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 …

Ray Celestin – The Axeman’s Jazz

raycelestin-theaxemansjazzNew Orleans, 1919. As a dark serial killer – The Axeman – stalks the city, three individuals set out to unmask him.

Detective Lieutenant Michael Talbot, heading up the official investigation, and harbouring a grave secret, is struggling to find leads. Former detective Luca d’Andrea, working with the mafia, whose need to solve the mystery of the Axeman is every bit as urgent as that of the authorities. Meanwhile, Ida, a secretary at the Pinkerton Detective Agency, stumbles across a clue which lures her and her musician friend, Louis Armstrong, to the case and into terrible danger . . .

As Michael, Luca and Ida each draw closer to discovering the killer’s identity, the Axeman himself will issue a challenge to the people of New Orleans: play jazz or risk becoming the next victim.

The Axeman’s Jazz has been languishing on my TBR shelves for a year. I’d originally planned to read it for last year’s historical fiction month in conjunction with my interview with its author, Ray Celestin, but the best laid plans and all that. Thus I decided that The Axeman’s Jazz should be my first book read for this year’s historical fiction month. And it ended up making me kick myself for not reading it last year, because it was a fascinating read.  Read More …

Sarah Hilary – No Other Darkness

sarahhilary-nootherdarknessTwo young boys.
Trapped underground in a bunker.
Unable to understand why they are there.
Desperate for someone to find them.
Slowly realising that no-one will…

Five years later, the boys’ bodies are found and the most difficult case of DI Marnie Rome’s career begins.

Her only focus is the boys. She has to find out who they are and what happened to them.

For Marnie, there is no other darkness than this…

Last year, Sarah Hilary burst onto the British crime writing scene with her debut Someone Else’s Skin. I was blown away by the book, falling in love with its main character, DI Marnie Rome and her main DS, Noah Jake. I’ve been impatiently waiting for the moment that I could read the next book in the series, as I couldn’t wait to spend more time with Marnie and Noah and to see what sort of intricate case Hilary would come up with to follow up her fantastic debut.  Read More …

Christopher Fowler – Bryant & May: The Burning Man

christopherfowler-theburningmanLondon is under siege. A banking scandal has filled the city with violent protests, and as the anger in the streets detonates, a young homeless man burns to death after being caught in the crossfire between rioters and the police.
But all is not as it seems; an opportunistic killer is using the chaos to exact revenge, but his intended victims are so mysteriously chosen that the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to find a way of stopping him. 

Using their network of eccentric contacts, elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May hunt down a murderer who adopts incendiary methods of execution. But they soon find their investigation taking an apocalyptic turn as the case comes to involve the history of mob rule, corruption, rebellion, punishment and the legend of Guy Fawkes. 

At the same time, several members of the PCU team reach dramatic turning points in their lives – but the most personal tragedy is yet to come, for as the race to bring down a cunning killer reaches its climax, Arthur Bryant faces his own devastating day of reckoning.

‘I always said we’d go out with a hell of a bang,’ warns Bryant.

Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May had crossed my radar a number of times in the past, but as is so often the case with long running series, I was hesitant to start in the middle. 2015 is a year of reading dangerously (well, sort of…), so when I got the chance I jumped at reading and reviewing The Burning Man, which is the twelfth book in the series. Fortunately, the book stands on its own very well and I’m glad I took a chance, because it was just so much fun.  Read More …

Author Query – Christopher Fowler

christopherfowler-theburningmanChristopher Fowler is a well-known name in British SFF and horror and well-known for his crime series featuring Detectives Bryant and May, paragons of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. It’s a series that has been on my radar for a while and one I’ve never yet gotten too. A long-running series –its twelfth instalment has just been published –it is also a series I’ll probably not catch up on quickly, so I’ve just jumped into it with The Burning Man. Check back this afternoon to see how that worked out in my review. For now I have an interesting Author Query with Christopher Fowler, in which he tells us about London’s shadowy nature and the weird and wonderful facts hiding around its every corner.  Read More …

Margi Preus – Enchantment Lake

preus_enchantment coverWhat’s wild in the northwoods turns out to be mostly human, when seventeen-year-old Francie is drawn into the strange mysteries threatening her great aunts’ Minnesota Up North world.

On the shores of Enchantment Lake in the woods of northern Minnesota, something ominous is afoot, and as seventeen-year-old Francie begins to investigate, the mysteries multiply: a poisoned hot dish, a puzzling confession, eerie noises in the bog, and a legendary treasure said to be under enchantment—or is that under Enchantment, as in under the lake?

Margi Preus’ latest novel Enchantment Lake is a departure from her previously published books as it is a YA mystery novel and not historical fiction. I’d read and loved her Shadow on the Mountain, a WWII novel set in Norway, so I was interested to see her take on the mystery narrative. And I wasn’t disappointed; Enchantment Lake is a fun, adventurous romp of a story, which very much evoked the atmosphere of classic YA detective novels such as  The Famous Five and Nancy Drew, but updated to our own time.  Read More …