‘The King’s Hounds’ is a murder mystery set in Oxford during the reign of King Cnut. An unlikely duo, Winston and Halfdan form a friendship that is still in its early stages when they find themselves assigned the job of investigating the murder and reporting their findings to the king, a task complicated by an abundance of suspects and plenty of obstructions along the way.
The reader is immersed in the sights and sounds of medieval England, culturally divided between those of Anglo-Saxon and Danish/Viking origins just as Cnut has come to the throne, which places the events of the story in the year of 1016. The resulting climate of distrust and resentment adds further difficulty and intrigue to the case: the king himself is not above suspicion in the death of a prominent Anglo-Saxon thane.
The characters are very well developed, and are characterised effectively by the narrator. The contrast between the conservative Winston and the rogueish Halfdan creates some entertaining moments, but also enables each of them to play to his strengths when challenged by the various situations and problems they encounter.
The story is interesting and entertaining, and quite well told. The dialogue is a little stilted at times and not quite consistent with the way people spoke during that period of history, but this may be accounted for by the fact that the book was translated from Danish into English.
The narration by Napoleon Ryan is noticeably slow, but before I was far into the book, I began to feel that this was something of an advantage, because it gave me time to take in all the detail of the story.
An enjoyable and interesting book, ‘The King’s Hounds’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.
Damien and Millie return in the second instalment of the Damien Dickens mystery series, ‘The White Russian Caper‘ is a mystery adventure that takes the reader from Atlantic City to Hollywood— erm… Florida, in pursuit of the answers they are commissioned to find.
As in all good mysteries, there are plenty of viable suspects and some most intriguing complications and twists.
Tom Lennon delivers another excellent detective-noir style narration with clarity, easy pace, and very good characterisations of the various roles in the story.
Like the first in the series, this audiobook comes highly recommended, and has received a Gold Acorn.
This is a fascinating story – the entirely original characters, locations and magical elements make it fantasy, yet it is overlaid on a foundation of elements of history in The Wars of the Roses and the life story of the English king Richard III. The way in which those historical elements are drawn upon and interwoven throughout the story and rich layers of complexity and interest to the story. The reader becomes deeply engaged in the story as it unfolds, particularly when the key characters are faced with danger or discovery.
The characters are vividly portrayed, crafted to engage the reader’s empathy for the protagonist, a young boy named Owen, and those who prove themselves his friends. There is also a good range of characters for whom the reader enjoys contempt and significant distrust— indeed, disliking them is actually a pleasurable experience.
The Audible narration of the book is clearly read and quite expressive, although occasionally sounds a little flat and stilted – perhaps in contrast to the great use of voice and tone to deliver effective characterisation when the characters speak. While this may cause trifling annoyance for the listener from time to time, it did not prove to be an issue sufficient to really affect the listener’s enjoyment of the story itself.
The first novel in what promises to be a most excellent and enjoyable series, The Queen’s Poisoner has been awarded a Gold Acorn.
I love a great story as much as anyone, but I also really enjoy it when a story makes me thing about important ideas that relate to life beyond the book, too.
‘Bound By a Dragon’ is a powerful story that tells of the dangers of prejudice and wilful ignorance, and of the difference that is made by accepting someone for what they are. This book demonstrates that prejudices are learned behaviours, incredibly hard to break once formed and bringing about significant consequences not just for the individual who holds them, but also for those on the receiving end.
In fact, it is fair to say that as the story progresses, the central character Keira is challenged to rethink many of her assumptions about people and the rules her society holds to so strongly. It is hard to learn to trust one’s instincts over what one has always been taught, and even more difficult to change others’ perceptions and understandings of the way things are in life. Through Keira’s challenges and discoveries, the reader is led to thinking about the assumptions we make and the misunderstandings we carry, and how they impact on our own lives and relationships.
Through Aaron’s experiences the reader is given lessons about individuality and self-acceptance, but also about accepting the things that happen in life and dealing with them in healthy ways.
These important themes and ideas are intricately woven together to create a book that is complex and thought-provoking at the same time as immersing the reader in a distant fantasy land and being wonderfully entertaining.
The plot and premise of this book are interesting and quite original, building intrigue and suspense with some well-constructed complications and twists to keep the reader engaged in the story.
The audiobook narration is expressive and fluent, and I really enjoyed the change of accent. I found it easy to understand every word, and appreciated the easy pace and rhythm of the narrative.
‘Bound by a Dragon’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.
The identity of Jack the Ripper remains one of the biggest mysteries in the history of both Victorian England, and of the murky world of serial killers.
Maniscalco takes that mystery, envelopes it in the life and times of a fictional would-be forensic scientist, shrouds it with London fog, and hides it in a dark place where nobody thinks or dares to look.
‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’ is a beautifully written blend of mystery, macabre horror and historical fiction that keeps the audience completely rivered as the story unfolds. Suspense builds from the time of the discovery of the first victim right up to the climax and conclusion.
The cast of characters is varied and complex, each with secrets and personal motivations that intrigue both the reader and one another. The way in which the author drops hints and suggestions is quite tantalising, adding another layer of mystery to the characters and their actions.
I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook. The narration was fluent and well paced, and a pleasure to listen to.
I definitely plan to indulge in the sequel very soon.
‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.
This is my favourite kind of story: history, magic, mystery, suspense, danger and choices that seem impossible to make. Superimposing a magical overlay onto real historical events made this book absolutely fascinating and gave it a very strong sense of originality and intrigue. The drama built slowly and steadily throughout each complication and challenge, drawing the reader deeper and more intricately into both Thomas’ life and challenges and the Gunpowder Plot itself.
The main characters were well-rounded and likeable, even if it was not always possible to like or condone some of the things they felt compelled to do, and the problems they faced were well-designed and skilfully developed. The way in which the author breathed both life and magic into historical figures, events and places made them seem so real that the audience really does begin to feel as though they are there, looking over Thomas’ shoulder and equally as swept along by the action of the story as it unfolds as he is.
Of course, part of the magic of this audiobook is the masterful narration by Oliver Hembrough, who excels at voice acting and storytelling. His performance combined with Brandes’ brilliant writing to create an audiobook that is flawless in its delivery of this deeply intriguing tale. This beautifully crafted story completely captivated me.
‘The Green Pearl Caper’ is a very enjoyable detective-noir style whodunnit story that keeps the audience guessing right to the end. The narration by Tom Lennon really suits the style of the story, very reminiscent of the black and white private eye movies that used to play on Saturday afternoon TV.
The story is well constructed, developing at a good pace while keeping the reader guessing until the end. There are plenty of characters, both major and minor, who could be suspects, and the first person perspective of Damien Dickens invites the audience to develop theories and speculate on the evidence as more than an onlooker.
This was a really engaging audiobook, and I am glad to know there are more in the series.
‘The Great Pearl Caper’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.