The Chills Continue

Settle old scores – Or promote healing of old wounds?

Title: Old Scores by Will Thomas

Publisher: Minotaur Press (2017) 294 pp

Genre: mysteries, English mystery, historical mystery, detective fiction

5 stars, highly recommended

Author:

Will Thomas (b 1958) writes an award winning Victorian mystery series featuring Cyrus Barker, a Scottish detective or “private enquiry agent,” and his Welsh assistant, Thomas Llewelyn. The Barker/Llewelyn novels are all set in the 1880s with accurate historical events. Martial arts/ combat is featured throughout the series. Thomas has said that Barker is based on characters such as Richard Francis Burton and Edward William Barton-Wright, founder of Bartitsu (which Thomas also studies).

Previously, Thomas wrote essays for Sherlock Holmes society and lectured on crime fiction of the Victorian era. Thomas’ first novel Some Danger Involved was nominated for a Barry Award and a Shamus Award, and won the 2005 Oklahoma Book Award. The Black Hand was nominated for a 2009 Shamus Award. Fatal Enquiry won the 2015 Oklahoma Book Award. He was a librarian with the Tulsa City-County Library System. Thomas enjoys Rex Stout, author of the Nero Wolfe mysteries. His wife, Julia Thomas, recently published her first mystery, The English Boys (2016) followed by Penhale Wood (2017).

Story:

This is the 9th in the series and provides many answers and background to the previous 8 stories. Barker has always been quite mysterious as an unusual private investigator, as well as dangerous, and has been the cornerstone of this developing series. Llewelyn, witty narrator, provides the engaging and entertaining commentary on 19the century Victorian London. Thomas is a fantastic suspense writer, with attention to detail of class, traditions, culture, lore as well as weaving an intriguing tale of betrayal, secrets, honor and love. This is fast paced prose with fascinating suspects, red herrings and a satisfying conclusion which also hints at a continuing story thread. I read it straight through in a night, and then just reread it several months later, still enjoying and savoring the details.

Read on to Laurie King’s Mary Russell series (Mrs Sherlock Holmes). If you like Sherlock Holmes, this is not a clone as so many are. I also recommend Anthony Horowitz’s Sherlock series. I was surprised to learn of his wife’s two books and can recommend those English mysteries too!

Received as an ARC from netgalley and the publishers. Purchased my own copy, to continue my set.

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Intriguing historical series!

Title: Iron Water (A Victorian Police Procedural) by Chris NicksonPublisher: Severn House 224pp November 2016

Genre: mystery, thriller fiction, historical, English mystery     4.5+ stars

Author: Chris Nickson (b 1954) is a British novelist, music journalist, and biographer who lived in the United States for 30 years before returning home. As a music journalist, he specialized in world and roots music, writing a regular column for Global Rhythm magazine. He wrote The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to World Music. He has written biographies of celebrities including Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Reeve and the late singer-songwriter John Martyn, Solid Air (ebook in June 2011). His first novel, The Broken Token (2010), was set in Leeds in 1731 followed by Cold Cruel Winter, then The Constant Lovers, The Cruel Fear, At the Dying of the Year and Fair and Tender Ladies: these are The Richard Nottingham novels. Then there are the Laura Benton series which take place in Seattle, the Detective Harper late Victorian (1890s) series also in Leeds, and other one-off novels and non-fiction. The audiobook of The Broken Token was named as one of the Audiobooks of the Year for 2012 by The Independent on Sunday.

Story line: I was very excited to discover a new author! This book looked interesting and is a genre I enjoy, but after the first 25 pages I settled in for a wonderful read. And then I discovered this is actually the fourth in a series, which I now must read in order. Gods of Gold is the first volume, followed by Two Bronze Pennies and Skin Like silver. All of his books have been added to my list. I love discovering a new (to me) author and enjoy sharing. Thanks to Netgalley for the chance to read Nickson. What a pleasure to enjoy an intricate plot, wonderful detailed characters, accurate interesting historical detail for an enjoyable afternoon read. These days stories often set your teeth on edge, you encounter graphic sex or violence when you’re not expecting it, editing leaves something to be desired, or…. this didn’t disappoint on any level.

We catch up with Detective Tom Harper witnessing a demonstration of a new naval weapon, the torpedo, in Waterloo Lake (aka Iron Water). Unfortunately a body is dislodged and then dredging operations unearth a women’s leg in the River Aire. Every era and town seems to have a violent criminal underworld. His wife Annabelle is also a suffragist and we see many societal changes including class structure, women’s issues, children. Leeds is a grim dirty industrial city (newly designated) and it’s obvious I have to read his other historical novels of this city. What a pleasure to add him to my winter reading. I eagerly await the next installment 2017, after I finish the rest of the series!

