#Q&A with S.G. MacLean, author of The Damian Seeker series.

I’m catching up on books I’ve had on my shelves for a while or reviews that I’ve not yet written and one of the other things I’ve been really lax in posting is this Q&A session I did with S.G. MacLean, who writes the fabulous Damian Seeker novels.

If her name looks familiar it’s because she also wrote the amazing The Redemption of Alexander Seaton which I read and adored and reviewed here.  I’ve read the first Damian Seeker book, simply titled The Seeker which won the 2015 CWA Historical Dagger and my review of that will be up soon.

Her latest book Destroying Angel has been longlisted for the CWA Sapere Historical Dagger award and her next Seeker book, The Bear Pit is out on the 11th July 2019. Below is the blurb of both Destroying Angel and The Bear Pit and the Q&A.

 

Destroying Angel 

91DLzC9C0SL._SL1500_.jpg

 

Captain Damian Seeker has gone north. Charged with preparing the way for the rule of the major-generals, he is now under the command of Colonel Robert Lilburne at York. But when Lilburne orders him to a small village on the North York moors with details of the stringent new anti-Royalist laws, Seeker finds that what should be a routine visit will reveal a plot to rival anything in scheming London

An invitation to dinner at the house of local businessman Matthew Pullan lifts the lid on the bubbling cauldron of grudges and resentment that is Faithly village. The local constable, drunk on the tiny bit of power he holds, using it to avenge old resentments. The hated lord of the manor, the last of a staunchly Royalist family who has managed to avoid suspicion of treachery – for now. The vicar on trial for his job and his home, accused of ungodly acts. And the Pullans themselves, proudly Puritan but disillusioned with Cromwell’s government, respected and despised in Faithly in equal measure. The man for whom this unlikely gathering was organised – The Trier, the enforcer of Puritan morality for the local villages – hasn’t shown up. And by the end of the night, on of those gathered around Matthew Pullan’s table will be fatally poisoned.

Seeker must find out the motive behind the death – mushroom misidentification, petty revenge, or part of a larger plot against Cromwell’s government in the north? But who in Faithly, if anyone, can he trust? And when the most painful part of his past reappears after eleven years, will the Seeker meet his match?

Purchase link: Amazon UK

 

Q&A 

For any readers of my blog who are unfamiliar with you and your work, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself? 

I was born in Inverness in 1966. My parents were hoteliers and I grew up in small, traditional Highland hotels, with my brother and three sisters. I studied history at Aberdeen University and have a PhD specialising in C16th/C17th Scottish history. I’m married (to a secondary school head teacher) with 4 children, and it was being at home with small children, and living in a northern Scottish town (Banff) which still has lots of remnants of the C16th and C17th in buildings, street layouts and street names that galvanised me to write my first book. About 8 years ago, we returned to live in the area I grew up in. Although my youngest child is now 15, and the rest have left home, the arrival of a Labrador puppy has seriously impacted on my work rate!

 

You’ve studied history and write historical fiction. Where did your interest in history come from?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in history. Any old building, tumbledown wall, evocative name will get me wondering about what that place used to be like, who used to live there. I’ve always been like that. I spent several of my early years in the Seabord village of Balintore, and as children we were very aware of the area’s Viking heritage, although nowadays there is much greater awareness of the importance of that area for Pictish history. My Dad, who was a tremendous reader, would sometimes come home from trips to Inverness with history picture books for me.

 

What got you into writing?

It was something I’d often day-dreamed about. My uncle was the thriller writer Alistair MacLean, so it always seemed a perfectly possible thing to do. It was really only when I’d reached the stage of progressing my academic career after I finished my PhD, but finding myself living too far from the nearest university to commute, and with young children to look after, that I turned to writing to occupy my mind and interest. Writing was my ‘me time’. Living in Banff, as we were, and so close to the North East ‘Castle Trail’, there was inspiration everywhere. I found some of the characters I had spent years studying came back in to my mind, and I used them as ‘types’ in my story.

