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

Dead Man’s Time by Peter James

 

Description: New York, 1922. Five-year-old Gavin Daly and his seven-year-old sister, Aileen, are boarding the SS Mauretania to Dublin—and safety. Their mother has been shot and their Irish mobster father abducted. Suddenly, a messenger hands Gavin a piece of paper on which are written four names and eleven numbers, a cryptic message that will haunt him all his life, and his father’s pocket watch. As the ship sails, Gavin watches Manhattan fade into the dusk and makes a promise, that one day he will return and find his father.

Brighton, 2012. Detective Superintendent Roy Grace investigates a savage burglary in Brighton, in which an old lady is murdered and £10m of antiques have been taken, including a rare vintage watch. To Grace’s surprise, the antiques are unimportant to her family—it is the watch they want back. As his investigation probes deeper, he realizes he has kicked over a hornets nest of new and ancient hatreds. At its heart is one man, Gavin Daly, the dead woman’s ninety-five-year-old brother. He has a score to settle and a promise to keep—both of which lead to a murderous trail linking the antiques world of Brighton, the crime fraternity of Spain’s Marbella, and New York.

Dedication: FOR PAT LANIGAN
This book would never have happened without your generosity in sharing your family history with me

Opening: Brooklyn, February 1922
The boy’s father kissed him goodnight for the last time – although neither of them knew that.
The boy never went to sleep until he had had that kiss. Every night, late, long after he had gone to bed, he would lie waiting in the darkness, until he heard the door of his room open, and saw the light flood in from the landing. Then the shadowy figure and the sound of his father’s heavy footsteps across the bare boards. ‘Hey, little guy, you still awake?’ he would say in his low, booming voice.

I so love the casting here, especially Glenn, and the over-arching storyline of their personal lives. We are still waiting for a resolution over Sandi, and each book I wonder: ‘will this be the one where we get to know her fate?’

Because I love these characters, so much so that I like to point out things that seem slightly out of step with how I perceive the set-up:

Okay, here’s the thing: Cleo, in the view I have had built up for me by Peter James would not be reading Fifty Shades of Grey, now would she.

Oh! look at this: R.M.S Mauretania

Best line: ‘exuded all the personality of an unplugged fridge’

Disputing the ease of location 100/433: If you want a telegram from the Queen on your 100th birthday, be prepared for a frightful slog”

The music:
BEETHOVEN.ODE TO JOY
Dr. Hook – The Millionaire
Marla Glen – The Cost Of Freedom

4* Dead Simple (Roy Grace, #1)
4* Looking Good Dead (Roy Grace, #2)
4* Not Dead Enough (Roy Grace, #3)
4* Dead Man’s Footsteps (Roy Grace, #4)
4* Dead Tomorrow (Roy Grace, #5)
3* Dead Like You (Roy Grace, #6)
3* Dead Man’s Grip (Roy Grace, #7)
3* Not Dead Yet (Roy Grace, #8)
4* Dead Man’s Time (Roy Grace, #9)

Prayer by Philip Kerr

 

Quercus Books

Description: A chilling modern horror story in which the source of the horror is totally unexpected – and utterly terrifying

Special Agent Gil Martins investigates domestic terrorism for the Houston FBI. Once a religious man, now his job makes him question the existence of a God who could allow the violence he sees every day.

Gil is asked to investigate a series of unexplained deaths of victims known for their liberal views.

When a woman tells Gil that these men have been killed by prayer, he questions her sanity. Yet the evidence mounts that there might be something in what she says, even more so when Gil finds that his own life is on the line.

This standalone is experimental for Kerr, where he invokes the devil to come out to play. Yep, Old Scratch hisself. RAWR. I feel Kerr has sadly mis-fired here and may have lost some of his fan-base.

Next up on my TBR is Kerr’s new one, Research, and I am now slightly nervous about just what the author of the fabulous Bernard Gunther stories is going to throw at me. But each book on its own merit, yes?

3.5* March Violets (Bernard Gunther, #1)
3.5* The Pale Criminal (Bernard Gunther, #2)
3.5* A German Requiem (Bernard Gunther, #3)
3.5* A Quiet Flame (Bernard Gunther, #5)
1* Prayer
TR Research

The Life of William Shakespeare: A Critical Biography by Lois Potter

 

Narrated by J P Gemont

Description: “The Life of William Shakespeare” is a fascinating and wide-ranging exploration of Shakespeare’s life and works focusing on oftern neglected literary and historical contexts: what Shakespeare read, who he worked with as an author and an actor, and how these various collaborations may have affected his writing. Written by an eminent Shakespearean scholar and experienced theatre reviewerPays particular attention to Shakespeare’s theatrical contemporaries and the ways in which they influenced his writingOffers an intriguing account of the life and work of the great poet-dramatist structured around the idea of memoryExplores often neglected literary and historical contexts that illuminate Shakespeare’s life and works.

