Book Review – Devil’s Wolf (High Corbett) by Paul Doherty – historical murder mystery

Here’s the blurb;

1296: King Edward I has led his army to Scotland, determined to take the country under his crown. But the fierce Scots have no intention of submitting to their oppressor and violent and bloody war breaks out.

1311: Sir Hugh Corbett, Keeper of the Secret Seal, finds himself back in Scotland and is revisited by the horrors he witnessed there fifteen years ago.

An anonymous letter was delivered to the new king. It promised information about a fatal incident that could allow England to finally bow out of the war with the Scots. Tasked with finding out the truth about the murder, Corbett is forced to take risks he would rather avoid and put his faith in the words of strangers.

But with an unknown traitor lurking in the shadows and danger around every corner, will Corbett be able to unravel the complex web of plots in time?

I received a free EArc from Netgalley.

Devil’s Wolf is an enjoyable jaunt through early fourteenth century England. I found it particularly enjoyable as its setting is very familiar to me.

While the beginning of the novel is somewhat repetitive, as Hugh tries to work out what’s happening and tries to order his thoughts, the end of the novel is far more complex and reads more quickly.

The characterisations are good, and the author certainly doesn’t shy away from killing off characters left, right and centre.

I credit this author with helping me learn to love reading again after a pretty rubbish time many years ago – his Egyptian books are wonderful – as such it’s great to discover all these other books of his, of which I was unaware.

Devil’s Wolf is out now and can be found here;

Book Review – Alice and the Assassin by R J Koreto

Here’s the blurb;

“In 1902 New York, Alice Roosevelt, the bright, passionate, and wildly unconventional daughter of newly sworn-in President Theodore Roosevelt, is placed under the supervision of Secret Service Agent Joseph St. Clair, ex-cowboy and veteran of the Rough Riders. St. Clair quickly learns that half his job is helping Alice roll cigarettes and escorting her to bookies, but matters grow even more difficult when Alice takes it upon herself to investigate a recent political killing–the assassination of former president William McKinley.

Concerned for her father’s safety, Alice seeks explanations for the many unanswered questions about the avowed anarchist responsible for McKinley’s death. In her quest, Alice drags St. Clair from grim Bowery bars to the elegant parlors of New York’s ruling class, from the haunts of the Chinese secret societies to the magnificent new University Club, all while embarking on a tentative romance with a family friend, the son of a prominent local household.

And while Alice, forced to challenge those who would stop at nothing in their greed for money and power, considers her uncertain future, St. Clair must come to terms with his own past in Alice and the Assassin, the first in R. J. Koreto’s riveting new historical mystery series.”

I loved this book. From the first page you’re expertly drawn into New York in 1902 by the two main characters – Miss Alice Roosevelt – a very feisty 17 year old who speaks her mind, says the odd naughty word and lets no one get in her way because she is the President’s daughter, and Mr St Clair, an old (but not that old) soldier, lawman and rancher who is now her Secret Service Agent in light of the previous President’s assassination.

Immediately the reader is drawn into a possible conspiracy regarding the previous President’s assassination which no one, other than Miss Alice, thinks needs investigating and which only gets bigger as Alice and St Clair discover more and more, by calling on contacts and following up each and every lead they’re presented with. They visit the Italian district, the Chinese district, the docklands, the jail and the odd nice restaurant, as well as travelling on the ‘elevated’.

The storyline evolves at a good pace, the chapters are quite short and by the time you reach the end of the novel you might well have worked out who it is a little bit before Miss Alice, but other than that, you will have been kept guessing and wondering whether she’s making more of something than she should, to just relieve the boredom of her, and Mr St Clair’s days.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and very much appreciated the author’s efforts to describe old New York. I hope there are more books in this series.

This book is due for release in April 2017, and in the meantime you can preorder a copy here,

 

Book Review – Murder in the Dark by Kerry Greenwood

Here’s the blurb;

The delectable Phryne Fisher has been invited to the Last Best party of 1928. When three of the guests are kidnapped Phryne finds she must puzzle her way through the scavenger hunt clues to retrieve the hostages.

It’s Christmas, and Phryne has an invitation to the Last Best party of 1928, a four-day extravaganza being held at Werribee Manor house and grounds by the Golden Twins, Isabella and Gerald Templar. She knew them in Paris, where they caused a sensation. Phryne is in two minds about going when she starts receiving anonymous threats warning her against attending. She promptly decides to accept the invitation – after all, no one tells Phryne what to do. At the Manor, she is accommodated in the Iris room, and at the party meets two polo-playing women, a Goat lady (and goat), a large number of glamorous young men and a very rude child called Tarquin. The acolytes of the golden twins are smoking hashish and dreaming, and Phryne finds that the jazz is as hot as the drinks are cold and indulges in flirtations, dancing, and mint juleps. Heaven.

It all seems like good clean fun until three people are kidnapped, one of them the abominable child, and Phryne must puzzle her way through the cryptic clues of the scavenger hunt to retrieve the hostages and save the party from disaster.

I received a free E Arc from Netgalley.

This is the fourth Miss Fisher book I’ve read and by far the longest. That said, it’s still a quick, and intriguing read and I did very much enjoy it.

The descriptions of the very elaborate party she attends are not quite as long and tedious as other reviewers have complained, although there is quite a lot of poetry which is irrelevant. That said, it’s all scene setting – showing the ridiculously opulent lifestyle of the brother and sister at the heart of the story, and the way that the very rich choose to amuse themselves when they decided to have a party. That said, it’s very much Miss Fisher’s associates who complete the story, the cook, the maid, the ‘strongmen’ and the eventual appearance of good old Jack Robinson, not to mention Dot, her daughters and indeed, her sister.

I particularly enjoyed the brief scenes where Miss Fisher is reading the latest Agatha Christie novel, and determining who Hercule Poirot has decided is guilty of the crime. In its own way, this serves to highlight the differences between the hedonistic lifestyle of the party givers, Miss Fisher, and the far more sedate, Hercule.

Miss Fisher manages to solve the mystery, as always, and if the ‘happy’ ending is a little silly, then it is fiction – and why not allow the characters, who admittedly aren’t that likeable, to profit from their misfortune. It was a neat solution to the problem of the cast forever onwards being stuck in Miss Fisher’s circle of friends.

(I do prefer the covers with the actress from the TV series on). And you can buy it here;

 

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