Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #HistoricalMystery The Book Of Skulls by @davidwhutchison

Today’s team review is from Olga. She blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Olga has been reading The Book Of Skulls by David Hutchison

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As I know we are all busy and I can go on and on with my reviews, I leave you the summary recommendation first, and then, you can go ahead and read the more detailed review, or not. This is a fun and easy to read historical mystery novel, set in Edinburgh in the Victorian Era, with some touches of horror and Gothic, a diverse cast, and fully adapted to modern sensibilities. I particularly recommend it to readers interested in the history of women in Medicine, those who love a Scottish setting, and those who enjoy a good adventure  that doesn’t get too caught up in procedural details. It is also the first of a series, so if you strike it lucky and love it, you’ll have more to come. I will also recommend it to older YA and NA readers, as long as they don’t mind (or like) a gruesome story. (Although I don’t want to give much of the story away, I’ll let you know that there are headless corpses aplenty, so you’ve been warned).

I had never read any of Hutchinson’s books before or seen his artwork, but there is little doubt that he is a multitalented individual (the cover and the illustrations inside the book are also his, and I loved them as well), and I know we’ll cross paths in the future.

The description of the book does it justice, and because of the mystery side of the story I want to make sure I avoid spoilers and say too much. In his biography, the author describes the book as “a BAME and LGBQT story of hidden identity and murder, inspired by Edinburgh’s murky medical history” and that contains plenty of information as well. If I had to highlight something is that it made me think of the type of stories and novels written at the time the book is set in, with plenty of adventures, excitement, dangers, very bad baddies, very resourceful heroes (and heroines), some Gothic and gore elements, which were not always a hundred per cent realistic and required a degree of suspension of disbelief perhaps greater than we are used to with mystery or thrillers nowadays. When we are first introduced to the main protagonist, Liz, her orphanage made me think of Jane Eyre, but there the similarities end. There are other characters and situations that brought to my mind other novels of the period, but I can’t go into detail without revealing too much of the plot, so I’ll keep my peace.

This is a solid historical novel and offers plenty of information about the period, some of the important figures in women’s fight to gain entry into the Faculty of Medicine, and other historical events and locations of the Victorian Edinburgh, including language and turns of phrase that add authenticity to the story. I have mentioned the diverse cast of characters, and the author’s description also highlights that the two female protagonists are from non-white ethnic backgrounds (they aren’t the only ones), and there are LGBT characters and themes integral to the story as well, but although prejudice is quite evident and something the protagonists struggle against, this is not a book that reflects and portrays the views of the time as realistically as possible but rather one that reflects the spirit of the time whilst avoiding what most readers nowadays would find repugnant. Even the “bad” characters are not as vocal and nasty as they would have been at the time in their epithets (and some of their actions), and I felt that the novel would be unlikely to offend modern sensibilities (as is to be expected, the most enlightened individuals are the main protagonists and their friends).  I don’t mean that the topics are not serious and even shocking at times, especially for those not familiar with the era and its mores, but it is a good entry point read with plenty of characters determined to do the right thing we can root for.

Liz is a fantastic character. A self-made woman, she wants to become a doctor more than anything, but she sticks to her morals as well and thinks of others before she thinks of herself. She is very lucky (chance plays a big part in the story, and she has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, as well as a pretty lucky star), and despite her enemies (she comes across a few, and there are some surprises as well) from the beginning meets a cast of characters that will be fundamental to the story and are mostly there to help her achieve her goal. Amulya Patel becomes her friend and peer, and together they fight the prejudice against women they find at the medical school. We don’t know much about Amulya’s background, although we get some hints about her history and her circumstances, and the same is true for most of the other characters, whom we meet mostly as either helpers or hinderers of Liz’s adventures and quest to become a doctor. I liked Liz and Amulya, and many of the other characters they meet (Campbell, Hector, Charles and Florian in particular), but this is a novel where we learn about the characters from their actions more than because we get access to their thoughts or psychological processes, for the most part. As this is the first novel in a serial, it is likely that we will get to learn more about the characters in future books, so it is not a big problem but rather gives us something to look forward to.

The story is written in the third-person, sometimes omniscient and sometimes from the point of view of one of the characters (plenty of them, even minor ones, get a chapter or a part of a chapter narrated from their point of view), and that gives us a pretty varied perspective while avoiding head-hopping, as each episode is clearly delimited. This also helps maintain the element of mystery, and although we don’t need to get to the end of the novel to learn what is happening (there are quite a few reveals and twists) and some of the secrets and surprises we might guess in advance, there are plenty more to come before the final page. I feel this story works well within its genre, as it alternates the investigation of the mysterious deaths with the story of Liz and Amulya’s adventures as medical students, and manages to keep a good pace and also to maintain the mystery. However, it might not work as well for readers used to modern police procedurals, because we have a lot depending on coincidence and chance, and I felt that the timing of the investigation didn’t always match the other events taking place, as Liz’s studies and knowledge seem to advance at an incredible speed while the investigation progresses at a much slower pace. As long as one is happy to work within the parameters of the story and stretch a little the suspension of disbelief, this is a rollicking good read.

