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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Detectives of the Golden Age - Michael Innes (1906-1994 )

Detectives of the Golden Age
 Michael Innes (1906-1994 )
By Carol Westron
Michael Innes was the pseudonym of John Innes Mackintosh Stewart. Born in Scotland in 1906, Innes was educated at Edinburgh Academy and later at Oriel College, Oxford, where he studied English Literature. In 1929 he went to Vienna to study psychoanalysis. From 1930 to 1935 he lectured at the University of Leeds. In 1932, he married Margaret Hardwick and they were together for forty-seven years, until her death in 1979; they had three sons and two daughters. Margaret Hardwick was his landlady's daughter and the prompt arrival of their children left the family in urgent need of a better income, which was one of the reasons they decided to emigrate to Australia.

From 1936 to 1946, Stewart was Professor of English in the University of Adelaide, South Australia. It was in 1936, on board ship, on the journey out, that he wrote his first 'Michael Innes' novel, Death at the President's Lodging featuring his best known creation, John Appleby, at this time a Detective Inspector at Scotland Yard. In his memoir, Myself and Michael Innes, Stewart gives three reasons for turning to detective fiction. One is that he felt he did not have the talent or experience to be a novelist and he did not write non-genre fiction until 1954 when he published Mark Lambert's Supper under his own name. The second reason he claimed for writing mystery stories was that it was 'respectable,' indeed many academics of the time had turned to writing mysteries. The third reason was that he needed the money to support his growing family.

In 1946, having written another nine Appleby novels, he returned to the United Kingdom. In Appleby's End (1945) John Appleby marries sculptress, Judith Raven, and retires, for the first time, to live in the country. However by 1947 in A Night of Errors, Appleby has returned to detection if not to the police force. From 1946 to 1948, Stewart lectured in English at the Queen's University of Belfast. The Journeying Boy (1949) has a richly drawn and comic Irish background which echoes this time in Ireland . In 1948 Stewart returned to Oxford University.

In 1973, when Stewart retired, he was a professor of Oxford university. As J.I.M. Stewart he was a notable academic and wrote full-length critical studies of Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, James Joyce and Thomas Love Peacock and aspects of Shakespeare's work. His last published work was his memoir, Myself and Michael Innes. (1987)

Myself and Michael Innes is a collection of elegantly written and often amusing anecdotes about his life as an academic and observations about writing a crime novel, in which he speaks of the problems of keeping the plot on track while fully developing characters and settings. Myself and Michael Innes is remarkable for the skilful and charming way Stewart entertains while avoiding to give any of his inner life away.

The crime writer Julian Symons described Innes as a 'farceur' and, in Myself and Michael Innes, Innes acknowledges that he has attempted 'to bring a little fantasy and fun into the detective story,' his reason being that, 'Detective stories are purely recreational reading, after all, and needn't scorn the ambition to amuse as well as puzzle.'

This sums up the heart of the Innes' books. They are entertainment, humorous, witty and frequently highly improbable. His books have a literary or artistic theme running through them and this, quite often, provides the motivation behind the crime. Usually set in the academic world or in the homes of the aristocracy, it is interesting to note that Innes' depiction of the nobly born is sometimes of endearingly eccentric characters but often of arrogant, stupid and selfish noblemen who thoroughly deserve whatever unpleasant fate befalls them. Many of the mysteries centre around their possession of some literary or artistic treasure that they either do not appreciate and wish to reject, conceal, destroy or profit by. In The Ampersand Papers (1978) Lord Ampersand is irritated by requests from academics to study his family papers and Lord Ampersand's son and heir, Lord Skillet, comes up with a malicious and eccentric way of discouraging these visitors:
'What Lord Skillet had thought of seemed itself attended with an element of risk. Why not constitute that large upper chamber something that could be called a muniment room; fix over the entrance to it, in a temporary way one of those rope-and-pulley affairs used to hoist things up into warehouses; and then deposit in it by this method all the Ampersand papers that ever were? The sort of people who devoted themselves to antiquarian pursuits and crackpot researchings would not be of a temper to remain undaunted by so arduous – indeed perilous – a path to knowledge. They'd take one look and give Treskinnick a wide berth.
Lord Ampersand was at first rather shocked by the levity of his son's proposal. But as well as being funny, there was something faintly malign about it that appealed to the arrogant side of his nature.'

