The Figurehead by Bill Kirton #FridayReads #BookReview


ABERDEEN, Scotland – 1840

Return to an age where sail was being challenged by steam, new continents were opening, and the world was full of opportunities for people to be as good—or as evil—as they chose. When the body of a local shipwright is found on the beach, neither the customers and suppliers he cheated nor the women he molested are surprised. But the mystery intrigues woodcarver John Grant, who determines to seek out the truth of the killing. His work and his investigations bring him into contact with William Anderson, a rich merchant—and his daughter Elizabeth. Commissioned to create a figurehead that combines the features of two women, John eventually uncovers a sordid tale of blackmail and death as, simultaneously, he struggles to resist the pangs of unexpected love.

Poor old Bessie Rennie found herself in great trouble as a result of stealing a watch from the dead body of Jimmie Crombie, the shipwright, on the Aberdeen beach. Had she murdered him, or did he drown? The local Watch are useless, but John Grant, figurehead maker and ship carver, is determined to find the murderer even if Jimmie deserved his fate.

William Anderson, wealthy ship owner and trader, had commissioned Crombie to build him a new ship, so he is concerned about completing the build, while his independently minded daughter, Helen, not a typical rich young lady of 1840, wants to help her father in his business as well as solve the murder. Inevitably, Helen and John Grant are drawn together as she models for the figurehead for her father’s ship and they begin to share their investigations.

Events slowly reveal which of Jimmie’s enemies might have wished him dead, as the author shows the comfortable gentrified life of the Anderson family contrasting with extreme poverty among the fisherman, thieves and prostitutes. While John is able to span the lives of both communities, Helen takes dangerous risks in seeking out the company of Jimmie’s widow, Jessie. The picture of 19th century Aberdeen is vivid and convincing, while John’s strong, calm personality is a good foil for the impetuous determination of Helen Anderson.

This is a story full of realistic characters, whom we grow to care for and a lifestyle full of passion and suffering. After an unpredictable twist, the mystery draws to a satisfactory, logical conclusion, but the relationship of Helen and John is still uncertain, leading us on to the following book. The well-researched background story of this busy port raises questions to be answered about the business practices of William Anderson and his provision of passages to the colonies so I look forward to reading “The Likeness.”

The Figurehead is available at Amazon UK



The American Boy by Andrew Taylor #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog



Interweaving real and fictional elements, The American Boy is a literary historical crime novel in the tradition of Possession.

England 1819: Thomas Shield, a new master at a school just outside London, is tutor to a young American boy and the boy’s sensitive best friend, Charles Frant. Drawn to Frant’s beautiful, unhappy mother, Thomas becomes caught up in her family’s twisted intrigues. Then a brutal crime is committed, with consequences that threaten to destroy Thomas and all that he has come to hold dear. Despite his efforts, Shield is caught up in a deadly tangle of sex, money, murder and lies — a tangle that grips him tighter even as he tries to escape from it. And what of the strange American child, at the heart of these macabre events, yet mysterious — what is the secret of the boy named Edgar Allen Poe?

This historical murder mystery shows the extremes of poverty and wealth within a small area of 19th century London. “The American Boy” is well researched and, for me at least, a page-turner. It appears to be heavily influenced by Wilkie Collins writing. I enjoyed following the developing mystery although I found the final denouement a little disappointing.

The reticence Thomas Shield shows to reveal the details of his tête-à-tête with Sophia, do perhaps carry the assumption of 19th century good taste a little too far but the romance certainly kept my interest in the fate of both characters. His earlier confused attraction to two women was harder to believe but perhaps I don’t understand men well enough. It is certainly true that Miss Carswell is a tantalising, enigmatic character, while Sophia seems aloof & unapproachable.

I am not happy with the chosen title and although Andrew Taylor gives his interest in the youth of Edgar Allan Poe as the raison d’être for this book, the boy seems to me to be only an incidental character and if anything is a conceit of the author. Without great knowledge of Poe, I suspect I am missing nuances in the text.

