S J Parris: Treachery

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It is the mid-1580s and Sir Francis Drake is the toast of England following his exploits against the Spanish. he is planning a new voyage to the Spanish Main to obtain riches for the Crown and his crew. Sir Philip Sidney sees this as an opportunity for adventure and making money and he plans to join the fleet, with or without the Queens’ permission. Giordano Bruno, one-time Domenican friar of Naples, sometime spy and recently disgraced pensioner of King Henri of France, accompanies Sidney to Plymouth ostensibly to greet Dom Antonio a visitor from Portugal.

When meeting Drake, Bruno discovers that a member of the crew has dies in circumstances that seem to indicate suicide, but something is wrong. The dead man was involved in a unpleasant incident on a previous voyage wham a dissenter was executed for treason, his brother vowing vengeance. There is the issue of rare book, a gnostic gospel, that is prized but the Vatican and on its trail is Jenkes, the earless bookseller and enemy of Bruno. There is also the matter of Lady Arden, cousin to Lady Drake, and the goings on at the House of Vesta, a brothel for the rich and powerful.

Yet again Parris has written a pacy and exciting read about the fictional adventures of the real character Giordano Bruno. Whilst the story is thrilling, the historical detail does not lack and this makes the series one of the oat enjoyable of its genre.

Jenny glow: The Pinecone

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Sarah Losh was born in Cumbria in the late 18th century and lived to the mid-19th century. She was born into a well-to-do family who had interests in farming and industry. That could be where the story ends because Sarah Losh is not a well-known character who had great influence at the time, she was no great beauty, she made no impressive marriage. However Sarah was an intelligent woman who used her money to support the lives of the people around her and, through learning, she left a legacy for the small Cumbrian village that she lived in – a beautiful church.

This is a terrific book in that it places Sarah Losh into the context of the times that she lived in. The Losh family were deeply involved in the Industrial Revolution and, whilst their finances had their ups and downs, they made a success of business. Sarah was independently wealthy and philanthropic but she was also a woman who was interested in science and theology, sociology and history. All of this was expressed in her church.

Sarah Losh could be a character completely lost to history but Uglow tells her story and the story of her times in beautiful way and that in itself is a great legacy to an extraordinarily quiet woman

Bake of the Week: Italian Chocolate Traybake

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Mmmmm

Chocolate and toasted hazelnuts in a hazelnut sponge yummy

Charles Frazier: Nightwoods

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After a traumatic attack made her walk away from her job and left her shunned by many in the town, Luce is now a custodian of the Lodge. She lives a reclusive life with one friend, the equally reclusive Maddie. Into her life come her niece and nephew, mute siblings who witnessed the brutal murder of their mother by her husband Bud. Bud was not convicted of the murder and is now looking for the children and Luce as he thinks they have the money that his ex-wife took from him.

This is short book which is rich in description but, as typifies Frazier’s writing, the plot is hinted at in short vignettes as the landscape and emotion are more important than pace. I find this aspect of the writing frustrating and struggled with the first two-thirds of the book. However the writing does burrow into one’s mind and I ended up really enjoying the novel.

Fred Vargas: The Ghost Riders of Ordebec

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Commissaire Adamsberg’s mind is described as being like a pile of fish freshly landed, all different species and jumbled up together. These tumbled thoughts include the killing of a prominent industrialist and the framing of a young arsonist for this, the death of a man in Normandy and the associated ‘Hellequin’s Horde’ and the strange case of a pigeon with its legs tied together.

Adamsberg is asked to look at the case in Normandy and finds himself dealing with suspicious locals and the legend of the mysterious horsemen who foretell the death of the evil. His recently discovered son, Zerk, is charged with helping the young yob to evade justice and Hellebaud, the pigeon, recovers.

It sounds like a crazy plot but actually this is a very rational and clever story. Once again Vargas’ delightful style and Renolds’ wonderfully lyrical translation make this book a pleasure to read. My only negative is that I’ve now read all the books and have to wait for Vargas to produce another.