18 Dec

At a time when other children had their mothers reading “Sleeping Beauty” and “Little Red Riding Hood” to them, my father was telling me the story of the abduction of Persephone with his own adornments (I particularly liked the squirrels wondering why she was picking flowers instead of nuts).

I bring this up so you understand that I was exposed to the Greek myths at a very young age. Once I was able to read, I got my hands on Bullfinch’s Mythology and Robert Graves rather interesting two volume offering.

Stephen Fry’s “Mythos” is a glorious retelling of the Greek myths.

Stephen Fry now sits, in my mind, with these giants of Greek mythology. His retelling of many of the stories, especially the origins of the gods, is simply delightful. His love for the subject just shines through, and he has a deft hand with gentle sarcastic observances and natty oneliners.

If I have to pick a favourite story it would have to be the birth of Hermes. And not just because Hermes has always been my favourite.

I now have a question for Stephen. When is he going to retell the Iliad?


The Mansions of Murder

29 Oct

Paul Doherty’s most recent Brother Athelstan is a classic locked room mystery. Something he does very well.

Athelstan and Sir Jack Cranston must work out who killed the priest of St Benet’s Queenshithe, and how it ties in with the legacy of a deceased parishoner of Athelstan’s.

After month’s of fretting about the death of a parishoner, because over the years I have developed a fondness for a number of the character’s, I shouldn’t have worried. The parishoner was a very minor one who was mostly mentioned in passing in earlier books.

“The Mansions of Murder” is a gripping thriller, which, unlike previous books, has very few humourous moments to lighten the atmosphere.

The scene with Pike and Watkins in the tavern with Jack Cranston and Athelstan has raised some interesting questions for the future.

Can’t quite bring myself to give it 5 stars, because it doesn’t reach my bench mark of “The Great Revolt” as being an extraordinary Athelstan novel.


The Painted Lady

26 Oct

Araminta Jewell is the idol of a group of restoration rakes with their eyes on her virginity. She scuppers their plans by marrying. One of them, however, is not standing for this, and when her husband is murdered it is up to Christopher Redmayne (a royalist and architect) and Jonathan Bale (puritan and constable) to find the culprit before an innocent man is executed for a crime he didn’t commit.

“The Painted Lady”, is the sixth, and sadly, last of the Christopher Redmayne novels by Edward Marston. He switched to doing only his railway crime novels after this one.

Which is a massive disappointment as Christopher Redmayne and Jonathan Bale are the most delightful and unlikely crime fighting duo since Randall and Hopkirk (deceased).

Full of glorious restoration period detail and wonderfully colourful characters, including Christopher’s dissolute brother Henry. “The Painted Lady” is a glorious high note to the series.

I still want more. 😦

The Adventure of the Deadly Dimensions

8 Oct

A thoroughly rolicing read as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson take on the Order of Dagon, which is masquerading as a Druidic religion written by Lois H. Gresh..

Involving as it does Elder Gods, Druidic themes, opera, living machines, it is surprising just how well Ms Gresh has managed to meld the worlds of Doyle and Lovecraft.

Holmes first gets involved when a distraught man comes to him after the machine that his father created killed his father. It becomes increasingly obivous to everyone except Holmes that the machine is a living creature. Can they stop it before it kills again and again and again?

The scene shifts mostly between London and Avebury. With a truly revolting scene inside West Kennett Long Barrow. Be warned. This scene could easily make you lose your lunch!

This is the first of a trilogy, so am really looking forward to the second book which is released next year.

Highly recommended.

The Furthest Station

2 Oct

Weird bollocks is happening on the Metropolitan Underground line. People are being harrassed by ghosts of people past. Peter Grant, Thomas Nightingale, Abigail Kamara, and Jaget Kumar sally forth to de-weird the bollocks.

Thus is the offering “The Furthest Station” by Ben Aaronovitch, the latest in the Rivers of London series.

This novella is delightful and funny. It gives us an update on Abigail’s progress at the Folly, and also gives us some lovely backstory for Jaget.

I am old enough to remember when books of this length were called novels, not novellas, so I wasn’t worried by the length. I have seen some complaints it was too short. It’s a nice way occupy yourself for an hour or so.

Ben has given us somethings to look forward to in future works in a nice, self contained package.

My favourite book of 2017 so far.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

3 Sep

I spent the weekend reading “TheStrange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter” by Theodora Goss.

Mary Jekyll’s mother has just died, leaving her poor. She discovers that her mother has been supporting a young girl, Diana Hyde.

Mary begins a quest, with the help of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, to discover what actually happened to her father, Dr Henry Jekyll, and his association with the Society of Alchemists (I’ve anglicized it. My French isn’t up to it).

Throw in a series of murders in Whitechapel, and the daughters of other society members. such as Moreau and Frankenstein, and you have a marvellous romp of a story.

The book caught my eye when Charles Prepolec was reading it, and he liked it, so I thought I’d give it a go.


