Book Review: A Body at Book Club by Elizabeth Spann Craig

A Body at Book Club is the sixth book in the Myrtle Clover Mysteries by Elizabeth Spann Craig.

Quick Review (read on for the full review)

Loved it.  A great cosy mystery, with quirky characters and lots of humour.  Myrtle is fantastic. 5/ 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

This is one book club meeting that doesn’t go by the book.

When octogenarian sleuth Myrtle Clover discovers Naomi Pelter’s dead body during a book club meeting, the other members seem shocked. But Myrtle can read between the lines. Naomi had riled everyone up by flirting with other people’s husbands, arguing with neighbors, and generally making a nuisance of herself. Murdering troublemakers is the oldest trick in the book.

The book club members seem too sweet to be killers, but Myrtle knows better than to judge books by their covers. Myrtle’s investigation into the murder will take a more novel approach than her police chief son’s by-the-book methods. Can Myrtle and her widower sidekick uncover the killer…before he writes them off for good?

Favourite Quote

“Marathon?  For heaven’s sake, Miles.  Have you been drinking?  I’m in my eighties.  The only time you’re going to catch me running is if something really scary is chasing me.  Even then, I’ll probably just give in.’

Review

It was last Indie Only Month that I came across the wonderful Myrtle Clover Mysteries.  Very quickly the series worked its way into my favourite top five cosy mystery list. And, I think this might just be my favourite book in the series yet – but I’ve loved them all so it’s hard to tell 🙂  I do think this might be the funniest though.  Let’s get to the review proper…

First off – it’s all about Myrtle – she’s fabulous!  (As is Pasha the feral cat).  Mrytle might be in her eighties but that doesn’t stop her sleuthing.  I’m surprised she gets invited anywhere in Bradley anymore because wherever she goes someone always turns up dead.  But, I suppose at least she has the good grace to find out who the murder is.  Her neighbour Miles makes a great sidekick and Wanda the psychic is a hoot with the cryptic warnings and riddles she passes on to Myrtle.

For this mystery, I didn’t guess who the murderer was until just before the reveal, which always makes for a satisfying read. The book moves at a fairly rapid pace and the ending is just perfect for this story.  The dialogue is witty and realistic and the characters interact so well together.

If you enjoy cosy mysteries full of quirky characters and humour, I can’t recommend this series to you highly enough.  There is a high possibility that I might have to read another book in the series this month…

Rating

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Book Review: The Book With No Name by Anonymous

The Book With No Name is the first book in the Bourbon Kid series by Anonymous.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A thoroughly fun and entertaining read, with a plot that twists and turns and keeps you guessing right to the very end.  Great stuff!  4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Detective Miles Jensen is called to the lawless town of Santa Mondega to investigate a spate of murders. This would all be quite ordinary in those rough streets, except that Jensen is the Chief Detective of Supernatural Investigations. The breakneck plot centers around a mysterious blue stone — The Eye of the Moon—and the men and women who all want to get their hands on it: a mass murderer with a drinking problem, a hit man who thinks he’s Elvis, and a pair of monks among them. Add in the local crime baron, an amnesiac woman who’s just emerged from a five-year coma, a gypsy fortune teller, and a hapless hotel porter, and the plot thickens fast. Most importantly, how do all these people come to be linked to the strange book with no name? This is the anonymous, ancient book that no one seems to have survived reading. Everyone who has ever read it has been murdered. What can this mean?

Favourite Quote

‘Cross my palm with a twenty-dollar bill and I shall reveal your destiny.’

What happened to silver? Dante thought…

Review

When I reached the last paragraph of this book, hope swelled within me.  The book ended with question, leaving the reader to wonder if this was indeed the end of the story. You know the type…This is the end…or is it?  I desperately hoped not.  When I learned there were in fact more instalments to read, I was so very, very happy.  As I’m sure you can tell. 🙂

As soon as I saw this book I was intrigued.  Curiosity piqued, I wondered at the title or lack there of, and then I wondered some more at the author deciding to publish under the name “Anonymous”.  It didn’t taken long for me to realise I needed to read this.

