Jonathan Moore – The Poison Artist

jonathanmoore-thepoisonartistDr. Caleb Maddox is a crack San Francisco toxicologist leading a ground-breaking study of the human pain threshold based on minute analysis of chemical markers. He has also just broken up with his artist girlfriend after she discovered a shocking family secret in his past. Seeking solace, Caleb finds a dark, old-fashioned saloon called House of Shields, and is mesmerised when a beautiful woman materialises out of the shadows, dressed like a 1940s movie star. The enigmatic Emmeline shares a pouring of absinthe with him, brushes his arm and vanishes. As he pursues her through the brooding, night-time city, desperate to see her again, he simultaneously becomes entangled in a serial murder investigation that has the police stymied – men gone missing, fished out of the bay, with no clue as to how they met their end – until Caleb’s analysis of the chemical markers in their bodies reveals that each one was tortured to death. Also present are some of the key components of absinthe. As Caleb finally looks forward to a night spent alone with Emmeline, part of his mind wonders if behind the seductive vision is something utterly terrifying…

When The Poison Artist arrived, it arrived as mystery and a surprise. Wrapped with a lovely bow in an unmarked black box, I had no idea what to expect. And that is somewhat of a metaphor for the book itself: while the bones of the plot seem to suggest a simple serial murder mystery, Moore presents us with a complicated narrative that twists and turns itself into an unexpected ending. This makes The Poison Artist an intriguing read and one that made me think about the story and analyse the narrative techniques closely. But while the book captivated me, there were some elements that made every effort to throw me out of the narrative.  Read More …

Anticipated Books (Summer-Autumn) 2015: YA October-December

2015Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the second half of 2015. YA books have become a steady part of my reading diet. Some of my favourite authors are writing for this age group and there are just so many great titles out there. Consequently, I’ve had to spread my YA picks over three posts. This is the last one. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!  Read More …

Anticipated Books (Summer-Autumn) 2015: Middle Grade

2015Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the second half of 2015. Today it’s time to look at books for a younger set of readers: middle grade books. I’ve mixed the different genres together for this one, so there should be something for everyone. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!  Read More …

Susan Spann – Flask of the Drunken Master [Blog Tour]

susanspann-flaskofthedrunkenmasterMaster ninja Hiro Hattori and his companion Father Mateo are once again pulled into a murder investigation when a rival artisan turns up dead outside of their friend Ginjiro’s sake brewery. They must find the killer before the magistrate executes Ginjiro, seizes the brewery, and renders his family destitute. All the evidence implicates the brewer, yet with Kyoto on alert in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, Ginjiro’s is not the only life at risk.

As tensions rise, Hiro investigates a missing merchant, a vicious debt collector, a moneylender and the victim’s spendthrift son. But when a drunken Buddhist monk insists on helping Hiro and Father Mateo solve the crime, the monk’s bumbling threatens to foil the investigation altogether. With time running out, Hiro once again gambles on a clandestine mission to find the truth. Except that this time, Hiro isn’t the only one with a secret mission to fulfill.

Flask of the Drunken Master is the latest entry in Susan Spann’s thrilling 16th century Japanese mystery series, sure to gain new fans and please old alike.

After last year’s wonderful Blade of the Samurai, I was really pleased to have the opportunity to review its successor Flask of the Drunken Master, the third in the Shinobi Mysteries by Susan Spann. The book definitely didn’t disappoint, though it doesn’t stand alone as well as Blade of the Samurai did. The consequences of the power vacuum after the death of the Shogun in the previous book are felt throughout the narrative and there are some characters from the first book in the series, Claws of the Cat, that make a return appearance. Still, Spann returns us to Hiro, Father Mateo, and Kyoto for another interesting murder to solve.  Read More …

Anticipated Books (Summer-Autumn) 2015: Crime & Historical Crime Fiction

2015Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the second half of 2015. Today it’s time for crime and historical crime fiction books. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!  Read More …

Manda Scott – Into the Fire

mandascott-intothefireThere is a secret, hidden within a body, burning within the flames, that will change it all.

A man’s charred corpse is found in the latest of a string of arson attacks in the French city of Orléans. His is the first death. An extremist group claim responsibility but their whereabouts cannot be found. Police inspector Capitaine Inès Picaut and her team must track them down before more people die. Their only clue? The name of a woman who has been dead for over 500 years: Joan of Arc.

She is one of the great enigmas of history – a young woman who came from nowhere to lead the armies of France to victory against England. And who died the same fiery death as the man whose body has just been discovered.