 

Your first book was The Redemption of Alexander Seaton and your recent books, including Destroying Angel, feature Damian Seeker as the lead character. Do you have any plans to re-visit Alexander Seaton, write more Damian Seeker books or do you have a new main character in the pipeline?

I’m just preparing to submit the 4th Damian Seeker book, and am contracted for a 5th. I would like to go back to Alexander Seaton – there are things I would still like to do with him and his friends, and I’ve always known how his story will end, but it’s a question of what the publishers want. They made it fairly clear they didn’t want another Alexander Seaton unless I sent him to London, where neither he, nor I, wanted him to go. That lead eventually to the Seeker books which are mainly set in London. My agent advised me that other publishers don’t tend to be keen on picking up a series another publisher has started. My publisher (Quercus) are planning a redesign of the Alexander Seaton covers, because the books are continuing to sell steadily, so they may at some point become more open to letting me finish off his story. My next plan after the Seeker books is for a Scottish standalone set in the 1830s society of Cromarty on the Black Isle. There may be a murder. After that I might be in a better position to go back to Alexander Seaton

 

All of your books to date are set in the 17th Century.  If you could visit that time would you, or would you choose to visit a different period in time?

I’d love to go to Aberdeen in the seventeenth century, and meet some of the characters I studied, and some that I’ve written about – George Jamesone the painter, Lady Rothiemay and others.

 

What are your plans for the next few years?

Finish the Seeker series, write my Cromarty standalone, read more for pleasure, cycle more, train my dog!

Author links:

Instagram: @iwritemybike2

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/S-G-MacLean/e/B0034OGNF0?ref_=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

 

The Bear Pit

91faNLv3BBL._SL1500_.jpg

London1656: Captain Seeker is back in the city, on the trail of an assassin preparing to strike at the heart of Oliver Cromwell’s Republic

The Commonwealth is balanced on a knife edge. Royalists and disillusioned former Parliamentarians have united against Oliver Cromwell, now a king in all but name. Three conspirators, representing these factions, plan to assassinate the Lord Protector, paving the way back to the throne for Charles Stuart once and for all.

Captain Damian Seeker, meanwhile, is preoccupied by the horrifying discovery in an illegal gambling den of the body of a man ravaged by what is unmistakably a bear. Yet the bears used for baiting were all shot when the sport was banned by Cromwell. So where did this fearsome creature come from, and why would someone use it for murder?

With Royalist-turned-Commonwealth-spy Thomas Faithly tracking the bear, Seeker investigates its victim. The trail leads from Kent’s coffee house on Cornhill, to a German clockmaker in Clerkenwell, to the stews of Southwark, to the desolate Lambeth Marshes where no one should venture at night.

When the two threads of the investigation begin to join, Seeker realises just what – and who – he is up against. The Royalists in exile have sent to London their finest mind and greatest fighter, a man who will stop at nothing to ensure the Restoration. Has Seeker finally met his match?

Purchase link: Amazon UK

 

 

 

Advertisements

#BlogTour #Review : The Golden Hour by Malia Zaidi @damppebbles @MaliaZaidi

Today I’m on the blog tour for The Golden Hour, a 1920s murder mystery. Many thank to the author and Emma at damppebbles blog tours for sending me a copy of the book to review.

Blurb:

London 1927

Lady Evelyn Carlisle has barely arrived in London when familial duty calls her away again. Her cousin Gemma is desperate for help with her ailing mother before her imminent wedding, which Evelyn knew nothing about! Aunt Agnes in tow, she journeys to Scotland, expecting to find Malmo Manor in turmoil. To her surprise, her Scottish family has been keeping far more secrets than the troubled state of their matriarch.

Adding to the tension in the house a neighbour has opened his home, Elderbrooke Park, as a retreat for artistic veterans of the Great War. This development does not sit well with everyone in the community. Is the suspicion towards the residents a catalyst for murder?

