The Chess Men (Lewis Chronicle 3) by Peter May #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

“The shadow of a massive rock rose up ahead of him, and he felt his way around it to the leeward side where he was briefly out of the wind. He pressed himself back against the sheer face of this giant slab and stood there gasping for breath. He had never in his life felt so small, or so vulnerable. The scale and scope of the land and the power of the elements, dwarfed him into insignificance.

He found himself shivering now with the cold, teeth chattering. To stop would be fatal. He had to find shelter. As he turned again to face the black uncertainty that lay ahead of him, the sky lit up in a series of lightning flashes that cast their ghostly effulgence across the valley that fell away beneath him. It was startling and bleak in this unforgiving light, a landscape so alien and primordial that it would not have been out of place on the moon.”

Chess Men

This final book of the Lewis Trilogy finds ex policeman, Finn MacLeod starting work as a security officer on a large estate on the Isle of Lewis.  Looking out for poachers seems an odd choice for him, especially as one of the poachers is his old friend, Whistler.  When he and Whistler discover a plane at the bottom of a drained loch the author takes us back to the disappearance of Roddy, star of a Celtic pop group, 17 years earlier.  Both Fin and Whistler were teenage friends of Roddy and the other members of the group and that time is returning to haunt them.

After reading the earlier books in the trilogy I thought I knew everything about Fin’s youth but suddenly we meet several more old friends and many life-changing experiences not mentioned before.  The technique of moving from present to past and back again seems overworked and slightly annoying in this book and revealing the lies and secrets is a very slow process.  There is however far more action especially in the last few chapters but I wished Fin and Marsaili would sit down to talk about their future.

As I have begun to expect from Peter May the descriptive passages are spell-binding and the characterisation of young Anna Bhaeg, Whistler’s estranged daughter, is superb. Crime and coming of age are intermingled in this story but like Inspector Gunn I feel frustrated by Fin.  There could be 4th book one day!

The Chess Men on Amazon UK

My Reviews of The Black House and The Lewis Man

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The Lewis Man: Book Two of the Lewis Trilogy by Peter May #BookReview

Lewis Man

 

 AN INGENIOUS CRIME THRILLER ABOUT MEMORY AND MURDER.

 
A MAN WITH NO NAME
An unidentified corpse is recovered from a Lewis peat bog; the only clue to its identity being a DNA sibling match to a local farmer.
A MAN WITH NO MEMORY
But this islander, Tormod Macdonald – now an elderly man suffering from dementia – has always claimed to be an only child.

A MAN WITH NO CHOICE

When Tormod’s family approach Fin Macleod for help, Fin feels duty-bound to solve the mystery.

 

This second volume in the Lewis Chronicle can easily be read in isolation. We soon become well acquainted with Fin MacLeod who after personal tragedy has left his job as an Edinburgh police Inspector to return to his birthplace on the Isle of Lewis. Sleeping in a tent is not ideal in an inclement climate, but Fin intends to restore his old family home while building a relationship with the teenage son, Fionnlagh, whom he only discovered 9 months earlier. Meanwhile the local police have unearthed a “peat man” hidden in the bog which may not be as ancient as it appears.

What makes this story unique, is that we can enter the mind of Fionnlagh’s grandfather, Tormod MacDonald, as he rapidly descends into the fog of dementia. Thus, he is our unreliable witness to events many years earlier. He takes us into the realm of Catholic orphans in the 1940s and 50s. In a less formal way than the British Home Children sent to Canada and Australia, these boys and girls were labelled and put on ferries to the Hebrides where they would live and work for subsistence farmers.

Fin investigates Tormod’s background in an attempt to discover the link between him and the body in the peat bog. He travels south giving the reader superb descriptions of the scenery and geography of the islands and with a touch of serendipity makes the link, but in so doing he brings danger to his extended family. There is drama, pathos and a real understanding of complex family structures. Another superb book by Peter May.

