Saturday, April 10, 2021

The Irish Detective Series by Scott Hunter

From the author's website:
Moran is a loner ... with a taste for Italian wine and quality scotch whisky; he is an appalling gardener and (like the author himself), the owner of hyperactive cocker spaniel named Archie.

Born and raised initially near Cork and later in Co. Kerry after his parents moved away during his teens, Moran was left in the care of the Hannigan family where he met and fell in love with Janice, the Hannigans’ eldest daughter.

They were engaged to be married, but Janice was tragically killed in a car bomb incident in the late 1970’s. The bomb had been meant for Moran ... he has never forgiven himself for Janice’ death, nor has he been able to settle into a relationship since.

Moving to England in the early nineteen-eighties, he joined the Thames Valley Police and rose through the ranks on merit. He has experienced various setbacks in his career .... he was almost killed in a car accident .... and also injured during the course of an investigation ....  also has an acute knack of being able to figure people out.

Black December
DCI Brendan Moran, world-weary veteran of 1970s Ireland, is recuperating from a near fatal car crash when a murder is reported at Charnford Abbey.

The abbot and his monks are strangely uncooperative, but when a visitor from the Vatican arrives and an ancient relic goes missing the truth behind Charnford's pact of silence threatens to expose not only the abbey's haunted secrets but also the spirits of Moran's own troubled past  . . .

Creatures of Dust
An unusual crime requires an unusual detective ... An undercover officer goes missing and the body of a young man is found mutilated in a shop doorway. Is there a connection? Returning to work after a short convalescence, DCI Brendan Moran's suspicions are aroused when a senior officer insists on freezing Moran out and handling the investigation himself.

A second murder convinces Moran that a serial killer is on the loose but with only a few days to prove his point the disgruntled DCI can't afford to waste time.

As temperatures hit the high twenties, tempers fray, and the investigation founders Moran finds himself coming back to the same question again and again: can he still trust his own judgement, or is he leading his team up a blind alley?

Death Walks Behind You
DCI Brendan Moran's last minute break in the West Country proves anything but restful as he becomes embroiled in the mysterious disappearance of an American tourist.

Does the village harbour some dark and dreadful secret? The brooding presence of the old manor house and the dysfunctional de Courcy family may hold the answer but Moran soon finds that the residents of Cernham have a rather unorthodox approach to the problem of dealing with outsiders.

As Moran is drawn deeper into Cernham's mysterious past a cold-blooded execution in Berkshire plunges deputising DI Charlie Pepper into a maelstrom of murder, double cross and treachery ...

A Crime for all Seasons
From the midwinter snowdrifts of an ancient Roman villa to a summer stakeout at an exclusive art gallery, join DCI Brendan Moran and his team for the first volume of criminally cunning short stories in which the world-weary yet engaging Irish detective reaffirms that there is indeed a crime for all seasons . . .

Silent as the Dead
A call from an old friend whose wife has vanished from their home in Co.Kerry prompts DCI Brendan Moran to return to his Irish roots. The Gardai have drawn a blank; can Moran succeed where they have failed?

Moran's investigation leads him to a loner known locally as the Islander, who reveals that the woman's disappearance is connected to a diehard paramilitary with plans to hit a high profile target in the UK.

Time is running out. Can Moran enlist the Islander's help, or does he have to face his deadliest foe alone?

Gone Too Soon
Moran is called to a burial in a local cemetery. But this is no ordinary interment; the body of a young woman, Michelle LaCroix, a rising star in the music world, is still warm, the grave unmarked. A recording reveals the reason for her suicide. Or does it?

Why would a young, successful singer take her own life? To unlock the answer, Moran must steer a course through his darkest investigation yet, as the clues lead to one shocking discovery after another . . .

The Enemy Inside
Whoever said 'Keep your friends close and your enemies closer' was right. But maybe not this close ...

DCI Brendan Moran's morning is interrupted when a suicidal ex-soldier threatens to jump from a multi-storey car park ...

Moran soon regrets getting involved when an unexpected visitor turns up on his doorstep to confront him with what appears to be damning evidence of past misconduct.

Can the Irish Detective clear his name, or must he come clean and face the consequences? One thing seems certain: by the time the night is over, his reputation may not be the only casualty ...

When Stars Grow Dark
A fatal road traffic collision uncovers a bizarre murder when it transpires that an elderly passenger in one of the vehicles was dead before the accident. All indications point to the work of a serial killer - but with little forensic evidence, how can DCI Brendan Moran and his team run the killer to ground?

