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Search tags: british-authors
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review 2017-12-18 22:13
The Green Man / Kingsley Amis
The Green Man - Kingsley Amis

A ghost story for adults. Like all good coaching inns, the Green Man is said to boast a resident ghost: Dr Thomas Underhill, a notorious seventeenth-century practitioner of black arts and sexual deviancy, rumoured to have killed his wife. However, the landlord, Maurice Allington, is the solewitness to the renaissance of the malevolent Underhill. Led by an anxious desire to vindicate his sanity, Allington strives to uncover the key to Underhill's satanic powers. All the while, the skeletons in the cupboard of Allington's own domestic affairs rattle to get out too.

 

Maurice Allington is not the kind of guy you want to get mixed up with—he may be the well-known proprietor of the inn The Green Man, but he drinks far too much, ignores his wife and daughter, and spends his free time propositioning his friend’s wife. When he starts seeing things around the inn, we have to wonder if his drinking has finally addled his wits, for Maurice certainly doesn’t believe in the ghosts that he advertises to lure guests.

I remember a TV show based on this book, which I skipped based on how much the ads for it disturbed my peace of mind. Maybe I should have watched, because the book didn’t bother me a bit! I found Maurice to be completely unreliable as a narrator of his own experience—too alcohol impaired to be trusted—and since no one else shares in his visions/delusions, I was able to control my imaginative faculties and remain calm. As Maurice reflects a one point, “I thought to myself how much more welcome a faculty the imagination would be if we could tell when it was at work and when not.” But mine doesn’t work that way—it is often overactive when I would like it to mind its own business.

A good ghost story for people who normally don’t care for them.

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review 2017-12-18 21:20
The Subtle Knife / Philip Pullman
The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman

Lost in a new world, Lyra finds Will—a boy on the run, a murderer—a worthy and welcome ally. For this is a world where soul-eating Specters stalk the streets and witches share the skies with troops of angels.

Each is searching—Lyra for the meaning of Dark Matter, Will for his missing father—but what they find instead is a deadly secret, a knife of untold power. And neither Lyra nor Will suspects how tightly their lives, their loves, and their destinies are bound together... until they are split apart.

 

  Top notch stuff. The Subtle Knife picks up where The Golden Compass left off and drags the reader forward, into other worlds and into peril.

The children are precocious—bearing responsibilities well beyond their years—and the adults are unfathomable, with highly uncertain motives. Lyra & Will, despite feelings of inadequacy, don’t hesitate to step up—learn to take care of themselves, do research, ask questions, defend themselves. There are painful realizations to be had and dangerous adventures to be shared.

I will definitely look forward to reading The Amber Spyglass in the near future.

 

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review 2017-12-18 21:19
The Blood Detective / Dan Waddell
The Blood Detective - Dan Waddell

When the naked, mutilated body of a man is found in a Notting Hill graveyard and the police investigation led by Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster and his colleague Detective Superintendent Heather Jenkins yields few results, a closer look at the corpse reveals that what looked at first glance like superficial knife wounds on the victim's chest is actually a string of carved letters and numbers, an index number referring to a file in city archives containing birth and death certificates and marriage licenses. Family historian Nigel Barnes is put on the case. As one after another victim is found in various locations all over London, each with a different mutilation but the same index number carved into their skin, Barnes and the police work frantically to figure out how the corresponding files are connected. With no clues to be found in the present, Barnes must now search the archives of the past to solve the mystery behind a string of 100-year-old murders. Only then will it be possible to stop the present series of gruesome killings, but will they be able to do so before the killer ensnares his next victim? Barnes, Foster, and Jenkins enter a race against time and before the end of the investigation, one of them will get much too close for comfort.

 

It’s pretty difficult to make genealogy and genealogists seem sexy. Records research is never going to be as riveting as blood splatter analysis or DNA, but Waddell does his best. I liked the link between the Victorian murders and those of the present day. As someone who has spent some time in family history centres and records offices, I could recognize many of the “types” who peopled these places. There’s always at least one creepy dude like Nigel Barnes’ nemesis.

Unfortunately it is cliché ridden (the handsome researcher with something troubling in his past, the policewoman with a soft heart, the stuck-in-a-rut DCI in charge). There’s potential here, but if you aren’t a fan of research or records management, this may not be the book that you’re looking for.

Not bad, but not wonderful either.

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review 2017-12-12 16:24
Hercule Poirot's Christmas / Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot's Christmas: A Hercule Poirot Mystery - Agatha Christie

Motives for Murder: A fortune in uncut diamonds, hidden by an eccentric old man - A woman's love, too freely given - A business empire built on ruthlessness. Each of them may have been a motive for the brutal slaying of wealthy old Simeon Lee. Coupled with Lee's family, each member of which hated him and wished to see him dead, they present Hercule Poirot with a baffling challenge--one which the astute detective solves only through his uncanny ability to see "the little things."

 

What does one get M. Poirot for Christmas? A bloody good murder, that’s what!

I love watching the skillful set-up in Agatha Christie’s books—the details that she lovingly points out to us, designed to lead our thinking astray! An excellent red herring meant I was looking the wrong direction when M. Poirot did his big reveal. I was so sure that I had spotted the killer that I didn’t pay attention to anyone else! (Christie – 7, Wanda – 2 so far in my reading of her oeuvre).

The murder victim is deliciously hate-able, the potential murderers are suitably complex people, the motives abound, as does the blood. As Poirot points out, when we are being forced to visit family that we might not normally & there is pressure for a certain type of behaviour, murder becomes a real possibility! So don’t lean on your family members too hard this Christmas—give them and yourself a bit of breathing room and avoid family bloodshed.

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review 2017-12-04 19:39
The Mummy Case / Elizabeth Peters
The Mummy Case - Elizabeth Peters

Radcliffe Emerson, the irascible husband of fellow archaeologist and Egyptologist Amelia Peabody, has earned the nickname "Father of Curses" -- and at Mazghunah he demonstrates why. Denied permission to dig at the pyramids of Dahshoor, he and Amelia are resigned to excavating mounds of rubble in the middle of nowhere. And there is nothing in this barren area worthy of their interest -- until an antiquities dealer is murdered in his own shop. A second sighting of a sinister stranger from the crime scene, a mysterious scrap of papyrus, and a missing mummy case have all whetted Amelia's curiosity. But when the Emersons start digging for answers in an ancient tomb, events take a darker and deadlier turn -- and there may be no surviving the very modern terrors their efforts reveal.

 

“Catastrophically precocious”—this is how Amelia Peabody Emerson describes her young son, Walter Emerson (better known as Ramses, for his demanding nature). Several times during this novel, a chill runs down her spine when she wonders just where her darling son is and what mischief he has found in which to embroil himself!

The fact that the author herself is an Egyptologist really makes these books fun. She uses all the historical archaeologists as characters for Emerson to roar and bellow at when he is not debating archaeological issues with vicious thrust-and-parry.

I still love Amelia, armed with her parasol, seeking out clues. Ramses is lawyer-like in his reasoning, endeavouring to manoeuvre around her prohibitions. But “da cat Bastet” really steals the show in this installment—somehow I picture her as a haughty Siamese.

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