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since 26/06/2000

51

Edinburgh in general 03/05/2002

Great night

The Hellfire Club - Peter Straub 16/10/2001

And damnation

The Hellfire Club - Peter Straub Weird book, weird book, weird book. Okay I’ve got that out of my system now! As I was saying this is one weird book, this is reading Stephen King on drugs, Richard Laymon’s evil twin brother, Dean Koontz.... I think you get my drift. The Hellfire Club is a roller-coaster ride into the mind of a serial killer, the investigation of a disapperance more than 50 years ago and the unearthing of a dozen or so family skeletons. We start out by meeting Nora Chancel, a woman in her late forties married to a younger guy, no children and no career since she went ‘a little crazy’ a couple of years ago. Nora comes across as an ordinary type of person, but someone who has been through some very traumatic experiences (she was a nurse in Vietnam and a few bad things happened whilst she was there, leaving her with terrible nightmares almost thirty years on). She is married to Davey Chancel, the weak-willed, sad pathetic excuse of a man whose father, Alden happens to own Chancel Books, a well-known publishing house. Oops, guess it kind of comes across that I don’t really like Davey? ;) Davey and Nora have not been getting on very well lately, and the relationship they have with Davey’s parents doesn’t help matters. Then a friend of theirs goes missing leaving only a bloodstained bedroom behind. Four other women have been murdered by a vicious psychopath, has their friend suffered the same fate? That’s about all of the plot I’m willing to reveal and about all you need to know for ...

Deadly Decisions - Kathy Reichs 13/10/2001

Or at least some fairly bad ones

Deadly Decisions - Kathy Reichs Deadly decisions is written very much in the vein of Patricia Cornwell’s Dr Kay Scarpetta books, with one exception, its not a predictable story line. Kathy Reichs has written about the life and career of Dr Temperance Brennan who is an anthropologist with a job at the University of Charlotte and with the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciaires et de Medecine Legale in Montreal. At the University of Charlotte she teaches students, at LSJML she tries to identify bodies that are too badly decomposed, burned or mangled for the normal pathologist to make identification. This is the third book by Kathy Reichs but unfortunately this is the first one that I’ve read so I can’t comment on the other two. This one starts with Dr Brennan teaching a course at the FBI’s headquarters at Quantico, where she receives a phone call from her boss of LSJML. Apparently the bodies of two bikers need her attention, these two bikers have been blown apart by a bomb they were carrying and only Dr Brennan’s expertise can piece their bodies back together again. This is the first step that Dr Brennan takes into being dragged into a war between rival motorbike gangs. Whilst being plunged into this darker side of life, she also has to cope with personal tragedy, with threats against her life and the disdain of some of her colleagues who believe she should not be allowed to work on the case. During the course of the investigation a little girl is killed in the cross fire, and there is nothing more that Dr ...

From The Corner Of His Eye - Dean Koontz 22/09/2001

Eyes front

From The Corner Of His Eye - Dean Koontz To make sure you don't miss any of this fantastic novel! For those of you who are fans of this guy’s books, then this is vintage Koontz. The writing style sees a return to his previous excellent standards in such books as Midnight, The Bad Place, Twilight Eyes and Lightning (to name but a few). I must admit to being kind of worried for a while when his books became predictable plots (weird things / bad person picking on an innocent person / family, isolated setting, but person / family always triumphed over any adversity – kind of ‘feel good’ books with a lot of flag waving). However, in this book Mr Koontz seems to have re-discovered his dark side, and then gone on to find hidden depths! The story starts with an introduction to the main characters and gives a miniature story about the events that triggered the motives for these characters. You get to meet Junior, a sad, strange and very disturbed individual. Junior believes in a philosophy that you should attack life, experience every sensation and live every day to the full (he’s got this from reading self-help improvements books by a guy called Dr Caesar Zedd). Unfortunately Junior has taken this to the extreme, and started to kill people (mainly due to the fact that he believes he is intelligent, very handsome – irresistible to women in fact – and that he can literally get away with murder). You then get to meet Barty (Bartholomew Lampion). You meet him by meeting his parents first, Agnes and Joey and Mr Koontz ...