Www.chrisnickson.co.uk

Read on:

Late Victorian detectives: Canadian Det Murdoch (Maureen Jennings), Mary Russell (Laurie King)

Quotes:

But until Mary was born he hadn’t known how loudly his heart could sing. 

Detective Sergeant Ash he was now, promoted the year before and worth his weight in diamonds. He was a natural detective, a man who made connections well, who could think on his feet. Harper had pushed for him to be given his stripes; he deserved them.

He’d been a copper for fourteen years and never had a corpse emerge from the water before. Now there were two in a single morning.

‘Detective Inspector Harper, Leeds City Police.’ He still wasn’t used to the new name of the force.

The file on Archer was almost six inches thick, years of papers piled one on top of the other. The rumour was that he’d committed his first murder when he was just ten; a shopkeeper who clipped him round the ear when he came in and demanded money. No one had ever appeared in court for the death. He’d been arrested and questioned more often than Harper had enjoyed hot dinners.

‘You work out what the truth is,’ Harper told him. ‘That’s what the job is all about.’

‘Ready?’ Harper asked. ‘As I’ll ever be, sir,’ Ash answered. ‘I made out my will a few months ago.’

The sergeant smiled under his moustache. ‘I doubt Charlie Gilmore’s come within shouting distance of the truth since he learned how to talk. But there might have been a few places where he wasn’t lying too much.’

Six dead now. He couldn’t remember another case with so many murdered. And now? There was still one man out there. Morley’s killer. The last man standing. And he didn’t know who that might be.


Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley. Thank you!

TagManII

Title: Presumption of Guilt by Archer MayorPublisher: Minotaur books 305 pp (Sept 2016) 

Genre: mystery, thriller, fiction, series, Joe Gunther. 4.5+ stars

Author: Archer Mayor is a bestselling author of the 27-book police procedural series featuring VPI detective Joe Gunther. After graduating from Yale he wrote historical non fiction. In addition to his writing, Mayor is a death investigator for Vermont’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and a longtime detective for the Windham County Sheriff’s Office. Mayor integrates his actual police experiences which adds depth, detail, and authenticity to his characters and provides rich multilayered plots. He won the New England Independent Booksellers Association Award for Best Fiction–the first time a writer of crime literature was honored. He has also been cited for Excellence in the Arts by the State of Vermont. 

Story line: I have been a fan since the publication of his first novel, and yes, I have them all. In hardback. Living all over the world, each book gave me a fresh current look at home. There is always an excellent ensemble of characters, well loved with growth and scars. It helps to read these in order as each character has an extensive backstory. New faces and the next generation are intriguingly present here. I especially like the realistic, often witty dialogue, the relevant and timely well researched multilayered plots, with a lack of gratuitous sex or violence. Vermont is warmly depicted, Vermonters occasionally hilariously so. Every book is a solid, engaging page turner. I highlighted 50 quotes I wanted to share. It was a fast read, but also had an abrupt ending. I tried to turn the last page three times, expecting, wanting more. I loved Krunkle’s role and the return of TagMan. I’m glad some peace has found Joe.

Read on:

John Sandford Virgil Flowers series, Craig Johnson Walt Longmire series, Dick and Felix Francis, Kathy Reichs, Susan Hill

Quotes:

“Brattleboro? That’s a bar town, not a city. They should call it Dodge and have done with it. We’re going to Keene.”

You’re the flatlander. Bright lights’re like oxygen to you.”

And that meant not just “away,” as many Vermonters called the world beyond their borders.

“Can’t we rule it a suicide?” Willy asked now, looking down at the calcified finger with the ring, still trapped in place. Predictably, Lester laughed, Sam rolled her eyes, and Joe answered evenly, “Probably not, but I like the creative thinking.”

This is sounding like a modern Agatha Christie novel, although I doubt she would’ve used a nuclear reactor as a setting.”

Because to her, Dan Kravitz would forever be his own alter ego: not the menial everyman with an eerie ability to keep clean, but rather what the papers had coined “the Tag Man” a couple of years ago.

Didn’t they do that in a Columbo episode?”

