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The Serpent Sword - Matthew Harffy

This is the story of Beobrand, a young man from Cantware  ( Kent) who goes North so he can join his brother  ( who has been murdered). Set against the historical background of 7th century Albion, a time when the death of Edwin, High King of Britain, plunges the country in darkness.Albion is more than divided. Several kingdoms are battling for supremacy over their neighbours, bands of warriors are on the loose and the power relations between pagan beliefs and budding Christianity are changing. But this is in the first place an adventure story but also a story about revenge, betrayal, psychopathic warriors  ( yeah, even then....),loyalty, camaraderie and friendship. A fabulous story. 

Some people plant flowers and others.......

10 Short Horror Stories Vol:1 - Steven  Havelock

A collection of short stories always present the same problem, some stories are good, some are not so good.This collection does not really represent horror, as we normally understand it, but is more of a hybrid, horror, yes,but also a faint flavour of mystery and fantasy. Unfortunately the editing isn't quite finished and frankly,that's disappointing...

Still, it's an easy read as most of the stories are very short indeed and therefore never reach the stage were they become boring or long-winded .

The Body in the Ice - Alfred A. Knopf Publishing Company

From the blurb:1796,Kent, a killer at large, a family feud and a house with a secret. Doesn't it sound good? 

The year is 1796,the United States have gained their independence some 20 years previously, the British took part of Canada from the French and the French fleet is ready (or so it seems) to invade Britain. The relationship between the British, the Americans  ( republicans) and the French( revolutionary) is slightly troubled,to say the least. Against this background a small coastal community, and more specifically Reverend Hardcastle  (who is also a Justice of Peace) is confronted with murder  ( and smugglers, French spies and an adorable Irish wolfhound who is not particularly brave  (a rabbit frightened the hell out of him)).The historical setting is marvellous, it is very atmospheric and the main characters are endearing. 

But strangely enough, the last chapters are perhaps a bit long-winded with too much gunpowder, spies and cloak and dagger and somehow it kills all that atmospheric tension. 

Still, all in all, a very good read. 

The Girl from Rawblood: A Novel - Catriona Ward

This is in the first place an attempt to write a classic gothic tale.A family, living in a lonely manor on Dartmoor,is haunted by" something ".All the right ingredients for a gothic success story and yet...the first part, although confusing due to several different timelines, was mysterious enough to keep one's attention but then the book becomes even more incoherent and messy and seems to lose all purpose...

The story  ( if ever there was one) is completely lost. Too bad because it has the right building stones....

The Third Key - Gerald Verner

A classic British murder mystery with all the right ingredients, a bucolic village with cottages and rose gardens, a big manor house, eccentric inhabitants, murder  ( of course) of a mysterious woman and in this case, a very sunny,summery feeling. Perfect, were  it not for the outdated attitude and opinions expressed by the author.They concern women and their place in society, women and divorce, imprisonment, death penalty....Admittedly, it was written several decades ago ,still...

Pity, because otherwise it would have been a perfect reading for one of those sunny afternoons in spring. 

The Devil's Prayer - Luke Gracias

A woman has been horrible betrayed by trusted friends, so in order to seek revenge she concludes a pact with the devil.Well, the first half of the book is quick paced  ( and although the descriptions and details of the revenge killings are unnecessary gory and after the second killing have lost all their necessity) it reads well, barring numerous platitudes such as " more people have died in the name of religion than any other disease ".And then, not only is the devil implicated but also a lot of  ( not always accurate ) historical facts and myths.In this case the Nag Hammadi codices, a 13th century Benedictine manuscript, red monks and to top it off, climate change is brought into the whole lot.The writing doesn't get any better and frankly it feels as if the emphasis lies on writing a blockbuster. And the end is a complete disaster, as a matter of fact,there is no"end".

This book is often compared to Dan Brown 's work, but unfortunately it has the same flaws and pluses.Not very well written, dubious historical data, a certain artificial flavour and yes, it is fast paced, horror and mystery merge and it is an easy read. But just not good enough....

