REVIEW : The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel


Penguin Books seems to surprisingly good at find crime fiction that feel fresh as soon as you open it and Oscar De Muriel's The Strings of Murder is another example of that trend. Similarly to "The Sea Detective" which I've reviewed earlier in the week, De Muriel's story is built upon the elements that you wouldn't normally associate with the murder investigation and yet, that very fact turns out to be its most appealing characteristic, the very trait that sets it apart from the rest.

"The Strings of Murder" takes place in Edinburgh in 1888 and open with a brutal murder of a virtuoso violinist. The murder occurred in the safety of his home under mysterious circumstances. The maid swears that just before the murder she heard three musicians playing and yet the murder happened inside the locked practice room. Scotland Yard's Inspector Ian Frey is assigned to the case after failing to make any headway in Jack the Ripper case that is unfolding at the same time. Frey actively dislikes Scotland. There's no other way to put it but he simply has no choice. It's either that or being dismissed from the police force. He is taking the investigation under the guise of a pretend police department which specialises in the occult. Frey doesn't actually believe in the supernatural but his boss, Detective Adolpho 'Nine Nails' McGray actually does which really grates on Frey. And it's not their only difference between the two. Half of the time they're just bluntly insulting each other. And that's before you even mention the London - Edinburgh rivalry. It's an interesting and rewarding setup that works tremendously well once the duo finds their dynamic. As the body count increases, Frey once again comes under that tremendous pressure that followed him all the way through the Ripper case but if anything, this series of murders seems to be even harder to understand. There's no obvious connection between the victims except of the fact that they were all violinists.

Oscar De Muriel's fiendishly clever "The Strings of Murder" is a wonderful debut. It has all the hallmarks of a great Gothic detective novel and with a cast such as Frey & McGray it could just be the series that might last for a very long time. It will be interesting seeing where he takes his characters next as "The Strings of Murder" will definitely be a tough act to follow. We won't have long to wait as the sequel to it, "A Fever of the Blood", is just around the corner.

Review copy provided by Penguin Press
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REVIEW : Lost Souls by Seth Patrick


Few years back, Seth Patrick's Reviver was all the rage. We talked a lot about it, both in the office and in a pub over a pint. Everyone thought it was one of the most intriguing books of the year and we just couldn't wait for the follow up which was supposed to come out shortly after, if the book listings were to be listened to. But then Seth Patrick just disappeared. There was the adaptation of The Returned to get out of the way and time just flew by so I was pleasantly surprised when all of the sudden Lost Souls finally came out. Truth be told, by now I've completely lost all hope of ever reading it.

Lost Souls pretty much continues straight on from the events depicted in the Reviver. The work of a forensic revivalist is, at best of times, never easy and as we again encounter Jonah Miller, we find him standing at one of the most important crossroads of his life. The campaign against revival organised by The Afterlifers who want the whole thing shut down is at its height and deservedly so. Everyone, including Miller, is increasingly disillusioned with the process. It is obvious things have to change. But for Jonah, everything kicks off again when a mutilated body of Mary Connart is found. Police are unable to make a move and Jonah is called in to help. If you remember, a reviving process brings back the deceased from the brink and give her a few extra moments to say goodbye or, more importantly, say what actually happened. What he finds out this time is far darker and disturbing than anything he encountered before and related so certain events from the first book.

Lost Souls has all the appeal and strangeness that made Reviver so appealing in the first place but I have to acknowledge that it is simply not so unique anymore as it was when it originally appeared. In the meantime, shows like (ironic as it is) The Returned have moved in the similar general area and occupied the same place. Still, Patrick give them all a run for their money. In my opinion, second books in just about any trilogy should never be considered on its own but as a part of the whole. In this aspect Lost Souls works wonderfully well and manages to enrich the strange world of forensic revivalists that Patrick has created. If you still haven't done so and you find Lost Souls interesting, I definitely suggest you start with Reviver and move on from there. Patrick knows how to weave a tale and it is still one of the best ones in town. I just hope we won't have to wait as long for the final part of the trilogy to come.

Review copy provided by Pan Macmillan
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REVIEW : Three Light Years by Andrea Canobbio


"Three Light-Years" ("Tre anni luce") by Andrea Conobbio was originally published in Italy in 2013, and after its publication in 2014 in US, it is finally making its way to UK where the same translation will be published by MacLehose Press.

"Three Light-Years" is a melancholic novel that's mostly about relationships and the places we finds ourselves in once things turn sour. Cecilia and Claudio are both at a stage where going back is just not possible anymore but going forward is just as hard. Cecilia is a young woman living with two children while Claudio is still living with in a same building as his parents and ex-wife. It's complicated. And yet, during the many lunches they share together at the workplace they gradually open themselves to the kindness of strangers even in their unimaginably hard situations, they find companionship and understanding in each other, one they never thought possible. Slowly and cautiously their friendship turns to something resembling attraction. They're unsure how to continue or whether their relationship even makes sense after everything that happened before but there it is.

