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#TuesdayBookBlog HYDE by Craig Russell (@TheCraigRussell) (@ClaraHDiaz) Scottish Historical Gothic mystery, and a twist on Stevenson’s Hyde (without Jekyll)

Hi all:

I bring you a book that will be published in a couple of days by a writer whose previous book I enjoyed. Recommended to readers of historical fiction who love a touch of the Gothic/horror.

Cover of the book Hyde by Craig Russell with a Celtic design, of three spirals in Gold, the triskelion, on a green and black background.
Hyde by Craig Russell

Hyde: A thrilling Gothic masterpiece from the internationally bestselling author by Craig Russell 

When it comes to Gothic crime, Craig Russell is peerless. Absolutely stunning.’ – M W Craven
From international bestselling author Craig Russell comes a modern Gothic masterpiece.

Edward Hyde has a strange gift-or a curse-he keeps secret from all but his physician. He experiences two realities, one real, the other a dreamworld state brought on by a neurological condition.

When murders in Victorian Edinburgh echo the ancient Celtic threefold death ritual, Captain Edward Hyde hunts for those responsible. In the process he becomes entangled in a web of Celticist occultism and dark scheming by powerful figures. The answers are there to be found, not just in the real world but in the sinister symbolism of Edward Hyde’s otherworld.

He must find the killer, or lose his mind.

A dark tale. One that inspires Hyde’s friend . . . Robert Louis Stevenson.

Praise for Hyde:

‘Stephen King meets Robert Louis Stevenson… an imaginative gothic tale guaranteed to send a shiver down your spine the next time you walk a dark Edinburgh night.’ – David Hewson, author of The Garden Of Angels

‘Russell delivers a brooding, stunningly atmospheric tale set in Stevenson’s Edinburgh – multi-layered and intricately plotted, this is a Gothic thriller from the hands of a master.’ – Margaret Kirk, author of Shadow Man

‘A deliciously dark reimagining of a timeless character and a wonderful recreation of a gothic Edinburgh . . . Another winner for a consummate storyteller.’ – Douglas Skelton

‘Gloriously diabolical. A terrifying thrill ride through the hidden chasms of the human soul.’ – Chris Brookmyre, author of Black Widow

I absolutely adored it. Intense, harrowing and hugely entertaining. Craig Russell conjures the kind of spine-tingling tale that kept me reading through the night. Spectacular. – Chris Whittaker

‘The story is a thrilling ride through the murky depths of madness and horror, written with all Craig’s trademark skill and style. Definitely five stars from me’ James Oswald
‘A Gothic masterpiece which will lead you so far into the darkness that you won’t know who to trust. Another splendid offering from a writer who is top of his game. ‘ – Theresa Talbot

Praise for Craig Russell

‘A masterclass in suspenseful, character-driven prose fiction. Simply exceptional’
Frank Darabont, writer and director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile

https://www.amazon.es/Hyde-English-Craig-Russell-ebook/dp/B07T6XP5QS/

https://www.amazon.com/Hyde-English-Craig-Russell-ebook/dp/B07T6XP5QS/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hyde-English-Craig-Russell-ebook/dp/B07T6XP5QS/

Author Craig Russell
Author Craig Russell

About the author:

Award-winning author Craig Russell’s novels have been translated into twenty-five languages worldwide. Film rights to his forthcoming novel, THE DEVIL ASPECT, have been acquired by Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures. The LENNOX series has been acquired by BAFTA award-winning Synchronicity Films for adaptation into a returning TV series. The first television adaptation in Germany, by Tivoli Films, of a Jan Fabel novel attracted an audience of six million viewers. Four further novels have been made into films (in one of which Craig Russell makes a cameo appearance as a German detective).

Craig Russell:
* won the 2015 Crime Book of the Year (McIlvanney Prize) for ‘The Ghosts of Altona’
* was a finalist for the 2019 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Award
* was a finalist for the 2017 McIlvanney Prize for ‘The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid’, the latest in the Lennox series;
* was a finalist for the 2012 inaugural Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the year;
* was a finalist for the 2013 Ellis Peters Historical Dagger;
* was a finalist for the 2012 Crime Book of the Year (McIlvanney Prize);
* won the 2008 CWA Dagger in the Library for the Fabel series;
* was a finalist for the 2007 CWA Duncan Lawrie Golden Dagger;
* was a finalist for the 2007 SNCF Prix Polar in France;
* is the only non-German to be awarded the highly prestigious Polizeistern by the Polizei
Hamburg.

Official website: http://www.craigrussell.com

Facebook Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/craigrussellbooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thecraigrussell

https://www.instagram.com/craigrussellauthor

My review:

Thanks to Clara Diaz from Little, Brown Book Group UK and to NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed Russell’s novel The Devil Aspect (you can read my review here) and enjoyed the historical detail, the emphasis on psychological factors, and the Gothic/horror elements of the story, and there are many features I recognise here, although the setting is Scotland, Edinburgh to be more specific, the myths this time are Celtic, and the historical period is the Victorian era, at a time when Scotland has become a part of the United Kingdom, but not everybody is in agreement with that and/or with the imperialist drive of the British government. As was the case with the other novel, it is difficult to talk about the plot without revealing too much and spoiling some of the surprises —and there are plenty— to come, because the story is constructed as a mystery-cum-police procedural, combined with psychological/supernatural/dark Gothic-horror elements. The whole narrative is framed by a conversation between writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his friend Edward Hyde, where Stevenson tells Hyde that he is obsessed by the subject of the duality of the spirit, the fact that we all have a dark side that is hidden but might manifest itself in certain circumstances, but he feels unable to write about it. Hyde decides to tell him a relevant story, and the rest of the novel is the story which we are to assume managed to inspire Stevenson to write one of his most famous novels.

I have mentioned duality, and, in fact, multiple dualities and hidden identities are among the most important subjects of the story: Edinburgh (Scottish but also a part of the British empire; old/traditional and at the head of the industrial revolution, modernisation and electrification; prejudiced [against foreigners, sexual diversity, women…] and tolerant); Hyde, the main protagonist (decent and honest, but with a traumatic past, unable to tell the truth about his doubts and fears, and deeply concerned about the darkness within); secret and dark societies hiding behind socially acceptable fronts; moral crusades pretending to protect the public from terrorist risks… There are plenty of historical details about old Edinburgh, its characters, its institutions, its stories, its buildings… I am sure anybody who’s ever visited Edinburgh or who has dreamed of visiting it will be fascinated by this story, and will have plenty of places to add to their list, and they will view some pretty well-known locations under a different light. I was also inspired by the stories from Celtic mythology mentioned to research more on the subject, and there is much that intrigued me and kept me hooked onto the story. As this is a mystery and a historical police procedural, there are crimes, and despite (or because of) their ritualistic nature they are quite gross and gore, so caution is advised to those who prefer milder reads.

The story is narrated in the third person, mostly from Hyde’s point of view (although he is an unreliable narrator, as he experiences some strange visions and dreams, and also periods of blackout and lost time, when he doesn’t know what has happened, so separating the truth from his dreams is not always straight forward), although we also get some chapters or fragments of chapters from other characters’ perspective; like his psychiatrist and friend (who also hides some secrets of his own); Cally Burr, a wonderful female doctor (and my favourite character together with Hyde); Elspeth Lockwood, the daughter of a well-off family, and a pretty strong and determined woman (who is also pretty unreliable as a narrator); Hyde’s collaborators… Some of the other characters we only get to know through their interactions with the rest, like his boss; a mysterious leader/spiritualist and his right-hand man (who is fascinating as well); a man suspected of being a nationalist leader; a photographer who is more involved than he seems at first; relatives of the victims…

The story’s style is Gothic, not only because of the nature of the subject and the setting, but because it does reverberate with the style of the old novels of the period, and that includes the use of old Scottish words and terminology, and a pace that is more leisurely and less concerned with only advancing the story as most modern novels are. There is plenty of telling, including descriptions of locations, people, stories and detailed background of the mythology and the individual characters’ experiences that help create a credible and eerie Gothic atmosphere. But there is also much showing, as we experience some of the events from the point of view of the protagonists, getting to feel their confusion and puzzlement, and not knowing either if what we’re reading is happening or is a dream, or perhaps a state of consciousness somewhere in between. The different narratives alternate, and although it is clear whose perspective we are reading at any given time, it is important to keep one’s attention sharp, as is the case with police procedurals in general. Because there are some dark/Jungian/mythological/paranormal elements, I am not sure this book will work for purists of that genre, but there are plenty of twists, red herrings, false clues, and surprises, and those should keep most readers who love mixed-genres hooked and satisfied. There are also plenty of subjective and introspective moments for those of us who love to explore the recesses of characters’ minds, and although it is not a slow book, it allows readers time to ponder on the beauty of certain passages, and also to think about the deeper meaning of some of the experiences explored in the novel. As I tend to do, and because I want to avoid revealing any important points of the novel, I recommend future readers to check a sample of the book to help them decide if the style works for them.

Was I surprised by the ending? Well, I guessed some aspects of it (no, I won’t go into more detail than that), although quite late into the story, but not all, and yes, I enjoyed it. I would go as far to say that it was quite beautiful. It definitely worked for me.

So, do I recommend it? Yes, to those who are not purists of the police procedural, to readers who love historical fiction with a bit of a twist, who are not afraid of violent crime and dark and horrific subjects, who love unreliable narrators psychologically troubled, and especially those who aren’t looking for a stylistically modern narrative but are able to enjoy descriptions, precious writing, and language appropriate to the historical period. I intend to carry on reading Russell’s novels in the future and wonder where and when he’ll take me next.

Thanks to the publisher and the author for the novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, keep reviewing, smiling, and above all, keep safe!

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Blog Tour Book launch book promo Book review

#BlogBlast #Bookreview The Disappearance of #StephanieMailer: A gripping new thriller with a killer twist by Joël Dicker Many stories, many genres in one great read @QuercusBooks @MacLehosePress

Hi all:

I couldn’t resist and had to read this book and participate in this blog blast:

The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer by Joël Dicker

The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer: A gripping new thriller with a killer twist by Joël Dicker  (Author), Howard Curtis (Translator)

A twisting new thriller from the author of The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair

In the summer of 1994, the quiet seaside town of Orphea reels from the discovery of four murders.

Two young police officers, Jesse Rosenberg and Derek Scott crack the case and identify the killer.

Then, twenty years later and just as he is on the point of taking early retirement, Rosenberg is approached by Stephanie Mailer, a journalist who believes he made a mistake back in 1994 and that the real murderer is still out there, perhaps ready to strike again. But before she can give any more details, Stephanie Mailer mysteriously disappears, and Rosenberg and Scott are forced to confront the possibility that her suspicions might have been proved true.

What happened to Stephanie Mailer?

What did she know?

And what really happened in Orphea all those years ago?

TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY HOWARD CURTIS

https://www.amazon.com/Disappearance-Stephanie-Mailer-Jo%C3%ABl-Dicker-ebook/dp/B07WFJJ2L5/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Disappearance-Stephanie-Mailer-Jo%C3%ABl-Dicker-ebook/dp/B07WFJJ2L5/

https://www.amazon.es/Disappearance-Stephanie-Mailer-Jo%C3%ABl-Dicker-ebook/dp/B07WFJJ2L5/

Author Joel Dïcker

About the author:

JOËL DICKER was born in Geneva in 1985, where he studied Law. The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair was nominated for the Prix Goncourt and won the Grand Prix du Roman de l’Académie Française and the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens. It has sold more than 3.6 million copies in 42 countries.

