The Suicide Exhibition by Justin Richards
Del Rey UK , Historical , Justin Richards , Sci-Fi , Thriller / November 13, 2013

WEWELSBURG CASTLE, 1940. The German war machine has woken an ancient threat – the alien Vril and their Ubermensch have returned. Ultimate Victory in the war for Europe is now within the Nazis’ grasp. ENGLAND, 1941 Foreign Office trouble shooter Guy Pentecross has stumbled into a conspiracy beyond his imagining – a secret war being waged in the shadows against a terrible enemy. The battle for Europe has just become the war for humanity.   I don’t read a massive amount of alternate history, but I have to admit that something about the premise of this novel immediately appealed to me. Secret Nazi schemes involving advanced alien races and the quest for the Nietzschean superman. A plot like that sounds as though it could certainly hold the promise of something entertaining. Rising against the Nazi/Vril threat are the men and women of Station Z, the British department who exist shrouded in the utmost secrecy. They are tasked with stopping Axis plans by any means necessary, even if that involves working with “the most evil man who ever lived”. There are also a handful of chapters that cover the action from the perspective of the Axis soldiers. These provide a nice…

Lawless and The Devil of Euston Square
Crime , Exhibit A , Historical , William Sutton / August 12, 2013

London, 1859. Novice detective, Campbell Lawless, stumbles onto the trail of Berwick Skelton, an elusive revolutionary, threatening to bring the city to its knees with devilish acts of terror. Thrust into a lethal, intoxicating world of sabotage and royal scandal – and aided by a gang of street urchins and a vivacious librarian – Lawless sets out to capture his underworld nemesis before he unleashes his final vengeance. Murder. Vice. Pollution. Delays on the Tube. Some things never change… I’ve discovered over the last couple of years that I really enjoy historical crime fiction. Taking the staples of a good mystery and adding the extra wrinkle of a different time period can really breathe new life into the genre. Authors like Sarah Pinborough and Lynn Shepherd have produced novels that are hugely entertaining, marvellously evocative and a pleasure to read. William Sutton’s debut, set in Victorian England, treads similar ground. The big question is though, does it deliver? Things get off to a good start, Sutton’s writing vividly brings the hustle and bustle of Victorian London to life. The capital is still caught in the vast changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution. You can sense the frenetic energy of the city. Everyone has a purpose,…

Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson

 Ulfar Thormodsson has spent two years travelling as envoy and bodyguard to his high-born cousin. They have one last stop – the walled town of Stenvik – before they can finally go home. Audun Arngrimsson works his forge and lives a secretive, solitary life. No one knows about his past, and he’d like to keep it that way. But the Old Gods have other ideas. The factions within Stenvik are about to come to blows, but a far bigger battle is approaching: a young king is bringing the White Christ at point of sword and edge of blade. And on the horizon are the sails of another, more mysterious enemy…  There is a 2009 film called Vahalla Rising by Nicholas Winding Refn that stars the uber-talented Mads Mikkelsen. It follows the journeys of a Viking and explores the stark, often brutal, time which he lived. Swords of Good Men, the latest publication from Jo Fletcher Books, covers similar thematic territory but goes that little bit further. Imagine a novel that offers insight into the nature of a proud warrior culture and how tribes managed on a day-to-day basis. The remote settlement of Stenvik is a hard place to survive, in fact,…

Hereward: End of Days by James Wilde
Bantam Press , Historical , James Wilde / July 4, 2013

Hereward: End of Days is the third book in a series. If you haven’t read books one and two then there is a good chance that there will be some minor spoilers in this review. England, 1071. Five years have passed since the crushing Norman victory at the Battle of Hastings. The country reels under the savage rule of the new king, the one they call ‘the Bastard’. The North has been left a wasteland – villages razed, innocents put to the sword, land stolen. It seems no atrocity is too great to ensure William’s grip upon the crown. Rats feed upon fields of the dead And now he turns his cold gaze east, towards the last stronghold of the English resistance. After years of struggle, he will brook no further challenge to his power: his vast army masses and his siege machines are readied. In their fortress on the Isle of Ely, the English have put their faith in the only man who might defeat the murderous invaders. He is called Hereward. He is a warrior and a master tactician – as adept at slaughter as his enemy and plans have been set in motion for a bloody uprising…

Pharaoh by David Gibbins
David Gibbins , Headline , Historical , Thriller / May 22, 2013

1351 BC: Akhenaten the Sun-Pharaoh rules supreme in Egypt…until the day he casts off his crown and mysteriously disappears into the desert, his legacy seemingly swallowed up by the remote sands beneath the Great Pyramids of Giza. AD 1884: A British soldier serving in the Sudan stumbles upon an incredible discovery – a submerged temple containing evidence of a terrifying religion whose god was fed by human sacrifice. The soldier is on a mission to reach General Gordon before Khartoum falls. But he hides a secret of his own. Present day: Jack Howard and his team are excavating one of the most amazing underwater sites they have ever encountered, but dark forces are watching to see what they will find. Diving into the Nile, they enter a world three thousand years back in history, inhabited by a people who have sworn to guard the greatest secret of all time… Jack Howard is a modern day Indiana Jones type, part academic, part action man. Along with his friends and colleagues of the International Maritime University, he travels the globe uncovering facts behind myth and legend. His latest adventure finds him in Egypt and the Sudan attempting to track down the lost…

A Treacherous Likeness by Lynn Shepherd
Corsair , Crime , Historical , Lynn Shepherd / February 8, 2013