The Lewis Man on Amazon UK

 

Innocent Graves by Peter Robinson #BookReview #AmReading

Innocent Graves

 Innocent Graves is the eighth novel in Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series, following on from Dry Bones That Dream.

One foggy night, Deborah Harrison is found lying in the churchyard behind St Mary’s, Eastvale. She has been strangled with the strap of her own school satchel.

But Deborah was no typical sixteen-year old. Her father was a powerful financier who moved in the highest echelons of industry, defence and classified information. And Deborah, it seemed, enjoyed keeping secrets of her own . . .

With his colleague Detective Constable Susan Gay, Inspector Alan Banks moves along the many suspects, guilty of crimes large and small. And as he does so, plenty of sordid secrets and some deadly lies begin to emerge . . .

I chose to read Innocent Graves thanks to a recommendation from Amazon and it is only now that I have finished the book that I discover it is one of 24 Inspector Banks novels which have been on TV, starring Stephen Tomkinson. I dimly remember enjoying a few episodes but for me the book is more intense and compelling.

Inspector Banks is an empathetic character, even though, at times, he can be unpleasantly aggressive to the suspects he interviews. Despite the annoying bias his boss shows, in sucking up to rich influential locals, Banks is determined to find the murderer by methodical, thorough police work. The unusual feature of this novel is that we also see the case from the viewpoint of the man they arrest. Without knowing whether he is guilty or innocent we witness the way his life falls apart and he is forced to wait in a sordid, claustrophobic police cell for several months before going to court.

The book introduces a variety of characters who might have had a motive to kill Deborah but circumstantial evidence make it difficult for the police and the reader to select the culprit. I had my suspicions, but the denouement was well constructed. Towards the end I could not put the book down until all was revealed.

Innocent Graves is available on Amazon UK

Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson grew up in Yorkshire, and now divides his time between Richmond and Canada. Peter has written twenty-four books in the Number One Bestselling DCI Banks series as well as two collections of short stories and three standalone novels, the most recent of which is Number One bestseller BEFORE THE POISON. Peter’s critically acclaimed crime novels have won numerous awards in Britain, the United States, Canada and Europe, and are published in translation all over the world.

Blood Reckoning by Dan Wadell #TuesdayBook Blog #BookReview

Blood Reckoning

Blood Reckoning is the third book about DCI Grant Foster and his occasional working relationship with genealogist, Nigel Barnes.  The two are also linked by Grant’s colleague DS Heather Jenkins, who is Nigel’s girlfriend.  On this occasion the two men are working on separate cases. Nigel is straying away from his usual family research, as he investigates relationships and location for the causes of a young girl’s terrible nightmares.

Foster’s horrifying murder investigations take him back to his early career as a young police officer in Newcastle.  In 1992, a well-respected 73-year-old man had been murdered by two young boys.  On their release, they were given new identities but now Foster must revisit the scene and the circumstances of the murder.  This major part of the novel is a gripping detective investigation by a policeman determined to find the truth without favour. An intense fast-moving plot reveals the far-reaching repercussions of the original case and in an unusual twist Nigel Barnes becomes personally entangled with the latest events.

Unlike the earlier books, crime features more prominently than genealogy, so this novel may have a wider audience, but personally I have enjoyed each of the three books.  The characterisation of the two men is believable and each book stands on its own. A solid contemporary murder mystery.

Blood Reckoning can be purchased at Amazon UK

Dan Wadell

Dan Waddell is a journalist and author of more than a twenty works of fiction and non-fiction. His first crime novel, The Blood Detective, was nominated for three debut awards, included the celebrated CWA New Blood Dagger, and has been published in five countries. He is also the author of the bestselling guide that accompanied the award-winning BBC TV series, Who Do You Think You Are?