HOWARD CURTIS is an award-winning translator of Italian and French, including books by Fabio Geda, Gianrico Carofiglio, Jean-Claude Izzo and Giorgio Scerbanenco.

Remember The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair?

  • A huge bestseller in Europe on publication
  • Joel Dicker was just 28 when this, his second book, came out. He became so famous in his native Switzerland; his picture was plastered all over public transport in his hometown Geneva
  • 250,000 copies were sold in the UK alone
  • Sky Witness series starring Patrick Dempsey aired in Autumn 2018

PRAISE FOR THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HARRY QUEBERT AFFAIR

‘Maybe, just possibly, the book of the year’ – Simon Mayo

‘An expertly realised, addictive Russian doll of a whodunnit’ – Daily Mail

‘A top-class literary thriller that smoothly outclasses its rivals’ – The Times

‘Should delight any reader who has felt bereft since finishing Gone Girl or Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy’ – Metro

‘Unimpeachably terrific’ – New York Times

‘The cleverest, creepiest book you’ll read this year’ – Daily Telegraph

My review:

I thank the publisher, Quercus Books, and NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair (you can check my review here) almost a couple of years back (during my summer holidays. Remember those?), and I was enthralled by it, to the point where I got a couple of other books by the same author, which I intended to read. Being aware that his books are normally quite long and you need to keep your wits about you when you’re reading them, I’d been postponing that moment (I don’t need to tell you that things have been weird recently, and I think a lot of us have found it difficult to concentrate), but when I saw this book was available, and I was invited to participate in the blog tour, it was all the motivation I needed to plunge into it. I also realised why the name of the book was so familiar to me. I’ve seen it published in its Spanish translation and doing quite well, but I hadn’t realised it hadn’t been released in English yet.

Sorry for the long detour, but I think it’s a reflection of the impact the book has had on me, as it has a way of going off on tangents, or so they seem at the time. I wonder what would happen if somebody else wrote a book like this, and it reached the hands of a standard editor, who would follow the usual advice of removing anything that did not serve to move the plot forward, avoid unnecessary detours, streamline the story… This is a long book, with twists and turns galore, cul-de-sacs plot-wise, and of course, secrets, red herrings, clues, and revelations spread merrily around. I can imagine the author being advised to get rid of characters, or to, perhaps, leave out some of the side-stories and plotlines, maybe write separate novelettes or bonus chapters for followers which would include the background story of some of those characters. But this is a Joël Dicker novel, and he has proven more than once that he can get away with murder. Quite literally.

I am not sure I can talk about the plot in detail without revealing any spoilers, and I want to avoid that at all costs. Without going into the story, I can tell you that what struck me the most, thinking about it, is that although this book includes many standard plot devices and even clichés (you have the detective about to leave the police force, trying to solve a last case just before he hands back his badge; you have a female police detective trying to fit into a small town’s police force whose members are less than accepting of women among their ranks; you have a corrupt politician; a middle-aged man in a powerful position cheating on his wife with his young secretary; an ambitious reporter going after a story at all costs; the spoilt daughter of a rich man who’s mixing with the wrong company and getting herself into trouble…) they all fit in together and create a whole that is not in itself a challenge of any of the tropes, but something other.

I thought I could share this video to give you more of an idea…

In some ways, the story brought to my mind the term of pastiche as used by Fredrick Jameson when talking about postmodern writing. It is not a parody of other genres, it’s a celebration. The author knows and loves a multitude of genres, and rather than poke fun at them, he uses them to create a narrative that is many things in one. Let me count… the genres (or subgenres): 1) the mystery. Overall, there is a mystery hanging over the whole novel and pulling all its strings and characters together, like a centrifugal force, towards Orphea, the small town where most of the events and actions converge, and a character in its own right. The title hints at the mystery, and the disappearance of Stephanie Mailer, a journalist, is what sets the whole story in motion. I’ve mentioned red herrings, twists and turns, clues… We even have secret messages and codes, and we are likely to recognise the typical elements of a cozy mystery, with the setting in a small lovely town in the Hamptons, a friendly bookshop, a charming theatre festival…; 2) the police procedural. I’ve talked about a detective who’s about to leave the force, Jessie. He is challenged by Stephanie Mailer to reconsider the first case he solved, the beginning of his successful career, and that turns his world inside out. He manages to convince his partner at the time, Derek, to join him in the investigation (he took a desk job after the case, for reasons that become clear much later), and they get the assistance of the most recent recruit into the small-town police force, a female officer, Anna, who is having trouble fitting into the close-knit and somewhat misogynistic department. They review the old case, investigate the new clues, and keep digging into evidence, old and new; 3) the noir novel/thriller. A local gangster who uses underhand methods to gain influence over men and turn them into his slaves (underage girls and torture are featured as well), has a night club with an alluring singer, a brutal henchman by his side, and who manages to rub too many people the wrong way plays a part; 4) the second-chance/reinventing yourself story. Anna, the policewoman, has reinvented herself more than once. She studied Law and started working for her father’s company but soon realised this was not for her and trained to enter the police. She quickly became a detective, got married to a lawyer working for her father, and became a negotiator. Her husband wasn’t terribly keen on the idea, things went terribly wrong, and she decided to leave it all behind. Unfortunately, what she finds in Orphea, the charming town, isn’t exactly what she bargained for; 4) the coming of age story. Dakota, the daughter of a rich man, the CEO of an important TV channel, keeps getting into trouble, mixes with the wrong companies, and seems unable to keep her life in order. But there is a reason behind her behaviour; 5) small-town American and its dark underbelly. The lovely town of Orphea might seem idyllic, but it hides all kinds of corrupt practices, characters who are not as squeaky clean as they seem to be, and there is a dark secret (well, a few) about to burst open; 6) dark comedy/farce. We have a talentless ex-chief of police who desperately wants to become a successful dramatist, and he’d do anything to get his play (he’s been working on it for twenty years, so you can forgive him for that) onto the stage. We also have an important literary critic who’d love nothing better than to become an actor, and he will subject himself to any humiliation willingly to be given that chance. He’s joined by another chief-of-police who also wants to shine on stage (Oh, and how they do…). And the play… But those are not the only comedic elements in the story. Jessie’s back story, and his maternal grandparents, also seem strait from a less-than-gentle comedy (expletives and all; and I must confess there is a blonde wig somewhere that made me think of ET), and some of the most extreme behaviours of some of the characters seem taken right out of the Looney Tunes (the original Warner Bros series); 7) romance/romantic novels. We have quite a few stories that have romance at its heart, some set in the past and not standard HEA fare (Jessie and Natasha’s love story, with something of the Greek tragedy about it), Derek and his wife, the critic and his lover (I’m keeping my mouth firmly shut about this), the town mayor and his wife, the local newspaper editor and his wife, and… (sorry, no spoilers); 8) the story I mentioned of a middle-aged man who falls madly in love/lust with his young secretary, featuring adultery, manipulation, extortion and… I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but this wasn’t meant to be an all-inclusive list.

If all that sounds like chaos, well, you have a point, but, quoting Shakespeare, I’d say “there is a method to his madness”.

As you can guess, talking about all the characters would take forever, and I won’t try. I’ll only say that although many are not particularly likeable, at least, to begin with, we get to see many of them under a different light by the end of the novel (not always for the better, but most of them come out of it as quite human and relatable). The same goes for the themes, and you’ve got a good idea about those already from my comments about the genres. Guilt, lost opportunities, the consequences of keeping secrets from those we love and from everybody, and the cost of trying to find out the truth when there are powerful incentives at play to keep it buried, come up often in the novel, and there are multiple references not only to other genres, but also to classic plots and works of literature (the name of the town and the reference to Orpheus could easily apply to Jessie and the mourning of his lost love, but this is just one of many).

The novel is narrated by a variety of characters, and we hear the first-person narratives of quite a few of them (not all, but many). The way it works is: somebody is telling us what is happening (Jessie, for example) in 2014, the time when the contemporary story is set, and he finds a clue or he talks to somebody, and then, as if in a flashback, we are transported to 1994, and, usually in the third person, we get to see/experience that scene. There are multiple references to the actual time and to the person whose perspective we are reading, but these are interrupted by the trips to the past, or by somebody’s memories (like those of Dakota, at some point). That results in readers getting both, a personal perspective of the story, from several points of view, and also a narration of past events, seemingly from an omniscient point of view. It didn’t always run completely smoothly (I’m fully aware I was reading an early ARC copy, so some of the issues might have to do with that, and they were very minor), but I felt it was a satisfying alternative to the long stretches of “telling” so typical in classical mysteries. I’ve only read another novel by this author, but from the comments I’ve read, I understand that he’s also used a similar narrative style in several of his novels (and I definitely intend to read more of them in the future), so it might have become his trademark, although it’s too early in his career to come to conclusions.

There are plenty of memorable quotes here as well, but not quite as many as in Harry Quebert. This is a long book, and readers need to be on their guard and pay close attention to all they read, but as I’ve said, temporal changes are signposted, there is a list of characters at the back, and the writing isn’t precious or overly complicated. There are plenty of detours, and the writing meanders rather than rushing at breakneck speed towards the finish line, but I enjoyed getting side-tracked and following the character’s stories. After reading many stories that strictly follow the rules, I enjoy those who go their own way and take risks, although I know many people won’t share my feelings.

Did I guess the mystery? Well, which one? I did guess quite a few of the important twists and picked up on many of the clues, although no, I didn’t guess the final reveal, and I think that most people won’t until very close to the end, because of the way the story is constructed. But I must confess to being more taken by some of the side-stories at times and not being that concerned about the actual name by the end. It reminded me of a scene in Amadeus when Mozart describes to the emperor a particular scene in one of his operas, where he keeps adding more and more voices singing all in unison. A tour de force. Yes, as the ending neared I kept wondering how many more turns the plot would take before the actual final curtain. In case you’re worried, the main mystery is solved. (What does that mean? Well, you go ahead and read the book if you want to know). And yes, there is a coda of sorts, and I liked what we’re told happens to the characters later on.  I’m not sure it’s the ideal ending, but I enjoyed it. If I have to choose from the two books I’ve read by Dicker, I prefer The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, but that was one of my favourite books in recent years, so this is no mean feat either.

So, would I recommend it? Of course. With some provisos. Be sure you have plenty of time to read it. As I’ve said, it’s complicated, and it brings many stories together, so if you only have time to pick it up a few minutes at a time over days and days, you might get quite confused, or you might have to keep going back. It’s important to set aside sufficient time to read it so that you can keep the details (or at least the main details) fresh and straight in your mind. Also, if you prefer slim, streamlined, and bare narratives, or straightforward mysteries with no flights of fancy or backstories, this is not for you. If you’re happy to be taken for a ride, enjoy long books, and like to mix and match genres and challenge conventions, you’ll definitely have a good time. I would also recommend it to writers thinking of writing mysteries or crime novels, as it is impossible to read this book and not ponder and keep thinking about how it has been written.

