Recent Events

Saturday, 24 June 2017

'The Cardinal's Court by Cora Harrison

Published by The History Press,
24 April 2017.  
ISBN 978-0-7509-6839-3

Hilary Mantell isn't the only one to write about Anne Boleyn - here is a fascinating story about Anne’s earlier life as lady in waiting to Queen Catherine at the English Court.  The book is set in 1522 with the action almost all happening at Hampton Court.  Hugh Mac Egan is an Irish lawyer whose task is to draw up a marriage contract between James Butler, son of his employer, an Irish Earl, and Anne Boleyn thus solving an inheritance dispute.  Unfortunately, the lady has fallen in love with Harry Percy, son of the Earl of Northumberland.  

A member of the Cardinal's staff is found dead in the Great Hall and an arrow has fallen from his body.   Both Percy and Anne say that they saw the arrow fired by James Butler and that it was a real arrow unlike the imitation arrows that were being fired during a pageant by Butler and others.

Hugh must defend James from an accusation of murder punishable by execution.  Hugh tells us that under Irish law a large fine would be levied on the murderer to be paid to the victim’s family.

Hugh must exonerate his patron's heir by discovering what happened and who the murderer was.  This is no easy process complicated by the machinations of various courtiers and the unpleasant behaviour of the murdered man as a blackmailer.   Further deaths happen.  We get a fascinating picture of the way the Cardinal's Court worked and in particular, of the delicious food served at his banquets.

A most enjoyable historical crime novel.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
Cora Harrison has written extensively for children and has the lengthy series of  Burren Mysteries set in 16th century Ireland.
Cora Harrison was born in Cobh, County Cork, Ireland, but lived in Cork city for most of her life until she was twenty-one. While her children were growing up, she became a primary school teacher and loved teaching. Although she enjoyed teaching she enjoys writing stories even more. It still gives her a thrill to see her books in the shops!

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

'Family Concerns' by Stuart Fifield

Published by The Book Guild,
28 April 2017.  
ISBN 978-1-911320-50-0
I thought this was an unusual book.  I had not read the preceding adventures of the group in Lucca but I now feel they would be interesting.  The book is from multiple viewpoints as the author looks at individual stories of the members of this group and their dependants and at the practical benevolence of the Contessa di Capezzani- Botelli and her son, Luigi.    

To retrace the development of the tale - the Contessa runs an amateur group that does musical performances in Lucca.  The group is the Chamber Opera Group of Lucca (COGOL) and it has as some of its members a diva, Renata di Sena, Juliette Canmore, suffering a midlife crisis, Amilcare Luchetti  and his wife, Tito Viele whose wife has had a serious brain injury and whose memory is badly affected and Ricardo Fossi who is dealing with people very much on the wrong side of the law.  The experiences of these and other people forms the material of the book with the kindness of the Contessa as the centre of action.

In crime terms the newly promoted policeman, Inspector Conti, is trying to discover the man who has attacked and killed several women; his computer-savvy sergeant Pascoli, offers aid that the Inspector is initially reluctant to accept.  The criminal element is just part of a rich tapestry of characters and events.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
This is the third adventure for the Contessa in Lucca.

Stuart Fifield was born in Islington, North London and spent his early years in Uganda and Kenya, where his father was a Civil Servant. Following Kenyan Independence, he moved with the rest of his family first to the Seychelles, and then to Australia and, finally, to South Africa where Stuart finished his education and obtained a Master of Music degree from the South African College of Music, University of Cape Town. He followed a career as a concert soloist in oratorio and opera, singing baritone repertoire, as well as studying both piano and the clarinet. Today he is the Musical Director of the East Grinstead Concert Band and plays euphonium in the Wadhurst Brass Band. Returning to the United Kingdom from Cape Town in 1990, he established and developed, as co-owner, a successful interior design consultancy in Kent. He then went on to become a web page designer, before qualifying as a Music teacher. During his teaching career, he taught several other subjects, including English, History and Drama. In addition, he was actively involved in teaching pupils who had English as a foreign language, as well as pupils with learning difficulties. He lives with his partner and two Burmese cats in East Sussex and is fortunate enough to be able to divide his time between writing, performing and travelling. Stuart is a regular visitor to Italy and to Egypt.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

‘The Deepest Grave’ by Harry Bingham

Published by Orion,
15 June 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-4091-5279-8 (PB)

The maverick cop is a staple of crime fiction, but once in a while the avid reader comes across a protagonist who takes the description to a whole new level. Detective Sergeant Fiona Griffiths of the South Wales Police goes even further; she's a loner (though growing less so as the series progresses), a disciplinary nightmare (and growing more so, ditto) and often a danger to herself, but she's so brilliant and so successful that senior officers who can't work with her get themselves transferred so she can stay with Major Crime and solve the tricky cases.

The Deepest Grave is her sixth adventure (a word Fiona also takes to a whole new level), and the case is so complex and bizarre that author Harry Bingham almost has to apologize in a note at the end. Only almost; he explains his reasoning, and I for one was completely convinced.

Whether or not you'll be convinced by Fiona depends on your view of crime fiction. If you like the gritty, down-to-earth, every-day-on-the-streets kind: the Chandleresque model, as Bingham describes it – well, there's a certain amount of that. But her real appeal is probably to the Sherlock Holmes school of fandom: unlikely plots with plenty of twists and turns and off-the-wall happenings, and an investigation which follows a path for which only Fiona has a map, and owes nothing to either convention or procedure.

In Fiona's cases, there's a body round every corner, a surprise every fifty pages or so, and half-clues dropped liked confetti for the reader to pick up and tuck away for later. Fiona herself is a one-off to beat all one-offs, and gathers around herself an unlikely crew of allies: in this case a PhD student with motor neurone disease, a gun-toting Welsh vicar and his dog, a verbose church librarian and a group of archaeologists. Oh, and her dad, possibly Wales's most notorious unconvicted master criminal. The boss who appreciates her unique qualities is away, and she falls foul of a detective inspector who plays very much by the rules; at once point I wondered if she was about to decamp to Oxford to escape his rod of iron.

And the crime? To describe it would give too much away. Suffice to say it starts with a murder involving a sword, three spears and an ancient box with a distinctive design. There's burglary, a hostage situation, forgery of a very specialized kind, and a lot of action which requires swift travel from one part of the UK to another to get there before the bad guys. Fortunately Fiona drives very fast indeed.

Immersing myself in one of Fiona's cases is like visiting another world. It's not always comfortable, but it's invariably utterly amazing. As Harry Bingham says himself, you never know quite where the story will end up. And that, surely, is the true meaning of mystery.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Harry Bingham is the author of the Fiona Griffiths series of crime novels, set in Cardiff and featuring a heroine described by the Sunday Times as 'The most startling protagonist in modern crime fiction ... brutal, freakish and totally original.' Harry - slightly less freakish than his creation - lives in Oxford with his wife and young family. He also runs The Writers' Workshop, an editorial consultancy for new writers. His books on Getting Published and How to Write are among the leading titles in their field. H enjoys rock-climbing, walking, and swimming.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.