the setup. A female PI and her assistant (and brother), living in a thirty-room
mansion. She’s ex-CIA and has connections with the local police. They do most
of their work at home, contracting out the field work to other PI agencies. Her
brother is a chess enthusiast: he loves food and cooking. He must convince his
sister to work. Without money, they can’t get (good) food. The case is a
seemingly simple missing person scenario, but it turns out to be far from
simple. It doesn’t take too long to home in on a suspect, but the case grows as
the brother and sister team tries to solve it. They’re up against a cult (Aztek
revival). The twists and turns take them around the sewers and into natural
caves located under the city. There is a couple of kidnappings thrown in for
good measure, but the two siblings may not succeed, even with the help of
several other PIs — and the police. Will they catch the arch villain? Is there
a hook for another instalment? After all, this is the first in a series. It was
an enjoyable read, but it was hard to swallow the Aztek idea. To me, it seemed too melodramatic. Still, it was
an entertaining read.
Gemma Lawrence, The Bastard Princess
Young Elizabeth The First.
times, Henry the eighth. The daily life of his daughters, as seen through
Elizabeth’s eyes. She loves her father and tries to forget and forgive what
happened to her mother. Lawrence gives the reader interesting insights into the coming Gloriana’s early life, told in
her voice. The fear and the glory, the misery and the triumphs, combine in a
colourful tapestry. The portraits of Mary and Edward are vivid and convincing.
Above all, Elizabeth charms the reader with her candour and observations.
Meticulously researched, Lawrence’s book has merit and is worth reading. Highly
Julia Schmeelk, Heron’s Bond
Importance of being Natural
A world, NewEarth, a sentient planet, peopled by dragons and humans. They can
talk and communicate telepathically, at least if they have bonded with another
and the world. It’s necessary to be able to put up mental screens against ill-willed creatures, from miners to immature
dragons. All the same, the world is in
balance with the universe and itself. Schmeelk builds a world that has the
potential of becoming a Utopia. Will it last? The narrative is charming and
could be read by a young audience as well as by adults who like fantasy novels.
A little romance, and some unlikely
friendships between dragons and humans, combine to a pleasant read in Schmeelk’s easy
flowing prose. The message is clear: care for the world you live in and it’ll
care for you.
Terry Lynn Thomas, The Silent Woman
Second World War is about to begin. The first fugitives arrive from Germany,
among them, there may be spies. All this
seems unreal to Catherine (Cat), who has her own problems to deal with in a
childless marriage. Her husband maybe never loved her, and she suffers the
pangs of unreciprocated love. Her sister in law, Isobel, despises her and shows
it. It’s the old class pattern: Cat comes from a less privileged family, and Isobel
grabs every opportunity to show Cat that she doesn’t belong. What could possibly
Reginald, an old friend of her father. They meet — accidentally — and he offers
her an easy job as a courier. It gives
Cat various advantages: excitement, mystery, and a bit of cash. What she
doesn’t know is that the information she delivers is classified. She gets
targeted by a spy ring. Then her husband, the civil servant, who carried
government secrets back and forth between his home and work, gets murdered. Cat’s
work gets increasingly dangerous, but she grows with the danger.
Lynn Thomas develops her spy, mystery, blackmail, and suspense novella with
skill. All the same, to me, the suspense didn’t quite take off. In my opinion, everything went too smoothly. It
wouldn’t be fair to describe exact scenes, but there were no moments when I believed the main protagonist in
real danger. This is entirely my own opinion. Certainly, many readers of cosy
mysteries may find the anxiety Cat goes through absorbing. There are convincing
historical details in The Silent Woman.
Maybe my problem with the story lies in the character development. For example,
Isobel’s attitude towards Cat is predictable, so predictable that it’s hard to
imagine she may have hidden depths. My four-star rating is a nod to Thomas’ skilful
Bernard Jan, A World Without Colour
Pet Lover’s Agony
Bernard Jan wrote A World Without Colour
with his heart-blood. The question that remains, when reading his short opus,
is if it would have been better to wait for
a little longer before writing it. Sometimes, when one writes on open wounds,
the danger looms that sentiment clouds the writer’s potential. That is a pity. Having
said that, I must add my condolences. It is difficult to lose loved ones. Bernard
Jan shows courage in sharing that agony, but the question remains what time and
distance would have achieved in refining his writing.
Ellie Douglas, Death Oh Death, Horror
Does True Horror Begin?
horror reside among monsters or human beings? In my humble opinion, humans are
far worse than monsters. It is true that bone crushing, bloodsucking ogres are
part of our worst and subconscious fears. The question is, where does these
nightmares origin, if not among humans? Blood and gore is all very well, but
taken on its own, it may rate — merely — as disgusting. Why do we fear
monsters? Is their worst crime that they are like humans? Do their random acts of violence signify more than their
pure monstrosity? Is it true that, among horror authors, there are two varieties?
Those who evoke the monsters outside, and those who reflect on the human
subconscious and wake up true horror? Ellie Douglas is efficient, but in this
collection the tale that stood out was ‘Junkyard’.
It caught my attention, because the monsters are human beings. This allows Ms Douglas to play with the lowest
instincts that we humans share. True to her style, there’s a large amount of
blood and gore too, but the focus remains on men (and a single woman). My wish
would be to see more of this and less of the grisly, and strangely innocent,
bogeymen. After all they merely feed even if they do so in a spectacular way.
CA Asbrey, Innocent Bystander
Bystanders always Innocent?
much to like and admire in Asbrey’s book. Her heroine is well drawn and
believable. Even her criminal love-interest and — assistant evokes sympathy.
