Book Review: A Date to Die For (The Hopgood Hall Murder Mysteries #1) by E. V. Hunter

Name: A Date to Die For (The Hopgood Hall Murder Mysteries #1)
E. V. Hunter
Number of Pages: 
268 (Kindle)
February 3, 2023 by Boldwood Books
Genre:  Cosy Mystery, Mystery


The start of brand-new Cozy Crime series! Welcome to Hopgood Hall.
An unlikely duo…
When investigative journalist, Alexi Ellis, falls victim to cutbacks, she and Cosmo, her anti-social feral cat, head for beautiful Hopgood Hall, where they plan to lick their wounds in the boutique hotel run by her old friends, Cheryl and Drew Hopgood.
A missing woman…
But when she arrives Alexi discovers Cheryl and Drew both distraught. Their close friend, Natalie Parker, who recently settled in the area, has gone missing. Alexi’s sure the woman has just taken a trip somewhere, but she still has a nose for a story and agrees to look into it.
A case to solve!
So too does ex-Met Police detective turned private eye, Jack Maddox. Natalie Parker had been using his sister’s online dating agency and Jack needs to find her before his sister’s business is ruined.
Reluctantly, Alexi, Jack – and Cosmo! – join forces to find out what happened to Natalie. But soon they discover secrets that someone desperately wants to make sure are never revealed!

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

A Date to Die For is the first in a new cosy crime series and one that I enjoyed.

Cosy crime is something I’ve been enjoying recently but most of what I’ve read has been set in historical periods. This has a contemporary setting which I really liked. It made a refreshing change to read something set in modern times. The setting in question is a luxurious boutique hotel, Hopgood Hall, in an idyllic countryside location. Think a grand old hotel made into a luxury venue, surrounded by picturesque cottages and grand homes, horse trainers and stables, and you’re there. Like I said, totally different from my usual reading choices.

Into this setting comes Alexi. She is a journalist taking time out from the city after losing her job and feeling betrayed by someone she thought she could trust. So, without further ado, she and her marvellous once-feral black cat Cosmo find themselves at Hopgood Hall at the invitation of Alexi’s friends Cheryl and Drew.

The mystery begins as Cheryl confides about the disappearance of her other friend, Natalie. It’s totally out of character for her to abandon a work commitment and vanish without trace, so Alexi agrees to use her investigative skills to try and find out what has happened to Natalie.

Also interested in the disappearance, private investigator Jack Maddox. It’s his trade, but he also has a vested interest in finding out the truth about Natalie’s disappearance in case it has links to a dating agency run by his sister.

And so our duo, ably assisted by Cosmo the cat, quite a character in his own right, and always a scene-stealer, delve into the rather murky goings-on that are hidden by the polished façade of such a lovely setting. This got a little darker than I initially imagined it might, as discoveries about Natalie and her life and past dealings come to light, but I enjoyed each twist and reveal as each piece of the puzzle came together to create a tangled picture of betrayal and revenge.

With a well-paced plot, a lovely modern day setting, a mystery just waiting to be solved and some likeable characters to discover the truth, I had great fun reading the first in the Hopgood Hall mystery series. The next book in the series, A Contest to Kill For, has just been published and this is definitely a series I’d consider returning to when I want another cosy mystery to enjoy.


Book Review: Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward

Name:  Looking Glass Sound
Catriona Ward
Number of Pages: 
351 (Kindle)
April 20, 2023 by Viper
Genre:  Thriller, Mystery, Horror


In a windswept cottage overlooking the sea, Wilder Harlow begins the last book he will ever write. It is the story of his childhood companions and the killer that stalked their small New England town. Of the body they found, the horror of that discovery echoing down the decades. And of Sky, Wilder’s one-time friend, who stole his unfinished memoir and turned it into a lurid bestselling novel, Looking Glass Sound.
This book will be Wilder’s revenge on Sky, a man who betrayed his trust and died without ever telling him why. But as he writes, Wilder begins to find notes written in Sky’s signature green ink and events in his manuscript start to chime eerily with the present. Is Sky haunting him? Did Wilder have more to do with Sky’s death than he admits? And who is the woman drowning in the cove, whom no-one else can see?
No longer able to trust his own eyes, Wilder begins to wonder: is he writing the book, or is the book writing him?