One thing these noblemen have in common is a sense of entitlement, not because of their achievements but because of their birth. Even Appleby's wife, Judith, has a sense of entitlement that Appleby, who comes of middle-class stock, finds disconcerting:
'Appleby, who was fond of admitting that he was a very conventional man, stared at his wife aghast. “Ask for him? We can't barge in on a total stranger.”
“He can't be a total stranger to Uncle Julius. Uncle Julius knows all the other nobs in the county, I suppose. We could explain I was his niece.”
Appleby's alarm grew. This social outrage was already vivid in his imagination.
“It just isn't done,” he said.' (A Connoisseur's Case, 1962.)

John Appleby is Innes' chief detective creation and, at the start of his stories, he is a detective inspector at Scotland Yard. Appleby is a quiet, eminently civilised man. Despite his middle-class background he moves with ease amongst the aristocracy and academics that he has to investigate. He is well-educated and erudite and his insight into literature and art often provides the vital clue to the case. Appleby is one of the longest lived protagonists in detective fiction. His career started with Death At the President's Lodging in 1936 and continued for fifty years until his last case, Appleby and the Ospreys in 1986. One of the greatest mysteries surrounding Appleby is his extraordinary career. Appleby retired at an early age just after the Second World War, soon after meeting his wife, Judith. (Appleby's End, 1945.) He was involved in two investigations as a civilian and then reappeared a in A Private View (1952) as Sir John Appleby, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. His meteoric rise is neither chronicled nor excused by his creator. Even after his second retirement, Appleby becomes involved in a large number of cases and leads the official investigators in the right direction. Although occasionally the police in charge of the investigation are less than impressed by his intervention, in most cases they welcome assistance from a man of Appleby's reputation, especially a man who by his own knighthood and by his wife's aristocratic connections, has entry into places and secrets where an ordinary police detective has no hope of being admitted. During both his retirements, Appleby expresses his unwillingness to be involved in the case and, inevitably, he is drawn in. Soon after his first retirement, when a police friend asks him to accompany him to the home of a murdered baronet, Appleby replies: '“I've had my fill of murdered baronets – and especially at midnight, as you say. The annals of the Yard are glutted with them. It was hard at times to believe that any could be left alive in England. For you must add, you know, all those we were obliged to hang... Who is it?”' (A Night of Errors, 1947.) And there in the last three words is the sound of a man taking the bait.

Appleby is Innes' main detective but there are other cases solved by Charles Honeybath, a well-known portrait painter and a friend of Appleby, who first appears in The Mysterious Commission (1974.). In Appleby and Honeybath (1983), the two men combine to investigate. Although Honeybath first discovers the body, it is Appleby who actually solves the mystery. In some of the later Appleby mysteries, Appleby's son, Bobby, also investigates.

As well as the Appleby and Honeybath series, Innes wrote several stand alone mystery novels, but all his books were written in the same humorous, elegant style. 'In his books, he concerned himself more with style and humor than with realism, and his work was widely admired.' (The New York Times Obituary for J.I.M. Stewart.) Innes certainly placed humour above any form of realism. Coincidences abound, both in the plots and in the detection of the crime; his characters are outrageous and (apart from Appleby, Honeybath and their close family and friends) quite often unlikeable. Many of the names could easily grace a Restoration Comedy. Lord Osprey (a tedious, nervous and rambling old gentleman); Honoria Wimpole (a well-born and decisive young lady); Trumfitt (the enormous and threatening local publican); Miss Minnichip (the local spinster); Mr Broadwater (a dedicated fisherman); Bagot (the ancient-retainer butler); Rupert Quickfall (a successful barrister) can all be found in the last Appleby novel, Appleby and the Ospreys (1986), but similar gems can be found in all the Innes' novels.

However Innes' novels are not just about humour, even of the most elegant literary kind. The plots are intricate and fascinating and his understanding of psychology and motivation is excellent. As a young man he had travelled to Vienna to study Freudian psychology and this is evident throughout his work. The first pages of A Night of Errors (1947) beautifully illustrate the on-going emotional destruction of one person by another.

