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

The Physician by Noah Gordon

 

Description: In the 11th century, Rob Cole left poor, disease-ridden London to make his way across the land, hustling, juggling, peddling cures to the sick—and discovering the mystical ways of healing. It was on his travels that he found his own very real gift for healing—a gift that urged him on to become a doctor. So all consuming was his dream, that he made the perilous, unheard-of journey to Persia, to its Arab universities where he would undertake a transformation that would shape his destiny forever.

Not an item for the rigid, pedantic historian as there are anachronisms galore. Black Death, for one glaring instance and, wait for it,… the discovery that fleas were the carriers. Yes this is 11th century. Who cares, ’tis romping fun!

That aside it is a fabulous tale fully worthy of an encounter.

Isfahan

Three and a half genie lamps

The Shadow of War (The Great War, #1) by Stewart Binns

bookshelves: wwi, series, net-galley, e-book, historical-fiction, published-2014, summer-2014, britain-wales, plague-disease

Read from July 13 to 15, 2014

 

Description: The Shadow of War is the first novel in Stewart Binns’s new series which will see a book release for each year of the First World War. This is a story of love and comradeship, of hatred and tragedy – this is the story of the Great War.

June 1914: the beginning of another long, prosperous summer for Britain. But beneath the clear skies, all is not as it seems – the chill wind of social discontent swirls around this sceptred isle.

Shots ring out in a distant European land – the assassination of a foreign aristocrat. From that moment the entire world is propelled into a conflict unlike any seen before.

This is the story of five British communities, their circumstances very different, but who will all share in the tragedy that is to come. All that they have known will be changed forever by the catastrophic events of the Great War.

The Shadow of War, the first novel in The Great War series from Stewart Binns, is a thrilling read and perfect for those who enjoy the writing of Conn Iggulden and Bernard Cornwell.

Stewart Binns began his professional life as an academic. He then pursued several adventures, including a stint at the BBC, before settling into a career as a schoolteacher, specializing in history. Later in life a lucky break took him back to the BBC, which was gthe beginning of a successful career in television. He has won a BAFTA, a Grierson, an RTS and a Peabody for his documentaries. Stewart’s passion is English history especially its origins and folklore. His previous Making of England series: Crusade, Conquest, Anarchy and Lionheart, were published to great acclaim.

Dedication: To all those who endured the Great War

Opening: PART ONE, JUNE: Champagne and Plovers’ Eggs: Assembly Rooms, Presteigne, Radnorshire:

The Reverend Henry Kewley, rector of St Andrew’s, Presteigne, is in full flow. Tall, silver-haired and supremely self-confident, he has been holding bi-monthly meetings for the town’s business community for the past year. There has been a lengthy and tedious debate about the calibre of the town’s police force and the condition of its jail, but Kewley is now addressing the issue of Presteigne’s future livelihood.

Broad St., Presteigne

A solid read where I will look for the next episode this time next year. However, this Great War Trilogy is rather too similar in set up to Ken Follet’s ‘The Century Trilogy’ to award it any stars for innovation.

Signing up.

Isle of White

The Private Journals of Edvard Munch: We Are Flames Which Pour Out of the Earth by Edvard Munch

Recommended for: Don, Laura, Susanna, Fionnuala
Read on May 29, 2014

Watch the Full Film (3:32:03)

La Belle Epoch Norwegian style.

From wiki: Hans Henrik Jæger (2 September 1854, Drammen, Norway – 8 February 1910, Oslo) was a Norwegian writer, philosopher and anarchist political activist who was part of the Oslo (then Kristiania) based bohemian group Kristianiabohêmen. He was prosecuted for his book Fra Kristiania-bohêmen and convicted to 60 days’ imprisonment in a supreme court ruling in 1886. He and other bohemians tried to live by the nine commandments Jæger had formulated in the Fra Kristiania-bohêmen.

The following year, he was forced to flee Norway. He had been sentenced to 150 more days in prison after the Norwegian government learned that he had sent 300 copies of Fra Kristiania-bohêmen to Sweden under the auspices of a volume of Christmas stories. He was a friend of Edvard Munch, and was the subject of one of Munch’s paintings.

And so to Paris…

And now Berlin, where he meets up with August Strindberg

Dagny Juel-Przybyszewska (8 June 1867 – 5 June 1901) was a Norwegian writer, famous for her liaisons with various prominent artists, and for the dramatic circumstances of her death. She was the model for some of Edvard Munch’s paintings. She had relationships with Munch and briefly with August Strindberg. In 1893, she married the Polish writer Stanisław Przybyszewski. Together they had two children. She was shot by a young lover in a hotel room in Tbilisi in 1901, three days before her thirty-fourth birthday. See also The Legs of Izolda Morgan

How I feel for you, Munch, what with your poor health and existential angst.