This is highly imaginative storytelling, with a plethora of characters to keep you entertained (see the summary above for a brief cast list). The pace is fast, as one plot twist occurs after another.  There is plenty of action, and plenty of gore also – something I’m not usually a fan of, but here it seemed to work.

The story is told from several points of view, allowing us glimpses of all that is going on in Santa Mondega.  You won’t like many of the characters – I’m not sure you’re supposed to – but you may find yourself laughing at some of the things that happen in the story.

There are elements from a number of different genres, including horror, the paranormal / supernatural, fantasy, westerns, crime and mystery but somehow the auther has managed to weave them all together into a cohesive whole. I guessed some of the plot twists but there were still plenty I did not see coming.

A thoroughly fun and entertaining read.  I am excited to read book two in the series, The Eye of the Moon.

Rating

Book Review: The Mask of Troy by David Gibbins

The Mask of Troy is the fifth book by David Gibbins to feature Jack Howard.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An imaginative story containing some interesting passages and characters, but tempered by the inclusion of some heavy, lengthy descriptions. Well worth the read, if only for the ancient history and archaeology.  3 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Greece. 1876. Heinrich Schliemann, the great archaeologist, raises the Mask of Agamemnon and makes a mind-blowing discovery. Determined to keep it a secret until the time is right, he then dies.

Germany. 1945. The liberation of a concentration camp reveals clues to lost antiquities stolen by the Nazis. But the operation is covered up after a deadly secret surfaces. Northern Aegean.

Present day. Marine archaeologist Jack Howard discovers a shipwreck, part of the war fleet of Agamemnon, king of the Greeks, and soon becomes embroiled in a desperate chase across Europe against a ruthless enemy…

Favourite Quote

The air had been cleansed by the rain, but the smells were rising again: rosemary, thyme, the sweet ether that seemed to float above these ancient sites, an exhalation from history too powerful to be washed away by a transient act of nature.

Review

I really enjoyed parts of this book.  It was interesting to read about marine / underwater archaeology and the complexities involved, such as tidal patterns and how these effect not only working conditions while excavating but also how they can alter the appearance of the context in which artefacts are found. However, there are lengthy technical descriptions which were a little harder to read, which affected the pace of the book.

I liked the historical aspect of the storyline (both real and fictional), in terms of the discussions on ancient Troy, Mycenae and Homer and the mystery surrounding Heinrich Schliemann’s behaviour in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  But I found the Nazi story thread too much.  I understand why it was there: to create the thriller / mystery part of the book, but still.

As for the characters, I liked them, though the cast seemed extensive.  Jack Howard was interesting (though the other characters had a tendency to go on about how great he was). Costas Kanzantzakis made a great side-kick (I think he was my favourite character).  Professor James Dillon had the air of the aging adventurer about him.  Rebecca I wasn’t sure about; I liked her but found the things she got up to a little far-fetched for a 17 year old.

The author’s passion for the subjects involved is clear and obvious to the reader.  However, the heaviness of some passages does impact on the book’s pace, hence the rating.  So, a bit of a mixed review, but well worth the read if only for the ancient history and archaeology.

Rating

 

Book Review: Others by James Herbert


Quick Review (read on for full review)

An original, dark and disturbing horror story on the theme of redemption.  Atmospheric, chilling and not for the faint of heart.  4 /5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Nicholas Dismas is a Private Investigator, but like no other that has gone before him. He carries a secret about himself to which not even he has the answer . . .

He is hired to find a missing baby. One that was taken away at birth . . . Or was it?

His investigation takes him to a mysteriously located place called Perfect Rest. It is supposed to be a nursing home for the elderly . . . But is it?

Here Dismas will discover the dark secret of the Others. And in an astonishing and spectacular finale he will resolve the enigma of his own existence . . .

Favourite Quote

Beggars, beaches, bitches and batty old ladies – the images spun round my mind like a carousel filled with harpies.

Review

I’m a big fan of James Herbert and have read many of his books over recent years.  There is something about his writing that captures the “creepiness” factor that not all horror writers can achieve, whilst at the same time wrapping it up in a story you actually what to get to the end of.

