Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom (Review)

Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom

Blurb

Summer, 1540. Matthew Shardlake, believing himself out of favour with Thomas Cromwell, is busy trying to maintain his legal practice and keep a low profile. But his involvement with a murder case, defending a girl accused of brutally murdering her young cousin, brings him once again into contact with the King’s chief minister – and a new assignment . . . 

The secret of Greek Fire, the legendary substance with which the Byzantines destroyed the Arab navies, has been lost for centuries. Now an official of the Court of Augmentations has discovered the formula in the library of a dissolved London monastery. When Shardlake is sent to recover it, he finds the official and his alchemist brother brutally murdered – the formula has disappeared. Now Shardlake must follow the trail of Greek Fire across Tudor London, while trying at the same time to prove his young client’s innocence. But very soon he discovered nothing is as it seems . . .

Review

I was so excited to read another story about Matthew Shardlake as I thoroughly enjoyed the first book Dissolution. This book is set three years after the first book and finds Shardlake no longer in the employment or favour of Cromwell but quietly working as a lawyer in London.

Shardlake is defending a girl who is accused of murdering her cousin and must work quickly if he has any chance of saving her. However, during this time Cromwell throws a spanner in the works by giving Shardlake another case and not an easy one. Cromwell also gives Shardlake a rather uncouth assistant to help him called Barack who likes to call  people he doesn’t like a rather rude name.

Shardlake and Barack have to work on the two cases at the same time but the one for Cromwell is hampered constantly. People are trying to kill Shardlake and Barack and the people involved that could help the investigations are killed before they can help. The other problem is that Shardlake and Barack always seem to be one step behind the bad guys.

This book really kept me on my toes and I never worked out who was guilty for either crime until it is revealed until the end. I also enjoyed reading about how the Tudors considered humours to be the source of health and illness as I have just finished an assignment on health in ancient Greece and Rome and their health and treatments also relied on the balance of humours.

There are so many twists and turns in this book and it never stopped for a moment. I couldn’t put this book down and throughly enjoyed it, in fact I think I enjoyed it more than the first book in the series. I can’t wait to read more about Shardlake and I give this book 5 out of 5 books. 

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Purchase Links

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

C. J. Sansom was educated at Birmingham University, where he took a BA and then a PhD in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he retrained as a solicitor and practised in Sussex, until becoming a full-time writer. He lives in Sussex.

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie (Review)

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie 

Blurb

Tommy and Tuppence, two young people flat broke and out of work, are restless for excitement. They embark on a daring business scheme- Young Adventurers Ltd- ‘willing to do anything, go anywhere’.

Their first assignment, for the sinister Mr Whittington, draws them into a diabolical political conspiracy, and they find themselves plunged into more danger than they ever imagined…

Review

This is my first Tommy and Tuppence full length novel. I read a short story about them over Christmas and wanted to read more stories about them so this book was a good start as it is the story of how Tommy and Tuppence became the Young Adventurers. 

Tommy and Tuppence are broke and in dire need of money and so they come up with a plan to advertise themselves as the Young Adventurers who are willing to do anything, anywhere. I must admit when Tuppence came up with this idea I did think it was rather risky as they could be asked to do anything but it is the reader’s first introduction to Tuppence’s impulsive and adventurous nature. 

Tommy is a lot more reserved than Tuppence and does tend to think before he jumps but that doesn’t mean he shirks away from adventure and gets into a fair few scraps in this story as does Tuppence. 

Tommy and Tuppence find themselves hunting for the mysterious Jane Finn and they must find her in time to stop a major political catastrophe or possibly even war. This leads them into danger and not knowing who to trust. 

I must admit that at the beginning I really couldn’t put this book down but then as I got further along my fervour waned. I will be honest I worked out who the illusive Mr Brown was rather early on and was frustrated with Tommy and Tuppence that they did not work it out sooner. The only surprise for me was the identity of Jane Finn but I loved the characters Tommy and Tuppence and I can’t wait to read further novels about them. This was only the second book Christie wrote and I can see this within the book as it lacks maturity in the writing. I give this book 3 out 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was an English writer known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. She also wrote the world’s longest running play, The Mousetrap. She also wrote 6 novels under the name Mary Westmacott.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Review)

The Mysterious Affair at Style by Agatha Christie 

Blurb

Hercule Poirot is intrigued by the details surrounding the murder of wealthy Mrs Inglethorp, mistress of Styles Court. This was Agatha Christie’s first Poirot novel, published in 1921.

