Alison McMahan – The Saffron Crocus [Blog Tour]

alisonmcmahan-thesaffroncrocusVenice, 1643. Isabella, fifteen, longs to sing in Monteverdi’s Choir, but only boys (and castrati) can do that. Her singing teacher, Margherita, introduces her to a new wonder: opera! Then Isabella finds Margherita murdered. And now people keep trying to kill Margherita’s handsome rogue of a son, Rafaele.

Was Margherita killed so someone could steal her saffron business?

Or was it a disgruntled lover, as Margherita—unbeknownst to Isabella—was one of Venice’s wealthiest courtesans?

Or will Isabella and Rafaele find the answer deep in Margherita’s past, buried in the Jewish Ghetto?

Isabella has to solve the mystery of the Saffron Crocus fast, before Rafaele hangs for a murder he didn’t commit, though she fears the truth will drive her and the man she loves irrevocably apart.

Alison McMahan’s The Saffron Crocus drew my attention because of the setting in Venice. I love books set in Venice during its heyday and The Saffron Crocus sits squarely in that box. And factoring in that the story isn’t just a historical, but a murder mystery and YA to boot, accepting this review copy was a no-brainer. And while the book was a fun read with some great twists, I did have my issues with it.  Read More …

Nick Pengelley – Ryder: Bird of Prey [Blog Tour]

nickpengelley-ryderbirdofpreyThe Maltese Falcon was no mere legend—this fabulously jewelled golden bird really existed. Still exists, according to the last words of a dying man. Ayesha Ryder is on its trail, but not just to find the Falcon itself. It is said to contain a clue to the lost burial place of King Harold of England, a potent symbol for ruthless politicians determined to break up the UK and create a new, independent English Kingdom. The Falcon may also contain a second clue, one that few would believe.

Labelled an assassin, hunted by Scotland Yard and Dame Imogen Worsley of MI5—as well as those who want the Falcon and its secrets for themselves—Ayesha joins forces with Joram Tate, the mysterious librarian known to her friend Lady Madrigal, a one-time lover of Lawrence of Arabia. As Ayesha’s attraction to Tate grows, they follow clues left by long-dead knights to the tomb of a Saxon king and to the ruined Battle Abbey. When the trail leads them to a stunning secret hidden for a thousand years beneath an English castle, Ayesha must battle modern killers with medieval weapons before confronting the evil that would destroy her nation.

Ayesha Ryder returns in this third instalment of the Ryder series called Bird of Prey. And with Bird of Prey this series has most definitely entered alternate history territory, even if at times referencing real-world developments directly, mentioning Richard III’s body being found in Leicester and some of the intricacies of  EU economic and political problems. While I greatly enjoyed parts of the narrative and I really liked the book overall, Bird of Prey was my least favourite book of the series so far.  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 …

Author Query – Margi Preus + Giveaway [Blog Tour]

preus_enchantment coverIn 2012 I read and reviewed Margi Preus’ wonderful Shadow on the Mountain, a historical YA novel set in WWII Norway. I really enjoyed that book, so when I was approached about being part of the blog tour for Margi’s latest novel, Enchantment Lake, I didn’t have to think long about my answer. While Enchantment Lake is a new direction for the author, moving away from historical novels and into mystery novels, it sounded just as interesting as her previous novels. I’ve already read Enchantment Lake – look for a review tomorrow – and I can tell you it was a very fun read. Today, however, as part of the blog tour for the launch of Enchantment Lake I have not only an Author Query with Margi Preus, but also a giveaway for the book. Check the bottom of the post for details of the giveaway. But first enjoy my interview with Margi!  Read More …

Guest Post: Helen Grant on the Improbable Truth

helengrant-urbanlegendsHelen Grant is one of my favourite YA writers. Her work is a mixture of crime, thriller, and supernatural elements coming together in a blend that is uniquely her own. She combines this with interesting settings—small towns in Germany for her first three books and a number of Flemish cities in her trilogy Forbidden Spaces. The trilogy ends with her latest book Urban Legends, for which I’ll post a review tomorrow. To celebrate the publication of Urban Legends, today Helen drops by the blog to talk about the hint of the supernatural that pervades her work and what draws her to write it.

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Kellerman Reread – Time Bomb

Jonathan Kellerman - Time BombYou’re living on borrowed time…

A sniper opens fire on a crowded Californian schoolyard but is killed before any children are harmed. When the sniper’s identity is revealed, a media frenzy erupts. Why would they want to take innocent lives?

Psychologist Alex Delaware is brought in to help the kids cope with the ordeal but is drawn into investigating the motives of the would-be assassin. Alex soon finds himself on a bloody and twisted trail into the world of political extremism from which there may be no way back…

Book five in my Kellerman Reread is also the fifth book in the Alex Delaware series. Time Bomb deals with what looks like a school sniping avant la lettre, but it is anything but. However, the more I read these books written in the Eighties the more I’m shocked by how little some of the issues have changed. Not just in terms of the larger issues such as racism and bigotry regarding sexual orientation, but also in things that I thought were typical of the twenty-first century, things such as privacy concerns due to new technology for example. I  keep coming back to the old adage “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  Read More …

Nichole Christoff – The Kill Shot [Blog Tour]

nicholechristoff-thekillshotJamie Sinclair’s father has never asked her for a favor in her life. The former two-star general turned senator is more in the habit of giving his only child orders. So when he requests Jamie’s expertise as a security specialist, she can’t refuse—even though it means slamming the brakes on her burgeoning relationship with military police officer Adam Barrett. Just like that, Jamie hops aboard a flight to London with a U.S. State Department courier carrying a diplomatic pouch in an iron grip.

