Clinch by Martin Holmen

The writing’s on the wall for Harry Kvist. Once a notorious boxer, he now spends his days drinking, and his nights chasing debts amongst the pimps, prostitutes and petty thieves of 1930s Stockholm. When women can’t satisfy him, men can. But one biting winter’s night he pays a threatening visit to a debtor named Zetterberg, and when the man is found dead shortly afterwards, all eyes are on Kvist. Determined to avoid yet another stint in prison, Kvist sets out to track down the only person who can clear his name. His hunt will lead him from the city’s slums, gangster hideouts and gambling dens to its most opulent hotels and elite nightclubs. It will bring him face to face with bootleggers and whores, aristocrats and murderers. It will be the biggest fight of his life. Time for some crime. I’ve read and enjoyed quite of a lot of Scandinavian crime fiction. I’ve also read and enjoyed quite of lot of historical fiction. The promise of a novel that successfully combines the two certainly piques my interest. Clinch is the debut novel from Martin Holmen featuring ex-boxer Harry Kvist. Kvist remains a bit of an enigma throughout. Though there are…

A Fever of the Blood by Oscar de Muriel
Crime , Historical , Oscar de Muriel , Penguin / February 11, 2016

Please note A Fever of the Blood is a direct sequel to The Strings of Murder and it is likely that if you haven’t read this book first then this review may contain something akin to minor spoilers. Don’t say I didn’t warn you in advance. New Year’s Day, 1889. In Edinburgh’s lunatic asylum, a patient escapes as a nurse lays dying. Leading the manhunt are legendary local Detective ‘Nine-Nails’ McGray and Londoner-in-exile Inspector Ian Frey. Before the murder, the suspect was heard in whispered conversation with a fellow patient – a girl who had been mute for years. What made her suddenly break her silence? And why won’t she talk again? Could the rumours about black magic be more than superstition? McGray and Frey track a devious psychopath far beyond their jurisdiction, through the worst blizzard in living memory, into the shadow of Pendle Hill – home of the Lancashire witches – where unimaginable danger awaits… I do like to throw the odd crime novel into my reading list, and I have to admit, historical crime tends to be my personal favourite. In particular, I have a soft for anything set in the Victorian era. This time period feels like…

Hereward: The Immortals by James Wilde
Bantam Press , Historical , James Wilde / August 14, 2015

Hereward: The Immortals is part of an ongoing series, book five for those keeping track. As such it is entirely likely that this review will contain spoilers if you haven’t read the splendid tomes that have preceded it. With that warning in mind move forward at your own peril. 1073 – under the merciless sun of the east, a dark force has risen – a Norman adventurer who could rival the feared King William for bloody ambition. He has conquered his land, he has built his fortress and he has amassed his army. And now he has taken Constantinople’s ruler as his prisoner… It falls to Hereward to rescue this precious captive. For this great English warrior-in-exile and his spear-brothers, it will mean mounting a raid that could prove the most dangerous and deadliest of their lives. Assisting them in their task will be an elite and legendary band of fighters, the Immortals – so-called because they believe they cannot die in battle. But it will not be enough – for enemies hide within the jewelled heart of Byzantium: vipers who spread their poison, who want to see the English dead at any cost and who are to transform a…

The Tournament by Matthew Reilly
Historical , Matthew Reilly , Orion / July 27, 2015

England, 1546. A young Princess Elizabeth is surrounded by uncertainty. She is not currently in line for the throne, but remains a threat to her older sister and brother. In the midst of this fevered atmosphere comes an unprecedented invitation from the Sultan in Constantinople. He seeks to assemble the finest chess players from the whole civilised world and pit them against each other. Roger Ascham, Elizabeth’s teacher and mentor in the art of power and politics, is determined to keep her out of harm’s way and resolves to take Elizabeth with him when he travels to the glittering Ottoman capital for the tournament. But once there, the two find more danger than they left behind. There’s a killer on the loose and a Catholic cardinal has already been found mutilated. Ascham is asked by the Sultan to investigate the crime. But as he and Elizabeth delve deeper, they find dark secrets, horrible crimes and unheard-of depravity. Things that mark the young princess for life and define the queen she will become. If you had told me a week ago I was going to be reading a historical thriller set against the backdrop of an international chess tournament, I’d imagine…