I’ll leave you with a quote from The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, which I feel applies here: A good book, Marcus, is a book you are sorry to have finished.

Thanks to the author, translator, and publishers for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to spread the word if you are intrigued by what you’ve read. Let me know what you think, and remember to keep safe!

 

 

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#Bookreview THE PHANTOM IN THE FOG: A BOWMAN OF THE YARD INVESTIGATION by Richard James (@RichardNJames). This historical mystery series keeps getting better and better #mystery #historicalfiction

Hi all:

I think this series will probably be familiar to many of you. I’m a big fan.

The Phantom in the Fog: A Bowman Of The Yard Investigation by Richard James

Bowman of the Yard: Book Four

‘Wonderfully atmospheric, full of the thrills of Victorian London.’ Adam Croft

Autumn, 1892

Following a manic episode, Detective Inspector George Bowman recovers in Colney Hatch lunatic asylum. He is surprised when Elizabeth Morley, an acquaintance who had sought to offer him comfort following the death of his wife, pays an unexpected visit with news of an intriguing case.

A mythical figure – christened Jumping Jack by the salacious press – has returned to the streets of London, leaving a trail of death in his wake.

Bowman calls upon Sergeant Graves to act as his agent in the outside world, resulting in his erstwhile companion being subjected to the wrath of Graves’ new superior, the recently promoted Detective Superintendent Callaghan.

Graves is taken off the investigation and ordered to look into an issue of fraud at The Royal Armitage Bank. As his enquiries continue, however, it becomes clear the two cases may be linked.

As the killer strikes again and the citizens of London grow convinced they are in the grip of a supernatural force, Inspector Bowman must rely upon what’s left of his wits, an improvised map of London on his bedside wall and the memory of an investigation from his days as a detective sergeant.

Does a series of crimes from a decade ago hold the key to the current atrocities being committed in the fogbound streets of London?

Bowman must solve the crime from his hospital ward to enable his colleagues to confront the killer among them.

https://www.amazon.com/Phantom-Fog-Bowman-Yard-Investigation-ebook/dp/B08L98P2J3/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Phantom-Fog-Bowman-Yard-Investigation-ebook/dp/B08L98P2J3/

https://www.amazon.es/Phantom-Fog-Bowman-Yard-Investigation-ebook/dp/B08L98P2J3/

Picture of author Richard James
Author Richard James

About the author:

I’ve been telling stories all my life. As an actor I’ve spent a career telling other people’s, from William Shakespeare to Charles Dickens. As I writer, I get to create my own!

I have written almost thirty plays which are produced the world over; from USA to New Zealand and just about everywhere in between. They’re mostly comedies and frequently win awards in competitions and festivals.

In 2014 I wrote a memoir, Space Precinct Unmasked, detailing my experiences working as an actor on Gerry Anderson’s last live action sci-fi series. This was followed by an adaptation of the unscreened pilot episode, Demeter City, and four new short stories featuring the officers of Precinct 88, Space Precinct: Revisited.

As to my own series, I decided I wanted to write a sequence of books set in a world I would want to spend time in and featuring characters I would want to be with. Most importantly, it would have to feature a grisly murder or two! I love the Victorian era. It seems such a rich period of history, populated by some hugely colourful characters, so that is where we first meet Detective Inspector George Bowman.

The Head In The Ice is the first in the Bowman Of The Yard series and follows Bowman’s investigation into the discovery of – well, a head in the ice of the River Thames. Over the course of the book, however, and throughout the series in general, we see he has demons of his own to contend with.

There are four books in the Bowman Of The Yard series in all, together with some short stories from Bowman’s Casebook. These have been collected into two volumes and fill in the gaps between the novels, giving the reader the chance to follow Bowman’s professional progress and personal battles (he’s a troubled man, as you’ll see) over twelve months of his life.

‘A masterful new Victorian mystery series.’ Rosie Amber books
‘A genuinely impressive debut.’ Andrew Cartmel
‘Full of the thrills of Victorian London.’ Adam Croft

I really hope you like the books. If you do, you can tweet me your thoughts at @RichardNJames. I hope to hear from you!

Richard James
2019

https://www.amazon.com/Richard-James/e/B00NHSS6H6/

My review:

I received an early ARC copy of this novel, and I freely chose to review it.

I have read and reviewed the three previous novels in the series (The Head in the Ice, The Devil in the Dock, and The Body in the Trees) and this is one of a handful of series I follow and have no hesitation in recommending. I’d be pushed to choose between all the novels in the series, but right now, I’d say this is perhaps my favourite. As is the case with the rest, I think this novel could be read as a standalone, because the story is independent and resolved within this volume, and there is enough background information to quickly get a sense of who the main characters are and where they come from, although for those of us who have been following the series, there is the added joy of meeting again some secondary characters we had come across before, and also of catching up on what had happened to the Inspector Bowman and his colleagues (and friends).

The description provides plenty of information about what happens in the book, and I don’t want to reveal too much. Inspector Bowman is an inmate at the lunatic asylum, and the novel offers us an insight view of what the experience might have been like (as with the other books, the novel is narrated in the third person from an omniscient point of view that focuses on different characters as the story progresses, mostly those of Bowman, Graves, and Hicks, although we are also privy to the thoughts and feelings of some of the minor characters at times), sharing in some of the more enlightened and novel aspects psychiatry had to offer at the time. As a psychiatrist, I was enthralled by the French ‘alienist’ called in to look into Bowman’s illness and particularly enjoyed the description of his application of Galvani’s ideas (an early form of electroconvulsive therapy or electroshock) to try to help Bowman. Although I have a personal interest in that aspect of the story, I’m pretty sure most people will be intrigued by it as well. (And don’t worry; we aren’t in Someone Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’s territory. What happens is much more akin to my own professional experience of the treatment).

I loved the fact that, through Bowman’s recollections of a past case (thanks to the treatment), we get to learn a bit more about his late wife and how they met. Bowman’s acumen and the way he manages to make connections and work out a vital piece of information about the case his colleagues are working on at Scotland Yard, even in his difficult circumstances, make for a thrilling reading experience. The vivid description of the locations and events has a cinematic quality that has long been one of the strengths of this series.

There are several murders, although that is not evident at first, nor is the connection between the cases, and because Bowman is away, we get to see more of Graves (a good man as well as a thorough and sharp detective), Hicks (a flawed character who’d do almost anything for a quiet and comfortable life, although not intentionally dishonest), and their now boss, Callahan, who seems intent on keeping Graves investigating a fraud case rather than getting involved in the murders. I enjoyed seeing more of the inside workings of the Yard, getting to see Graves in action and how he tries to keep the balance between following orders and doing what he feels is right, and, as usual, I enjoyed the way the author seamlessly introduces information and details about life in London at the time. We get to visit a big newspaper’s archive, we learn some things about London we might never have heard of, and we also have a very mysterious baddie with a touch of the supernatural. Best of all, on a note at the end of the book, the author explains that the inspiration for the mysterious character was a real (?) criminal of Victorian London who was never caught (and although it was a Jack, it wasn’t ‘that’ Jack).

The mystery side of the story worked well for me, with its combination of the fraud story (frauds and con games are not new, that’s for sure) and the murders, and although I guessed some aspects of it, there were enough twists, red herrings, and inside politics to keep me engaged in the story and completely wrapped up in the investigation. I enjoyed the resolution of the case, which cranked up the tension, and the novel ends on a positive and happy note this time (mostly happy at least), a total winner for me. I also liked our insight into some of the side-characters, and the way we experience the era through the character’s senses: we smell, hear, see, taste, and feel London, in all its drabness and splendour.

There was nothing I disliked from the book, although readers who prefer a single point of view might want to check a sample before making a decision. As I have explained in my previous reviews, I think the author’s choice of narrative style works very well for the books, and I don’t find it confusing, but we are all different.

The series is not gruesome or gore in the extreme, but it is realistic in its depiction of the era and the crimes, so I wouldn’t recommend it to people who prefer a gentle and light read. It is a Victorian police procedural/mystery that will satisfy both, lovers of mystery and those keen on historical fiction, as readers get the best of both worlds. I cannot recommend this novel and the rest of the series highly enough. I’m eagerly waiting to hear what will be next for Bowman and his team.

Thanks to the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep safe, first of all, and to like, share, comment, review, and always keep smiling.

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBlogPost THE TRAFFICKING MURDERS (THE INSPECTOR SHEEHAN MYSTERIES BOOK 5) by Brian O’Hare (@brianohare26). Harsh realities, engaging mystery, and beautiful teamwork

Hi all:

I bring you the review of book 5 in a series that is one of the few I love and follow.

The Trafficking Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries Book 5) by Brian O’Hare

The Trafficking Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries Book 5) by Brian O’Hare

Lin Hui and Cheung Mingzhu win scholarships to study at Queen’s University in Belfast. Alina Balauru departs a poor farm in Romania for well paid work in Northern Ireland. Three lives harbouring long-cherished dreams. Three lives headed for tragedy.

Sheehan and his Serious Crimes Unit discover the body of one of the young women in the garden of an upmarket residence. Confronted with violent Chinese racketeers, brutal human-traffickers and a fiendishly clever killer called The Shadow, they are baffled by a case that seems to lead in two entirely different directions.

Can they find out who The Shadow is in time to save the other two victims?

“Thought-provoking, emotional and gut-wrenching. An exceptional crime-thriller and a must-read for any thriller lover.”
[Eric Praschan, Author of Blind Evil and The Burden of Silence]

“This is mystery writing of the highest quality by an author who deserves very wide recognition.” [Grady Harp, Hall of Fame Top 100 Reviewer]

“I am a fan of detective novels and this book reminds me pretty much of Stephen King’s or Jeffrey Deaver’s works.”
[Phg. Ngx., Online Book Club]

“I have no doubt Brian O’Hare will be the next big name in mystery novels.”
[Sarah Pingley. Amazon Reviewer]

https://www.amazon.com/Trafficking-Murders-Inspector-Sheehan-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B08KL3QMJB/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Trafficking-Murders-Inspector-Sheehan-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B08KL3QMJB/

https://www.amazon.es/Trafficking-Murders-Inspector-Sheehan-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B08KL3QMJB/

Author Brian O'Hare
Author Brian O’Hare

About the author:

Brian O’Hare, MA, Ph.D., is a retired assistant director of a large regional college of further and higher education. Married, three children, ten grandchildren, one great-grandchild. He plays golf three times a week and does a lot of voluntary work. Any writing he has previously done was academic…very much restricted to a specific readership. Several articles in educational journals were followed by a number of book-length reports for the Dept. of Education and the University of Ulster.

He has also written a biography of a man who daily performs amazing miracles of healing…The Miracle Ship. That is currently available in Amazon’s Kindle bookstore.

Brian had a liver disease since childhood which resulted in his taking early retirement a number of years ago. In 2002 he had a liver transplant but is strong and healthy now. He continued to do academic writing well into his retirement and followed that with a memoir about his liver transplant, dealing with the physical, emotional and spiritual experiences that came from that period in his life (A Spiritual Odyssey, published by Columba Press, Dublin).