The pictures painted of the three locations, London, Gloucester and Monkshill Park are clearly delineated and atmospheric and the machinations of the plot built up convincingly. Initially the novel adopts a leisurely pace, but this gradually heats up. In contrast to the interactions of the many characters involved in the story, there are also interludes of philosophical observation by Thomas Shield such as,

For the first time in my life, I was about to be a man of substance. The knowledge changed me. Wealth may not bring happiness, but at least it has the power to avert certain causes of sorrow. And it makes a man feel he has a place in the world,

which I particularly enjoyed.

I have read that Taylor initially wrote this story in the third person, but sensibly realised that Thomas Shield was an essential narrator to ensure the reader’s involvement. I found him a very sympathetic character, in spite of his tendency to act like a Dr.Who heroine.

Mary Tudor – Princess by Tony Riches #TuesdayBookBlog #BookRevue

MARY paperback (002)

From the author of the international best-selling Tudor Trilogy, the true story of the Tudor dynasty continues with the daughter of King Henry VII, sister to King Henry VIII. Mary Tudor watches her elder brother become King of England and wonders what the future holds for her.

Born into great privilege, Mary has beauty and intelligence beyond her years and is the most marriageable princess in Europe. Henry plans to use her marriage to build a powerful alliance against his enemies. Will she dare risk his anger by marrying for love?

Meticulously researched and based on actual events, this ‘sequel’ follows Mary’s story from book three of the Tudor Trilogy and is set during the reign of King Henry VIII.


My Revue

Unlike other readers I tend to avoid selecting Tudor history, perhaps because of a surfeit of them in earlier years, but Mary – Tudor Princess appealed because she was so little known to me; not Bloody Mary, Henry’s eldest surviving child, not Mary Queen of Scots but Henry’s sister Mary.  Though written in the third person, this Mary speaks to us of her life of duty and compromise and the happiness she found by guile and diplomacy in finally achieving the marriage she desired.


Wise beyond her years, 13-year-old Mary accepts her betrothal to 9 year old Charles, a future Emperor and prepares herself by keeping his picture at her bedside, but suddenly her capricious brother, King Henry VIII, sees more profit in marrying her to the much older King Louis of France.  Rather than being filled with horror, as a young woman of this century would be, she faces her new life bravely, realising that the King’s age and poor health open the possibility of another husband when she is widowed.  To this end she extracts a promise from her brother that her next marriage will be of her choice though she was to find this was not quite as straightforward as she hoped.


The story also deals with the purchase of wardships, where an astute gentleman, such as Charles Brandon, Mary’s second husband, acquired a young ward so that he could gain access to her fortune by arranging her marriage either to himself or to a useful ally. And here too, we see young girls happily agreeing to this state of affairs, just as Mary’s grand-daughter, Lady Jane Grey would, 40 years later. The complex life of a noble lady in 16th century Europe is both fascinating and disturbing.


Tony Riches has given us a likeable, clever Mary who becomes a good mother and step-mother, who eventually marries the love of her life but quickly learns that she and her friend Queen Catherine are tools in a man’s world.  I thoroughly enjoyed entering the French court, watching Henry’s tournaments and experiencing Mary’s joys and sorrows.

Mary Tudor Queen is available at Amazon UK and at Amazon US

Tony Riches Author (002)

About the Author
Tony Riches is a full-time author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the fifteenth century, with a particular interest in the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors.
For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his website and his popular blog, The Writing Desk and find him on Goodreads as well as Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.


An Interview with Lachlan Greig from “Rack and Ruin” by Carol Hedges

Rack &

“Greig is an imposing man, thirty years old and well above the regulation five foot seven inches. He is handsome, with a clear complexion, broad shoulders, bright chestnut hair and a certain glint in his eye. Life had taught him, sadly, that being gifted with a high degree of intelligence didn’t always play out well with those of his colleagues, and those of the criminal fraternity, who were not equally gifted.”

Inspector Greig, I have admired your tenacity and upright bearing as an officer of the law. I can tell from your accent that you are not a Londoner by birth. What made you join the metropolitan police?