To add to Moran's problems, an unexpected discovery prompts the Irish Detective to undertake a dangerous and unscheduled journey to Rotterdam where he believes his former friend and MI5 agent, Samantha Grant, is being held. Can Moran succeed in his rescue mission whilst juggling the heavy demands of his most perplexing murder investigation to date? 

Merchant Crusaders in the Aegean, 1291-1352 by Mike Carr

The period from the fall of Acre until the end of the Crusade of Smyrna signified a dramatic shift in crusade impetus, as expeditions to liberate the Holy Land were superseded by those aimed at reducing the maritime power of the Turks in the Aegean. With this shift came a change in participation, as the members of the merchant republics of Venice and Genoa, together with the Frankish states in the Aegean, began slowly to replace the chivalry of western Europe as the most suitable leaders of a crusade. This resulted in a subtle alteration in how the papacy aimed to justify a crusade and encourage involvement from the merchant crusaders who were vital for its success.

Drawing on a wealth of previously unexplored sources, including those related to crusading and also those recording trade between Christians and Muslims in the eastern Mediterranean, this book analyses the changing Latin perceptions of the Greeks and Turks during the period, the nature of the military response to the threat posed by the Turks in the Aegean and the relationship between the papacy and the merchant crusaders. In its investigation of the complex interplay between mercantile objectives and crusading ideals, it sheds revealing insights into the complexities of crusading in the later Middle Ages.

The Kings and Their Hawks by Robin S. Oggins

In medieval Europe, falconry was perhaps the most popular form of hunting among the aristocracy. Owning a falcon, and the necessary falconer to go with it, was a status symbol throughout the middle ages. This book is the first broad history of English royal falconry in medieval times, a book that draws on forty years of research to provide a full description of the actual practice and conditions of the sport and of the role of falconers in the English royal household.

Robin S. Oggins begins with a description of the birds of prey, their training, and the sport of falconry. He provides a short history of early falconry in western Europe and England, then explores in unprecedented detail royal falconry from the reign of William I to the death of Edward I in 1307. The author concludes with an overview of the place and importance of falconry in medieval life.

Weird Women: Classic Supernatural Fiction by Groundbreaking Female Writers: 1852-1923

Sysnopsis: From two acclaimed experts in the genre, a brand-new volume of supernatural stories showcasing the forgotten female horror writers from 1852-1923.

While the nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley may be hailed as the first modern writer of horror, the success of her immortal Frankenstein undoubtedly inspired dozens of female authors who wrote their own evocative, chilling tales. Weird Women, edited by award-winning anthologists Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger, collects some of the finest tales of terror by authors as legendary as Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Charlotte Gilman-Perkins, alongside works of writers who were the bestsellers and critical favorites of their time--Marie Corelli, Ellen Glasgow, Charlotte Riddell--and lesser known authors who are deserving of contemporary recognition.

As railroads, industry, cities, and technology flourished in the mid-nineteenth century, so did stories exploring the horrors they unleashed. This anthology includes ghost stories and tales of haunted houses, as well as mad scientists, werewolves, ancient curses, mummies, psychological terrors, demonic dimensions, and even weird westerns. Curated by Klinger and Morton with an aim to presenting work that has languished in the shadows, all of these exceptional supernatural stories are sure to surprise, delight, and frighten today's readers.

read article here @ CrimeReads

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Review: The Lane Betrayal by John A Heldt

Synopsis: Virginia physicist Mark Lane has a problem. Weeks after privately creating two time machines, he learns his corporate partner wants to use the portable devices for nefarious purposes. Rather than give him the chance to do so, Mark takes the time boxes and escapes to the relative safety of 1865.

For Mark, wife Mary, and their children, the adventure is a chance to grow. Mary runs a business. Jeremy, 19, and Ashley, 12, befriend escaped slaves. Laura, 22, finds her place as a nurse. Jordan, 25, falls for a beautiful widow. All hope to find peace in the past.

Billionaire Robert Devereaux has other ideas. Shortly after Mark's betrayal, he sends an assassin to 1865 to retrieve his property and set matters straight.

Filled with romance, suspense, and history, The Lane Betrayal follows a modern American family as it tries to find security and contentment in the final weeks of the Civil War.