Following that, he experienced a desire to write fiction. Hence Fallen Men. It is a story about three priests…but it is religious in much the same way Thornbirds was religious. He has also finished a second book. It’s quite different from Fallen Men… a detective mystery inspired by an old 14th century painting of the Last Judgement. It’s called “The Doom Murders”, and it is available on Kindle and in print. Brian’s publisher’s liked The Doom Murders so much that they commissioned a series.

The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries is a series of full-length detective novels set in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Four books in the series have been written so far and have been very well received. The Doom Murders, The 11.05 Murders, The Coven Murders, and The Dark Web Murders. All of these books have been published in ebook format by Crimson Cloak Publishing (who use several distributors including Amazon, Ingram Sparks, Kobo, Barnes& Noble, etc). Paperback and hardback versions are also available, distributed by Ingram Sparks.

All four books in the series have won awards. As well as the New Apple Award, The Doom Murders has also won the Bronze medal for Mystery Fiction from Readers Favourite and an IDB award in 2014. Fallen Men has also won an Amazon IDB award in 2013 and was awarded the Top Medallist Honours in the Contemporary Fiction Category of The New Apple 2015 Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing. The 11.05 Murders, too, has won the New Apple Award in 2016 and a Readers Favourite Award. The Coven Murders has won the Top Medalist in New Apple Awards as also has The Dark Web Murders.

A fifth volume, The Trafficking Murders, is with a Crimson Cloak Publishing editor and should be ready for publication during the latter half of 2020.

To launch the print version of The Doom Murders, CCP asked Brian to write some short stories, featuring Inspector Sheehan. These were originally intended to be Facebook games (i.e. a kind of ‘see the clues, guess the killer’ thing) but the publisher liked them so much that she has started a new line called Crimson Shorts. Brian’s three shorts, Murder at Loftus House, Murder at the Roadside Cafe, and Murder at The Woodlands Care Home are now available on Amazon in Kindle and print versions.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brian-OHare/e/B001K89IWM/

My review:

I received an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I am not a big reader of series. Sometimes they seem to keep going for the sake of it, without contributing anything new or building up on any aspect of the story. Others, they become too repetitive, or they don’t manage to engage me because I don’t feel sufficiently invested in the characters and their lives. So no, I’m not a big reader of series, and lately, I’m not a big watcher of TV series either, for the very same reasons. But there are a few authors who have made me change my mind, at least when it comes to their stories, and Brian O’Hare is one of them. This is the fifth novel in the Inspector Sheehan Mysteries series, and here I am again, having read all the rest, although I only caught up on the first one recently. (You can read my review for The Doom Murders here).  And, in case you’re in a hurry, yes, it’s a great read, and yes, I hope to be telling you about book 6 when it comes out.

I won’t spoil the story by going into a lot of detail about the plot. Suffice to say that the team ends up investigating/involved in two cases (one out of the personal interest of one of the members of the team rather than through the usual channels), seemingly totally unrelated, that bring them into contact with Queen’s University and their international students’ department, some pretty colourful characters from the Chinese community in Belfast, and the dark and twisted world of modern-day slavery. There are many suspects; there are murders; there are red herrings; we get the usual banter between the members of the team and their collaborators (I love those interactions in particular), and we also get an opportunity to see what the members of the team have been up to and to follow their train of thought (that often might be as wrong-footed as ours).

I have talked before about one of the aspects that make this one of my favourite police procedural series. It manages to combine a great plot in an interesting setting (Belfast merges the big city vibes with the peculiarities of Northern Ireland. The author includes a list of terminology related to the local police force to make sure readers not familiar with it can follow the story without difficulty, as well as a cast of members of the team) with a set of characters that come off the page as a real team, with their individual strengths and weaknesses, and their contrasting personalities, but who work well together, are true professionals, and above all, they are honest and feel deeply for their jobs and the people they serve. And they would do anything to help the other members of the team. In a fictional world full of corrupt police officers, detectives, and even whole departments, it is refreshing.

We also have new characters, both good, and bad, criminals and also victims, and this not only builds up the intrigue but also allows us an insight into experiences that most of us will be lucky to never have suffered in our own skins. Although it is a work of fiction, it provides us with a powerful reminder of what everyday life is like for some people, even today.

Despite the seriousness of the crimes and the horrific nature of the illegal business behind it (thinking of human trafficking as a business is revolting but, unfortunately, the evidence indicates that there are people who see it that way), there is a lightness of touch and there are some amusing and tongue-in-cheek moments that give readers a break from the heartache and allow us time to regroup and keep pondering the clues and thinking of solutions to the riddle. It made me think of Italian crime series such as Inspector Montalbano or The Bastards of Pizzofalcone where you can’t help reading (and watching), not only because of the case to be solved but also because of the characters and the way the story is told. The crimes are intriguing, puzzling, and complex enough to make mystery readers eager to follow the clues (although I must confess I was no match for Sheehan’s deductive and intuitive powers this time) and try not to be fooled by the red herrings, but, in my case, it has come to a point when I am happy to be fooled if that gives me another opportunity to catch up with Inspector Sheehan and his team.

The writing is fluid; this is a page-turner although the pace is not frantic and it doesn’t rely solely on action pieces to move the story along, but don’t be fooled, you’ll need to keep your wits about you and try hard not to miss anything. The story can be read independently, although I know from personal experience that readers who’ve been following the series will enjoy the intricacies of the relationships between the members of the team and their banter much more, so I recommend reading it in full  (and the author is happy to send a free copy of the first novel to those who might catch up at a later point in the series); there is a degree of telling, as is to be expected in these kinds of books (one of the members of the team talks about Sheehan’s ‘Poirot moment’ and he is absolutely right), and we are kept in the dark sometimes. Although much of the violence is kept off the page, the story is narrated in the third person from the perspective of different characters (not only Sheehan or members of his team), and that includes some of the victims, in this case, victims of human trafficking, so this is not for readers who prefer a light read, as it does deal in a very nasty reality.

As you’ve probably guessed, I strongly recommend this book to readers of fictional crime novels, especially police procedurals and also mysteries in general. The setting and the subject are an added attraction, and anybody interested in these genres (rather than a cozy and gentle mystery) should try this series. Now. Don’t wait. You can thank me later.

Not many things are reliable these days, but Brian O’Hare’s novels don’t disappoint.

Thanks to the author for his book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keeps safe and smiling (even behind the safety mask)!

 

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE WHISPER MAN by Alex North (@writer_north)( @PenguinUKBooks) An entertaining mix of mystery, paranormal, and psychological thriller

Hi all:

I bring you a book today that has been getting a lot of attention, but I was a bit slow catching on. Well, I finally got around to reading it!

The Whisper Man by Alex North

The Whisper Man by Alex North

THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER, RICHARD & JUDY PICK & GUARDIAN BOOKS OF THE YEAR, LONGLISTED FOR THE THEAKSTON CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR AWARD

The gripping thriller that will keep you turning the pages all night long . . .

‘An ambitious, deeply satisfying thriller – a seamless blend of Harlan Coben, Stephen King, and Thomas Harris’ A J Finn, bestselling author of The Woman in the Window
______________

If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken . . .

Fifteen years ago, a serial killer known only as ‘The Whisper Man’ wreaked havoc on the sleepy village of Featherbank.

But with the killer behind bars, the village is now a safe haven for Tom and his young son Jake to make a fresh start.

Until another boy goes missing. It feels like history is repeating itself.

Could the killer still be out there – and can Tom protect his son from becoming the next victim?


‘THE BEST CRIME NOVEL OF THE DECADE’ Steve Cavanagh, bestselling author of Twisted

‘A true skin-crawler’ Guardian

‘Shades of Thomas Harris and Stephen King but brilliant in its own right’ C. J. Tudor, bestselling author of The Chalk Man

‘This flawlessly plotted thriller absolutely deserves to be shouted about’ Sunday Mirror

‘More than just superbly creepy, this beautifully written thriller might just break your heart a little, too’ Heat

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Whisper-Man-Alex-North-ebook/dp/B07F24WHXJ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Whisper-Man-Alex-North-ebook/dp/B07F24WHXJ/

https://www.amazon.es/Whisper-Man-Alex-North-ebook/dp/B07F24WHXJ/

Steve Mosby (a.k.a. Alex North)

About the author:

Alex North was born in Leeds, England, where he now lives with his wife and son. The Whisper Man was inspired by North’s own little boy, who mentioned one day that he was playing with “the boy in the floor.” Alex North is a British crime writer who has previously published under another name.

Here an interesting interview with the author:

https://celadonbooks.com/author-alex-north-on-his-suspenseful-thriller-the-whisper-man/

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Penguin UK-Michael Joseph for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I confess this novel got buried on my e-reader and despite the good reviews I have read and the many times I’ve seen it mentioned since its publication, it kept being knocked down by reviewing commitments and general lack of attention. After coming up as a recommendation in another article right as I finished a book I was reading, I decided its time had come. And? It kept me reading, and I enjoyed many aspects of it, although some worked slightly less well for me, but it has much to recommend it.

I hadn’t come across Alex North before, although that is not surprising as this seemed to be his first novel. As his biography explains, though, he had published a number of books under a different name before (it wasn’t hard to find this is Steve Mosby), but I hadn’t read any of those either. I don’t know if this marked a change of direction or it is part of a marketing campaign, but, in any case, it seems to have worked.

The description provides the gist of the action. We are in a small village where terrible things had happened many years back. The child killer (not molester, let me clarify that) is now behind bars, but another child goes missing. As you can probably imagine, the new police team investigating are drawn to check on the old case, and Pete, the detective who was almost destroyed by that case —which had some loose threads still pending— becomes once more entangled in it. But this is not a straightforward police procedural. It is a bit of a mixed bag. There is the mystery element (as we don’t know who the culprit is but are given a number of clues, red herrings, and repeatedly sent down the wrong path along the way); it also has aspects more typical of a thriller than of a classical mystery (the grisly nature of the crimes, the teasing serial killer, the different points of view, including also snippets from the perpetrator); there are paranormal elements (the young child at the centre of the story, Jake, has an imaginary friend who seems to know a lot about the case) and at times it also veers towards horror; and there  is plenty of attention paid to the psychology and state of mind of some of the protagonists, particularly Tom, Jake’s father, traumatised by the sudden death of his wife and having to look after a young child on his own, Jake himself, also showing evident signs of trauma and not coping particularly well with his grief, and Pete, the detective who caught the previous killer, who struggles to keep the ghosts of his past at bay.

As I said that some aspects of the book did not fully work for me, I thought I might as well say which ones right now, although I’ll try to avoid any spoilers. I’ve just mentioned how much attention the book pays some of the characters and their psychological difficulties. I enjoyed this but was quite puzzled that nobody ever mentions the possibility of getting help. After all, we have a policeman whose work would have been supervised, and a young child going to school, presenting with bizarre behaviour and evidently struggling. I know this is a novel, but it does require quite a degree of suspension of disbelief to imagine that nobody would have picked up on that and suggested a psychological evaluation or some therapy. The novel feels a bit timeless (and it did remind me of some of Stephen King’s novels set on small towns, usually many years back), but there are dates mentioned, and the action is not set sufficiently far back in the past to justify that. Talking about the setting, one of the other things that bothered me was that I had no real sense of where we were supposed to be. Many of the minor characters and locations felt standard, and although the house Tom and Jake move into seems to have a defined personality, the rest of the place is a bit of a mixed bag. The police department seems rather large for a sleepy village; there are parts of the place that are half abandoned and less than savoury (as if we were in the outskirts of a big city), with known drug dealers and criminals tracked by the police as well; and some of the action fits in better with a rundown city than the village suggested. The fact that some aspects of the story reminded me of the typical book or movie about an urban legend (down to the nursery rhyme or playschool song) contributed to that feeling and gave the story a touch of the dark fairy tale. There were some other inconsistencies I won’t mention, as those might easily be explained away, and I don’t think will curtail the enjoyment of most readers.