Review

This is my first full length Christie novel that I have read and is part of my challenge to read more Christie novels and not just the short stories. I love watching adaptations of Poirot and Miss Marple on TV and so I was really excited to read my first full length novel and the first ever Poirot novel. 

I was pleased to see that Hastings was his usual bumbling self who is always wrong but convinced that he is right and that Poirot is wrong and going senile in his old age. He really made me laugh in this book and his random outbursts were hilarious.

Poirot was a massive surprise and I absolutely adored him. He is so eccentric and you never know what he is going to do next. My favourite scene has got to be where he goes off skipping with joy down the lawn. He is a truly brilliant character which is ten times better in the book than on the screen. 

I really enjoyed the story and it really kept me on my toes because once I thought I had worked out who the murderer was I got it completely wrong and the story went in a different direction. We also got a glimpse of the famous Inspector Japp and although we didn’t see much of him it was a good introduction that I am sure we will see more of.

The edition of the book I read also had the original ending that Christie had written as well as the one published and I must admit after reading both I much prefer the one that is published rather than the one Christie originally planned. The two endings are very good but I really like where Poirot and Hastings sit down and sum everything up and talk over the case at the end of the published ending.

This is my first full length Christie novel and it will definitely not be my last and I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons. I just loved all the twists and turns and Poirot’s bright green eyes.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was an English writer known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. She also wrote the world’s longest running play, The Mousetrap. She also wrote 6 novels under the name Mary Westmacott.

Too Good To Be True by Ann Cleeves (Review)

Too Good To Be True by Ann Cleeves

About the author

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Ann Cleeves was born in 1954 and is an English crime writer. She has won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger and her Vera and Jimmy Perez novels have been dramatised as TV detective series. She currently resides in Whitley Bay.

Blurb

Too Good To Be True is a gripping Quick Read from Ann Cleeves, featuring Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez from the bestselling Shetland series.

When young teacher Anna Blackwell is found dead in her home, the police think her death was suicide or a tragic accident. After all, Stonebridge is a quiet country village in the Scottish Borders, where murders just don’t happen.

But Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez soon arrives from far-away Shetland when his ex-wife, Sarah, asks him to look into the case. The local gossips are saying that her new husband, Tom, was having an affair with Anna. Could Tom have been involved with her death? Sarah refuses to believe it – but needs proof.

Anna had been a teacher. She must have loved kids. Would she kill herself knowing there was nobody to look after her daughter? She had seemed happier than ever before she died. And to Perez, this suggests not suicide, but murder . . .

Review

I love the Quick Reads books and have discovered quite a few authors that I enjoy from reading books from this series and this book is no exception. My parents are massive Ann Cleeves fans but I will be honest I have never read any of her books but looking for a short read for the weekend I came across this book and promptly began reading.

Although this is only a short book and I easily read it in one setting I really liked the character of Jimmy Perez and would love to read more books about this character. He worked out the case brilliantly even though the policeman who was in charge of the case missed some pretty obvious things and really should have had his wrists slapped for his sloppy policing and just jumping to the easiest conclusion. Perez is obviously a deeply caring person who will do anything for family and that was really moving to read about even if it was only hinted at.

The story contains the question of was it a suicide or a murder and Perez is left to work it out but as he is trying to unravel the mystery there is a sinister figure that is clearly watching him.

This story had everything: mystery, suspense, crime and much more. I loved this book and will definitely be reading more by Ann Cleeves, hopefully the parents will allow me to borrow some of their copies. A fantastic short read that I read in one sitting and I highly recommend to all crime fiction fans. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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A Very Murderous Christmas: Ten Classic Crime Stories for the Festive Season by Various Authors (Review)

A Very Murderous Christmas: Ten Classic Crime Stories for the Festive Season by Various Authors and edited by Cecily Gayford

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Blurb

The Christmas season is one of comfort and joy, sparkling lights and steam rising from cups of mulled wine at frosty carol services. A season of goodwill to all men, as families and friends come together to forget their differences and celebrate the year together.