This is my first book from author John Heldt, and I must say, for a "time travel" tome, I was pleasantly surprised. Though I am sure we, as readers and historians, have no doubt contemplated it, I will be the first to admit that the whole "time travel" genre is not really my thing as what I had previously read, was poorly done and just put me off altogether.

As mentioned, I was pleasantly surprised with this story of a family on the run from a meglomaniac with plans to use the devices created, to rule the world. Yes I know, rather Austin Powers-esque. However, that is not the case here. The family must fly under the radar to avoid bringing undue attention to themselves, whilst not altering events, and avoid crossing paths with the man sent to find them. To that end, the family must adapt and adopt their surroundings - Civil War Virginia in 1865 - which for some members of the family present some challenges.

The narrative is told from alternating points of view - the members of the Lane family, the man sent to find them, and Mark Lane's modern-day colleagues for whom (bar one) he is an anathema. Can the family stay one step ahead and survive, or will they be forced to reveal themselves.

Well ... no real spoiler alert as the second in the series "The Fair" has been published and a third - "Sea Spray" - is due out soon - so more thrilling adventures into America's past with the Lane family await the reader!

John A Heldt is the author of the Northwest Passage, American Journey, Carson Chronicles, and Time Box series.

Review: The Monarch by John Jennings

Synopsis: Fisherman, publican, father - his influence reaches throughout North East England. Meet Jerry Compton. a friendly man, a just man, a reasonable man. The fairest of his profession.

The Monarch, a modern masterpiece, is a searing portrayal of 1990s Northumberland, England and the North of Ireland. It is also the intimate story of the Swaddle family, at once drawn together and ripped apart by its unique position at the core of Northumbrian society in the aftermath of the Miners' Strike, Ireland's Troubles and industrial and agricultural decline. Throw in a young Irish woman and her young family for good measure to further expose the regions' issues whilst hopefully choosing a path to success and enlightenment. Will they succeed and embrace the coming century, or will they succumb to the negative fatalism so typical of many of their forbears.

Marrying traditional English and North Eastern dialects with a free and elaborate style, the author employs realism and streams of consciousness to portray North East England and Ireland in a way that resonates with audiences today and far beyond.

A family saga set in the north of England, with patriarch Jeremy Compton at its centre. A story filled with humour and heartache; a social narrative of an area that suffered significantly from both industrial and agricultural decline; a story of survival in spite of it all, not necessarily a pretty story with the usual hearts and flowers happy ending.

I think if you are a bit of a fan of "Eastenders" or "Coronation Street", then this one is definitely for you.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Review: The Real Sherlock Holmes by Angela Buckley

Sysnopsis: On 6 December 1886, Arthur Foster leaves the Queen’s Theatre, Manchester with a pocket full of gold and a lady bedecked with diamonds on his arm. He hails a hansom cab unaware that a detective has been trailing him as he crisscrossed the city. As the cab pulls away, the detective slips inside and arrests the infamous ‘Birmingham Forger’. The detective is Jerome Caminada, legendary policeman and a true Victorian super-sleuth.

Known as a ‘terror to evil-doers’, Caminada is at the top of his game as he stalks nefarious criminals through the seedy streets of Manchesters underworld. Born in the slums, he has an intimate knowledge of the labyrinth of dark alleyways and the shady characters that inhabit them. Caminada’s compelling story bears all the hallmarks of Arthur Conan Doyle and establishes this indefatigable investigator as one of the most formidable detectives of the 19th century and a real-life Sherlock Holmes.

Caminada - a man's whose career rivaled and paralleled that of London's Inspector Frederick Abberline. Both men came from humble beginnings, went into a trade before entering the Police Force; both were skilled and rose through the ranks; both become private detectives after leaving the force; and both would be remembered for their most famous of cases.

Buckley provides us with a series of vignettes that introduce us to this remarkable man, his methods, his crimes (ie: the one he solved), and his life.  Caminada truly was unique among his peers and possibly, even among investigators regardless of the time period in which they worked.  Reading some of these cases, you would be inclined to think that Caminada himself was a fictional character due to his highly successful methods of crime-fighting and policing.  It is a testament to this man that we are still amazed today at his level of cunning, doggedness, and dedication to his career.  

I found this to be a most interesting read - and whether he truly was the inspiration for Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes", there is no doubting the man's obvious (subconscious) influence.

