Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Review: Cesare & Lucrezia Borgia by Samantha Morris

Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia: Brother and Sister of History's Most Vilified Family
Synopsis: Myths and rumour have shrouded the Borgia family for centuries - tales of incest, intrigue and murder have been told of them since they themselves walked the hallways of the Apostolic Palace. In particular, vicious rumour and slanderous tales have stuck to the names of two members of the infamous Borgia family - Cesare and Lucrezia, brother and sister of history's most notorious family. But how much of it is true, and how much of it is simply rumour aimed to blacken the name of the Borgia family?

In the first ever biography solely on the Borgia siblings, Samantha Morris tells the true story of these two fascinating individuals from their early lives, through their years living amongst the halls of the Vatican in Rome until their ultimate untimely deaths. Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia begins in the bustling metropolis of Rome with the siblings ultimately being used in the dynastic plans of their father, a man who would become Pope, and takes the reader through the separate, yet fascinatingly intertwined, lives of the notorious siblings. One tale, that of Cesare, ends on the battlefield of Navarre, whilst the other ends in the ducal court of Ferrara. Both Cesare and Lucrezia led lives full of intrigue and danger, lives which would attract the worst sort of rumour begun by their enemies.

Drawing on both primary and secondary sources Morris brings the true story of the Borgia siblings, so often made out to be evil incarnate in other forms of media, to audiences both new to the history of the Italian Renaissance and old.

A fine edition to add to the many books tackling these infamous siblings - in both fact and fiction - see my 2011 blog post - A Bundle of Borgias.

Morris make a poignant remark: "... now, as throughout history, people love a good gossip ...", and like us today, they "... want stories that both disgust them and draw them in ...". In their own time, Cesare and Lucrezia are the equivalent of today's Kardashians or Osbornes. 

Delving into the family history from its Spanish roots, Morris provides the reader with a concise background of the family including Rodrigo's rise to the Papal throne up until the siblings draw final breath. But the focus here is on the two siblings - Cesare and Lucrezia - as opposed to a complete history of all Borgias. In this easy to read and well presented tome, all the main events are covered off - we are not bogged down in unnecessary detail so readers new to this topic will have no trouble at all keeping pace. For me, I love the Borgias, so much of this was well worn and familiar ground.

Gossip and hearsay were the weapons of the day that were used to destroy reputation - not only powerful, but also long lasting that like a series of chinese whispers, people begin to accept them as truths using that old adage "no smoke without fire" to justify such. And we are more than accustomed to history being written by the victors -as poor old Richard III can attest.

It is easy to forget that what is unseemly to our modern view and sensibilities was very much the norm - here, family is so important, that it is not strange at all to discover that Cesare and Lucrezia were close - afterall, it was the Borgias against the world - who else would they turn to and trust but one of their own.

Morris finishes by taking the reader through the various modern day adaptions of the Borgia story - from film and television, to game and books. Having just taken possession of yet another book on the Borgias (Paul Strathern's The Borgias), Morris' book will also find a home on my "Borgia" shelf in my personal library. 

Review: The German Client by Bruno Morchio

The German Client
Synopsis: Private investigator Bacci Pagano can’t resist taking the bait when his new client dangles a check with too many zeros. He should have known that where there’s bait, there’s always a hook.

In a hospital corridor, Bacci Pagano is keeping watch over Jasmìne Kilamba. If she lives, her testimony will shatter a notorious human trafficking ring. Seemingly out of nowhere, he is approached by an elderly German named Kurt Hessen who is searching for his Italian half-brother. Despite his better judgment, Pagano accepts the job. So many things, good and evil, happened when the Nazis occupied Genoa in 1944, what did it matter now? But it matters very much to someone and Pagano finds himself plunged into a world of old secrets and new lies in this wartime thriller where the the bill for the sins of the past has come due . . . with interest. 

The novel is set in Genoa, in the industrial (working class) suburb of Sestri Ponente - in both time frames. What was life really like for those who endured the wartime conditions under both the Italian Fascists and Germans.

