Sunday, 24 November 2013

Sherlock Holmes: The Will of the Dead by George Mann

A wealthy old man falls to his death after a family party and his will then goes missing. The dead man’s nephew calls upon Sherlock Holmes to help find the missing document that will save him and his family from ruin. 

Just as the case begins, with the faithful Doctor Watson assisting, a mysterious long lost relative appears, making a seemingly substantial claim on the inheritance, turning the investigation into a race against time to solve the mystery and shed light on more than one suspicious death. 

Inspector Charles Bainbridge is the official officer in charge of the investigation, but he has his hands full with a case of “iron men” running amok in London; unstoppable metal automatons conducting violent jewellery robberies. He works tirelessly with Holmes and Watson to solve both cases before the danger turns on the three heroes themselves.

George Mann is a fantastic storyteller. I had the pleasure of reviewing The Executioner’s Heart from the Newbury & Hobbes universe, which is just as gripping. There’s no preamble, we are plunged straight into the mystery from the start and drawn into to a complex web of betrayals and deception. I was absolutely hooked from the first chapter. 

Doctor Watson is the main narrator here, with some additional account scattered throughout from some of the other main players. Sherlock Holmes is every bit the eccentric, brilliant minded, wily detective you would expect him to be, and Watson is a loyal and brave accomplice for Holmes’ plots and plans. 

The descriptive prose sets the scenes well and the steampunk element with the fearsome iron men is an imaginative, fitting addition to an already engaging story. Sherlock Holmes fans will not be disappointed with this exciting read. The Will of the Dead is a must read for historical crime readers as well, being intelligent and intriguing from beginning to end.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Wallace & Gromit - The Complete Newspaper Comic Strips Collection

I was so thrilled to be given the chance to review this book. I’m a huge Wallace and Gromit fan. I remember watching the series on TV as child and loving the simplicity and heart fun of the animation. I've since loved their feature length movie and I even have the DVD of all the episodes that never fails to cheer me up on a dull day. 

For those that don’t know (if that’s even possible!) Wallace is a inventor who always has the best of intentions but his homemade gadgets often get him into trouble. His faithful companion is Gromit, a clever canine who also manages to save the day, yet rarely gets any credit for it. 

This book is a collection of W&G comic strips, some of which featured in the Sun newspaper. The strips are all bright and colourful and each mini story is filled with fun. There are gadgets galore and plenty of puns to make even the most serious of grumps crack a smile. 

The strips are great examples of the pair’s spontaneous adventures. Sometimes the two of them set off on a fun filled day and end up getting much more than they bargained for. Sometimes they start a new business, which don’t always go to plan when their homemade machines end up running amok. Other times just an ordinary day at 62 West Wallaby street turns out to be extraordinary, but the lovable twosome always end up safe and sound with a cup of tea and some cheese. 

Speaking of cheese, it must be mentioned that along with inventing, Wallace is something of a cheese enthusiast. One thing this book is not short of is cheese; pictures of cheese, missions for cheese and lots of cheesy jokes. Extremely cheesy, but I wouldn't have Wallace and Gromit any other way. 

There is a nice introduction from creator Nick Park and throughout the book there are stills from the animation which is a nostalgic touch. This is a great collection to flick through; a comic strip or two a day has kept me smiling for weeks.

This would make a great gift for a Wallace and Gromit fan or for anyone that enjoys comic strips. Charming and funny, this is a cracking collection perfect for readers young and old.  

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce

This book came to my attention after winning The British Fantasy Award for Best Novel. The author Graham Joyce received a standing ovation at the awards ceremony last week, which marked his first public appearance since he was diagnosed with cancer earlier on in the year. 

Initially I was asked to help publicise the Best Novel Award win, but after reading the press release for the book, I was intrigued and had to give this novel a read. 

It tells of Tara, who after vanishing in local woodland at the age of sixteen, unexpectedly turns up on her parents’ doorstep twenty years later. 

Her parents, brother and the besotted boyfriend she left behind are all rocked by her return, and the fantastical explanation she offers for her disappearance leave them all questioning the girl they love and the ordinary world they thought they knew. 

I don’t want to give away too much of Tara’s story, but we are described a tale of world hidden from ours, almost without limits but with overlaps that can prove to have dangerous consequences. 

I liked how the story was told from different viewpoints; from Tara’s storytelling to her family’s experiences of her reappearance. We also get to read the case notes of the psychiatrist who is hired to figure out Tara’s outlandish claims, which I thought was an interesting and intelligent addition amidst the reality of the family life and the dreamy quality of Tara’s tale. 

The descriptions and the plot lines are enchanting; in a raw and truthful way with an element of magic too. I really felt for all the main characters surrounding Tara and the story as a whole was incredibly touching.

I often enjoy stories where fairy theme and everyday life collide; it makes you want to believe that possibly, some of it could happen. Intriguing and wondrous, Some Kind of fairy Tale is a heartfelt and imaginative novel that deserves every shred of its praise. 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Bronze Gods by A.A. Aguirre

Bronze Gods is the first book in a new series that combines crime fiction with steampunk and fantasy. Dorstaad is where the action takes place. In Dorstaad there are regular citizens but also some with Fae blood. 

Great houses boasting the lineage of great power have wide influence in the city, and when a daughter from one of these prestigious families s found brutally murdered, huge pressure is placed on the Criminal Investigation Division to solve the case.

In deep from the start are CID work partners Janus Mikani and Celeste Ritsuko. Mikani is a wild charmer with a Fae gift that gives him heightened sixth sense. Ritsuko is organised and logical; a first female inspector constantly battling to prove herself in a male dominated environment. 

Together they pursue a ruthless killer who mixes cruel killing devices and ritualistic magic to despatch his high profile victims, which makes for exciting reading. 

I always find steampunk so fascinating as there are almost no limitations on the world you can create. This novel is a great blend of old world charm and futurism but combining it with the fantasy element takes it that little bit further in the awesome stakes. 

I loved Mikani and Ritsuko from the start. Straight away you get a strong sense of their personalities and their partnership; underneath the banter there is genuine care. A.A. Aguirre are a husband and wife writing team so it fits that they could create such a compatible duo. 

There is lots of action and crime scene detail, steampunk additions, a hint of romance and in this first book we touch on a whole new fantasy world of Fae bloods and invaders just waiting to be explored. Bronze Gods is a wondrous first book in an exciting new cross-genre series, full of imagination and heart; definitely one to watch out for.