A tragedy at Elderbrooke Park’s May Day celebration awakens Evelyn’s sleuthing instinct, which is strengthened when the story of another unsolved death emerges, connected to her own family. What she uncovers on her quest to expose the truth will change several lives forever, including her own.
With the shadow of history looming over her, Evelyn must trust in her instinct and ability to comb through the past to understand the present, before the murderer can stop her and tragedy strikes again.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Golden-Hour-Evelyn-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B07NQRQH8L/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1552557558&sr=8-1

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Golden-Hour-Evelyn-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B07NQRQH8L/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=the+golden+hour+malia+zaidi&qid=1552557603&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

My Review: Although I enjoy strange and dark crime stories I also like the more gentle ones like Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh wrote so when this book popped onto my radar I was intrigued, particularly as I live in Scotland and know the areas where the book is set.

This is not the first book in the series though it is the first I have read. I don’t think it is essential to read them in order. This one is set in a location and mainly with characters that I don’t believe have been in the previous books so it works well as a stand alone. There is enough background information given to clear up any questions.

I liked Evelyn Carlisle, she’s a nice mixture of caring and considerate but also not bowing to what others want or expect if she doesn’t agree with it. The suspicious nature of the villagers towards Elderbrooke Park felt realistic, people are always suspicious of change and in the story some in the small community are shown to be very bad at accepting change, and incomers.

There’s a lot, but not too much, description in the story and it gives a good sense of where the characters are at that point int he story. The only thing I would say I had a problem with was the length, I found it a bit too long for the type of story it is but that’s my opinion and others won’t necessarily agree with me. Either way this is an enjoyable story, with good, lifelike characters and a few bits of danger. Definitely worth checking out at least one of the books in this series.

About the author:

Malia Zaidi is the author of the Lady Evelyn Mysteries. She studied at the University of Pittsburgh and at the University of Oxford. Having grown up in Germany, she currently lives in Washington DC, though through her love of reading, she resides vicariously (if temporarily) in countries around the world.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaliaZaidi

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/maliazaidiauthor/about/?tab=page_info

Website: https://www.maliazaidi.com/

Blog: https://www.princessandpen.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14197546.Malia_Zaidi

#Review : Beloved Poison by E.S. Thomson. @es_thomson

Today I’m reviewing Beloved Poison which I bought for my book group read in January.

 

Untitled design-2

 

Blurb:  

London, 1846.

Ramshackle and crumbling, St Saviour’s Infirmary awaits demolition. Within its stinking wards and cramped corridors the doctors bicker and fight. Ambition, jealousy and hatred seethe beneath the veneer of professional courtesy.

Always an outsider, and with a secret of her own to hide, apothecary Jem Flockhart observes everything, but says nothing.

And then six tiny coffins are uncovered, inside each a handful of dried flowers and a bundle of mouldering rags. When Jem comes across these strange relics hidden inside the infirmary’s old chapel, her quest to understand their meaning prises open a long-forgotten past – with fatal consequences . . .

 

1549987937544406983116.jpg

 

My Review:  Anyone who reads enough of my reviews will know I love historical crime fiction and this book is no exception. This was chosen for my book group at one of the meetings that I unfortunately couldn’t attend. However, when I discovered this was the read for January and that I could go to January’s meeting I was thrilled. I absolutely loved this book, it was rich with description and detail. Honestly you could feel the mud and mess under your feet while Jem and Will walked around London, never mind the smells that came from it. A great historical book, in my experience, is one which makes you feel as if you are right there with the main character(s) and are experiencing all of the sights, smells and sounds along with them. This book did that in bucketloads and I’m so thrilled to have discovered the start of a new series that I can dive in to. Book 4 in the series is out March 2019 so I have a few books to look forward to.