With all those caveats in place, I confess to having had a great time reading this novel. I loved the ending, and I look forward to reading more novels in the series and, hopefully, catching up on the adventures of Liz and her friends in the future.

I’ve summarised my recommendations before, and as far as warnings go: there are gruesome murders; there is discussion of illnesses and medical procedures, evidently; there are historical events and descriptions of life in the period that are not always pleasant, but, as I said, I feel the book is adapted to modern sensibilities, and it successfully manages to be faithful to the period while avoiding reproducing some of the least savoury aspects of the era.

Desc 1

A Victorian tale of gender-bending, hidden identity, obsession and gruesome murder, set in Edinburgh’s Old Town.1875. Liz Moliette; a poor orphan of unknown heritage, and Amulya Patel; from a wealthy Indian family, are the only female students at the Edinburgh Medical School, where a hostile attitude towards women is driven by Professor Atticus. However Liz and Amulya have allies in fellow student Campbell Preeble, The Reekie reporter Hector Findlay and the charming Dr Paul Love.In dire need of funds, Liz becomes assistant to gruff lecturer and police surgeon Dr Florian Blyth. When a series of grisly murders take place the doctor and Liz help Inspector Macleod in his investigation, which leads to the Edinburgh Asylum, the Burry Man festival and the quack science of phrenology. The search for the killer comes dangerously close to Liz as she uncovers her own family secrets.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT RACK & RUIN by @carolJhedges #SundayBlogShare

Today’s second team review is from Liz, she blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Rack & Ruin by Carol Hedges

Rack & Ruin (The Victorian Detectives  Book 4) by [Carol Hedges]

In “Rack & Ruin” Victorian progress continues apace. The age of the railway has begun and people’s homes are being knocked down to make way for the tracks. It is 1863 and lowly bank clerks, Danton Waxwing and Edwin Persiflage relieve the monotony of their daily drudge by plotting anarchist deeds. Inspector Lachlan Greig, however, is more concerned with the discovery of tiny bodies revealed by the railway company’s explosives.

Meanwhile in Fitzroy Square, Daisy Lawton, spoilt daughter of an eminent surgeon, tries on beautiful dresses, in which to meet a potential husband. Her former school friend, Tishy Simpkins, would prefer to continue her studies aided by the Ladies’ Literary and Philosophical Society, but she is enforced to look after her young brothers and attend to domestic tasks, by her uncaring father. Amongst the other characters in the novel is young engineer, Fred Grizewood, who would dearly love to discuss his ideas with his renowned mentor, Joseph Balgazette, but an unexpected event changes his life profoundly.

This novel is rich with mid Victorian life, from the gutter press to the fine drawing rooms and on to rough pubs frequented by villains and prostitutes. Struggling in this hectic world, are oppressed women, caring police officers and evil baby farmers.

I take particular pleasure from the authentic 19th century writing style, so fitting to the subject matter and my knowledge is enriched by the inclusion of words which are new to me, such as “cynosure”. The definition of this word, used by Carol Hedges, is, “something that strongly attracts attention by its brilliance.” I think that’s an accurate description of this book.

Book description

The city is in the grip of railway mania when the gruesome discovery of several infant corpses in an abandoned house forces Inspector Lachlan Greig of A Division, Bow Street Police Office and his men to enter the dark and horrific world of baby farming. It will take all Greig’s skill and ingenuity to track down the evil perpetrators and get justice for the murdered innocents.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com also available free from Kindle Unlimited

Rack & Ruin (The Victorian Detectives Book 4) by [Carol Hedges]

 

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT RACK & RUIN by @carolJhedges #HistFic #Mystery

Today’s second team review is from Terry, she blogs at http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Terry has been reading Rack & Ruin by Carol Hedges

Rack & Ruin (The Victorian Detectives  Book 4) by [Carol Hedges]

5 out of 5 stars

I’ve read the other three of Carol Hedges’ colourful, amusing and really rather brilliant Victorian murder mystery series, and this was every bit as good.  They’re complete stand alones, by the way, no need to read them in order.

Rack & Ruin follows the stories of several wonderful characters: lovely, outwardly superficial, privileged Daisy Lawton, a girl looking forward to her first ‘season’; Ms Hedges very cleverly avoided the trap of making her merely empty-headed, but gave her a heart of gold, too, especially when it came to her friend, poor Letitia, who is bound to a life of drudgery by her horrible father.  Then we have the would-be anarchists, Persiflage and Waxwing, Scottish detective Lachlan Greig, and various other upper middle class ne’er-do-wells, street rogues and those eager to make money by foul means, mostly the evil ‘baby minders’ around whom the story centres.

Inspector Lachlan Greig: ‘… a certain glint in his eye possessed by those who have found they are generally more intelligent than most people around them but haven’t yet learned that the most intelligent thing they can do is not to let said people find this out.’

