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Plucked Highbrow (West Yorkshire)

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The Seventh Commandment
The Seventh Commandment
Price: £7.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Pacy, exciting and, at times, intelligent, 23 July 2017
When the River Tiber starts to flow red, the people of Rome are fascinated and scared. When two individuals find themselves shot at, chased and eventually rescued by the Swiss Guard they realise that something is drastically wrong. Ben Verdyx and Angelina Calla are two of the few experts in the ancient Sumerian language, Akkadian, and a tablet has been found in Rome written in Akkadian and predicting a series of events that will befall the city. As the second and then third predictions come to pass, it seems that the prophecies are true but maybe they are just a cover for something a little more prosaic.

Tom Fox is an expert in Church history and is now hitting his stride as a writer of conspiracy thrillers in the mode of Dan Brown. That is no bad thing as, derided as Brown's work is, they are hugely entertaining, fast-moving stories. Far superior to his first book, Dominus, this story has a couple of engaging leads, a convoluted but clever plot and a real sense of knowledge about Rome, the Catholic Church and ancient civilisations.


The Lying Game
The Lying Game
by Ruth Ware
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect beach read, 20 July 2017
This review is from: The Lying Game (Hardcover)
Isa Wilde receives a text from her long-time friend Kate. 'I need you', and immediately rushes down to the coast to meet Kate and her other close friends. The four of them had been at boarding school together but a series of scandals had led to them being asked to leave. When a body is discovered in the Reach, a local tidal inlet, the past comes back to haunt the friends. They had always promised to be true to each other but Isa becomes more and more convinced that there is more to the events that summer than Kate is willing to admit. If the truth comes out Isa stands to lose her comfortable London life and her baby.

At its best this is a cracking read. Ware certainly knows how to twist a tale and her plotting is pacy. Although I found all the protagonists deeply unlikable people I did enjoy the story and twist was great. I did feel the ending was a little contrived but am willing to forgive that. This is a book written to appeal to the masses and it appears ready for the beach read season - it's a more intelligent option in this genre!


Conflicts of Interest
Conflicts of Interest
by Terry Stiastny
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Perfectly pleasant, 16 July 2017
This review is from: Conflicts of Interest (Paperback)
Lawrence used to be a journalist covering war zones but after his cameraman was shot in the Congo he suffered, divorced, and has virtually retired to France. Martin used to be Lawrence's boss and now runs a successful business which is about to receive a huge investment from the City. Lawrence is asked to work with an NGO and returns to the Congo but has to escape quickly, his daughter drops out of University and his life appears to be going nowhere. Meanwhile Martin is invested in the House of Lords but his relationship with a disgraced French businessman and his affair mean that personally and professionally his life is falling apart.

This is a very gentle tale about some big politics and the role of the media. I found it quite hard-going but that was mainly because there is little action to speak of and I found the characters very hard to like. There are lot of knowledgable insights from journalist Stiastny and the whole thing reeks of authenticity but it was just so slow.


A Thousand Paper Birds
A Thousand Paper Birds
by Tor Udall
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful writing but felt a little too stretched in ideas, 14 July 2017
This review is from: A Thousand Paper Birds (Hardcover)
After the death of his wife, Audrey, Jonah is in consolable. He sits on a bench in Kew Gardens and reflects on their life together as the world passes him by. Chloe is an artist who focuses on origami but her personal life is chaotic and less focused. Milly wanders the gardens at will but seems to have no homeland no family. Harry is passionate about plants and committed to Kew. Audrey seems to be the link between them all but how is her life and death linked to Kew.

For the first half of this book I was entranced by the story of Audrey and Jonah, and the budding romance between Jonah and Chloe. However the story of Audrey, Harry and Milly just didn't seem to fit. Of course as the book went on it was revealed and unfortunately my enjoyment of the book went down. The premise felt a little too fey and forced, the supernatural pushed a little too much. Having said that there is some beautiful writing here, the emotional and sensitive way that loss and grief are dealt with is heartfelt.


Love Me Not: DI Helen Grace 7 (formerly titled Follow My Leader) (Detective Inspector Helen Grace)
Love Me Not: DI Helen Grace 7 (formerly titled Follow My Leader) (Detective Inspector Helen Grace)
by M. J. Arlidge
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding police procedural, 11 July 2017
It is early in the morning and DI Helen Grace is riding through the country roads when she is nearly knocked off her bike by a speeding car. She discovered a woman dying from gunshot wounds and this sets in motion the hunt for a murder. Later that morning a man is shot in his pharmacy and the hunt narrow down to a known petty criminal but when he is found dead Grace knows she has a spree killer on her hands.

I am a great fan of Arlidge's DI Helen Grace series and this latest episode doesn't disappoint. Here there is less about Grace and not much about the backstory as the plot is set over the course of a single day and is both frenetic and beautifully developed. Grace's relationship with her team is explored and the way that mental illness can send an individual over the top is handled delicately. Whilst the plot is sensational, it doesn't feel like that. Whilst this is a police procedural, it is of the highest calibre.


