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The Killing Habit

23 Jul

In “The Killing Habit” by Mark Billingham there is someone killing cats in London. DI Tom Thorne from homicide is handed the case, because his superiors fear that what they are dealing with is a serial killer in training.

Meanwhile, DI Nicole Tanner, now with homicide and recovering from the traumas of the previous book, is dealing with the killing of a Syrian refugee.

Slowly, the strands of both cases weave together.

This is a superb book from Mark Billingham. Shot through, as are all his books, with the dark sense of humour that police officers the world over need as a survival mechanism.

The book is well plotted, well written, and has a bloody great twist in the tail at the end of the book. One that left me shocked.

Highly recommended.

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The Mechanical Devil

19 Jul

“The Mechanical Devil” is the most recent novel by Kate Ellis.  Sadly, Ms Ellis isn’t as well known in Australia as she deserves to be.  Her books are always interesting.

In “The Mechanical Devil” a man and a woman are found in a field…shot…and the last person to see the woman has gone missing.

With a double murder, and a missing person. DI Wesley Peterson really doesn’t have time for a break-in at the home of a person he assisted the previous year. Perhaps he should have made the time…

Meanwhile, Dr Neil Watson is dealing with the discovery of a 16th century automaton, and then a much more recent death… which may tie into Wesley’s cases.

A fantastically plotted tale of murder and madness.

A thoroughly delicious read.

Highly recommended.

Apologies for my abscence

11 Jul

I didn’t mean to be gone for so long.

First, I went on two weeks holiday to London where I had a marvellous time.

Things went wrong when I got back.  I ended up spending a week in hospital and another 4 weeks as sick as hell.

I am slowly recovering and proper blog posts will recommence as soon as I read a really good book I want to share with you.

 

The House At Baker Street

11 Apr

“The House at Baker Street” is the first novel for author Michelle Birkby.

When Sherlock Holmes turns away a potential client, Martha Hudson and Mary Watson step into the breech.

A marvellous story with action, adventure, much warmth between the characters, and real character depth.

Martha Hudson and Mary Watson miostly flit around the edges of the canon stories, the exception being Mary’s leading role in “The Sign of the Four”. This book fleshes out both women, making it obvious why Holmes remains at Baker Street, and just what Watson sees in Mary.

I do not have the room to keep all but the very best (in my opinion) books in my small Sherlock Holmes library. “The House at Baker Street” is the latest addition to that library and will be read many, many times in the future.

I cannot recommend this book too highly.

The Scarlet Coven

22 Mar

“The Scarlet Coven” is a new novel by acclaimed Holmesian David Stuart Davies, published by independent publishing company Urbane Publications.

Simon Finch is a retired police officer in New York in 1936. His wife Laura is an artist. When Carleton Ross approaches them at the Alonquin about his missing sister, they get drawn into a macabre and terrifying affair.

Think Dashiell Hammett meets Dennis Wheatley. The only thing missing is Wheatley’s usual priest with an entire baggage carousel of angst.

Simon and Laura are Nick and Nora Charles with added sass. Actually, when I think about it, they lean a little more towards Neil Simon’s Dick and Dora Charleston from “Murder by Death”. Because I admit that I visualized them as David Niven and Maggie Smith!

The plot has all the delicious absurdities that Dennis Wheatley espoused, complete with scary Satanists with an agenda.

I’d categorize the book as Paranormal Noir.  Make of that what you will.

Loved it.

Can we have more Simon and Laura, please?

Academia Obscura

28 Feb
I first came across “Academia Obscura” by Glen Wright via the Twitter account @AcademiaObscura. This is an account that points out the lighter, sometimes absurb, often downright freaking oddball, aspects of life as an academic.

Now I have several academic friends and I have listened to their tales of woe (and student ignorance) at length. Not to mention the fact that I aspired to the academic life myself, though due to circumstances, was unable to reach it. Hell, my English teacher and I already had the title of my first paper worked out! Watership Down: Rabbits and the Traditional Arthurian Quest Motif. The thing is, after reading this book, that putative paper sounds sane and sensible!

I frequently laughed aloud at the sheer ridiculousness of some of the papers mentioned in the book. The scary thing is that the majority were science papers! Though most of the laughs came from the comfortable style, and quirky comments and footnotes of author Glen Wright.