However, everything changes when Claudio meets Cecilia's sister and realises something about his life. For most of it he's been saying yes not because he wants to but because saying no is so hard. In the meantime Cecilia is slowly falling in love with him and the stage is set.

Andrea Canobbio writes about all those things in life that should be easy but are simply not. On paper, relationships and children look like something everyone could handle with ease but once you get to the bottom of it, it's the little things that end up being hard to pin down. Those are the reasons why "Three Light-Years" will resonate with just about everyone. Anne Milano Appel—Canobbio wonderfully captures the fragile beauty of the original text and while we feel for Cecilia and Claudio, and eagerly want for them to find their way, we just want to believe that we would better, cleverer, in their shoes, knowing we wouldn't. "Three Light-Years" is a lovely and moving, but very melancholic, story about relationships and its pitfalls.

Review copy provided by Maclehose Press
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REVIEW : A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe


As years slowly tick away, I always expect for Gene Wolfe to announce his retirement from writing but every time he does the exact opposite. He surprises me by offering a completely new tale that is as thought-provoking as his best works were. "A Borrowed Man", his latest novel, is the prime example of the fact that even in this day and age, Wolfe is still a major force to be reckoned with. Having said that, Wolfe is never one to look towards the past. He’s constantly evolving even though some of his readers would want him to churn out the same old stuff. Happily I don’t consider myself to be one of them and he is not type of an author anyway.

"A Borrowed Man", his latest SF novel is a far cry from the “Book of the New Sun” series and is more akin to some of his recent output such as "Peace" or "The Land Across". Set in a near future North America where our civilization is just about replaced by the next generation society which still retains many familiar elements. At first glance, it is a wondrous place with advanced technology and other marvels such as robots and clones. Such institutions as libraries have evolved into something as far removed from the stuffy rooms filled with print books as possible.  If you ever wanted to have a chat with your favorite authors, even if they've died long time ago, in the world of the future that is a distinct possibility thanks to cloning and the ability to upload personalities into them. This allows for many interesting possibilities, and one of them involves E. A. Smithe, a borrowed person. Living on a third-tier shelf in a public library, his personality is actually an uploaded recording of a deceased mystery writer. Author in question has written in a secret in a text of one of his novels, Murder on Mars - a way to a tremendous wealth. Colette Coldbrook, a library patron, takes E. A. Smithe out of the library on a quest to find the book and discover its secret.

Just going by the synopsis alone, "A Borrowed Man" seems like an extraordinarily imaginative book but when you combine it with Wolfe's poetic language, then you finally get something that is truly remarkable. It is simply a magnificent read that once again shows that Wolfe is simply not ready for retirement yet. If anything, he is still writing as powerfully as ever. 

Review copy provided by Tor Books
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REVIEW : The Yellow Diamond by Andrew Martin


You might be surprised to hear that the latest offering from the author of much loved Jim Stringer series doesn't feature a railway in sight. "The Yellow Diamond" is something of a departure for Andrew Martin and as it's often a case with authors who break the routine, the end-result feels instantly refreshing. "The Yellow Diamond" is subtitled as "A Crime of the Super-Rich" so even before I started reading the first page, I had a clear idea what the book could be about. I was expecting something like a Pink Panther story where dashing thief nicks stuff from the super-rich. Not being one of the super-rich, or having the imagination of Andrew Martin, I was, of course, completely wrong. "The Yellow Diamond" is nothing like it and if anything, it some might consider it too be too slow or too atmospheric. Another thing that surprised me was the fact that the novel takes place is contemporary setting. I really wasn't expecting laptops, investment markets and BMW 4 series which all make appearance in the opening chapter. For some reason I though "The Yellow Diamond" will be taking place in the 60s.

"The Yellow Diamond" opens with John-Paul, a man living luxurious life while being on the run. He drinks Chivas Regal and is staying at the Connaught Hotel, and he's understandably worried. A week ago he reported himself for insider dealing. The chapter doesn't end well for him. Story gets even more complicated with the attack on Detective Superintendent George Quinn, a man who is considered by everyone to be Detective Chief Super but is intentionally getting marked down because he doesn't like to do admin. Everything starts when DS Quinn sets up a new police unit dedicated primarily to investigating the super-rich. Being from Mayfair himself, DSI Quinn is in perfect position to be able to do so but everything turns rather serious after he is shot. DI Blake Reynolds, together with Quinn's secretary Victoria Clifford, takes over the investigation and suddenly finds himself in a situation that far more serious and dangerous than he bargained for. The high flying world of the super-rich is filled with conspiracies, and Reynolds and Clifford must work together despite their differences if they're to help Quinn.

