The Thief Taker by C.S. Quinn

 

Description: The year is 1665. Black Death ravages London. A killer stalks the streets in a plague doctor’s hood and mask.

When a girl is gruesomely murdered, thief taker Charlie Tuesday reluctantly agrees to take on the case. But the horrific remains tell him this is no isolated death. The killer’s mad appetites are part of a master plan that could destroy London – and reveal the dark secrets of Charlie’s own past.

Now the thief taker must find this murderous mastermind before the plague obliterates the evidence street by street. This terrifying pursuit will take Charlie deep into the black underbelly of old London, where alchemy, witchcraft and blood-spells collide.

In a city drowned in darkness, death could be the most powerful magic of all.

Opening: London, 1665
In the year of the Black Death London is a city of half-timbered houses and dark towers. In the narrow backstreets, astrologists predict the future, and alchemists conjure wonders. Traitors’ heads line London Bridge, where witches sell potions, and gamesters turn cards. The river flowing beneath lands a daily cargo of smuggler gangs and pirates.

Loved this from the very start: it is gory, graphic and dead gruesome. Many gizzard for dinner scenes so I suppose this is not for the squeamish, and the murdering hulk is terrifying so this is not for the shiverers either. Rest assured though, it is not a horror fic by any stretch of the imagination. The Thief Taker for all its grisly subject is written in a very upbeat fashion. I would loath to call it YA because lots of people have a very prejudiced mindset when it comes to that shelf. It is a highly enjoyable piece of hist-fic fluff.

Holborn Bridge: 1831 Drawn by Tho. H. Shepherd. Engraved by M. Woolnoth.

What a debut, and ike Oliver Twist, I’m asking for more of Charlie Tuesday. Three point five plague hoods rounded up for the sites that do not operate on half ratings.

Endorsed by my Peter James: ‘Quinn is a brilliant new talent!’
Images from the book

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The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

 

Description: Matthew King was once considered one of the most fortunate men in Hawaii. His missionary ancestors who came to the islands were financially and culturally progressive one even married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the states largest landowners. But now his luck has changed. His two daughters are out of control 10-year-old Scottie has a smart-ass attitude and a desperate need for attention and 17-year-old Alex, a former model, is a recovering drug addict. His thrill-seeking and high-maintenance wife, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat racing accident, and will soon be taken off life support. The King family can hardly picture life without their charismatic mother, but as they come to terms with this tragedy, their sadness is mixed with a sense of freedom that shames them and spurs them into surprising actions.

Jonathan Davis narrates.

Book before film.

LATER: No film for me, it would ruin this story in the mind’s eye. The Descendants is not 5* perfect, however it is pretty darn fantastic debut, and so well read by Davis. I have internal film of all the family members, and that, right there, shows how finely wrought Hemmings has crafted them.

My one-liner sum up is this: Mr King, father to Valley Girls, new millenium style, has to grow thick skin in order to keep his family together in the aftermath of tragedy and amidst revelations of disloyalty.

Four and a half Hawaiian Islands

Dead Men’s Bones by James Oswald

Dead Men's Bones (Inspector McLean, #4)

bookshelves: summer-2014, published-2014, mystery-thriller, series, newtome-author, e-book, fife, britain-scotland, ipad, casual-violence, contemporary, cults-societies-brotherhoods, execution, eye-scorcher, games-people-play, gangsters, gorefest, lifestyles-deathstyles, mental-health, net-galley, ouch, recreational-homicide, revenge, sleazy, superstitions, suicide, twist-on-a-theme

Read from August 02 to 03, 2014

 

Description: Dead Men’s Bones is the fourth novel in James Oswald’s phenomenal Inspector Mclean series set in Edinburgh.

The body of a prominent Scottish MP is discovered outside his home, a remote house in North East Fife. In a horrifying attack, Andrew Weatherly has killed his wife and two young daughters, before turning his gun on himself.

The question on everyone’s lips is why would this successful and wealthy man commit such a gruesome crime?

Inspector Tony McLean is surprised to find himself at the centre of this high profile investigation. The deeper he digs, the more McLean realizes he is being used in a game between shadowy factions from the world of power and privilege.

Pressure is on to wrap up the case. That would go against everything McLean believes in . . . but to carry on will threaten the lives of his closest friends and colleagues.

Opening: The pain is everywhere.
It pulses through his head is if there’s a hole in his skull and someone is squeezing his brain in time to his heart beat.

Several pals have reported that series is incredibly good and given this, my only foray so far, proves them right. It is the marvellous tone of the proceedings that makes this book stand out: the backdrop of Scotland in referendum year, the police coming to terms with Police Scotland and all the insecurities roiling in the wake of these issues. A lot of space is given over to ex-soldiers being unable to connect or settle down to civvy life after the horrors of Afghanistan and Iraq, so they become foot soldiers in the army of the homeless; a stark look at how Community Care fails in the bigger picture.