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

Looking Glass Sound is a book I went into knowing only what I’d read from the summary above, and I don’t want to give too much away regarding the plot because going in knowing as little as possible made this an intriguing, at times unsettling and intentionally secretive tale. The book yields up its secrets very gradually, and the mystery drives the whole story onwards. So, what to say?

There’s a wonderful sense of place. Whistler Bay came alive so vividly from the outset that it was very easy to imagine the whistling of the wind through stones on the beach that gave the place its name.
Whistler Cottage was the same, with the porthole window and marvellous views, and the great tree in the garden.
There’s a sense that the place is idyllic and beautiful, with so much atmosphere, but there’s something uneasy about it too. It’s beautiful, but eerie, safe in daylight when the sun is shining, but something plays on the mind once darkness falls, especially when the wind is in the right direction to make the stones whistle.

There’s a story of a perfect youthful summer, reflected in the unpublished memoir Wilder writes as he spends time at Whistler Cottage. He finds the love of friends and believes that he finds love of a place too.
Nat and Harper, the pair Wilder meets and befriends, are both enigmatic and strange in their own various ways.
Add to this a definite sense of menace in the air, from stories of the sea and people lost to it’s endless depths, to supposed play-acting involving a cave and what may or may not reside within. There’s also the possibly more real Dagger Man, an unknown presence, or possibly just a rumour, but is there more to the threat?

After a devastating revelation the story moves on to Wilder’s time at college, where he meets Sky. The two become good friends initially, and share an interest in writing. Wilder opens up to Sky about the past. From this point on things start becoming more complex and tangled, and I found myself trying to really pay attention as the various threads wove together. I found myself guessing and second-guessing as things became more strange, and that kept me turning the pages in search of answers.

It’s an intriguing tale, a story about stories, and writing, and capturing the past in words. It’s also a story of hurt and betrayal and making sense of traumatic events through writing and fiction. It’s clever in the twists and reveals and the way the whole thing pulls together eventually after giving you a sense of ‘what on earth is going on’ for a while. I don’t usually like books that give an unsettling feeling of ‘where is this going?’, but this really retained my attention and I read on, hoping that everything would become clear as the story progressed.

I thought it was the kind of story where there was something I was missing, that I couldn’t quite work out even though I was looking for clues. A sense that there was something not quite right but not being able to work out what it was. I kept thinking it would be the kind of story I’d want to go straight back to the beginning and read again, just to pick up on what I’d missed.  I had ideas, and one of them was in the right area, sort of, and I did end up wanting to go back to the beginning, just to experience the whole story again with a little more context, especially certain parts.

Looking Glass Sound is a book best experienced without spoilers, so although there’s more I could write I think I’ll stop now, because otherwise I’m going to risk entering spoiler territory and I don’t want to do that. This is the first book I’ve read by Catriona Ward and I enjoyed it so much that I’m curious about her other works and would like to read more.

Book Review: The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox (Josephine Fox #1) by Claire Gradidge

Name:  The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox (Josephine Fox #1)
Claire Gradidge
Number of Pages: 
256 (Kindle)
August 8, 2019 by Zaffre
Genre: Mystery, Historical, Crime


Josephine ‘Jo’ Fox hasn’t set foot in Romsey in over twenty years. As an illegitimate child, her family – headed by her controlling grandfather – found her an embarrassment. Now, she wants to return to what was once her home and uncover the secret of her parentage. Who was her father and why would her mother never talk about him?
Jo arrives the day after the Luftwaffe have bombed the town. The local pub has been completely destroyed and rescue teams are searching for the remains of the seven people known to have been in the pub at the time the bomb hit. They are shocked, however, to uncover eight bodies instead. The eighth, unidentified, body is that of a teenage girl, who no one in the town claims to know. Who is she, how did she get there, but most importantly – who killed her?
Teaming up with local coroner and old friend, Bram Nash, Jo sets out to establish the identity of the girl and solve the riddle of her death. In doing so, she also uncovers her own personal mystery.
Everyone has secrets – some are just more deadly than others . . .

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox is a tale of two mysteries, woven together in a close-knit community during wartime.

