Murder by Sarah Pinborough

Posted On 29 July 2015

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Murder was one of my books that I’ve had for a while waiting to be read and I’m so pleased that I finally made the time to pick it up.  It’s such a good book.  Really, I don’t think I’ll be able to heap enough praise on it although i’ll certainly give it a good try.  Let the gushing commence!

Murder is the second book in a series by Sarah Pinborough, a series that started with a creepy and dark first instalment called Mayhem.  I think this could be read as a standalone to be honest although I would recommend reading the first in order to get the full measure of the characters involved.  And, if you haven’t read Mayhem then this review will undoubtedly contain spoilers so be aware of that before continuing.

The story starts a few years after the conclusion of Mayhem.  Dr Bond is finally beginning to recover from the events that saw the death of Harrington and has managed to convince himself that the strange monster that he thought he saw at the time was nothing more than a drug induced fantasy.  He’s carved out a comfortable lifestyle for himself and managed to become a firm family favourite with Harrington’s widow and son, in fact he harbours strong hopes of making Juliana his wife (in spite of a rather significant age difference).

Unfortunately, however, the past has no intention of lying quietly to one side and past events are about to be raked over when an old friend of Harrington’s from the US (Kane) visits London to pay the good doctor a visit.  He has a bundle of letters that seem almost crazy, written to him by Harrington, and he wants somebody to look them over and see what they make of the whole thing.

I’m actually not going to go into the plot at all other than the above.  Once again Pinborough manages to write a work of fiction bringing to life real people and events from a period of the past that was particularly scary and once again she provides us with what appears to be two murderers.

What did I really like about this book.  The writing.  It’s simply so very good.  Frankly, I’m a pushover for really good writing and so this was an easy win for me.  Every time I opened the pages I sunk into them and became unaware of everything around me.  I was literally like the fly on the wall watching everything happen – and some of it was damned scary enough for me to want to fly away.  SP paints the scene expertly.  She gives details but doesn’t dump, she captures the era perfectly without being a stickler to it and she absolutely succeeds in bringing her characters to life and giving them real emotions.  You are definitely going to feel for these characters and Pinborough will put you through the emotional wringer along with them.  I really didn’t foresee some of the events that took part and I’m not too proud to say that they left me gobsmacked.  There’s also the perfect evocation of a dirty, smoggy, dark and despairing London where evil seems to lurk in the very mist and sink into the pores of the people travelling the streets.

On top of that the characters.  I think Dr Bond is one of the most compelling characters I’ve read for an age and one that I’ve had the most torn feelings over.  His journey into madness and despair is perfectly riveting.  The other characters are equally good and written in a way that builds them up slowly.  Kane for example, I started off mistrusting him and his thoughts in general and in fact finding him a little offensive at first and I think this was really clever because at the back of your mind you start to assign the character other secrets or see something more sinister about them.

I’m going to stop there as I don’t really want to give anything away other than the fact that I really enjoyed this book.  In fact, for me personally, it surpassed Mayhem.

A totally gripping, horrible, nasty, dark and grimy, chill inducing book with twists and turns aplenty and an excellent finish – which even gives me a tiny hope for something more.  Pretty please.

Read it.  That is all.

I’m submitting this for my Backlist Burndown book over at Tenacious Reader and also I’m adding it as one of my completed series (although secretly I am hoping for more!)

To Read, Perchance to Dream


Today over at the Broke and Bookish the Top Ten Tuesday topic for discussion is:

‘Ten Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds’

Characters who love reading as much as we do – win!

  1. Hermione Granger from J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  Hermione always has her head in a book, she is like the number one student and even has a time twister to allow her to attend more lessons.
  2. Lady Trent from Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons.  Lady Trent is a great character, completely ahead of her time which does rather lead her into trouble with the stiff upper lip sorts.  Determined to find out everything there is to know about dragons and document it her travels become more intrepid and dangerous with each book – plus the covers below!
  3. Kvothe from The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  Kvothe is a fantastic character – he’s determined to join the University, he wants to learn but his main desire is to access the dusty and winding labyrinths of the library.
  4. Simmea from Jo Walton’s Just City.  Simmea loves to learn and philosophise and living in a city based on Plato’s Just City is the perfect place for learning to take place.
  5. Shara from Robert Bennett’s City of Stairs.  Shara is an excellent character who manages to defeat some formidable foe simply from remembering some of the knowledge she has picked up over the years from constant reading.
  6. The Storyteller and Her Sisters by Cheryl Mahoney – a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses with Lyra – the ninth princess who likes to tell stories.
  7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  ‘Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness’ – he doesn’t always burn those books though!!!!  He saves them from the fire – even though it could mean great loss for him.
  8. Jean Tannen – I couldn’t have a list with the possibility of mentioning Jean and pass it up!  Jean is the best character – I love him!  And he is not only a wise cracking conman and tough guy but he loves books!  The Gentlemen Bastards by Scott Lynch.
  9. And my last two books are two that I haven’t got to yet but will do so soon!  The Libriomancer by Jim C Hines – in which characters can magically reach into books and draw out objects – oh yes please!
  10. Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine – something about the mention of the Great Library of Alexandria – yep, yep, yep, You had me at ‘ink’.  Cannot wait to read this one – lots of excellent reviews from very trustworthy sources make me extra keen.

