Friday, 13 April 2018

Relics of the Dead

Relics of the Dead  (Mistress of the Art of Death, #3)Relics of the Dead by Ariana Franklin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

1176. When fire destroys Glastonbury Abbey, two skeletons are unearthed in its grounds: one tall; one short. Could they really be the remains of Arthur and Guinevere? Henry Plantaganet sends Adelia Aguilar, Mistress of the Art of Death, to find out.
It’s an attractive proposition with a nice ensemble of characters in interesting settings, though some readers may find the slightly modern tone not entirely to their taste. Franklin herself says:
“I am sometimes criticized for making my characters use modern language…Since people then sounded contemporary to each other and, since I hate the use of what I call ‘Gadzooks’ in historical novels to denote a past age, I insist on making them sound contemporary to us.”

I know what she means. But just a little Gadzooks might have gone a long way.
The shape of story is slightly strange, with the climax coming three-quarters of the way through and the remainder of the book dedicated to explaining the historical importance of Henry II’s new laws. Since this was a completely new area to me, I was happy to go along for the ride. I’d happily read another in the series, come to that.
But that’s just my own humble opinion…what do you think? Do let me know!

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Friday, 6 April 2018

The Wench Is Dead

The Wench Is Dead (Inspector Morse, #8)The Wench Is Dead by Colin Dexter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s to my great shame that, despite being a fan of the original TV series from the very beginning, I have never read one of Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse books until now. This one involves an historical crime set in the 1850s! And on a canal, no less! In my younger days as a teacher I was responsible for organizing a yearly residential for my students, which was often held on narrowboats out of Braunston Junction, one of the places the victim passed through on the way to her death.
Morse enjoys puzzles and so do I. We very similar in a number of respects. And the historical puzzle being offered here feels especially real, presented as it is in a variety of original and secondary sources. Fascinating stuff. Did I solve the puzzle? Yup. And just about as quickly as Morse solves one of his crosswords. I won’t say what gave it away, but I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Did I solve the cryptic crossword clue (six letters: “Bradman’s famous duck”)? I certainly wouldn’t have without Morse’s prompting. Quixote (its setter), one; me, nil, then. Oh, well. Can’t win them all.
As for the present-day Morse part of the novel, our detective is confined to hospital and fantasizes about dating the nurses, not that many of them would reciprocate his wistful yearnings. His downtrodden Sergeant Lewis is dismissed out-of-hand and taken for granted—at least until his words of wisdom surface in Morse’s distracted mind.
Would I read another Morse? I certainly would! But that’s just my own humble opinion…what do you think? Do let me know!

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Sunday, 1 April 2018

Monthly Post: April 2018
The current state of publishing

Big Bona Ogles, Boy! (Send for Octavius Guy, #3)Big Bona Ogles, Boy! (Send for Octavius Guy, #3) by Michael Gallagher
Current average rating: 4.80 of 5 stars

I’m back! Or perhaps I should say: my back! It’s still giving me problems, sitting for any length of time to write being just one of them. But I couldn’t ignore this post for it marks my website’s fifth birthday. Yes! Now we are five! My enforced inactivity has given me plenty of time to read however (and I have read some particularly good thrillers of late and discovered some truly wonderful authors). It also gave me time to think about the current state of publishing. It’s never been easier to publish your novel yourself and see your own words in print. Nor harder to find anyone who is prepared to read it, let alone shell out good money for the privilege. Why? Read on…

This month’s giveaway is a free download of Big Bona Ogles, Boy!: Octavius Guy & The Case of the Mendacious Medium (#3). There’s a new woman in town, recently arrived from Boston, who claims to be able to contact the dead. Need it be said that our Victorian boy detective remains unconvinced? Offer ends on April 30th 2018 and, no, there are no strings attached. Why shell out good money if you don’t have to?

“My favorite Victorian boy investigator sets off to solve a new mystery…Words cannot describe just how much I enjoy Octavius.”—Bethany Swafford (The Quiet Reader) Goodreads Reviewer (5 stars)

Happy investigating!

