Still tormented by the disappearance of his wife, ex-intelligence agent James Ryker sets out on a personal mission of revenge, prepared to go to any lengths in search of the truth.
The trail takes him from the crystal waters of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, back to a place he thought he would never set foot again - his country of birth, England. But there he discovers more than even he bargained for. Stumbling across a terrorist attack targeted against his old employers - the secretive Joint Intelligence Agency -the faint clues to many events in his recent past are all seemingly linked to one mysterious character; The Silver Wolf.
But just who is the Silver Wolf, and why is he hell-bent on punishing not just Ryker, but his closest allies at the JIA too?
Has Ryker finally met his match?
Rob Sinclair is a West Midlands based author, known for his bestselling "Enemy" and "James Ryker" series of thrillers. He began writing in 2009 and has been producing brilliantly fast paced reads ever since - with "The Silver Wolf" continuing Ryker's story with pace, tension, and skill.
The "Enemy" series followed Carl Logan - and after retiring under the new identity of James Ryker, he swiftly found himself drawn back into the action in both "The Red Cobra" and "The Black Hornet" - and again here in "The Silver Wolf". He's a massively compelling character, and having followed him through the series, it's rather hard not to be attached to him - he has a strength and grit that's immensely readable, and Sinclair isn't afraid to make him a flawed, developed character rather than the one dimensional leads who one often finds cropping up in thrillers.
Sinclair plunges the reader deep into the action in "The Silver Wolf" within a few pages - the reader is transported to exotic climes and into a high stakes plot that, due to the way the reader has got to know Logan/Ryker over these series, feels immensely personal. This in turn leads to a thrilling climax that's almost cinematic in its scope - and ends on what feels like the end of a chapter for Ryker - although I sincerely hope not the end of his story.
Huge fun - "The Silver Wolf" is perhaps my favourite of the Logan/Ryker stories, with a culmination of plot threads, explosive action and a focus on just how Ryker is coping with all that life has thrown at him. These are high quality, superbly written books - give them a read and you'll be sure to have a wild ride with Ryker.
June, 1348: the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in the county of Dorsetshire. Unprepared for the virulence of the disease, and the speed with which it spreads, the people of the county start to die in their thousands.
In the estate of Develish, Lady Anne takes control of her people's future - including the lives of two hundred bonded serfs. Strong, compassionate and resourceful, Lady Anne chooses a bastard slave, Thaddeus Thurkell, to act as her steward. Together, they decide to quarantine Develish by bringing the serfs inside the walls. With this sudden overturning of the accepted social order, where serfs exist only to serve their lords, conflicts soon arise. Ignorant of what is happening in the world outside, they wrestle with themselves, with God and with the terrible uncertainty of their futures.
Lady Anne's people fear starvation but they fear the pestilence more. Who amongst them has the courage to leave the security of the walls?
And how safe is anyone in Develish when a dreadful event threatens the uneasy status quo..?
Minette Walters is best known as a writer of Crime novels - since the publication of "The Ice House" in 1992, she's won the Crime Writer's Association John Creasey award for best first novel, the Mystery Writers of America Edgar award, and the CWA Gold Dagger. Walter's now turns her considerable talents to another genre - moving into the realm of Historical Fiction with "The Last Hours", and sweeping her readers into the deadly, turbulent and terrifying world of a plague ridden middle ages England.
One thing that made Walter's crime books stand out was her grasp of character, and the viewpoints she used to tell her stories - they were never straightforward books packed with gore and violence, but often offered intriguing political and social commentaries alongside thrilling plots. That's something that, you'd think, would be somewhat trickier when plunging almost a millennia into the past and looking at the Black Death - but Walters is able to combine a truly engaging and well researched historical story with characters and threads that remind the reader of contemporary life.
A big part of this, is character - and the characters of Lady Anne, Thaddeus Thurkell and Giles Startout allow Walters to explore class, gender, race and religion in fascinating, compelling fashion whilst always ensuring that these themes are integral parts of the story rather than added on to give the book a contemporary relevance. Written with an urgent prose that pulls the reader through a vividly described landscape of death and destruction, the mix of rather incredibly drawn characters embroiled in a plot that, in its essence is a genuine battle for life and survival against the odds makes this a read that I was unable to put down.
Historical detail, a thrilling, fascinating plot and vivid, relatable characters, made this a read that I'll be recommending to all and sundry. I should warn that several plot strands are left very much open-ended, but that's only served to fill me with excitement for the upcoming sequel. Bravo Minette Walters - a brave change of genre, but one that has paid off in spades!