The Invention of Brazil by Misha Glenny

bookshelves: spring-2014, published-2014, nonfiction, travel, politics, filthy-lucre, anthropology, casual-violence, environmental-issues, fradio, gangsters, slaves, under-10-ratings, true-grime, south-americas, sleazy, revolution, religion, recreational-drugs, radio-4, music, lifestyles-deathstyles, history, colonial-overlords, bullies, brazil, art-forms, architecture, adventure, plague-disease, roman-catholic, sport, suicide

Read from May 02 to 19, 2014

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b042jcxs

Description: Forget the beach volleyball, carnival, and the rest – here’s the truth about Brazil. The murder rate is among the highest in the world. The economic inequality is visible wherever you go. Behind the happy cultural imagery there lies a much darker Brazil, the result of an extremely dark colonial history when this land was little more than a giant farm worked by slaves.

Misha Glenny and producer Miles Warde travel from the favela of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro up the coast to Salvador, the first capital of Brazil, and then back to Sao Paulo, economic powerhouse of the south. On the way they meet contributors including the anthropologist Peter Fry; Americo Martins of Rede TV; historian Lilia Schwarz; and bestselling author Laurentino Gomez. Further contributions from Luciana Martins, David Brookshaw and Patrick Wilcken, author of Empire Adrift.

From the team behind The Invention of Germany and The Invention of Spain.

Salvador. Most of the slaves to Brazil landed here. At that time, Salvador was the capitol.

São Paulo is a sprawling mass and is the modern economic hub of this vast country. It was from this area that the slavers worked to capture indigneous indians. Think ‘The Mission’, Portugeuse style.

Episode 1: BBC DESCRIPTION: In The Invention of Brazil, Misha Glenny traces the gaps between the image and reality, beginning with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500. More slaves were transported to Brazil than anywhere else, more than the United States, more than anywhere. “There were many Africans who served as interpreters,” Joao Reis explains, “who could tell the slaves: ‘You are not going to be eaten by those whites’. And that was the African fear – that they were being brought to an unknown world by whites where they would be eaten.”

Rocinha, the biggest slum in South America.

The favela borders Gavea, one of the richest areas of the city. The contrast is stark.

Episode 2: BBC DESCRIPTION: Misha Glenny continues his exploration of the little known but extraordinary events that have shaped Brazil. This week, two unexpected events in Brazil’s path to independence. The first occurred in 1808, when the entire Portuguese court moved across the Atlantic to escape Napoleon. They lived in Rio de Janeiro, which they enjoyed so much that they stayed on for another 13 years. The second occurred in 1822 when the King of Portugal’s son, Dom Pedro, declared ‘Independence or Death’, breaking Brazil free from her European overlords. We reveal that the British were heavily involved in both events.

Episode 3: BBC DESCRIPTION: From giant factory farm for Europeans to modern BRIC economy, the story of Brazil’s transformation is captured in this final programme in the life of Getulio Vargas – moderniser, dictator, and finally democratically elected president. In the final part of the Invention of Brazil, Misha Glenny explores the life of Vargas, the man who changed Brazil.

“I was struck by how short he was … the crowd went wild with adulation, an enormous mass of people. Their spontaneous shouts made me think I was in Italy, watching one of those fascist rallies.” Unnamed public official, seeing Vargas for the first time.

Vargas came to power in 1930 and proved an expert at keeping himself in power. Initially he styled himself on Mussolini – the story of why he took Brazil into the Second World War on the side of the Allies is central here. As also are the events leading up to his suicide while still in power. With contributions from anthropologist Lilia Schwarz, Professor David Brookshaw, Peter Fry, and author Ana Maria Machado whose father was arrested by Vargas several times.

“As quid pro quo for escorting the Portuguese across the Atlantic, the British ended up arm twisting the Portuguese royal court into signing a very one sided treaty, which in fact ended up giving the British more rights than the Brazilians themselves.” Patrick Wilcken, author Empire Adrift.

I enjoyed this three part documentary, however flister Laura, a Brazilian herself, rated this 2* so maybe this is not a rounded portrayal.

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

 

BABT

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b041vvwg

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.

 

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

bookshelves: spring-2014, dog-steals-the-show, e-book, environmental-issues, boo-scary, ipad, lifestyles-deathstyles, medical-eew, newtome-author, nonfiction, ouch, plague-disease, published-2012, tbr-busting-2014, zoology, sciences, bedside

Recommended for: GeeVee, Pat, Susanna, and all other disease lovers
Read from April 15 to May 01, 2014

 

Description: An engrossing, lively history of a fearsome and misunderstood virus that binds man and dog The most fatal virus known to science, rabies—a disease that spreads avidly from animals to humans—kills nearly one hundred percent of its victims once the infection takes root in the brain. In this critically acclaimed exploration, journalist Bill Wasik and veterinarian Monica Murphy chart four thousand years of the history, science, and cultural mythology of rabies. From Greek myths to zombie flicks, from the laboratory heroics of Louis Pasteur to the contemporary search for a lifesaving treatment, Rabid is a fresh and often wildly entertaining look at one of humankind’s oldest and most fearsome foes.

