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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

'In Tibet souls were tried, and souls were tormented, but always soulsendured.'

Skeleton God (Inspector Shan #9) by Eliot Pattison


Having not read any of Inspector Shan Tao Yun's exploits before I found myself fascinated with the hints about his past and fall from grace. There is much for me to catchup on, yet the lack of background did not detract from my understanding of trouble in Shan's past and how that placed him in the now.
Here he is a constable in an isolated Tibetan town of Yangkar in Lhadrung County. Shan is confronted with two bodies found in an ancient Tibetan tomb on the Plain of Ghosts.
The story stretches from the ancient past, to the not so ancient past to the now. The People’s Liberation Army and the Hammer of Freedom Brigade's actions in this area have had long tentacles, and those tentacles still have a stranglehold on the area.
That story is set against the background of the army's roundup of 'feral' (undocumented) Tibetans, the destruction and seizure of Buddhist temples and their goods, the separation of families and their 'reeducation', and the demon ghosts and gods roaming the area.
The exploration by Shan of ancient Tibetan artifacts, and his fascination with the Tibetan way of life, the gods, the scared places are all included in this fascinating murder mystery set in an equally as fascinating part of the world. The history of Tibet and the results for that country by China's invasion in the 1950's is brought into sharp focus.

A NetGalley ARC


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Misdeeds indeed!

A Lady's Code of Misconduct (Rules for the Reckless #5) by Meredith Duran


Handsomely wrought story that pleases from finish to end. Jane Mason, an heiress, has been virtually held captive by her uncle and his family. Now she has come of age and her uncle intends to marry her to his despicable cousin Archibald and take control of her fortune.
Crispin Burke intends to be Prime Minister and how he gets there will be through cold manipulation and a will of iron. 
Jane's uncle and Crispin have been partners in this endeavour, intent on forcing a bill through parliament that will enhance Crispin 's reputation and bring monetary gain for those behind the scheme.
The coming together of these two is a a story of opportunity that turns into something more.
It's Jane who takes the massive step that Crispin has opened up to her. Crispin just didn't foresee the road she would take and his involvement. An attempt on his life leaves Crispin with a loss of memory, a situation Jane takes advantage of--and then she's faced with the consequences.
As Jane reflects when informed about Burke being all but dead, Burke was 'a villain, an amoral rogue [although] his vitality had all but filled a room. Had it only been turned toward good, he might have done so much. But he’d been wicked.'
A romance with an intriguing amount of danger, emotional angst and redemption.

A NetGalley ARC


To marry--or not!


Death and intrigue in high places.

Murder on the Serpentine (A Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Novel #32) by Anne Perry

In this novel Pitt finds himself undertaking a mission for Queen Victoria. One that could have grave consequences for the Prince of Wales and the future of the monarchy. 
We meet some interesting new characters along with old friends.
A boating accident on the Serpentine, 'a decorative stretch of water that curved across the middle of Hyde Park.' In the dead of night of a trusted and favoured courtier of the Queen's--Sir John Halberd drowns. This leads to Pitt being called before the highest figure in the land. His task, to discreetly continue the inquiries Halberd had undertaken for the Queen and to discover the truth behind the boating 'accident.' It seems embroiled in the affair is Delia Kendrick, a former mistress of the Prince of Wales and now wife to one of his closet friends. 
For me a huge part of the intrigue of this novel lies in the emotional and psychological struggle that Pitt has to come to terms with. We see him wrestle with his conscience and ideals as he fully assumes the mantle of Commander of Special Branch. Trying to formulate the ways between honourable behaviour and necessity for the good of all. A very rocky path.
Victor Narraway and Vespasia are out of the country. Normally Pitt would consult Victor when the action moves into the upper stratosphere of high society. Now Pitt has to rely on his own resources and Victor's notebooks.
Looming on the horizon is the possibility of a second Boer War. Murder, suicide and gun running are in the mix.
Charlotte cannot enter so readily into Pitt's cases--these are now concerned with State secrets and anarchy. She does however do what she can.
I find her inclusion into the Lady's Club and murmurs of the suffragette movement interesting. Ah, if that came to pass that could open up a whole lot of possibilities, even conflicts for Pitt and Charlotte. But I digress!
Another fascinating addition to the Pitt collection.

A NetGalley ARC


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Rakes' progress, part 1.