Apart from the investigation and the mystery side of things, the novel also explores grief and trauma (Jake shows signs of PTSD, and so do his father and Pete), relationships between fathers and sons, and legacy. How much do our childhood experiences influence our adult behaviour? It also looks at memory and the way our minds are not always reliable witnesses of what happened.

I have mentioned the main characters, but there are others like the main investigator (whom I quite liked but didn’t get to know too well, although I understand she plays a bigger part in the next novel by the same author), one of the mothers at Jake’s new school, the serial killer, of course… The story is narrated in the first person by Tom, who is, after all, a writer, but there are also chapters narrated in the third person by other characters, including Jake, Pete, the new detective, and the perpetrator (who only appears a few times, and those chapters do help provide some clues as to motivation). I sympathised with Tom, who had a hard time of life in general, liked Jake (and his invisible friend). I also empathised with Pete but I wouldn’t say I liked him. Although there is something generic about the characters (most readers of the genre will have met other characters in similar circumstances before), I thought the author did a good job of getting inside their heads, but it is true that this slows down the action somehow and might not work for people looking for a page-turner. People who don’t like first-person narration might not appreciate Tom’s narrative voice, although it does make sense in the context of the book, and there are a few instances when it takes on an omniscient quality. As for the third person narratives, each chapter is told from one distinct point of view,  and readers don’t need to worry about getting confused, though I recommend paying close attention to the action. The original serial killer didn’t impress me in particular (for me, it lacked something to make him distinct enough. He seems just thoroughly evil), and I found the new killer more interesting.

The writing is fluid, although, as I said, some readers might not appreciate the emphasis on the psychology of the characters and their obsessive thoughts and guilty feelings. There are some detailed descriptions of some of the objects and locations but this does not apply to the actual murders. The book is not gore, especially considering the topic. There are some violence and blood, but this does not relate to the main crimes an does not involve the children. I think people who worry about explicit or extreme violence would not be upset by this book, but readers must remember the book is about a serial child killer, so the topic is a hard and harrowing one nonetheless.

I enjoyed the ending, which sits well with the genre, rather than being all lights and no shadows, and it sheds new light over the whole book. Some readers have complained about the paranormal aspect, feeling this is not fully explored, and I don’t disagree with the comment, although for me, it is left open and there is much that can be read between the lines.

In sum, a mystery with touches of the police procedural, the thriller, and a paranormal element, with an emphasis on the psychological angle, some pretty eerie touches (although I wouldn’t call it horror), which will grab the attention of most readers intrigued by these kinds of books. It might not work for people keen on realistic crime novels, but it is a very entertaining read, and I’m sure the author will not be short on followers.

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview #DOVERONE (A DOVER MYSTERY BOOK 1) by Joyce Porter (@farragobooks) A satirical vintage cozy mystery with an awfully funny (anti) hero #mystery

Hi all:

I bring you something a bit old today but wickedly funny.

Dover One by Joyce Porter
Dover One by Joyce Porter

Dover One (A Dover Mystery Book 1) by Joyce Porter

Detective Chief Inspector Wilfred Dover is the most idle and avaricious hero in all of crime fiction. Why should he even be bothered to solve the case?

For its own very good reasons, Scotland Yard sends Dover off to remote Creedshire to investigate the disappearance of a young housemaid, Juliet Rugg.

Though there’s every cause to assume that she has been murdered – she gave her favours freely and may even have stooped to a bit of blackmail – no body is to be found. Weighing in at sixteen stone, she couldn’t be hard to overlook.

But where is she? And why should Dover, of all people, be called upon to find her? Or, for that matter, even bother to solve the damned case?

Editorial reviews:

“Something quite out of the ordinary.” Daily Telegraph

“Joyce Porter is a joy… Dover is unquestionably the most entertaining detective in fiction.” Guardian

“Plotted with the technique of a virtuoso.” New York Times

“Wonderfully funny.” Spectator

“Dover is wildly, joyously unbelievable; and may he remain so for our comic delight.” Sun

“You will be fascinated by his sheer dazzling incompetence. Porter has a keen eye, a wicked sense of comedy, and a delightfully low mind.” Harper’s

https://www.amazon.com/Dover-One-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B07XX255JK/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dover-One-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B07XX255JK/

https://www.amazon.es/Dover-One-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B07XX255JK/

Author Joyce Porter
Author Joyce Porter

About the author:

Joyce Porter (28 March 1924 – 9 December 1990) was an English crime fiction author. She was born in Marple, Cheshire. In Macclesfield she attended the High School for Girls, then King’s College London. She served in the Women’s Royal Air Force from 1949 to 1963. An intensive course in Russian qualified her for intelligence work for the WRAF. She left the service determined to pursue a full-time career in writing, having written three detective novels already.

Joyce Porter lived the last years of her life in a pretty thatched cottage on Sand Street in Longbridge Deverill, a village in Wiltshire. She is buried in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul.

Porter created the characters of Eddie Brown, Constance Ethel Morrison Burke, and Wilfred Dover.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joyce_Porter

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Farrago for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. Let me clarify that this novel was first published in 1964 by Cape, and Farrago is now republishing all the books in the series.

In brief, this book is a blast. I hadn’t heard of the Dover series and had never read any of Joyce Porter’s books before (more fool me!), but I’m pleased to have discovered both, the character and the author. While the character is truly dislikeable, the author had a talent for creating solid and engaging mysteries inhabited by a fantastic array of characters, and her observational skills and her comedic timing turn her books into a peculiar creation, somewhere between the satire and the farce.

I’ve been trying to find a way to describe this book. It is clearly a mystery and as I said above, it is a good, solid mystery, with red herrings, twists, turns and enough clues to make most lovers of the genre enjoy the putting together of the puzzle. You even have the mandatory summing up at the end, by Detective Chief Inspector Dover, but like everything else in the book, any similarity with what would happen in a true golden age mystery (yes, Agatha Christie comes to mind) is pure coincidence. You’ll have to read the book to judge by yourselves what you think of the ending, but it made me chuckle. I guess I would call it a vintage cozy mystery (if such a thing exists). It is not a standard modern cozy mystery, because although we do have some of the typical elements of those (a peculiar investigator, a strange crime, and a weird assortment of characters), the investigator here is a professional of law enforcement (to call him something) from Scotland Yard and all (the fact that the Yard are keen on sending him as far away as possible notwithstanding), and rather than being engaging and likeable, he is quite the opposite. In some ways, the novel has element of the police procedural, of the period, of course, and the mystery plays a more important part than it does in some of the modern cozy mysteries, where the main character is usually an amateur and his personality, her relationships, her business/profession, and her adventures can take up much of the novel.

Dover is a great creation. He is terrific and horrible all at the same time. He is lazy. He will go to any extents not to make any effort, either mental or physical. He is completely self-centred and totally uninterested in his job. There is no rule he won’t break in order to make his life easier and get a quick result. He exploits Sergeant MacGregor, making him do all the donkey work, and scrounging his cigarettes; there isn’t an invitation to food or drink he ever turns down; he is prejudiced, short-tempered and blows his top at the drop of a hat; he is pompous and never listens to anybody… As the back matter of the book says: “Detective Chief Inspector Wilfred Dover is arguably the most idle and avaricious hero of any novel, mystery or otherwise. Why should he even be bothered to solve the case?” This is not a novel for those who are looking for a character to root for. Although his sergeant is the total opposite, when it comes to solving crimes, he is methodical but not a great asset, either. The mystery takes place in a small town, mostly around what would nowadays be called a luxury housing state, and we come across a fantastic catalogue of characters and suspects, from the slightly odd to the wildly eccentric, and every shade in between. The local law enforcement sounds pretty normal in comparison, although the police women we meet are something else as well. Sorry, I’d rather not spoil it for readers.

The story is narrated in the third person, and although we mostly follow Dover’s adventures, we are clearly outside observers, rather than seeing things from his point of view. We might be privy to some of his thoughts and those of the other characters, but always as spectators. People who read the novel and feel disgusted by the lack of political correctness and the character’s flaws miss the distance between the narrative’s perspective and the character, in my opinion. We are not meant to like him or agree with his approach, quite the opposite. Of course, the novel is of its time, and that’s another one of the joys of it. I loved the language, the references to popular culture, the snippets of information about clothing, habits, social mores… It occurred to me that people researching the era (writers, designers, scholars…) would have a field day with this book.

I don’t want to go into too many details about the plot, but we have a pretty special victim, a bunch of characters from the ridiculous to the more ridiculous (dope fiends, yapping dogs, leery aristocrats, amateur detectives, defrocked priests (well, sort of), a writer interested in little known tribes…), blackmail, a ransom note, a missing body, adultery… and more. Take your pick.

Although I know comedy and sense of humour are very personal, and many of the references in the book are very British, I found it really funny and witty. The book is eminently quotable, but I had to try to offer you at least a few snippets, so you can get an idea:

I was nearly fifty when I married. Up till then I had always avoided matrimony like the plague, going on the principle that there is no need to throw yourself into the river to get a drink of water.

Dover didn’t approve of foreigners, mainly on the irrefutable grounds that they were un-English, and he was looking forwards to giving Boris Bogolepov, guilty or not, a rough old time just for the sheer hell of it.

It’s no good going round with an open mind like a vacuum cleaner because all you’ll finish up with is…’ Dover paused to work this one out ‘… is fluff!’ he concluded triumphantly.

I recommend this book to people who love cozy mysteries but are looking for something leaning more towards the police procedural side, and who prefer their humour rather sharp and British. Although I’ve read far worse, and there is only limited violence (fairly slapstick), the novel is non-PC (not that it condones the points of view exposed, but…) so it could be offensive to people reading it as a straight narrative. On the plus side, royalties from the book got to the work of the Friends of Friendless Churches (yes, they do exist, and do a great job as well). Go on, try it. You know you want to!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to spread the word if you’ve enjoyed it or know somebody who might. And always keep reading, reviewing and having fun!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Doom Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries Book 1) by Brian O’Hare(@brianohare26). A great police procedural novel set in Northern Ireland, to keep the grey cells ticking.

Hi all:

Today I bring you the first book in a series I really enjoy, but for some reason I’d missed this one:

The Doom Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries Book 1) by Brian O'Hare
The Doom Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries Book 1) by Brian O’Hare

The Doom Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries Book 1) by Brian O’Hare

Prominent figures in Belfast are being murdered. The bodies are left naked and posed in grotesquely distorted shapes. No clues are left at the forensically immaculate crime scenes except odd theatrical props and some random numbers and letters concealed at each scene by the killer. How are the victims linked? What is the connection between these killings, the bible, and a famous mediaeval painting of The Last Judgement?