If you can believe this, it IS my bedside read. Rabies has a better (i.e. worse) hit rate than bubolic plague: almost 100% death rate. Brrrr.

I have turned into a hydropochondriac – just how close did those pipstrelles come to the patio in the gloaming last night? And when Linnea’s microwave-ably small lap dog sneezed did some globules of spittle come my way?

I always wonder why those people who want horror stories never reach for non-fiction, because every chill the mind could possibly want is out there in reality.

3.5*

History of London Prisons. Geoffrey Howse by Geoffrey Howse

bookshelves: e-book, spring-2014, tbr-busting-2014, published-2012, nonfiction, london, history, britain-england, architecture, bullies, casual-violence, dip-in-now-and-again, execution, eye-scorcher, gorefest, gulp, lifestyles-deathstyles, medical-eew, mental-health, newtome-author, nutty-nuut, ouch, plague-disease, recreational-homicide, religion, revenge, spies, tragedy, true-grime, under-10-ratings

Read from April 04 to 08, 2014

 

Description: London has had more prisons than any other British city. The City’s ‘gates’ once contained prisons but probably the most notorious of all was Newgate, which stood for over 700 years. The eleventh century Tower of London was used as a prison for a variety of high profile prisoners from Sir Thomas More to the Krays. Discover the background of a variety of historic places of incarceration such as The Clink, the Kings Bench Prison; and debtors prisons such as the Fleet Prison and the Marshalsea. ‘Lost’ prisons such as the Gatehouse in Westminster, Millbank Penitentiary, Surrey County Gaol in Horsemonger Row, The House of Detention, Coldbath Fields Prison and Tothill Fields Prison are also described in detail; as are more familiar gaols: Holloway, Pentonville, Brixton, Wandsworth and Wormwood Scrubs. In his A History of Londons Prisons Geoffrey Howse delves not only into the intricate web of historical facts detailing the origins of the capitals prisons but also includes fascinating detail concerning the day-to-day life of prisoners – from the highly born to the most despicable human specimens imaginable – as well as those less fortunate individuals who found themselves through no fault of their own ‘in the clink’, some soon becoming clients of the hangman or executioner.

Opening: The original function of the Tower of London, built for William I (William the Conqueror) and completed in 1097, was to act as a power base for the King within the City of London itself.

When I first went to the Big School, Kay, my bestie, brought to school a book she had pinched off her dad about implements of torture. Hidden in her satchel she would flash me diagrams, pull a grimmace, then laugh wildly and flick through some more. It is a fact: older children and newish teenagers love this the way young children love the horror of fairytales.

This book has aspects of that ‘can’t bear to watch but can’t look away’ mesmerism. Coming to this I see there is only one other rating here on grramazon, and that is a 5* too.

I still think it is sad/unjust about Raleigh.

Arauco by John Caviglia

 

Description: Set in a land of earthquakes and towering volcanoes, weaving history with myth, Arauco tells of war, sorcery … and a love demonstrating that a man can embrace what he was seeking to destroy. When in 1540 Pedro de Valdivia headed south from Peru to conquer lands and gold, he took with him his beautiful mistress, Inés de Suárez. With him also rode his secretary, Juan de Cardeña, whose hopeless love of Inés stems from the same romances that inspired the Quixote. Having crossed the Atacama Desert, the Spanish encounter the indomitable resistance of the Mapuche people…. For the first time, Arauco recreates the Spanish invasion of Chile from the native perspective as well, so that its pages include: Lautaro, the Mapuche youth who led his people to an epic victory; Ñamku, albino shaman; his enemy, the sorcerer Kurufil … and Raytrayen, the Mapuche girl Juan de Cardeña comes to love…

Villarrica Volcano, Chile

Opening lines from the prologue: THE BEGINNING (Mapu)

The sun was dying in fucha lafken, the great sea, but Ñamku, shaman of the Mapuche, did not see it. Behind him, the sacred volcanoesof the ancestors soared into the sunrises of the past, and he did not see them. Breathing deep, he removed his mask. Opening his eyes, he spread his arms to embrace darkness. This night the pillañ – the ancestors – would speak to him.

THANKEE DON, so kind of you. I have two weeks to read this before the invitation expires; pretty sure that will be just dandy given your 5* and the epic storyline.

The story opens out in Sevilla, Andalucia 1539 with Juan de Cardeña, together with his travelling companion Pedro Gómez de San Benito, admiring the opulance of the south of Spain.

