Book Review: Last Tango in Aberystwyth by Malcolm Pryce

Last Tango in Aberystwyth is the second book in the Aberystwyth Noir series by Malcolm Pryce.

Summary (from back of book)

To the girls who come to make it big in the ‘What the Butler Saw’ movie industry, Aberystwyth is the town of broken dreams.  To Dean Morgan who teaches at the Faculty of Undertaking, it is just a place to get course materials.  But both worlds collide when the Dean checks into the notorious bed and breakfast ghetto – a dark labyrinth of Druid speakeasies and toffee-apple dens – and receives a suitcase intended for a ruthless Druid assassin.  Suddenly he is running for his life, his heart hopelessly in thrall to a porn star known as Judy Juice.  Once again, Louie Knight, the town’s only private eye, steps into the moral netherworld to make sense of it all.  He knows that in order to find the Dean, he has to discover what was in the Druid’s case.  It turns out to be something so evil it makes even the hard-boiled gumshoe gasp…

Favourite Quote

It was so hard to pick just the one…

The enamel hot dog sign squeaking in the wind, the doors banging and the newspaper gusting across the cheap concrete crazy paving lent a strange unsettling air to the place.


I love this series.  It’s different, very quirky and like nothing else I have read.  If I had to sum up the series in one sentence…”A fast-paced, dark humoured, surreal hard-boiled detective series that is wonderfully set in an alternative Aberystwyth.”

The surrealism comes from taking everything that makes a classic hard-boiled detective story, giving them a Welsh twist before placing it in the quiet seaside university town of Aberystwyth.  And it works so well.  I struggle to put these books down once I start reading them.

As for this instalment in the series, it was as good, if not better than book one, Aberystwyth Mon Amor (which I reviewed here back in 2015).  Again there is plenty of witty dialogue, plot twists and comedy, but the author is also capable of writing some quite heartfelt passages too, which brings balance to the story.

Many of the characters have returned for book two (Aberystwyth is a small town).  Some favourites include Calamity, Louie’s wheeler-dealing teenage partner and Sospan the ice cream seller (who is equated with the ready-to-listen barman in the usual hard boiled detective stories).  But there are plenty of new characters too, keeping the plot fresh and interesting.

All-in-all, a truly imaginative series that I’m enjoying re-reading so much.



Short Story Review: The Adventure of The Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet is the eleventh story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.


A strange looking man appears at Baker Street in a state, in desperate need of the help of Sherlock Holmes.  His name is Alexander Holder,and he’s a banker.  The day before he had received a visit from “one of the highest, noble names in England.”  The noble wanted an advance of £50,000 for the duration of a week.  The security he puts up for such a large sum is the Beryl Coronet, one of the greatest treasures in the empire.

Holder decides he cannot leave such a valuable item in the office so takes it home, but some time in the night, the house is burgled, the Coronet goes missing and suspicion falls squarely on Holder’s son.

Favourite Quote

It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.


I found this short story to be interesting and enjoyable.  Holmes takes the information that he is given and, coupled, with facts that he accumulates himself – such as the study of footprints in the snow – proves that not only is the obvious suspect not the guilty party but finds who is really behind the crime (in much the same way as he does in The Boscombe Valley Mystery).

What I’ve noticed that I like about these Sherlock Holmes stories is that just because Holmes can uncover the truth it doesn’t always have to have a neat and tidy ending where the crime / mystery is solved and punishment is duly meted out.  Villains can still escape, and that makes these stories a lot more like real-life.



Book Review: Quarantine by Jim Crace

Summary (from back of book)

Hell is other people…

Two thousand years ago four travellers enter the Judean desert to fast and pray for their lost souls.  In the blistering heat and barren rocks they encounter the evil merchant Musa – madman, sadist, rapist, even a Satan – who holds them in his tyrannical power.  Yet there is also another, a faint figure in the distance, fasting for forty days, a Galilean who they say has the power to work miracles…Here, trapped in the wilderness, their terrifying battle for survival begins…

Favourite Quote

It was bewitched by her already, if that is possible, if the land can be allowed a heart.


Quarantine tells a different story of the forty days Jesus spent fasting and praying in the desert.  In this version, Jesus is not the son of God, but rather an ordinary son of a carpenter with a religious fervour unmatched by those around him.  So, he goes off into the desert to become closer to God.  However, he is not at the centre of the story, merely a figure who is present, seen most often through the eyes of the other characters, and in relation to their own personal reason that drove them out to the desert.

These other characters are diverse and richly drawn.  Musa, the greedy merchant and devil of the story, is chief among them.  He is a horrible, horrible person (this we know from the back of the book) but there are some passages in the story that outline his evil nature that make for unpleasant reading.  And yet, so well-written is the story, it won’t stop you from reading on, although I must say that I couldn’t sit and read long passages of the book in one go, at least, not until the end, when I couldn’t put the book down.

The descriptions of the desert are rich and detailed, and at particular points in the narrative, the desert almost feels like another character.  The style in which the story is told, and the language that is used, give Quarantine a vague, dream-like, poetic quality.  That vagueness seeps into the story, leaving open questions as to Jesus’ divinity but at the same time making the reader think and wonder…

Quarantine is an interesting, imaginative book.


Short Story Review: The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor is the tenth story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.


Lord Robert St. Simon seeks Sherlock Holmes’ help in the disappearance of his wife, Hatty Doran, on their wedding day.  It is after the wedding, at the reception, when she goes missing.  Just prior to the wedding breakfast, a disturbance is caused by a woman who says she has a claim upon Lord St. Simon.  The matter appears to be dealt with, but the bride leaves early and retires to her room.  And yet, she is almost immediately seen leaving the house, after which no-one sees her again.