In 1967 and ’68, homicides jumped from four a year to around twenty. The hippie counterculture, the Vietnam War protests, the interstate coming through, unemployment … The population jumped sixty thousand, because of urban flight, at the same time about twenty-five hundred farms went belly-up. This state was reeling, and I’m barely touching the surface.”

“The mere fact you just said so’ll make it happen, oh fearless leader,” Willy said resignedly. “That is the way it works.”

“You are a sweetheart. Never hesitate to call. If I’m in the middle of a gunfight or something, I’ll phone you right back.”

“It’s AA. It’s anonymous.” “It’s Vermont, stupid. There’re twelve people in the whole state. Everybody knows everybody else. Who else was there?

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley, as well as purchased hardcover.

Spooky Books

Title: The Queen’s Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal
Publisher: Bantam, 386 pp October 4, 2016 

Genre: mystery, cozy, English historical, WWII fiction, series

4+ stars

Author: MacNeal is the NYTimes best selling author of the Maggie Hope (#6) series. Her novels have been nominated for many awards, with her first, Mr Churchill’s Secretary winning the Barry award. Her first job was assistant to novelist John Irving, she graduated cum laude and with departmental honors from Wellesley College, cross-registered for courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course at Harvard University. Her stories are well researched, which rich historical detail. There is significant character development between books, although it seems each ends where the next begins. I enjoy reading about strong, independent, capable women and Maggie makes a fascinating seasoned spy/special agent. Her exploits vividly portray the blackout, terror, everyday life of war torn London.

Story line: We have another chapter in Maggie Hope’s wartime experiences, this one darker than most. It also represents a dark time, especially to the reader who knows three more bleak years are ahead. And darker still with the blatant rampant sexism which still exists today. There are several story lines, involving characters from previous books, so it is useful to read them in order. Primarily, Maggie is to aid DCI Durgin of Scotland Yard in tracking down a serial killer, a copycat Jack the Ripper (look up the Blackout Beast). The victims include many of the women Maggie has trained to become agents, so the hunt becomes very personal and potentially very dangerous. It is a quick intriguing read, one that is thought provoking and informative. I look forward to Maggie rescuing her half sister in Paris.

Quotes:

Something was wrong. Maggie Hope was sure, but she couldn’t yet put her finger on it…

Maggie was working as a girl Friday in a dim reception room at 64 Baker Street, one of the Special Operations Executive’s offices.

Only twenty-seven, Maggie had already performed any number of missions as an agent for SOE, but had taken a desk job in London while she was waiting for the arrival of her German half sister, Elise Hess, a Resistance worker in Berlin.

After all, she’d been secretary to the P.M. himself—as well as saving the life of the Princess Elizabeth, parachuting into Nazi Berlin, teaching at a paramilitary camp, and keeping the First Lady of the United States of America safe from scandal. How hard could managing an office be? And it was only temporary, until her half sister arrived in London and settled in.

When she’d arrived in London from Boston, four years ago, all she’d wanted to do was settle her grandmother’s estate, then return to the United States to pursue doctoral studies in mathematics at MIT, one of the few top universities to allow women as graduate students.

“It’s like … an accident of number theory. With enough data points, patterns will emerge that point to the place where the murders took place.”

“Are ye daft, woman?” Durgin exploded. “That’s the looniest idea I’ve ever heard of! We don’t use humans as live bait! This isn’t some Highland huntin’ party!”

I can’t fight everything, Maggie realized. But I can do some things. And those I’ll do to the best of my ability and strength.

Read on:

Jacqueline Winspear Maisie Dobbs series

Nicola Upson Josephine Tey series

Rhys Bowen Royal Spyness series

Emma Jameson Marriage can be Murder

I intend to look up Sarah Sundin who evidently also writes WWII novels. MacNeal also has an excellent bibliography at the end of this book.  

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley. The series available from Rochester Public Library.

The Butler Did It!- Again!

Title: Judgment of Murder by CS ChallinorPublisher: Midnight Ink Nov 2016

Genre: cozy, mystery, English historical, British mystery, Scottish barrister, 

4+ stars

It’s the 100th anniversary of Agatha Christies first published novel and cozies are all the rage again. They provide good reading and are multi-layered nuanced entertainment. The Solution depends on observation not technology and there is little graphic violence or sex.

