The Witch at Wayside Cross by Lisa Tuttle – a review by Jeanette Greaves

Wayside WitchThe Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross is the second book in the Jesperson and Lane detective series. You don’t have to have read the first book (The Curious Affair of the Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief) to follow the plot, but as I really enjoyed it, I would recommend that you catch up if you can.

The Witch at Wayside Cross starts less than a day after the previous book finished. Fresh from their success in solving their first case, Jesperson and Lane are plunged into their second by the arrival of a dying man on their doorstep. As he dies, he points his finger at our Miss Lane, and cries ‘Witch’.

Naturally, this stirs their curiosity, and a quick search of the body before the police arrive gives our detectives enough information to approach the next of kin. The deceased proves to be Mr Charles Manning, a resident of London who has recently spent a lot of time in Norfolk. Our heroes are swiftly hired by Manning’s older brother to investigate the cause of Charles’ mysterious death.

So, Jesperson and Lane venture to Norfolk, and in the guise of business partners in a start up publishing business, they infiltrate Charles Manning’s overlapping social circles and investigate the how and why of a healthy young man’s death. Whilst Mr Jesperson concentrates on Manning’s male acquaintances, Miss Lane draws a great deal of information from the ladies of the vicarage, where Manning lodged, and the neighbouring household of Wayside Cross, where three sisters are in mourning for him.

We’re introduced to a colourful cast of characters, a pet raven, Shrieking Pits, a stolen infant and a stolen book, and an attempt to revive the old religion of Britain. One of the interesting themes of the book is the repeated assertion that marriage brings an end to a woman’s career. The story is set in 1893, at at time when the UK labour movement was gaining a strong foothold but women still didn’t have the vote. Miss Lane’s professional need to communicate with her business partner is thwarted by her landlady’s suspicions that the relationship is more than it seems. The maid at the vicarage has to conceal a birth in order to keep her job. Both facts serve to remind us that these are times in which a young woman can be ‘ruined’ by a man. The social history and commentary is woven into a fast paced story that does not disappoint, with a satisfying ending.

 

I am grateful to Jo Fletcher books for the review copy.

The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross is available now.

You can find my review of The Curious Affair of the Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief here.

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Corpselight by Angela Slatter – a review by Jeanette Greaves

Corpselight – Verity Fassbinder book 2Corpselight

‘Corpselight’ is the second book in the Verity Fassbinder trilogy, and the sequel to ‘Vigil.’

The first thing I want to know about sequels is ‘Should I read the first book before I start this?’. In this case, the answer is ‘Yes, definitely’. Whilst there is some recapping of our hero’s history, it’s not in depth. There is so much character development and continuation of previous plot lines that it would be a pity to have not read ‘Vigil’ before starting ‘Corpselight’.

Fassbinder is one of a select group of people who are aware of the presence of supernatural beings in Brisbane, they are tasked with keeping the peace to protect both the human and the non-human (Weyrd) population. Her role is a very particular one, as a half blood, she lives in the human world, and that of the Weyrd, and has very useful connections in both. She’s basically a gumshoe detective with extra powers. She’s got a dark back story, a long to-do list, and super strength. Well, she HAD super strength back in Vigil territory. In this second book, she starts the story heavily pregnant, and her only supernatural power is a very sensitive sense of smell. Her sense of humour and instinctive aggression haven’t changed though.

This sequel follows the same structure as the first book, with Verity charged with solving several crimes against or by the Weyrd, and trying to do her job whilst protecting those that she loves. In this book, at first those are her boyfriend, then her newborn baby, then she acquires even more family members to worry about. The theme of motherhood is very strong, and is entwined with the underlying series theme of murdered children and the culpability of their killers.

We get a lot more of Verity’s back story in ‘Corpselight’, and most of it is revealed to us at the same time that it’s revealed to Verity. Those revelations have direct and interesting consequences for most of the characters in the book.

‘Corpselight’ definitely has the feel of a middle book, and I look forward to being hurled into the third book and the conclusion of this enjoyable series.

Thank you to the team at Jo Fletcher Books for the review copy.

Vigil is available in July 2017, from Jo Fletcher Books.

Angela Slatter (www.angelaslatter.com)

Jo Fletcher Books (www.jofletcherbooks.com)

The blog tour continues. 

CorpselightBlog

 

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Corpselight by Angela Slatter – the blog tour.

CorpselightBlog

 

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The Adversaries by David Hair – A review by Jeanette Greaves

theadversariesThe Return of Ravana by David Hair

Book 2 – The Adversaries

Disclaimer – this book was sent as a review copy by the publishers.

Followers of fantasy writer David Hair will already be aware of his ‘Return of Ravana’ timeslip trilogy, written for a young adult audience. This version of the second book (formerly known as ‘The Ghost Bride’) has been updated and revised for the UK re-release. This review contains spoilers for the first story in the series, The Pyre.