WARNING: This is one book where you MUST read the footnotes. You will miss too much if you don’t. Hell, the footnotes alone are worth the price of the book.

A must read for anyone who is an academic, knows an academic, aspires to be an academic, or has a twisted sense of humour.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll sit here and give some serious thought to actually writing that paper.

A Scandal in Battersea

18 Feb
“A Scandal in Battersea” by Mercedes Lackey is a direct sequel to “A Study in Sable”, in fact the villain of the piece is a character who was mentioned in passing in the first book.

Nan, Sarah, John & Mary Watson, and even Lord Alderscroft are indulging young Suki in all the trappings of Christmas. But along side the joy and the fun, something dark is brewing.

A magician finds a hand written book and deliberately sets forth to let an ancient horror loose in this world. The only clues are the mindless young women wandering the streets of London, and a young lass in a private insane asylum who is anything but insane.

As the darkness gathers, Sherlock Holmes must once again join forces with the others to battle something he could not even imagine ever existed.

Absolutely loved this book. My copy was a library one, so now I’m on the hunt for a copy for my collection.

A Whiff of Cyanide

11 Feb

‘A Whiff of Cyanide’ is the third in the Hampstead Murders series by Guy Fraser-Sampson.

Ann Durham is the head of the Crime Writer’s Association and has been for years. But now a challenge is being mounted, and she may be set to lose everything she has worked for.

So when Ann is poisoned with cyanide at the association’s dinner at their big convention in Hampstead, is it suicide…or murder?

The team from Hampstead nick have to find out.

As per the other books, this one is a lovely mix of crime and character stories. Those who have read the previous books will get a hell of a shock at what happens next in the Peter Collins/Karen Willis/Bob Metcalfe storyline. It packed a punch not unlike one from Mohammed Ali!

Sprinkled with the quirky observations and one-liners, ‘A Whiff of Cyanide’ is a delicious addition to the series.

I have the fourth book at home. I am hoarding it. Because once I’ve read it, they’re all gone!

Guy Fraser-Sampson is the finest addition to the UK’s crime writing fraternity in years.

Devil’s Wolf

5 Feb

Paul Doherty brings Sir Hugh Corbett out to play in the excelled “Devil’s Wolf”.

In 1296 Edward I sacked Berwick in a shameful display of cruelty and murder.

Years later, his son is on the throne of England, Scotland is as big a mess as ever, and Henry Percy has bought Alnwick castle with gods know what ideas in mind.

Sir Hugh Corbett is despatched north to visit Percy, locate the Lily Crown of Scotland, and negotiate a hostage transfer. His retinue is attacked by a coven known as the Black Chesters, someone tries to murder both him and his Master of Archers Ap Ythel, and there is the matter of the mysterious one-eyed bowman. Not to mention the fact that bloody handed murder seems to be raging unchecked.

I have never been as big a fan of Hugh Corbett as I have of Brother Athelstan, but this book is excellent. Full of red herrings and surprises.

I like the way Paul Doherty grows his characters. Hugh Corbett is a different man in many ways from the one we met way back in “Satan in St Mary’s”. But the biggest change is in Ranulf atte Newgate. Corbett’s trusted right hand has come a long way from the terrified boy that Hugh saved from judicial hanging.

Great characters and a great plot. Paul Doherty never goes stale.

Highly recommended.

Miss Christie Regrets

30 Jan

The crime team from Hampstead nick are back with a second interesting adventure in Guy Fraser-Sampson’s “Miss Christie Regrets”.

There is a murder in Burgh House in Hampstead, and around the same time a body is found stuffed in a cabin trunk in a walled off room in a nearby block of flats. This body however, isn’t fresh, but from prior to WW2. There can be no connection between the two cases. Can there?

Of course there can!

And off goes a wonderful romp through one of my favourite parts of London.

The plot is deliciously intricate, with a gorgeous woven seam of Cold War paranoia wound in that would delight John le Carre. Letters from Dame Agatha Christie herself add a touch of old world glamour to the plot.

“Miss Christie Regrets” is an excellent read, and builds nicely onto the foundations that the first book, “Death in Profile” erected.

Guy Fraser-Sampson writes wonderful stories that manage to meld the Golden Age of detective fiction with modern world police procedurals. If you haven’t read the series, do yourself a favour and track the books down.

Superb.

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