With the FutureLearn course ‘Shakespeare and his World’ from The University of Warwick due to start at the end of next month, I thought this is a great opportunity to get this under the belt beforehand.

Just as astronomers can tell where a hidden celestial body is by the gravity it exerts on visible bodies in the vicinity, so Potter gives us a fantastic view of Shakespeare and his world. Daddy John was a bit of a rogue wasn’t he!

This book is only for those truly interested in the Bard as this is a scholarly, dense text, yet aficianados need not worry that this is dry, I didn’t find it so at all. A magisterial keeper for reference purposes.

01 Born into the World 1564-1571
02 Nemo sibi nascitur 1571-1578
03 Hic et obique 1578-1588
04 This man’s art and that man’s scope 1588-1592
05 Tiger’s hearts 1592-1593
06 The Dangerous Year 1593-1594
07 Our usual manager of mirth 1594-1595
08 The strong’st and surest way to get 1595-1596
09 When love speaks 1596-1597
10 You had a father, let the son say so 1596-1598
11 Unworthy scaffold 1598-1599
12 These words are not mine 1599-1801
13 Looking before and after 1601-1603
14 This most balmy time 1603-1605
15 Past the size of dreaming 1606-1609
16 Like an old tale 1609-1611
17 The second burden 1612-1616
18 In the mouths of men 1616-after

Highlights from Folger Shakespeare Library’s Release of almost 80,000 Images

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

A Song for Issy Bradley

 

BABT

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04d8dvt

Description: This is the story of what happens when Issy Bradley dies.

It is the story of Ian – husband, father, maths teacher and Mormon bishop – and his unshakeable belief that everything will turn out all right if he can only endure to the end, like the pioneers did. It is the story of his wife Claire’s lonely wait for a sign from God and her desperate need for life to pause while she comes to terms with what’s happened.

It is the story of the agony and hope of Zippy Bradley’s first love, the story of Alma Bradley’s cynicism and reluctant bravery, and it is the story of seven-year-old Jacob. But mostly it’s the story of a family trying to work out how to carry on when their world has fallen apart.

Incredibly moving, unexpectedly funny and sharply observed, A Song for Issy Bradley, explores the outer reaches of doubt and faith. Author Carys Bray was brought up in a devout Mormon family. In her early thirties she left the church and replaced religion with writing. She was awarded the Scott prize for her debut short story collection Sweet Home. A Song for Issy Bradley is her first novel.

1/10 It is little Jacob’s birthday, and he wants all the family to have breakfast together.

2/10 Claire is trying to keep control of Jacob’s birthday party, and Issy says she feels unwell

3/10 Issy has been rushed to hospital suffering from meningitis. She is in critical condition.

4/10 It is Issy’s funeral, but little Jacob is hatching a plan to make everything better.

It wouldn’t be the first time that my reticence would be proven unfounded and it was that reasoning that I embarked upon this Book at Bedtime insert. Unfortunately it was as dismal as the description makes out, a real playing on the heart-strings. It is fair to say I am not the target audience here. Abandoned at 40%

NEXT!

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.

The Lazarus Prophecy by F.G. Cottam

bookshelves: summer-2014, net-galley, e-book, fantasy, religion, roman-catholic, published-2014

Read from July 18 to 21, 2014

 

Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ). Archive Date Aug 17 2014

Description: Prime Suspect meets The Da Vinci Code in this original, suspenseful thriller.

There is a killer loose on the streets of London, one that evades security cameras, is not held by locks, and savagely mutilates his victims. When the murderer switches from unknown prostitutes to Julie Longmuir, a beautiful actress at the height of her success, no woman feels safe.

As the press begin to draw uncomfortable comparisons with Jack the Ripper, Jane Sullivan, heading up the police investigation, grudgingly has to agree. But the religious writing, scrawled on the wall in Julie Longmuir’s blood, is outside Jane’s area of expertise. Roping in Jacob Prior, a disillusioned theologian, they attempt to pick apart the demonic delusions of this Ripper copycat. They must act quickly, as events are spiralling out of control, and Jane is next on the killer’s list.

