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.

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.