Author:

Challinor was born in the US, educated in Scotland and England (joint Hons in Latin, French) and currently lives in Florida. She also holds a diploma in Russian from the Pushkin Institute in Moscow. Challinor is a member of the Authors Guild, New York, and writes the critically acclaimed Rex Graves mystery series featuring the Scottish barrister-sleuth. The cozy series begins with: Christmas is Murder (September 2008, Midnight Ink Books, a Kindle best seller), and continues with Murder in the Raw (2009), Phi Beta Murder (2010), Murder on the Moor (2011), Murder of the Bride (2012, a Mystery Guild book club pick), Murder at the Dolphin Inn (2013) Murder at Midnight (2014) and Murder comes Calling (2015). I particularly appreciate the understated humour and banter between Rex and and his fiancé Helen d’Arcy (schoolteacher) and have enjoyed the series more with each new book. Challinor keeps most readers guessing as she cleverly spreads suspicion and clues and red herrings. Cozy fans will enjoy this traditional series featuring a witty, charming and engaging sleuth. Her light touch makes them entertaining reads, perfect for cold winter nights. JoM will make a lovely Christmas gift.

Story Line:

An old colleague Lord Gordon Murgatroyd, the infamous Judge Murder, dies in England, but his daughter Phoebe, newly widowed, suspects foul play. Rex Graves QC develops his prosecutorial expertise to sleuth his way through possible method and probable motive and near death. His trusty likable colleague Alistair helps investigate and even saves Rex at one point. Both are caught up in another regional case with abducted girl(s), linking cold cases, murderers and suspects. Rex does like to announce the murderer in a denouement, continuing the Golden Age style. Challinor’s mysteries are a welcome and charming modern take on Agatha Christie. I felt this one was more multilayered although they remain descriptive stories. Reading enjoyment may benefit from knowledge of previous cases and character development. 

Read On:

Anne Cleeland (Shetland), Deborah Crombie, Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, MC Beaton (Hamish McBeth), Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness), Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby), Alexander McCall Smith (Sunday Philosophy Club), Paige Shelton  (Scottish bookshop), Sophie Hannah (Poirot)

Quotes:

The golf could wait. Murder could not.

In the event he was on a wild goose chase, he thought he might as well do some sightseeing and make the most of his sabotaged weekend.

Miss Bird had been their housekeeper since he was a boy, and she and his mother persisted in calling him by his given name, instead of its derivative “Rex,” which he preferred. Now that they were well into their eighties he had lost all hope of their changing the habit.

She spoke in the genteel tones of Morningside ladies, which Rex often thought belied a razor sharp mind that had lost none of its acuity in her advancing age.

“Well, I wish you’d just hurry up and marry the woman. You know how I love weddings.” Rex gazed at his friend in mild frustration.

I’m aboot as lethal as one of these chips.” 

Rex commended his friend’s foresight, without fully comprehending how he had been able to run with a crowbar secreted in his coat, but now wasn’t the time to ask.”

“Your mother must be so proud of you, as am I. I suppose you could go about incognito but you’re a hard person to disguise.”

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley. Most in the series available from Rochester Public Library.

It’s a New Book

It’s a new book if you haven’t read it!Being a column about previously published books. Perhaps recently reissued, perhaps just discovered, perhaps recommended, perhaps on sale as an ebook, or a library find. 

 Title:  Throne of Darkness by Douglas Nicholas

Publisher: Simon and Schuster, Emily Bester Books. 327 pp

Genre: fantasy, science fiction, medieval England, English historical, series

4.5 stars

Storyline:

Douglas Nicholas is an award winning poet as well as the author of this outstanding medieval series which began with Something Red. I discovered him several years ago and was lucky to read the first two, plus e-novella The Demon back to back. I eagerly awaited the third installment but life intervened. When I rolled into Rochester Sunday my first stop was the library because I had checked their website and this book was on the shelf! I would have purchased it, indeed I would like the series, but they are hard to find. This author deserves a much wider audience. I am reminded of what a great library we have here.

We are now in 1215 northern England with the established characters of Irish queen Maeve (Molly when in English soil), Jack her lover/protector/ warrior, her gifted granddaughter Neiman and her husband Hob (Robert of England). They use the guise of traveling musicians/healers as they journey through the countryside garnering allies while tackling fantastical, supernatural beasts. This time King John is coordinating an attack on his rebellious knights and barons with an African sorcerer and the Cousins, blacksmiths who can become savage hyenas. Seemingly impossible odds.

The accurate historical detail and rich evocative prose make this a fascinating, spellbinding tale. Others have considered this a coming of age novel (Hob’s story) while some say it is Harry Potter for adults. I find each thread compelling and equally important. Each novel is a complete story but again I feel reading them in order is best for the developing characterization. I find it amazing to be so easily transported back to this time period. It is a brilliant, profound adventure fantasy. Even better the next in the series Three Queens in Erin is expected March 2017. My only worry is it will be the end of the series.