In the mid seventeenth century, England was divided by war and bloodshed. Torn apart by rival factions, father opposed son and brother met brother on the battlefield. But while civil war raged on cobbled streets and green fields, inside the home domestic life continued as it always had done. For Ann Fanshawe and her children it meant a life of insecurity and constant jeopardy as she and her husband, a Royalist diplomat, dedicated their lives to the restoration of the Stuart monarchy.
In this uncertain world, Ann's 'receipt book' was a treasured and entirely feminine response to the upheavals of war. These books were a feature of women's lives during this period, when there were few doctors to be found, and were full of life-saving medical knowledge that had been gleaned from mothers and friends. Remarkably, Ann's morocco-bound book full of scraps of ink-stained paper has survived to this day.
Lucy Moore is a historian, educated in Britain and the United States, with a degree in history from Edinburgh University. She's got a long and varied bibliography as a writer - including a rather fantastic history of the Roaring Twenties. In "Lady Fanshawe's Receipt Book" she moves onto the fascinating world of Civil War England - with Lady Fanshawe's writings providing a brilliantly insightful glimpse into one of the most turbulent times in British History.
Lady Ann Harrison was born in 1625, and was an intelligent child, loving French, needlework and riding. Born to a Royalist family, she married her second cousin, Richard Fanshawe, in 1644. They were a Royalist family - loyally supporting the King in a period where a Civil War resulted in the execution of a King and a state of Interregnum. Fanshawe is best known for writing a Memoir - full of recollections of life with her husband, and an intriguing record of what I find a particularly fascinating time in British History.
Lucy Moore has chosen not to focus solely on the memoir though, and instead has accessed Lady Fanshawe's Receipt Book for a far more intimate and immediate glimpse into the life of an intelligent, passionate and driven woman. Combining the two sources, Moore brings Fanshawe to startling life - with the personal nature of Fanshawe's writings enabling Moore to broadcast her voice loudly into the 21st Century - with the reader being allowed a glimpse into Fanshawe's friends, family, loves, and losses. I've recently become hugely interested by the English Civil War - a period of time that I often find rather overlooked, despite the way it shaped world history for ever. The fact that Lucy Moore chooses to focus on a woman in this period makes it doubly interesting - the drive of this woman to support her family and husband despite it threatening both her life and those of her children is quite remarkable, and the remarkable lengths that Lady Fanshawe went to in order to maintain a level of normality and domesticity for her family in a time that was both hugely turbulent and incredibly dangerous for the family. A remarkable woman brought to dazzling life by Lucy Moore - "Lady Fanshawe's Receipt Book" is a read that will transport the reader to a very different time indeed - but place them in the company of a woman whose strength, intelligence and drive will provide a very safe pair of hand for the reader indeed. Many thanks to the publisher for the copy.
Former soldier Rob Langdon was working as a security contractor in Afghanistan when he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death in a case that would have been ruled a clear miscarriage of justice in the British legal system. His sentence was commuted to 20 years in jail, and he served his time in Kabul's most notorious prison, Pul-e-Charkhi, described as the world's worst place to be a westerner.
Rob was there for seven years, the longest sentence served by a westerner since the fall of the Taliban, and every one of those 2,500 days was an act of extraordinary survival in a jail filled with Afghanistan's most dangerous extremists and murderers. In 2016 Robert was pardoned and returned to Australia.
This is a remarkable read - a surprisingly compelling tale that initially grabs the reader by opening with a vivid retelling of how the author killed a man in self-defense. This leads to a tale of prison life that is far stranger than one could ever imagine in fiction - unpredictable, dangerous, wild, and seemingly unescapeable.
Langdon himself is a compelling lead - admirably strong and macho in prison, but open and honest with the reader about his state of mind and the emotions that drove him to survive. His way of writing is straightforward and blunt - no flowery language but a direct style that conveys his tale with a startling immediacy.
A heart stopping story of survival and strength - "The Seventh Circle" transports the reader to Afghanistan's most notorious prison and puts them through a grueling, strenuous ordeal - but one told with skill and humour that makes it absolutely worth the effort. Thanks to Allen & Unwin for the copy.
After a devastating breakup, loser Marty Melon doggedly reassembles his shattered self. Confidence-boosting Ted Talks, muscle-crushing kettlebell swings, and key episodes of "The Golden Girls" transform him from zero to b-list hero. This suicidal reject, turned pickup artist, turned sensitive new age guy, finally has it all: a house, the quirky woman of his dreams, and abs.
F#%k you, world, he thinks with alpha confidence.
“Challenge accepted,” the world replies, and everything goes to zombie crap.