"The Yellow Diamond" is perhaps not the best novel that Andrew Martin has written so far but it is certainly one of the most readable ones which is a no small feat when you consider his prolific career. "The Yellow Diamond" harks back to the golden age of detective novels despite being set in the modern age. It's instantly engaging and with a cast of characters that's easy to care for, expect to spend many enjoyable hours furiously turning the pages to find out what happens next.

Review copy provided by Faber Books
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REVIEW : High Dive by Jonathan Lee


When you're described by Guardian as "a major new voice in British fiction" you must be prepared to be able to shoulder a considerable burden of reader's expectations. Jonathan Lee is certainly not one to shy away from difficult subjects and his latest novel "High Dive" revolves around one of the most disturbing events in recent history: IRA bombings of the Grand Hotel during the Conservative Party conference in 1985 and its effect it had on the lives of ordinary people. Even though British Prime Minister at the time Margaret Thatcher escaped unharmed, five people died and over thirty were injured.

The story opens as eighteen year old Dan is enters the ranks of IRA. At the time Dan is just an ordinary young man confused by the constant conflict in his hometown. As a Catholic living on a Protestant street he has seen it all, so when he joins IRA he feels like he's finally coming home. He feels like a part of family again and will be willing to do whatever it takes to recapture that feeling. Behind the scenes Dan is used for nefarious purposed by those who should know better. The history tells us that this horrific act was committed by someone who checked into Grand Hotel in Brighton under the name Roy Walsh and while the actual perpetrator has turned out to be one Patrick Magee. The bomb itself was hidden well in advance and primed to go off during the conference itself. For Lee, that mysterious man is Dan, a conflicted individual caught in a situation that spells the end of many innocents. Dan's story is said against Philip Finch, the Deputy General Manager of the Grand Hotel, and his teenage daughter Freya.

Jonathan Lee has written a poignant and heart-breaking book that never succumbs to sensationalism. If anything it is written as a homage to many people who had their lives changed because of this insanity. As I've closed "High Dive" I was left with many questions and I have to admit that afterwards I've did a fair bit of reading trying to understand the circumstances. Of course, a horrific event like this will never have an easy to understand explanation. We'll never understand the desperation behind the act. What's certain is that after the publication "High Dive", Jonathan Lee's name will even more connected with the statement that he is "a major new voice in British fiction" and deservedly so.

Review copy provided by William Heinemann
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REVIEW : The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas Home


It's no secret that it's incredible hard to think of something new to bring into a genre that's simply bursting at the seams. Crime fiction always comes from the same place, a horrific thing that people do to each other, a surely you would expect every avenue to be explored by now? Not if you ask Mark Douglas-Home, author of one of the most unique crime novels I had pleasure to read in recent times.

"The Sea Detective", first novel in the series featuring Cal McGill, an Edinburgh-based expect oceanographer and marine tracker, courtesy of Floatsam and Jetsam Investigations, is certainly different. All the elements you would expect in a book which deals with a murder investigating are simply absent. McGill instead relies on the very things he knows best - shipping records, ocean currents and prevailing winds to track objects, including human bodies, at sea.  I never thought something like that could work and yet, Douglas-Home pulls it off, mainly due to intriguing story that grips straight from the opening page.

The story opens up in a truly disturbing and grisly fashion. A girl names Preety is being trafficked by her father in exchange for money. What follows are horrific scenes that are better left unsaid at this point. It's an incredibly sad affair. In the following pages we're introduced to Cal McGill as he's being chased by the police but the story truly beings when two severed feet suddenly wash up on two different island off the coast of Scotland, one by a women walking her dog on a Seacliff beach in East Lothian. As you would expect, it is not a coincidence. The feet belong to the same body and soon everyone turns to only person that has any chance to understand how it all happened - Cal McGill. However, what starts as the analysis of ocean currents, soon turns sour as McGill ends up entangled into something far above his station.

Douglas-Home has found a truly intriguing character in Cal McGill. He's both likeable and slight frustrating person to meet. He suffers from the malaise of being truly intelligent but unable to accept the injustice in the world so once he's on the case, he simply doesn't know how to let go. He's even willing to go to prison for his ideals and ironically for an investigator, he doesn't really respect the authority. All this makes "The Sea Detective" one rather refreshing read, one that I heartily recommend to anyone who enjoys crime fiction but is getting tired of same old same old. Hopefully, this is just a beginning for both Cal McGill and Mark Douglas-Home. If "Sea Detective" is anything to go by, we can expect great things from both of them.

Review copy provided by Penguin Books
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The Sword of Attila by David Gibbins cover art and synopsis

The Sword of Attila by David Gibbins will be published on November 19, 2015 by Pan Macmillan


AD 439: the Roman Empire is on the brink of collapse. With shocking speed a Vandal army has swept through the Roman provinces of Spain and north Africa, conquering Carthage and threatening Roman control of the Mediterranean. But a far greater threat lies to the east, a barbarian force born in the harsh steppelands of Asia, warriors of unparalleled savagery who will sweep all before them in their thirst for conquest - the army of Attila the Hun.

