20 November 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Shadows Of Hemlock by K M Pohlkamp


" T
his is the sequel to Apricots and Wolfsbane and Ms Pohlkamp has lost none of her ability to produce a good story."

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA

Fictional Saga / Thriller / Alternative
16th Century
Gaulshire, a mythical shire in Tudor England

Set in a mythical English county in the 1520s Tudor-type England, Aselin Gavrell had once been the apprentice to assassin, Lavinia Maud. Now she is the Master. To gain the confidence in her abilities as well as the patronage of an important client, she must commit four murders. But more important to Aselin is her acceptance as a Fellow into the Guild as they will not accept her credentials on the recommendation of her former Master. They set her a task: find an antidote to hemlock, Aselin's preferred method of assassination. And she has just four months to achieve this.


Aselin has learned well from Lavinia but, if anything, is more arrogant and cynical than her predecessor. More calculating, too. She uses people without conscience until, that is, she realises that she has been used in turn. She is willing to 'use her feminine whiles' to achieve her short term goals whereas Lavinia looked down upon that ploy. 


What follows is a dangerous adventure in which Aselin confronts her own demons, is betrayed and betrays in return as she moves to achieve her goals.


This is the sequel to Apricots and Wolfsbane and Ms Pohlkamp has lost none of her ability to produce a good story, although it is not history in the strict sense of the word, and there are some very un-Tudorish anachronisms and phrases,
 but then, this novel is not, I assume,  actually set in Tudor England, just a sort of mirror-image alternative version of the period and places. I spotted some typos in the pre-published file I read, but these have been corrected for the final version.

My only criticism – and it is a personal one – is the invention of the English Shires that feature in both books, a real Shire would have done no harm to the tale telling, and brought in an extended feeling of realism. 

Shadows of Hemlock can easily be read as a stand alone novel, but I would really recommend reading the previous volume first, not only for the deliciously evil manner of the protagonist, but because the first chapters of this book is a spoiler for the stark and dramatic ending of the first.


© Richard Tearle

Pre-publication PDF ARC edition reviewed




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18 November 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Farewell My Life by Cynthia Sally Haggard

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"Ms Haggard's writing is exquisite. Her characters are vibrant with life and colour"

AMAZON UK

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family drama
1920s / 1930s
US / Berlin

"A Cinderella-ish tale with not-so-charming princes in the edgy setting of 1920s and 1930s Berlin during the rise of the Nazis, Farewell My Life spins an operatic tale of dangerous love, obsession and loss; of crumbling, dissolving and nothingness, that revolves around Grace, a shy 17-year-old whose fabulous talent for the violin promises a shimmering career."

Set between the two wars of WWI and WWII, the novel starts in Washington DC where single mother Angelina has a tough life bringing up her two children, but Nicholas Russell is to enter the scene.  A promising career with the violin for the youngest daughter, Grace, takes  us to Berlin. Not the best of places in the late 1930s.

Ms Haggard's writing is exquisite. Her characters are vibrant with life and colour, whilst the storyline is engrossing and in places very moving. The research of actual historical events, neatly woven into the fictional ones, is well done. I felt for this family, eager to read on to find out what happened next - although it is a somewhat large tome at not far off 600 pages.

My only slight reserve is the ending, which I personally found to be a little abrupt. But no spoilers, so I will say no more. Even so, a very good read.

© Anne Holt



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15 November 2019

Heir Apparent by Susan Grossey

shortlisted for Book Of The Month


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"From Sam himself, through his adorable wife, Martha, to William Wilson and his new young bride, Alice - and even the baby, young George - each character brings the life of London in the 1800s superbly to life."

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA
(The Sam Plank Mysteries Book 6)

murder mystery
1800s
London

"A young man returns to London from the family plantation in the Caribbean after an absence of six years to be at his father’s deathbed – and to inherit his estate. But is the new arrival who he says he is, or an impostor? Anyone who doubts his identity seems to meet an untimely end, but his sister swears that he is her beloved brother.With their investigations leading them into the complicated world of inheritance law and due process after death, Constable Sam Plank and his loyal lieutenant William Wilson come face to face with the death trade and those who profit from it – legally or otherwise. Among them is an old enemy who has used his cunning and ruthlessness to rise through the ranks of London’s criminal world. And, in this sixth novel in the series, it’s now 1829: as plans progress for a new police force for the metropolis, Sam and his wife Martha look to the future."


I so enjoyed this novel! Apart from the attention to detail, the mystery of 'is  he the heir or isn't he?' and outguessing the author throughout with 'who done it?' (I was wrong), Ms Grossey's characters are so utterly delightful. From Sam himself, through his adorable wife, Martha, to William Wilson and his new young bride, Alice - and even the baby, young George - each character brings the life of London in the 1800s superbly to life. I felt as if I was actually walking with Sam and William along Oxford Street, or entering a coffee house or tavern with them. And as for Martha Plank's apple pie... sadly the one I made the day after reading this novel was nowhere as good as hers. (It comes to something when reading that you can actually smell and taste the food described because the atmosphere of each scene is so brilliantly written!)

It was good, also, to meet with old friends - and enemies. Not to mention the well-thought-out plot! What I especially enjoy about this entire series is the ordinariness of the 'behind the scenes' scenes. The story progresses in 'real time' not as often seems on TV cop shows where the murder happens and the cop/s solve the crime within, apparently, a few days (after several red herrings and while dealing with the trauma of a difficult personal life.) Constable Plank, however, treads a more realistic policeman's beat, doggedly pursuing clues and crimes as they arise (fortified by Martha's cooking),  through  a period of weeks and months. These are not action mysteries, but they are absorbing, thoroughly engrossing and a huge pleasure to read. I have said before, and am happy to say again - Sam, Martha and Constable Wilson are ideal material for a darn good TV cop show with a difference!

Very highly recommended.

© Helen Hollick





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