Will Marty make it? He’s no longer an average frustrated chump. He’s in the best mental and physical shape of his life. "Ninja" bro-crush and gay-best-friend Gary is at his side. But to triumph in the end-of-days, Marty must defeat his most dangerous foe of all—the woman who broke him in the first place.
Steven Bereznai is an author, Travel Writer, Wellness practitioner, recreational water polo player and a big fan of science fiction. I've previously read (and loved) his "I Want Superpowers" - a dark dystopian YA tale that blended all the best elements of the X-Men with The Hunger Games into a compellingly plotted story with a fantastically strong lead character.
As a result, I was particularly excited when my copy of "How A Loser Like Me Survived The Zombie Apocalypse" - I read the opening chapters a few months ago, and was rather delighted to see that my comments had made it to the back cover of the book!
It's the mark of a good author that they're able to write in a variety of genres - many successful authors have stumbled trying to enter new markets or take on challenges too big for them. However, Steven Bereznai does so with aplomb - moving from the dark, intense world of "I Want Superpowers" to the slightly lighter world of "How A Loser Like Me Survived The Zombie Apocalypse". Zombie novels are ten a penny these days, but Bereznai makes sure his is at the top of the pile by ensuring that his tale is told with prose that’s immensely readable, leading to a page turning plot filled with compelling characters. Those characters are where Bereznai really gets to shine – following an everyman throughout a Zombie Apocalypse, Bereznai avoids falling into cliché, and instead creates a real heart for his story – you’ll laugh and cry with these characters, and that’s quite an achievement. There’s also a wonderful thread of dark humour running through the book too - it’s knowing and witty –even when things seem bleak for the characters and allows for the reader to be enjoying themselves in spite of the circumstances, carried through on a wave of warmth and goodwill for characters like Marty, Heidi and Gary. They're built up well throughout the book - and whilst there's bleak humour to be found everywhere, Bereznai also explores exactly how people would react in a situation like the Zombie Apocalypse, with remarkable depth - there's a real empathy and humanity at the core of this book. Bereznai is also skilled at throwing in many a pop culture reference, and they’re well targeted – landing accurately and cleverly on target – no misfires here. If you’re a fan of the Zombie genre – then “How A Loser Like Me Survived the Zombie Apocalypse” should go straight to the top of your pile. If you’re not, but enjoy compelling and exciting tales told with intelligent prose and no end of interesting characters – then you should give it a go too. Anyone with a brain, half a brain, or a penchant for eating brains will have a bloody good time with this book - I certainly did, and I'm not undead (yet).
When Anita Naakka jumps in front of an oncoming train, her daughter, Norma, is left alone with the secret they have spent their lives hiding: Norma has supernatural hair, sensitive to the slightest changes in her mood–and the moods of those around her–moving of its own accord, corkscrewing when danger is near. And so it is her hair that alerts her, while she talks with a strange man at her mother’s funeral, that her mother may not have taken her own life. Setting out to reconstruct Anita’s final months–sifting through puzzling cell phone records, bank statements, video files–Norma begins to realize that her mother knew more about her hair’s powers than she let on: a sinister truth beyond Norma’s imagining.
Sofi Oksanen is a Finnish writer and playwright, and has published over five novels - "Purge" and "When the Doves Disappeared" the best known in the English speaking world
Church and Other Dirty Words is a collection of poems by author and poet Brad Cohen. I reviewed it back in 2016, and was hugely impressed by the raw and visceral feel of the words - blunt and honest and directly speaking to my experiences as a Gay man. As a result, I was thrilled to be asked to review "Church and Other Dirty Words: The Film Collection" - a collaboration between Brad Cohen and director Sian Williams.
There's definitely a danger with adapting poems, in that part of the wonder of poetry is the myriad of individual meanings the words can take on in the reader's minds. There's a concern that there'll be less of a connection for the reader in watching another person's view of how the feelings and thoughts of a poem should be conveyed - but it's something that the team behind "Church and Other Dirty Words: The Film Collection" have carefully avoided - these short films are direct, thought provoking and utterly electric.
The films differ in tone and content - but overarching themes unify them as a collection - all of them filled with a searing honesty that's impossible to turn away from. "Church and Other Dirty Words" was already a varied and original body of work, but Cohen and Williams should be applauded for finding dynamic and innovative ways to approach these poems - the words are allowed to take centre stage, but the magnetic performances and inventive, creative cinematography allow for films that stimulate both visually and aurally. Performances from artists such as Danny Polaris, Joseph Connolly, Charlie Knight, Sophie Chittenden, Sian Williams, Victoria Matthews, Luigi Ambrosio, Joe Gilmore and Matthew Williams are accompanied by a score composed by Himuro Mansion - ranging from slow, meditative themes through to pulsing beats. It's cleverly arranged - sympathetic to the performances but excellent in its own right.