In the dying days of 1850 the young detective Charles Maddox takes on a new case. His client? The only surviving son of the long-dead poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his wife Mary, author of Frankenstein. Charles soon finds himself being drawn into the bitter battle being waged over the poet’s literary legacy, but then he makes a chance discovery that raises new doubts about the death of Shelley’s first wife, Harriet, and he starts to question whether she did indeed kill herself, or whether what really happened was far more sinister than suicide. As he’s drawn deeper into the tangled web of the past, Charles discovers darker and more disturbing secrets, until he comes face to face with the terrible possibility that his own great-uncle is implicated in a conspiracy to conceal the truth that stretches back more than thirty years. The story of the Shelleys is one of love and death, of loss and betrayal.  Last year I read Tom-All-Alone’s and I’ll happily admit that I had no idea what to expect. I was just getting back into reading historical fiction, after a long absence, and though the idea of a historical crime novel appealed, I was unsure…

The Eloquent Page 2013 Preview

I do hope that everyone is having a relaxing and enjoyable festive season. Now that most of the serious over-indulgence is done with for another year, I thought it was about time to take a look at what new book-related loveliness is due in 2013. Here are my top ten books I’m looking forward to reading in the next six months or so. Hope you enjoy. Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth Powell Publication Date: 3rd January Publisher: Solaris Genre: Simian Steampunk Science Fiction The Blurb: In 1944, as waves of German ninjas parachute into Kent, Britain’s best hopes for victory lie with a Spitfire pilot codenamed ‘Ack-Ack Macaque.’ The trouble is, Ack-Ack Macaque is a cynical, one-eyed, cigar-chomping monkey, and he’s starting to doubt everything, including his own existence. A century later, in a world where France and Great Britain merged in the late 1950s and nuclear-powered Zeppelins circle the globe, ex-journalist Victoria Valois finds herself drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the man who butchered her husband and stole her electronic soul. Meanwhile, in Paris, after taking part in an illegal break-in at a research laboratory, the heir to the British throne goes on the run….

Hereward: The Devil’s Army by James Wilde
Bantam Press , Historical , James Wilde / July 18, 2012

1067. The battle of Hastings has been lost; Harold Godwinsson is dead. The iron fist of William the Bastard has begun to squeeze the life out of England. Villages are torched and men, women and children put to the sword as the Norman king attempts to impose his cruel will upon this unruly nation. But there is one who stands in the way of the invader’s savagery. He is called Hereward. He is a warrior and master tactician and as adept at slaughter as the imposter who sits upon the throne. And he is England’s last hope. In a Fenlands fortress of water and wild wood, Hereward’s resistance is simmering. His army of outcasts grows by the day – a devil’s army that emerges out of the mists and the night, leaving death in its wake. But William is not easily cowed. Under the command of his ruthless deputy, Ivo Taillebois – the man they call ‘the Butcher’ – the Norman forces will do whatever it takes to crush the rebels, even if it means razing England to the ground. Here then is the tale of the bloodiest rebellion England has ever known – the beginning of an epic struggle…

Stories of The Smoke edited by Anne C Perry & Jared Shurin

Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke brings you London as you’ve never seen it before – science fiction and fantasy in the great tradition of Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens lived and breathed London in a way few authors ever have, before or since. In his fiction, his non-fiction, and even his own life, Dickens cast an extraordinary shadow over the city he so loved – so much so, indeed, that his name has become synonymous with a certain image of London. A London of terrible social inequality and matchless belief in the human potential; a London filled with the comic and the repulsive, the industrious and the feckless, the faithful and the faithless, the selfish and the selfless. This London is at once an historical artifact and a living, breathing creature: the steaming, heaving, weeping, stinking, everlasting Smoke. At the tail end of 2011, those crafty folk over at Pornokitsch published their first anthology Stories of the Apocalypse. I’ll admit that I rather enjoyed it (what can I say, I have a soft spot for the end of the world, feel free to ask me about it sometime). In April this year, their second release Stories of the Smoke was released. I had…

Into the Valley of Death by A.L. Berridge
A.L. Berridge , Historical , Penguin / June 28, 2012

1854 – The Allied armies prepare to besiege the Russian stronghold in the Crimea Harry Ryder is a maverick hero. Resentful of the army that destroyed his father and his own career, he has no time for incompetent commanders. He clashes with his superiors as fiercely as he fights the Russians. Four men, one woman and a game of cards will change everything and alter the course of a war. Something evil has crept into the ranks of the British Army’s own officers, an unknown enemy who plans lure men to ruin on the battlefields. The only path to victory lies in uncovering the truth, but to find it and confront his own destiny Ryder must charge with the Light Brigade into the Valley of Death itself… Taking its name from a line in the famous Tennyson poem, Into the Valley of Death covers the events that lead up to and the fallout from, the ill-fated Charge of The Light Brigade. I have to admit that prior to reading this novel the extent of my knowledge regarding the Charge of the Light Brigade, and the Crimean War as a whole, was somewhat limited. I’ve only ever read Flashman at the…

The Last Caesar by Henry Venmore-Rowland

AD 68. The tyrant emperor Nero has no son and no heir. Suddenly there’s the very real possibility that Rome might become a republic once more. But the ambitions if a few are about the bring corruption, chaos and untold bloodshed to many.  Among them is a hero of the campaign against Boadicea, Aulus Caecina Serverus. Caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow Caesar’s dynasty, he commits treason, raises a rebellion, faces torture and intrigue – all supposedly for the good of Rome. However, the boundary between such selflessness and self-preservation is far from clear, and keeping to the dangerous path he’s chosen requires all Severus’s skills as a cunning soldier and increasing deft politician. And so Severus looks back on the dark and dangerous time that history remembers as ‘The Year of the Four Emperors’, and recalls the part he, and those around him, played – for good or ill – in plunging the mighty Roman Empire into anarchy and civil war… When the novel begins Severus is a young war hero who has already proven his worth as a solider on the bloody fields of Britain. Full of ambition, but very much on the periphery of events, he is keen to prove himself….