Book Review: 'A Man's Word' by Martin Jensen

The third book in Martin Jensen’s ‘King’s Hounds’ medieval historical mystery series, ‘A Man’s Word’ is an intriguing murder mystery set in the village of Thetford. The mystery is complex and challenging, presenting a variety of possible suspects and motives which are further obscured by the transient population visiting the town for the court sessions and the markets. 

Like ‘The King’s Hounds’ and ‘Oathbreaker’, the narrative is enriched with local colour and characters who add further dimensions to the story, and with historical detail that brings the context and setting of the story to life. Being immersed in the story causes the reader to consider the  facts and develop theories about investigation, which increases their engagement and investment in the plot while Winston, Alfalfa and Halfdan conduct their inquiries and develop and test their theories.

This is a most enjoyable and satisfying mystery read.

Book Review: ‘Murder and Mistletoe’ by AR DeClerck

‘Murder and Mistletoe’ is a very good cozy mystery set in 1936, first on the Paris-Bordeaux train and then in Bordeaux itself. The very confident and classy Franny Calico is a seasoned amateur sleuth who finds herself investigating a mystery that threatens not only her own safety, but that of others near and dear to her. 

The story is well crafted and develops at a good pace, keeping both Franny and the reader intrigued. The characters are engaging and interesting, and there are sufficient touches of late 1930s styling and glamour to make the settings and plot believable. 

Easily read in less than 90 minutes, this novella delivers most enjoyable reading, ideal for readers busy with preparations for Christmas and end of year celebrations. 

Book Review: ‘The Hood Game: Rise Of The Greenwood King’ by J.P. Reedman

This is a captivating historical fantasy retelling of the story of Robin Hood and his outlaw band, set during the traditional time period of the reign of the largely absent Richard I, the Lionheart. 

The characters of legend are brought to life again, their backstories and antics told anew in a well-crafted, exciting narrative. The imagery and the action of the story immerse the reader in the company of outlaws, creating a sense of familiarity and bonding with Robyn and his companions. 

In addition to being a great story, this book serves as a vivid reminder of how hard life really was for the common folk in 12th century England, especially those who were excluded from society because of circumstances that were often beyond their control. It is easy to see why figures like Prince John, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of Gisbourne were resented and despised by so many, and why men like Robin Hood became the stuff of English legend. 

Book Review: ‘No Stone Unturned ‘ by Pam Lecky

This is a most enjoyable historical mystery, set in Victorian London and Yorkshire during the 1880s.

Lucy Lawrence  is an engaging and likeable character, at times impulsive and quick to speak her mind, but always a woman of honesty and integrity. As the story plays out, she faces some interesting and mysterious opponents and endures more than one reversal of fortune, leaving her questioning who can or cannot be trusted. This gives the reader a strong sense of empathy and loyalty that connects them to Lucy and heightens their interest in her fate.

The story is well-constructed and very well-written. The twists and turns in the story keep the reader — and Lucy — guessing right up to the last page.

Audiobook Review: ‘The Lady Of The Tower’ by Elizabeth St John

A work of historical fiction, although based on the life story of one of the author’s forebears, this is an interesting story that is probably quite realistic about the prospects of a younger daughter of a prominent family during the early years of the reign of James I. 

I confess I almost stopped listening as early as the prologue, in which a man speaking as though he were present when the young Princess Elizabeth was taken into the Tower of London was still alive as its Keeper in 1617. I returned to the beginning and listened again, decided the way in which that section was phrased was ambiguous, and continued with the story. 

The main character, Lucy, seems at times to be almost too virtuous to be quite believable, although she does have her moments where her flaws and human nature are revealed, in which she seems more relatable. For some readers, her tale will evoke deep sympathy, while others may feel she spends too much time engaging in self-pity and decrying her lot in life as the victim of the selfishness and vanity of various other people.

The most believable characters are the hateful ones: Lucy’s sister Barbara, Aunt Joan, and Frances Howard. These characters exemplify the worst of human nature, along with a certain young man who is fickle at best and heartless at worst. It is in disliking these characters that the reader feels the most empathy with Lucy. 

The narration is most enjoyable, with lively expression and very good use of tone, voice and accent to bring the characters to life. 

Overall, it is a fairly good story, expertly narrated. 

Also available as a novel and an ebook.

Book Review: ‘The Brotherhood of the Black Flag’ by Ian Nathaniel Cohen

Adventure, danger, intrigue and new horizons all await Michael McNamara as he begins a new phase of his life. 

The story travels from Bristol to Jamaica, Lisbon, and back again as McNamara takes to the high seas, sword in hand and ready to meet whatever challenges life holds in store for him. 

This is an action-packed and highly engaging story full of turns and twists that surprise Michael as much as they do the reader. The author makes great use of suspense, both at key moments where the reader finds their heart in their throat and their breath being held, and in the development of the storyline as a whole. 

The characters are lifelike and vividly drawn, presenting fascinating contrasts in human nature and reminding the reader that it is impossible either to determine integrity by appearances or to truly know what is concealed in a person’s heart. 

‘The Brotherhood Of The Black Flag’ is a most enjoyable read. 

Book Review: ‘The Orange Lilies: A Morton Farrier Novella’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

The third book in Goodwin’s The Forensic Genealogist series, ‘The Orange Lilies’ is a shorter story that focuses on Morton’s own history and the family secrets that have obscured it for so long. 

Equally interesting and intriguing as the first two books in the series, this story is different in that it is far more intensely personal for Morton, and does not involve an exterior case that Morton is called upon to investigate. This story brings some well-crafted resolution to the questions Morton has harboured as a sub-plot that runs throughout books one and two, and returns him to a position of strength and resolve, from which he can approach the future and future investigations more confidently. 

Morton’s exploration of his family history takes the story back to the opening months of World War I and his great-grandfather’s service as a soldier. While the discoveries he makes are fascinating, some questions regarding his great-grandfather and extended family still remain, giving a satisfying sense of continuity to the overall narrative of the series, and providing healthy anticipation for the next book. 

This is an excellent read, and the series as a whole is brilliant. If you enjoy historical fiction and mystery, do not overlook this book and its companions in The Forensic Genealogist series.