The Fifth House of the Heart by Ben Tripp

I don’t know what in the wide wide world is going on but I seem to be on a roll with good books at the moment and Ben Tripp’s Fifth House of the Heart is no exception.

The story revolves around a central character known as Asmodeus Saxon-Tang – thankfully everyone calls him Sax for short!  Sax specialises in obtaining and selling antiques.  This is a business that he not only excels at and has a huge store of knowledge that guides him to pick and choose which pieces are the best to acquire but he’s also grown filthy rich in the process and has gained a certain level of fame (or notoriety).

At the start of the story Sax is bidding on an antique clock, a clock which whilst he started with fairly ambivalent feelings towards it is now growing in interest as he is matched bid for bid by an attractive newcomer who seems very anxious to make it’s purchase.  Of course Sax wins the lot but in doing so he may have just bought himself some very unwelcome attention.  Nonetheless he’s a bit puzzled as to why this rather unassuming clock seems to have generated such interest – well, he’s puzzled right up until somebody breaks into his warehouse and steals it from him, killing his night watchman in the process and giving him an unwelcome trip down memory lane and a cold jolt of realisation!

Basically Sax is in danger.  This is definitely a world in which monsters go bump in the night and the monsters in question are vampires.  Fortunately – most people remain blissfully unaware of their existence as death usually follows swiftly on the heels of those who get wise to their existence.  Vampires are solitary creatures.  They tend to live very isolated existences locked in their mansions and chateaus, brimming with antiques and antiquities many of which are believed to have been lost to the world.  They put you in mind of dragons, sitting atop their wealth, sleeping but always keeping one eye alert to possibilities.

Now, realising his predicament Sax decides to take action – action being the best form of defence.  He’s going to search out his predator but before doing so he pays his favourite niece a visit.  He’s feeling a little guilty about potentially leaving her unprotected and wants to give her the heads up.  Obviously she thinks he’s a little crazy but she listens to his stories and I’m so glad she did because they make for interesting reading.  I won’t elaborate on them here other than to say they’re both different, set in different environments, totally compelling and both with vampires that appear to be entirely different in nature.  The vampires here are unlike those in the myths we already know of.  There is a thin veneer of similarity but there are also some very intriguing new developments – the biggest of which is that vampires are not the undead!   Having regaled his niece with stories to give her nightmares and gifted her a strange object that turns out to be a vampire weapon he leaves.  Sax is gathering about him a crew of mercenaries and having been granted permission by the Church and accompanied by a priest the ‘hunted’ is about to become the ‘hunter’.  At least that’s what he hopes!  Vampires tend to be one step ahead usually, they have all the time in the world so the end game is their ultimate goal.

I really found this an entertaining read.  I liked the characters – well, Sax in particular just steals the show.  The surrounding cast are a little more flimsy but still provide good support and anyway it would be impossible to upstage Sax.  Put simply he’s a flamboyant, outrageous and self absorbed man and an unashamed coward to boot.

So, what did I really enjoy.  Well, the writing is really good.  Tripp manages to set the scene perfectly either from dusty chateau, damp and creepy cave to vampire laboratory!  Yep, be intrigued.  There are some great scenes where the mercenaries hide from hideous vampire hunters and a grand finale where the tension mounts and on top of this Tripp manages to inject humour here and there which prevents things becoming too heavy.  Plus a twist at the end that I certainly didn’t see coming.

A great mash up of olde worlde vampire a la Dracula, meets Indiana Jones (albeit wickedly flamboyant) surrounded by evil and assisted by a motley crew of odd misfits.

There is definitely potential for more from this world and I seriously hope there will be further additions.