Beyond the Blue Moon - Simon R. Green 03/09/2001

Bad moon raising

Beyond the Blue Moon - Simon R. Green This is a weird book to read, weird but really enjoyable. It’s a mix between Marion Zimmer Bradley (serious fantasy stuff, but very weird) and Terry Prachett (Discworld humour, but with a straighter, more cutting edge!). Beyond the Blue Moon tells the story of Hawk and Fisher, two guard captains in the city of Haven. Haven is a truly dreadful place, and Hawk and Fisher are the only two honest policemen left in town. Mind you, how honest are they as they are keeping a big secret, pretending to be two ordinary people living and working in Haven. This is Simon Green’s thirteenth book, and continues the story of Prince Rupert and Princess Julia (heroes of the Forestland during the Demon Wars) – unfortunately I haven’t read any of his other books, but will do so after reading this one. Hawk and Fisher are two likeable characters, they don’t take crap from anyone, but they are fair-minded and believe in justice and truth (well to a point, if you don’t count their secret that is). We meet up with them in Haven going about their business (which usually involves doing nasty things to very nasty people), when they are approached by the Forestland Questor, Allen Chance and his talking dog Chappie (sounds cute, isn’t – looks like a very big wolf with very big teeth) and told that they must return to the Forestland as the King, Harald has been murdered and only they can solve the murder. This request comes at just the right time, as they are both disillusioned with life in Haven, ...

The Green Rider - Kristen Britian 27/08/2001

Not a job for the faint hearted

This is the first book by Kristen Britain and I truly hope it will not be her last. She has managed to create a new fantasy world (no mean feat when you realise what goes into ‘creating a world’), with believable (and likeable) characters, with a history and tradition that shapes the book as much as the characters within. The story is of a young girl, Karigan G’ladheon a merchant’s daughter who has run away from school after beating a young man in a fight. Unfortunately for Karigan the young man in question is from an aristocratic family, whilst her family has only just purchased it’s title. So, rather than be expelled and sent home in disgrace, Karigan decides her best chance lies in running away home, and telling her father what really happened. However, Karigan doesn’t bank on meeting a Green Rider, particularly one that’s being chased and is dying just as she meets him... Green Riders are messengers that travel the country relaying messages from the King to his ‘clan chiefs’, unfortunately Green Riders also have a habit of being killed for the messages they carry (even by the people they’re delivering them to – not a job that any sane person would want!), and in Karigan’s case this may prove true. In this story you follow Karigan on her journey across country to deliver the message that the dying Green Rider was carrying to the King, and it’s definitely not a journey for the faint hearted. Kristen Britain has managed to capture my imagination with this book. ...

The Mystic Rose - Steve Lawhead 26/08/2001

Compelling conclusion

The Mystic Rose - Steve Lawhead Yes, yes, yes, yes! Have finally got my hands on the third book of the Celtic Crusades trilogy – and yes, it was definitely worth the time and effort involved getting hold of this book. The only problem I have now is that I’ve finished them all.... never mind, suppose I can start reading his Arthurian trilogy now! Anyway, to tell you about this book. The Mystic Rose continues the story of Murdo’s family (the hero from the first book), but this time it’s his granddaughter, Caitronia who is the lead family member. It all starts with a trip back to the Holy Land by Duncan (the hero from the second book), accompanied by his two daughters Caitronia and Alethea. They arrive in Constantinople in time to witness the wedding of the Emperor’s nephew, and so Duncan and Cait decide to go and watch the wedding ceremony in Ayia Sophia (Sophia Cathedral). This is where things start to go horribly wrong, as Duncan is murdered before Cait’s eyes and his murderer is no other than Commander de Bracineaux, the commander of the Knights Templar of Jerusalem. This prompts Cait to avenge her father’s murder, and so begins another tale of a journey across the Holy Land to rescue a scared relic from the hands of the Knights Templar (and her father and grandfather before her). Stephen Lawhead again brings this period of history to life, to the point where you can almost smell food stalls in the crowded streets of Cairo and feel the dust of the desert choking your throat. As in the other two ...