Mr Sprowle, landlord: ‘… educated in the School of Hard Knocks, leading to a degree in Resentment.’

Just two lines I picked out, there are so many more little gems.

This book is not just a clever story with hilarious characterisation and descriptions so good you want to read them twice.  It’s an insight into how difficult life really was for women in those days, only 150 years ago, and a view into Victorian London as clear as any film or TV drama series.  When I got to 84% I thought ‘oh, no, I’ve only got a little bit left’, and tried to make it last as long as possible.

I believe this might be the last in the series but I do hope not; as long as Carol Hedges keeps writing these books I’ll keep reading them as soon as they’re available, and you should, too!

Book description

The city is in the grip of railway mania when the gruesome discovery of several infant corpses in an abandoned house forces Inspector Lachlan Greig of A Division, Bow Street Police Office and his men to enter the dark and horrific world of baby farming. It will take all Greig’s skill and ingenuity to track down the evil perpetrators and get justice for the murdered innocents.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com also available free from Kindle Unlimited

Rack & Ruin (The Victorian Detectives Book 4) by [Carol Hedges]

 

 

 

Mystery Book Tour Day 7 #MysteryNovember Diamonds & Dust by Carol Hedges

November Mystery Tour

Welcome to Day 7 of this November mystery Book Tour.

Today our guest is Carol Hedges and her book Diamonds & Dust.

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Where is Your Home Town?
I live in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, it’s a mid-sized town just north of London. I can get into London by train in 20 minutes, which is handy for shopping, visiting my daughter and new granddaughter, and researching locations for my books.
How Long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing since I was at school, just bits and pieces, but I only started getting published in my 40s. I’ve had 13 books published, mainly teenage and YA. Last year, however, I decided to move on to writing adult historical fiction. Diamonds & Dust is my first adult novel.
What is your favourite sub-genre of mystery?
I love Historical mysteries, especially those set in or written in the nineteenth century. I’m a great fan of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and all those great novelists of the period and the chance to pay homage to their talent was just too tempting to resist.

Where is Diamonds & Dust Set?
Diamonds & Dust is set in London in 1860 … it was an interesting period, just before all the major rail and road developments, but just far enough away from the 17th century.
Who are the two Women in your book?
The two main protagonists are Josephine King, a young girl who is rescued from a ghastly boarding school by her uncle, and Lilith Marks a prostitute turned business woman. They seem an unlikely ‘team’ but fate draws them together and makes them friends.

What is the mystery they are trying to solve?
They are trying to discover who murdered Josephine’s uncle Herbert King, who was also Lilith’s lover. There is also a mystery surrounding a beautiful diamond, left to Josephine by her uncle. Someone wants to get their hands on it…and they are not going to stop until they do…
What was your favourite part of the research for this book?
My favourite bit of research was visiting London to take pictures of all the places used as locations in the novel. It was amazing how many of the old Victorian locations still exist, almost unchanged. Sometimes you have to look ‘up’ to see the old buildings, but they are still there. I also enjoy researching online. There is a wealth of original material to be found. Wherever possible, I like to go to a direct source .. that’s where the authentic voices are.

Tell us about some of the Victorian characters in your book and their jobs.
Some of the other characters include: a small crossing sweeper called Oi, a rich spoilt society girl called Isabella Thorpe, and a trusty clerk called Trafalgar Moggs. Oh – the the two detectives, Detective Inspector Leo Stride and Detective Sergeant Jack Cully – who appear in each of the succeeding novels ..rather like Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. The books are crammed with minor characters… a bit like a Dickens novel.
What are you working on at the moment?
The second book in the series, Honour & Obey will be published on November 18th. It revolves around the ever topical hunt for a husband. In the 1860s it was even worse than now: no internet, a lot of social rules and regulations, a rigid class system and a surplus of women! The book explores the plight of 3 different women, all on the lookout for love and marriage. Who ends up with a man and who doesn’t? You will have to read the book to find out!

Where can readers find out more about you?
Carol's_Birthday_2014.008
I love social media. I’m a real Twitter addict, so the first place to find me is by following me on Twitter: @carolJhedges I put up pictures, links to my books and blogs, links to my friends’ books and blogs and really,anything that takes my fancy. I love chatting, so drop by and say hello.

You can always visit my blog: http://carolhedges.blogspot.co.uk I blog every week, posting the latest on at 8 am (UK time) on a Saturday. Here you can read my ramblings about life, or check out a ‘Pink Sofa’ post, where a fellow writer is invited to share their books and writing experiences.
I have an Amazon page:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Carol-Hedges/e/B0034PUES6/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1/277-0303524-9780940 where you can get details of my other books.
 
 
Diamonds & Dust purchasing links: Amazon US: buff.ly/18SdNOV   UK:buff.ly/18fkua3
 
also available on Nook, Smashwords …as ebook and book.