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

Tales Of London’s Docklands by Henry Bradford


First published 2007 as Slaves, Serfs and Wage-Slavery – A Tale of London’s Docklands

Description: Presents an anthology of true stories, drawn from the author’s personal experience as a Registered Docker in the Port of London. This work is an attempt to preserve the memories of day to day life of the docklands in the past. It is of interest to those whose relatives worked as dockers, and to social historians.

Opening: Eric was a year younger than me. Although we had been to the same school in Gravesend and I had encountered him as a boy, we came from different areas within the Borough and never got to know each other for two specific reasons. First, his father was a shipwright, employed by a ship repair company that operated within Tilbury Docks and on vessels on the River Thames. He was therefore classed as an artisan in full-time remunerative employment. This meant Eric was prime candidate for the A and B forms when we were at school. The second reason we didn’t get to know each other was that I was a docker’s son.

Liberally spotted with some fab photos from the author’s collection, I was engrossed in all the little anecdotal stories and built up a good idea of how it must have been working in the Port of London. The overall impression was it must have been a tough life no matter which rôle one worked.

Location 28/140: ‘He never took chances with men’s lives in an industry that had a horrendous number of accidental injuries and deaths. Dock working was always a dangerous game of chance.’

Three canny crane drivers who double up as important bods from the film industry.

The Invisible Code by Christopher Fowler


Description: Two small children are playing a game called ‘Witch-Hunter’. They place a curse on a young woman taking lunch in a church courtyard and wait for her to die. An hour later the woman is indeed found dead inside St Bride’s Church – a building that no-one else has entered. Unfortunately Bryant & May are refused the case. Instead, there are hired by their greatest enemy to find out why his wife has suddenly started behaving strangely. She’s become an embarrassment to him at government dinners, and he is convinced that someone is trying to drive her insane. She has even taken to covering the mirrors in her apartment, and believes herself to be the victim of witchcraft. Then a society photographer is stabbed to death in a nearby park and suddenly a link emerges between the two cases. And so begins an investigation that will test the members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit to their limits, setting Arthur Bryant off on a trail that leads to Bedlam and Bletchley Park, and into the world of madness, codes and the secret of London’s strangest relic.

The Rake Taking Possession of the Estate by Hogarth

A madcap romp through some of the most interesting snippets of London’s history. Add in a Twist of MPs’ Wives (collective noun), a shaken-not-stirred Bethlehem variant, swirl in a whole bunch of code, and top off with three sherbet lemons, a fourth half sucked. What have you got? A rollicking good, solid Bryant and May insert.

3* – Full Dark House (2003)
4* – The Water Room (2004)
4* – Seventy-Seven Clocks (2005)
3* – Ten Second Staircase (2006)
3.5* – White Corridor (2007)
3.5* – The Victoria Vanishes (2008)
3* – Bryant and May on the Loose (2009)
4* – Off the Rails (2010)
3.5* – Bryant and May and the Memory of Blood (2011)
3.5* – The Invisible Code (2012)


Narrated by Davina Porter

Description: Prudence Barrymore, a talented nurse who had worked with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, is found strangled to death in a London hospital. Private inquiry agent William Monk is engaged to investigate this horrific crime. Gradually, Monk assembles the portrait of a remarkable woman. Yet he also discerns the shadow of a tragic evil and a frightening glimmer of his own eclipsed past . . .

Whoah! this was a bloated, soap box of an episode. Really not a favourite.

3* The Face of a Stranger (William Monk, #1)
2* A Sudden, Fearful Death (William Monk, #4)
3* The Shifting Tide (William Monk, #14)
4* Dark Assassin (William Monk, #15)
4* Execution Dock (William Monk, #16)

3* Death in the Devil’s Acre (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #7)

2* The Sheen on the Silk
3* A Christmas Guest (Christmas Stories, #3)
3* A Christmas Beginning (Christmas Stories, #5)

Polynia by China Miéville

bookshelves: sci-fi, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, london, britain-england, summer-2014, e-book, published-2014

Read on July 02, 2014


Read here

Description: Please enjoy “Polynia,” a Original short story by acclaimed author China Miéville. When the narrator was a boy, cold titanic masses appeared in the skies above London: Icebergs. As explorers both official and amateur try to climb the snowy pekas, packs of children follow in their frigid shadows.