As more fires rage in Orleans and the death toll mounts, Picaut must look to the past and the secrets which lie buried there to unravel the mysteries of the present. As the clock counts down, she must challenge some fundamental truths to save those closest to her…

Manda Scott’s latest novel, Into The Fire is an interesting version of historical crime fiction: there is historical fiction, there is crime fiction, but they aren’t set in the same time. I found this notion intriguing, especially since the storyline set in the past dealt with Joan of Arc. Of course I knew about Joan of Arc, most European children get taught her story in school, but never much more than your basic facts—miraculous peasant girl turned saviour of the French against the English, who was then burned for her trouble. Yet of the surrounding circumstances – who was fighting who and why – I was largely ignorant. So the chance to learn more about that era and about Joan’s story was one I couldn’t pass up and that is leaving aside the modern-day thriller aspect.  Read More …

Ariana Franklin & Samantha Norman – Winter Siege

arianafranklin-wintersiegeIt’s 1141 and freezing cold.

Gwil, a battle-hardened mercenary, is horrified to stumble across a little girl close to death. She has been attacked, just one more victim in a winter of atrocities. Clutching a sliver of parchment, she is terrified – but Gwil knows what he must do. He will bring her back to life. He will train her to fight. And together, they will hunt down the man who did this to her.

But danger looms wherever they turn. As castle after castle falls victim to siege, the icy Fens ring with rumours of a madman, of murder – and of a small piece of parchment with a terrible secret to tell, the cost of which none of them could have imagined . . .

Before Winter Siege I’d actually only read one book by Ariana Franklin, to wit Mistress of the Art of Death. I loved that book, its setting and its characters and was sad to learn that had passed away only a few weeks before I read the book. When I later discovered that her daughter, Samantha Norman, had finished her last book and that it would still be published, I really wanted to read it, especially since it is set in a time period that holds a special place in my heart. The Anarchy, as the period is known, is the one that first drew me to reading historical crime fiction through the mysteries of Ellis Peters’ Cadfael books. While set in the same period as Franklin’s Adelia Aguilar books, Winter Siege stands apart from that series and familiarity with her other books isn’t necessary to enjoy this one.  Read More …

Guest Post: Lyndsay Faye – A Study in Seamstresses

lyndsayfaye-thefatalflameSome of my favourite historical crime novels of the past few years have been Lyndsay Faye’s Timothy Wilde books. Set in in late nineteenth-century New York City and featuring one of the first copper stars, who would later go on to become the NYPD, both Gods of Gotham and Seven for a Secret blew me away. Their protagonist, Timothy Wilde has captured my heart and I can’t wait to read his next adventure, The Fatal Flame. The book was published last month and I’m really stoked to have Lyndsay Faye visit the blog today and talk about seamstresses and their role in women’s struggle for equality and independence.  Read More …

Lindsey Davis – Deadly Election

lindseydavis-deadlyelectionIn the blazing July heat of imperial Rome, Flavia Albia inspects a decomposing corpse. It has been discovered in lots to be auctioned by her family business, so she’s determined to identify the dead man and learn how he met his gruesome end.

The investigation will give her a chance to work with the magistrate, Manlius Faustus, the friend she sadly knows to be the last chaste man in Rome. But he’s got other concerns than her anonymous corpse. It’s election time and with democracy for sale at Domitian’s court, tension has come to a head. Faustus is acting as an agent for a ‘good husband and father’, whose traditional family values are being called into question. Even more disreputable are his rivals, whom Faustus wants Albia to discredit.

As Albia’s and Faustus’ professional and personal partnership deepens they have to accept that, for others, obsession can turn sour, and become a deadly strain that leads, tragically, to murder.

Deadly Election is book three in the Flavia Albia series and returns us to Rome about a month after the events of the previous book Enemies at Home. This book was a lot of fun, but in some ways far more about Albia and Faustus than about the case. We learn more about Albia’s role as her father’s representative at the family auction house, about Faustus’ past, and perhaps most importantly and most entertainingly the developing bond between Albia en Faustus.  Read More …

Lindsey Davis – Enemies at Home

lyndseydavis-enemiesathomeWe first met Flavia Albia, Falco’s feisty adopted daughter, in The Ides of April. Albia is a remarkable woman in what is very much a man’s world: young, widowed and fiercely independent, she lives alone on the Aventine Hill in Rome and makes a good living as a hired investigator. An outsider in more ways than one, Albia has unique insight into life in ancient Rome, and she puts it to good use going places no man could go, and asking questions no man could ask.

Even as the dust settles from her last case, Albia finds herself once again drawn into a web of lies and intrigue. Two mysterious deaths at a local villa may be murder and, as the household slaves are implicated, Albia is once again forced to involve herself. Her fight is not just for truth and justice, however; this time, she’s also battling for the very lives of people who can’t fight for themselves.

It’s once more unto the breech for Flavia Alba in the second book of her series, Enemies at Home. I enjoyed the first of this series, The Ides of April, but for some reason I never managed to fit in the next book onto the reviewing schedule. With book three in the series released last month, this historical fiction month seemed like a great time to catch up on both of the books. And I have to say I enjoyed Enemies at Home even more than I did The Ides of AprilRead More …