'”Lucy,” said Lady Dromio, “can you see the little silver bell?”
There was a lot of silver on the tea-table; nevertheless Lucy did not trouble to survey it, or to take her eyes from the single fleecy cloud sailing almost directly overhead.
“No, mama. Swindle has forgotten it.”
“How very vexatious.” Lady Dromio, who had been peering despondently into an empty hot-water jug, glanced with equal despondence over the spreading lawns by which she was surrounded... “How very vexing,” Lady Dromio repeated.
“Yes, mama. But the situation is a familiar one.”
“Familiar, child?” From under her white hair the faded blue eyes of Lady Dromio expressed a large, vague surprise.
“Swindle, I think, has a horror of the ringing bell. He avoids it. One day he will undoubtedly try to avoid the clangour of the angel's trumpet too.”
“Lucy, dear, what odd, clever things you say.” Lady Dromio's tone was placid, but there was a remorselessness in the way she flicked open and shut the lid of the hot-water jug... it brought Lucy to her feet – a tall, dark girl in her early thirties, at once lackadaisical and restless. Her movement was received by Lady Dromio as if it was something entirely unexpected.
“Well, dear, if you would like to fetch some that will be very nice.”
Lucy compressed her lips, held out her hand for the hot-water jug and departed across the lawn. Lady Dromio watched her go, turned to scrutinise her tea-table, watched again. Across the hot lawn Lucy was almost out of earshot. Lady Dromio called; she picked up and waved an empty cream-jug. Lucy turned obediently back.'

Innes always remained at his core J.I.M. Stewart, an academic and his understanding of criminal motivation is informed not only by his interest in psychology but also by his critical studies, especially concerning Shakespeare. Much of the root of wrong-doing in the Innes' mysteries comes from characters who are thoughtless, selfish, greedy and ambitious, rather than deliberately setting out to kill. The observation he made about Macbeth in his critical study Character and Motive in Shakespeare (1949), could apply to many of the 'villains' in his books: 'The evil which may rise up in a man's imagination may sweep him on to crime, particularly if... he is imaginative without the release of being creative.'

Review of ‘Appleby and Honeybath' by Michael Innes.

Portrait painter, Charles Honeybath, is commissioned by members of the local hunt to paint a portrait of Terence Grinton, Master of Foxhounds. Honeybath goes to stay as a guest at Grinton Hall and spends some time trying to select a suitable setting for the portrait. There is one room at Grinton Hall that is never entered: the library, and 'the ghost of the library (if the expression isn't too strange a one) was somehow at large at Grinton. This was perhaps because Mr Grinton wasn't merely of a philistine temperament and indifferent to books. He hated them, particularly if their authors had names like Pliny or Julius Caesar.' Despite this, Honeybath thinks that the contrast of erudition and Grinton's ruddy complexion and hunting clothes may prove an interesting artistic challenge and seeks out the library..

When Honeybath enters the library he finds a man sitting there and apologises for disturbing him. 'the eminent painter (whose unflawed courtesy was an unobtrusive part of his make-up) was about to withdraw as quietly as might be when he realized that something was wrong. He walked up to the seated figure, touched a hand, with his own hand made a small gesture before open and unblinking eyes, and saw that he was almost certainly in the presence of a dead man. This was a shock. There was a greater shock when he took in the expression frozen, as it were, upon the dead man's face. It could be described only as exhibiting malign glee.'

Honeybath immediately leaves the library, locking the door behind him and goes to seek his host. On the way, he is fortunate to encounter his friend and fellow guest John Appleby, retired Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. They return to the library together and, to Honeybath's confusion and dismay, the body has vanished. Honeybath is afraid that people will doubt his sanity but after searching the library and guided by the smell of toasted cheese, Appleby and Honeybath find a concealed door which leads to some rough rooms, once quarters for outdoors servants, one of which is roughly furnished and bearing the remains of a simple meal.

This time both Appleby and Honeybath go to tell Terence Grinton of their discoveries but when they return, accompanied by Grinton and Inspector Denver of the local police, the body is still missing and all sign that the servant's room has been occupied has disappeared as well.

What follows is a lively romp through many of the conventions of mystery writing: a locked room mystery, an 18th Century, literary secret from the time when Terence Grinton's ancestor, Jonathan Grinton, had 'entertained at Grinton Hall somebody referred to by Terence Grinton as 'a little chappie called Pope.' Indeed, at times, the story resembles a game of Cluedo, especially as one of the guests at Grinton Hall is an irritating woman who claims to be clairvoyant and rejoices in the name of Mrs Mustard.

The story culminates in a classic gathering together of all the suspects so that Appleby can run through the case as it stands and reveal the truth behind the death and the other strange events. Even this summation is treated to Innes' witty humour, as when Appleby pauses in his somewhat lengthy explanation and says, '”We are finished, however, with the events of the afternoon. The events of the night are to follow.”
“But quite a lot more happened yesterday afternoon.” Dolly Grinton broke in with this rather as if accused of having provided insufficient entertainment for her guests. “We all heard about Mr Honeybath finding a body, and Terence told me to send for Mr Denver, and statements were taken, and goodness knows what.”'
Appleby and Honeybath is an intriguing mystery, with literary clues, and lively characters.