Our heroes are the reincarnated souls of characters who have been reliving the same story for hundreds of years. The first book told how the Magician King Ravana sought to achieve godhood in a ghastly ritual which was thwarted by our heroes in the distant past. In an intertwining story, set in the present day, a group of teenagers are thrown together by fate and realise that they are linked by forces beyond their control, and have to fight for their lives as Ravana returns to claim what he believes is his.

In the second book, the historical action moves several centuries ahead to the time of the warrior prince Prithviraj Chauhan and his loyal court poet Chand Bardai. As the action starts, Chand is aware of his past life, and of how he must prepare for the challenges ahead. The souls that we first met in ‘The Pyre’ re-appear, drawn together by fate and the machinations of Ravindra.

Meanwhile, back in the future, having barely survived his defeat at the hands of our heroes, Ravindra plots his return and his revenge. A young Bollywood actress announces that she will give her hand in marriage to the winner of a new reality TV show, Swayamvara Live, where young men will compete for her favour. Vikram, the reincarnated soul of the poet warrior, steps forward and joins the competition, recognising in the young actress the soul of the woman who has been part of his many lives through the centuries.

The stage is now set for a fast paced and enjoyable tale of love, friendship, jealousy and revenge, spanning two time periods. Vikram must draw upon his past life skills and memories, and the strengths of his friends, to battle Ravindra and save them all.

As with the first book, I found The Adversaries to be a good, gripping read which kept me engaged and interested. I would definitely recommend that readers acquaint themselves with The Pyre before reading The Adversaries, but readers who liked The Pyre would probably enjoy the sequel.

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Vigil by Angela Slatter, a review by Jeanette Greaves

The Vigil blog tour continues:- Vigil

First impressions – this book was great fun to read. It starts with the fallout from a fight between a trans-dimensional monster and a half-supernatural / half-human woman, and it ends with favours being called in from an angel who looks like he should be playing lead guitar in an indie band.

Did I love it? Yes. Do I want more? Definitely.

There’s something about this book that reminds me of Pratchett’s Discworld. Partly it’s the deadpan humour, partly it’s the multi-species dramatis personae. Slatter introduces a cast of characters drawn from many races. Some are hybrids, including our heroine Verity Fassbinder.  The various races have complicated relationships, and there’s no shortage of race supremacists of several flavours to add to the pot and simultaneously give it a good stirring.

Fassbinder is one of a select group of people who are aware of the presence of supernatural beings in Brisbane, they are tasked with keeping the peace to protect both the human and the non-human (Weyrd)population. Her role is a very particular one, she lives in the human world, and that of the Weyrd, and has very useful connections in both. She’s basically a gumshoe detective with extra powers. She’s got a dark back story, a long to-do list, and super strength. She also has a massive sense of responsibility, and an inbuilt need to protect the weak, especially her loved ones. Her loved ones include a new boyfriend, who is cute, nearly as smart as Verity, and a hostage to fortune in a malevolent world.

As I mentioned before, there is a lot of back story in this novel, the reader is pushed straight into the deep end, and is expected to doggy paddle around, grabbing clues as to who Verity and her friends are, and why they do what they do. Don’t worry, it’s not all that complicated, and there’s something very refreshing about not being a spoon fed reader. On the other hand, I do really, really want to read some of that back story at some time, because her ex boyfriend (and current colleague) is a ridiculously handsome near immortal who goes by the nickname ‘Bela’. Also, there are hints at past cases that sound like they’d be fun to read about.

If you’re looking for literary fiction, this isn’t the book for you. If you’re looking for a great romp with a strong, stroppy, multi-tasking protagonist, some seriously creepy villains, and a plot that charges around, under and over Brisbane at high speed, this is the book for you.

Thank you to the team at Jo Fletcher Books for the review copy, and the opportunity to be part of the blog tour for this hugely entertaining novel.

Vigil is available now, from Jo Fletcher Books.

Angela Slatter (www.angelaslatter.com)

Jo Fletcher Books (www.jofletcherbooks.com)

 

Next stop for the blog tour:-  parmenionbooks@wordpress.com (Wed 20th July)

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‘Vigil’ by Angela Slatter – blog tour coming soon.

I read a book and I liked it. Find out why on July 19th.

Blog tour poster

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Everything Lost in Flash Flood 2016

My flash fiction ‘Everything Lost’ was published in this year’s FlashFlood online event.

I hope you enjoy it.

 

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The Museum of You by Carys Bray – a review by Jeanette Greaves

First of all, I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy of this book by the publisher. If you’ve read my review Museum of Youof her first novel (A Song For Issy Bradley), you’d probably guess that I would have bought it anyway. Still, that’s the formalities out of the way.