Read on:

Dave Duncan’s The King’s Blades, The King’s Daggers

Tim Powers The Drawing of the Dark and early novels

GRR Martin The Game of Thrones

Bubble bubble. Toil and Trouble!

Title: Thrice the Brinded Cat hath Mew’d By Alan BradleyPublisher: Bantam, 352 pp September 2016

Genre: cozy mystery, YA, British, historical, fiction

5 stars : Read in one sitting, as all previous books were, often late into the night

Author:

Alan Bradley was born in Toronto, Canada. After a career in television broadcasting, he retired from the University of Saskatchewan to write full-time. His publications include children’s stories, lifestyle and arts columns in Canadian newspapers and screenplays. His adult stories have been broadcast on CBC radio and published in various literary journals. He was the recipient of the first Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award for Children’s Literature. 

The first in the series, “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” won the 2007 Debut Dagger Award of the Crime Writers Association in the UK; the 2009 Agatha Award for Best First Novel; the 2010 Dilys, awarded by the International Mystery Booksellers Association; the Spotted Owl Award, given by the Friends of Mystery, and the 2010 Arthur Ellis Award, given by the Crime Writers of Canada for Best First Novel. It was also nominated for an Anthony Award, a Barry Award, and a Macavity Award. Sweetness made numerous lists and awards including the New York Times, as a Favorite Mystery of 2009, an American Library Association nominee as Best Book For Young Adults; a Barnes and Noble Bestseller. The audiobook version of “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” was voted Best AudioBook by iTunes. The books are all NYTimes best sellers. Don’t miss the audio books narrated by Jayne Entwistle- she is absolutely perfect, and in 2014 won Outstanding Audiobook Narration for The Dead in their Vaulted Arches. Academy Award-winning producer/director Sam Mendes, of “Skyfall” and “American Beauty” fame has optioned for Flavia for television movies (2012).

Story line:

This is book 8 in what I hope is a long series of sleuthing for our intrepid youngster Flavia De Luce. Yes, another cliffhanger so we know book 9 is in progress. Please read these in order as there is a good progression of character, friendships, sleuthing techniques, layers of personal history, and ‘in jokes’. My favourites are volumes 1,6 and now 8. A word of warning, have your hankies ready. If you love the Flavia stories you will definitely enjoy this installment back in 1950s England. Flavia returns without welcome as her father is gravely ill. In no time she’s off on trusty Gladys, in the usual English weather with the usual suspects. Fortunately there is a body and sleuthing commences.

Flavia has charmed me since the very first novel as has Bradley’s excellent writing. Flavia is still a fascinating, captivating, curious, quirky, beguiling, precocious 12 year old. Her observations are priceless. I enjoy the intricate mysteries that Bradley creates, here with interesting details of woodcarvers, witches, childhood storybooks, but Flavia is the reason to read. I love her clever mind. She is going to be an incredible, formidable adult! I can’t wait for the next book. The anticipation of each novel is exceeded only by the actual read. 

Quotes:

Gladys gave a little squeak of delight. She loved coasting as much as I did, and if there was no one in sight, I might even put my feet up on her handlebars: a bit of bicycle artistry that she loved even more than ordinary free-wheeling.

Life with my sister Daffy had taught me that you could tell as much about people by their books as you could by snooping through their diaries – a practice of which I am exceedingly fond and, I must confess, especially adept.”
Thanks to my Girl Guide training, I was able to bluff convincingly when required. All those wet and windy Wednesday evenings spent in cold, drafty parish halls were paying off at last.

How could I tell the dear man that murder made me feel so gloriously alive?

The DeLuce blood is stronger, afterall, then sentiment.

There is an art to staging a convincing accident. It is not as easy as you may think – particularly on short notice. First and foremost, it must look completely natural and spontaneous. Secondly, there must be nothing comical about it, since comedy saps sympathy.

The world can be an interesting place to a girl who keeps her ears open.

Read on: 

If you like Harriet the Spy or Lemony Snickett’s Violet Baudeleaire. Or are a Sherlock Holmes Fan.

Or listen to Jayne Entwistle narrate Julie Berry’s Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place.

Laurie King The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

Martha Grimes Belle Ruin series

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley, as well as purchased hardcover. Available from Rochester Public Library.