The Monastery Murders by E.M.Powell

The Monastery Murders - E.M. Powell

1176.The sacrist of a Cistercian abbey has been horrible murdered. As the abbot is an old acquaintance of Aelred Barling,a senior clerk at the court of King Henry,it is evident that Westminster dispatches him and his assistant Hugo Stanton to this remote monastery in North-Yorkshire.
It is clear that their presence is not appreciated by the monks but a murderer is at large and a second murder is committed soon after their arrival. To make things worse, the weather takes a turn for the worse and the monastery is completely cut off due to heavy snowfall….and the feeling of security is replaced by a sense of fear.
Of course,an isolated snowed under monastery,is reminiscent of the Name of the Rose and Dissolution but both these book are quite an historical feat (and sometimes a bit of a challenge ) while this is an easy going read,with well developed characters and with a good insight in monastery life in the 12th century. And it is a good mystery !

 

The Killing Time by M J Lee

The Killing Time - M J Lee

Shanghai, January 1932. China is faced with the threat of a Japanese invasion/annexation of Manchuria. The atmosphere in the International compound (mainly British)is very tense as it is is surrounded by a Japanese concession, a French one,a Russian one….and of course a lot of Chinese inhabitants. There is a boycott of Japanese shops and products and there are several riots. Amidst all these tensions,the body of young ,Chinese boy is found,horrible mutilated. Inspector Danilov(of Russian origin)and his inspector Strachan(with a wonderful Chinese/Scottish background) start their investigation in a rainy,damp and foggy Shangai. Very soon two other Chinese children disappear which bring the tension in the Settlement to a boiling point. When the bodies of the two children are found(mutilated,as the first child) the Chinese population (of Shanghai)take their revenge and attack some Japanese monks. Needless to say this,and the fact that more Japanese warships found their way into Shangai harbour,does not exactly improve the precarious situation. But then a Japanese boy disappears and Danilov has to reconsider his theories about these brutal murders.
Of course, the storyline is good,the horrible murder mystery keeps your attention but what is so remarkable about this book,is the atmosphere it creates. One is practically present at this amazing setting that is Shangai in 1932. You can feel the chill of the fog,hear the street hawkers selling their goods,smell the street food,inhale the coal smoke….And although it is perhaps not always particularly pleasant it definitely is full of life!

 

Son of Zeus by Glyn Iliffe

Son of zeus - Glyn Iliffe

Heracles(Hercules)is the son of Almecedes and Zeus (who slept with her while pretending to be her husband Amphitryon). As a birthday present Zeus gives his son immeasurable physical strenght(he lets Hera nurse him without her knowledge so he acquired this supernatural power of the goddess herself). Well,Zeus’s good lady wife,the goddess Hera,is not best pleased with this dalliance and even less with the outcome. So Hera, who’s middle name is revenge,works out a plan to get rid of this abomination. Meanwhile,Heracles has sowed some of his wild oats and is settled with his loving wife Megara and and their 3 children in Thebes when disaster strikes,in a fit of madness, he kills his 3 sons. After wandering for a while he asks the oracle of Delphi for advice. She tells him in no uncertain terms that if he wants to find out the truth about that night of madness and wants to find some redemption, he has to perform certain labours. For this reason he becomes a slave to his cousin who is king of Tiryns(also thanks to the lovely Hera ). Of course Hera does not want Heracles to find out the truth nor find any atonement so she has her hand in the choice of these famous labours.
This is historical fiction based on Greek mythology but it reads as a fantasy story(the lion of Nemea,a white hind with golden antlers and a seven headed snake)albeit with a sad and bitter undertone. One can not help but feel sorry for this giant who’s life is manipulated by the whims of the gods. This is the first part of the trilogy (3 labours done,9 more to go)but it is not the classic retelling of the myth,Heracles and the other characters are so much more than individual parts of this myth. Yes,I think I will probably follow Heracles his further adventures…

 

Death Comes by Amphora by Roger Hudson

 

Death Comes By Amphora - Roger Hudson

Athens,461 BC. A young man comes to Athens only to find that his uncle has died under mysterious circumstances. Pretty soon it is clear that murder is the keyword and the hunt for the culprit(s) starts in earnest. Athens is in turmoil, two factions,the radicals,with Pericles as a leading figure(who believe in a distribution of power among the entire population, except slaves(!)…)and the aristocrats,heads of military families and so on..(who believe that only a very few, and very well connected, are entitled to lead,to take decisions…)are at daggers drawn. History,of course,tells us which faction did eventuality win and consequently led to Athens Golden Age and to something called democracy.

The historical aspect of the story is very well researched. But,because it is such a dominant part of the story,the mystery story tends to be put aside. After a while one is no longer sure there is a mystery at all and it becomes a tad long winded. A firmer editing might have been a good idea.

The Coven by Graham Masterton

The Coven (Beatrice Scarlet) - Graham Masterton

1758,London.Beatrice Scarlet,a widow, works in a refuge for “fallen”women. But then some of these young girls (who,after a rehabilitation period,are sent out to factories )disappear.

Although the title implies witches and witchcraft (so does the cover by the way),this is more of a mystery story with some dark/horror undercurrents. But after a rather slow start it is definitely a thrilling read and mostly well written.This also happens to be the second book in this new series.

Only comment,perhaps certain scenes (rape scenes mainly)might have been a little less graphic.