Book Review – Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood

Here’s the blurb from the book,

“Phryne Fisher is bored. Life appears to be too easy, too perfect. Her household is ordered, her love life is pleasant, the weather is fine. And then a man from her past arrives at the door. It is Alan Lee from the carnival. Alan and his friends want her to investigate strange happenings at Farrells Circus, where animals have been poisoned and ropes sabotaged. Mr. Christopher has been found with his throat cut in Mrs. Witherspoon s irreproachable boarding house and Miss Parkes, an ex-performer, is charged with his murder.Phryne must go undercover deeper than ever to solve the circus malaise. She must abandon her name, her title, her protection, her comfort, even her clothes. She must fall off a horse twice a day until she can stay on. She must sleep in a girls tent and dine on mutton stew. And she must find some allies.Meanwhile, in Melbourne, the young and fresh-faced policeman Tommy Harris has to solve his own mysteries with the help of the foul-spoken harridan Lizard Elsie, or Miss Parkes will certainly hang. Can Phyrne uncover the truth without losing her life?”

This is the second Phryne Fisher book I’ve read, (and I’m now addicted to the TV series as well) and I found I enjoyed it much more than the first. This is probably because I’m used to the characters from the TV series. That said, I also think it’s an easier read than the first book I read – which was Ruddy Gore and I will review soon.

The book flows well although I did notice that by the time the real work of solving the mystery was under way, I was 80% through the novel, and as such, it seems that solving the mystery is of secondary importance to the story of the circus and the attendant ‘hanger-on’s’. A fair portion of the novel is also concerned with the investigation taking place by the police and concerned with the gang warfare – and this rounds out the story nicely, but means that we spend less time with Phryne than you might expect.

Overall – an enjoyable jaunt set in the late 1920’s in Australia.

For those who’ve not watched the TV series, or read one of the books, a little more information. Phyrne Fisher is a very elegant lady of the 1920’s, but with a penchant to get involved in some quite grizzly murders that the Police can’t solve without her help. She is a confident woman, not the youngest, but because she came into her money later in life she both appreciates it and flaunts it to equal measure. That being said, it’s difficult not to find her no-nonsense approach to everything life can throw at her, invigorating, and to enjoy reading about Australia at the same time.

I’ve long been a fan of a really good period piece who-done-it. I’m never happier than with a good Marple, or my firm favourite, Poirot, and I can’t help wondering what the esteemed gentleman would think of the slightly more risque Phryne Fisher. (If you decide not to read the books, then please, do give the TV series a chance – it’s a grower and slightly addictive).

And you can buy it here;https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1590582357/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_uk-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738

 

Book Review – Blood and Blade by Matthew Harffy

Here’s the blurb from the book

“635AD. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and third instalment in The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell. 

Oswald is now King of Northumbria. However, his plans for further alliances and conquests are quickly thrown into disarray when his wedding to a princess of Wessex is interrupted by news of a Pictish uprising.

Rushing north, Oswald leaves Beobrand to escort the young queen to her new home. Their path is fraught with danger and uncertainty, Beobrand must try to unravel secrets and lies if they are to survive.

Meanwhile, old enemies are closing in, seeking brutal revenge. Beobrand will give his blood and blade in service to his king, but will that be enough to avert disaster and save his kith and kin from the evil forces that surround them?”

Blood and Blade by Matthew Harffy is the third book in his Bernicia Chronicles following the exploits of his, quite frankly, bad-tempered warrior, Beobrand. He’s no hero – he’s too self-involved, grumpy and lacks any likeable characteristics, even though the author is at pains to explain this away due to the tragedies that have befallen him in Book 2.

However, these do not excuse the foul natured monster that Beobrand has become, and I did struggle to understand why any man, or woman, would want to spend any time with him or rely on him in his guise as a warrior or a lover. He is, quite simply, lacking in any likeable qualities, without even the spark of any humour to soften his harshness, no matter how often Athelstan tries to recount his exploits in the mead hall and make them appear heroic, it simply does not work for me.

The constant shifts in point of view in chapters is annoying, but this is something that I personally don’t understand or like in any novel so it’s not a particular complaint about this author. I’m always left feeling that if the chapter needs a shift in POV then it’s either not a chapter and needs splitting, or the author needs to approach this part of the novel in a different way – give the voice of the story to a different member of the cast.

The storyline of Blood and Blade is somewhat simplistic, and you do reach a certain part of the novel and know exactly what has to happen before it reaches its end. Nothing unexpected happens to bring the novel to its conclusion. This is somewhat of a shame. I would have liked even the idea of a different ending.

The author is at pains to show society, as he perceives it, at this time, and the insistence on the small details is repetitive, as is the constant recounting of Beobrand’s aches and pains, recovering wounds and new ones that he receives.

I would reiterate, Beobrand is no hero, but neither is he an anti-hero. He’s been thrust into a time in history that is very exciting, and yet it seems that with his constant moaning and complaining, that he has no appreciation of this and is never likely to. For a young man, he often appears to be about 100 years old.

On a final note. I still do not like the way the author treats women of this period. They are either witches, bed companions, or someone else’s bed companions, and they are presented as petty and mean to each other. This might be a novel about a (very) grumpy warrior, but Anglo-Saxon women were and should be, given the place in society that they earned and deserved. Much of this is, obviously, to do with the author’s interpretation of this time period, and I suppose, it is worth remembering that it is a work of fiction and not fact. Still, this is also a shame and I hope, something, that is corrected in later books to allow the author to reach a wider fan base.

Overall, the novel was enjoyable to read and you can buy it here;