Good day, Mistress Lloyd, and may I say your name reminds me of my own country, Bonnie Scotland. You are right, I am a long way from home, and there is a reason for that state of affairs. I joined the police force at the age of eighteen, but this was the Edinburgh force, and it was there I learned my training, much as my colleagues in Scotland Yard, by pounding the streets, and arresting the thieves and villains that frequent them. Of which there were many, I can assure you.

The reason I came south, to this strange city that seems to have no end to it, was because of a young women. Her name was Mary, and I met her at the house of a family friend. She was seventeen, and as sweet as the red red rose that our great Scottish poet Robert Burns writes about, but her father did not want her to marry a poor constable, and she respected his opinion too much to go against his wishes. So we argued and debated and I pleaded my case, but in the end, she chose a rich young man over me and for pride, I left my father’s house and came down to this smoky city, for I could not bear to see her sweet face or be close to her again.

I hear from my dear sister Jeanie that the match is not a happy one, for he drinks and spends long hours at the tables, but she has made her choice, and so have I, and we will not meet again upon this earth, I think.

Do you miss your family and friends?

I miss my father, who picked me out of the gutter when I was an abandoned bairn, and took me to his house. He brought me up as his own child, schooled me and has always supported me in all I wanted to do. Sadly, he died a year ago, of the fever, which he caught from some cloth that came over from the Americas ~ perhaps you have heard the story? Many importers and merchants died, for the cloth was all infected with the smallpox. He is buried in Greyfriars kirkyard, with a white angel over his tomb. He was a good man, and without him, I would surely have perished in the street, for my own mother abandoned me.

My sister Jeanie and her bairns are my only family now. I am ‘Uncle Lackie’ to the little ones, and send them toys and sweetmeats whenever I can. I hope this year to visit them for the Christmas festivities, if our superintendent will give me leave..

Will you return to Scotland in the future?

When I first arrived in London, my whole intention was to go home as soon as my heart had healed ~ for London was like some heathen wilderness to me: I didn’t understand its ways, nor how the inhabitants spoke, for their accents were strange and I confess, I was very lonely for quite a while. But now I have joined the detective division, and have found a friend in Jack Cully, and have been welcomed into his home by his wife Emily, I think I shall stay here. There is a lassie that I like ~ her name is … but maybe it would not be right to tell you her name, as we are not yet courting, but I intend to broach the matter with her as soon as this new investigation is over.

Reports of your bravery or perhaps foolhardy behaviour in stopping a moving omnibus have been printed in the newspapers. What made you act in that manner?

You are referring to the newspaper report in the Telegraph? I was merely carrying out my duty, which was to stop a woman taking a baby from its mother. You must know that there are many such women in this city who, for a fixed amount, will remove a child and dispose of it. My friend Jack Cully’s brave wife Emily was acting as a decoy to lure this evil woman into the open. Had I not stopped the omnibus, her own child could have been taken. The cut on my head and the broken collarbone are healing nicely and I do not think my actions justified the ‘Hero of the Hour’ headline!

Do you have ambitions for further progress in the Metropolitan police force or any other plans?

I have now moved from Bow Street to Scotland Yard, where I am a working detective. It is an increase in salary, which is most welcome and I hope soon to rise to the rank of Detective Inspector. My current case concerns banking fraud and gambling on a grand scale. You have maybe heard of the runs on several city banks who have defaulted on their loans? There is more to it than meets the eye, and DI Stride and I are looking into who is behind it. I hope we will be able to tell you the tale later in the year.

I am very much looking forward to reading about your current investigations.  Thank you for giving us your time today.

Rack and Ruin can be purchased at Amazon UK

And here you may read a review of Rack and Ruin



The Teacher by Emily Organ #BookReview

Emily Organ

I recently discovered the books of Emily Organ via Twitter.  As Emily says,

“Writing historical mysteries combines my love of history and mystery and also another love: writing. I hope you enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoy writing them.”

As a taster I can recommend the short mystery novella “The Teacher” currently free on Amazon UK even without Prime.  It introduces Penny Green, a Fleet Street journalist during the reign of Queen Victoria.  In this story she investigates the tragic death of teacher, Miss Jane, at a girls’ school in Dulwich.  A brave, forthright young woman, she suspects foul play and does her best to solve the mystery.