The story of Clover and her dad Darren, (and Clover’s mum Becky, who isn’t around any more), is my feel good book of the summer. Yes, Carys Bray has done it again, she’s taken a story of loss, grief and miscommunication and turned it into a celebration of love, friendship and community.

As I said in my review of ‘A Song For Issy Bradley’, Carys Bray’s work gets under my skin. She writes about families, the kind of family we all know, or are part of, and she writes with absolute, unmerciful, unswerving truth. But this isn’t misery lit, it’s a view of real life from the point of view of someone who knows how to love and what it means to grieve.

Darren and his twelve year old daughter Clover have avoided each other’s pain since before Clover can remember. Every day, they find three things to be happy about, and formally celebrate them. It’s important to be happy, and to make sure that the people that you love are happy. But it’s hard work, and when you have other people to care for (like Darren’s widowed dad and Clover’s damaged and vulnerable uncle,) sometimes it’s difficult to make time to be happy, and to take things forward.

Their journey towards a greater understanding of each other takes place during the school summer holidays. Clover has been on a museum trip or two, and has met a museum curator who impressed her greatly. Clover wants to create and curate a museum, and luckily for her, there is a treasure trove of potential exhibits in the spare room, all the stuff about her mum that her dad has never had the energy or the will to sort out. Her exhibition is going to be a surprise, and it’s also going to help her find out more about her mum.

Darren and his twelve year old daughter Clover are beautifully drawn and very believable. They don’t feel like fictional characters, they feel like the people next door, with all their flaws and hopes and dreams. Even with the book read and shelved, they’re still with me, and I’m wondering what they’re up to now. It’s not just the father and daughter that I want to hear more about, because every character in this book deserves a novel of their own.

Loved it!

‘Museum of You’ is out now, published by Hutchinson and available in hard cover, Kindle and ebook formats.

 

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The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief by Lisa Tuttle – a review by Jeanette Greaves

somnambulistI’ll put my cards on the table right away. I’m a big fan of Lisa Tuttle, I got hooked on her short stories when I was a young woman in my twenties. I’d happily spend a month’s disposable income on one of her paperbacks. I love her science fiction and fantasy books, and have tried to keep up to date with her work over the years, as she’s explored many aspects of genre fiction. I did not expect her to launch a series of detective stories, but with ‘The Curious Affair of the Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief’, that’s exactly what she has done. As a fan, I would have bought this book anyway, but was lucky enough to receive a review copy from her publisher.

Detective fiction is absolutely not my genre. I read my way through a whole pile of Poirot, Miss Marple, Ellary Queen and Sherlock Holmes books in my teenage years, and have never been tempted to repeat the experience. The whole genre seems to hang upon the puzzle of figuring out who dunnit, and sometimes, what was done. Obviously there are many millions of people out there who absolutely love that, but it’s not for me. I kinda like to see a spaceship, or a big disaster, or at the very least some kind of supernatural happening.

So … thanks are due to Ms Tuttle for producing a detective story with a decidedly supernatural theme. I think that most readers will figure out very quickly ‘who dunnit’, but the questions of ‘what they did’ and how our heroes are going to stop it happening, are intriguing enough to make this book a real page turner. The book is set in the period of Sherlock Holmes, and there are several nods in the direction of Mr Conan Doyle. It’s also set firmly in the world of spiritualists, and their attendant cynics and would be debunkers. Our very own heroine is of a decidedly sensible bent, but she has much to discover about herself.

The book introduces a set of characters who I hope will continue through the series. The detectives of the piece are Miss Lane and Mr Jesperson. Miss Lane is a heroine for the ages, a truly independent woman with principles, curiosity, and a vast store of cynical common sense. She has found herself unemployed, homeless and penniless, because of her strong principles; but within the space of a few chapters she acquires a new role, as the professional partner of Mr Jesperson, a young man of huge talent and even huger self belief. The pair are perfect foils for each other, and whilst their fondness for each other grows throughout the book, this is a perfectly platonic and respectable relationship. It has to be, as Lane and Jesperson are living under the same roof as the wonderful Mrs Jesperson. She is the hero’s mother, and a woman almost magically capable of managing a respectable middle class existence on a very small income indeed. The fourth character, who I fervently hope will appear in future novels, is Miss Fox, the erstwhile employer of Miss Lane. I have to admit, I have a real soft spot for Miss Fox, who manages to be simultaneously fascinating and very annoying.

The book is beautifully written, I enjoyed the simple, flowing style which is the mark of a master at work. It’s also very well researched, and served as a taster for an internet trip of my own into the history of mediums in Victorian Britain.

If you like a good tale well told, or if you like a strong female protagonist, or if you’d like to get in on the ground floor of what is set to be one of the most entertaining detective series of the decade … read this book. 