In terms of the the range of films, it's hard to pick a favourite - the overarching films with Danny Polaris and Joseph Connolly delve into a relationship full of raw emotions and, in the final film, a tenderness and openness that corresponds to the themes of the poems perfectly. "Masc4Masc" features Joseph Connolly in a blunt, direct and intimate short, and "DJ Pygmalion" is a vivid, sexual and pulsing piece performed by Charlotte Dowell that's almost staggering in its directness. Lingering looks in "Girl Under You" stay with the viewer long after the film has ended, and the sensual, fluid movements of Luigi Ambrosio and Joe Gilmore in "Bedside Surgeon"convey a relationship without a need for words - the phrase "poetry-in-motion" by be an age old cliche, but it's beyond fitting here.
An original, powerful and brilliantly crafted project, "Church and Other Dirty Words: The Film Collection" takes already brilliant poems and carries them through to a new creative level. Combined they're only just over half and hour, but they'll stay with the viewer far, far longer.
Can we resurrect dinosaurs, Jurassic Park-style? Are we living in The Matrix's digital simulation? Do aliens with acid blood exist somewhere in the universe? Will we ever go back and visit 1955? And just why were the original Planet of the Ape movies so terrible?
In Science(ish), Rick Edwards and Dr Michael Brooks confront all the questions that your favourite movies provoke. Inspired by their award-winning podcast, this popular (hopefully) science (definitely) book dedicates each chapter to a different sci-fi classic, and explores the fascinating issues that arise.
Covering movies from 28 Days Later to Ex Machina, this is a ride through astrophysics, neuroscience, psychology, botany, artificial intelligence, evolution, and plenty more subjects you've always wanted to grasp.
Rick Edwards is best known as a TV and Radio presenter, but one who just happens to have a degree from Cambridge in Natural Sciences. Dr Michael Brooks holds a PhD in quantum physics, and has become known as a journalist, broadcaster, and author of a weekly column for the New Statesman. He's also written several books - including the brilliant "13 Things that Don't Make Sense". The two came together to produce the podcast "Science(ish), which discusses the science behind popular films - and it's those conversations that form the backbone of this book.
Starting with recent film "The Martian" and continuing to cover films as different as "Back to the Future" and "28 Days Later", Science(ish) explores and, where possible, explains the concepts at the heart of these films, and explores just how possible the scenarios imagined with in them, are.
Now, I have to be honest – I’m no scientist. So much so in fact, that I received a D in Double Science at School, and that sorry affair fifteen or so years ago was the last time I dared pick up a test tube or attempted to remember the rules of physics.
However, the theories and thoughts contained within “Science(ish) are explained in such a way that a layman like me wasn’t lost – instead I found myself engaged with well explained concepts, intelligent humour and a heap of respect for some of the iconic films that are mentioned here.
Edwards and Brooks appear to have a great rapport together, and it’s conveyed nicely here, letting the reader in on the jokes whilst dazzling them with some popular science.
Don’t go into this expecting a science textbook – but also don’t go into it expecting an extremely light science read, as there are some rather complicated concepts involved which, even with the excellent explanations, still took me a while to get my head around! However, this is an incredibly fun read that pays tribute to some magical moments on the silver screen whilst educating and informing the reader with wit and knowledge.
Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
It’s 1592. Europe is in chaos. Religious factions have torn the region apart and witch-hunts have become a part of everyday life.
In the Company of Wolves follows three groups of travelers – a fearless female pirate roaming the North Sea, a priest and his wife escaping to England to avoid persecution, and a young thief from the slums of Germany looking for a better life. Each has a different reason for venturing out in such tumultuous times – fear, greed, family secrets.
Is the Werewolf of Bedburg still alive, roaming the countryside and killing innocent citizens? Many believe he’s still out there—that religious and political leaders have forsaken the truth in their cunning quest for power.
As each traveler searches for individual answers, these three seemingly separate stories converge in a place which may hold the key for them all. Based on true events involving one of the deadliest witch trials in European history, this tale of adventure, mystery, and the search for truth reminds us that, ultimately, no one is safe . . . in the company of wolves.
"In the Company of Wolves" is the sequel to "Devil in the Countryside" - a book I reviewed earlier in 2017 (review here). An intriguingly dark true story given the historical fiction treatment, it was a compelling read that blended excellent characterisation with a dark, genre-crossing plot. Cory has returned to that world and those characters in "In the Company of Wolves" - and it's a read that's just as compelling as the first.