What has happened to her?  Where has she gone?  And most importantly, why did she leave in the first place?

Favourite Quote

Still, jealousy is a strange transformer of characters.


An interesting, if not the most memorable story in the collection.  The story centres around a fairly common practice of the time: English noble strapped for cash marries wealthy American in search of title.  Of course, this isn’t a love match, but neither does anyone expect the bride to disappear right after the ceremony.

One of the entertaining highlights of the story is the verbal sparring between Lestrade and Holmes.  On the one hand the Scotland Yard detective’s assumption sounds reasonable, even logical, but Sherlock is quick to point out the error of his ways.

There are enough clues littered throughout the story for the reader to figure this mystery out (which I did) before the answer is revealed, which is half the fun.


Book Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season is the first book in the series of the same name by Samantha Shannon.

Summary (from Goodreads)

The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

Favourite Quote

Nothing’s worse than a story without an end.


Hmm.  I really really wanted to like this book. The truth is I didn’t like the first half but enjoyed the second, and that makes it quite hard to review.  When reading the first half, I struggled to pick the book up, but, for the second half of the book I struggled to put it down.

What didn’t I like about the first half?  There was too much information about the world the story was set it, and that made it clunky to read and slow going.  At times I felt like I was wading through detail, description and definitions to get to the story.

What did I like about the second half?  I’m not sure that the second half of book was any easier to read or any lighter on detail, but the storyline did pick up and that helped both the flow of the plot and its pace.  The characters really came into their own (I especially liked Nick, Liss and Julian), there was a lot of action, and the ending was good and worth the effort of working through the slower passages.

If the world-building information had been lighter and perhaps more subtly incorporated into the story, I think this book would have been fantastic.  I understand that as the first book set in this world enough information has to be offered to the reader so they can understand what is going on but it felt unnecessarily complicated.

There is, however, no arguing with the fact that the author possesses a great imagination.  The parts I enjoyed, I really enjoyed.

Will I read the second book in the series, The Mime Order?  Yes, I think I would.

There is a lot to get to grips with in The Bone Season; the cast of characters is vast and there is a lot of terminology that is used throughout (there is a glossary to accompany the story).  If you like to become completely immersed in a fantasy / future world, then you will enjoy the level of detail in this book.


As for the rating, I would have given the first half no more than 2 /5, and the second half 4/5, so 3/5 seems like a pretty fair score.


The unexpected break at Sammi Loves Books is over…(updates)

Wow – I can’t believe it’s March already!  That was a surprisingly long and unexpected break from Sammi Loves Books (and everywhere else where I blog and write online, for that matter).  Anyway, now that the break is over, I can wish you a Happy New Year! 🙂

Goodreads Challenge 2018

Just because I haven’t been posting doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading.  After cramming all those last minute reviews in at the end of 2017 to hit my Goodreads challenge goal (which I did – Yay!), for 2018 I’ve lowered my target from 57 to 40 and I’m already about 15 titles in.  All I have to do is now start reviewing them and adding them to my Goodreads ‘read’ shelf and we’re away…

Blogging Schedule

I have a new schedule for posting on this blog in 2018, which comes into effect this week.  Tuesdays and Thursdays will be the days I publish book reviews and other related posts.  Of course, this is only a rough schedule; some weeks I may have to deviate from it but I am going to try as hard as possible to stick to it.

One Turn of The Wheel

Since last posting, my copies of my first book arrived in the post.  The book is called One Turn of The Wheel and is published by Three Drops Press.  You can find out more about the book by heading over to the publisher’s website (click the link below) where you will also find one of the tiny tales, The Goblin Dance, available to read.

One Turn of the Wheel by Sammi Cox

Review Requests

If you are waiting for a response to a review request, I hope to get back to you by the end of the week.  If you don’t hear from me by the start of the weekend, feel free to send me a gentle reminder to make sure I got it 🙂

Happy reading!

Short Story Review: The Adventures of the Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of The Engineer’s Thumb is the ninth story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle


An injured man finds his way to Dr Watson’s surgery.  His thumb has been cut off.  Dr Watson, as he is treating him, asks how the rather strange injury came about.  When the man, Mr Hatherley, replies, he suggests they go and speak to Sherlock Holmes.  They soon learn that Mr Hatherley was engaged by a strange man to go and fix a hydraulic stamping machine somewhere in the middle of the English countryside.  He is to be paid well for his efforts, but things are not quite right.  Why is the commission top secret?  And why does a woman try to persuade him to leave as soon as he arrives?  Sherlock Holmes after hearing the bizarre story, naturally takes the case to find out these answers and more.

Favourite Quote

Sherlock Holmes was, as I expected, lounging about his sitting-room in his dressing-gown, reading the agony column of The Times and smoking his before-breakfast pipe, which was composed of all the plugs and dottles left from his smokes of the day before, all carefully dried and collected on the corner of the mantelpiece.


Another riveting Sherlock Holmes mystery.  This is another one that I couldn’t quite crack, though there are plenty of clues along the way.

There is a lot more drama in this story that the other ones I have so far read, in my opinion.  And reading of the close call Mr Hatherley has whilst he is at the isolated house raises the tension a lot.  It’s also a little more gory than the other short stories thanks to the passage where Dr Watson is treating the damaged hand of Mr Hatherley.

A great story, and a interesting read.