See also: 

Review: The Killer of the Princes in the Tower by MJ Trow

Synopsis: The disappearance of two boys during the summer of 1483 has never been satisfactorily explained. They were Edward, Prince of Wales, nearly thirteen at the time, and his brother, Richard of York, nearly ten. With their father, Edward IV, dying suddenly at forty, both boys had been catapulted into the spotlight of fifteenth-century politics, which was at once bloody and unpredictable.

Thanks to the work of the hack 'historians' who wrote for Henry VII, the first Tudor, generations grew up believing that the boys were murdered and that the guilty party was their wicked uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Richard crowned himself King of England in July 1483, at which time the boys were effectively prisoners in the Tower of London.  After that, there was no further sign of them.

Over the past 500 years, three men in particular have been accused of the boys' murders - Richard of Gloucester; Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond; and Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. The evidence against them would not stand up in a court of law today, but the court of history is much less demanding and most fingers remain pointed squarely at Richard of Gloucester.

This book takes a different approach, the first to follow this particular line of enquiry. It is written as a police procedural, weighing up the historical evidence without being shackled to a particular 'camp'. The supposition has always been made that the boys were murdered for political reasons. But what if that is incorrect? What if they died for other reasons entirely? What if their killer had nothing to gain politically from their deaths at all?  And, even more fascinatingly, what if the princes in the Tower were not the only victims?

And that there, readers, is the hook that will send you down the proverbial rabbit hole.

I came to this from reading Trow's earlier book on Richard III - Richard III in the North - this tome, however, covers the mystery of the princes in the tower. Using the time honoured technique of analysing means, motive and opportunity, Trow posits the question - qui bono? Who benefits?

Trow sets forth his case utilising methods familiar to anyone who has watched or read a police procedural, court room drama or forensic investigation. As the with any suspicious death, he looks at those closest to the victims - the most obvious suspects (Richard III and Henry VII), some lesser suspects (the adherents, the family) before putting forth one who he considers highly likely and almost unanimously overlooked suspect. A person who had the holy trinity of means, motive and opportunity - a person who quite literally - if it was them - got away with murder, and possibly others. In fact, someone I myself had not even considered!

I found this to be a most compelling read - it covers off the period of the Wars of the Roses, the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III, Bosworth, and the succession of Henry VII, the mystery of the princes and the pretenders rather succinctly without bogging the reader down in a mire of dry information overload (or information dump). There is enough here for even the most casual reader to follow without having to take a crash course in medieval history.

Whether you agree or disagree with Trow's conclusions, this makes for some thought-provoking reading - who knows, maybe there is another unconsidered suspect lurking in the shadows that no-one has considered ... after five centuries, nothing is conclusive but nor should it be dismissed for not following the two "standard" lines of thought.

Definitely one for my own library!

Review: Scourge of Henry VIII by Melanie Clegg

Synopsis: Although Mary, Queen of Scots continues to fascinate both historians and the general public alike, the story of her mother, Marie de Guise, is much less well known. A political power in her own right, she was born into the powerful and ambitious Lorraine family, spending her formative years at the dazzling and licentious court of Francois I. Although briefly courted by Henry VIII, she instead married his nephew, James V of Scotland, in 1538.

James' premature death four years later left their six day old daughter, Mary, as Queen and presented Marie with the formidable challenge of winning the support of the Scottish people and protecting her daughter s threatened birthright. Content until now to remain in the background and play the part of the obedient wife, Marie spent the next eighteen years effectively governing Scotland, devoting her considerable intellect, courage and energy to safeguarding her daughter s inheritance by using a deft mixture of cunning, charm, determination and tolerance.

The last serious biography of Marie de Guise was published in 1977 and whereas plenty of attention has been paid to the mistakes of her daughter s eventful but brief reign, the time has come for a fresh assessment of this most fascinating and under appreciated of sixteenth century female rulers."

Considering I already have over half of the reference sources listed at the end, this was nothing new for me. As an introduction to Marie de Guise, it is suitable and admirable in bringing to life a woman so often overshadowed by her daughter, Mary.

However, like many others, I had an issue with the title - one expected to see Marie and Henry duke it out but alas, alack,and anon ...... twould have been better titled "A Life of Marie de Guise".  And to say that the last serious biography on Marie was 1977 is to overlook quite a number of tomes published since then, including works by Linda Porter, Pamela Ritchie, even a reprint of Dr Rosalind Marshall's book (used by Clegg as a source).