This is one of those books.

Others follows the life of Nicholas Dismas, a hunchbacked private investigator based in Brighton.  When he’s asked to find a client’s missing baby, little did he know where the case would lead.  The strange mystery slowly transforms into an even stranger supernatural tale.

The characters really make this story work.  Dis is a complex character as he struggles to deal with his own personal demons whilst at the same time, having people look to him to as a hero after a lifetime of having strangers think of him as a monster simply because of the way he looks.  Constance Bell, who works at Perfect Rest (the world’s creepiest nursing home), and Louise Broomfield a Brighton-based clairvoyant, are both interesting, engaging characters, that work well with Dis.

There’s a terribly sad undercurrent to this story; I won’t say any more for fear of giving too much away.  It is dark tale, with dark and disturbing passages, some of which make for uncomfortable reading, given the author’s powerful imagination and ever greater power of description.

I thought the opening was very clever.  Herbert lets the reader know from the off that this is a tale of redemption so we are clued in whilst the characters are not.  Instead of this tactic revealing too much, what it does do is heighten the tension when strange and supernatural things start to happen.

I didn’t find this to be a quick read.  The story unfolds slowly and the pace is fairly moderate until you reach the last 150 pages or so.  That is why I rated it four stars and not the full five.

The final sentence of Herbert’s End Note (which makes for interesting / surprising / sad reading in its entirety) reads, “I sincerely hope you have been disturbed.”  Quite!

Rating

Book Review: The Intruders by Michael Marshall

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A cleverly written psychological thriller with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing.  3.5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Taut, menacing, sinister, gripping, intelligent, action-packed – everything you could want from a thriller.
When ex-LAPD patrol cop Jack Whalen’s wife goes missing on a routine business trip to Seattle, his world is shaken.

Meanwhile, a ten-year-old girl vanishes from a beach in Oregon after an encounter with a sinister stranger – but it gradually becomes clear that she’s very far from defenceless.

Searching for answers in the shadowy secrets of a past that still haunts him, Jack discovers that the truth has roots deeper and darker than he ever feared.

Favourite Quote

Other people’s working spaces are like the ruins of lost civilisations.

Review

This is not the first book I have read by Michael Marshall.  Last year I read Blood of Angels (you can read the review here), the final instalment in The Straw Men trilogy, which I read as a standalone.  I enjoyed it enough to seek out more by the author, which is how I came to read The Intruders.

This was an interesting, original psychological thriller, with elements of the supernatural, horror and crime fiction, reminding me a bit of The X-Files.  It’s cleverly written in such a way as you don’t really know what exactly is going on until the mystery is revealed later in the book, and yet there is so much story unfolding that you don’t necessarily notice.  There are plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing as to what is going to happen next.  It was interesting to see how the strange, diverse storylines were going to be pulled together.

I wasn’t struck on many of the characters, but surprisingly this wasn’t an issue that prevented me from enjoying the book.  To me, the story – and the mystery – took precedence.  I also wasn’t keen on the ending of the story, yet I can see why the book ended the way it did.

What I really liked about the story was that it were some great turns of phrase woven into the narrative, my favourite being the quote above.

Rating.

3.5 / 5

Book Review: The Anatomist’s Apprentice by Tessa Harris

The Anatomist’s Apprentice is the first book in the Dr Thomas Silkstone series by Tessa Harris.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Dr. Silkstone is an interesting character and the mystery isn’t too bad either.  I will be reading more of these books.  3.5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

The death of Lord Edward Crick has unleashed a torrent of gossip through the seedy taverns and elegant ballrooms of Oxfordshire. Few mourn the dissolute young man-except his sister, the beautiful Lady Lydia Farrell. When her husband comes under suspicion of murder, she seeks expert help from Dr. Thomas Silkstone, a young anatomist and pioneering forensic detective from Philadelphia.