Find me on my website Michael Gallagher Writes, on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @seventh7rainbow

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Recipes for Love and Murder

Recipes for Love and Murder (Tannie Maria Mystery, #1)Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMG. What’s not to like? This reads like an Alexander McCall Smith novel realized with a little less humour perhaps, but with an actual murder to solve and an amateur detective, in this case a cookery writer who has been forced to swap her column for an advice-for-the-lovelorn in a small-town newspaper that is syndicated throughout a stretch of rural South Africa.
Our heroine, Tannie (“Aunty”) Maria, divides her time between chasing up culinary and housekeeping clues that the police fail to recognize as being significant and cooking roast lamb, curries, and various cakes to nourish her friends, plus a never-ending supply of cereal bars she calls rusks. As with most generous books, you’ll find many of these recipes printed in the back matter.
Andrew throws in Afrikaans terms and colloquial slang freely, but I didn’t get bogged down in them all. Anything with -berg on the end is a mountain, anything with -bos is a bush, and anything with -bok or -bokkie is some kind of buck. Blerrie, as you’ll quickly discern, is probably bloody. Sometimes she helps by explaining these things; sometimes she doesn’t. It doesn’t matter, though—it all adds to the book’s local colour. If the statistics she quotes about wife beating and the incidence of murder in South Africa are true, then they are horrifying.
A thoroughly enjoyable read. Take Tannie Maria’s advice and fill your hearts with love.
But that’s just my own humble opinion…what do you think? Do let me know!

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The Monogram Murders

The Monogram MurdersThe Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I came to this, the first in what I hope will be a very long series, after reading the second instalment, Closed Casket, which I loved. In this book the initial premise is satisfyingly intriguing: three bodies are found on separate floors of a luxury hotel, each in a locked room, each laid out ceremoniously on the floor, and each with an initialled cuff link inserted into their mouths.
Hannah has the ability to paint truly memorable characters with a few strokes of her pen, aided by a great ear for speech patterns—which, in this case, she even makes use of to provide Hercule with a clue.
Though I enjoyed the bulk of this book, the reveal felt overly complicated by a series of twists and turns which hinged on distinctions that were a little too subtle for my own straightforward tastes (and those of Inspector Catchpool’s, come to that). And although it’s entirely possible I might have missed their explanations, there seemed to be events (e.g., who Thomas Brignell, the painfully timid clerk, was seen with down in the gardens; the reason that necessitated the final murder) that weren’t explained (if anyone cares to enlighten me, I shall be eternally grateful). Even so, there’s much to entertain here and this is still a series to keep your eye on.
But that’s just my own humble opinion…what do you think? Do let me know!

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Friday, 16 March 2018

Death Descends on Saturn Villa

Death Descends on Saturn Villa (The Gower Street Detective #3)Death Descends on Saturn Villa by M.R.C. Kasasian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an unexpected find, not least because it’s set in my own genre and era. It’s 1883 and when London’s foremost personal detective Sidney Grice is called away to Yorkshire on a case, his goddaughter and ward Miss March Middleton decides to become London’s first foremost personal lady detective with disastrous results to herself.
Like many a Wilkie Collins, the first-person narrative is shared between characters, and, just like Wilkie Collins, Kasasian doesn’t mind injecting a lot of humour. The style, which is like no other I’ve ever read, careers between absurdist comedy and high Gothic. Although they both work, I’m not sure they always sit well together and the change can be a little unsettling, especially when it comes mid-narrative. And yet the story is always grounded in first-class research.
The characters are wonderful, right down to the slovenly maid, Molly (even if in real life “nobody would not never speak this way, never not”). Your heart soars when she’s allowed to become something more than a comic cypher.
As for the mystery element, there are some truly puzzling accounts of the book’s various victims apparently putting themselves to death, with equally ingenious, intricately set-up solutions—which again seem to be based on scrupulous research (Uncle Tolly’s bedroom; Mrs Prendergast’s corsets).
Since this is the first time I’ve delved into this series, I have no idea whether the author routinely ends his books with a character reflecting on the events some sixty years later (1943), or whether this was unique to this one, but here he poignantly juxtaposes his novel’s subject matter and themes with the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jews.
I am looking forward to reading more.
But that’s just my own humble opinion…what do you think? Do let me know!

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Thursday, 1 March 2018

Monthly Post: March 2018

Octopus (Send for Octavius Guy, #2)Octopus (Send for Octavius Guy, #2) by Michael Gallagher
Current average rating: 4.22 of 5 stars

Winter is here, and I’m not just talking about Game of Thrones Season 7, which I got to watch for the very first time just last week—their best writing yet! My back continues to heal apace but, again, no new post I’m afraid. This month’s giveaway is a free download of Octopus: Octavius Guy & The Case of the Throttled Tragedienne (#2). This time the fourteen-year-old Victorian boy detective is off to enjoy an evening at the theatre…with unexpected and truly tragic results. Offer ends on March 31st 2018.

“Here is a sensational historical fiction who-dunnit that gives nothing away until the very end. To me, it reads like an old time radio show. It leaves you breathless.”—Connie A, LibraryThing Early Reviewers (5 stars)

Happy investigating!

Find me on my website Michael Gallagher Writes, on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @seventh7rainbow