The Bone Fire by S.D.Sykes

The Bone Fire - S. D. Sykes

1361. Oswald de Lacy,Lord of Somershill,is forced to leave his estate because the plague is coming uncomfortably closer. So with his wife,his young son and his cantankerous mother,he seeks refuge in the isolated castle of Godfrey of Eden,on the Isle of Eden. The castle, perched on a lonely cliff is surrounded by nothing but marsh. But Godfrey has other problems than the plague. He has a layabout brother,is suspicious and has very strong religious beliefs. To his mind the plague,apart from heralding the end of the world, is also the punishment of God upon humanity and especially upon the church and the clergy. Oswald and his family are not the only ones seeking refuge in this cold and bleak castle. From the first night tensions run high and the atmosphere is somewhat unpleasant. And then Godfrey is murdered. Oswald takes it upon himself to discover the murderer(s) but only encounters more mysteries and more deaths. I remember reading the first book,The Plague Land, in this series and I wasn’t completely enchanted by it. So,I was a bit apprehensive when I started The Bone Fire,but there was really no reason for it. It is a classic mystery story in a historical (and his this case,haunting )setting. It is well written,the characters are well defined and well,I just wanted to finish it. And then I felt a bit sorry that it was finished…Always a good sign!

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…