Thomas arrived in England to study under its foremost surgeon, the aging Dr. Carruthers, and finds his unconventional methods and dedication to the grisly study of anatomy only add to his outsider status. Against his better judgment he agrees to examine Sir Edward’s decomposing corpse, examining his internal and external state, as well as the unusual behavior of those still living in the Crick household.

Thomas soon learns that it is not only the dead but also the living to whom he must apply the keen blade of his intellect. And the deeper the doctor’s investigations go, the greater the risk that he will be consigned to the ranks of the corpses he studies.

Favourite Quote

A good corpse is like a fine fillet of beef, the master would say – tender to the touch and easy to slice.

Review

First impressions: The front cover grabbed my attention immediately.  Then, as I read the back cover, I thought the story sounded very interesting.  According to the acknowledgements in the front of the book, it was inspired by a murder trial at the Warwick Assizes in 1781 during which an anatomist was called to give evidence for the first time (that we know of).  However, this is not the fictionalised version of that case.  The case in question is entirely fictional.

The Anatomist’s Apprentice is Dr. Thomas Silkstone.  I think the title is a little misleading because by the time the book is set, the doctor is no longer an apprentice.  That being said, it does sound good, doesn’t it?  As soon as we meet him, we are introduced to his work.  There are passages within the story that are not for the faint-hearted – or those who like to eat their lunch whilst reading.  The reason for this is that we are given some very graphic details about the work and experiments of Dr. Silkstone in his capacity as an anatomist.  (See above quote).

Dr Silkstone, along with his work, is interesting and engaging, and makes for a very good main character.  However, a number of the other characters were a little flat, my least favourite being the Lady Lydia, who spent most of her time looking beautiful whilst being confused or upset.  Also, I felt some of the other characters didn’t read as consistent.

One of the highlights of the book was the level of detail the reader is given.  Places jump off the page so you can easily visualise where the characters are, and the author doesn’t shy away from darker topics: the grim reality of life at the time and the cost that must be paid for scientific breakthroughs.  I did find the pace a little slow in places and I wasn’t particularly bothered by the romance – it didn’t feel like an integrated part of the plot.

On the whole though, I did enjoy it and would read more books from this series.

Rating

3.5 / 5

Short Story Review: Eye Witness by Ellis Peters

Eye Witness is the third and final short story in the collection, A Rare Benedictine by Ellis Peters.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

 An enjoyable, quick read that sees Cadfael tackle a mystery with his usual style of logic, observation and a keen understanding people.  A perfectly cosy, comfort read.  4.5 / 5

Summary

The yearly rents are due for collection from all the properties owned by Shrewsbury Abbey.  The monk whose job it is to oversee and collect these monies, Brother Ambrose, is sick in the infirmary, and so the task must fall to another, William Rede.  The job is a difficult one, but he also has problems closer to home.  His son, Eddi, is a “brawler and a gamester”.  When he racks up debts, he expects his father to pay them, but not this time.  William Rede has decided enough is enough.

The following day, Madog of the Dead-Boat pulls a man out of the River Severn, still alive but in a bad way.  The man is William Rede and the Abbey rents have been stolen.

Cadfael will have to use all at his disposal to not only help William Rede recover, but also to find out if the victim’s son is really as guilty as he looks…

Favourite Quote

“Now William,” he said tolerantly, “if you can’t comfort, don’t vex.”

Review

Although this is only a short story, it is packed with as much story as one of the full length Cadfael novels.  This means that although you may have your suspicions as to who is the culprit, you are not quite sure until you reach the end.

It is a well-thought out mystery that Cadfael tackles with his usual style of logic, observation and a keen understanding of people.  He is not going to make the same mistake as others in jumping to the wrong – and the easiest – conclusion.

As the final story in this collection it is perfect, showing each side to Cadfael’s personality – the healer, the mystery solver, the sympathetic, compassionate man who understands both the problems of real life and a life hidden away from the world.  By the end of Eye Witness, and thus A Rare Benedictine, we see that Cadfael is not only settled in his new life, but enjoying it.  We also see the sleuth he is to become.

This collection makes the perfect prequel to the novels.  If you’ve read the longer stories but not these, I recommend you do.

Rating

4.5 / 5