Tag Archives: Historical Crime

Savage Magic

14 Mar

In “Savage Magic”, by Lloyd Shepherd, Thames River Police Constable Charles Horton finds himself investigating a possible case of witchcraft in Surrey at the behest of Bow Street Magistrate Aaron Graham. At the same time Graham is investigating the dreadful murders of a group of men who call themselvess Sybarites and look to the late Sir Francis Dashwood of the Hellfire Club for inspiration. What is the link between these events and a private madhouse in Hackney? As the body count rises, Charles Horton and Aaron Graham are racing against time to find those responsible.

Set in 1814 in the last years of the Georgian period, Lloyd Shepherd manages to convey the decadence and almost brutal immorality with great flair and wit. You can see, hear, and almost smell the human maelstroms that are Wapping and Covent Garden.

The story is many faceted, with thrilling twists and turns, but never once loses momentum. The supernatural overtones of the story just add to the pace.

Highly recommended.

Justice Hall

28 Oct

“Justice Hall” by Laurie R. King is the 6th Mary Russell novel.

Sherlock Holmes and his wife/apprentice Mary Russell travel to Justice Hall to investigate a mystery with its roots firmly in World War One.

The story is a direct sequel to the book “O Jerusalem”, so if spoilers bother you, you might want to read that one first. It isn’t necessary as the story stands up well by itself.

“Justice Hall” is fast paced and exciting. The characters all stand out and are very rounded and real.

Laurie R. King writes the post WWI period so vividly that you could almost be there.

I really enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more of Ms King’s work in the future.

Rest Without Peace

20 Sep

You can make some great finds at secondhand book shops and opportunity shops. My latest discovery was “Rest Without Peace”.

“Rest Without Peace” is a novel of the horrific crimes of Burke and Hare. In 1828 body snatching was the crime of the time with fresh corpses needed for dissection at the teaching hospitals. After selling the body of one of his lodgers to recover owed rent, William Hare, along with his neighbour and friend, William Burke, realize that there is quite a bit of money to be made in selling corpses. It doesn’t take them long to come to the conclusion that the best and quickest way to have a steady supply of the product is to create their own.

Written by historical novelist Elizabeth Byrd and originally published in 1974, “Rest Without Peace” stands the test of time.

Well researched and well written, the characters just flow off the page. The dialects used by the characters read smoothly and adds a sense of realism to the characters.

The characters are vibrant and the story fairly races along. I didn’t so much read the book as devour it.

The book is, alas, out of print, but copies are available via ABE Books if of interest: https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&cm_sp=SearchF--home--Results&an=Elizabeth+Byrd&tn=Rest+Without+Peace&kn=&isbn=

Sherlock Holmes and the Molly-Boy Murders Released

27 Oct


My debut novel, “Sherlock Holmes and the Molly-Boy Murders” was published last week by MX Publishing.

It is available in paperback from a variety of sources as well as being available on Kindle.

If you like Sherlock Holmes and thrilling stories, please do consider giving my book a try.

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.

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 Third Nero

19 Jul

“The Third Nero” by Lindsey Davis is set shortly after the events of “The Graveyard of the Hesperides”, Flavia is dealing with the fall out from the wedding and a plot upon the Palantine. As the book’s title suggests, someone is posing as Nero…again. But this one is a little more serious. This one holds a traitor at the heart of Domitian’s bureacracy.

“The Third Nero” fairly bounces along. As per usual some of Flavia Albia’s family make an appearance. In this case her cousins Marcia Didiia, and Marius. Also making an appearance is the exotic dancer/assassin Perella.

A nicely plotted little yarn which is vintage Lindsey Davis.

Highly recommended.

A Pilgrimage to Murder

5 Mar

I got my copy of “A Pilgrimage to Murder” by Paul Doherty from the library on Friday and sat down on Friday evening and read it straight through.

The Great Rebellion is over, and Brother Athelstan, Sir Jack Cranston, and many of Athelstan’s parishioners are going on pilgrimage to Canterbury.

Naturally, nothing goes to plan.  Clerks from the Secret Chancery are being murdered.  At the same time, John of Gaunt is maneuvering to claim the throne of Castile by right of both his marriage to Constanzia of Castile and his descent from Eleanor of Castile.

John of Gaunt’s right hand man, Thibault, joins the pilgrimage to meet up with representatives from Castile to discuss his master’s claim.

To add to the turmoil, someone is threatening Athelstan’s life, and this time the threats are serious.

“A Pilgrimage to Murder” is an excellent book.  The characters only get as far of the first night’s stop before all hell breaks loose.

Well written, exciting, with lots of clues to help you spot the killer.  A delicious addition to the series.

I am looking forward to the continuation of the pilgrimage, because you never know who they might meet, such as Geoffrey Chaucer… or his characters from the Canterbury Tales, or, indeed, the more rounded version of the characters from Paul’s own take on the Canterbury Tales.

Deadly Election

11 Jan

I tried the Flavia Alba books by Lindsey Davis when the first one was released, and couldn’t get in to them.  Couldn’t make the adjustment from Falco to his adopted daughter Flavia being the main character.

After seeing the reviews of “Deadly Election” by a few friends on Good Reads, I decided to give it a go.

I’m glad I did.  I’ve been long enough away from Lindsey’s work that it was easier to accept Flavia Alba and not judge her by Falco.

In this book Flavia is helping with finding out scuttlebutt for electioneering purposes, when a rotting corpse turns up in a chest being auctioned at the family auction house.  Naturally, Flavia investigates.

The book has the same slightly hard boiled edge that the Falco books had.

Well plotted, well written, and very enjoyable.

Highly recommended.

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