21 February 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of: The Falcon Strikes by Gabrielle Mathieu



AMAZON UK £3.84 £12.50
AMAZON US $5.27 $15.99 
AMAZON CA $20.12

second of a trilogy

Fantasy / Fictional Saga
1950s
Ireland

This novel has been a unique read for me and left me rather wondering how to describe it. It is the second in a trilogy and I haven't read the first, leading, I suspect, to some of my indecision.

It is set in Ireland, both sides of the border, in the 1950s but the scenario played out there is a fantasy. As such it is maybe an odd choice again for Discovering Diamonds, but the pinpoint accuracy of the setting puts it firmly in the historical novel genre.

And then it diverts away from it into some odd Germanic film noir filled with odd characters and even odder props.

Peppa (short, yes, for Peppermint) Mueller travels to Ireland having left a traumatic experience in Switzerland, along with the man she loves, Tenzin Engle, another of the weird characters who is so not ordinary he is actually probably really annoying, being too good to be true. She is on the trail of a female called Silvia de Pena who orchestrated the traumatic events in Switzerland and Peppa needs to stop her doing it again. De Pena has a poison that makes people psychotic and Peppa was a test case for it. In Peppa it has awakened a totem, an inner creature that lurks in her subconscious and rears it falcon head when it feels threatened. She calls it Cora.

The novel could easily fall into clich├ęd nonsense – and in a few parts doesn't quite manage to avoid that. Silvia de Pena is a femme fatale straight out of a bad Philip Marlow-style detective story, seductive, intelligent, pure evil; the poison is named Compound Totentanz or simply Compound T, its partner in crime is Compound S, an unbelievably strong aphrodisiac made from the ludicrously named Strong Sprout. Doesn't sound very sexy, does it?

If the novel were just these elements then I might have laughed my way to giving up on it. But it isn't. Ireland of the 1950s is perfectly portrayed in such detail that you feel you are there. Ms Mathieu has made some sense of a complex political situation, neatly dividing Belfast into Green and Orange to help the reader, explains how and why splinter terrorist groups formed and manages to see both sides of the divide equally - equally corrupt and not to be trusted.

I suggest, read Book One first, as so much of this second novel relies on past events and it can be quite overwhelming, and coupled with the bizarre characters and names, it is tempting to not bother and give in, but you'd lose a compelling story and a building of tension that makes this a satisfying read. Different, certainly; off the beaten track, definitely; but ultimately pretty good!

© Nicky Galliers


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20 February 2018

Friends Of My Father by Shaun Ivory


Amazon UK £2.39 £6.99
Amazon US $3.24 $12.99
Amazon CA 

Family Drama
1943
Ireland, near Dublin

To thirteen-year-old Brendan Lavelle, his father is a hero. Highly decorated in the First World War, John Lavelle is now the town's respected doctor. But then Brendan discovers pages of a diary his father had written during the Gallipoli campaign.

The evidence points to some sort of conspiracy involving other members of the small town community and the murder of one of their colleagues. Brendan sets himself the task of seeking the truth of this mystery – aided by the sassy Maura, a girl a little older than he with a reputation of being a bit strange -  even though it leads to Brendan doubting his father's integrity. He and Maura slowly piece together the clues which lead them to a dangerous and chilling conclusion and denouement.

What I really liked about this book was the sheer consistency of the author's writing in presenting the world through the eyes of a young child, perfectly mixed with Maura's more worldly outlook and experience.

My only quibble is with the extracts from John Lavelle's diary which are printed in a different font, one that more resembles handwriting, which I found a little difficult to read, especially as many common words are reduced to abbreviations to add to the idea that it (the diary) had been written quickly and in difficult circumstances. However, there is not too much of this.

The cover is simple but effective: a young child, wide-eyed and innocent and two shadowy figures as a background.

All in all, a book that I thoroughly enjoyed, well written , full of description and evocative.


© Richard Tearle



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19 February 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of Hooks and Eyes by V.L. McBeath

AMAZON UK £2.99 £8.99
AMAZON US $4.10 $12.95

AMAZON CA $23.33

Family Drama
1846
 England

Set in 1846 England, Hooks and Eyes by V. L. McBeath, is the story of Mary Jackson, a young widow, and the journey she takes to ensure that she can aptly raise her two young children during the Victorian Age. After the death of her husband, Mary decides to leave her in-laws’ country home to live with her deceased husband’s Aunt Lucy and Aunt Rebecca in the city.  Determined to make her own choices about what is best for her family, Mary, against the advice of her aunts, marries William Wetherby, her former employer, bully, and womanizer.

Throughout the novel, McBeath intertwines the lives of multiple families while incorporating accurate historical elements into each chapter. She touches on how the non-mechanized businesses transitioned into the mechanized factories of the Industrial Revolution. Most importantly, McBeath opens readers’ eyes to the difficulties faced by widowed and older, unmarried women during the mid-1800s.

The author did a good job capturing the emotional struggles faced by the women throughout the novel. Readers will sympathize with Mary’s emotional and psychological pain. Seeing how women could choose to support one another, as Mary’s aunts tried to do, was enlightening. Unfortunately, some of Mary’s choices did not set well with her Aunt Lucy.

Instead of using Mary and Wetherby’s marriage to focus the many subplots more effectively into the central narrative of female strength, McBeath moves the story forward by introducing multiple characters to create short, family dramas that are frequently left unresolved or are irrelevant, and because of this, the one storyline that moves the main idea forward is unresolved. Had it been, it could have given Mary profound insight into her original choice, creating a smoother transition into the final scene.

Hooks and Eyes starts with a narrative that captures the emotions of the main character and the journey she takes because of the death of her true love. The subplots are interesting and build a sense of the period, but  they fall a little short of connecting that main storyline introduced in the beginning of the novel, with the climax in the final paragraphs.

However, an interesting novel for those readers interested in this period.

© Cathy Smith

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