recommend to all fans of cosy mysteries.  I can’t wait to read book three in the series, Death of an Outsider.

Book Review: Dark Angels by Grace Monroe

Dark Angels is the first novel by Grace Monroe to feature Brodie McClennan.

Brodie McClennan, a lawyer on the up-and-up, is appointed to defend Kailash Coutts, a well-known prostitute accused of the murder of one of Edinburgh’s most celebrated lawyers, Alistair MacGregor.  It’s not a case that Brodie wants to take on, put she is put under pressure to do so from the bosses in her law firm.

The outcome looks clear, and as Brodie attempts to build a defence case, all she seems to find are riddles and questions she can’t answer.  Even her client doesn’t seem to be co-operating.

However, this case is much more than it seems.  Somehow this murder ties in to a number of unsolved cold cases and the further Brodie delves to uncover the truth, the more dangerous things get, and not just for her.  Powerful people are involved and are doing their best to cover up the past and will stop at nothing to achieve it.

As her friends close ranks around her in attempt to protect her, Brodie realises that only when finds the answers she is looking for will she be safe.

When I first started reading this, I did wonder whether I would finish it.  (It’s not often that I can’t finish a book).  I struggled to connect with both the story and Brodie – though this might have had more to do with me having a cold than anything else.  However, I persevered and I am so glad that I did.  About thirty pages in, I suddenly couldn’t put this book down.  This very dark and disturbing thriller is gripping right to the very end.

Once the story gets going, the pace is immense.  There are so many twists and turns in the storyline, some you might expect, others that you might not.  The atmosphere conjured by Grace Monroe (the writing partnership of Maria Thomson and Linda Watson-Brown) is dark and evocative as we are taken to the extremes of life in Edinburgh.  The characters we meet along the way are memorable and the addition of a historical conspiracy to the novel only further enhances the mysteries that need to be solved.

I would definitely recommend this book to fans of dark thrillers, and I am looking forward to reading the second Brodie McClennan book, Blood Lines.  I am intrigued to find out where Brodie goes from here.

Book Review: The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis

The Silver Pigs is the first book in the Falco series by Lindsey Davis.

It is 70 AD.  Marcus Didius Falco is a private investigator in Rome.  Vespasian has only been emperor a short while, and after the Year of the Four Emperors, the Empire has yet to settle down again.

Whilst in the forum, Falco comes across a young pretty woman on the run from a couple of thugs.  Her name is Sosia Camillina.  Being the gentleman that he is, Falco makes the quick decision to help Sosia.

And so, with this small act begins his involvement in a trade corruption scandal, one that has the highest of ambitions and stretches from the furthest reaches of the Empire to it’s very heart.  Silver pigs from the mines in Britain – a place that Falco does not have fond memories of – have been going missing.  Now they have turned up in Rome.

When someone close to Falco ends up murdered, he is willing to do anything, no matter the cost, to uncover the truth and bring a killer justice…even return to Britannia, where he served his not so glorious stint in the army.  But what will he find when he gets there?

As I mentioned in this review I am currently returning to a few of my favourite book series. The Falco books by Lindsey Davis is one of them. I have absolutely loved each and every one of these books and they certainly get better and better with each re-read.

The Roman world the author describes is vivid and historically accurate.  As we travel across the length and breadth of the Empire – from Rome to the far-flung province of Britannia, we are given an evocative glimpse into the Roman world as it is brought to life with ease and in such a way as to make it accessible to those unfamiliar with this period in history.

Each and every character in the story has depth, and their respective roles and and interactions move fluidly through the story.  The book is peopled with realistic personalities; some you’ll like, some you won’t; some that will become firm favourites.

The Silver Pigs is a story that blends historical detail with tragedy, mystery and humour, weaving a novel that is hard to forget, and one that it’s hard not to get caught up in…a thoroughly mesmerising read…

I can’t recommend this book (or the series) highly enough, and I am looking forward to re-reading book 2, Shadows in Bronze.

Book Review: The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn

The Winter Garden Mystery is the second in the The Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries by Carola Dunn.

Winter has just started to turn to spring and the Honorable Daisy Dalrymple is on her way to Occles Hall in Cheshire for her next article.  The owners of the estate are Lord Reginald and Lady Valeria Parslow, the former being obsessed with the dairy industry and the latter a formidable battle-axe of whom nearly everyone in the county is terrified.  They live there with their two children, Sebastian and Roberta, known as Bobbie.  Daisy went to school with Bobbie and it is through her old school friend that she manages to obtain an invitation to visit and write about the Tudor manor.

But nothing is as it seems – or as Lady Valeria would have people believe – at Occles Hall.  Daisy isn’t long into her stay when the body of the supposed runaway parlour maid, Grace Moss, is accidentally uncovered beneath a flower bed in the Winter Garden.

As secrets are revealed, it quickly becomes clear the net of suspicion must be cast far and wide to ensure that the person responsible for killing Grace doesn’t get away with murder.  And when Scotland Yard are called in, no one, not even Lady Valeria, is above suspicion.

The Winter Garden Mystery is an entertaining cosy mystery, packed full of charm and engaging characters.  The dialogue is witty, the storyline captivating and the language mesmerising.

This second book in the series is an enjoyable easy read, one that will have you wondering just who did kill Grace Moss?

Recommended for fans of cosy mysteries or for those who want a light and entertaining choice for a holiday read.