Dancing with the Virgins - Stephen Booth 04/08/2001

Virgins, murder and remote moorland

Dancing with the Virgins - Stephen Booth This is Stephen Booth’s second book (Bad Dog being the first one), and this book continues with the same two main characters, Ben Cooper (amiable, caring policeman) and Dianne Fry (hard-nose policewoman with serious personal problems). As you can probably tell I didn’t really warm to the character of Dianne Fry, she really gets on my nerves! However, the plot of the book is superbly written and is similar to Black Dog in that it is a murder investigation set in the Peak District. That is where the similarity ends, as Dancing with the Virgins is a much sinister, darker book altogether. It tells the story of how a young Peak District Ranger, Mark Roper stumbles across the semi-naked body of Jenny Weston at one of the Peak Districts prehistoric stone circles. The sinister part is that the stones are known locally as the Dancing Virgins (old folklore story that the stones represent nine local women who were caught dancing on the Sabbath and were turned into stone for their crime, along with a tenth figure known as the Fiddler – a standing stone set apart from the others), and someone has arranged Jenny Weston’s body so it looks like she dancing.... Enter stage left the two ‘heroes’ of our story. Sorry, got slightly carried away for a moment there! DC Cooper and DS Fry are part of the investigation into Jenny’s murder and the possible link to a serious assault on another lady, Maggie Crew a few weeks earlier. DS Fry has transferred to the area from Birmingham and ...

Black Dog - Stephen Booth 26/07/2001

Bad omen

Black Dog - Stephen Booth This is the first novel by Stephen Booth, and if a first novel can offer promises of talent and good things to come, this book definitely can. Black Dog, known in British folklore as an ill omen, and to lift directly from the quote at the beginning of the book, is also known as ‘melancholy, depression of spirits; ill humour. In some country places, when a child is sulking, it is said the black dog is on his back’. Never a truer word said, as I know this feeling exactly when looking at my bank statements ;). This is the story of the search for a missing girl in Peak district (faintly reminiscent of A Place of Execution by Val McDermid), and of the characters involved in the search. From the young policeman Ben Cooper (who is living with his own fair share of tragedy), to the new female detective Dianne Fry (whose ruthless ambition gets in the way of friendships, and is harbouring a dark secret from her past – extremely difficult character to like), to the lifestyle of the young girl’s parents and the strange and sinister (perhaps) retired lead miner, Harry Dickinson who finds the girl’s body, when the police have failed to do so. The plot has some surprising twists, not least at the end and the writing style is fast enough not to bore, although the attention to detail is extremely good. The most accurate description for this book is it takes a look behind the net curtains of a ‘chocolate-box’ type village in Derbyshire, and what it reveals isn’t always nice and ...

The Hanging Garden - Ian Rankin 23/07/2001

Babylon's gardens were nothing like this

The Hanging Garden - Ian Rankin I have literally just put this book down, and wanted to start writing my opinion as soon as I possibly could. All I can say about this book, is wow, how can this man keep writing such amazing books? The plot is superbly constructed, with so many twists and turns, it leaves your head spinning! The Hanging Garden is another Inspector Rebus novel (and for those of you who’ve read any of these before, he’s just as grumpy, dogged and determined in this one – the other real difference is that he most sober!). Inspector Rebus is a policeman with the Lothian and Borders police force, based in Edinburgh, although in this book he does a fair bit of travelling to Newcastle, Inverness and back and forth to Barlinnie Prison. In this book DI John Rebus is quietly investigating the case of a suspected World War II war criminal, Dr Joseph Lintz (or is that Lieutenant Josef Linzstek, the guy who orchestrated a massacre in a small French town in June 1944?), but is also trying to annoy (and intimidate) a young upstart of a gangster, Tommy Telford. John Rebus is the type of policeman who doesn’t play by the rules, follows his gut instinct and I think brings out a ‘mothering’ instinct in most women (or maybe I just need to get out more?). Anyway, as he’s a law unto himself, he rapidly becomes involved with what appears to be several cases (including drug running, gambling and the trade in East European prostitutes), but is in reality one huge case, linked by many small, niggling doubts ...

