Sunday, June 17, 2018

Review: Punishment by Scott J Holliday

Punishment (Detective Barnes, #1)
Science-fiction enters into the repertoire of crime fighting - and of punishing those who commit crime.

Detective John Barnes is tired, he drinks too much, he's violent, he's had enough and want to retire. Enter one serial killer who taunts him at every move, and drove his predecessor insane.

But the police have the technology to unlock the last thoughts and emotions of the victims, and thus find the clues to solving these murders. Now the police can literally visualise each crime scene as the last moments of the crime are played out. As we know, police and scene of crimes officers see so much brutality already, the introduction of this machine makes for a disturbing view of a kind of future policing and gives new meaning to the words "information overload".

Can Barnes find the killer before he too goes mad from all the voices in his head. You, the reader,  need to ask yourself ..... are you willing to take the ride?

Review: The Murder Pit by Mick Finlay

The Murder Pit (An Arrowood Mystery)
London 1896 - Barnett and Arrowood are detectives whom we first met the year before in Arrowood. In this installment, they are searching for a missing bride

But Arrowood and Barnett are no ordinary detectives - they are literally a second rate version of Holmes and Watson, whom Arrowood absolutely and most vocally, despises. These two take on the cases that Holmes won't touch (those of the common folk), but for them there is no glorious write up when the cases are solved, no public acclaim, no feting from royalty, and he is tired of Holmes getting the credit for solving his cases.

Arrowood is the anti-hero - the poor mans' Holmes - his counternance is not lean and agile, but overweight and lumpy.  He is at times thoroughly unlikeable and yet likeable, and sees himself as a "real" detective, rather than the show-pony Holmes. But you can't help feeling that anyone would appear second rate when Holmes is in his ascendancy, and Holmes does cast a very long shadow.  The character of Arrowood is, I guess, more human - he fits is with the gritty London backdrop; he is a fallible, obnoxious, working class man.

Having said that, our narrator Barnett (the trusty side-kick ala Watson), takes us through the case at hand - the search for the missing bride, Bridie, who is estranged from her parents - how hard can it be, surely back home in time for tea. However, just when you think there is resolution the story takes off again. Constant plot twists and turns keep you guessing to the end.

Note: that whilst this is fiction, it does paint a disturbing account of the treatment of those society had labelled "idiot", "imbecile" and "lunatic".

Extra Note: we could be seeing the likes of Arrowood and Barnett some time soon .... with a TV adaptation

read more here 
@ The Lit Bitch (review of Arrowood)
@ CRA (diary of a debut author)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Review: Hollywood Hang Ten by Eve Goldberg

Hollywood Hang Ten
“Come to Los Angeles! The sun shines bright, the beaches are wide and inviting, and the orange groves stretch as far as the eye can see. There are jobs aplenty, and land is cheap. Every working man can have his own house, and inside every house, a happy, all-American family. You can have all this, and who could even be discovered, become a movie star... or at least see one.” (Danny DeVito, LA Confidential)

Whilst set in the early 1960s, a time of counterculture and revolution with regard to social norms and mores, a time of relaxation of social taboos especially relating to racism and sexism, this book definitely takes you back to the seedier side of the 1950s movie industry and the period just after the McCarthy witch-hunts that dominated Hollywood and elsewhere in America.

Naive wanna-be private eye Ryan Zorn embarks on a case (in his sick uncle's stead) to find a missing boy, before stumbling upon scandal, blackmail and murder, and someone intent on reviving long-dead secrets.

I get the impression that this could quite easily become a series.

read more about Hollywood in the 1950s & 1960s:

Review: A Cruel Necessity by LC Tyler

A Cruel Necessity (John Grey Historical Mystery, #1)
"... rebellion is ... a perfectly respectable family tradition ..."

Cromwellian England was, during the 1650s, a hot-bed of political intrigue and factionalism, with the execution of King Charles I still a sore-point for many. The government had been rocked by purges, and its sitting membership so reduced it became known as the "barebones parliament". Laws had been introduced to severely curtail and regulate people's behaviour; frivolity and enjoyment were frowned upon as the Puritans dominated all aspects - even Christmas was banned!

As thus we are introduced to our narrator, one John Grey, an idealist young lawyer in the reign of Cromwell, who finds himself in the middle of an investigation into a spy ring, known as the Sealed Knot. The more Grey delves, the more he finds himself on the wrong side of Cromwell's spy-master, John Thurloe, and before long, things are turned around - the hunter becomes the hunted.

This is a well told story with enough action, intrigue, double-dealing and, at times, humour, to keep the reader suitably entertained, and wondering down which path are they being led and to what conclusion.