When Mussolini was removed from power in 1943, Italy signed the Armistice of Cassabile, ending its war with the Allies. However, German forces shortly succeeded in taking control of northern and central Italy, creating the Italian Social Republic (RSI), with Mussolini installed as leader after he was rescued by German paratroopers. The Germans, often helped by Fascists (Blackshirts), committed several atrocities against Italian civilians and troops. As result, the Italian Co-Belligerent Army was created to fight against the RSI and its German allies, while other Italian troops, loyal to Mussolini, continued to fight alongside the Germans in the National Republican Army. 

For the people living under this regime, brutality (including assault, imprisonment, torture and death), sacrifice, guilt and fear, oppression, betrayal and collaboration, hunger and rationing was commonplace. Many found work in the industries geared towards to the war effort in order to supplement their meagre resources - 1944 would see an incredibly harsh winter and fuel supplies were non-existent. People did what they could to survive. One of Morchio's character laments that "... as long as the war lasts, no one has the luxury of shame .."  

However, it wasn't long before civilians were being rounded up and sent off to work in Germany; others just "disappeared". And as resistance grew and more people joined the partisans, the retaliation by the occupying forces increased in its repressive brutality. The published order by the German Commandant, General Kesselring, was that for every German killed by partisans 10 Italians selected at random would be shot. 

The Italian Communist Party was also seen as a counter to the prevailing fascism - their task was to:
  • attack and annihilate in every way officers, soldiers, material, deposits of Hitler's armed forces;
  • attack and annihilate in every way people, places, properties of fascists and traitors who collaborate with the occupying Germans;
  • attack and annihilate in every way war industries, communication systems and everything that might help to war plans of Nazi occupants.
Of the Italian Resistance Groups, the Gruppi di Azione Patriottica ("Patriotic Action Groups") or simply GAP, established small cells whose main purpose was to unleash urban terror through bomb attacks against fascists, Germans and their supporters. However, another of their tasks was the "elimination of enemies especially heinous", such as torturers, spies and provocateurs. They operated independently in case of arrest or betrayal of individual elements. In Morchio's story, the Patriotic Action Group (PAG) is the equivalent.

On April 26 Genoa fell, with 14,000 Italian partisans forcing the city's surrender and taking 6,000 German soldiers as prisoners.  Many veteran partisans today often deny that a civil war took place in Italy during World War II. However, a clear and simple version of events is not possible as many people made sacrifices to pursue their goals, aspirations and ideals.

When a dying Professor from Germany - Kurt Messen - seeks out Bacci Pagano, the investigator is forced to dig deep into the long concealed wartime memories of family and friends in order to find some semblance of truth and help reunite lost siblings. 

From this point onwards, the narrative alternates back and forth from 1944 to modern day, with Pagano's in the first person, and that of the partisan Tilde, in the third person. But nothing is ever that simple.  With little to go on and brick walls going up left, right and centre, Pagnano, distracted by the brutal assault of girlfriend Jasmine, must find answers before time runs out (for the dying Professor).  

When speaking with one of the old partisans, Bacci muses: "... I'm starting to think that there's something really dirty behind all this and your terrified that it will all come out, even after all these years .."

Long held secrets are slowly being teased out until we reach the final denouement - and for Pagano, things finally make sense.

This is a great read. Originally entitled "Rossoamaro", this is the sixth in a series of elevn (or twelve), and the first one I head read. Whilst not fully conversant with the background of the character Bacci Pagano, there is enough here to weave a wonderful tale. And - of course - make you want to seek out more in the series!

See also:
The Guardian - A House In The Mountain (review)

Review: The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir

The Creak on the Stairs
Synopsis: When a body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.

Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her collegues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day …

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice … before it’s too late.

I think this will become my top read of the year. 

Hauntingly brilliant; atmospheric; harrowing; compelling; dark; suspenseful; edge of your seat stuff.

In the genre of past secrets coming back to take a bite out of those involved, this one packs a punch. Aegisdottir uses (sparingly) the past life of our victim to gently tease out the threads whilst never quite showing her hand. Only as your are propelled down the path of the investigation d little snippets of what is to come are being revealed.

The characters are well written and definitely add to the storyline - and the fact that this mystery is set in the author's home town makes it all the more real. There are other themes running through - and it all links up as we reach the culmination of the police investigation.