For lovers of Agatha Christie or period drama this is a good read and has tempted me towards other longer stories about Penny Green.

The Teacher


The Woman at the Light by Joanna Brady #FridayReads #BookReview

Woman at the light

One afternoon in 1839, Emily Lowry’s husband vanishes from Wreckers’ Cay, an isolated island off the coast of Key West where he tends to the lighthouse. As days stretch into months, Emily has no choice but take charge of Wrecker’s Cay and her husband’s duties tending the light to support her three children, and a fourth on the way. Unexpected help arrives when a runaway slave named Andrew washes up on their beach. At first, Emily is intensely wary of this strange, charming man, whose very presence there is highly illegal. But Andrew proves himself an enormous help and soon wins the hearts of the Lowry family. And, far from the outside world and society’s rules, his place in Emily’s life is as steadfast now as the light, and will forever change their futures. When Emily’s family is ripped apart once again, she faces untold hardships that test her love and determination and show how the passionate love of a defiant, determined woman can overcome any obstacle.

My Review

A lighthouse is of such significance both as a life-saver and a symbol. On dangerous coasts in the 19th century their importance could not be over-rated, so it is astonishing to learn that in some cases, the vital task of igniting the light each evening was undertaken by women.  This story is based on one of those women who had responsibility for part of the wrecking coast of the Florida Keys.


Emily is determined to take on this responsibility, in the hope that her husband Martin will reappear.  Living alone on the fictional island of Wreckers’ Cay, 23 miles from Key West, Emily’s family have in many ways found their life idyllic and she has no wish to become dependent on her Gran.  The arrival of Andrew, still shackled as a slave, is a shock but also a blessing.  He becomes an important part of the children’s lives and gradually Emily begins to feel desire for him.  Such a situation in that place and time can only lead to tragedy and the approach of a terrible storm changes their lives forever.


Emily is a survivor, but she is also a spirited woman who makes her own way in the world, fighting for the best life for her children.  Her sister Dorothy seems a more relaxed, easy-going woman for whom life is easier, but we learn that she is more complex and plays a major role in Emily’s future.  The second part of this story takes back to Key West and later to Cuba and New York.  I found the interaction between Emily and the men she encountered, depending on her social standing, particularly interesting.  We might find it very hard to adapt to a man such as Pedro Salas, who combines charm and sexual demands, but Emily is a woman of her time.


What begins as a story of love and hardship, becomes an unfolding mystery story and family saga.  I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in 19th century American history and also as a story of passion and courage.

You can find The Woman at the Light at Amazon UK

and at Amazon US

Joanna Brady

Joanna Brady


Jonah by Carl Rackman #fridayreads #bookreview


When a U boat is spotted floating on the surface of the Atlantic in 1940 by a British destroyer, the remaining German crew accuse one of their shipmates of being a Jonah.  Why then, in the Pacific in 1945, do the same events seem to be recurring on US Navy destroyer Brownlee?


The protagonist of this novel, “Lucky” Mitch Kirkham is introduced to us as he and his crewmates are involved in a terrifying battle with a continuous attack by Japanese Kamikaze pilots.  For the second time in his naval career, Mitch survives while others are killed.  He finds himself an outcast, distrusted, disliked and mistreated by his immediate superior.  When his life is threatened he is befriended by Father McGready, who gives him some hope that he will return home safely, but soon many of the crew are showing symptoms of hysteria, seeing ghosts and talking of a sea-monster.  Mitch is a naturally curious individual, an interesting character to follow, but this leads him into more trouble.  He no longer knows whom he can trust or who will be acting strangely, next.


The author gradually reveals the back stories of Mitch and the other characters so that we understand their demons.  Battle scenes are vividly described and full of tension.  It is evident that Carl Rackman has thoroughly researched wartime life in the US navy and we can imagine ourselves on board the Brownlee.  As the plot develops, the reader feels an increasing fear of imminent disaster leading to an eventful, surprising conclusion.

Jonah is available at Amazon UK  and Amazon US