For a small group of Roman soldiers and a mysterious British monk, the only defence is to rise above the corruption and weakness of the Roman emperors and hark back to the glory days of the Roman army centuries before, to find strength in history. But then they devise a plan of astonishing audacity that will take them to the heart of darkness itself, to the stronghold of the most feared warrior-king the world has ever known. In the showdown to come, in the greatest battle the Romans have ever fought, victory will go to those who can hold high the most potent symbol of war ever wrought by man - the sacred sword of Attila.

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REVIEW : The Night Clock by Paul Meloy


Paul Meloy's debut novel "The Night Clock" is one of those books that you either fall in love in or actively dislike. It'll either become a cult classic or simply be forgotten and, of course, it is up to you, the readers, to decide what will ultimately happen with it. "The Night Clock" is slightly hard to describe. It is one of those books that fit the loose category that is magic realism and as a showcase of Paul Meloy's force of imagination it is certainly a sight to behold. Woven around the always sensitive subject of mental illness, Meloy's vistas are wonderfully descriptive but difficult to understand. For that reason, "The Night Clock" is a tale best enjoyed slowly.

"The Night Clock" sets its story in places between realities. Phil Trevena's patients are dying and he's struggling to understand why. The breakthrough he's looking for comes when a patient in his care points him towards Daniel, a disturbed individual from his past. Phil and Daniel are pushed together by circumstances and soon end up in the wonderfully strange Dark Time and become embroiled in affairs that far surpass the limits of their understanding. And that's as far as I can (or dare to) explain the tale of "The Night Clock". To be end, it is best discovered yourself.

If there's one thing to say about Paul Meloy is that he knows how to write. Every word seems to be carefully placed at its exact position as if to imbue each sentence with a deeper meaning. Strictly personally speaking, I'm still not sure whether I've understood everything that went on in it, but I certainly liked it. I am also aware that reading "The Night Clock was a unique experience. Therefore, it is definitely worth checking out if you’re feeling adventurous. You never know, it might turn out to be your favourite book ever.

Review copy provided by Solaris Books
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Gollancz November Paperbacks


This is an exceptional, contemporary, heart-breaking novel.

Toby's life was perfectly normal . . . until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House; an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They're looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it's time to take them to the sanatorium.

No one returns from the sanatorium.

Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, andeverything changes.

Because everybody dies. It's how you choose to live that counts.


They told David it was impossible - that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet, Steelheart - invincible, immortal, unconquerable - is dead. And he died by David's hand.

Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life more simple. Instead, it only made David realise he has questions. Big ones. And there's no one in Newcago who can give him the answers he needs.

Babylon Restored, the old borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic, Regalia, David is sure Babylon Restored will lead him to what he needs to find. And while entering another city oppressed by a High Epic despot is a gamble, David's willing to risk it. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David's heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic - Firefight. And he's willing to go on a quest darker, and more dangerous even, than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.


A young woman possessed by a ghost has slain the Fisher King of the West, Scott Crane. Now, temporarily freed from that malevolent spirit, she seeks to restore the King to life.

But Crane's body has been taken to the magically protected home of Pete and Angelica Sullivan, and their adopted son, Koot Hoomie. Kootie is destined to be the next Fisher King, but he is only 13 years old -- too young, his mother thinks, to perform the rituals to assume the Kingship.

But not too young, perhaps, to assist in reuniting Scott Crane's body and spirit, and restoring him to life . . .


Old friends and foes return as new threats arise in this stunning and revelatory conclusion to the beloved and bestselling Heir Chronicles series.

The delicate peace between Wizards and the underguilds (Warriors, Seers, Enchanters, and Sorcerers) still holds by the thinnest of threads, but powerful forces inside and outside the guilds threaten to sever it completely.

Emma and Jonah are at the center of it all. Brought together by their shared history, mutual attraction, and a belief in the magic of music, they now stand to be torn apart by new wounds and old betrayals. As they struggle to rebuild their trust in each other, Emma and Jonah must also find a way to clear their names as the prime suspects in a series of vicious murders. It seems more and more likely that the answers they need lie buried in the tragedies of the past. The question is whether they can survive long enough to unearth them.


The balance of galactic power in the 31st century revolves around Illyrion, the most precious energy source in the universe. Captain Lorq van Ray's varied and exotic crew know their mission is dangerous, but they have no idea of Lorq's secret obsession: to gather Illyrion at source by flying through the very heart of an imploding star.

Win one of this month's titles by sending a receipt/confirmation for one of the Gollancz's books you bought during the last three months to info @ upcoming4 . me.