     Because Appleby and Honeybath are both likeable characters the tone of the book is warmer than some of Innes' other mysteries and the wit and humour make it a very enjoyable read.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times. The Terminal Velocity of Cats, the first in her Scene of Crimes novel was published July 2013.

Friday, 25 October 2013

‘The Sleep Room‘ by F R Tallis

Published by Pan, 2013.
ISBN: 978 1 4472 0499 2

Where does psychological thriller end and creepy horror begin?

That’s a question F R Tallis must have asked himself. The difference would appear to be that in the former, the mysteries are explained, while in the latter the reader is left thoroughly spooked and free to draw his or her own conclusions about the supernatural.

A clinical psychologist by profession, as Frank Tallis he is the author of half a dozen murder mysteries set in Sigmund Freud’s Vienna and a couple of other historical mysteries; in this other guise he veers towards the gothic.

The background of The Sleep Room is unashamedly based on the work of an eminent psychiatrist of the time, who advocated finding treatments for the symptoms of mental illness rather than the Freudian approach of seeking out the causes. One of his treatments was narcosis, or extended sleep. Tallis picks up this idea and runs with it: a stark basement room in which six severely disturbed women sleep for twenty-one hours a day over a period of months, with fearful consequences.

The setting is a bleak house set up as a hospital in the eerie countryside of 1950s Suffolk, where the marshes meet the sea. The well-drawn narrator is an impressionable young doctor engaged to run the hospital by its distinguished founder. The rich ambience is very much the stuff of classic horror stories; the doctor’s arrival is marked by a thick mist, and strange things begin to happen almost as soon as he takes up his post.

Tallis’s recreation of the slightly formal language of 1950s fiction is only one aspect of his skilful construction of the claustrophobic atmosphere beloved of M R James and H P Lovecraft. His own clinical background is very much in evidence, but so too is a fertile imagination. He invokes classic elements of horror: whisperings in the night, invisible hands tugging at clothes, a flame which appears out of nowhere, objects which move on their own, vivid dreams; but set alongside the strange manifestations of the patients’ disturbed minds, they lose none of their power to jangle the reader’s nerves. 

Unless you count the barbarous crimes against vulnerable humanity committed by well-meaning doctors half a century ago, The Sleep Room can’t really be described as a crime novel, or even a psychological thriller; it’s creepy horror from beginning to end – especially the enigmatic and distinctly spooky ending. But it shows without question that this accomplished mystery writer has more than one string to his bow.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

F R Tallis is a writer and clinical psychologist. He has held lecturing posts at the Institute of Psychiatry and King's College, London. I addition to his fiction novels he has written self help manuals (How to Stop Worrying, Understanding Obsessions and Compulsions) non-fiction for the general reader (Changing Minds, Hidden Minds, Love Sick), academic text books and over thirty academic papers in international journals.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

‘The Terminal Velocity of Cats’ by Carol Westron

Published by Pentangle Press,
July 2013.
ISBN 978-1-48499-104-6

I loved this book!   The story held me enthralled as Mia Trent is called to the discovery of bones during the clearance of a building site on Bridge Road.  She is the Scene of Crimes officer with valuable archaeological experience so she soon realises that the bones are from a recent death.  The story gathers speed as the other detectives develop the investigation and various individuals become suspect.  The pace of the novel is one of its strengths - there is both an absorbing investigation which changes directions as the story progresses and characters with whose activities and attitudes the reader becomes deeply involved.   Mia is the focus since there is a killer in the town who had already murdered 3 women and she seems to have attracted his attention.
Another strength here is the title which is one that I can remember and which is cleverly referenced during the book.  Do not fear, cat lovers - as Carol notes at the beginning, ‘no cats were harmed during the writing of this book’!   The fast pace of the adventures of Mia and her team reminds me of Beverly Connor’s Diane Fallon books set in Georgia USA which I greatly enjoy.   We have a different setting here - Mia is in an unspecified small town in the South of the UK and she works directly for the police and in a team but the interest in forensics, the clever heroine and the exciting speed of developments are similar. 
If you want a real page turner this is your book but don’t read it on the train or you might miss your stop!
Reviewer: Jennifer Palmer
This is, I think, Carol’s first published book but she has written short stories for women’s magazines and About the Children, another crime novel, is previewed at the end of The Terminal Velocity of Cats. On her
web site Strangers and Angels, a Victorian murder mystery is listed for autumn publication.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, published July 2013


  Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

‘Invitation to Die’ by Helen Smith

Published by Thomas and Mercer, 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-4778-0730-9

The Romance Writers of Great Britain (RWBG) are holding a conference in a Bloomsbury Hotel, or as the Head of their Committee, Morgana Blakely, prefers to call it, 'a gathering.' The reader is introduced to various of the people who will attend the event, including Winnie Kraster from the US, who writes a blog under the name Tallulah's Treasures. Winnie reviews books on her blog and is one of three bloggers who have 'won' a short story competition. The prize is to attend the RWBG event, meet Morgana's agent and have tea with the successful Romance writer Polly Pelham. It soon becomes clear that the bloggers won because of the success of their blogs rather than their short story writing skill and nobody on the Committee seems quite sure how the winners were selected. It is unfortunate that Winnie has just offended one of the Committee members, Cerys Pugh, by an adverse review of her last book.

Desperate for help to run the 'gathering', Morgana employs Emily Castles, young, single and unemployed, to act as her PA. When she accepted the job, Emily did not realise that, as well as filling gift bags, arranging seating and soothing offended divas, her tasks would also include detecting a murderer, but when Winnie Kraster's corpse is discovered, close to the hotel, that is exactly what Emily decides to do.

Invitation to Die is an over-the-top, tongue in cheek, parody of Romance writers, writing conferences and bloggers. The shallow hysterical way some people 'mourn' for celebrities that they have never met is dealt with more sharply and is shown in strong contrast to the simple, sincere grief of Winnie's husband. For me, the crowning comic moment is when the kitchen is sealed off as a crime scene and the grand, painstakingly selected Gala Dinner has to be substituted by a brown bag lunch.

Invitation to Die is a fast, funny, easy read with many enjoyable comic moments.
Reviewer: Carol Westron.

Helen Smith   is a member of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain, the Crime Writers Association and English PEN. She travelled the world when her daughter was small, doing all sorts of strange jobs to support them both - from cleaning motels to working as a magician's assistant - before returning to live in London where she wrote her first novel. Her work has been reviewed in The Times, the Guardian, The Independent, Time Out and the Times Literary Supplement. Her books have reached number one in the bestseller lists in the Kindle store on both sides of the Atlantic. Invitation to Die, the first full-length novel in her Emily Castles mystery series, is published by Thomas & Mercer.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, published July 2013.

Monday, 21 October 2013

‘Don’t Look Back’ by Erica Spindler

Published by Sphere,
8 August 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-5191-4

Lizzie-Bordenesque thriller about Kat McCall, a young woman returning to the town where ten years ago she was accused and subsequently acquitted of the vicious slaying of Sara, her elder sister.  The town thinks she's guilty.  She knows she's not.  She is determined to find justice for Sara, since the killer must still be out there somewhere.
As a rebellious kid, running with the wrong crowd, wanting to get at her inheritance, grounded by her sister, Kat had the means and the motive, let alone the opportunity to beat her sister to death with a baseball bat.  But it wasn't her.  The local chief of police is so convinced of her guilt that he never bothered to look any further.  Now he is being pushed into a corner by Luke, his own son, who has become acting chief while his father takes sick leave.  He too is convinced of Kat's innocence. Kat is shunned by the townsfolk, even threatened, but refuses to leave.  Together, she and Luke finally unearth the secrets which led to the original injustice.

There was some confusing now-and-back-then story-telling, but I got a grip on it and was thoroughly immersed in the narrative.
Reviewer: Susan Moody
The  book is published in the USA under the titles Justice For Sara.

Erica Spindler  was raised in Rockford, Illinois, Erica had planned on being an artist, earning a BFA from Delta State University and an MFA from the University of New Orleans in the visual arts. In June of 1982, in bed with a cold, she picked up a romance novel for relief from daytime television. She was immediately hooked, and soon decided to try to write one herself. She leaped from romance to suspense in 1996 with her novel Forbidden Fruit, and found her true calling. Her novel Bone Cold won the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence. A Romance Writers of America Honour Roll member, she received a Kiss of Death Award for her novels Forbidden Fruit and Dead Run and was a three-time RITA® Award finalist.  Publishers Weekly awarded the audio version of her novel Shocking Pink a Listen Up Award, naming it one of the best audio mystery books of 1998.  Erica lives just outside New Orleans, Louisiana, with her husband and two sons and is busy at work on her next thriller.
Susan Moody was born in Oxford is the principal nom de plume  of Susan Elizabeth Donaldson, née Horwood, a British novelist best known for her suspense novels. She is a former Chairman of the Crime Writer's Association, served as World President of the International Association of Crime Writers, and was elected to the prestigious Detection Club. Susan Moody has given numerous courses on writing crime fiction and continues to teach creative writing in England, France, Australia, the USA and Denmark.  In addition to her many stand alone books, Susan has written two series, on featuring PI Penny Wanawake (seven books) and a series of six books featuring bridge player Cassie Swan.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