An exiled Yorkshireman, Dan has been a cricket fanatic since he witnessed his first England batting collapse aged six. He was a talented junior batsman, played representative cricket for Yorkshire and was even once, briefly, on the payroll of the county club itself. After being lost to journalism for several years, he made a misguided comeback and now captains Acton 2nd XI in the Middlesex County League where, in between taking painkillers, he tries and fails to pass on sage advice to young players. He covered two seasons of county cricket for The Daily Telegraph and his first ever published work was the history of BBC TV’s cricket coverage, And Welcome to the Highlights, where he got to interview David Gower, Richie Benaud and his boyhood hero, Geoffrey Boycott. It has been downhill ever since…

Legacy (Project Renova Book 4) by Terry Tyler #BookReview #NewRelease

Legacy

‘Out of all the death and destruction has come the freedom to be who we really are.’

A hundred years after the world was devastated by the bat fever virus, the UK is a country of agricultural communities where motherhood is seen as the ideal state for a woman, new beliefs have taken over from old religions, and the city of Blackthorn casts a threatening shadow over the north of England. Legacy travels backwards in time to link up with the characters from Tipping Point, Lindisfarne and UK2.

Seventeen-year-old Bree feels stifled by the restrictions of her village community, but finds a kindred spirit in Silas, a lone traveller searching for his roots. She, too, is looking for answers: the truth behind the mysterious death, forty years earlier, of her grandmother.

In 2050, Phoenix Northam’s one wish is to follow in the footsteps of his father, a great leader respected by all who knew him…or so his mother tells him.

In 2029, on a Danish island, Lottie is homesick for Lindisfarne; two years earlier, Alex Verlander and the kingpins of the Renova group believe they have escaped the second outbreak of bat fever just in time…

Book 4 of the Project Renova series rebuilds a broken country with no central government or law, where life is dangerous and people can simply disappear…but the post-Fall world is also one of possibility, of freedom and hope for the future.

 

My Review

I opened this book with great excitement to discover what had happened to the people I had read about in the earlier books of the Project Renova series but as the title Legacy suggests this novel has moved 100 years into the future to a time when society is made up chiefly of small farming communities, cooperating with local leaders in a simple life with which most people are satisfied.  But Bree, a 17-year-old girl, is not content with her life in the Five villages, where she is soon to be wed, in order to become a mother.  She is curious about her mother, Willow and her grandmother, Sky, who had both died when they were very young.  Only, Silas, one of the grocks, a travelling community, promises her freedom.

In part 2, we learn about Sky, who had lived in the busy northern city of Blackthorn.  Here she is living a life of leisure, as the wife of Byron, an important lieutenant to the governor, but her husband is impatient to become a father.  Remembering her early childhood on the island of Lindisfarne, she feels a misfit in this society of “haves” and “have-nots” and finally decides to make a break for freedom to help her sister-in-law Misty, who is frequently beaten by Sky’s brother, Red.  Aided by Luke, one of the guards, they set out, travelling as far and as fast as possible to escape Byron and Red.

Part 3 introduces us to Phoenix, son of Dexter Northam, whom we know so well from the earlier books and we see the effects of his mother’s upbringing. It was thrilling to meet Lottie once more, and finally returning to the story of Bree and Silas the threads of the legacy are drawn together.

The roles of motherhood and primitive religion in this future world are understandable, but the brave stand of individual women to establish an equal and free society is encouraging. Best of all, these are distinctive characters, likeable or awkward, seeking happiness, making mistakes and instigating dangerous adventures. An excellent conclusion to this unique series.