Josephine Fox left Romsey amid controversy when, after her grandmother’s death, her grandfather disowned her and practically forced her out. There’s scandal (in his eyes) around the event of her birth as her parents weren’t married, and Jo assumes her father is dead, although she never knew who he was.
When it turns out her father may still be alive, and living in Romsey, Jo feels compelled to return and find out all she can. To support herself she takes a job as assistant to the local coroner, Bram Nash, and the two of them become involved in the case of a girl pulled from a ruined building. Was she inside when the place was hit, or did someone place her there afterwards to disguise a crime?

Jo is an independent character, and strong-willed. She’ll happily venture off on her own in search of clues and following leads, not always conscious about keeping her employer informed of her discoveries as she goes where the leads take her.
She also faces down some awful rebukes from her grandfather, who comes across as quite a vile character in the few appearances he makes throughout. He blames Jo being born at all for his life being ruined by the loss of his daughter, and he can’t seem to overcome that prejudice even years later. Undeterred, Jo remains steadfast in wanting to discover her own history, whatever resentments it may stir up.

Bram is interesting too, and the shared past he has with Jo makes their relationship interesting. They were childhood friends, running in the same group, and then, years later, a chance and brief encounter between the two of them, with an agreement not to meet again, sets the scene for an awkward reunion when Jo returns to Romsey, yet once they settle into their routine and overcome the initial awkwardness they make a good team. In his official position as coroner Bram has certain rules and procedures to observe, whereas Jo can get to valuable sources and information in slightly different ways.

I don’t want to say too much about the mysteries in the story and risk giving anything away, only to say that the outward projection of certain characters belies what’s really going on under the surface. There’s also a sense that not everyone would willingly get involved to help solve these mysteries even if they did know something. Jo’s grandfather tells her outright he knows who her father is and will never reveal his identity.

The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox was an entertaining beginning to a series and I’ve already found out that the next title in the series is Treachery at Hursley Park House, which I’ll probably read when I’m next in the mood for a historical murder mystery.

Book Review: Fairy Tale by Stephen King

Name:  Fairy Tale
Stephen King
Number of Pages: 
579 (Hardback)
September 6th 2022 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Fantasy


Legendary storyteller Stephen King goes into the deepest well of his imagination in this spellbinding novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who inherits the keys to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher—for their world or ours.
Charlie Reade looks like a regular high school kid, great at baseball and football, a decent student. But he carries a heavy load. His mom was killed in a hit-and-run accident when he was ten, and grief drove his dad to drink. Charlie learned how to take care of himself—and his dad. Then, when Charlie is seventeen, he meets a dog named Radar and his ageing master, Howard Bowditch, a recluse in a big house at the top of a big hill, with a locked shed in the backyard. Sometimes strange sounds emerge from it.
Charlie starts doing jobs for Mr. Bowditch and loses his heart to Radar. Then, when Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie a cassette tape telling a story no one would believe. What Bowditch knows, and has kept secret all his long life, is that inside the shed is a portal to another world.
King’s storytelling in Fairy Tale soars. This is a magnificent and terrifying tale about another world than ours, in which good is pitted against overwhelming evil, and a heroic boy—and his dog—must lead the battle.

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

Fairy Tale has everything, from the real world everyday to the utterly fantastic and surreal in the hidden world at the bottom of 185 stone steps. There is friendship, adventure and horror, mystery and intrigue.

It’s a story of a boy and his dog, and the lengths he will go to to try and save the life of his canine companion. Radar, the German Shepherd dog, is such a character throughout the whole story, and her decline made for some sad reading at times. I confess I had to risk small spoilers because I wanted to know if she would be okay. I won’t say any more and give spoilers myself. It’s a sign how invested I became in these characters from quite early on in the story.

Charlie is an interesting character. Tragic circumstances forced Charlie to grow up quickly, taking responsibility for himself and his father when, after Charlie’s mother is killed in an accident, his father starts drinking. There’s also a lot of anger in Charlie, which makes him indulge in what he calls his darker side, aided by his ‘friend’ Bertie Bird. By the time the action in this story takes place Bertie Bird is long gone, but Charlie cannot forget the bad things they got up to and when he finds himself venturing into the strange and magical world of Empis and unwittingly cast in the role of fairy tale prince, he admits to himself that he’s not the stereotypical prince at all, and that this really isn’t that kind of story.
There’s also some very good in Charlie. He cares for his father, and takes on the role of caregiver to Mr. Bowditch, the elderly reclusive man living in what the locals call the Psycho House alone with only his dog for company. He makes new friends in Empis and goes to great lengths to ensure their safety and survival.