It’s all in here: coming of age, swashbuckling, comradeship, brutality, foul-mouthed and sexy, heart-breaking and chivalric. A veritable pot-pourri of adventure: Rag Tag and Bobtail doing a hop, skip and jump, and the range is so sprawly that at times I felt I was a fully paid up member of the Where The FuckRwe Tribe?

The Authors blog

olla podrida seems to be equivalent to pottage, anything and everything gets chucked in.

• “The Monocli have just one huge foot. And they jump like fleas. They are called the Umbrella Foot Tribe because in hot weather they lie on their backs and rest in the shadow of their foot.”

Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims

bookshelves: currently-reading, first-in-series, newtome-author, net-galley, published-2014, winter-20132014, wars-of-the-roses, medieval5c-16c, historical-fiction, war, series, e-book, adventure, religion, plague-disease, seven-seas, superstitions, britain-england, pirates-smugglers-wreckers, france, betrayal, medical-eew, revenge, spies, travel

Read from February 12 to 20, 2014

ARC received with thanks from Net Galley and Random House UK, Cornerstone in exchange for an honest review.

Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick One of the Yorkist leaders in the Wars of the Roses, he was instrumental in the deposition of two kings, a fact which later earned him his epithet of “Kingmaker” to later generations. (wiki sourced)

Description: February, 1460: in the bitter dawn of a winter’s morning a young nun is caught outside her priory walls by a corrupt knight and his vicious retinue.

In the fight that follows, she is rescued by a young monk and the knight is defeated. But the consequences are far-reaching, and Thomas and Katherine are expelled from their religious Orders and forced to flee across a land caught in the throes of one of the most savage and bloody civil wars in history: the Wars of the Roses.

Their flight will take them across the Narrow Sea to Calais where Thomas picks up his warbow, and trains alongside the Yorkist forces. Katherine, now dressed as a man, hones her talents for observation and healing both on and off the fields of battle. And all around them, friends and enemies fight and die as the future Yorkist monarch, Edward, Earl of March, and his adviser the Earl of Warwick, later to become known as the Kingmaker, prepare to do bloody battle.

Encompassing the battles of Northampton, Mortimer’s Cross and finally the great slaughter of Towton, this is war as experienced not by the highborn nobles of the land but by ordinary men and women who do their best just to stay alive. Filled with strong, sympathetic characters, this is a must-read series for all who like their fiction action-packed, heroic and utterly believable.

Dedication: To Karen, with all my love

Opening is February 1460: The Dean comes for him during the Second Repose, when the night is at its darkest. He brings with him a rush light and a quarterstaff and wakes him with a heavy prod.
‘Up now, Brother Thomas,’ he says. ‘The Prior’s asking for you.’

Epic adventuring that had me hooked by page 52. In the time-honoured way of honest reviewing I shall point out the things that stopped this excellent story from being the 5* this read really deserves:

-The present tense prose: didn’t bother me at all once I was into the story but it will not appeal to some of my reading pals.

-That carrot ending: this really is a turn-off to many a reader and could be the kiss of death for a series. We don’t want to have it taken for granted by the author that we will buy into the next installment.

-Some secondary characters were barely fleshed out: I’m especially looking at a giant of a man who comes across as cartoon thug.

I loved this story, non-stop action featuring a lovely pair of modest but surprising heroes and that is all I can say for the moment as this is not due to be published until April. To I recommend it? Oh yes, the best adventure novel I have read in quite a while.

A word on Scrofula, sourced by The Science Museum:

In the Middle Ages it was believed in England and France that a touch from royalty could heal skin disease known as scrofula or the ‘king’s evil’. Scrofula was usually a swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck caused by tuberculosis. The practice began with King Edward the Confessor in England (1003/4-1066) and Philip I (1052-1108) in France.

Subsequent English and French kings were thought to have inherited this ‘royal touch’, which was supposed to show that their right to rule was God-given. In grand ceremonies, kings touched hundreds of people afflicted by scrofula. They received special gold coins called ‘touchpieces’ which they often treated as amulets.

By the late 1400s it was believed that you could also be cured by touching a type of coin called an angel, which had been touched by the monarch. After angels ceased to be minted in the 1620s the same effect was said to be achieved by touching a gold medallion embossed much like the old coin.

Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset (26 January 1436 – 15 May 1464) was an important Lancastrian military commander during the English Wars of the Roses. He is sometimes numbered the 2nd Duke of Somerset, since the title was re-created for his father after his uncle died. He also held the subsidiary titles of 5th Earl of Somerset, 2nd Marquess of Dorset and 2nd Earl of Dorset.Source

Kidwelly Castle

EXTRAS: You too can watch Dating in the Middle Ages

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