Harlequin - Bernard Cornwell 21/07/2001

Sex, chivilary and longbows

Harlequin - Bernard Cornwell I finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago and have been meaning to write my opinion on it ever since. Anyway, finally found some time to do so! I really enjoyed this reading this book (but I am a huge fan of Bernard Cornwell, so it may colour my op!), much more so than Stonehenge (which was a massive disappointment and I have to agree with Slam on that one!). Harlequin (Italian for hellequin – the devil’s horsemen) is the first book in a new series by Mr Cornwell, The Grail Quest and is very much a ‘scene-setting’ book – you are introduced to the hero, Thomas of Hookton (who has got to be one of the most unwilling heroes you will ever come across!) and given background information on the Grail, the persucution of the Cathars, before being totally imersed into the 100 years war between England and France. Once again, Mr Cornwell has researched his topic throughly so all the battles, conditions and politics are historically correct. I always knew that the French really hated the English archers and their longbows (because they were so deadly), but never realised just what a huge effect they had on warfare tactics at the time. In this book you witness the murder of Thomas’s father, the ‘mad’ priest, his partial revenge on his father’s murders, his quest for further vengence which leads him into the English army as an archer, and his penance (given by his friend Father Hobbe) to find the relic that was taken from his father’s church (the reason for his murder), ...

The Black Rood - Steve Lawhead 10/07/2001

Continuing saga

The Black Rood - Steve Lawhead Yes, can hardly believe it, but have finally managed to track down the second book - I know I could buy them, but I’m being cheap! ;) As I said, this is the second book in the trilogy by Stephen Lawhead (the first being The Iron Lance), and it is just as well written and compelling as the first book. Too many times you start a trilogy or a series only to be disappointed with the standard of the subsequent books, this is definitely not the case with this author! The Black Rood (this is another name for the cross that Christ was crucified on) continues the story of Murdo’s family, but Murdo is now the father and the main character Duncan (whose exploits we follow). The story starts out back in Scotland telling of everyday life and introducing Murdo’s two sons Eirik and Duncan. It tells of life on their estate and the tragic death of Duncan’s wife during childbirth (sorry, had to tell you this because it’s the reason he decides to go to the Holy Land in the first place – plus not really ruining the story as there’s a long way to go yet!). Then his uncle Torf-Einar returns home from the Holy Land and Duncan becomes determined to find out why his father never talks about his adventures in the Holy Land, and gets extremely angry if the topic is ever mentioned. What his uncle tells him, piques his curiosity to such an extent, that Duncan decides to leave Scotland and make his own journey to the Holy Land. This is where the story really begins, as Duncan and his anam cara ...

Winter Moon - Dean Koontz 18/06/2001

Winter isolation

Byzantium - Steve Lawhead 24/04/2001

Amazing journey

Byzantium - Steve Lawhead This is the second book I’ve read by Stephen Lawhead (for those of you who read my op on the Iron Lance, you’ll realise I’ve not yet got hold of the other two books from the trilogy), and I must say I wasn’t disappointed. He has the kind of writing style that makes his characters so totally believable (even though the main character in this book is a 10th century monk), and the story so fascinating that you can’t put his books down! Byzantium is about the pilgrimage of a band of Cele De monks from Ireland to see the Holy Roman Emperor, Basil in Byzantium to take him a gift. It is written during the time of the first crusades so has the correct historical background of the time. As I mentioned, the main character is a young monk called Aidan who puts himself through some fairly drastic penances so he’ll be chosen to go on the pilgrimage, however, once it starts, I think he’s sorry he tried so hard. Strangely, Aidan gets on your nerves at first as he is very smug in his devoutness to God, however, after he is captured by some Seawolves and taken as a slave, some of this smugness disappears (thankfully!). The story follows Aidan’s adventures as a slave from Skania to Byzantium and beyond. There are some really touching scenes in this book, and some very graphical descriptions of violence (the fate of the Bishop is particularly horrible, but I’ll let you read it for yourself). During his trials and tribulations, he becomes a changed man, and stops being so passive ...
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