Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Magician's Death

Another P. C. Doherty historical mystery, this time set in medieval England, in the early 14th century and towards the end of the reign of Edward I. The focus is on his continual efforts to trump Philip IV of France, and the works of Roger Bacon. Sir Hugh Corbett, Keeper of the Secret Seal and the eyes and ears of King Edward I, serves as the intelligent academic and criminologist.

It begins, as every good mystery should, with a death, here following a theft of a copy of Bacon's Secretus Secretorum (a lovely play on Secretum Secretorum) from the French. The basis of the plot? Decode Bacon's, a priest and scientist, work by finding the key to his book because it's all written in code, and ultimately shift the balances of power in the favor of the one that makes the discovery first! Both Kings send envoys, academics led by a shrewd politician, to try and figure this out through mutual cooperation, but foul play is suspected in achieving these ends as people begin to die in this cold winter castle, isolated and surrounded by dangerous forests.

History is again made fascinating as the practices and traditions of the time are portrayed with admirable accuracy. It is bloody and gory, dirty and cold, disgusting and enchanting all at the same time. There is the element of the comic in the form of Ranulf-atte-Newgate, Corbett's most trusted aid and bodyguard, and fellow henchmen, who are all generally very well educated. As with most of Doherty's novels, the story has a sub-plot that serves as an important factor to the main plot. There is the killing of young maidens here, the misunderstood outlaws, the bearded traveling business men that inhabit a table at a local tavern in the middle of winter, the pirates who are too close to shore for comfort, the annoying French envoy, deCraon who swears that the deaths of his companions are all due to natural causes, and the evasive key to Bacon's work.

It is the simplicity of the approach in story telling that has drawn me to Doherty's books, this being my second (yes, I am aware that I'm still a Doherty newbie, but I appreciate him nonetheless). There are several smaller issues that you must pay attention to, and smaller characters, as it all converges quite amazingly in the end. It also has vast volumes of information. If it's not in the book at least you are driven to find out more about it, I know am! I enjoyed this book so much that I may end up buying the whole set of his mystery series - all of them!

Captain Wentworth's Diary

Jane Austen is was is a genius. Her writing takes you into a world with characters that every girl wishes were real, especially the male protagonists even though all of the stories are told from the female perspective. Captain Wentworth's Diary is one of many of Amanda Grange's books that attempts to give fans the other side of the story, the thoughts running through the minds of the man that many of us believe could be the man of our dreams!

I liked Mr. Darcy's Diary, but disliked Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, so I was a little skeptical about reading another of Grange's books. To my extreme delight, I was not disappointed. This book gives you Captain Wentworth's side of the happenings of Persuasion in a very modest and sentimental way that may have made Austen proud of her creations. It is insightful enough and stays true to the story and its gaps that fully believe that Captain Wentworth maintained this diary himself. You catch a glimpse into the passion an Austen hero holds within him for the woman he truly loves. There are no frills, it's all so pure and true and perfect.

My favorite part of the book would have to be the beginning - the first courtship between Wentworth and Anne. I love the attempts made by Wentworth to be with Anne, and her joy at being recognized and knowledge that she is worthy of being loved by someone so wholly. We know Anne's side of the story, but, as with all of Austen's novels, one is left longing to know what went through the man's head! I believe that the author has accomplished that with ease in this book.

It took me a day to finish reading this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it, the Austen-holic that I am :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Perfect Poison

The Perfect Poison, an Arcane Society novel, is set in a gothic like late Victorian England was a fun read for me. It was quick, simple and well written enough for me to complete in a single day.
I thought it would get monotonous,boring and unbelievable when I realized that the characters were psychic - inadvertently I thought of sorry plight of vampires in today's literature, it just saddened me. Surprisingly I wasn't disappointed. Jayne Ann Krentz, under the pseudonym of Amanda Quick, dishes out a decently sane novel, with a nice serving of botanical interests, though again psychically oriented, and a good understanding of Victorian society!

As is well known, I generally stay away from the romance genre on principle (I prefer classic romance and occasionally foray into historical romance but that's it), but I liked this novel because of the storyline and characters. There was a decent amount of depth in the characters of Caleb Jones and Lucinda so as to keep me turning the pages to reach the end. The deaths and investigation that introduces the protagonists of the novel are also believable, so I went along with my instinct and read the book. It isn't one of those tasteless or senseless romance novels. There's actually logic in this. It may not always seem sensible, but there is enough to keep a serious reader like me hooked on to it.

The language and behavior of characters, all of them, may not be very accurate, but it's spirited and fun to read. I liked it enough that I might just read another Amanda Quick novel soon!