I really liked Jem and Will as main characters, the story is definitely Jem’s but Will is there almost from the beginning and they make a wonderful partnership so I see them both as main characters. They are wonderfully written and described. They come to life so well through their actions, reactions and emotions. I almost didn’t want the story to end and was thrilled when I found out there were more books.

This story is not for the faint-hearted, it does not shy away from the historical facts of surgery and teaching techniques of the time period. Much as I would love to explore the past the descriptions in this book made me glad I live in this time where we have anesthetic and doctors in clean white coats.  The story covers every level of society from the influential medical staff to the street children who struggle to survive and who no one really cares about.  The story behind the six little coffins is the backbone of the book and is just as hard hitting as the rest of it. I’m not doing spoilers but it is not something I want to imagine anyone capable of.

It’s clear the research that has gone into this story and although the book was initially written as a stand alone I’m really pleased the publishers wanted more. Like many book bloggers I have a teetering pile of books to read but this series is interspersed between them, as all my favourite series are. I can’t wait to catch up with Jem and Will again and be involved in another investigation with them. More books please!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#Review : The Mansions of Murder by Paul Doherty. @severnhouse #BrotherAthelstan

Today I’m reviewing a book from the fabulous Brother Athelstan, one of my favourite series ever. Huge thanks to Severn House for letting me have a copy of it to review.

Untitled design-2

Blurb: A murdered priest, a missing body, stolen treasure: Brother Athelstan tackles his most challenging investigation to date.

October, 1381. Brother Athelstan is summoned to the church of St Benet’s in Queenhithe to investigate the murder of a priest. Parson Reynaud has been found stabbed to death inside his own locked church. Other disturbing discoveries include an empty coffin and a ransacked money chest. Who would commit murder inside a holy church? Who would spirit away a corpse the night before the funeral – and who would be brave enough to steal treasure belonging to the most feared gangleader in London?

Meanwhile, the death of one of Athelstan’s parishioners reveals a shocking secret. Could there be a connection to the murdered priest of St Benet’s?

Athelstan’s investigations will lure him into the dark and dangerous world of the gangmaster known as The Flesher, whose influence has a frighteningly long reach …

My Review: One of my goals for this year was to read more of the Netgalley books I have currently on my kindle and this one has been there for a while. I was thrilled to get a copy of this because I discovered this fabulous series many years ago and loved the characters particularly Brother Athelstan and Sir John Cranston. The series stopped for a few years and then reappeared unexpectedly. So much so that I need to catch up on a few books I’ve missed.

It was a joy to immerse myself in this world again. Set in 14th Century London the author, as always, has done an amazing job of bringing the sights, smells and sounds of the city to life. Because I already know the series, location and main characters I felt like I was returning home after a long time away. Much has changed and moved on in the time that has passed in the series but some things have remained reassuringly familiar.

The mystery is the usual type that Athelstan has to solve, a locked room murder, and this one is particularly fiendish, not least because there is a personal connection for him and more personal danger than in previous books. These stories are always carefully crafted and this one is no different. There was no hint of who had done it until near the end when it became clear that some things were perhaps not as they seemed. The conclusion was appropriate for the story and the only regret I had on finishing the book was that I hadn’t read it sooner. However, I still have plenty of books to catch up on.

If you love historical crime fiction then this is a series you definitely shouldn’t miss.

#Blog Tour #Review : The Angel’s Mark by S.W. Perry. @swperry_history @CorvusBooks @annecater 

I am thrilled today to be on the blog tour for The Angel’s Mark. Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Corvus books for having me on the tour. 

Blurb:   LONDON, 1590. Queen Elizabeth I’s control over her kingdom is wavering. Amidst a tumultuous backdrop of Spanish plotters, Catholic heretics and foreign wars threatening the country’s fragile stability, the body of a small boy is found in the City of London, with strange marks that no one can explain.

When idealistic physician Nicholas Shelby finds another body displaying the same marks only days later, he becomes convinced that a killer is at work, preying on the weak and destitute of London.