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Bonfire ’68

Bonfire ’68

Bonfire Night isn’t what it used to be. These days it’s all about the fireworks, and who has the most, the best, the noisiest. The fires themselves are tamed, organised, run by the local authority or a worthy charity. Back in the late sixties, there was a bonfire in every third or fourth back garden. The rich kids had a box of garden fireworks, the poor kids had a packet of sparklers, but it wasn’t about the bangers, the rockets, the catherine wheels and the roman candles, it was about the fire, and what was on it.

Every bonfire was a local history goldmine, piled high with the year’s debris. Back then, few people had cars, and the local tip wasn’t all that accessible. The dustmen only took what fitted in the bins. If you had something to get rid of, it got fly tipped, or it went on the fire.

In ’68, my family were invited to a ‘big bonfire’, hosted by my auntie’s neighbour. Mum made great slabs of bonfire toffee, and my sister and I made toffee apples. We were promised a big bonfire, sparklers, and maybe even some fireworks. In the days leading up to Bonfire Night, I joined the local kids in dragging a Guy around the houses, begging for a penny. Where that Guy ended up, I don’t know, he went to another bonfire, another fate.

I faced the party with a queer mixture of excitement and dread, the TV seemed to be constantly showing stories about children killed or maimed by fireworks, and I took them all to heart.

We arrived early, with the toffee apples and the bonfire toffee, mum had offered to help with the jacket potatoes. Mugs and glasses had been begged and borrowed from the neighbours, and bright bottles of pop stood on the window ledge, cherryade, limeade and Tizer.

The bonfire was yet unlit, and in the late afternoon gloom, I went to inspect it. There was a broken ladder, one side split, the lower rungs rotten, the feet black with leaf mould. There was a box of paper, I reached in and took a sheet, it was boring stuff, lists of figures, pounds, shillings and pence. Stuffed deeper inside was a flash of pink, I bent and rummaged through the bits of cardboard and tatty wooden toy blocks and found treasure, a love letter, years old. I folded it, and put it in my pocket, feeling a romantic urge to save the passionate fire of those long spent words from the flames. Higher up, a flutter of white caught my attention. A baby jacket, it looked new, hand knitted, the tiniest size. I frowned at the waste, but couldn’t quite reach it to retrieve it. I stepped back, taking in the prevalent colour of the bonfire, a deep, rich blue, mostly made up of old carpet cut into shreds, and two moquette armchairs, long past their best.

A hand on my shoulder made me jump, it was the lady of the house, she managed a smile. “Be careful, all that stuff might fall on you. It’s not a good place to be playing. Come on now, come back to the house, we’ve got some parkin fresh from the oven, let’s eat it while it’s warm. Your cousin is going to light the bonfire for me once it goes dark.”

I remembered then, the lady lived alone, something sad had happened, I wasn’t quite sure what.

Darkness came fast, and the clouds that had been threatening all day cleared away, blown by a fresh breeze. It was going to be a dry, cold, Bonfire night, the best kind. Sparklers lit, we kids gathered round the fire, watching my cousin light a long taper of twisted newspaper, and thrust it into the heart of the bonfire. It sputtered, and died. He tried again, to laughter from the older men. He was blushing, messing up this rite of passage from child to man, fumbling this offered opportunity. With the next taper, he blew on it before he thrust it into the dark depths. He held it there, waiting for a bundle of cardboard to ignite. At last, as the taper burned towards his hand, the cardboard started to glow, then to burn, flames licking up eagerly, fanned by the new breeze, reaching upwards towards the timber of the old chair.

Within minutes, the noise was overwhelming, the crackle of wood, the crashes as the bonfire collapsed in on itself, the sudden bang as the Guy’s balloon head exploded. The smoke blew into my face, and suddenly it wasn’t fun any more, the carpet was smouldering unpleasantly, and I retreated into the house.

I’d not been there before, but it was the mirror image of my auntie’s house, and was comfortably familiar in its layout. The kitchen was crammed with grownups watching the fire in comfort, through the window, chatting to each other. I couldn’t see the lady of the house. I walked into the front room, and on impulse went up the stairs, standing at the landing window, watching as fires and fireworks lit up the evening. I could see dozens … hundreds … of fires all around town. A year’s worth of discards was on fire, and the smoke was already thickening.

There was a small box on the landing window ledge, ebony and silver, with a clever little latch. I knew it wasn’t mine, and wasn’t my business, but the familiarity of the house, the way it felt just like my auntie’s place, lulled me into a sense of belonging, and I reached out to touch it.

‘Please. Don’t touch that.’ The voice came from right behind me, I jumped, and knocked the box onto the floor, where it fell open. White dust spilled out. I stepped back, narrowly avoiding it, and ran downstairs.

I carried on running, out of the back door, stumbling, almost falling into the fire, running past my auntie’s place, back home, to a locked, dark house. Fires burned all through the town, and the smell of ashes haunted me.

2012

Jeanette Greaves

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