The Monastery Murders by E.M. Powell

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BLURB

Their lives are ones of quiet contemplation—and brutal murder.

Christmas Eve, 1176. Brother Maurice, monk of Fairmore Abbey, awaits the night prayer bell. But there is only silence. Cursing his fellow brother Cuthbert’s idleness, he seeks him out—and in the darkness, finds him brutally murdered.

Summoned from London to the isolated monastery on the Yorkshire Moors, Aelred Barling, clerk to the King’s justices, and his messenger Hugo Stanton, set about investigating the horrific crime. They quickly discover that this is far from a quiet monastic house. Instead, it seethes with bitter feuds, rivalries and resentments. But no sooner do they arrive than the killer strikes again—and again.

When Barling discovers a pattern to these atrocities, it becomes apparent that the murderer’s rampage is far from over. With everyone, including the investigators, now fearing for their lives, can Barling and Stanton unmask the culprit before more blood is spilled?

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE | CHAPTERS | INDIEBOUND

REVIEW

As the blurb indicates, our intrepid duo find themselves tasked with solving a murder. This time within the confines of a very secluded, snowed in, Cistercian Monastery. Their task becomes even more grisly – the culprit isn’t finished yet. The tale, as befits a whodunit, is full of suspects, motives, and frustration on the part of Barling and Stanton. The author also paints a vivid picture of the austere, Spartan-like atmosphere of the lives of The White Monks and the harsh existence of the lay laborers. It is certainly a page turning mystery, each new chapter revealing another clue, or in some cases the horrible death of one I thought might be the killer.  🙂 In one of the more poignant moments in the series to date, we are brought face to face with the mysterious past of Aelred Barling, but as Eric Idle said repeatedly, “Say no more.” – no spoilers allowed.   I enjoyed the first book, The King’s Justice, I enjoyed this one even more.  5 stars

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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E.M. Powell’s historical thriller Fifth Knight novels have been #1 Amazon and Bild bestsellers. The King’s Justice is the first novel in her new Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. She is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is the social media manager for the Historical Novel Society.

Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in North-West England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 5 copies of Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

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– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Daughter of War by S.J.A. Turney

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Blurb

An extraordinary story of the Knights Templar, seen from the bloody inside
Europe is aflame. On the Iberian Peninsula the wars of the Reconquista rage across Aragon and Castile. Once again, the Moors are gaining the upper hand. Christendom is divided.
Amidst the chaos comes a young knight: Arnau of Valbona. After his Lord is killed in an act of treachery, Arnau pledges to look after his daughter, whose life is now at risk. But in protecting her Arnau will face terrible challenges, and enter a world of Templars, steely knights and visceral combat he could never have imagined.
She in turn will find a new destiny with the Knights as a daughter of war… Can she survive? And can Arnau find his destiny?
An explosive novel of greed and lust, God and blood, Daughter of War marks the beginning of an epic new series from bestseller S.J.A. Turney. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden and Matt Harffy.

My Review

Since I do a lot of reading & reviewing, and my ‘to be read’ pile keeps growing, I usually read three books concurrently. To avoid confusion the three reads are typically of different eras, subjects, etc, etc. While reading Daughter of War, I was also involved in a book about pre-Norman invasion England, and one about the American Revolution.  All excellent reads, all intense page turning dramas demanding my attention. Usually I split my reading time evenly through the current books, finishing them more or less at the same time. Well, my peeps and fellow travelers, Daughter of War ruined my plan. I found myself unable to switch books despite the fact that I was enjoying the other two, and could not stop turning to the next chapter, finishing this one way ahead of the others. The author has taken a portion of history that is not well known, or recorded, and has fashioned a well crafted tale replete with wonderful characters, and his typical methodical research. Emotionally charged, detail filled, and a splendid look at a time and place in history that kept me enthralled and entertained. I am certainly looking forward to more of Arnau of Valbona.  5 stars

Sailing to Sarantium – The Sarantine Mosaic Book 1 by Guy Gavriel Kay

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I read a lot of fiction, mostly historical-fiction, but also some fantasy/historical-fiction; fiction that takes on the feel of history, events that could have happened, cultures and people that could have existed.  Such is Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay; a work that has the look and feel of a Roman/Byzantine world, but that also carries a look at contemporary issues such as religion and it’s hold on humanity through the ages.  An excellent example of this can be found in a discussion between an architect and the Patriarch concerning the proposed ideas for the dome of a new sanctuary, “Deference becomes you,” said Artibasos, mildly enough. “It might be worth cultivating.  It is customary – except perhaps among clerics – to have opinions preceded by knowledge.” I don’t know about you, my peeps and fellow travelers, but that speaks volumes to current affairs in 2018 America, if not the world.