Good Bait by John Harvey

bookshelves: newtome-author, mystery-thriller, series, published-2012, london, britain-england, summer-2014, contemporary, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost, next

Read from April 14 to June 29, 2014


Hampstead Pond in winter.

Description: When a 17-year-old Moldovan boy is found dead on Hampstead Heath, the case falls to DCI Karen Shields and her overstretched Homicide & Serious Crime Unit. Karen knows she needs a result. …


A body in the pond starts this series off. Karen Shields, a down to earth black officer from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command unit, speaks with a thick London patter. At times it reads like a corpse list, meh. A two icicle read. Next!

The Face of a Stranger (William Monk, #1) by Anne Perry

bookshelves: tbr-busting-2014, summer-2014, series, mystery-thriller, published-1990, fraudio, victoriana, london, britain-england, historical-fiction

Read from May 16 to June 10, 2014


Narrated by Davina Porter

Description: His name, they tell him, is William Monk, and he is a London police detective. But the accident that felled him has left him with only half a life; his memory and his entire past have vanished. As he tries to hide the truth, Monk returns…

That was a great listenalong. Look forward with pleasure to the next.

3.5* The Face of a Stranger

A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh

bookshelves: published-2014, radio-4, spring-2014, dystopian, first-in-series, newtome-author, plague-disease, series, medical-eew, london, lifestyles-deathstyles, britain-england

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from April 26 to May 10, 2014



Description: Apocalyptic thriller by award-winning novelist Louise Welsh.

At the height of a hot London summer, in which people are falling seriously ill from a highly contagious virus, TV shopping channel presenter Stevie Flint goes in search of her boyfriend, who has stopped returning her calls.

Louise Welsh is the author of six highly acclaimed novels including “The Cutting Room” and “The Girl on the Stairs”. She is the recipient of several awards including The John Creasey Memorial Dagger, the Saltire First Book Award, the Glenfiddich/Scotland on Sunday, Spirit of Scotland Writing Award and the City of Glasgow Lord Provost’s Award for Literature. In 2007 she was included in Waterstone’s list of Twenty-five Authors for the Future.


Episode 1: Hot London summer and there is something in the air.

Episode 2: Simon Sharkey is lying dead in his bed. Still in shock, Stevie waits for the emergency services to arrive.

Episode 3: Stevie has herself been laid low by the virus and, after eight days in bed, has finally recovered enough to act upon instructions left for her in a letter from Simon. She must deliver a mysterious package to his colleague, Malcolm Reah, at St Thomas’ Hospital.

Episode 4: London is in meltdown as the deadly virus known as “The Sweats” spreads rapidly through the population. Despite the danger, survivor Stevie Flint is determined to continue her search for answers to the mysterious death of her boyfriend, Dr Simon Sharkey.

Episode 5: Worryingly, it appears that she has herself become a target, attacked in the car park at work. Now she is pinning her hopes on the expertise of a computer hacker to gain access to the secrets she believes lie within Simon’s laptop.

Episode 6: Ignoring the chaos around her, survivor Stevie Flint is determined to discover who, or what, killed her boyfriend.

Episode 7: She has learned that Simon was working on a controversial treatment for cerebral palsy. Returning to his flat in search of more evidence, she makes another shocking discovery.

Episode 8: She’s discovered that Simon and his colleagues were developing a controversial treatment for cerebral palsy. Their company, Fibrosyop, was being investigated by a journalist who was killed in a street mugging a few days before Simon. The coincidence seems to confirm Stevie’s suspicions that Simon was murdered.

Episode 9: Searching for clues, she has sought help from Iqbal, an IT expert, to access her murdered boyfriend’s laptop. But now Iqbal isn’t answering his telephone and Stevie fears that something bad has happened to him, too.

Episode 10: While London burns, Stevie Flint closes in on two of her boyfriend’s medical colleagues, convinced that one of them is his killer.

Reader ….. Nadine Marshall
Abridger ….. Siân Preece
Writer ….. Louise Welsh
Producer ….. Kirsteen Cameron.

This is not going to be a popular verdict given those glowing reviews from flisters I usually seem to fall into step with, yet I have to declare this was an also-run set at tedium level. The premise is non-existent: Why did she keep on keeping on when Simon was just a temporary shag partner? Stevie was set for slinging her hook right at the beginning because he hadn’t contacted and she took the silence as rebuff – that right there shows the shallowness of the relationship.