Burning Secrets: A Gripping Historical Thriller With A Great Twist (Scottish Mysteries Book 2) - Clio Gray

Not so much a murder mystery as a great adventure story.Set in 19th century Scotland ,on a remote stretch of western coast, it has the perfect setting.A man is brutally murdered allegedly by smuglers, but there is more to it, nothing is so straightforward. What was he bringing back to his master, who lives as a recluse on a private island surrounded by mysterious structures? And who does the skeleton, accidently found, belongs to? And where did that huge sundial, inscripted with strange languages, came from? Yes, definitely an adventure story! 

To Kill a Wife - J.M. Gregson

The storyline is good, it is a classic whodunit, in a very British style. Most of the characters are elaborated and believable. So far, so good...Unfortunately the investigating inspector and his  ( female) sidekick are particularly unattractive. He keeps referring to the victim as a drawer dropper  (not once but about 30 times or so) and she feels compelled to say " even so..."!!!

Now if this were written in the dark ages, well, a sign of the times and all that nonsense, but it is written in the late nineties, so frankly, a drawer dropper  (and many more funny  (?)remarks) are more than bizarre and definitely outdated. 

The Iron Chariot - Stein Riverton

Although written in 1909 (!), it is still an exciting murder mystery. Admittedly , the private dedective  ( a gentleman detective no less) belongs to another era, but it does not interfere with the pleasure of reading.An added bonus is the wonderful setting ,a beautiful isolated island off the Norwegian coast.All in all, good fun.

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love (Grantchester) - James Runcie

This is not so much one story but several short stories who are somehow interconnected. What makes this series really special is the quality of the writing. It is absolutely superb. There are wonderfull descriptions of the Cambridgeshire countryside, well elaborated characters but also some thoughtful comments on religion, the changing society  (seventies) and on human relations.Good. 

An Afternoon to Kill - Shelley Smith

Oh,what an unexpected gem! This is "Death comes to Pemberly "(P.D.James) meets "Arabian Nights ".As in ,an exotic location frames a Victorian murder mystery. An absolutely brilliant book with a delightful ending. 

The Ghost of Robert Brown: A Mystery Novel - P. Wish

There is so much wrong with this book that I hardly know where to start.....It is full of inconsistencies,not to say mistakes(a grand chandelier,sparkling like diamonds,all that from the glow of 1 bulb,marvelous....;green eyes that mysteriously change into blue eyes and fifty pages further ,lo behold,they are chocolate brown;characters who seem to forget what they said,or asked,4 sentences earlier and so many more unbelievable errors (and I mean many more!))

As for the writing,their is virtually no description of any surrounding(the school is supposed to be gothic,well your guess is as good as mine...),the dialogues are static,there are strange time-lapses and none of the characters feel real(and are definitely not well defined),certain sentences are not finished and there are a load of silly mistakes(for example:it would help easy my conscience...)

The worst read this year...it is a pity,because there is a good storyline hidden somewhere but unfortunately.....

Reading progress update: I've read 200 out of 225 pages.

The Ghost of Robert Brown: A Mystery Novel - P. Wish

It's not getting any better!!

"I think he might know something about Robert's death"

Gary raised an eyebrow.

"I have reason to believe he might know something about Robert's death"

Gary's eyes enlarged (!)" You think he might know something?"

That's how a conversation between 2 idiots looks like......


Reading progress update: I've read 142 out of 225 pages.

The Ghost of Robert Brown: A Mystery Novel - P. Wish

I don't believe this......one of the characters had green eyes to start with,then they turned inexplicable into sparkling blue ones and now they are chocolate brown.....

Reading progress update: I've read 10 out of 225 pages.

The Ghost of Robert Brown: A Mystery Novel - P. Wish

Not a brilliant start......"Her nose was long,but the wrinkles gave away her age."

I'm sure that somewhere on this planet,this interesting sentence makes sense but unfortunately it does not make any sense to me...