The Doom Murders has been the recipient of three literary awards – The IDB Award in 2014; The New Apple Award, 2014, for Excellence in Independent Publishing; and the 2015 Readers’ Favourite International Book Awards (Bronze Medal Winner).

“The Chief Inspector, Jim Sheehan, is drawn so deftly and with such genuineness, you can feel him breathing.” (Eugene Fournier, novelist and screenwriter, film and TV)

“The most subtle of clues are intricately interwoven into the storyline, and even the most astute mystery buff is apt to miss them.” (Donna Cummins, Author of the Blacklick Valley Mystery Series)

“Incredibly addictive page turner.” (Meghan, Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer)

“O’Hare leans toward the human side of his characters, imbuing them with a real world presence that is in turn witty and passionate.” (Roy.T James, for Readers’ Favourite)

https://www.amazon.com/Doom-Murders-Inspector-Sheehan-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B0176IW9B6/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Doom-Murders-Inspector-Sheehan-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B0176IW9B6/

https://www.amazon.es/Doom-Murders-Inspector-Sheehan-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B0176IW9B6/

Author Brian O'Hare
Author Brian O’Hare

About the author:

Brian O’Hare, MA, Ph.D., is a retired assistant director of a large regional college of further and higher education. Married, three children, ten grandchildren, one great grandchild. He plays golf three times a week off a ten handicap and does a lot of voluntary work. Any writing he has previously done was academic…very much restricted to a very specific readership. Several articles in educational journals were followed by a number of book-length reports for the Dept. of Education and the University of Ulster.

He has also written an interesting biography of a man who daily performs amazing miracles of healing…The Miracle Ship. That is currently available in Amazon’s Kindle bookstore. Hopefully those who read it will spread the word and write reviews to help John’s message to reach the hearts of many, many people.

Brian had a liver disease since childhood which resulted in him taking early retirement a number of years ago. In 2002 he had a liver transplant but is strong and healthy now. He continued to do academic writing well into his retirement and followed that with a memoir about his liver transplant, dealing with the physical, emotional and spiritual experiences that came from that period in his life (A Spiritual Odyssey, published by Columba Press, Dublin).
Recently he experienced a desire to write fiction. Hence Fallen Men. It is a story about three priests…but it is religious in much the same way Thornbirds was religious. He has also finished a second book. It’s quite different from Fallen Men… a detective mystery inspired by an old 14th century painting of the Last Judgement. It’s called “The Doom Murders”, and it is available on Kindle and in print. Brian’s publisher’s liked The Doom Murders so much that they commissioned a series. The second book in the series, “The 11.05 Killings”, has now been written. Obviously it features the same detectives as in The Doom Murders. The book is now going through the editing and formatting process by Crimson Cloak Publishing, a cover is being designed, and the book will be ready for publication early in 2016. The third book in the series, The Coven Murders, is currently being written.

To launch the print version of The Doom Murders, CCP asked Brian to write a couple of short stories, featuring Inspector Sheehan. These were originally intended to be Facebook games (i.e. a kind of ‘see the clues, guess the killer’ thing) but the publisher liked them so much that she has started a new line called Crimson Shorts. Brian’s two shorts ( a third will shortly have to be written to launch The 11.05 Killings) Murder at Loftus House and Murder at the Roadside Cafe are now available on Amazon in Kindle and print versions.

Also now available on Kindle (as well as print) is the story of Brian’s liver transplant and the growth in spirit he experienced as he waited for almost a year, not knowing if he was going to live or die. See: “A Spiritual Odyssey [Diary of an Ordinary Catholic]”

https://www.amazon.com/Brian-OHare/e/B001K89IWM

My review:

I discovered Brian O’Hare and his Inspector Sheehan series thanks to the second book, 11:05 Murders, and I have been a fan ever since, reviewing the next two books in the series as well, but had not managed to catch up with the first one. As I mentioned in my last review (you can read my review of The Dark Web Murders here), the author is happy to send a copy of the first book in the series to any readers interested, and he was kind enough to send me one as well. And I am very pleased about it.

I’m not surprised by the accolades and the praise bestowed on this novel. Although I’ve come to it after reading the rest of the series, and therefore I was already familiar with the characters and the setting, it has all the elements that will endear it to fans of police procedural novels and thrillers, and a few extra ones for good measure.

The story is narrated in the third person, like the rest of the series, mostly from Inspector Sheehan’s point of view, although there are parts of the novel where we share in the point of view of other characters, including members of the team and others who seem, at first, not to play a direct part in the plot, although we soon learn this is not the case. As I have mentioned when reviewing other novels in the series, the changes in point of view are not confusing or sudden, and the narration style works well because it offers readers plenty of clues, hints, and also a few red herrings that contribute to keeping the brain engaged and readers on their toes.

One of the aspects of the series I’ve always particularly enjoyed is the interaction between the members of the team, and also the teamwork involved in the investigation. Sheehan is, without a doubt, the star of the team, and his intuition/flashes of inspiration always help solve the mystery, although they are, at times, a source of frustration and puzzlement, as is the case here. Apart from a great detective, Sheehan is an inspiring leader of his men, a caring human being with his weaknesses and foibles; he is far from the ladies’ man so favoured by the detective genre, and although he does not shy away from action, he is a thinking man and spends a fair amount of time reflecting, not only upon the cases, but also about social, political, and religious matters. (He is a lapsed Roman Catholic, and the nature of the killings makes him question his own beliefs). The rest of the members of the team are also individuals in their own right, and we get to learn about their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses, and some details about their personal lives which are relevant to the story, because, in this case, everybody is a suspect. There are also other characters we meet, some who are regular collaborators of the team, like the medical examiner (one of my favourite characters, who always help bring a touch of lightness and fun to the proceedings), but also some introduced due to their relationship to the case, and all of them add interest to the story and play important roles later on.

The story is set in Northern Ireland, in Belfast, and the book’s setting is very important, not only because of the real locations and because how it affects the functioning of the team (Northern Ireland is part is the UK, and therefore their police force is organised in the same way as that in England), but also because the political and the religious background and tensions play a fundamental part in the plot and in the series as a whole. There are beautiful descriptions of neighbourhoods, buildings, and places, and I felt that the novel manages to give readers a good insight into the nature of both, the place and the people of Northern Ireland. At a historical moment such as this, with the Brexit discussions as one of the main items in the news, and the issue of the Irish Border as one of the stumbling stones, the novel’s background makes it even more compelling.

I’ve mentioned religion, and despite some twists and turns that point towards other possible motives, the murderer seems to be preoccupied with religion and with making a statement about the current state of affairs in the Roman Catholic Church. As I have said, thanks to the omniscient point of view, we are offered information the investigating team does not have, and readers will probably feel they are ahead and have a pretty good idea of what is going on, but the balance between what is revealed and what is not is finely tuned, and it is easy to miss clues or get stuck on one of the many possible suspects and trapped by the red herrings. I cannot discuss the ins and outs of the case or of the ending (yes, I had my suspicions, but mostly because I was at an advantage having read other books in the series, and even with that I was not all that confident and missed a few of the clues), but it fully engaged me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d recommend anybody reading it to pay close attention to it and not to dismiss any information provided. Everything has a reason. I’d also warn readers that although the descriptions of the crimes are not graphic in the extreme, the deaths are violent and there are a number of upsetting elements in the plot, and these are realistically depicted. Readers who prefer their crime novels light should stay away from this book.

The novel flows well and the language is easy to follow, without over-the-top reliance on jargon, and terminology that might not be familiar to the reader is explained within the context of the novel. The novel moves at a good pace, but it does include moments of reflection and commentaries about the case, its ramifications, and also about the general state of affairs that allow readers to think about the events and to catch a breath. Despite the serious subject, there are also moments of fun and banter, and even what seems to be a budding romance. There are some action scenes, but there is also plenty of work following clues and examining the evidence, and that helps readers feel like true investigators and ersatz members of the team, as they eavesdrop in the discussions and come up with their own theories.

This is an excellent police procedural novel, the first in a great series, with engaging characters, in a setting that is as important as the plot, and one that shows a team of investigators readers can root for (rather than corrupt individuals or egotistical detectives only interested in their own glory). There is a lot of talk about religion, partly due to the plot, and partly to the main character’s own spiritual crisis, and this might put off some readers, although, personally, I enjoyed that aspect of the story, a likely reflection of the author’s personal journey.

Thanks to the author for this great novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog A WOMAN OF VALOR by Gary Corbin (@garycorbin) A solid police-procedural with an inspiring female protagonist #RBRT

Hi all:

I repeat today with another book by an author I read last year.

Cover of A Woman of Valor
A Woman of Valor by Gary Corbin

A Woman of Valor by Gary Corbin.

In A Woman of Valor, Jack Reacher meets Tracy Crosswhite as #metoo victims find a heroine who will fight back for them – with a vengeance.

A rookie policewoman, who was molested as a young girl, pursues a serial child molester, and struggles to control the emotions his misdeeds awake in her.

Valorie Dawes carries a serious emotional scar from being molested in her youth by a family “friend,” a tragedy referred to by family members only as “The Incident.” Her namesake uncle, a well-known Clayton, CT police detective, learned of her ordeal only days before being gunned down in the line of duty. Resolving to continue in his footsteps, she becomes a Clayton policewoman at the age of 22.

But Val’s self-doubts emerge and multiply when she encounters bullying and chauvinism from many of the seasoned male cops in her department. Only her partner, Gil, manages to crack through her veneer of mistrust of men by showing patience, kindness, and confidence in her. Under Gil’s tutelage, Val shows promise as a talented, thoughtful, and quick-thinking street cop, earning praise from her superiors–and continued resistance from old-school line cops, jealous of her quick rise.

Despite Gil’s support, Val becomes increasingly isolated within the department and vilified in the public eye as reckless and incompetent. Complicating matters, a blogger, Paul Peterson, somehow gains inside knowledge about her and is quick to sensationalize her mistakes on his trashy “police-accountability” website.

One of Val’s early mistakes involves getting overpowered in a domestic abuse encounter with a serial child abuser, Richard Harkins, who proves to be both elusive and cruel. His escape haunts her and she spends an increasing amount of her time and energy trying to track him down before he strikes again and subjects any more young girls to the fate Val encountered in her own youth.

Can Valorie overcome the trauma she suffered as a child and stop Harkins from hurting others like her–or will her bottled-up anger lead her to take reckless risks that put the people she loves in greater danger?

https://www.amazon.com/Woman-Valor-Gary-Corbin-ebook/dp/B07R4G617Z/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Woman-Valor-Gary-Corbin-ebook/dp/B07R4G617Z/

https://www.amazon.es/Woman-Valor-Gary-Corbin-ebook/dp/B07R4G617Z/

Author Gary Corbin
Author Gary Corbin

About the author:

Gary Corbin is a writer, editor, and playwright in Camas, WA, a suburb of Portland, OR. Lying in Judgment, his Amazon.com best-selling legal thriller, was selected as Bookworks.com “Book of the Week” for July 11-18, 2016, and was the feature novel on Literary Lightbox’s “Indie Spotlight” in February 2017. The long-awaited sequel to Lying in Judgment, Lying in Vengeance, was released in September, 2017.