The friendship between Charlie and Mr. Bowditch takes up the first part of the story, and watching the two become firm friends after Bowditch grudgingly admits that his recent fall and ongoing health issues have left him in need of some help and support.
Charlie willingly does this as in his own mind it’s payback for his father managing to kick the drink and become sober, little realising the consequences and what he will discover as a result of his kindness.
I enjoyed the way the reveal of exactly what was hidden away in the garden shed was quite drawn out; you know there’s something otherworldly going on, just not what exactly what it is straight away. By the time the truth is revealed Mr. Bowditch is no longer there is answer Charlie’s questions, and I thought this was quite sad and I would have enjoyed to see Charlie and Mr. Bowditch go to Empis together.

Something Wicked This Way Comes plays a small role within this tale, and I was really glad that by coincidence I’d read that book recently.
I smiled as Charlie borrowed Mr. Bowditch’s copy of the book, knowing what Charlie was about to discover, about the carousel of Something Wicked… and how this might relate to a certain sundial said to exist somewhere in the world of Empis.

At times Fairy Tale reminded me very much of books from the Dark Tower series. Charlie’s journey into the city of Lilimar called to mind scenes from both The Waste Lands and Wizard and Glass.
Character-wise too, there was something that reminded me of the Tower. Mr. Bowditch certainly had a moment or two worthy of a member of Roland’s ka-tet, and Charlie and Jake had similarities too. Later on there’s the observation that ‘there are other worlds than these’ which definitely made me think of the Tower series.

Fairy tale really did live up to it’s title. With magic, adventure, fantasy, a little bit of horror, some memorable characters and a vivid fantasy world in Empis, it really did read like a fairy tale with a modern twist as our lead character was influenced by his past life experience and only to willing to admit that he had a darker side which at times he was willing to embrace.
The book works as a standalone but I can’t help but wish there would be another expedition to this marvellous fantasy world.

Book Review: Cards on the Table (Hercule Poirot #15) by Agatha Christie

Name:  Cards on the Table (Hercule Poirot #15)
Agatha Christie
Number of Pages: 
336 (Kindle)
December 15, 2003 by William Morrow Paperbacks (First published November 2, 1936)
Genre: Mystery, Crime


A flamboyant party host is murdered in full view of a roomful of bridge players… Mr Shaitana was famous as a flamboyant party host. Nevertheless, he was a man of whom everybody was a little afraid. So, when he boasted to Poirot that he considered murder an art form, the detective had some reservations about accepting a party invitation to view Shaitana’s private collection. Indeed, what began as an absorbing evening of bridge was to turn into a more dangerous game altogether…

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

Cards on the Table proved to be another enjoyable instalment in my reading of the Poirot stories. It has a great premise – four ‘law’ people are invited to an evening with the self-styled Mephistopheles-type Mr. Shaitana. Accompanying them? Four people Shaitana has assured Poirot are murderers who got away with their crime and remain undetected. What a set up!

Inevitably the evening ends in murder.
The man who took great delight in bragging about his ‘collection’ of murderers finds himself the victim in the end. Poirot did warn him about the dangers, but Shaintana wasn’t the sort of man to be deterred.
A good job then that that four who remain to solve the case are Poirot, Superintendent Battle (police detective), Colonel Race (secret service) and Ariadne Oliver (mystery writer).
The four under suspicion are a varied group drawn from a variety of situations and, on the surface, they’re all very normal, which raises the question as to whether Shaitana was indeed correct in his assertions. It’s also a good job there are four very different methods of investigation all working together to solve the case.

The four on the ‘law’ side of the issue are a great bunch, and this is the first time I’ve really come across other main characters from Christie’s series.
Battle made a very brief appearance at the end of Murder is Easy, but here he takes centre stage as he tries to find out who murdered Mr. Shaitana.
Mrs. Adriadne Oliver is a delight of a character. I loved her speculations, her elaborately-wallpapered home, her sometimes untidy appearance and her penchant for bagfuls of apples. She’s witty and observational, and having troubles of her own in writing her latest detective series featuring a Finnish detective called Sven Hjerson. She’s also best placed to find out at least one piece of information that eludes all the other great minds on the case.
Colonel Race is quite enigmatic, as you’d expect for a man possibly in the secret service, and then of course there’s Monsieur Poirot and his little grey cells.