I am hoping that this is just the beginning of a new series.

Definitely recommended for those who love their Scandi-crime and for those wanting a change of (fictional) locale. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Review: The House of Twelve by Sean Davies

The House of Twelve (The Houses of Penance, #1)
Synopsis: Twelve strangers wake up in a strange house with no memory of how they got there, and barely any recollection of who they are. They quickly learn that there is no way out, scarcely enough food and water to go around, and eerie music plays constantly in the background of every room. There is nothing to explain their mysterious incarceration except for a few scattered clues, a strange clock with twenty-four numbers and one single hour hand, and a leather-bound sheet of rules that makes their situation all the more fatal.

We predominantly following the character of "Sarah", we are taken through events on a day by day basis. The rules are very clear:
Rule one: No escape. You can’t leave, plain and simple. Try to escape and you won’t like what you find on the other side.

Rule two: Make what you have last. Whatever food and water you currently find in the house is all that you will be provided with during your stay. No more will be given to you under any circumstance.

Rule three: When the music stops, someone must die. The music you can all hear in the background will cease between the hour of twenty-three and twenty-four; when this happens someone must die. Failure to comply with this rule will result in everyone’s death.

Rule four: Only one, and only when the music stops! One death, and only one death, must occur in the allotted time between the hour of twenty-three and twenty-four. Again, failure to comply with this rule will result in everyone’s death.

Redemption is the key to escape. But for some, this is this learned all too late?

This is one of those "must read in one sitting" books with a killer twist at the end. Definitely pays homage to Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" - twelve people and each night one must die to save the rest. 

Although devoid of memory except their names, along the way we discover a little more about the twelve prisoners - you know that not all will make it out alive. What type of people were these prisoners will slowly be revealed as the days count down to the last person standing ... and what happens then?

Review: Midwinter Murder by Agatha Christie

Midwinter Murder: Fireside Tales from the Queen of Mystery
Synopsis: There’s a chill in the air and the days are growing shorter . . . It’s the perfect time to curl up in front of a crackling fire with these wintry whodunits from the legendary Agatha Christie. But beware of deadly snowdrifts and dangerous gifts, poisoned meals and mysterious guests. This chilling compendium of short stories—some featuring beloved detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple—is an essential omnibus for Christie fans and the perfect holiday gift for mystery lovers.

A wonderful collection of short stories curated around the theme sof winter and Christmas. These stories, featuring well known characters such as Poirot, Marple, Pyne, and Quin, have all appeared in previously published tomes - listed at the end. This will make a nice addition to anyone's Agatha Christie library - and will be adding it to my own. 

Review: The Inspector of Strange & Unexplained Deaths by Olivier Barde-Cabucon

The Inspector of  Strange and Unexplained DeathsSynopsis: Everyone has secrets. Even the king.

When a gruesomely mutilated body is found on the doorstep of the Versailles Palace in 1759, the Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths is called to the scene. His ensuing investigation is thwarted at every turn by shady figures such as notorious seducer Casanova, a mysterious Italian gentlewoman who knows more than she lets on and a secret order harbouring revolutionary sentiment.

As the body count rises, the Inspector is brought even further into a web of deceit that he soon suspects may go all the way to the very top of society.

France in the mid-1700s was a melting pot of new enlightened thinking, religious turmoil, and the murmurs of a society fed up with its monarchy. The French King, Louis XV, was on the throne and was well noted for his many mistresses, including the most famous - Madame de Pompadour. It was rumoured that the King kept a private brothel of teenage girls, and was served by some 2000 courtiers, whose main job was to keep him from becoming bored, and he bored easily – and lost his temper readily. Madame de Pompadour, when her relationship with the king was waning was said to have provided the king with suitable female company whilst still ensuring her influence was in the ascendant.

Whilst the nobility lived the high life, attending parties and balls, and reveling in their wealth and status, the majority of the people were poor, illiterate farmers were slowly being broken under the arcane laws and increased taxation. The middle-classes gathered at coffeehouses, where in addition to drinking coffee they read newspapers and discussed ideas. Middle-class and aristocratic professionals formed societies that explored intellectual issues. As time moved on, the disparity between the nobility and commoners grew ever wider.