Hereward: Wolves of New Rome by James Wilde
Bantam Press , Historical , James Wilde / June 19, 2015

Please note Hereward: Wolves of New Rome is the fourth book in an on-going series. It is entirely possible that this review might contain spoilers if you haven’t read what has come before. Don’t come crying to me and say you haven’t been warned. 1072 – The great battle has been lost. King William stands victorious. And for the betrayed and abandoned English rebels, the price of their crushing defeat is cruel: exile. Cut adrift from family, friends, home, their hopes of survival lie with one man, their leader Hereward. But can even that now-legendary hero navigate a safe course across a world torn by war? Their ultimate destination is the jewelled heart of the Christian emperor in the East, the New Rome – Byzantium. Here the English hope to find gold and glory by joining those pledged to protect the emperor, the elite and savage Varangian Guard. But this once-mighty empire is slipping into shadow. Beyond the vast walls, the endless Turkish hordes plan for an attack that could come at any moment. And within the sprawling city, rival factions threaten bloody mayhem as they scheme to seize the crown. Here begins a new chapter in the stirring tale…

Hero Born by Andy Livingstone

When Brann is wrenched from his family home after witnessing its destruction and the death of those he holds dear, he is thrust into a life of slavery. Miles away, a deposed and forgotten Emperor seeks an instrument to use in his bid to rise once again to power. Ruthless and determined, nothing and no one will stand in his way. Brann might be the Emperor’s tool, but heroes can be forged in the most unlikely of ways… What does it take to be a hero? Is it something buried deep within, or can a hero be shaped by the events that surround them? This debut novel from Andy Livingstone sets out to explore that very topic. I warmed to Brann immediately. He has a way of looking at the world that is far more analytical than everyone else. When he finds himself in a dangerous situation, which happens more often than he would like, he has the ability to emotionally detach from events and view things from a more rational viewpoint. Brann is a keen observer of humanity and learns quickly. From farm boy to galley slave and then to page for a warrior Lord, it is fascinating to…

The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel
Crime , Historical , Oscar de Muriel , Penguin / February 21, 2015

Edinburgh, 1888. A virtuoso violinist is brutally killed in his home. Black magic symbols cover the walls. The dead man’s maid swears she heard three musicians playing before the murder. But with no way in or out of the locked practice room, the puzzle makes no sense… Fearing a national panic over a copy Edinburgh, 1888. A virtuoso violinist is brutally killed in his home. Black magic symbols cover the walls. The dead man’s maid swears she heard three musicians playing before the murder. But with no way in or out of the locked practice room, the puzzle makes no sense… Fearing a national panic over a copycat Ripper, Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Frey to investigate under the cover of a fake department specializing in the occult. However, Frey’s new boss – Detective ‘Nine-Nails’ McGray – actually believes in such nonsense. McGray’s tragic past has driven him to superstition, but even Frey must admit that this case seems beyond reason. And once someone loses all reason, who knows what they will lose next… Over the last couple of years, I’ve started to really enjoy the odd foray into the realms of historical crime fiction. It strikes me that the…

The Pierced Heart by Lynn Shepherd
Crime , Delacorte Press , Historical , Lynn Shepherd / November 12, 2014