As always there are twists and revelations along the way, people not always being what they seem on the surface, and watching it all unfold was interesting. As the murder occurred during an evening of bridge there’s some mention of the game play which I admit I had no clue about at all. When Poirot took great interest in the scoring cards I did wonder whether I’d have more idea as to where his line of thought was going if I had any idea what he was talking about, but that didn’t take away and enjoyment from my reading as there was so much going on outside of the bridge game.

Cards on the Table was another great mystery, and one I really enjoyed reading even though I had no idea until the reveal who had committed the murder, or whether indeed all of the alleged past murderers had indeed ‘done it’. I’m already looking forward to choosing another book from the Poirot series.

Book Review: The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings #1) by J. R. R. Tolkien

Name:  The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings #1)
J. R. R. Tolkien
Number of Pages: 
432 (Kindle)
First published July 29, 1954
Genre: Fantasy


One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, The Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit.
In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

The Fellowship of the Ring is a book that needs little introduction. It’s the first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the beginning of an epic quest, a tale of good and evil, and a group drawn together with the shared aim of seeing that evil cannot triumph.

We’re told from the off that there’s a lot about hobbits, Concerning Hobbits, and it’s true. Hobbits know how to party – they can throw grand and extravagant parties, they’re generous with gifts – and the story begins with one such party as Bilbo Baggins marks his Eleventy First birthday before promptly disappearing in style.
Hobbits also know how to eat, and they know how to sing. In fact, they have a song for every occasion. Walking-songs, bathing-songs, songs to bring a curious inn full of people to rapt attention, songs about people and events in history. There is no end to what hobbits will sing about, and many of those songs are included throughout this story. It’s not just hobbits either, as throughout the tale other characters reveal various details through song and verse too.

The first part of the book has a real cosy feel – the hobbit community, the friendships, the rivalries, the dislikes, the general business of life in the Shire. The opening then, from the setting to the local characters and intrigues reminded me a little in tone of an Agatha Christie novel, and now I cannot un-imagine a hobbit-detective going about their business in Hobbiton and solving local mysteries.
Peace is only disrupted after Bilbo’s final disappearance, when Frodo Baggins realises that part of his inheritance from Bilbo may actually put everything and everyone he holds dear in great danger.
So, there’s another thing about hobbits – they’re brave. Once Frodo learns just how much trouble could come to his community via certain parties travelling in search of a certain ring, or even Ring, in his possession, he doesn’t hesitate, and decides he must leave, to keep everyone safe.
Frodo inspires great loyalty in his friend Sam, who, after being caught eavesdropping, is enlisted to accompany Frodo on his journey. It’s clear by the end that Sam would literally follow Frodo to the ends of the earth and beyond, and this friendship, the lengths Sam will go to (it’s only Frodo after all who is committed to going into danger), really gives the story heart. Merry and Pippin, two other friends who go along on the journey also show the same loyalty and bravery, carrying on even when things start to get dangerous. And they certainly do become dangerous. For all the cosiness of the opening chapters there is plenty of peril and danger that awaits further on.

The hobbits do not undertake this journey alone, they’re a part of the Company – those who will accompany Frodo and his friends. Drawn together from various places and various peoples, all know how important it is to protect the ring-bearer and see that the ring doesn’t find it’s way back to the one who made it. There are Men, Elves and Dwarves, each with their own skills and reasons for helping, and the group form tight bonds as they travel through the unknown and into danger together, despite in some cases having reason to potentially be adversaries.
Then there’s Gandalf, the wizard who first makes Frodo aware exactly what it is that Bilbo left to him, and why it is so important. He’s the one who draws it all together, who sets the Fellowship off on their path and accompanies them on their journey, all whilst dealing with other threats and foes.