Gary’s second novel, The Mountain Man’s Dog, came out in June 2016, kicking off the Mountain Man Mysteries series. The sequel, The Mountain Man’s Bride, was released Feb. 8, 2017. The third book in the series, The Mountain Man’s Badge, was just released in June, 2018.

All of these mysteries are available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook forms.

New: Lying in Judgment and Lying in Vengeance now available in audiobook format! The Mountain Man Mysteries will be available on video later in 2019.

Join Gary’s mailing list (http://garycorbinwriting.com/about-gary-corbin/contact/) and be the first to be notified of free preview editions, 99 cent specials, free book promotions, and exclusive content such as deleted chapters and early-draft excerpts of upcoming novels.

Gary’s plays have enjoyed critical acclaim and have enjoyed several productions in regional and community theaters. His writer’s reference, Write Better Right Now: A Dozen Mistakes Good Writers Make-And How to Fix Them, is available exclusively on Kindle.

Gary is a member of the Willamette Writers Group, Northwest Editors Guild, 9 Bridges Writers Group, PDX Playwrights, the Portland Area Theater Alliance, and the Bar Noir Writers Workshop, and participates in workshops and conferences in the Portland, Oregon area.

A homebrewer and coffee roaster, Gary loves to ski, cook, and watch his beloved Red Sox and Patriots. He hopes to someday train his dogs to obey. And when that doesn’t work, he escapes to the Oregon coast with his sweetheart.

Author’s website: http://garycorbinwriting.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/garycorbin1

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/garycorbin

https://www.amazon.com/Gary-Corbin/e/B01BT8SPLW/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

I reviewed another one of this author’s books (The Mountain Man’s Badge, the third book in the Mountain Man’s Mysteries series, you can check my review here), enjoyed it and was pleased when I was given the chance to review this book, as I always feel slightly uneasy when I start reading a series in the middle, because I am aware that I am missing on the background and the development of the characters throughout the previous books, and my review will not be able to reflect that aspect of the story. Here, we have a stand-alone novel (after reading the book and getting to the end of it, it seems that there is a second novel with the same protagonist, Valorie Dawes, due for publication in the spring of 2020, so you won’t have to say goodbye forever to the characters if you get attached to them) and therefore we get an opportunity to meet the characters and become familiar with the setting from the start.

This novel combines the police procedural (a rookie policewoman following in the footsteps of her uncle, who was more of a father and hero figure for her than her own father, joins the local police force, learns the difference between the books and the streets, and tries to catch a criminal that brings back memories she’d rather forget) with subjects and themes more common in women’s fiction (the protagonist was sexually abused as a child and despite her best efforts is still affected by the experience; she has to confront plenty of prejudice and sexism in the police force, has a difficult relationship with her father, and can’t help compare herself to her best friend, who seems to have a much easier and happier life than hers). The author manages to make the mix of the two genres work well, providing plenty of details of how the local police force works that felt quite realistic (and the language and descriptions of the characters, narrated in the third-person —mostly from the point of view of the protagonist— seem straight out of a police report), and demonstrates a good insight into the mind-set of a young woman who has survived such trauma and finds herself confronted by sexist, abusive, and old-fashioned attitudes. (There are small fragments of the book told from some of the other characters’ point of view, also in the third-person, but those are brief, and other than giving us an outsider’s perspective on the main character, I didn’t feel they added much to the plot). Her fight to overcome her difficulties, to take other people into her confidence, and to make meaningful connections, is inspirational and will also feel familiar to readers of literary fiction or women’s fiction.

As mentioned in the description, this book feels, unfortunately, very current, not only because of the abuse (even if the story was originally developed well before #metoo shone some light into the scale of the problem), but also because of the prejudiced attitude of the police towards ethnic minorities (racial profiling is evident throughout the plot), and the way social media can spread falsehoods and fake news, ruining somebody’s reputation only to gain a bit of notoriety. There are plenty of action scenes, chases, and violence (although not extreme) but there are also the slow moments when we see the characters patrolling the streets, making connections with the local gang, or interacting with the locals, and that also felt more realistic than the non-stop frantic rhythm of some thrillers, that seem to never pause for characters to have some breathing space. It shows the work of the police in its various forms, not always running after criminals, but there are also the quiet moments (waiting around, doing research, manning the phones), and when there are actions scenes, these are also followed by consequences that some novels brush over (filling up forms, reporting to Internal Affairs and having a psychological evaluation after a lethal shooting). Although it is mostly set in a chronological order from the moment Val joins the police force, there are chapters where something makes her remember what happened ten years ago, and we get a flashback from her perspective as a 13 y. o. girl. These interludes are clearly marked in the book, and rather than causing confusion, help us understand what Val is going through and why she reacts as she does to her experiences. She is very closed off, she is insecure, finds it difficult to trust people, men in particular, and struggles to maintain her professionalism when confronted with certain types of criminals. There is much discussion in the book about different types of policemen (I’ll leave you to read about those yourself), and she fights hard to be deserving of her uncle’s memory.

The author is skilled at managing a large cast of diverse characters: Val’s friend, Beth; her father, who is on a slippery-slope of self-destruction; Gil, her partner, a sympathetic and likeable character; the other policemen in the team, including her superiors (more enlightened than most of the other men), the other women in the force (and there are wonderful scenes of sisterhood between the women), her brother, sister-in-law and her cute little niece (obsessed with becoming a policewoman like her aunt), the members of an African-American gang (who although tough and engaged in criminal activities, live by their own code of honour), a blogger with inside information who is happy to distort the truth… and of course, the nasty criminal, who has no redeeming features. Even those who play a small part are realistically portrayed and add to the atmosphere and the realism of the novel. This is not one of those books that take place in a city but feel as if only four or five people were living there. We see neighbours, the owners of businesses, and we also have a good sense of the connections between the local police force and the others in the same county and state.

On reading the author notes after the novel, I felt quite touched by the story behind it, and understood why it feels so personal, despite this being a novel with a main female character written by a male author. In the acknowledgements, the author thanks several members of law enforcement for their expertise and advice, which he has incorporated well into the novel, and the book contains a list of questions that should prove particularly useful for book clubs.

In my opinion, this is a novel that includes a solid plot, with a main bad character (who is truly bad) all readers will hate, some lesser unlikeable characters (the blogger, many of the other policemen Val comes across), some intrigue (who is feeding inside distorted information to the blogger?, what really happened to Val’s uncle?), a hint of romance (don’t worry, honestly. This is not a romantic novel), sympathetic characters easy to engage with and root for, even if we might have very little in common with them, particularly Val and Gil, and a more than satisfying ending.

As I said, I read an early ARC copy of the book, so there might be some minor changes in the final version. This is a book that contains some violence, shootings, and sexual abuse of young girls (and although not extremely explicit, I am aware this could be a trigger for some readers).

Thanks to Rosie and to all the members of her team, thanks to the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Oh, and I’ll be away for a little while (until the end of August), in a place where I won’t have regular access to e-mail and/or internet. It is a break/holiday sort of. Well, you know what they say about a change being as good as a break, don’t you? I have left some reviews programmed, in case you need any extra reads for the holidays, and I won’t close the comments, but I’ll only be able to reply to them when I can connect. I just wanted to let you know so you don’t worry if you don’t hear from me or you don’t see me around as often as you’re used to. Have a lovely summer!

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE HEAD IN THE ICE: A BOWMAN OF THE YARD INVESTIGATION by Richard James (@RichardNJames). A masterful new Victorian #mystery series. #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you the review of the first book in a new Victorian mystery series, another great discovery from Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Cover of book The Head in the Ice
The Head in the Ice: A Bowman of the Yard Investigation by Richard James

The Head in the Ice: A Bowman of the Yard Investigation by Richard James (@RichardNJames).

Who would send a madman to solve a murder?

Just released from a Lunatic Asylum, Inspector George Bowman is in no shape to lead an investigation, but the discovery of a severed head in the frozen waters of the River Thames sees him back in service at Scotland Yard. As he delves into the dark heart of the city in search of answers, the memory of the death of his wife threatens to derail his investigation and place his very sanity in peril.

Bowman must confront his demons and the part he played in her demise before he can solve the case; a case that leads him across Victorian London in pursuit of a killer.

The first Bowman Of The Yard investigation.

‘A genuinely impressive debut. Richard James has crafted an engrossing mystery, with a great sense of atmosphere, and meticulously researched.’ Andrew Cartmel, The Vinyl Detective

https://www.amazon.com/Head-Ice-Bowman-Yard-Investigation-ebook/dp/B07PDJCH8P/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Head-Ice-Bowman-Yard-Investigation-ebook/dp/B07PDJCH8P/

https://www.amazon.es/Head-Ice-Bowman-Yard-Investigation-ebook/dp/B07PDJCH8P/

Picture of author Richard James
Author Richard James

About the author:

I’ve been telling stories all my life.

As a playwright, I have written nearly thirty plays, all of which have been published by Lazy Bee Scripts. They often win awards for their performances up and down the country and around the world. My most popular play, a comedy called A Fete Worse Than Death, tells of a murder in the country produce tent at a summer fete. My best selling one act play, White Lies, features a reunion of four women thirty years after university, with hilarious consequences (even though I say so myself)! In 2014 I wrote a book, Space Precinct Unmasked, detailing my experiences working on Gerry Anderson’s last live action sci-fi series.

So, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I would write a novel. I decided it had to be set in a world I would want to spend time in and feature characters I would want to be with. And most importantly, it would have to feature a grisly murder or two! I love the Victorian era (or at least the literary version of it), and I devour books about nineteenth century detectives (yes, Sherlock Holmes, I’m looking at you). It seems such a rich period of history populated by some hugely colourful characters, so that’s where I’ve started my novel-writing career. The Head in the Ice follows the investigation of Inspector George Bowman of Scotland Yard into the discovery of – well, a head in the ice of the River Thames.

Three more books in the Bowman of the Yard series are to follow, together with some short stories from Bowman’s Casebook. These will fill in the gaps between the novels, giving the reader the chance to follow Bowman’s professional progress and personal battles (he’s a troubled man, as you’ll see) over twelve months of his life (although it might take me a little longer to write them all!). 1892 promises to be quite a year for Inspector Bowman, and I’m sure he would love to have your company!

www.bowmanoftheyard.co.uk

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Richard-James/e/B00NHSS6H6/

The author informed me that book two in the Bowman of the Yard series, The Devil at the Dock, will be available to preorder from June 4th and readers can pick up a free short story, The Smithfield Murder, by visiting www.bowmanoftheyard.co.uk

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel ahead of its publication.

From the moment I read the description of this novel, a few weeks before its publication, I knew I’d end up reading it. I love mysteries, have been reading historical fiction in recent times and with my background in criminology, a mysterious murder set in the Victorian era ticked many boxes. To top it all, the main character, and the protagonist of the series, Inspector Bowman, had been in a lunatic asylum. As I’m also a psychiatrist and have read and enjoyed books looking back at the history of psychiatry, this was a further inducement, if I needed one. Of course, the title and the cover of the book worked in its favour.

I’ll try not to dwell too much on the story and the plot itself, to avoid spoilers, but I can tell you the book is a fine mystery that lived up to my expectations, and even surpassed them in many ways.

