conn iggulden:bones of the hills

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Genghis Khan and his Mongol horde have conquered the Chin in the East and they now turn their forces West towards the cities of central Asia along the fabled Silk Road. Genghis’ sons are growing up but rivalry between them to be named heir is coming to the surface. Whilst the cities of the Arabs are rich, Genghis does not want to give up the nomadic lifestyle yet is finding it harder to control his vast empire. Meanwhile the son of the defeated Shah has gathered a vast army capable of defeating the Mongols.

Again Iggulden has taken the very bare bones of history and woven an exciting tale of politics, hardship and war from them. The battle scenes are brilliantly imagined but this book offers a little more in terms of (imagined) narrative and relationships. There is a real understanding of the lifestyle of the nomadic tribes and, whilst sketchy, a genuine attempt to breathe life into characters known for their successes in war rather than their opinions. This is a strong series of books which thoroughly engages the reader.

b a paris: behind closed doors

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Grace and Jack seem the perfect couple, in love with each other and devoted to Grace’s Down’s Syndrome sister Millie, but perfection isn’t all it seems. After a year of marriage to Jack, Grace knows exactly what the price of perfection is and the price of failing to be perfect. Jack is a successful lawyer, specialising in the defence of battered women, but Jack is a psychopath and Grace is his plaything. However when Jack goes too far and puts designs on Millie, Grace realises that she doesn’t have much time to escape.

I found this book odd in many ways. The plot is ludicrous and the characters very one-dimensional but it is also one of the most addictive books I have read in a long time! There’s no sex, little violence and not a lot of shock, just a disturbed psyche. I can’t describe it as being a bad book because I really enjoyed it in a rather voyeuristic way. It’s written in a clever style with a narrative that jumps from present to past and which unfolds the damaged relationship slowly. I suspect this book will be a bestseller as it crosses so many genres and as popular fiction it’s actually pretty good.

elly griffiths: the woman in blue

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The shrine at Walsingham has been a place of pilgrimage for over a thousand years and draws many visitors each year. When the body of a young woman is found in a ditch DI Nelson finds himself investigating the murder of a young model with a troubled past. However Ruth Galloway is also drawn to Walsingham by an old archaeologist friend turned female vicar who has been getting a series of threatening letters. It could be coincidence or it could be that the two are linked – either way, when Nelson’s wife is attacked, it becomes very personal.

A new Ruth Galloway book is always a treat and this is no exception. Focusing less on archaeology and more on the complicated relationships between Nelson and the women in his life, The Woman in Blue is more than just a formulaic police procedural. Whilst never hugely original in plot nor complex in characterisation, Griffiths has a knack of writing a clever and entertaining story that is a joy from start to finish.

jean-francois parot: the phantom of rue royale

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The Dauphin’s wedding to an Austrian princess is celebrated in Paris with a firework display. But as the fireworks failed to explode, panic in the crowd has led to  a crush and hundreds hurt or killed. Sifting through the bodies Commissioner Le Floch comes across one which does not appear to have died by accident. This leads him to a complex tale of revenge and murder involving a Micmac indian, a family of furriers and a possessed maid.

The third outing for Nicholas Le Floch takes place several years after the last. Madame de Pompadour (the lady of Choisy) is dead and the King has a new mistress. However Nicholas and his trusted group of allies are still fighting crime in the centre of Paris. Parot has really found his stride in his tales of the french detective. The plot is complicated and yet fairly simple and there are lots of sideways diversions to keep the reader entertained.

debbie howells: the bones of you

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The Andersons seem like a perfect family – father Neal is a successful TV reporter, Joanna is a glamorous homemaker and they have two polite daughters Rosie and Delphine. However one summer Rosie disappears and when she is found murdered shock waves pass through the comfortable village they live in. Neighbour Kate who has a daughter the same age tries to support Jo through the aftermath but as she does layers are peeled away and eventually the facade of the perfect family starts to crumble.

This book is proving to be very popular and I’m sure thousands of readers can’t be wrong but I have to honest and I really heartily disliked this book. It was reminiscent of ‘The Lovely Bones’ in structure with beyond the grave narration and abuse in the plot, and I didn’t like ‘The Lovely Bones’! About a third of the way into the book I started to become really frustrated as the storyline became repetitive and didn’t seem to move anywhere. There is a certain degree of ability to come up with an interesting idea for a book but for me it just didn’t work at all.

samuel bjork: i’m travelling alone

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A six year old girl is found hanging from a tree by a skipping rope, dressed in old-fashioned clothes, a satchel on her back and a label around her neck saying ‘I’m travelling alone’. Two young boys find a second girl and it’s clear that a serial killer is at large. Disgraced detective Holger Munch is called back from exile to solve the crimes but Holger needs his brilliant former sidekick Mia Kruger. Kruger is existing only until she can commit suicide and join her sister, she has stockpiled pills and intends to take her life on the anniversary of Sigrid’s death. When Munch comes to call she puts off this action to help solve the crime and when Munch’s granddaughter disappears it becomes a personal quest.

This book signals the career of yet another outstanding Norwegian crime novelist. The two parallel stories – the murders and the strange religious group – intertwine without ever really connecting but contrast beautifully with each other. There are enough twists and turns to keep the most jaded reader engrossed and I particularly liked the comparison of individuals with clear mental illness issues, a criminal and a cop, both functioning at a certain level. The story is cleverly plotted and, whilst some characters are only drawn in outline, the team is interesting and diverse. I look forward to the next instalment!