The Wages of Sin
The Wages of Sin
by Kaite Welsh
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

4.0 out of 5 stars A feminist heroine with an interesting backstory, 9 July 2017
This review is from: The Wages of Sin (Hardcover)
Edinburgh in the late 19th Century and Sarah Gilchrist is one of the first female students admitted to Medical School, fighting the prejudices of both students and lecturers alike. However Sarah is also struggling with her past, a sexual assault left her confined to a 'sanitarium' and estranged from her parents who did not believe she was attacked. Sarah is living with her strict Aunt and Uncle, her only freedom being at college or in helping at clinic in a poorer part of town. When a young prostitute is found dead soon after visiting the clinic Sarah is suspicious, particularly as her enquiries seem to lead her back to one of her Professors.

I found this book really enjoyable, Sarah is an engaging character with a fascinating back-story and I hope that is developed in subsequents stories. The 'romance' is a little forced and clunky but the politics are handled perfectly and the prejudices seem real and understood. This is Welsh's first novel and it bodes well for the future, a fresh new voice.


By Blood Divided
By Blood Divided
by James Heneage
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.58

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting setting, exciting story, 8 July 2017
This review is from: By Blood Divided (Hardcover)
Luke Magoris has moved from Mistra to Venice to oversee the Magoris Bank but when he dies in mysterious circumstances his grandson Siward has to take over the ailing bank. The more profitable trading company has been left to Luke's missing grandson, child of Giovanni and the beautiful Cleope, but when it is discovered that he is actually one of the Sultan's chief Janissaries and that the Islamic forces are targeting Constantinople family, honour and the soul of the Roman Empire all combine.

This is the fourth in Heneage's series about the Varangian Guard and the decline and fall of the Roman Empire based in Constantinople. I enjoyed the third book in the series and wanted to read more simply because the setting is unusual. There are many historical novels set in Western Europe covering the 15th/16th centuries, but this is the first that I have read focused on Eastern Europe and war between the Turkish Empire and the remnants of the old Orthodox church. This book has all the elects of a good action novel but with a hefty dose of politics and a little (heavy-handed) romance. Heneage is a strong story-teller and whilst characters are lightly drawn there is enough to make it a deeper book than might otherwise be expected.


The Brazilian
The Brazilian
by Rosie Millard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely poolside cocktail of fun, 5 July 2017
This review is from: The Brazilian (Paperback)
Jane and Patrick have decided to decamp to Ibiza for a summer holiday and some precious 'family time'. However Jane has made sure that neighbour Belle is coming along as an au pair to look after young George. Belle is excited as her boyfriend Jas is going to be in Ibiza so she can spend some time clubbing with him when Jane's demands let her. Meanwhile Jas' boss, contemporary artist Phillip, will also be in Ibiza as part of a celebrity reality show called 'Ibiza (Or Bust)'. As so many residents of The Square descend on the White Isle, scandal is never far from the surface.

Millard's first novel, 'The Square', was a satirical look as the lives of a small sector of society. Here those same characters and social mores are transported to the island of Ibiza, popular with many different cultural groups. The story is frenetic and borders on cliche at times but is irrepressibly energetic and full of knowing fun. This is ideal holiday reading, fun and frothy but with little depth. That's no bad thing as it doesn't pretend to be anything more.


The Lie of the Land
The Lie of the Land
by Amanda Craig
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Could any more be crammed in?, 4 July 2017
This review is from: The Lie of the Land (Hardcover)
Lottie and Quentin Bredin are at a crossroads in their relationship. Quentin has been unfaithful and Lottie wants a divorce but although on paper they appear comfortable, their only major asset is their house in London and bother have recently lost their jobs. Renting out the house and moving to Devon seems to be a compromise but as Lottie gains her independence, Quentin is tied to his dying father. Meanwhile there is the matter of the murder that took place at their rental...

In theory this book shouldn't work at all, Craig has managed to cram in every cliche about modern life into one volume. Racism in the country? Migrant workers from Eastern Europe? Factory food? Infidelity? Child abuse? Murder? The truth about the rural idyll? Even broadband issues get a look in. Yet it works incredibly well simply because Craig is an engaging writer.


Prague Nights
Prague Nights
by Benjamin Black
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Novel setting but little more than that, 1 July 2017
This review is from: Prague Nights (Hardcover)
Winter 1599 and young scholar Christian Stern arrives in Prague. After finding the dead body of a young woman Stern is thrown into jail but swiftly rescued by a man important in the court of Rudolph II. The woman was Rudolph's mistress and Stern is task to find her killer. However in the cold city Stern doesn't know who to trust and the politics of court mean that he could also be in danger.

Benjamin Black is the pen-name of top literary fiction writer John Banville and this book is the start of a new populist series of historical mysteries. The genre is packed and, whilst entertaining enough, this book is nowhere near the best. I did like the setting in Bohemia at the turn of the 17th century, the links to the Elizabethan court and interest in alchemy but I found the characters a little one-dimensional and the plot jumps around a little too much. That's not to say that I wouldn't persevere with the series.


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