Determined to find out who is behind these terrible murders, Nicholas is joined in his investigations by Bianca, a spirited tavern keeper. But when their inquiries lead them to the fearsome attentions of the powerful Robert Cecil, Nicholas is forced into playing to Cecil’s agenda, and becoming a spy… 

As more bodies are discovered, the pair find themselves caught in the middle of a sinister plot. With the killer still at large, and Bianca in terrible danger, Nicholas’s choice seems impossible – to save Bianca, or save himself…

My Review:  I enjoy reading historical crime and have read books set in various time periods but, for me, the stand out books set prior to the 19th Century are those of Paul Doherty and his Brother Athelstan series. They are absolutely stunning in their detail and story-telling so anything else from pre 1800 is automatically compared to those and most books don’t match up. This one, however, came very, very close. 

This is an excellent story of one man and his journey through Elizabethan London, dealing with his own personal challenges and also those of living in such an un-trusting time. The perils of being living in that time came across really clearly. Basically if someone didn’t like you they could make accusations and even though you were innocent you wouldn’t be believed, there was so much doubt and mistrust then. 

The other thing that comes across really well, that some authors struggle with, is the descriptions. The author really brings the city to life and you can almost hear and smell the sounds of everyday living. This level of rich descriptiveness from what I believe is a debut author is amazing and I haven’t even mentioned the characters yet. I loved the characters, particularly Nicholas for whom I have a soft spot now. He deals with so much and his journey is so well written that it just makes you root for him the whole way through. 

This is a brilliant read and I genuinely want to see more from this author. My only question is when??? 
About the author:

S. W. Perry was a journalist and broadcaster before retraining as an airline pilot. He lives in Worcestershire with his wife and two spaniels. 



#BlogBlitz #Review : Barnabas Tew and The Case of the Missing Scarab by Columbkill Noonan @ColumbkillNoon1 @rararesources

Today I am taking part in the birthday celebration for the unusual book that is Barnabas Tew and The Case of the Missing Scarab. I bought this myself a little while back but as with so many books hadn’t had the chance to read it yet so when I got the chance to take part in this birthday blitz I couldn’t possibly say no. So read on and find out what do thought of a most unusual book. 

Blurb:  Barnabas Tew, a detective in Victorian London, is having a hard time making a name for himself, probably because most of his clients end up dead before he can solve their cases. His luck is about to change, though, for better or worse: Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead, notices him and calls him to the Egyptian underworld. A terrible kidnapping has occurred; one that promises to put an end to the status quo and could perhaps even put an end to the entire world. It is up to Barnabas (along with his trusty assistant, Wilfred) to discover the culprit and set things to right. Can he turn his luck around and solve the most important case of his life?
Purchase Link – mybook.to/Barnabas

My Review:  I’ve always found Ancient Egypt and their beliefs fascinating so when I found a book that mixed them with crime fiction I was intrigued. Barnabas Tew is a bumbling detective with ideas of being a real life Sherlock Holmes, though in reality is actually not that good at being a detective and fails to solve many of his cases. 

However, one day a former client recommends him to Anubis, Egyptian god of the dead, who then hires Barnabas and his assistant, Wilfred, to solve a very serious crime indeed. Throughout the book Barnabas and Wilfred try to solve the case they have been assigned while trying to navigate the underworld and its unusual inhabitants. 

I enjoyed this book, right from page 1 it had a quirkiness about it that set the tone for the rest of the story. Although we don’t know a great deal about Barnabas and Wilfred we get to know their characters more as the story progresses and they make interesting decisions and react to the consequences of them. I felt the gods that they met during their investigation were quite well written and easy to picture, which for me is important. The characters of the gods were clear and came out of the page which would be appropriate given their high status. I did find the story a little repetitive and a bit too long but other than that I really enjoyed it. 

