4 Dec

Most people would be familiar with Hugh Fraser as an actor than a writer.  He was the dashing and urbane Captain Hastings to David Suchet’s Poirot.

Hugh has turned his not inconsiderable talents to writing.  “Harm” is his first novel.  Rina Walker is an assassin.  The story swaps between 1956 when she started down the path, and 1974 when most of the novel takes place.  In 1974 Rina goes to Mexico to take out the head of a drug cartel…everything goes to hell and Rina finds herself fighting for her very survival.

“Harm” is well written and well plotted and zaps along at an almost frenetic pace.  Hugh Fraser also has a lovely way with the English language, his turn of phrase being both colourful and picturesque.

“Harm” is an excellent addition to the thriller genre.  A warning for the more faint hearted.  It is violent.  Graphically so in some places.  And some of the violence is sexual.  It may not be your cup of tea, so considered yourself duly warned.

The Bell Tower

1 Dec

I always love it when I discover a new author that I really enjoy reading.

“The Bell Tower” is the first book by Sarah Rayne that I have read, but it won’t be the last.

Nell West and Michael Flint are attending a recreation of a medieval revel at a small Dorset town that is dominated by a crumbing bell tower on the cliff by the sea.  The organisers of the revel are trying to track down a mysterious ancient song known to have been sung, whilst a supposedly dotty old lady is insisting that they stop.

“The Bell Tower” is pretty much a 21st century gothic novel.  All the elements are there.  Ancient curses, a doomed family, star crossed lovers, burials alive…all tied together in a taut, sharp package that zips along dragging the reader helpless in its wake.

Sarah Rayne is a brilliant writer.  The atmosphere of the book flows from eerie and chilly, to the warmth and bounce of everyday life.  I thought I’d made a mistake beginning this in the evening, I honestly thought there would be nightmares, as in places the book is so genuinely creepy that the hair on the back of my neck was standing up!  But Sarah tied everything up in a wonderful ending that relieved the tension of the book, without being cheesy.

Highly recommended.

The Newsman: 60 Years of Televisions

27 Nov

The memoirs of veteran Australian newsreader Mal Walden were always going to be an interesting read.  I just wasn’t expecting it to be so interesting that I sat up late on Saturday night until I’d finished it, because I couldn’t bear to put it down.

A deeply absorbing look at the early years of news in Melbourne, Australia, and at the life of Mal Walden.

Big stories that I remember from my childhood, like the Balibo Five, and Cyclone Tracy, hit me just as hard as the more recent ones I’ve lived through, like Black Saturday.

I freely admit that I stopped watching television news when Mal retired.  He had a joyful presence on air that made you feel that, even though the world was going to hell in a hand basket, it would eventually all turn out okay.

“The Newsman” is a must read for every student of current affairs, and anyone interested in the history of television.

Highly recommended.

New release: A Murmuring of Bees — Mortal words

24 Nov

Improbable Press has a new anthology of Holmes/Watson romance stories, celebrating the celebrated sleuth Sherlock Holmes and his biographer, friend and (in these stories) lover John Watson. Some stories are sweet, others steamy. Many involve cases. Some are set in the Victorian era while others take place in 21st century London. In some they are […]

via New release: A Murmuring of Bees — Mortal words

The Metatemporal Detective

17 Nov

I was familiar with the name Michael Moorcock, but I’d never read anything of his, until “The Metatemporal Detective” pinged on my radar.

The book is an anthology of Moorcock stories about Sir Seaton Begg aka Sexton Blake and his distant cousin, and not so distant, sometime adversary, Monsieur Zenith, as they either battle or work together across the multiverses to solve crimes and save lives.

“The Metatemporal Detective” is a weirdly charming book and also charmingly weird.  It mixes detective fiction with fantasy, a touch of steampunk, and seasons it with the Holy Grail.  It is possibly one of the, if not THE, oddest book I have ever read.

I loved it.

However, I have no idea who to recommend it to, except to say if you love well written books that are more than a little offbeat, then “The Metatemporal Detective” is for you.

The Elements of Eloquence

10 Nov

What to say about this brilliant book by Mark Forsyth?

“The Elements of Eloquence” looks at the figures of rhetoric that make up part of English grammar.

Mark Forsyth provides examples ranging from Shakespeare to the Beatles and back again.

He analyzes some of Shakespeare’s greatest lines, explaining why they work and why they are so memorable.

I made several interesting discoveries.  Firstly, that it is possible to sing Lewis Carrol’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter” to the tune of “The House of the Rising Sun”.

The second one was a personal discovery: that Byron’s poem “The Destruction of Sennercherib” has much in common with Clement Clarke Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas”.  This isn’t in the book.  I worked this out for myself.

I also found myself sitting down and analyzing some of my favourite poems by A. A. Milne.

I recommend this book for all lovers of Shakespeare and poetry in general.

From A High Tower

6 Nov

“From a High Tower” is the tenth Elemental Masters book by Mercedes Lackey.

This book is an interesting take on the tale of Rapunzel.

Giselle is an Air Elemental Master was magical growing hair… she’s also a sharp shooter, and after her adoptive mother dies, she joins a Wild West show traveling around Germany.  This is the key for a number of interesting adventures, especially when Rosa from “Blood Red” enters the story line.

Wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this one as much as the others I’ve read, but it turned out to be just as entertaining and fun.

If you like light fantasy, you could do a lot worse than read the Elemental Masters series.  There’s a smidgen of romance in most books, but not enough to qualify as fantasy romance.  The women in this series tend to be extremely strong.  Men complement them; they don’t complete them.

“From a High Tower” is extremely readable and enjoyable.  Highly recommended.

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