The Year of the Snake by M.J. Trow & Maryanne Coleman

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A murder mystery set during the enlightened reign of Nero (well, maybe not enlightened, more of a spoiled kid playing with power). An aged Senator, Gaius Nerva dies suddenly and it is assumed it was a natural death, but his devoted steward/slave Calidus thinks otherwise and embarks on an investigation. This search for the murderer leads in many directions including to the Imperial Court.  A cleverly concocted set of circumstances reveals many suspects and motives. Calidus, now a freedman, is persistent despite a lack of results, and an increasingly dangerous situation. The authors kept me engaged throughout this many faceted who done it including a look at Nero and the strange relationship he has with his mother, Agrippina; an interesting subplot to this enjoyable look at what Rome was like during this rather bizarre period of history. The characters, from the upper echelons of Roman society to the seedy underworld of the delightful cut purse thief, Piso are brought out in exquisite detail. The conclusion of the investigation and the resulting revelations is a top notch bit of creativity, though I will not say more about that.  🙂  4 stars

 

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Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton

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BLURB: A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.

In present-day London, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.

Bone Lines is the story of two women, separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life.  A tale of love and survival – of courage and the quest for wisdom – it explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.

Although partly set during a crucial era of human history 74,000 years ago, Bones Lines is very much a book for our times. Dealing with themes from genetics, climate change and migration to the yearning for meaning and the clash between faith and reason, it also paints an intimate portrait of who we are as a species. The book tackles some of the big questions but requires no special knowledge of any of the subjects to enjoy.

Alternating between ancient and modern timelines, the story unfolds through the experiences of two unique characters:  One is a shaman, the sole surviving adult of her tribe who is braving a hazardous journey of migration, the other a dedicated scientist living a comfortable if troubled existence in London, who is on her own mission of discovery. 

The two are connected not only by a set of archaic remains but by a sense of destiny – and their desire to shape it. Both are pioneers, women of passion, grit and determination, although their day to day lives could not be more different. One lives moment by moment, drawing on every scrap of courage and ingenuity to keep herself and her infant daughter alive, while the other is absorbed by work, imagination and regret. Each is isolated and facing her own mortal dangers and heart-rending decisions, but each is inspired by the power of the life force and driven by love. 

Bone Lines stands alone as a novel but also marks the beginning of the intended ‘Children of Sarah’ series.

REVIEW

Anthropology has always fascinated me. During the early 1970’s  when I was in college, I focused on two subjects – ancient history and physical anthropology, so I was immediately drawn to the subject matter in Bone Lines. The finding of Sarah and the speculation that she might have been migrating back to Africa because of a natural occurring climate change event is the focal point of Bone Lines and really caught my interest (I surprised myself in that I actually understood the scientific portions of the tale after all these years – a testament to the descriptive ability of the author). It is a very well thought out tale full of surprises while at the same time giving the reader some interesting ideas and thoughts to ponder. I especially enjoyed Eloise’s letters to Charles Darwin – lots of soul searching and mind expanding going on in those. All in all, an enjoyable read featuring two strong female protagonists; a speculative look at life on earth 74,000 years ago – an earth in the throes of a volcanic winter; and the emotional/mental turmoil of a gifted but troubled scientist.

5 stars

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Who do you think you are? A daunting question for the debut author… but also one to inspire a genre-fluid novel based on the writer’s fascination for what makes humanity tick. Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast

Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.

Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)

 

Website: http://www.stephaniebretherton.com/

Twitter : @BrethertonWords

Instagram: @brethertonwords2

 

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Roma Nova Boxed Set – Books I-III by Alison Morton

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Before the collapse of the Western Empire and the Ottoman victory in the East, a group of Romans comprising twelve of the oldest families leave Rome and setup a new country in the region between Italy and Austria, Roma-Nova and it has survived into the 21st century. The three books in this set chronicle the story of Carina Mitela who is living an unassuming life as an office cubicle worker in the U.S. when she is suddenly thrust into a maelstrom of danger and intrigue. This story has elements of history, romance, international and political intrigue, rogue/shadowy covert agencies, a coming of age/coming to grips with the reality of who you are, a really nasty bad guy; a wealth of plots to keep you entertained. The action is plentiful, the emotions are highly charged and the characters are full of life.  All three are page turning, sleep depriving delights to read. 5 stars

 

The Cardinal’s Court by Cora Harrison

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When Hugh Mac Egan’s client is implicated in a murder…a murder that happened while the King, Henry VIII, was in residence at Cardinal Wolsey’s Hampton Court, he has to use all of his wiles to prove him innocent or watch him hang(or worse). The Cardinal’s Court is a wonderfully crafted whodunit, plenty of suspects to choose from, plenty of motives, and plenty of shenanigans designed to foil Hugh’s progress. The author has given the reader a fascinating look into the court intrigues, the political maneuverings, the nuances of Irish versus English law, and the daily routines that enable Hampton Court to function.  An enjoyable read awaits you, my peeps and fellow travelers, along with a tantalizing mystery to solve.  4 stars

The Devil’s Wind – A Spider John Mystery by Steve Goble

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A cracking follow up to The Bloody Black Flag, The Devil’s Wind is an entertaining mystery guaranteed to have you scratching your heads, along with Spider John as he tries to unravel a murder on board the merchant vessel, Redemption. Having given up the hazards of piracy, Spider John is heading home to Boston after joining a merchant convoy escorted by the British Navy. What should be a routine voyage turns out to be anything but as the Captain of Redemption is found dead in his cabin seemingly self-inflicted, but nagging circumstances have Spider John looking for a murderer.