There are some marvellous locations throughout the travels, although I wasn’t always so keen on various descriptions of the general landscape and direction of travel, which seemed rather drawn out at times and made the initial stage of the journey feel a little slow.
Rivendell, the house of Elrond and The Last Homely House East of the Sea, sounds beautiful, and in this place the wanderers are made welcome. They enjoy safety, hospitality and songs and stories told by the fireside. What a lovely location, and the perfect setting for a reunion. I almost wished the group could linger there for a while longer.
Lothlórien, another of the Elf realms, has the same feel, of magic, and a certain amount of safety. There’s something ethereal about the place with it’s beautiful golden-topped trees and the air of secrecy surrounding it. Such wondrous places, how difficult then to leave them behind, all the while knowing that danger and trouble lies ahead. And yet the group do not falter, and on they go.
At the opposite end of the scale – the Mines of Moria. Dark and abandoned (or are they?), with rumours of things disturbed long ago. It’s a forbidding place, and not one to venture through by choice, but when their alternative route proves impassable, will the group have any alternative?
And looming somewhere far away, a threat for much further on in the story, the dark land of Mordor, the place where evil may well be gathering again.
I cannot wait to begin the second book in the trilogy.

For all the early meandering moments, the wandering through the country landscape, there are moments of horror, action, adventure and excitement on this epic quest of a tale. The dangerous confrontation at Moria made for exciting reading, and was a total contrast to the peace and pleasantness of the Shire at the beginning of the story.
There’s also a vast history alluded to throughout, which I found fascinating, the things and people that have gone before, and possible foreshadowing of the things yet to come.

There is much more I could say about The Fellowship of the Ring, but this review is already far longer than I thought it would be, so I’ll just conclude by saying I’m glad I finally decided to try the first book in this trilogy. I’m looking forward to picking up The Two Towers and spending more time with Frodo & Co in the near future, because I cannot imagine not carrying on and finding out what new adventures, dangers and horrors lie in wait. Onwards to Mount Doom…

Book Review: The Six Deaths of the Saint (Into Shadow #3) by Alix E. Harrow

Name:  The Six Deaths of the Saint (Into Shadow #3)
Alix E. Harrow
Number of Pages: 
30 (Kindle)
November 15 2022 by Amazon Original Stories
Genre: Fantasy, Short Story


The Saint of War spares the life of a servant girl so she can fulfill her destiny as the kingdom’s greatest warrior in this short story of love and loyalty by New York Times bestselling author Alix E. Harrow.
Always mindful of the debt she owes, the girl finds her worth as a weapon in the hand of the Prince. Her victories make him a king, then an emperor. The bards sing her name and her enemies fear it. But the war never ends and the cost keeps rising—how many times will she repeat her own story?

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

The Six Deaths of the Saint is part of the short story collection Into Shadow.
I’ve read The Ten Thousand Doors of January and The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow and enjoyed both of them. They’re both pretty long books, so I was curious to read this much shorter story. I don’t usually read short stories for some reason but found this one really engrossing.

So much is packed into a mere 30 pages. Whole lives are lived, epic and blood-soaked battles are fought, with varying outcomes. Kingdoms rise, men become emperors, and more, and a woman becomes a fearsome warrior, hailed by many, feared by all, driven by the fierce urge to not be nothing.
There’s a cost to all this of course, and in the end a decision must be made as the question is asked… is it worth it? If the answer eventually turns out to be ‘no’, imagine the consequences. Add to this a love borne of something more genuine and tender, a complete contrast to the desire for greatness and power, and things become even more interesting.

Reading this was well worth the afternoon I spent with it. I loved the writing, the characters were well-developed and the story was engrossing to the point that I didn’t want it to end.

Book Review: The Night Crossing by Robert Masello

Name:  The Night Crossing
Robert Masello
Number of Pages: 
442 (Kindle)
September 18th 2018 by 47North
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Horror


Bram Stoker kept secret a tale even more terrifying than Dracula.
It begins among the Carpathian peaks, when an intrepid explorer discovers a mysterious golden box. She brings it back with her to the foggy streets of Victorian London, unaware of its dangerous power…or that an evil beyond imagining has already taken root in the city.
Stoker, a successful theater manager but frustrated writer, is drawn into a deadly web spun by the wealthy founders of a mission house for the poor. Far from a safe haven, the mission harbors a dark and terrifying secret.
To save the souls of thousands, Stoker—aided by the explorer and a match girl grieving the loss of her child—must pursue an enemy as ancient as the Saharan sands where it originated. Their journey will take them through the city’s overgrown graveyards and rat-infested tunnels and even onto the maiden voyage of the world’s first “unsinkable” ship…