Jamie doesn’t have to wait long to put her unique skills to good use. When she and the courier are jumped by goons outside the Heathrow terminal, Jamie fights them off—but the incident puts her on high alert. Someone’s willing to kill for the contents of the bag. Then a would-be assassin opens fire in crowded Covent Garden, and Jamie is stunned to spot a familiar face: Adam Barrett, who saves her life with a single shot and calmly slips away. Jamie’s head—and her heart—tell her that something is very wrong. But she’s come way too far to turn back now.

In the second Jamie Sinclair novel, The Kill Shot, the reader is reunited with Jamie and Barrett, but interestingly, The Kill Shot is not a straight up crime thriller. In fact, to me Nichole Christoff’s sophomore outing read more like a spy novel. I was surprised by this shift in flavour to the narrative, though the general style of the book is very much the same as its predecessor. Jamie remains a kick-ass heroine and I really enjoyed reading about her next adventure.  Read More …

Nick Pengelley – Ryder: American Treasure [Blog Tour]

nickpengelley-ryderamericantreasureDuring of the War of 1812, British troops ransacked the White House and made off with valuables that were never returned. Two centuries later, a British curator finds a vital clue to the long-vanished loot. Within hours, the curator is assassinated—and Ayesha Ryder, a Palestinian-born antiquities expert, is expertly framed for his murder.
 
Who could be behind such a conspiracy? And why do they want Ryder out of the way? To find out, she picks up a trail leading from a mysterious nineteenth-century letter to the upcoming presidential election. As Ryder dodges killers in the shadow of hidden alliances, sexual blackmail, and international power plays, she finds that all roads lead to the Middle East, where a fragile peace agreement threatens to unravel . . . and another mystery begs to be discovered.
 
Ryder’s rarefied academic career and her violent past are about to collide. And her only hope of survival is to confront a powerful secret agent who has been waiting for one thing: the chance to kill Ayesha Ryder with his own two hands.

Last October I reviewed the first Ayesha Ryder novel, appropriately called Ryder. I really enjoyed this Dan Brown-esque tale with a strong political flavour. So I was really pleased to be able to review the second book as well. Ryder: American Treasure is set six months after the first book and is very much a tale in the same vein as the first, a thrilling treasure hunt, following clues left behind by some of the great figures of history. Yet there were also some very big differences to the first novel.  Read More …

Kellerman Reread: Over the Edge

jonathankellerman-overtheedgeThe case against Jamey Cadmus seems open and shut. Found clutching a bloody knife at the scene of a horrifying double murder, he’s a prime suspect in a series of killings that have rocked Los Angeles. Even his lawyer won’t do more than plead diminished responsibility. No one – not the police, not the family, not the lawyers – wants Alex Delaware lifting up stones. But under those stones lies something unspeakable…

The third book in the Alex Delaware series is called Over The Edge and was originally published in 1987. While I enjoyed the story overall, I had a hard time getting into this one. This was partly due to the setup of the book and the slow start to the narrative, and partly due to the fact that in this book Kellerman’s descriptive writing kind of got out of hand. Yet once the book got going and I was sucked into the mystery of figuring out what had happened to Jamey, It became another exciting Delaware adventure.  Read More …

Sally Gardner – The Door That Led to Where

sallygardner-thedoorthatledtowhereWhen the present offers no hope for the future, the answers may lie in the past

AJ Flynn has just failed all but one of his GCSEs, and his future is looking far from rosy. So when he is offered a junior position at a London law firm he hopes his life is about to change — but he could never have imagined by how much.

Tidying up the archive one day, AJ finds an old key, mysteriously labelled with his name and date of birth – and he becomes determined to find the door that fits the key. And so begins an amazing journey to a very real and tangible past – 1830, to be precise – where the streets of modern Clerkenwell are replaced with cobbles and carts, and the law can be twisted to suit a villain’s means. Although life in 1830 is cheap, AJ and his friends quickly find that their own lives have much more value. They’ve gone from sad youth statistics to young men with purpose – and at the heart of everything lies a crime that only they can solve. But with enemies all around, can they unravel the mysteries of the past, before it unravels them?

A fast-paced mystery novel by one of the country’s finest writers, THE DOOR THAT LED TO WHERE will delight, surprise and mesmerise all those who read it.

Before The Door That Led to Where, the only book I’d read by Sally Gardner was The Double Shadow. I completely fell in love with that book, which not only offered an intriguing story and wonderful characters, but also had me put my English Lit degree to good use. Thus I was pleased to receive a review copy of The Door That Led To Where, not least because it was a fantasy book set in my favourite of all places, London and it had time-travelling to boot. The idea of a secret door to a different time or place is an old one, who hasn’t wished they had a magic wardrobe at least once as a child or to be able to cross to Platform 9 3/4? In Gardner’s capable hands this premise led to a wonderful story that is not just about solving a murder, but about friendship, love, and the ties that bind.  Read More …