Inspector McLean is a man with recent injuries and who has to attend physiotherapy and counselling sessions and I mean to backtrack to the previous books to find out the answers to some of my questions, however this works well enough as a standalone.

The middle section of this story was eye-scorching, nevertheless, slight cracks started appearing towards the end; a supernatural element was alluded to on several occasions that seemed at odds with the story that had gone before. It could be posited that this was excellent police procedural for a good three quarters and then it seemed to change genre and leave some unresolved issues. For these issues Dead Man’s Bones loses glister where more patience in the fine-tuning would have made all the difference.

Would I recommend it? Oh yes, but with the above caveats. Three and a half bowls from Bobby’s soup kitchen.

‘The Bull’ Roslin Glen

Roslin Glen, cup and ring marks

————————————————————

James Oswald is the author of the Detective Inspector McLean series of crime novels. The first three, Natural Causes, The Book of Souls and The Hangman’s Song are also available as Penguin paperbacks and ebooks. He has written an epic fantasy series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro, which is published by Penguin, as well as comic scripts and short stories.

In his spare time he runs a 350-acre livestock farm in North East Fife, where he raises pedigree Highland Cattle and New Zealand Romney Sheep.

Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder

 

Read by Danika Fairman

Description: In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell; shortly afterwards the two Germanies reunited and East Germany ceased to exist. In this book, Anna Funder tells extraordinary tales from the underbelly of the former East Germany, including the story of Miriam, who as a 16-year-old might have started World War III.

Read her two books the wrong way around. This non-fiction is superbly written, and she really does have stories that need relating to help us understand DDR because let’s face it, no matter how many time the history is read the subject remains hard to get one’s head around.

DDR was a paranoid place and awful things happened to ordinary people and Funder has pinned the subject matter smack, bang to the , erm, wall.

I mentioned that I read her books the wrong way around – ‘All that I Am’, a novel based on factual events, did not resound so well, maybe I am just a non-fiction kind of girl at heart.

Astounding read worth five checkpoint-charlies even though there are some flaws.

Surfy Googling yields some interesting piccies:

Alexanderplatz. We stayed in the Hotel up those stairs on the left, and that square was full of Christmas market. How it looks today:

Speaks the Nightbird (Matthew Corbett, #1) by Robert McCammon

 

Description: The Carolinas, 1699: The citizens of Fount Royal believe a witch has cursed their town with inexplicable tragedies – and they demand that beautiful widow Rachel Howarth be tried and executed for witchcraft. Presiding over the trial is traveling magistrate Issac Woodward, aided by his astute young clerk, Matthew Corbett. Believing in Rachel’s innocence, Matthew will soon confront the true evil at work in Fount Royal….
Evil Unveiled
After hearing damning testimony, magistrate Woodward sentences the accused witch to death by burning. Desperate to exonerate the woman he has come to love, Matthew begins his own investigation among the townspeople. Piecing together the truth, he has no choice but to vanquish a force more malevolent than witchcraft in order to save his beloved Rachel – and free Fount Royal from the menace claiming innocent lives.

4* Gone South
CR Speaks the Nightbird (Matthew Corbett, #1)

Somewhere down below there is a comment that this was written by a mid-life crisis guy who wasn’t having his bedroom needs resolved. Probably nearer the truth than said author would care to acknowledge. You can’t get away from the fact that this is written purely from a male POV, and some of it right from the playground and it would fail the Bechdel test in fine style.

However.

This was an eye-scorcher of epic proportions that at times felt rather long-winded and at other points I was breathless with anticipation. Quite the nail-biting period-piece murder-mystery.

Supernatural? No.

Horror? Hell no.

Just a riveting story that could have been a five star if McCammon shown more style, and have dropped a couple of scenes that were graphic and pointless.

Four Spanish coins from the belly of a turtle.

Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville

bookshelves: currently-reading, vienna, victorian, gothic, e-book, net-galley, newtome-author, fantasy, anti-semitic, eugenics, historical-fiction, cults-societies-brotherhoods, austria, eye-scorcher, witches-and-wizards, superstitions, published-2014, psychology, lifestyles-deathstyles, gardening, food-glorious-food, doo-lally, cover-love, adventure, a-questing-we-shall-go, austro-hungarian-empire

Read from July 10 to 13, 2014


** spoiler alert **

**WARNING: there are spoilers galore in the reviews of this book, so don’t check down through the community book page.**

Description: Gretel and the Dark is Eliza Granville’s dazzling novel of darkness, evil – and hope. Vienna, 1899.

Josef Breuer – celebrated psychoanalyst – is about to encounter his strangest case yet. Found by the lunatic asylum, thin, head shaved, she claims to have no name, no feelings – to be, in fact, not even human. Intrigued, Breuer determines to fathom the roots of her disturbance.