Unless, of course, you happen to be harbouring a grudge. Or hiding a guilty secret. Or you want something so much you just have to have it – whatever the cost. In A Very Murderous Christmas, ten of the best classic crime writers come together to unleash festive havoc, with murder, mayhem and twists aplenty.

Following Murder on Christmas Eve and Murder under the Christmas Tree, this is the perfect accompaniment to a mince pie and a roaring fire. Just make sure you’re really, truly alone …

Review

I bought this book last year just after Christmas so I never read it and thought I would save if for Christmas 2019. I’ve been desperate to start my Christmas reading and so kicked it off by reading this book. I read a short story a night and loved it.

The book has a range of short stories but sadly they are not all murder mysteries and some are just merely mysteries. My favourite story was Camberwell Crackers by Anthony Horowitz, it really made me giggle.

The first story in the book The Man with the Sack by Margery Allingham set the scene of a wonderful Christmas in the old days where the village children would come and visit the big house and someone would dress as Father Christmas and give out presents. I really enjoyed the beginning of this story but must admit I found the ending rather a disappointment and it was all a bit too predictable for me.

The Adventure of the Red Widow by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr was very amusing and it was a nice Sherlock Holmes mystery and I enjoyed the murder mystery immensely but I must admit I found the ending rather sad, not something I wanted from a Christmas book, even a murder mystery Christmas book.

Camberwell Crackers by Anthony Horowitz my absolute favourite of the book and made me giggle. A proper little Christmas story.

The Flying Stars by G. K. Chesterton I must admit I found this story rather annoying in places and rather predictable. Just could not get on with characters in this story and rather pleased it was only short.

A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake this story I did enjoy and loved how it unfurled, a real mystery and set on a train with snow. A perfect Christmas tale with more than one crime to solve.

Loopy by Ruth Rendell now this story I found disturbing and rather worrying. The main character had clearly been over protected by his mother his entire life and also did not live in the real world or cope well when made to deal with it.

Morse’s Greatest Mystery by Colin Dexter. Oh I love a Morse story and this one was excellent. Morse is so eccentric in this story and his usual grumpy self, it did make me laugh.

The Jar of Ginger by Gladys Mitchell. An odd Christmas story and I’m not entirely sure I would have included it in a Christmas book if I had been choosing the stories but the plot was good and overall an interesting concept.

Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces by John Mortimer. This is another wonderful story that I thoroughly enjoyed. It had all the Christmas requirements: a pantomime, snow, a cold vicarage, Christmas parties and festive spirit. A perfect little Christmas story.

The Problem of Santa’s Lighthouse by Edward Hook. The last story of the book was a great mystery and rather Johnathan Creek in style and not just because of the windmill!

Overall I loved this book and would highly recommend it, especially as you can just dip into it over the festive season. The only reason it didn’t get the full 5/5 Dragons and only 4 was because it did not have a full set of murder mystery stories and because The Flying Stars just annoyed me.

Purchase links;-

Waterstones

Book Depository

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The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths (Review)

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

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About the author

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Elly Griffiths was born in London and began her career in publishing, she then turned to writing full time. In 2016 she won the CWA Dagger in the Library for her work. Griffiths lives in Brighton with her family and the cat Gus.

Blurb

Forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway is called in to advise when builders, demolishing a Victorian house in Norwich, uncover the skeleton of a child – minus the skull. Is it some ritual sacrifice or just plain murder?

The house was once a children’s home. DCI Harry Nelson meets the priest who used to run it, who tells him two children did go missing forty years before – a boy and a girl. They were never found.

But someone is trying hard to put both Ruth and Nelson off the scent – and a seemingly forgotten crime becomes terrifyingly real, with deadly consequences.