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

Bram Stoker is a man in search of an idea, something amazing to inspire his fiction writing. He’s the theatre manager of the Lyceum in London’s West End, but keeps hoping for inspiration, and is about to have experiences enough to fuel nightmares and give any author inspiration to create something fantastical.
But then, this story isn’t going where you might think, knowing that Stoker really did create a great fictional monstrous villain in Dracula and his vampires. What Stoker discovers in The Night Crossing is something completely different, but just as compelling as Stoker’s well-known version of the undead. The monsters featured here are sometimes supernatural, but equally as likely to be found amongst the living, particularly in some who maintain an outward image of affluence and respectability.

The Night Crossing is the third book I’ve read featuring a fictional version of Bram Stoker (the others are Stoker’s Wilde by Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi, and Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker) and I’ve enjoyed each interpretation of him as a character.
Stoker meets two women who are very different and equally important to events.
Minerva (Mina) Harcourt is an adventurer who has travelled far and wide, recently exploring in the Carpathian mountains, where she unearths something very valuable, but potentially very dangerous. Upon her return to London she finds her circumstances greatly changed for the worse, and she’s being pursued after an inexplicable event on a boat called the Demeter.
Lucinda Watts works in a matchmaking factory, and it is under sad circumstances that she crosses paths with Stoker. Lucinda’s story is tragic, and it turns out that through events in her own recent past she may be able to help Stoker shed light on just what is going on, and how her employers, the Thorne siblings, are involved.

From lavish productions staged at the Lyceum, to foggy night-time London streets and the banks of the Thames, the mission houses and factories with their grim working conditions, opulent homes of the well-known and famous, from adventurous treks in the Carpathian mountains to voyages overseas on a certain ship, and the Reading Room of the British Museum, this story has some great settings.

There is action aplenty as Stoker, Mina and Lucinda face foes both worldly and unworldly, who will go to great lengths to continue their schemes, regardless how many people are caught up and suffer as a result.

The Night Crossing is a book I’d recommend to anyone looking for a twist on what you might expect picking up a book featuring a fictionalised version of Bram Stoker. It’s mysterious and exciting, and combines the supernatural with all too human evils.

Book Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Name:  Something Wicked This Way Comes
Ray Bradbury
Number of Pages: 
308 (Kindle)
First published September 17th 1962
Genre: Fantasy, Horror


One of Ray Bradbury’s best-known and most popular novels, Something Wicked This Way Comes, now featuring a new introduction and material about its longstanding influence on culture and genre.
For those who still dream and remember, for those yet to experience the hypnotic power of its dark poetry, step inside. The show is about to begin. Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. Two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes…and the stuff of nightmares.

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

The arrival of a carnival would usually be something to look forward to – not in the case of Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, which arrives in Green Town and can be summed up perfectly by the title of this book… Something Wicked This Way Comes.

This is a tale of good and evil, the battle between the two, and the lure of both to those tempted either way based on their own individual hopes, dreams or desires.

I enjoyed the writing. Occasionally over-the-top descriptive, but not to an extent that it took away from the enjoyment of reading. At times it was lovely and lyrical and something to savour. The word that comes to mind when I think of the writing is picturesque. So many vivid images created to describe something relatively simple, creating memorable images such as the late-night arrival of a sinister train, or a balloon flying over the town powered by someone with menace in mind. Scenes like that certainly stayed in my mind long after I finished reading this.

There’s a real sense of menace throughout the story that starts out incredibly subtle and ratchets up almost imperceptibly. Most people have no idea what has arrived in their midst, under the guise of an innocent carnival. All the attractions and strangeness seem to offer nothing more than innocent escapism, a few hours away from the routine and everyday, but it’s our two main characters, Will and Jim, who see early on that there’s something more sinister lurking behind the scenes of the spectacle.

Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, born moments apart across a midnight that sees the latter born on Halloween. They’re such a good pair of main characters. They’re light and dark, both in physical characteristics and in manner and outlook. Wills father, a library worker, puts it rather well early on when the two are selecting new books to read. He’s talking about literature choices at the time but it applies to the pair in other ways too.
Will is fair, Jim is chestnut-haired. Will sees something to fear in the endless mirrors of the strange carnival, Jim is initially enticed and enthralled at the prospects that the arrival presents, and the possibility that he could use the magic of the carnival to advance a few years in age.
They’re a great contrast, and pitting the two of them against the evils of Mr. Dark and his carnival was interesting.

And of course, no tale like this would be complete without a compelling villain, which brings me to Mr. Dark, the Illustrated Man, covered in intricate tattoos that seem to take on a life of their own, and purveyor of, well, almost anything your heart desires… for a price. Mr. Dark is charming, menacing and dangerous. He maintains enough of the charm to convince people that his carnival is nothing more than mere spectacle, something to be enjoyed, whilst all manner of darkness is going on, with him in control of it all.

The arrival of the carnival in the dead of night is a great scene, and the place itself is weird and wonderful, full of mystery and intrigue and more than a little danger for an unprepared visitor. There’s escapism within these pages, certainly, but a great deal of danger too, and witnessing it all via Jim and Will, and later on Will’s father, who also comes to realise there’s more going on in Green Town, made for entertaining reading. I think I definitely chose the right time of year to finally pick this up.

Book Review: What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

Name:  What Moves the Dead
T. Kingfisher
Number of Pages: 
159 (Kindle)
July 12th 2022 by Tor Nightfire
Genre: Horror, Gothic, Fantasy


What Moves the Dead is Kingfisher’s retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.
What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.
Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

What Moves the Dead is the first book I’ve read by T. Kingfisher and it won’t be the last. I really enjoyed this retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher. So much wonderfully Gothic content that I couldn’t put the book down, even when things did start getting gruesomely strange as Alex Easton pays a visit to their old friends in the House of Usher.

The Usher siblings themselves are clearly in the grip of something or someone, for neither of them is a picture of robust health, and Easton is shocked to see the pair of them. Roderick has taken to playing haunting piano refrains late at night and is given to bouts of melancholy.
Madeleine’s decline is even more pronounced, her physical state frail and upsetting.
Despite all this the siblings seem bound to their home and wish to remain there.

Alongside Easton are a number of other characters, all of whom must figure out and face what is lurking within the walls of the House of Usher.
I loved Easton. Formerly a soldier, Easton is capable and determined and not given to flights of fancy, so their experiences at the house are definitely eye opening. I loved their wit and humour, which shone through despite the horror they were facing, and their devotion to helping their old friends and, in Roderick’s case, former comrade-in-arms.
Easton meets Eugenia Potter, a lady ‘of a certain age’, in the grounds surrounding the Usher house, where she’s busy making detailed paintings of mushrooms. Oh Eugenia, I could read a whole book devoted to her adventures and endeavours to gain access and acceptance to the Mycology society. As it is here she’s useful, informative and a great help to Alex in figuring out what is going on, however hard it is to believe at first.
Am American doctor, Denton, another friend of the Ushers, completes the trio. I loved them all.
And as a counterpoint to the malevolence of the local hares (more to come on this presently), an opinionated horse by the name of Hob lightens the mood during every scene he’s in, expressing his opinions clearly with a mere turn of his ears.

The old house in which the Ushers reside and to which their friend Easton is summoned is something of a character in itself – becoming more dilapidated, run through with mold and fungus, it looms like some ghostly spectre, and there’s a wonderful description as Easton sees it up close for the first time on their visit.
The library is full of horrifically moulding books, literally rotting as they sit there, and there have been sightings of a woman wandering the corridors at night.
The house, awful as it is, seems to hold the Ushers captive in some way beyond the normal. It’s so clear something is dreadfully wrong but despite imploring and offers of accommodation from Easton and another friend, Denton, the Ushers refuse to move.
There are whispers that the place is cursed, and the local wildlife, particularly the hares, exhibit some very strange behaviour. It‘s all very eerie, unsettling and threatening.

What Moves the Dead features some brilliantly creepy scenes, from the quietly unnerving to the outright horrific, and I just couldn’t put the book down. What begins as mildly strange becomes an all out life-endangering fight for survival as the horrors are revealed, and I flew through the story.