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)

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.

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

The She-Wolf of France by Maurice Druon

bookshelves: spring-2014, film-only, france, historical-fiction, medieval5c-16c, published-1959, series, poison, families

Read on May 03, 2014

 

Description: “This is the original Game of Thrones.” George R.R. Martin.

Charles IV is now king of France and his sister is Edward II of England’s Queen. Having been imprisoned by Edward as leader of the rebellious English barons, Roger Mortimer escapes to France, where he joins the war against the English Aquitaine. But it is his love affair with Isabella, the ‘She-Wolf of France’, who has come seemingly to negotiate a treaty of peace that seals his fate…

4* The Iron King
4* The Strangled Queen
4* The Poisoned Crown
CR The She-Wolf of France
TR The Lily and the Lion

Young Henry of Navarre

bookshelves: published-1935, spring-2014, lifestyles-deathstyles, historical-fiction, biography, france, under-500-ratings, film-only, ipad, casual-violence, earlymodern16c-18c, epic-proportions, classic, families, gorefest, gulp, love, mental-health, military-maneuvers, newtome-author, ouch, poison, protestant, recreational-homicide, religion, revenge, roman-catholic, swashbuckler, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, tragedy, true-grime, war

Read from April 08 to 09, 2014


Description: Young Henry of Navarre traces the life of Henry IV from the King’s idyllic childhood in the mountain villages of the Pyrenees to his ascendance to the throne of France. Heinrich Mann’s most acclaimed work is a spectacular epic that recounts the wars, political machinations, rival religious sects, and backstage plots that marked the birth of the French Republic.

French Language, English sub-titles
Stars: Julien Boisselier, Joachim Król, Andreas Schmidt

[

Michel de Nostredame (depending on the source, 14 or 21 December 1503 – 2 July 1566), usually Latinised as Nostradamus.

Henry I, Prince of Joinville, Duke of Guise, Count of Eu (31 December 1550 – 23 December 1588), sometimes called Le Balafré (Scarface). In 1576 he founded the Catholic League to prevent the heir, King Henry of Navarre, head of the Huguenot movement, from succeeding to the French throne. A powerful opponent of the Queen Mother, Catherine de’ Medici, he was assassinated by the bodyguards of her son, King Henry III. (wiki sourced)

St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre began the night of 23-24 August 1572. Painting by François Dubois

Gabrielle d’Estrées et une de ses sœurs by an unknown artist (c.1594). Gabrielle sits up nude in a bath, holding (presumably) Henry’s coronation ring, whilst her sister sits nude beside her and pinches her right nipple. Henry gave Gabrielle the ring as a token of his love shortly before she died.

Assassination of Henry IV by Gaspar Bouttats


Reign 2 August 1589 – 14 May 1610
Coronation 27 February 1594
Predecessor Henry III
Successor Louis XIII
(wiki source) (hide spoiler)]

Terrific film based on H Mann’s biography of Navarre. Epically disturbing, fearsome and ghastly were those fanatical, religious times – so much blood spilt.

Highly recommended but there are some truly gruesome moments.

The Borgias by G.J. Meyer The Borgias: The Hidden History by G.J. Meyer

bookshelves: tbr-busting-2014, winter-20132014, nonfiction, lifestyles-deathstyles, italy, history, fraudio, politics, biography, under-500-ratings, catholic, christian, incest-agameforallthefamily, poison, published-2013, gr-library

Read from January 27 to February 07, 2014

 

From the description: Forget everything you think you know about the most infamous family of the Italian Renaissance-here in every colorful detail is the real story of the Borgias and their indelible, tumultuous world, written by the gifted author of the acclaimed A World Undone and The Tudors and timed to coincide with the upcoming new season of the celebrated Showtime series, The Borgias.

Meet Rodrigo Borgia-Pope Alexander VI; Cesare Borgia-the reputed model for Machiavelli’s The Prince; Lucrezia; and Juan-the members of one of the most notorious families in European history. Epic in scope and set against the beautifully rendered backdrop of Renaissance Italy, The Borgias is a thrilling new depiction of these celebrated personalities and an era unsurpassed in beauty, terror, and intrigue.

The taunt is on right from the introduction: ‘If you feel that I have gone too far then let that lead to a discussion.’ So one gleans from this that The Hidden History plans to be revisionist in nature. I hope that I am not going to have to swallow the Borgias as lily-white saints!

On with the show…

Part One Alfonso: From out of nowhere.

Pope Callixtus III wasin office 1455 – 1458. From wiki: He is viewed by historians as being extremely pious, a firm believer in the authority of the Holy See and, like the second Borgia pope, he went to great lengths to advance his immediate family.

@25% ‘History is a trickster, though, it mocks the best laid plans’

Okay – that introduction, which reads as if a ‘common, if you think you’re hard enough’ taunt, is followed up through the main body with nothing more than pointing out the lack of concrete evidence of any of the misdemeanors applied to the clan. Meyer posits that the slurs are a case of ‘history is written by the winners’.

However, this was also the case for Richard III and Richardians thought they had such a hold on the ‘true’ nature of the maligned person that they have, over the years, not even shown him on the silver screen with a limp or hump (I’m looking at you, The Cousins’ War). How wonderful that his bones were found to vindicate Holinshed’s depiction of the physical Richard at least.

Is this a compelling read? Very much so. IMHO, the best yet on the Borgias and he doesn’t try to sway you one way or another, just points out the lack of evidence as and when appropriate, so we are not fed a whitewash, just given places to stop and mull, and investigate further on our own.

The Potter’s Field

bookshelves: published-1989, tbr-busting-2014, winter-20132014, medieval5c-16c, war, mystery-thriller, historical-fiction, religion, film-only, poison

Read on January 19, 2014

 

Description: n October of 1142, a local landlord gives the Potter’s Field to the local clergy. The monks begin to plow it, and the blades turn up the long tresses of a young woman, dead over a year. Then the arrival of a novice who fled from an abbey ravaged by civil war in East Anglia complicates life even further for Brother Cadfael.

3* #1 A Morbid Taste for Bones
3* #2 One Corpse Too Many
3* #3 Monk’s Hood
3* #4 St Peter’s Fair
3* #5 Leper of St. Giles
4* #6 The Virgin in the Ice
3* #7 The Sanctuary Sparrow
4* #8 The Devil’s Novice
3* #9 Dead Man’s Ransom
3* #12 The Raven in the Forecourt
3* #13 The Rose Rent
4* #17 The Potter’s Field
3* #18 Summer of the Danes
TR #19 The Holy Thief

2* Flight of a Witch

2* Light on the Road to Woodstock

WL A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury

5* Sunrise in the West
TR The Dragon at Noonday
TR The Hounds at Sunset
TR Afterglow and Nightfall

Adultery and death, splendid!