Years later, in Germany, we meet Krysta. Krysta’s Papa is busy working in the infirmary with the ‘animal people’, so little Krysta plays alone, lost in the stories of Hansel and Gretel, the Pied Piper, and more. And when everything changes and the real world around her becomes as frightening as any fairy tale, Krysta finds that her imagination holds powers beyond what she could have ever guessed . . .

Eliza Granville was born in Worcestershire and currently lives in Bath. She has had a life-long fascination with the enduring quality of fairytales and their symbolism, and the idea for Gretel and the Dark was sparked when she became interested in the emphasis placed on these stories during the Third Reich. Gretel and the Dark is her first novel to be published by a major publisher.

This as change of pace from the huge and delicious dip-in/dip-out read of Der Turm: Geschichte aus einem versunkenen Land

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a young adult read. The main narrative is from the point of view of a young girl who doesn’t quite catch the meaning of all that happens around her, yet you the reader will discern straight away just what is unfolding if you remember your history of the time and the place.

Karl Lueger: The populist and anti-Semitic politics of his Christian Social Party are sometimes viewed as a model for Hitler’s Nazism.

Turn of the century Vienna is a time of blossoming psycho-analysis, uprise in anti-semitism, a rumbling of discontent with the emperor Franz Joseph, and the poor are becoming poorer. This is the backdrop to ‘Gretel and the Dark’, where the deeds are dark, superstitions run rife and most important, the writing superb.

Lambach Abbey: In 1897/98 Adolf Hitler lived in the town of Lambach with his parents. It is often claimed that he attended the secular Volksschule at which Benedictine teachers were employed, but also that he attended the monastery school, where each day he saw swastikas among the carved stones and woodwork, which included the symbol.

Just as Oskar in The Tin Drum is one step removed from the events, so here with Krysta, and her real thoughts sometimes are only revealed when she is conversing to her doll. This is clear at the death of her father where she vocally tells everyone that papa is not dead, then she whispers a query to her doll about what are they going to do now.

Just a smidgeon short of five hitlers

An aside: on NetGALLEY(™) you get a chance to vote whether you do or don’t like the cover. I liked it!

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

bookshelves: fraudio, summer-2014, published-2014, north-americas, mystery-thriller, casual-violence, contemporary, eye-scorcher, games-people-play, giftee, hackers-and-computers, lifestyles-deathstyles, ouch, racism, recreational-drugs, recreational-homicide, scary-clowns-circus-dolls, those-autumn-years, chocolate-references, dog-steals-the-show, incest-agameforallthefamily, washyourmouthout-language, poison, suicide

Read from June 27 to 29, 2014

 

14:22:29 Narrated by Will Paton

Description: In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands. In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes. In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the perp; and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy. Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands. Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

In the gloomy pre-dawn hours of a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of unemployed hopefuls are lined up for a job fair. Without warning, a merciless driver plows through the crowd in a roaring Mercedes. Eight people are killed; 15 are wounded. The killer escapes into the early-spring fog never to be seen from again. Until now…

Detective Bill Hodges is a battle-hardened and streetwise crime fighter originally assigned to the Mercedes killings. Now retired, Hodges has lost his way in boredom and depression craving the thrills of taking down the region’s most notorious criminals. When a disturbing letter from the Mercedes Killer arrives at his door, Hodges soon finds himself uncontrollably drawn into a cat-n-mouse pursuit with stakes beyond comprehension.

A locked car problem, according to Jerome,‘a nigger kid with a white name’, is a four pipe problem.

Really enjoyed this flawed but engrossing eye-scorching read. Bill Hodges is adorable as a retired cop with old school values and a legal pad always to hand. Jerome is a local lad who is scorching hot on all things computer, which, as it turns out, is an asset because there is a meeting in The Blue Umbrella chatroom with Mr Mercedes in the offing…

Special credit goes to Jerome’s dog, an Irish setter, who survives a death plot in favour of a more deserving target.

Good solid three pipes here; totally enjoyable romp where I feel glad this was a weekend encounter so the straight fourteen hours+ didn’t really impact on anything urgent.

3* Joyland
3* Mr Mercedes
4* The Shining
3* The Stand
4* It
5* Misery
3* Carrie
5* The Gunslinger
3* Pet Sematary
4* 11/22/63
3* ‘Salem’s Lot
3* The Green Mile
3* Needful Things
3* Cujo
4* Different Seasons
3* The Drawing of the Three
3* Firestarter
5* The Waste Lands
3* Wizard and Glass
4* Insomnia
2* Dreamcatcher
3* Desperation
4* Four Past Midnight
2* The Tommyknockers
4* Dr Sleep
2* The Mist
4* Hearts in Atlantis
3* Rose Madder
4* Full Dark, No Stars
3* From a Buick 8
3* Just After Sunset
3* Blaze
3* Storm of the Century screenplay
1* UR
3* Children of the Corn