There was a distinct lack of civil rights. The king could have anyone arrested without reason and imprisoned (and tortured) for as long as he wanted. The kingdom of King Louis XV had no uniform system of law. French society was filled with swindlers, thieves, beggars and vagabonds, and the average Frenchman delighted in witnessing their punishment (there was no guillotine just yet). Security was provided by two different corps of police; the Garde de Paris and the Guet Royal, or royal watchmen. Both organizations were under the command of the Lieutenant General of Police. Parisians considered the police both corrupt and inefficient, and relations between the people and the police were increasingly strained. Paris possessed an extraordinary number and variety of prisons, used for different classes of persons and types of crimes. The fortress of the Châtelet was the oldest royal prison, where the office of the Provost of Paris was also located. It had about fifteen large cells; the better cells were on the upper levels, where prisoners could pay a high pension to be comfortable and well-fed, while the lower cells were extremely damp and barely lit by the sun coming through a grate at street level. The Bastille and the Château de Vincennes were both used for high-ranking political prisoners, and had relatively luxurious conditions.

The Catholic Church played an enormous role in the everyday life of people.  However, petty jealousies existed within its ranks and local parish priests were becoming increasingly displeased by the ambition, indifference and vanity of the upper clergy who behaved more like the nobility than prelates. The Church's influence declined toward the end of the century, partly because of the Enlightenment, and partly from conflicts within the church establishment.

There were many plots and secret societies in France at the time. Pre-eminent among those societies were the Freemasons and a group known as the Encyclopediests. Encyclopedism was a burgeoning movement within France. The 32-volume "Encyclopédie", edited by Diderot and D'Alembert, was the pride of Enlightenment France. There were 74,000 articles written by more than 130 contributors. It presented a secular worldview, drawing the ire of several Church officials. Authorities saw it as a dangerous work-it was banned in France, and the Catholic Church placed it on the Index librorum prohibitorum, or Index of Prohibited Books. The authors themselves came under attack and were threatened with imprisonment. Despite all this, work continued "in secret," partially because the project had highly placed supporters. It sought to empower its readers with knowledge and played a role in fomenting the dissent that led to the French Revolution.

Freemasonry acquired the image of the secret society par excellence. One important reason was the early and long-lasting opposition of the Roman Catholic Church, which first condemned the "liberi Muratori seu Francs Massons" in the bull In eminenti (1738). In fact, the society was used for subversive purposes (on both sides) in the lead up the the French Revolution. Freemasonry membership in France included French nobles and many military men, but the largest portion of membership was the bourgeoisie who liked the idea of being members because they appreciated Freemasonry’s motto of equality. Those excluded from joining included Jews, actors, employees, workers, and servants, as well as women - however, Lodges of Adoption soon sprouted through which women could actively participate. 

The Devot (Devout) Party also makes an appearance. This real group were fiercely opposed to the idea of an absolute monarchy and worked with a number of other secretive groups to achieve their ends, including the (fictional) Brotherhood of the Serpent (possibly modeled on the ancient Brotherhood of the Snake whose purpose was to oppose the enslavement of the spirit and to enlighten through scientific knowledge).

The alternating narrative (Volnay and Casanova) begin with a gruesome murder of a young woman. Volnay investigates whilst Casanova's own motives are never quite revealed until the reader has been well drawn into the tale. During the course of his investigation, Volynay finds himself up against a number of different factions, all with their own endgame, all trying to manipulate and direct the detective for their own purpose.