More than that, her writing and plot arch works, she keeps the readers on their
toes. The Western setting, the female Pinkerton and heroine doesn’t go through
the motions but investigates every option until she reaches the inevitable
conclusion. The technical and forensic part of the book is clear and convincing.
Ms Asbrey adds the love-story with little strokes that develops the picture
throughout the book. Lifelike characters
and no-nonsense actions combined with unexpected twists keep the readers’
interest captivated from start to finish. A well-researched and enjoyable read.
Eileen Thornton, Murder on Tyneside
Ms Thornton brings murder and jewel
thievery under the same hat, adds a little spy spice and serves up an effective
yarn. Her protagonist is a mature woman with a penchant for shopping and a
brain to solve mysteries through sudden inspirations. As such, it is an
enjoyable piece of escapism. My reservations lie in a few plot inconsistencies
— a white van that plays a role is never secured — let alone searched for. Ms
Thornton’s easy-going prose makes up for the inconsistencies, she is a skilled
narrator. It’s easy to get lulled into the, perhaps Agatha Christie inspired,
book. The characters are plausible and the setting characteristic.
Ilene Goff Kaufmann, Rhyme &
Kaufmann has a Message.
woman’s life in a volume. Kaufmann is an ambitious author. What she takes on is
showing a woman’s life – any woman’s life in poetry. That includes misery,
loneliness, heartbreak, abuse, as well as love, trust, childbirth, faith, and
loss. A difficult task, but Kaufmann writes fervently and with deep conviction.
Caleb Pirtle III, Lovely Night to Die
A parallel world where men are nameless and women – dispensable. An assassin who decides to go against the rules. A female attorney who finds herself up against more than she imagined. A tentative romance that blossoms in a hopeless environment. A helping hand that waits until the last second. A narrative style that touches the edge between poetry and prose. These are the elements that create a lovely night to die. A storm looms to underscore the brooding atmosphere of an unusual book from Caleb Pirtle’s hands. With a sense of style and his clipped prose, he holds his readers in suspense throughout. This book grips the reader from the beginning, and its author stays in control to the end. Masterful. Highly recommended
I don’t have much to say for myself this time. Only this:
This is one of my first attempts with
acrylics. One can only say that it’s colourful. The reason I left out the kitten
is that it seems too flat to my eyes. It isn’t in my belongings nowadays so
there’s no way to improve the work. . .
Lately, book series and film remakes have
haunted my mind. One of the triggers was re-reading the Earth’s Children
series. However exciting, however unusual the subject, it is devastating to see
the deterioration of style, and accuracy, going through the series. No doubt Ms
Auel’s research is pristine, but her writing becomes increasingly lazy and, in
the later volumes, there are too many pointless repetitions. After a while, it
becomes impossible to ignore the numerous paragraphs, easily recognized from
volume to volume, mostly word to word. That, together with the endless and
repetitive descriptions mars the reading experience. True, Ms Auel may not
expect her readers to have the stamina to read all the books in one go, but
there will always be those who do. The excessive repetitions show lack of
respect for her readers’ intelligence and ability to remember what they’ve
Is it fair to say that many authors who
mainly write series also tend towards using one or two tested and successful
templates for their narratives? Sometimes with excellent results, sometimes
with less convincing outcomes.
Film remakes often face the same
problematic. It isn’t that simple to follow a successful rendition with excellent
performers. It’s been done, and there are some remakes that are better than
their inspiration. That situation repeats in book series.
That doesn’t change a few facts. Undoubtedly,
there is an element of hygge in recognizing characters and storylines. On the other hand, people, and
maybe especially readers — as well as film buffs — tend to get fidgety if a
plot gets too obvious. Who can blame them? Readers want to be surprised. No
matter how gorgeous a frame is, there must be something more. What do the
readers want? What is the secret longing when film-buffs recline in their
I believe that they want food for thought.
We all love and know Poirot and Jane
Marple, but we also know that the stories use the same plot with variations.
Some are inspired, some are less so. There are numerous authors who write one
book after another . . . and their fans love them. Barbara Cartland springs to
mind. As well as Ian Fleming, Agatha Christie, and several others, often authors
in the crime genre (Ngaio Mash, DL Sayers, Georges Simenon, Maria Lang etc. the
list is endless). All are entertaining, some are excellent, but they all have
one thing in common. They have one (in a few cases more than one) main
character that decides the flavour and the narrative arch. There are stock
ingredients like Poirot’s moustache and patent-leather shoes, Miss Marple’s
pink knitting, Sherlock Holmes pipe, violin, and syringe, Agent 007’s gun and
fast cars. That reminds me that Lord Peter Wimsey also has a fast car, but he rarely shoots.
Has it become too easy? Who can tell? It is
true that this is a period that sees more releases every day. There is no
weekend without at least three new films opening. Indie publishers have reached
over a million titles astoundingly fast. No wonder that it became necessary to
re-use old subjects. On the other hand, that isn’t a new trend. Could this
explain a rumour that keeps cropping up? Is
it true that several successful authors have writing teams to churn out their
fare, the faster the better? Maybe — maybe not — but there is a lingering
suspicion that something is rotten in the publishing world.
Whatever made me put my fingers into this
potential hornets’ nest? Perhaps it’s time to say something positive? That’s
easy. While somethings may be rotten, which is
the case in every wake of life, there’s no doubt that there’s an abundance of
talented writers who take their art seriously. These are the emissaries who
seek new ways of expression. They write with their heart and their intelligence
and become a fresh breeze in the literary world. Their ideas may spark new visions
among their peers. Thus, there’s still hope. Without a doubt, this is the
situation in the film world too. If there is a steady stream of pioneers in the
arts, we have nothing to fear.