‘Bedlam’ by Laura Joh Rowland

Published by The Overlook Press,
11 April 2013.
ISBN: 9781590206287

Charlotte Bronte, better known for writing about heroines such as Jane Eyre, becomes a protagonist herself in this historical murder mystery (a follow-up to The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte).

Set in the mid-nineteenth century, Charlotte is visiting her publisher in London when she discovers her lost love, John Slade, in Bedlam, the famous insane asylum. No one believes her though, especially as the inmate escapes after apparently murdering three nurses.
Charlotte is determined to track him down to prove his identity and his innocence. But is she just blinded by longing for the mysterious Slade, last seen acting as a double agent in Russia?

As the reader travels with her to Ireland, France and back to England, she encounters a mad scientist, a glamorous actress and makes a dangerous enemy.

With guest appearances by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, this period thriller will appeal to fans of CJ Sansom, although this reader found the use of Charlotte Bronte as the heroine - and her frequent comparisons of her situation to that of Jane Eyre - somewhat unnecessary and a little bit of a gimmick.

The story stands on its own merits thanks to the evidently extensive background research. Ultimately, Charlotte's tale reaches a suitably dramatic and romantic conclusion, with the door left open for more secret adventures in the future.
Reviewer: Joanna Leigh

Laura Joh Rowland  was born in 1953 in Michigsn. She is the author of 15 other mysteries, including the critically acclaimed Book Sense Pick The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte and the Sano Ichiro mystery series. She was educated at the University of Michigan and lives in New York City with her husband and cat.

Joanna Leigh studied French and German at university. She works in the aerospace industry and is a chartered marketer in the UK. She describes herself as a voracious reader, enjoying genres as varied as crime thrillers, historical fiction and autobiographies. Joanna lives in London. She is the daughter of crime thriller writer Leigh Russell.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

‘The Demonologist’ by Andrew Pyper

Published by Orion,
25 April 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-4091-2258-6

His marriage in tatters, his best friend dying of cancer, Professor David Ullman escapes to Venice with his beloved daughter Tess to video and investigate a demonic phenomenon. Despite his scholarly expertise and near obsession with Paradise Lost by John Milton, Ullman remains a sceptic until his daughter, seemingly possessed, drowns during their trip.

Her body never found, Ullman returns to New York alone and devastated. Hiding from the world, refusing to believe that Tess is dead, he begins to experience phenomena he has never believed in: lights turn on and off, voices speak to him and he sees his daughter in the mirror.

Reluctantly starting to believe, Ullman sets out on a quest to save his daughter, trying to shake off a mysterious Pursuer who is determined to retrieve the video he took in Venice, whatever the cost.

Evoking Milton, Cicero, Orpheus and Eurydice, Ullman comes face to face with the demon who is tormenting him and, together with the woman he loves, follows the trail set for him, unsure whether he is outwitting his tormentor or playing right into his hands, but with no alternative if he wants to get his daughter back.

This is a disturbing tale and one which this reader thinks will divide opinion; unbelievers may find it over the top and far-fetched while fans of Milton and the unexplained will love its subtly gruesome and religious undertones. Without doubt, it is not one for the faint-hearted.
Reviewer: Joanna Leigh

Andrew Pyper  is a Canadian writer of fiction. Born in 1968, he received a BA and an MA in English Literature from McGill University, as well as a law degree from the University of Toronto. Although called to the bar in 1996, he has never practiced. He is the author of five acclaimed novels including Lost Girls, which was an international best seller and a 'New York Times' Notable Book and The Killling Circle (A 'New York Times' Crime Novel of the Year). A number of his books are in active development to become feature films, including The Demonologist, which is being produced by Robert Zemeckis's company ImageMovers and Universal Pictures. He lives in Toronto

Joanna Leigh studied French and German at university. She works in the aerospace industry and is a chartered marketer in the UK. She describes herself as a voracious reader, enjoying genres as varied as crime thrillers, historical fiction and autobiographies. Joanna lives in London. She is the daughter of crime thriller writer Leigh Russell.