Jane will be tested beyond the limits of standard police work, as the esoteric insinuates itself into the investigation. For events are linked to the clandestine Priory in the Pyrenees, the home of a secret Christian sect that pre-dates the Knights Templar. Jane and Jacob are faced with a deeper mystery than they had ever dreamed of; are they simply dealing with a psychopath, or is this something bigger, is this The End of Days?

Dedication:


For Miranda Law,
With love and admiration

Opening: The call came from the Deputy Commissioner. He’d presumably been woken, and in turn, was waking her. He said, ‘I’m seems there’s been another one. I’m afraid it’s him again.’

Without wanting to give too much of the plot away, this opens with two seemingly disparate events: a new body in what appears to be a London serial killer case, and a priest, fully equipped in climbing gear, heading towards a monastary of a forgotten order, high up in the Pyrenees.

London slums, Gustave Doré

Funniest line: ‘He sounds like one of those Byronic all-rounders.’

A supernatural riff, ostensibly on the Ripper of Whitechapel, however reaching into the past to when Lazarus was brought back by Jesus.

Yeah.

Well.

I sound unimpressed and that really is just not the case, however I would have preferred either just the murder mystery OR a full-pelt black magic a la Dennis Wheatley.

Great writing though, Cottram is not a cultural laggard like, say, Dan Brown; some really witty lines in there. Can recommend with some reservations. Two and a half Strindbergs WITH Helium

3* Dark Echo
2.5* The Lazarus Prophecy

Roger’s Version by John Updike

bookshelves: one-penny-wonder, paper-read, hardback, hackers-and-computers, published-1986, summer-2014, abandoned, next, sciences, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, religion, sleazy, room-101, tbr-busting-2014

Read from November 26, 2013 to June 12, 2014

 

withdrawn from Kilmarnock College Library

4 opening quotes and I pick this one: god the wind as windless as the world behind a computer screen – Jane Miller, “High Holy Day”

Description from the inside front cover: As Roger Lambert tells it, he, a divinity school professor, is visited in his office one day by Dale Kohler, a young computer hacker who believes that scientific evidence of God’s existence is irresistibly accumulating.

Opening: I have been happy at the Divinity School. The hours are bearable, the surroundings handsome, my colleagues harmless and witty, habituated as they are to the shadows.

Did you hear this hit the wall? Doesn’t matter where in the world you are, if you didn’t hear the crash you would have felt the vibration. I want my trash reads to be clearly discenable as trash not couched in literary blurb so it is mistaken for a worthwhile encounter.

4* The Witches of Eastwick
AB Roger’s Version

The Search for the Panchen Lama by Isabel Hilton

bookshelves: spring-2014, hardback, one-penny-wonder, paper-read, tibet, lifestyles-deathstyles, nonfiction, politics, philosophy, biography, buddhism, religion, history, journalism, published-1999

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Karen Witzler
Read from May 11 to 28, 2014

 

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima

Withdrawn from Huntingdon Library.

Opening: Choekyi Gyaltsen, more widely known as the tenth reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, died on a freezing night in January 1989 in his own monastery of Tashilhunpo, in Tibet.

Tashilhunpo Monastery བཀྲ་ཤིས་ལྷུན་པོ་ོ་, Shigatse, Tibet

Page 18: ‘The Potala was built by the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, the first of the Gelugpa hierarchs to assume secular power. His accession as King of Tibet in the seventeenth century had brought a measure of peace to a country riven for more than a hundred years by sectarian warfare.’

Firstly a thank you to Karen for for bringing this book to my attention.

This lengthy history is very interesting, however it is written in a non-linear way, making it hard to keep the facts straight. I especially enjoy that Ms Hilton recognises this growing Western trend of Dr. Martin wearing maroon-cloaked accolytes hanging on the robes of the court in exile. Example on Page 6: ‘The hotel* is the chief exhibition room for what the Dalai Lama’s brother, Tenzin Choegyal, later called the Shangri-La Syndrome – Westerners who are seeking answers to a variety of personal questions by means of the Tibetan Cause.’

*Hotel Tibet, Dharamsala

Overall though, this is not a book I would recommend other than to those with more than a passing interest, as the lay-out of information is too haphazard. One thing I did learn, and it is an important point, the young lad I spied overhead at Yonghegong must have been Gyaincain Norbu. So for that learning point alone this book has been useful.

TRIVIA

Bon or Bön also Bonism or Benism (Chinese: 苯教, Běnjiào) is the term for the religious tradition or sect of Tibet more accurately called Yungdrung Bon today.

Zezhol Monastery of the Tibetan Bon Religion at Dengqen County of Qamdo prefecture

The Tibetan Book of Proportions