Find Legacy on Amazon UK

Read my Review of Tipping Point and An Interview with Lottie

The Bridge of Dead Things by Michael Gallagher #FridayReads #BookReview

Bridge

This Young Adult book is the first story about 13 year-old Lizzie Blaylock, the involuntary Medium. Set in late Victorian London, Lizzie has been fortunate in receiving an education despite the poverty of her family. But this ceases, when a strange fit in the classroom causes teacher, Miss Smutts to expel her. Miss Smutts’ motives are suspect since she arranges employment for Lizzie as a maidservant in a rather odd household. Lizzie’s fit has revealed her special power to allow ghostly manifestations to return from the dead. Soon this gothic novel becomes darker as Lizzie is taken under the wing of Simeon de Florence, who purports to expose false mediums. There is relief from the weird experiences in the humorous characters we meet, such as Miss Otis, the kindly clairvoyant and the obsession with seances by many wealthy Victorians provides an exciting setting. I feel that Lizzie is more like a 20th century heroine in her speech and actions but the Victorian context is vividly described.

You can purchase The Bridge of Dead Things at Amazon UK

Gallagher

Michael Gallagher

Michael Gallagher is the author of two series of novels set in Victorian times. “Send for Octavius Guy” chronicles the attempts of fourteen-year-old Gooseberry—reformed master pickpocket—to become a detective, aided and abetted by his ragtag bunch of friends. “The Involuntary Medium” follows the fortunes of young Lizzie Blaylock, a girl who can materialize the spirits of the dead, as she strives to come to terms with her unique gift.

For twenty-five years Michael taught adults with learning disabilities at Bede, a London-based charity that works with the local community. He now writes full time.

British Bulldog: A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery by Sara Sheridan #BookReview

British

 

1954, Brighton, London and Paris

When Mirabelle receives a bequest from a lately deceased wartime acquaintance she is mystified – she hardly knew the man but it is not long before she realises that he certainly knew her. She is drawn back to re-examine her memories of WWII and is shocked to find that other people’s experiences do not chime with her own and more importantly, with what she knows of her erstwhile lover, Jack Duggan. Following the trail to the threads of what’s left of the resistance movement in Paris, Mirabelle is forced to face secrets she didn’t even know that she had.

This is the 4th Mirabelle Bevan mystery I have read after a gap of several years. From that standpoint it is clear to me that you can enjoy reading British Bulldog without any background knowledge. You will soon discover that Mirabelle is a brave and sometimes foolhardy heroine, determined to get to the truth in her investigations.

Leaving her friends and colleagues in Brighton, Mirabelle travels to Paris to look for Philip Caine, a British serviceman who disappeared in 1944. She is astonished to discover that Philip had worked alongside her deceased lover, Jack Duggan, and that Jack had lied to her about many aspects of his life. From the moment that she approaches one of Philip’s ex-contacts from the Resistance Mirabelle finds herself in danger, but she cannot resist following clues and instigating action. Just when Mirabelle is at her lowest, her close friend Superintendent Alan McGregor arrives in Paris, out of his depth, but prepared to risk everything to save her.

This fast-moving adventure is authentically described in its 1950s context and expresses the confusion and depression felt by many people post-war. Outdated views about the role of women have been challenged during wartime but domesticity is returning to those without Mirabelle’s bold courage. A great adventure which could so easily be transferred to the screen.

British Bulldog can be purchased at Amazon UK

Sara Sheridan

Sara

“History is a treasure chest which contains not only facts and figures, archive material and artefacts but stories. I love the stories.”

Sara Sheridan was born in Edinburgh and studied at Trinity College, Dublin. She works in a wide range of media and genres. Tipped in Company and GQ magazines, she has been nominated for a Young Achiever Award. She has also received a Scottish Library Award and was shortlisted for the Saltire Book Prize. She sits on the committee for the Society of Authors in Scotland (where she lives) and on the board of ’26’ the campaign for the importance of words. She’s taken part in 3 ’26 Treasures’ exhibitions at the V&A, London, The National Museum of Scotland and the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. She occasionally blogs on the Guardian site about her writing life and puts her hand up to being a ‘twitter evangelist’. From time to time she appears on radio, most recently reporting for BBC Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent. Sara is a member of the Historical Writers Association and the Crime Writers Association. A self-confessed ‘word nerd’ her favourite book is ‘Water Music’ by TC Boyle.