Enjoyable characters and story. Benedict Mercer, The Duke of Griffin will go to great lengths to protect his twin sisters from the consequences of a stupid and damaging wager he and his dukely friends (The Rakes of St. James) had participated in years ago.
Part of those lengths is to hire a chaperone, Miss Esmeralda Swift. That was his first battle with Esmeralda and those battles would continue. (Both Griffin and Esmerelda are stubborn). Esmeralda has her own secrets and burdens including her beloved half sister Josephine. There's a dog of great consequence included--Napoleon of course!
The thing is that the Duke has strong feelings about the right behaviour due to those in his service, even if he has a great deal of difficulty mastering that as far as the delectable Miss Swift is concerned. Esmeralda definitely is not indifferent to the wretched man, but he is a Duke and she is only a lowly employee. 
In between chasing down rumours, keeping his sisters safe, his attraction for Esmerelda and running the gauntlet of a London season, the Duke has much to occupy him. And of course there's his friends and fellow dukely rakes, Rust Rathburne, the Duke of Rathburne (Rath), and Sloane Knox, the Duke of Hawksthorn (Hawk).
Esmeralda's background story seems to fizzle somewhat, although it does give her the right entree. Still maybe more will come of it in future developments of the other St James Rakes' progresses. Griffin's twin sisters Vera and Sara could be more fully developed. They certainly have heaps of potential.
Josephine however, is a treasure! I loved her! The antics she and her dog get up to are both heart warming and heart breaking.
Then there's the broad sheet publication, 'Miss Honora Truth's Weekly Scandal Sheet'. I am sure that will continue to play a part.
A lot of unanswered questions that may never be resolved in this delightful Regency romance.

A NetGalley ARC


Angel of Death!

Cursed Command (Angel in the Whirlwind #3) by Christopher G. Nuttall

Another rewarding adventure with Kat Falcone and crew as they are ordered to investigate the outer reaches of space for the Commonwealth, seeking out allies and partners in the war against the Theocracy. (The Theocracy has some of the earmarks of the Masadans in the Honor Harrington novels. They are implacable enemies of Kat. She has bested them in all encounters.) This time Kat's former executive officer has been granted his own command. William McElney is to captain his own heavy cruiser, the HMS Uncanny. The cruiser has been dogged by the deaths of two former captains. It is commonly referred to as HMS Unlucky--not a glowing recommendation. Captain McElney is faced with command of a cruiser where the crew are undisciplined, both the crew and the ship are physically and mentally unready for action, and with some crew discontent verging on mutiny. All this as McElney sets forth with Kat and HMS Lightning to the Jorlem Sector, a sector rife with piracy and possible Theocracy intrusion. Kat as usual is an unpredictable counter on the battle chessboard. Not as forceful a novel as previous contributions, although the character of McElney and his place in things, his viewpoint as someone who's come up through the ranks and is not from the elite echelons of the Commonwealth, more than makes up for that. This for me is where the full interest lies of this story--how to break through the circle of power and attitudes of entitlement of the Commonwealth's inner circles that extend to the command structures of the armed forces. This continuing saga of Kat and her people places all in readiness for the next episode in Nuttall's exciting interplanetary space opera.
A NetGalley ARC


Monday, March 6, 2017

Absolutely Brilliant!


I must admit to being enthralled by Venables' Guy of Gisburne novels. He's taken the legend of Robin Hood and turned it on its head. At every step! So what is the truth? I've read so many versions and watched so many movies. In fact Prince of Thieves was screening just as I was reading this. But these--the Guy of Gisburne novels are my far and away favourites.
We have legend and tradition and the need for heroes--but heroes can be used in different ways. As King Richard says to Guy, "I could make use of Hood. Use his legend to bolster my own. And I shall. But I am a practical man. That legend will be easier to control when he’s dead.” 
Guy replies, "Legends prosper best when their hero is absent." Cutting both ways--the legend of Richard and that of Hood. So Guy is charged with killing Hood and his leaders. How cunning is the plot that Richard has a mind to set in motion. A masterful stroke by Venables! Machiavellian indeed!
Guy forms a team from those we've met before to hunt the Hood of this series--not the legendary Hood we know, but the vicious, cunning and cruel man he really is. Lady Mélisande, Asif ibn Salah, a resentful and angry Galfrid, and even Tancred are part of that select group.
The elements of Robin Hood are all here--Marion, the Prioress, the loyal followers--but all so different from the popular legend. Hood's trusted companions are so much less than what we love, and so much more vicious. That belief that sees Hood as the man of the people, the Christlike saviour is reduced to a despicable reality here. Hood is a man with his own dark purposes.
For Guy, vengeance will take a different form. At one point Hood says, 'when I die, that is when I am truly born.' At that moment, the true revenge that Guy has in mind is given voice.
At the last Guy decides that, 'the best possible revenge upon Hood—[is] not for him to be lost to posterity, but to become its servant, and an agent for all the good things that he never once believed.' But the story to this moment is paved with hardship, is emotional harrowing and so engaging.
A wonderful novel that brings to the close a thoughtful and fascinating series I have thoroughly enjoyed.

A NetGalley ARC