I read a lot of different authors; a lot of different writing styles and strengths, some who move me with their descriptive abilities, others with the depth of their characters, or their grasp of fine dialogue.  What I have found in my reading of Mr. Kay is an author who moves me with all of those things, but especially the beauty of his narrative; his “way with words”.  I cannot begin to count the number of times I would read a passage, pause, reread, and then pause again to allow the flow of words to both fill me with wonder, and with just a smidgen of jealousy (I too, fancy myself as an author).

Sailing to Sarantium is a complex tale, filled with surprises; with the full range of human emotion, and human experiences – emotions and experiences that can be carried over to modern times – a time of wonder, but also a time of uncertainty. I can hardly wait to read the sequel.  5 Stars  – BTW the chariot race chapter is worth the price of admission.  🙂

Lucia’s Renaissance by C.L.R. Peterson

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A most interesting subject, locale, and time, to say the least. I cannot imagine having to deal with a theocratic rule; a believe what we tell you or suffer the consequences. The protagonist, an inquisitive young girl, finds herself enmeshed in a quandary regarding her faith after reading a book by Luther.  Lucia’s naivete about the Lutheran heresy; her words and actions, brings danger to her and her family, and that makes for a tension filled story line. I enjoyed the portrayal of 16th century Italy, especially Venezia; the sights and sounds, the market, the churches, the canals. The author highlights the fierce determination of the Church to maintain it’s supremacy and it’s stranglehold on the populace.   My only real problem with the tale is a too simplistic approach to dialogue.  Other than that, I can recommend it as a book worth your while.  3.2 stars

 

The Abbey of Death by Steven A. McKay

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Will Scarlett, outlaw, wolf’s head, violently tempered right hand man to Robin Hood, has been pardoned for his many sins and crimes but cannot find peace within.  Donning the robes and tonsured hairstyle, he becomes a monk.  In a wonderful bit of story telling, the author has taken an account of a troublesome group of monks who basically disregarded their vows and ran wild, causing strained relations between the townsfolk and the local abbey.  Brother Scaflock(Scarlett) finds that old habits die hard even as he begins to find some of the peace he’s been seeking.  A tension filled tale worthy of being the final episode in the author’s very fine Robin Hood series, The Forest Lord. 4.3 stars

 

Katharina – Deliverance by Margaret Skea

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One of the things I like about historical-fiction is the way an author can take a subject, be that a place, an event, or in this case a person, and tell a story that is so compellingly real that you think you’re reading a non-fictional account.  That is, in the opinion of this humble, yet moderately astute reviewer, precisely what Margaret Skea has done in Katharina – Deliverance.  Little is known of the woman who became the wife of Martin Luther, but by the time I finished this portion of her story, I felt as if she had sprung out from the pages of history, so fully depicted, so fully a part of that time.  As for the historical bits of this early period of Luther’s reformation, I have to admit to a certain ignorance.  Of course, I knew the basics and was aware of the incredible repercussions that resulted, but I was somewhat unaware of the schisms among the reformers, though certainly not surprised.  What the author has done is to skillfully blend the fiction with the fact, and like a good medieval tapestry weaver, leaves no trace of the seams between the two.  4.8 stars  Note: the sequel is expected in 2018, and is already on my ‘to be read list.’

Imperator, Deus by John R. Prann, Jr.

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A well written account of Constantine and his rise to become the sole Emperor of Rome.  It is also the story of his involvement in the Arian controversy that culminated in the writing of The Nicene Creed.  The author’s presentation of the debates over the true nature of Jesus are as enlightening as they are entertaining.  I came away with the sense that, yes, this is how they could have happened.  The descriptions of the main characters taking part; the atmosphere surrounding the, at times tumultuous, gatherings; the drama between Constantine and the opposing factions, are all factors in making this a nice page turning work.  In addition, the author’s rendering of the military campaigns of Constantine are nicely detailed events punctuated with scenes of bravery, cunning, and the camaraderie of Constantine’s personal guard.  All in all, a well researched and produced story.  One that gives the reader a chance to look back at these defining historical moments and ponder the significance of Constantine, and the future effects of the creed, and the empowering of the church.  4.3 stars