It has been posited elsewhere that this was written with an eye to a screen production, however don’t save me a seat.

Still, on the up, where there is nearly always an up moment, this did keep me wanting to know the outcome at the end.


England’s Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton by Kate Williams

bookshelves: spring-2014, biography, published-2005, nonfiction, history, prostitution, lifestyles-deathstyles, london, radio-4x

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from May 02 to 09, 2014

Description: She was the most famous woman in England–the beautiful model for society painters Joshua Reynolds and George Romney, an icon of fashion, the wife of an ambassador, and the mistress of naval hero Horatio Nelson. But Emma Hamilton had been born to the poverty of a coal-mining town and spent her teenage years working as a prostitute. From the brothels of London to the glittering court of Naples and the pretentious country estate of the most powerful admiral in England, British debut historian Kate Williams captures the life of Emma Hamilton with all its glamour and heartbreak.

In lucid, engaging prose, Williams brings to life a complex and intelligent woman. Emma is sensuous, generous, artistic, at once shamelessly seductive and recklessly ambitious. Willing to do anything for love and fame, she sets out to make herself a star–and she succeeds beyond even her wildest dreams. By the age of twenty-six, she leaves behind the precarious life of a courtesan to become Lady Hamilton, wife of Sir William Hamilton–the aging, besotted, and probably impotent British ambassador to the court of Naples.
But everything changes when Lord Nelson steams into Naples harbor fresh from his triumph at the Battle of the Nile and literally falls into Emma’s adoring arms. Their all-consuming romance–conducted amid the bloody tumult of the Napoleonic Wars–makes Emma an international celebrity, especially when she returns to England pregnant with Nelson’s baby.

Read by Polly Walker.

Episode 1: Birth in the Wirral, where mum worked in the mine.

Episode 2: Emma’s inexorable rise brings with it a personal transformation and the emergence of genuine talent.

Episode 3: Horatio Nelson’s attention works wonders for Emma’s social standing. But what of her husband Sir William?

Episode 4: Back in England, Emma gives birth. Desperate to be with her, Nelson searches for a perfect country house.

Episode 5: Nelson and Emma are briefly reunited, but he must face the French fleet off the Cape of Trafalgar.

I had three biographies on the go at the same time and this paled into insignificance, style-wise, against the wonderful professional writing of Wedlock: The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore and Eleanor Marx: A Life

Bryant and May and the Memory of Blood

Bryant and May and the Memory of Blood - Christopher Fowler


bookshelves: spring-2014, series, published-2011, amusing, those-autumn-years, scary-clowns-circus-dolls, britain-england, london

Read from March 13 to April 01, 2014

photo senileagitation.jpgRead by Tim Goodman

Description: Christopher Fowler’s acclaimed Peculiar Crimes Unit novels crackle with sly wit, lively suspense, and twists as chilling as London’s fog. Now the indomitable duo of Arthur Bryant and John May, along with the rest of their quirky team, return to solve a confounding case with dark ties to the British theater and a killer who may mean curtains for all involved.

For the crew of the New Strand Theatre, the play The Two Murderers seems less performance than prophecy when a cast party ends in the shocking death of the theater owner’s son. The crime scene is most unusual, even for Bryant and May. In a locked bedroom without any trace of fingerprints or blood, the only sign of disturbance is a gruesome life-size puppet of Mr. Punch laying on the floor.

A full resumé of the characters by way of an introduction was very welcome, however after just a day away I still can’t elucidate the differences: Bryant and May are a team and that’s all you need to know.

Yay! I get a chance to mercilessly flaunt some silly Blavatsky piccies…

oh, and a lifesize Mr Punch…

and don’t forget The Battle of Blythe Road:

3* – Full Dark House (2003)
4* – The Water Room (2004)
4* – Seventy-Seven Clocks (2005)
3* – Ten Second Staircase (2006)
3.5* – White Corridor (2007)
3.5* – The Victoria Vanishes (2008)
3* – Bryant and May on the Loose (2009)
4* – Off the Rails (2010)
3.5* – Bryant and May and the Memory of Blood (2011)
TR – The Invisible Code (2012)