It’s such an unusual book that it’s hard to know what to say about it. The story works because all of it is quite strange. The thought of someone being summoned to the Egyptian underworld is almost ridiculous so the only way it works is to have a peculiar and bumbling detective like Barnabas. It doesn’t take itself seriously at all so if you prefer your crime fiction sensible and procedural this might not be the book for you. If, however, you fancy something completely different it might be worth trying it out. 


About the author:  

Columbkill Noonan lives in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, where she teaches yoga and Anatomy and Physiology.  Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. Her first novel, “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” by Crooked Cat Books, was released in 2017, and her latest work, “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Nine Worlds”, is set to be released in September 2018.
In her spare time, Columbkill enjoys hiking, paddle boarding, aerial yoga, and riding her rescue horse, Mittens. To learn more about Columbkill please feel free to visit her website (www.columbkill.weebly.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ColumbkillNoonan) or on Twitter (@ColumbkillNoon1).

Social Media Links –  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ColumbkillNoonan/ 

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/columbkillnoon1?lang=en 

#BlogBlitz #Review : The Killing Time by M J Lee. @WriterMJLee. @canelo_co @ElliePilcher95

Yet again I am on a blog blitz for the Inspector Danilov book series and yet again this was another book in this series that I couldn’t wait to read. Excited as I was though, you’ll have to scroll further down to find out what I thought of this book.  Many thanks to Ellie Pilcher at Canelo for having me on this blitz.

The Killing Time Blog Blitz

Book Blurb: As tensions simmer in Shanghai, children go missing…

Shanghai 1932: Inspector Danilov hasn’t recovered from the death of his child… but across a Shanghai riven with communal tensions, children are going missing.

Missing, and then murdered. Who is responsible? Why have the children’s bodies been exhibited for all to see?

Just as Danilov thinks the stakes couldn’t be higher there is a new dimension, Japan, a rising power flexing its muscles. In fractious Shanghai, an explosion is long overdue. With the clock ticking can Danilov and his assistant Strachan solve the case? The fate of Shanghai may be at stake. So is Danilov’s job… And his sanity.

The latest instalment of the Inspector Danilov mysteries will leave you breathless. Perfect for fans of Philip Kerr or Rory Clements.

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

 

The Killing Time

My Review: I’ve read the first three books in this series and loved them so i was really excited to read this one. So much so in fact that I’d bought the book before I got an email asking if I wanted to be on this blog blitz. Danilov and Strachan very quickly became a favourite detective duo of mine and at the end of each book I was left frustrated because I had to wait for the next installment. Anyone who has ever read a series of books or seen the dreaded ‘to be continued’ at the end of a tv episode will understand how I felt. 

Each of the previous books followed pretty much where the last one left off but this one is different. This one picks up the story two years after the end of book 3 which, although it surprised me initially, actually makes a lot of sense given how book 3 ended. 

I don’t want to give too much away, but as the blurb already states that Danilov is dealing with the loss of his child I can repeat that here. That loss, coupled with the fact that children are going missing, changes the dynamic of the story. While he is still doing much the same as he always did there is now an added layer to it that gives it a slightly different feel. 

As the dynamic of the story has changed it might be possible to read this book even if you haven’t read the others but I wouldn’t recommend it. I think you would miss out on a lot of little quirks and deeper understanding of Danilov and his relationship with Strachan, which is just a joy to read.  

The story itself is slightly distressing in places, missing children being murdered, but as always is handled with the tact and experienced writing that I’ve come to expect from M J Lee.  As always the descriptions and sense of place are vivid and give you the feeling that you are there, with Danilov and Strachan taking in all the sights, smells and noises of Shanghai.

This was another fabulous read and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. That’s right, I’ve got that frustrated, to be continued, feeling again but with these books I know it’s worth it. 

 

About the author:

author pic

M J Lee has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a university researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, TV commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.

He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the north of England, in London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning advertising awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and the United Nations.

While working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarters of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in the 1920s.

When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practising downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake, and wishing he were George Clooney.

Twitter: @WriterMJLee