Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Young Lion

Twelfth century Europe, particularly England and what is now France, was a turbulent time politically with battles externally and internally for power and land. Blanche D'Alphuget, in The Young Lion, has written the first of a proposed quartet of books on the life of Henry II, son of the Empress Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou and the great grandson of William the Conqueror. This volume focuses on the struggle leading to Henry gaining the English throne.

The novel begins when Eleanor of Acquitaine and King Louis VII return from the Second Crusade to their home in Paris. Their political marriage is not a success as Eleanor has only had two daughters and therefore not produced an heir to the throne. After her divorce from Louis she married Henry in another political marriage. During the book Henry is engaged in a number of battles to protect the land he has legally inherited as well as the land believed to have been taken from his family when Stephen took the throne of England instead of his mother. Marrying Eleanor also brought additional lands and money into the family.

Henry, Eleanor, Matilda and Geoffrey were all powerful characters in their own right and other prominent figures in history are also introduced throughout the plot, but as this is a work of fiction the author introduces additional characters to the story, including Eleanor's maid, Xena. She also refers to a half-brother of Henry named William who is involved in his early adventures. Henry had a brother, Guillaume (William), who was three years younger than Henry. The author introduces a character, Lady Isabella, as the mother of this child, William. Henry's father did have a number of recorded illegitimate children including a son, Hamelein, who was three years older than Henry. The William in the story is possibly another fictional creation. Both Xena (later known as Rachael), William and Isabella have prominent roles in this novel.

The book is generally easy to read (skim through) as a story though I found the often flowery passages, especially in the descriptions of the relationships between the characters, not to my taste but romantic fiction is not one of my favourite genres. The book however does introduce the reader to a colourful period of history and hopefully may encourage readers to investigate what really happened during this time and the lives of the historical characters portrayed in this work of fiction.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bones of the Lost

In Kathy Reichs' latest book Temperance Brennan investigates a variety of cases - the death of a young girl found by the side of the road, the authenticity of some bones possibly smuggled from South America as well as the exhumation of two bodies in Afghanistan. Although each case is very different, links between the cases become apparent and require investigation. Tempe's private life continues to be at times challenging. Her former husband, Pete, makes an appearance, their daughter is serving in Afghanistan and Tempe is concerned that she is unable to contact Andrew Ryan. This forensic crime novel combines a fast moving story with technical information plus a storyline that further develops our knowledge of Tempe as a person.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Some Like it Hawk

Continuing the theme of birds in the titles, Some Like it Hawk, is the 14th title in the Meg Langslow series written by Donna Andrews. Meg has been charged with organising the entertainment for a festival, Caerphilly Days, organised to help raise funds for the town bankrupted by a previous administration. All public buildings have been closed but the town clerk has barricaded himself in the courthouse basement with the town's archives. A small number of townspeople know about the secret tunnel used to provide fresh supplies to the town clerk. When during the festival a woman working for the 'Evil Lender', the firm attempting to purchase buildings and properties in the area, is murdered outside the barricade initial suspicion falls upon the town clerk. However most of the townspeople know this is not the case and work with Meg to find the real murderer. As with all books in this series there is a large cast of eccentric characters, primarily members of Meg's family. A relaxing book to read in the shade outside on a warm spring day.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

To love and be wise

This Inspector Grant mystery was first published in 1950. Josephine Tey writes crime books with a difference. Her books are not the purely police procedural stories that many recent authors write. Her books are about places and the people living in those places plus the impact of a crime on the community.

In this book Inspector Grant attends a party where he meets an American photographer wanting an introduction to the nephew of one of the guests. After the introduction Leslie Searle is invited to stay at the family home in a village, Salcott St Mary, where he can meet the nephew, Walter. Much of the plot revolves around village life recently changed by an influx of artistic people who do not exactly blend in with the other villagers. It also examines not only the effect of Lealie Searle's arrival in the village but particularly the reaction of the occupants of 'Trimmings' to Searle.

Walter and Leslie decide to go on an expedition exploring the local river in order to collaborate on a book. Several days into the expedition they visit the hotel at Salcott St Mary for a drink. Walter leaves early leaving Leslie to return alone to the camp and Leslie is never seen again. Because this has the potential to be a high profile case, due to the personalities involved, Inspector Grant is asked by the local police to help with the investigation.

Written more than 60 years ago it is interesting to observe the methods of communication, including time delays, between the village and London and between London and the USA. It is also interesting to note how the use has changed of some words. This is a well constructed crime story with an unexpected twist at the end.

The University of Adelaide has digitised a number of Josephine Tey books making them available online as e-books - http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/tey/josephine/index.html