The characters littered across the pages are suitably human, odious, mysterious, enlightened; a good mix of both fiction and real personages. We have our main character, the Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths - the Chevalier de Volnay, aided in all things by his mysterious and sinister accomplice known as "the Heretic Monk". A worthy foil to Volnay is the ever encroaching presence of Giacomo Casanova, who is content to conduct his own investigation in his own inimitable way. However, Volnay is also up against one Antonie Raymond de Sartine, Lieutenant General of Police, who though admired by his contemporaries, was also criticized for using his highly efficient secret police to spy not only on criminals but also on ordinary citizens. It is in this role we are introduced to Sartine. Then there is also the obscure and mysterious Comte de Saint-Germaine with his connections to the monarchy. A number of fictional characters take centre stage with Volnay including Chiara D'Ancilla (one of Madame de Pompadour's ladies); Wallace, the old soldier

Barde-Cabucon certainly takes the reader on a wild journey through the underbelly of pre-Revolutionary France - with its political and religious intrigue; espionage; secret societies; rumblings of revolution; and a murder or two. There were so many reveals towards the end that I felt like a carnival clown, mouth perpetually open. I literally felt exhausted (in a good way) when I finally finished this.  Whilst there are many themes peppered throughout, rest assured, it does all come together, and Barde-Cabucons extensive research is evident .

This novel (originally titled Casanova and the Faceless Woman) is the first in a series - and I hope that the rest will be translated and re-published in due course as I am looking forward to reading more - and will definitely read this again. 

Recommended reading: 
The Chatelet Apprentice by Jean-Francois Parot

Review: People of Abandoned Character by Claire Whitfield

Synopsis: Marry in haste . . . Murder at leisure?
London, 1888: Susannah rushes into marriage to a young and wealthy surgeon. After a passionate honeymoon, she returns home with her new husband wrapped around her little finger. But then everything changes. Thomas's behavior becomes increasingly volatile and violent. He stays out all night, returning home bloodied and full of secrets. The gentle caresses she enjoyed on her wedding night are now just a honeyed memory. 

When the first woman is murdered in Whitechapel, Susannah's interest is piqued. But as she follows the reports of the ongoing hunt for the killer, her mind takes her down the darkest path imaginable. Every time Thomas stays out late, another victim is found dead. Is it coincidence? Or is her husband the man they call Jack the Ripper?

To think I nearly gave up on this. It wasn't quite holding my fascination at the beginning, but the premise promised so much that I continued on. And OMG! What a finish! About halfway through things start to move - think gothic fiction along the lines of "Gaslight" and "Rebecca" and you'll know what you are in for. 

Just as Alice was led down the the rabbit hole by the White Rabbit, so Whitfield leads the reader through the crime-ridden sordid streets of Victorian Whitechapel, an area of overcrowding and abject poverty. It was a city of doss houses, sweatshops, abattoirs, overcrowded slums, pubs, a few shops and warehouses. Although described as “terra incognito for respectable citizens", it was a place were the wealthy gentlemen "slummed it" and the well-heeled ladies got their daily crime fix by visiting the scenes of horror (from the deplorable living conditions to the crimes scenes of the Ripper).

Women within Victorian society were entirely at the mercy of the men who dominated their lives: first, their fathers and brothers would control them when they are still young and when they are married, their husbands. Marriage was considered very essential and significant for the sake of the stability of the society. Women were therefore expected to be very obedient and submissive in order to have a happy and stable marriage. Women were not supposed to divorce; they were expected to live with their husbands even if it meant to live in miserable marriage.

Women thus began to perform duties outside their homes. This meant that they would cook, nurse and educate young people for a pay. Nevertheless, a woman was only supposed to work as long as she was not married, but once married, she was expected to stop working and take up her role as a wife and mother.

It wasn't until the 1880s that educational opportunities and institutions opened up to women to continue with their learning. Whereas prior to this, an educated woman was not considered attractive nor marriageable material. At the same time, women attained more legal rights with the establishment of more movements and acts. The married women property act allowed married women authority over their own properties. Her property was hers and not her husband’s. 

When Nurse Susannah Chapman marries wealth doctor Thomas Lancaster, little did she know what she was getting in for - yes, marry in haste, repent in leisure is very apt. With no family of her own and isolated from her friends, Susannah finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage. Husband Thomas becomes this Jekyll and Hyde type character, and when the Ripper murders start, Susannah slowly connects the dots, coming to a horrifying conclusion that could end in her own death. 