The style of the story and the way is told put me in mind of watching a movie (or a play, which I know is a genre the author is very familiar with, although here we have many more settings than in a standard play). The author uses an omniscient point of view, and that means that readers get to see scenes and events from a variety of characters’ perspectives (and not only the good guys either), and sometimes also from a neutral observer’s point of view (that works particularly well to set the scene and also to keep the mystery going, while at the same time offering readers some snippets of information that Bowman and his team do not have). That is an excellent method to avoid revealing too much while offering the readers great insights into the characters’ thoughts and motivations, but I know not everybody likes stories told this way, and I’d advise people to check a sample of the book to see if it is a good fit, in case of doubt. Personally, I did not find the way the story was told at all confusing, although due to the nature of the case and to the many characters, it is necessary to pay close attention and make sure not to miss any details. (Perhaps adding a cast of characters might help readers get their bearings quickly).

In some books that type of point of view might result in difficulty getting attached to any of the characters, but I did not think that was the case here. Although we get many points of view, the main one we follow is that of the Bowman, and because the inspector is the first character we meet, and in pretty difficult circumstances (he is a resident at a lunatic asylum just about to go in front of the board that must decide if he’s ready for his release), we quickly establish a connection with him. He is a sympathetic and intelligent character, who has suffered a personal tragedy that has resulted in mental health difficulties (nowadays, I’d say he would be diagnosed, most likely, with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), and who tries hard to get on with his life, despite his anxiety, flashbacks, and the complex and emotionally challenging nature of his work. He is not the perfect and flawless hero, but a human being with flaws and weaknesses. His flashbacks, the physical symptoms he experiences, and his fragile mental state are well drawn and are, for me, one of the strongest points of the book. I also enjoyed the depiction of the asylum and its therapies, far from the ones we often see and read about in popular media that seem right out of a horror movie. There are other characters to root for as well, although not quite as fleshed out as Bowman, and even some of the baddies are individualised enough for readers to get a fair idea of who they are.

The novel also succeeds at creating a picture of the London of the era, the atmosphere of the different neighbourhoods, the asylum, Scotland Yard, the underworld, without going overboard with descriptions and details or slowing the action. It is a compelling and historically accurate portrayal of a time, and one that goes beyond the anecdotal to dig deeper into some of the unsavoury aspects of the era.

The plot is gripping, and we visit upper-middle-class locations, pubs, sewers, cemeteries, bridges, a lunatic asylum, a ship, Bengal, and we get to learn about laudanum, poisons, laws, Victorian trade, weapons, the criminal underworld of the era (including murders, robberies, prostitution…), and although we learn enough information to get suspicious about the guilty party (or parties) fairly early on, there are quite a few twists and turns, strange goings on, and we don’t get to understand how it all fits together until close to the end (we might have our suspicions but…). There are some red herrings thrown in, and even a suggestion of the supernatural. All in all, the atmosphere, the characters, and the plot, work well to create a solid story, a great opening to a new series of Victorian mysteries, and one that allows us to examine the laws, mores and morality of the era.

If I had to take issue with anything, other than the point of view that I think works well but some readers might not feel comfortable with, I felt that, at times, some of the experiences, tics, and behaviours characters engage in (clearing one’s throat, blowing smoke into someone’s face, etc.) are repeated fairly often, and that put me in mind of stage directions or business that actors have to engage in to indicate certain traits of a character, which might not be as relevant or necessary when we can share in their thoughts directly. I did not find it distracting and, like some of the side stories, I felt they helped readers catch their breath and regroup, but those who prefer stripped down and action-led plots might feel they could be slimmed down.

In sum, this is a great story that I’d recommend to those who enjoy mysteries within a historical setting (Victorian in this case), with a complex story full of compelling characters and plenty of atmosphere. I look forward to the next adventure of Inspector Bowman, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one.

 Thanks to the author, to Rosie and all the members of her wonderful team, to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling! ♥

 

 

 

 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Dark Web Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries Book 4) by Brian O’Hare (@brianohare26) A first-rate challenge for those who love a bit of detecting #Bookreview

Hi all:

I bring you the review of the next book in a series that has quickly become one of my favourite police procedurals.

The Dark Web Murders by Brian O'Hare
The Dark Web Murders by Brian O’Hare

The Dark Web Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries Book 4) by Brian O’Hare

I AM NEMEIN. I AM EMOTIONALLY DETACHED FROM MY KILLINGS. I AM NOT, THEREFORE, A MURDERER. I AM AN INSTRUMENT OF NEMESIS, A PUNISHER.

This is a theme running through a number of blogs on the Dark Web, written by a serial killer. He is highly intelligent and employs philosophical argument to justify a series of gruesome murders.  However, he describes the killings in lurid detail, and with such gloating relish, that he utterly negates his delusion of detachment and reveals himself to be a cold-blooded, narcissistic psychopath.

Sheehan and his team rush headlong down a series of blind alleys in the pursuit of the psychopath, who continues to murder his victims with impunity. He is fiendishly clever, utterly ruthless, and tests Sheehan’s famed intuition to the limit.  Indeed, Sheehan only learns the truth during a horrific climax when some members of his team experience a most harrowing ‘laceration of the soul’ that they will never be able to forget. It is unlikely that the reader will either.

“The first thing I thought after reading this book is: Why isn’t Brian O’Hare better known in the crime writing world? This man is extremely talented, and his book a wonderful ‘whodunnit’ that left me guessing until the end.” [Joseph Sousa, Crime Writer]

“Head and shoulders above most mystery authors who are published today, Brian O’Hare deserves a wider recognition. You won’t regret purchasing his books.” [C&B Todd, Amazon Reviewer]

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Murders-Inspector-Sheehan-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B07NYH1FK4/

https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Murders-Inspector-Sheehan-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B07NYH1FK4/

https://www.amazon.es/Dark-Murders-Inspector-Sheehan-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B07NYH1FK4/

Author Brian O'Hare
Author Brian O’Hare

About the author:

Brian O’Hare, MA, Ph.D., is a retired assistant director of a large regional college of further and higher education. Married, three children, ten grandchildren, one great grandchild. He plays golf three times a week off a ten handicap and does a lot of voluntary work. Any writing he has previously done was academic…very much restricted to a very specific readership. Several articles in educational journals were followed by a number of book-length reports for the Dept. of Education and the University of Ulster.

He has also written an interesting biography of a man who daily performs amazing miracles of healing…The Miracle Ship. That is currently available in Amazon’s Kindle bookstore. Hopefully those who read it will spread the word and write reviews to help John’s message to reach the hearts of many, many people.

Brian had a liver disease since childhood which resulted in him taking early retirement a number of years ago. In 2002 he had a liver transplant but is strong and healthy now. He continued to do academic writing well into his retirement and followed that with a memoir about his liver transplant, dealing with the physical, emotional and spiritual experiences that came from that period in his life (A Spiritual Odyssey, published by Columba Press, Dublin).

Recently he experienced a desire to write fiction. Hence Fallen Men. It is a story about three priests…but it is religious in much the same way Thornbirds was religious. He has also finished a second book. It’s quite different from Fallen Men… a detective mystery inspired by an old 14th century painting of the Last Judgement. It’s called “The Doom Murders”, and it is available on Kindle and in print. Brian’s publisher’s liked The Doom Murders so much that they commissioned a series. The second book in the series, “The 11.05 Killings“, has now been written. Obviously it features the same detectives as in The Doom Murders. The book is now going through the editing and formatting process by Crimson Cloak Publishing, a cover is being designed, and the book will be ready for publication early in 2016. The third book in the series, The Coven Murders, is currently being written.

To launch the print version of The Doom Murders, CCP asked Brian to write a couple of short stories, featuring Inspector Sheehan. These were originally intended to be Facebook games (i.e. a kind of ‘see the clues, guess the killer’ thing) but the publisher liked them so much that she has started a new line called Crimson Shorts. Brian’s two shorts ( a third will shortly have to be written to launch The 11.05 Killings) Murder at Loftus House and Murder at the Roadside Cafe are now available on Amazon in Kindle and print versions.

Also now available on Kindle (as well as print) is the story of Brian’s liver transplant and the growth in spirit he experienced as he waited for almost a year, not knowing if he was going to live or die. See: “A Spiritual Odyssey [Diary of an Ordinary Catholic]”

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brian-OHare/e/B001K89IWM/

My review:

I received an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Although this is the fourth book in the Inspector Sheehan Mystery series, this is the third book I’ve read because I caught up on it in the second book, the 11:05 Murders and I have kept reading the new ones (you can check my review of The Coven Murders here, where you will also find a link to my review of the previous book). And I can confirm that I have enjoyed them all. By the way, any readers of this book who enjoy it but haven’t read the first one in the series either, I recommend you keep reading the book until the end, including the extra materials, because the author kindly offers copies of the first book to any readers who request them directly. So there’s no excuse. (And that makes me think… what am I waiting for?)

This fourth instalment in the series has all the elements fans have come to love, and any readers of police procedurals would expect to find. There are weird murders, a clever and truly twisted murderer, bizarre clues and possible motives, plenty of red herrings, twists and turns galore and a fascinating background to the story (the dark web, a pretty unique club, corruption, debauchery, blackmail… even Brexit makes an appearance!). If you love puzzles and crosswords you’ll have a slight advantage when trying to solve the case, but you need to keep your wits about you and pay close attention to even the smallest details (although I must confess that I did not guess the murderer this time, and I was derailed by a red herring. In my defence, though, I did uncover one of the major clues faster than the members of the team and even the expert, but then, although I hardly do crosswords these days, I used to be a fan).

It also has the Northern Irish setting that is always an important aspect to the stories in the series, and in this case there are no paranormal aspects, like in the last book, but we have interesting philosophical and moral debates about the nature of justice, retribution, and the risks inherent in taking the law in one’s hands.

One of my favourite aspects of the books in this series is the interaction between the members of the team, who are all unique but work together well, despite moments of tension and misunderstandings. We get to learn more about the characters, we see how even some that seemed very set in their ways have developed and play a bigger role in this novel, and I was pleased to catch up with them. That does not mean this book cannot be read as a stand-alone. In fact, the author has followed readers’ suggestions and has added a list of characters at the beginning of the book, including the members of the team and also those pertaining to the story, and he has also included terminology used by UK police, to make sure that readers not familiar with it have no difficulties following the action, making it even easier to follow. Although there are passing references to events from previous novels, these are not fundamental to the story or the development of the plot, and there is no cliff-hanger at the end either, so don’t hesitate to read the novel if you like the sound of it. My only word of caution would be that you are likely to get hooked onto the series, so, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The book is written in the third person, mostly from Sheehan’s point of view, although also from some of the other members of his team, and we also get a prologue (pay attention) and extremely intriguing blog posts interspersed in the book, that are clearly related to the action, that is narrated in chronological order. There is sufficient background provided to all the topics that come up in the story to ensure readers can enjoy it, but this does not unduly delay the action, and the writing flows well, and gathers momentum as it goes along. As I’ve said, it’s impossible to read the book without getting caught up in the intrigue and debating the clues as if you were another member of the team.

This is a strong and solid police procedural, with a fascinating and pretty dark case that will suppose a first-rate challenge for those who love a bit of detecting, and look for an interesting background and characters they can root for. Another gripping book by Brian O’Hare. I am eagerly awaiting the next one.

Thanks to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep reading and smiling! ♥

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