The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milan

I recently read an excerpt of Dinosaur Lords which was great.  I really enjoyed it and will definitely pick up and conclude the story.  I can’t deny that the cover grabbed my attention – it’s amazing and what’s not to love about the notion of knights racing into battle atop dinosaurs.  I love it and the fact that each chapter starts off with a dinosaur sketch and a rough description – colour me happy.

Anyway, to the story.  We kick off to an immediate start with a huge scale fight about to break out.  We flit about from person to person sharing their thoughts and comments before the action begins and you can practically taste the tension in the air.  I’m going to be honest and say that the start could be a little bit confusing as at this point you have no notion of what the fight is about or who are the main parties, for that matter you have very little time to become attached to anyone before the fighting beginnings.  But, the action begins and is terrific with Triceratops standing stoic in defence and T-rex rushing into the fray.  Tell me this isn’t exciting.  I was quite giddy!

Now, yes, the start could be a little bit confusing with all the introductions but believe me when I say this is fairly quickly resolved.  The dust settles and the day awakens over the bloody battlefield and this is where, for me, the story really came into its own and all the characters started to become more defined.

We start with the noble captain Karyl.  He awakens to a desperate scene and things quickly go from bad to worse for him!  He meets with an entity of sorts who predicts his death, he’s chased by dinosaurs and he takes something of a tumble.  Enough said for now other than that I can assure you this particular character has not seen the end of action and in spite of having a tough time somebody is clearly looking out for him.

We are then introduced to the court and the character Melodia.  Melodia is a princess but rather than lolloping around on cushions and eating peeled grapes Melodia is bored.  She wants more involvement and I have a feeling she may see more action along the way.  For the present time she eagerly awaits her true love’s return.  Jaume, the lover in question is the returning hero.  Victorious and loved by all.  Shortly before Jaume arrives we meet Falk.  A huge knight who fought on opposing sides but has apparently now seen the error of his ways and pledged his sword in allegiance to the Emperor. Frankly – I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him – which wouldn’t be far because he’s a bit of a huge so and so.

The dinosaurs – well, they’re like the icing on the cake really.  They’re used for battle and to hunt as well as for food and they’re a major part of this world.  I was particularly intrigued to read a short chapter which seemed to be the thoughts of one of the defeated dinosaurs from the battle – unless I’ve just gone a bit crazy and dreamt that part up!  Somebody correct me if I’m wrong.  Very intriguing and I want more of that.

Anyway, I’m not going to over elaborate here as this is an excerpt and I don’t know whether I’m potentially spoiling anything – so,  Synopsis.  Very intriguing.  So far a great world set up with the potential for court intrigue, plots and back stabbing.  Captivating writing with no insufferable info dumps – you’re kind of thrown in and expected to swim really but I liked that approach.  Characters that you can get on with, particularly Karyl, and, of course, dinosaurs.  What’s not to love?

Well, I must admit that being an excerpt I wanted to scream at the point at which it concluded – but frankly that will just make me pick up the rest of the story that much quicker.

What are you waiting for!

I’ll be back… (and he really meant it!)

This week over at the Fantasy Review Barn Nathan is taking us Tough Travelling through the tropes of fantasy and this week we are looking at : MIDDLE AGE HEROES

This hero stuff is usually a young person’s game.  And, occasionally, a grizzled old veteran can get involved.  It is a true rarity for someone to join the good fight for Fantasyland living in that in between ground.

Dug from Age of Iron by Angus Watson.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Thoroughly.  And, Due was one of the main reasons why.  He’s no longer a spring chicken and he tends to groan a little bit – yes, his bones ache every now and again, he’s sometimes a bit selfish and old enough to have forgotten how to woo a woman.  Middle aged he may be but he’s still a hero.

Brodar Kayne from The Grim Company by Luke Scull – Broadar is one of one two Highlanders on the run from the Higlands magelord. He’s a tough old dude with creaky knees and a filthy mouth – but don’t underestimate him. He’s tougher than leather and very entertaining.

Roen Tan from The Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu – even as early as book 1 Roen was one of the most unlikely heroes ever.  His character grew throughout the series and he was one of my favourite characters of the year.

Eddard Stark from Game of Thrones by GRRMartin.  He’s a bit middle aged and grizzly but I thought he was a great character.

Dalinar Kholin from Way of Kings and Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson.  A great character – definitely middle aged but a man of his word who earns great respect from all those around – and what a hero!

Join us next week for ‘Flying Rides’.

I couldn’t resist adding this picture:

As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary – Ernest Hemingway

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