For a first novel, this is gripping stuff - as I said, I nearly gave up on it early on in the piece, but the scene was just being set with a bit of retrospective narrative - it will make sense as you near then end. And I especially loved the narrative ascribed to the Ripper's victims. The ending .... you know its building up to something, however, the something that we get is far for expected! It is almost noirish by definition. 

This and Elizabeth Hill's "Killing The Girl" have to be two of my favourite crime reads for this year.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Review: The Cromwell Enigma by Derek Wilson

The Cromwell EnigmaSynopsis: July 1540. The courts of Europe are stunned to hear that Henry VIII has executed his all-powerful minister, Thomas Cromwell.

Poet and classicist Nicholas Bourbon is sent from the cultured court of Queen Marguerite of Navarre to investigate. Thrust into a turbulent world of religious, political and personal rivalries, his travels take him far and wide. He endures perils at sea, incarceration in a monastic prison and poisonous intrigue in the Tudor court. 

Yet this retiring scholar cannot abandon a quest which steadily becomes an obsession, drawing him ever deeper into the beliefs and motivations of his mysterious quarry.  Only after facing many hazards does he discover the astonishing secret that unlocks the Cromwell enigma.

The synopsis pretty much covers it story-wise.  And this reminded me of what I refer to as "in the footsteps of" - wherein an author attempts to walk in the footsteps of their chosen subject to discover more about them and takes the reader along their journey. Usually this type of book is non-fiction, but I find that it works just as well in a fictional format - as it does in this instance.

Utilising the real-life character of Nicholas Bourbon, the reader is taken on a quest to discover the missing years of Thomas Cromwell (or Tom Crom as he is often referred to) in order to understand the man he became at the time of his execution (no spoilers here - just the facts). I really do love the use of other real historical characters to give some authenticity to the plot.

So, who are our main characters:  firstly we have our narrator, Nicholas Bourbonwho was a noted court poet, as well as tutor to Jeanne d'Albret, daughter of Marguerite Queen of Navarre, as well as (in this instance) her ambassador. Whilst we learn of Nicholas' past throughout his mission - and his dealing with the English Court of Henry VII - very little is known about his final years.  As such, Wilson creates a possible scenario for Bourbon's final years.

Whilst not appearing in the physical sense, Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VII's most trusted advisor, Lord Privy Seal, and the architect of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, looms larger than life throughout.  What has always interested people is Cromwell's rise to power from humble beginnings, and those years he spent in Italy early on.  And this is what Wilson explores through the use of Nicholas Bourbon, as almost a detective type figure.  However, not everyone welcomes Bourbon's investigation and some are keen not to follow in Cromwell's footsteps to the executioner's block by voicing their opinions.

Although no exactly nail biting, white knuckle edge-of-your-seat drama, there is action aplenty to keep the reader entertained as we draw ever closer to Cromwell's secret. The narrative is peppered with extracts from documents and correspondence of the day, adding to the authenticity of the tale.

As Nicholas is given to say: " ... like a squirrel worrying a nut, I was possessed by the need to find a kernel of truth written within the shell of conflicting information ..."

Definitely one for historical fiction and Tudor fiction readers.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Review: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder ClubSynopsis: In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings.

But when a local property developer shows up dead, 'The Thursday Murder Club' find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
The four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it's too late?

Not having any idea who Richard Osman is and what he had previously written, I came into this with no preconceptions. I loved the premise of the story when I requested a review copy.

No surprises - I loved it! The story follows the first person narrative of newly arrived Joyce (as diary entries) and the standard third person narrative for the rest of the book. The setting is an up-market retirement village - Coopers Chase - populated by a vast range of retired (or semi-retired) professionals, four of who make up the Thursday Murder Club. This group meet together to look over cold cases from the files of one of the groups' former members - however, when real life steps in and the property developer Ian Ventham is murders, the group decide to get in on the sleuthing themselves. 

" ... if today was anything to go by, this whole murder investigation is going to be the most enormous fun ..."

This reminded me slightly of Charlaine Harris' "Aurora Teagarden" series - so if you love that, then you will also love this one.

The story builds up slowly and has a great twist at the end. It is witty, suspenseful, serious, fun; the characters are endearing, slightly questionable in their ethics, and nowhere close to retiring!. I do hope there is more.