The author has crafted an intriguing tale complete with a bevy of interesting characters, plentiful twists and turns, and page turning drama. The list of suspects is long; each with a plausible motive, and it takes all of Spider John’s abilities to finally piece the mystery together…all the while on constant alert for pirates. All in all, a cracking read – one that ends, or rather, doesn’t. Methinks there will be more of Spider John.  🙂  4 stars

Nothing is Forgotten by Peter Golden

 

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From the beloved author of Comeback Love and Wherever There Is Light, comes a novel about the life-changing journey of a young man who travels from New Jersey to Khrushchev’s Russia and the beaches of Southern France as he finds love and discovers the long-hidden secrets about his heritage.

In 1950s New Jersey, Michael Daniels launches a radio show in the storage room of his Russian-Jewish grandmother’s candy store. Not only does the show become a local hit because of his running satires of USSR leader Nikita Khrushchev, but half a world away, it picks up listeners in a small Soviet city.

There, with rock and roll leaking in through bootlegged airwaves, Yulianna Kosoy—a war orphan in her mid-twenties—is sneaking American goods into the country with her boss, Der Schmuggler.

But just as Michael’s radio show is taking off, his grandmother is murdered in the candy store. Why anyone would commit such an atrocity against such a warm, affable woman is anyone’s guess. But she had always been secretive about her past and, as Michael discovers, guarded a shadowy ancestral history. In order to solve the mystery of who killed her, Michael sets out to Europe to learn where he—and his grandmother—really came from.

Featuring Peter Golden’s signature “vivid characters and strong storytelling” (The Washington Post), Nothing Is Forgotten changes our understanding of the impact of World War II on its survivors and their descendants, and will appeal to fans of novels by Anita Diamant and Kristin Hannah.

REVIEW

What originally drew me to this book is the time it takes place. I grew up during the Cold War as does the protagonist in Nothing is Forgotten. As I started reading it I soon realized that this was more than just a coming of age tale, though there is that element to it. Instead what I found is a captivating, and well crafted mystery/romance/spy vs spy story as Michael/Misha delves into his family’s past. The author delivers a plot with many turns and unexpected developments that certainly make this a  page turning delight to read. The characters are believable, the backstory historical events are gut wrenching, the description of the places involved pull the reader in – all in all a very enjoyable foray into the not too distant past.   5 stars

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Peter Golden is an award-winning journalist, novelist, biographer, and historian. He lives outside Albany, New York, with his wife and son. He is the acclaimed author of the novels Comeback Love, Wherever There Is Light, and Nothing Is Forgotten.

For more information, please visit Peter Golden’s website. You can also connect with him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

 

The King’s Justice by E.M. Powell

 

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A murder that defies logic—and a killer on the loose.

England, 1176. Aelred Barling, esteemed clerk to the justices of King Henry II, is dispatched from the royal court with his young assistant, Hugo Stanton, to investigate a brutal murder in a village outside York.

The case appears straightforward. A suspect is under lock and key in the local prison, and the angry villagers are demanding swift justice. But when more bodies are discovered, certainty turns to doubt—and amid the chaos it becomes clear that nobody is above suspicion.

Facing growing unrest in the village and the fury of the lord of the manor, Stanton and Barling find themselves drawn into a mystery that defies logic, pursuing a killer who evades capture at every turn.

Can they solve the riddle of who is preying upon the villagers? And can they do it without becoming prey themselves?

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE | INDIEBOUND

 

MY REVIEW

Aelred Barling, an upright, by the book member of Henry II’s traveling court, and Hugo Stanton, a slovenly messenger for the court are sent to a nearby village to investigate a murder. What should have been a rather routine case to adjudicate turns out to be a bit more complicated. All facts point to one man as the culprit, but circumstances and events push Barling and Stanton to their limits in what becomes a dangerous situation. The author has put together an intriguing mystery with many twists and turns shrouding the perpetrator of the crimes while shining the light of accusation on others. It takes all of Barling’s knowledge and experience to keep control of a volatile situation, relying on his increasingly reliable assistant to piece together the ever changing puzzle. I found myself scratching my head as the story moved from one murder to the next, from one suspect to the next. As well as providing clues to the mystery throughout the book, the author portrays village life in stunning fashion, giving glimpses of the everyday look and feel of the master’s hall, the forge of a blacksmith, the urine stench of the fuller’s shed. I particularly enjoyed the growing bond between Barling and Stanton and am certainly looking forward to reading more of their adventures. 4 stars

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About the Author

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.

Find out more by visiting www.empowell.com. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

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