Review

Firstly, Elly Griffiths is fast becoming an absolute favourite of mine, every book of hers I read I can not put down and look forward to reading the next one.

I loved this story and loved the connections with Roman history and the God Janus. When I was younger I absolutely loved the history of the Roman Gods and Janus was a personal favourite, I became obsessed with closing gates so I didn’t anger him.

It was really nice to be reading about Dr Ruth Galloway again, she is such a wonderful character, she is down to earth, intelligent and not glamorous or hung up on her appearance. DCI Nelson is rough around the edges and does not pull his punches and quite funny.

The character that I really enjoyed in this book is Cathbad, he is so free and funny and really does not care what people think of him. I wish he would feature more in the stories to be honest.

The book was fast paced and kept me hooked from the beginning. I must admit I did work out the culprit but it did not ruin the story for me and it was a nice surprise that the story did not go down the predictable line I thought it was looking like.

The other element I loved was the personal dramas of the characters unfolding and I enjoyed that as much as the actual crime investigation unfolding. Overall I loved this book and have given it 5 out 5 Dragons. I highly recommend it to everyone but especially people who love a good crime drama.

Purchase links:-

Waterstones

Book Depository

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The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (Review)

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

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About the author

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Elly Griffiths was born in London and began her career in publishing, she then turned to writing full time. In 2016 she won the CWA Dagger in the Library for her work. Griffiths lives in Brighton with her family and the cat Gus.

Blurb

A child’s bones are discovered near the site of a pre-historic henge on the north Norfolk coast, and the police ask local forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway to date them. Are these the remains of a local girl who disappeared ten years ago?

DCI Harry Nelson refuses to give up the hunt for this missing child. Ever since she vanished, someone has been sending him bizarre anonymous notes about ritual sacrifice, quoting Shakespeare and the Bible. He knows Ruth’s instincts and experience can help him finally put this case to rest.

Then a second child goes missing, and Ruth finds herself in danger from a killer who knows she’s getting ever closer to the truth…

Review

A couple of months ago I read the latest Dr Ruth Galloway book The Stone Circle and absolutely loved it. Since then I was determined to read all of the series and have been buying the books when visiting Waterstones stores. So a few days ago I began the first novel in the series which actually links in with The Stone Circle.

I just love the character of Ruth, she is an academic who doesn’t seem to care about what people’s opinions of her are. It is clear her weight is an issue though as she thinks about it a lot in this book but doesn’t really do anything about it. She is a woman who just seems to have reached a certain age and has decided she is happy in her own skin and circumstances. She lives in a tiny remote cottage in the middle of nowhere but she loves it and she definitely loves her own company.

Harry is a tough DCI who takes no nonsense and has seen a lot in his job. He has developed a hard shell that takes a lot to break but certain cases like child abductions do get through and cause him a lot of pain. He comes across as an arrogant and grumpy cop but he has a heart and a caring side, which comes across as the story goes on.

I loved how this story has the archaeology in it as well, I found it so fascinating how Ruth excavated the bones and recorded everything down. I loved the references in the mysterious letters and how Ruth methodically works out where they all come from. Ruth is methodical in everything she does and gets excellent results. Harry does not come across as methodical, more run from one clue to another and try and figure it out as he goes along. Even though he says to Ruth he likes lists, he doesn’t come across as a list person to me, but maybe that is just how I am interpreting him.

The ending of the book was a massive surprise to me as I did not see the end result at all and that made me love the book even more. I do have a habit of predicting the end of crime novels but with this book I thought I knew the ending but was very wrong. The other element I loved was that I started to meet Harry’s team and hope in the following books I learn more of the team members as I find them very intriguing.

The other character I absolutely loved was Cathbad, he seems surreal to me and rather amusing with his druid ways. The main thing that comes across though is that he is happy, unbelievably happy and completely at one with himself and nature. The druid way of life obviously has some benefits.

Overall I loved this book and would happily recommend it to anybody who will listen to me. I will be lending my copy to my dad as he loves a good crime novel. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons and I can not wait to start reading the next one in the series. I am officially hooked to the Dr Ruth Galloway Mystery series.

To Purchase

Waterstones

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