Review Amnesty: Grab Bag of Awesome

This will be the last Review Amnesty post for 2016. This last post will be a review of just two titles. One historical novel, David Churchill’s The Leopards of Normandy: Duke, and a crime novel, Wolfgang Burger’s Heidelberg Requiem. There’s not really anything that ties them together as there was for previous amnesty posts, but they are both fabulous books that I enjoyed a lot. 

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David Churchill – The Leopards of Normandy: Duke
Normandy, 1037.

Sparks fly from clashing swords as the game of thrones plays out in bloodshed. Of those named guardian to the boy Duke, all seek advantage and power. Most wish the boy dead. Some will go to any lengths to make it happen.

Across the sea, the struggle for the English crown has seen Queen Emma’s beloved son killed. She has two more sons waiting in the wings but Godwin, Earl of Wessex – kingmaker and arch manipulator – has other plans.

As the noble families of Europe murder each other in their lust for power and fortune, the boy stands apart.

His name is William. His destiny is to conquer.

The Leopards of Normandy: Duke is the second book in David Churchill’s series about the legendary William the Conqueror. It picks up the story started in Devil at a point where young Duke William is nine and will take us all the way to William’s taking a bride at twenty-three. The book doesn’t just focus on William and his journey from boy to man, but we also learn about events in England, which set up the circumstances that will allow William to come and claim its throne in 1066.

As with Devil we once again have varying points of view besides that of William himself. Some of them are only one-shots, but others take up a goodly number of pages. We watch as Queen Emma is drawn back into the game of thrones to ensure her son Edward becomes king and how she clashes to achieve this with her rival, Elgiva and the ambitious Earl of Wessex, Godwin. Back in Normandy, William has his own dynastic work cut out for him as there are plenty of people who would like to claim his place. He faces open rebellion and covert operations, not least in the form of assassinations of his most staunch and powerful supporters. It is in this latter capacity that we see Jarl again. This mysterious killer was one of my favourite characters from Devil and it is wonderful to see them again.

Churchill draws a compelling picture of this band of luminaries and great names of history, but none of them looms larger than the Bastard himself. If his father Robert was charismatic in Devil, William outshines him in spades and even if he comes across as a wilful and stubborn little boy given too much power at a young age, especially in the earliest parts of the book, he is also an inspiring leader of men and a magnetic presence on the page. And he is still at the beginning of his rise to greater power at the end of Duke, so I can’t wait to see where he goes in the next book. The Leopards of Normandy: Duke’s paperback edition is out next month, so now would be a great time to read the first book Devil in time for the paperback and be all caught up when the last book comes out hopefully later next year!

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

Wolfgang Burger – Heidelberg Requiem
Alexander Gerlach assumes his promotion to Police Chief of Heidelberg will bring with it a quieter life, but on his first day in his new job, the body of a chemistry student is discovered and what at first seems to be an open-and-shut case with a clear culprit quickly changes into something more complex. Soon there will be another murder, which will cast doubt on all previous assumptions.

The race is on for Gerlach to unravel the cruel conspiracy, before it’s too late …

While most of the crime I read is either British or American, I have read some Scandinavian crime as well. What I’d never read before was German crime, though I have to confess that when I was really, really young I used to watch Tatort and Der Alte with my grandparents. So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started Heidelberg Requiem by Wolfgang Burger. It’s the first in the Alexander Gerlach series and the first of Burger’s books to have been translated into English. What I got was a complex mystery featuring some fabulous characters set in a very interesting location.

To start with that last element, Heidelberg rather reminded me of my own hometown of Leiden as they are both very old cities best known for their universities and of a similar size with a large student population. Because of that it was easy to picture what things might look and feel like in the town. The mystery was also interwoven with the town and very fun to follow to its conclusion. But the true stars of the book were Alexander Gerlach and his daughters. I really liked Gerlach as a character and it was interesting to see a crime novel featuring a single dad, especially one to twin, tween daughters. I also like that we meet all of them at a point of transition. Not only are they all still coping with the loss of their mother, they are also all having to adjust with their move to a new town and a new place of work and education. I liked seeing how they coped with the situation and how Gerlach and the girls navigate the change together.

Heidelberg Requiem is a solid opening to a new series, with plenty of hooks left for character development in further books. If you are looking for a new crime series to start and want to try something a little different, Burger’s Heidelberg Requiem is definitely worth a try. Hopefully Bonnier Zaffre will translate and release the rest of the series as well.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

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