Jack the Ripper: Case Closed

31 Aug

In ‘Jack the Ripper: Case Closed’ by Gyles Brandreth, Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle set out to examine the suspects in the Ripper case and solve the crimes once and for all.

The book is narrated in the first person by Arthur Conan Doyle. This was a weird experience for me reading a book where one of my favourite authors is actually a character.

Gyles Brandreth gets right inside the skin of Oscar Wilde. His Wilde is thoroughly believable and syncs well with what we know of Wilde’s actual character.

The ending, not to give away any spoilers, is both satisfying and unsatisfying on a number of levels. I could get behind the idea of the killer, but not the motive. The politics of the situation I could accept quite easily.

A delicious Victorian romp.

Mail Obsession

14 Aug

The best way to describe “Mail Obsession” by Mark Mason is that it is odd.

Mark Mason looked at Britain’s 124 postcodes and decided to visit as many as possible and relay interesting facts about them.

For me the most interesting fact was learning how the postcodes work. This year in London I stayed in a hotel next door to the one I’d stayed in last year. They had different postcodes. I discovered that the first half of the code is the area, the second the property. So quite literally every building in Britain has a different postcode!

Some of the facts were odd, some amusing, some triggered WTF moments.

If you like travel and trivia, this book is for you.

Highly recommended.

Jesus Christ Superstar

6 Aug

I went to see the production of Jesus Christ Superstar that was put on by Jeannie Pratt’s “The Production Company” at the State Theatre in the Melbourne Arts Centre.

I made the mistake of reading a review of it in the Age newspaper before I went where the critic only gave it two and a half stars.  I should know by now that reviews are merely opinions and that the critic in question was not looking for the things I look for in a production of JCS.

The first complaint he had was that the voices of the leads playing Jesus and Judas weren’t strong enough for the roles.  My guess is that he was seated too far away to see that the entire cast was singing unmiked!  I don’t think my ears could have stood it if Rob Mills (Jesus) and Zoy Frangos (Judas) had been throat miked!  The only mic to appear on the stage is the prop one used by Judas in the title song.

The critic (I honestly can’t remember his name, sorry) also complained that the scene in the Temple where Jesus chases out the money lenders and vendors made no sense with the wild costuming.  It made a lot of sense, if you actually read the notes in the free programme provided where director Gale Edwards spoke about Jesus: “Everything he stands for, believed in and taught would be a confrontation to our capitalist system”.  I doubt it’s a coincidence that the costumes in the scene included hookers, Las Vegas style showgirls, gambling, and even Hollywood (as represented by Wonder Woman).  Less obvious was the personification of America, Uncle Sam, lurking on the scaffolding set watching the proceedings.

Paul Hughes was an excellent Caiaphas.  That part is a particular favourite of mine.  His voice is lucious and as ‘This Jesus Must Die’ and ‘Blood Money’ are two of my favourite songs, his glorious vocals made them a highlight.  The odd beard they put on him was a little off putting.  He looked alarmingly like Ming the Merciless.

I found this production very interesting.  The chemistry between Jesus and Judas was very different to other productions I have seen.  There seemed to be an element of homoeroticism involved.  Especially since the kiss of betrayal isn’t a quick peck on the cheek, but a tender kiss on the lips.  It actually added a deeper layer of pain and misery to the role of Judas.

A word about Zoy Frangos’ Judas.  Superb.  His is the first portrayal I have seen where, just before he suicides and is crying out that he’s been used, that I have realised that he is crying to God, not to Jesus!  It’s almost a duplication of Gesthemene, except that it ends in suicide rather than execution.

This production had the clearest portrayal of Jesus and Judas as the two sides of the same coin that I have ever seen.  Rob Mills and Zoy Frangos’ voices blended well together in their duets.  And you needed to be seated close to the stage to see that WTF look that passes between them when Simon Zealotes is handing out weapons.

A special mention of Trevor Ashley’s Herod.  His is the first Herod I have seen that has gone from ridicule to fear.  Towards the end of his song, Herod looks into Jesus’ face and sees something that makes him recoil in fear.  It makes the switch in the song from mockery to shrieking “Get him out of my palace’ make a lot more sense.

‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is only on until 13th August.  If you haven’t got a ticket, do yourself a favour and grab one, if there are any left.  It was a full house on Saturday.

I give the production 4 and a half stars on my JCS appreciation scale.


1 Aug

“Chosen,” the 4th Alex Verus book by Benedict Jacka is better than the third. It held me as well as the first two did.

In this one, Alex’s past is about to come back and bite him on the arse, big time, and it does so in the form of the Nightstalkers, a group of adepts motivated to take out dark mages because the sister of one was killed by Alex’s former master. Naturally, they don’t believe Alex has changed.

This book was interesting in that it showed how some people are incapable of changing their minds even when the facts are being rubbed into their face.

Alex has grown and changed. He is not the youth who was apprenticed to a dark mage. He is an independent mage who would, frankly, rather just be left alone.

The Light Council appears on the periphery, and with every passing book looks more and more unappealing and unpleasant. One thing this series does is show that the lines between light and dark are not distinct.

Highly recommended.

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