In fact, it appears to me that Barclay has really hit his stride in "In the Company of Wolves". The interactions between characters seem more natural, and the pacing is fantastic, with the switching of viewpoints allowing for a huge amount of brilliant cliffhangers to crop up through out the course of the book. The distinct viewpoints are interesting enough that, whilst I was left eager to know what had happened to a character, I wasn't too annoyed when I was torn away from one journey and showed another - especially as, for a lot of the book, the individual chapters are rather short - allowing for a swift and interesting read that keeps the reader moving through this dark and dangerous world at considerable speed. It's a nice touch, and reminded me somewhat of the Victorian Penny Dreadfuls - dark stories told in quick, easily readable snippets.
A real draw of these books is that Barclay shines a light on historical events that have been all but forgotten - and shining a light on the "Trier Witch Trials" makes for immensely fascinating reading. The characters drawn from history are brought to life with considerable skill, joining the already impressive fictional creations of the author in order to guide the reader through dark, dramatic but ultimately incredibly well researched historical events
Things feel a little unfinished towards the end - but I'm sure they'll be resolved well in Book Three, which I'm already looking forward too! Thanks to Cory for the copy - and make sure to pick up "Devil in the Countryside" first in order to make sure you know what's going on!
Novelist Tatiana de Rosnay pays homage to Daphne du Maurier, a writer who has influenced her deeply, in this immersive new biography. A portrait of one writer by another, Manderley Forever recounts a life as mysterious and dramatic as the work it produced, and highlights du Maurier's consuming passion for Cornwall.
De Rosnay recreates Daphne's childhood, rebellious teens and early years as a writer before exploring the complexities of her marriage and, finally, her cantankerous old age. A thrilling, intimate and beautifully written journey into the life of a writers who, despite being hugely loved by her public, remains mainly critically ignored.
Tatiana de Rosnay is a French journalist and author. English, French and Russian of descent, she was born in Paris, living in Boston USA, then Norwich England, before returning to Paris in 1984. She has published twelve novels in French, and three in English, with her most successful, "Sarah's Key" published in 2006, and later made into a film starring the superb Kristin Scott Thomas.
A lifelong fan of Daphne du Maurier, Tatiana de Rosnay clearly did huge amounts of research to write "Manderley Forever", and visited relatives of du Maurier's, as well as her beloved hometown of Fowey. As a result, she's written a biography that is both immediate and intimate and provides the readers with a warm, affectionate and personal recreation of a life that was immensely fascinating.
Daphne du Maurier was born in London in 1907. The daughter of actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier, she grew up in a rather fascinating world - spending time with her cousins the Llewelyn Davies boys (the inspirations for Peter Pan) and her Uncle Jim - better known to us as J.M. Barrie. Growing up she attended finishing school in France, where she may well have entered into an affair with one of her female teachers - but soon returned to England where she began to write.
Over the years her works ranged from short stories to novels to plays to biographies, all changing in terms of style and setting. Never one to be scared of experimenting or alienating her audiences, du Maurier allowed her passion and imagination to run wild when it came to writing - which resulted in many of her books being beloved by her readers, but not so much by the critics.
Visiting Cornwall as a young adult, she swiftly fell in love with the place and, apart from short spells abroad due to her husband's military career, Cornwall was where du Maurier remained until her death. An author who rarely gave interviews, she was often perceived by the public to be a cold, isolated hermit - which is a far cry from the fascinating, social and often rather fun life that she's is depicted as having here.
Such a lively life would, I imagine, be rather dulled by a biography that relies on figures, dates and footnotes - so the author chooses to forgo these, instead writing this biography far more like a novel. It's a style that works well - and whilst some readers may initially be a little uncomfortable with it, the effect it has is hugely transporting - and du Maurier such an interesting, intelligent figure, that it's rather impossible not to be swept along. Some moments do feel a little strange - the author perhaps inhabits du Maurier's mind a little too much at times, and conveys thoughts and feelings that she has no way of knowing - but it adds to the "novel" effect and certainly kept me hooked. Additionally, it's a style that du Maurier herself employed in several of her novels - so it's absolutely fitting for de Rosnay to engage the reader with it here.
A beautiful depiction of a woman whose life was endlessly fascinating, "Manderley Forever" breathes new life into an author who was rarely critically acclaimed in life, but remains beloved by her readers - and should pick up a legion of new fans should they choose to read Ms de Rosnay's fantastic work.
Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.