The Queen's Embroiderer by Joan deJean

The Queen's EmbroidererGenevieve Valentine reviews "The Queen's Embroiderer" for NPR:  The brief introductory note to this book suggests she ran into a needle-scratch moment in the middle of more conventional research: Jean Magoulet's appointment as the Queen's Embroiderer, alongside a 1719 royal decree that his daughter Marie Louise be arrested and shipped to Louisiana. That was undoubtedly a surprising fate for the daughter of a royal appointee.

Then she found out Jean Magoulet had made the request himself.  Given the nature of the family, the story is often so dour that sometimes only the historical minutiae keep you going.  

But The Queen's Embroiderer lives largely in the place where petty men desperate to make themselves palatable to those in power poison their own family relationships, leverage a broken legal and government system, and leave a trail of trauma and destruction in their wake; a long shadow indeed.

see also author's page @ Simon & Schuster

'Benjamin Franklin' takes a more nuanced look at Franklin's views of God

Image result for benjamin franklin thomas kiddRandy Dontigo reviews for Christian Science MonitorBen Franklin seems like the rare founding father who'd actually be fun to hang around – at least if you weren't his wife.

Turns out this remarkable renaissance man – scientist, best-selling author, inventor, diplomat, political powerhouse – spent his lifetime on a complex journey of faith.
As historian Thomas S. Kidd reveals in Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father, Franklin started wrestling with religion and morality as a teenager and never stopped pondering the natures of God, humanity and universe.

Kidd vividly brings Franklin's spiritual quest to life throughout his book, and he provides a direct line from Franklin's beliefs to those we see around us today.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Book Hunters of Katpadi: A Bibliomystery by Pradeep Sebastian

Review by Anupama Chandra for Free Press Journal:
Columnist Pradeep Sebastian’s first novel, also purportedly India’s first bibliomystery (meaning a mystery involving the world of books), ‘The Book Hunters of Katpadi’ shows immense promise. Built around the peaceful setting of a Chennai-based store specialising in rare or antiquarian books called Biblio, and its amicable owner Neelambari Adigal (Neela) and her young associate Kayalveli Anbuchelvan (Kayal), this mystery has schools, children’s books, rare volumes, book collectors and sellers, book auctions and libraries galore.

The sole focus of the book is everything that goes into making books and some writers. There is nothing to entice the readers and, more essential to this book, scant characterisation whatsoever of even the key sellers and collectors. Even after reading the book thoroughly, you don’t know what made Neela and Kayal fall in love with books in the first place. In the last few chapters, you do get a rare glimpse at Neela’s journey to becoming an antiquarian book lover. A simple question such as why does a book collector collect a certain book is not addressed.

Italy 1636 by Gregory Hanlon

From Amazon
Italy 1636 is one of the most closely-researched and detailed books on the operation of early modern armies anywhere, and is explicitly inspired by neo-Darwinian thinking. Taking the French and Savoyard invasion of Spanish Lombardy in 1636 as its specific example, it begins with the recruitment of the soldiers, the care and feeding of the armies and their horses, the impact of the invasion on civilians in the path of their advance, and the manner in which generals conducted their campaign in response to the information at their disposal. The next section describes the unfolding of the long and stubborn battle of Tornavento, where Spanish, German, and Italian soldiers stormed the French in their entrenchments, detailing the tactics of both the infantry and the cavalry, and re-evaluating the effectiveness of Spanish methods in the 1630s. The account focuses on the motivations of soldiers to fight, and how they reacted to the stress of combat. 

Gregory Hanlon arrives at surprising conclusions on the conditions under which they were ready to kill their adversaries, and when they were content to intimidate them into retiring. The volume concludes by examining the penchant for looting of the soldiery in the aftermath of battle, the methods of treating wounded soldiers in the Milan hospital, the horrific consequences of hygienic breakdown in the French camp, and the strategic failure of the invasion in the aftermath of battle. This in turn underscores the surprising resilience of Spanish policies and Spanish arms in Europe. In describing with painstaking detail the invasion of 1636, Hanlon explores the universal features of human behaviour and psychology as they relate to violence and war.

read more here @ H-Net Reviews

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Corpse roads in Cumbria showcased with new book

Authors Alan Cleaver and Lesley Park have compiled the routes, history and legends surrounding the county's ancient corpse roads which date back to medieval times.
The roads were used to transport the dead from remote parishes to the 'mother' church.
Mr Cleaver, 58, said: "There are few written records about the corpse roads but we have included what records do exist alongside the oral tradition, legends and half-remembered tales that still survive.
Criss-crossing the Cumbrian landscape are many trods, paths, lonnings and other ancient trackways. Included among these are several corpse roads. The enigmatic name hints at their curious origins. These paths were used until the 18th Century to transport coffins from the remote villages to the 'mother' church. Eventually villagers petitioned for their own churches and burial rights but the corpse roads remained. A few are still marked on Ordnance Survey maps and are even signposted. But others are just a dim memory or half-remembered legend. Alan Cleaver and Lesley Park have researched these ancient paths preserving their route for future generations and sharing them in this book for those who want to explore them further.