When an Austrian nobleman offers a substantial donation to the University of Oxford, Charles Maddox is called on to investigate the generous benefactor. It is a decidedly mundane task for the increasingly renowned criminal investigator, but Maddox welcomes the chance to trade London’s teeming streets for the comforts of a castle in the Viennese countryside. Comfort, however, is in short supply once Maddox steps onto foreign soil—and into the company of the mysterious Baron Von Reisenberg. A man of impeccable breeding, the Baron is nonetheless the subject of frightened whispers and macabre legends. Though Maddox isn’t one to entertain supernatural beliefs, the dank halls and foreboding shadows of the castle begin to haunt his sleep with nightmares. But in the light of day the veteran detective can find no evidence of the sinister—until a series of disturbing incidents prove him gravely mistaken and thrust him into a harrowing quest to expose whatever evil lurks behind the locked doors of the Baron’s secretive domain. After a terrifying encounter nearly costs him his sanity, Maddox is forced to return home defeated—and still pursued by the horror he’s unearthed. Owing to a string of gruesome murders committed by an elusive predator branded the…

Werewolf by Matthew Pritchard

August 1945, Germany. The Allies have won the war. Now they have to win the peace … Silas Payne is a Scotland Yard officer seconded to Germany to help implement the Allied policy of denazification. When a former Waffen SS soldier is found murdered in the cellar of a requisitioned house, Payne begins an investigation that leads him on a tortuous path of discovery through the chaos of post-war Germany and pits him against a depraved killer who will stop at nothing to protect his secret. The central premise behind Werewolf had me hooked right off the bat. The thought that a serial killer was going about their ghastly business using the ending of a war for cover. It seems so blindingly obvious now when I think about it. Confusion and chaos on every street corner, Allied soldiers getting contradictory orders, while Axis forces attempting to flee or surrender. It’s the perfect place to indulge the darkest of acts isn’t it? People are still dying every day, who is going to miss a few more? More to the point, will anyone even care? Silas Payne is more than used to dealing with worst of humanity. He has spent years working…

Age of Iron by Angus Watson
Angus Watson , Fantasy , Historical , Orbit / September 2, 2014

LEGENDS AREN’T BORN. THEY’RE FORGED. Dug Sealskinner is a down-on-his-luck mercenary travelling south to join up with King Zadar’s army. But he keeps rescuing the wrong people. First, Spring, a child he finds scavenging on the battlefield, and then Lowa, one of Zadar’s most fearsome warriors, who’s vowed revenge on the king for her sister’s execution. Now Dug’s on the wrong side of that thousands-strong army he hoped to join ­- and worse, Zadar has bloodthirsty druid magic on his side. All Dug has is his war hammer, one rescued child and one unpredictable, highly-trained warrior with a lust for revenge that’s going to get them all killed . . . It’s a glorious day to die. Turns out Iron Age Britain is not an easy place to get by in. The country is fragmented into many warring tribes constantly at one another’s throats. Bickering warlords try to grab hold of as much land and power as they can manage while trying to ignore the ever growing threat of the Roman Empire. Dug Sealskinner is a slightly shabby warrior, past his best, with a suitably world-weary outlook towards life. It’s not difficult to spot, the sardonic attitude, resigned acceptance of…

Murder by Sarah Pinborough

Please note Murder is a direct sequel to Mayhem. It is entirely possible that this review may contain spoilers if you have not read the first book in this duology. Dr Thomas Bond, Police Surgeon, is still recovering from the events of the previous year when Jack the Ripper haunted the streets of London – and a more malign enemy hid in his shadow. Bond and the others who worked on the gruesome case are still stalked by its legacies, both psychological and tangible. But now the bodies of children are being pulled from the Thames… and Bond is about to become inextricably linked with an uncanny, undying enemy. When we last met Dr Thomas Bond he, and his small group of allies, had defeated an evil that was stalking the streets of London. That encounter had left everyone it touched fundamentally changed. Years have passed and Bond is still suffering from the after effects. When evil resurfaces in the city, he is once again compelled to intercede but is the doctor strong enough to survive a second battle? In some chapters the point of view shifts from the good doctor to various other characters. Julianna Harrington and Henry Moore both…