Published by Century
The year is 1757. On a clear morning in mid-June, Lord John Grey emerges from London's Beefsteak Club, his mind in turmoil. A nobleman and a high-ranking officer in His Majesty's army, Grey has just witnessed something shocking. But his efforts to avoid a scandal that might destroy his family are interrupted by something still more urgent: The Crown appoints him to investigate the brutal murder of a comrade-in-arms who may have been a traitor. Obliged to pursue two inquiries at once, Major Grey finds himself ensnared in a web of treachery and betrayal that touches every stratum of English society--and threatens all he holds dear. From the bawdy houses of London's night world to the stately drawing rooms of the nobility, Lord John pursues the elusive trails of a vanishing footman and a woman in green velvet, who may hold the key to everything--or nothing.
I never managed to get into Cross Stitch, the first of the Outlander series, but I'd read enough reviews to give this, the first full novel in the spin-off series, a try. This is a pure historical mystery, rather than a timeslip story, and as such I found it a much easier read. The mystery wasn't entirely satisfying, and there were a few plot threads that seemed to fizzle out rather than being tied up neatly, but I'm prepared to give the next in the series a go if the library has it on CD.
by Leonard Richardson
Published by Candlemark & Gleam
First contact isn't all fun and games. Ariel Blum is pushing thirty and doesn't have much to show for it. His computer programming skills are producing nothing but pony-themed video games for little girls. His love life is a slow-motion train wreck, and whenever he tries to make something of his life, he finds himself back on the couch, replaying the games of his youth. Then the aliens show up. Out of the sky comes the Constellation: a swarm of anarchist anthropologists, exploring our seas, cataloguing our plants, editing our wikis, and eating our Twinkies. No one knows how to respond--except for nerds like Ariel who've been reading, role-playing and wargaming first-contact scenarios their entire lives. Ariel sees the aliens' computers, and he knows that wherever there are computers, there are video games. Ariel just wants to start a business translating alien games so they can be played on human computers. But a simple cultural exchange turns up ancient secrets, government conspiracies, and unconventional anthropology techniques that threaten humanity as we know it. If Ariel wants his species to have a future, he's going to have to take the step that nothing on Earth could make him take. He'll have to grow up.
I read this when it was serialised, so some parts are fresher in my memory than others. An entertaining and very geeky romp through first contact with a very varied set of characters. The aliens are truly alien, physically and in terms of their attitudes and thought processes, and there are a bunch of different political factions within and between the species. Plus there are conspiracies and conspiracy theorists everywhere. Ariel makes an engaging narrator, even if a few of the in-jokes went over my head. One that is definitely worth repeated reading.
Handle with Care
by Josephine Myles
Published by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Ben Lethbridge doesn’t have many vices left. After raising his little sister to adulthood, he wasted no time making up for the youth he lost to responsible parenting. Two years of partying it up—and ignoring his diabetes—has left him tethered to a home dialysis regimen.
He can do his job from his flat, fortunately, but most of his favourite things are forbidden. Except for DVD porn…and fantasizing over Ollie, the gorgeous, purple-haired skateboarder who delivers it.
Their banter is the highlight of Ben’s lonely day, but his illness-ravaged body is the cruel reality that prevents him from believing they’ll do anything more than flirt. Not to mention the age gap. Still, Ben figures there’s no harm in sprucing himself up a bit.
Then one day, a package accidentally splits open, revealing Ben’s dirty little secret…and an unexpected connection that leaves him wondering if he’s been reading Ollie wrong all this time. There’s only one way to find out: risk showing Ollie every last scar. And hope “far from perfect” is good enough for a chance at love.
This was a very sweet, very British sort of story with a collection of characters that I loved for all their faults. All of them have some growing up to do, including Ben, and this was a story where I didn't mind the loose ends because they felt more in keeping with who those characters were.
The Uncommon Reader
by Alan Bennett
Published by Profile Books Ltd
"The Uncommon Reader" is none other than HM the Queen who drifts accidentally into reading when her corgis stray into a mobile library parked at Buckingham Palace. She reads widely ( JR Ackerley, Jean Genet, Ivy Compton Burnett and the classics) and intelligently. Her reading naturally changes her world view and her relationship with people like the oleaginous prime minister and his repellent advisers. She comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with much that she has to do. In short, her reading is subversive. The consequence is, of course, surprising, mildly shocking and very funny.
I loved how this started, but it seemed to get bogged down in the middle, before an entertaining, but rather predictable ending. Sue Townsend has previously done a much better job of writing the Royal Family as ordinary people. In fact I may have to re-read her efforts now as a reminder.
Lessons for Survivors
by Charlie Cochrane
Published by Cheyenne Publishing
Cambridge, September 1919 Orlando Coppersmith should be happy. WWI is almost a year in the past, he's back at St. Bride's College in Cambridge, he has his lover and best friend Jonty Stewart back at his side and-to top it all-he's about to be made Forsterian Professor of Applied Mathematics. With his inaugural lecture to give and a plagiarism case to adjudicate on, Orlando's hands are full, so can he and Jonty afford to take on an investigative commission surrounding a suspected murder? Especially one which must be solved within a month so that a clergyman can claim what he says is his rightful inheritance? The answer looks like being a resounding "no" when the lecture proves almost impossible to write, the plagiarism case gets turned back on him and Jonty (spiced with a hint of blackmail), and the case surrounding Peter Biggar's death proves to have too many leads and too little evidence. Orlando begins to doubt their ability to solve cases any more, and his mood isn't improved when there seems to be no way of outsmarting the blackmailer. Will this be the first failure for Coppersmith and Stewart? And how will they maintain their reputations-professional, private and as amateur detectives?
This series just gets better and better. We lost some of the regulars in the last book, but now others have come into their own. I love the wealth details from of actual historical scandals woven into one of the subplots and the skill with which each puzzle helps to shed light on the others. Plus the humour is as excellent as ever.
A Room Full of Bones
by Elly Griffiths
Published by Quercus Publishing Plc
It is Halloween night, and the local museum in King's Lynn is preparing for an unusual event - the opening of a coffin containing the bones of a medieval bishop. But when Ruth Galloway arrives, she finds the museum's curator lying dead beside the coffin. Soon the museum's wealthy owner lies dead in his stables too. These two deaths could be from natural causes but when he is called in to investigate, Nelson isn't convinced, and it is only a matter of time before Ruth and DI Nelson cross paths once more. When threatening letters come to light, events take an even more sinister turn. But as Ruth's friends become involved, where will her loyalties lie? As her convictions are tested, she and Nelson must discover how Aboriginal skulls, drug smuggling and the mystery of The Dreaming may hold the answer to these deaths, and their own survival.
Ruth, her colleagues and friends have slowly grown on me as this series has unfolded, and this installment introduced a couple of new characters that I hope we'll meet again. I guessed part of the mystery, but the rest came as a surprise that I really should have been able to work out.