Egyptian Enigma by L.J.M. Owen

egyptian enigma.jpgTitle: Egyptian Enigma

Author: L.J.M Owen

Genre: Crime/Mystery/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Echo Publishing

Published: March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 370

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Dr Elizabeth Pimms, enthusiastic archaeologist and reluctant librarian, has returned to Egypt. Among the treasures of the Cairo museum she spies cryptic symbols in the corner of an ancient papyrus. Decoding them leads Elizabeth and her newly formed gang of sleuths to a tomb of mummies whose identities must be uncovered.

What is the connection between the mummies and Twosret, female Pharaoh and last ruler of Egypt’s nineteenth dynasty? How did their bodies end up scattered across the globe? And is the investigation related to the attacks on Elizabeth’s family and friends back in Australia? Between grave robbers, cannibals, sexist historians and jealous Pharaohs, can Dr Pimms solve her latest archaeological mystery?

~*~

The third in the fabulous Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth Series sees Elizabeth on a sojourn with New York philologist, Henry, to Egypt. Here, she gets to visit the ancient sites she has read about, and write about her travels, whilst exploring the history that inspired her love of archaeology and ancient history. When her journal is stolen, and the holiday ends, Elizabeth returns to work at the library, and university. Her tutoring job is due to start, and she must contend with two students who are disruptive and talk over people, and disregard what she has to say, she has to edit the Olmec and Maya papers with Alice, and a new investigation into The Golden Tomb of Egypt begins, involving 3D printouts of skeletons to help identify the victims and establish what happened long ago during the New Kingdom and the erasure of female Pharaohs, such as Tausret, from the records, as people had tried to erase Akhenaten and his family in earlier generations. At the same time, she is still attending family therapy sessions with Matty and Sam, and their relationship is much nicer in this book, and Elizabeth is baffled by an attack on her beloved Taid, and the distanced Mai, who seems to have cut herself off from many around her as she struggles with the revelations of Mayan Mendacity.

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe ancient and modern mysteries that Elizabeth faces are diverse and unique – but will she solve all of them, and find out who stole her journal? And what has her work colleague, Judy, been hiding about William Pimms death for the past few years? Elizabeth seeks answers to these questions as well, balancing work and family life as she gathers together a snoop of sleuths -herself, Alice, Nathan, Rhoz and Llew, working in Taid’s library during weekends.

As each mystery – the murder, Taid’s attack, Judy’s behaviour and disappearance, and the antagonistic students in her class progresses and thickens, Elizabeth finds herself caught up in her work – something quite admirable about her, that she has such hyper focus that it takes a sit down with her beloved Taid to work things out and pull her out of it at times – he’s one of my favourite characters, but many of the characters are pretty cool.

I absolutely adored this book, as it reminded me of how much I love Egyptian history, and it explored the period of the New Kingdom – 18th-20th Dynasty – that I am most familiar with, so reading about Akhenaten and Tutankhamen, and the Ramesses Pharaohs was thrilling. Nathan is also a favourite – he’s the kind of friend everyone needs, so caring, and delightful, but still, as with all the characters, with his own flaws that make him the person he is.

Mai grew on me in this book – and I loved how the family cared for her so much when they found out she was sick, and brought her into their lives to help her, and give her the family she should have had growing up. I love the way the family just comes together in a tragedy and has an understanding of each other that ensures nobody is ever forgotten.

There were of course two unsolved mysteries – one that appeared at the end of the novel, and that readers will need to wait for the next book, advertised in the back as Mongolian Mayhem. I can’t wait to see what other Intermillennial crimes Elizabeth and her snoop of sleuths get to solve next.

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Book Bingo Five – A foreign translated novel, a novel with a yellow cover, a novel by an Australian man, a funny book, a memoir and a non-fiction book.

book bingo 2018.jpgIn my fifth Book Bingo post for the year, I can report that I have a BINGO! The final row going down, row five, is complete, with three out of the five squares being filled with Australian Women Writers. The text version of the row is below:

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Row #5 (Down) – BINGO

 A Foreign Translated Novel: Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutschner (translated by Niall Seller

A book with themes of culture: The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson

A book with a mystery: Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen – AWW2018

A book with a number in the title: Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-Time Husband by Barbara Toner – AWW2018

A book written by someone over sixty: Eventual Poppy Day by Libby Hathorn – AWW2018

babylon berlinOf these, the latest addition is a foreign translated novel – Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutschner, translated by Niall Seller and sent to me by Allen and Unwin to review. It is the first in a crime series by a German author, set during the dying years of the Weimar Republic in the inter-war period, when the world is inching towards the Great Depression. It centres around Detective Gereon Rath, and the crimes he solves, and the things that he overlooks, the various underworld activities that are accepted in dark corners, but not always out in the open. I did like the idea behind this, and the historical backdrop, however, as stated in my review, I felt some things dragged on a bit, making these sections a tad slow but the fast-paced sections were what really drove the novel and gave it the oomph that it needed.

tin manI have five other squares to include – I am aiming to fill them with whatever works, and some will be Australian Women Writers, others won’t, it simply depends on where the books fit. First, is a novel with a yellow cover – Tin Man by Sarah Winman. It is the story of two gay men, whose first encounter has them ripped apart but then drawn back together as friends, with Annie, the wife of Ellis, one of the main characters. It is a touching story of the various ways we express our love, and to whom we choose to express that love. With a touch of realism about it, it touches on fears as well as love.

Skin-in-the-Game_cover-for-publicity-600x913My memoir square has been filled by Skin in the Game: The Pleasure and Pain of Telling True Stories by Sonia Voumard. In a series of essays, Sonia tells her story about being a journalist, and the daughter of a World War Two refugee – her mother, with humour and frankness, and an honesty that shines a light on some of the challenges faced by journalists behind the scenes of stories, interviews and publications, and how they try to overcome these under increasing pressure of a 24 hour news cycle, where the demand for facts and results at all times seems to be a struggle to keep up with. It is insightful and gives a new appreciation for what journalists do and at times go through for me.

grandpa me poetryThe book taking up the square of a funny novel has not been published yet, so the longer review will be linked here when it goes live. Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan, and published by Scholastic. It is the story of Melly, who loves poetry and her Grandpa. When given the chance to explore her two loves, she jumps at it, and through a series of amusing scenes with funny rhymes, she finds a way to write a wonderful poem for Family Day.

the opal dragonflyThe novel by Australian Man square was filled by new release, The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale, about Isobel Macleod, youngest of seven and her father’s favourite, and the opal dragonfly brooch left to her by her mother that sees hard times befall the family through a series of tragedies over the years that they can never recover from. It is about family loyalty, betrayal and finding oneself in the harshest of circumstances, and finding a new life for yourself

spinning topsSpinning Tops and Gum Drops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood fills the non-fiction square. Using images and statements, and other stories from the time, Edwin Barnard has created a window into a world where the realities of childhood were vastly different to those for today’s children. It tells of a time when threats from illness and bushrangers were ever present, where children had to work as well as go to school, and in some cases, instead of going to school. It is interesting and gives a window into colonial life beyond text on a page.  

Look out for my next Book Bingo in a few weeks time!

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Mayan Mendacity by LJM Owen

Mayan-Mendacity_low-res.jpgTitle: Mayan Mendacity

Author: L.J.M Owen

Genre: Crime/Historical Crime

Publisher: Echo Publishing

Published: November 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 357

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Dr Elizabeth Pimms has a new puzzle.

What is the story behind the tiny skeletons discovered on a Guatemalan island? And how do they relate to an ancient Mayan queen?

The bones, along with other remains, are a gift for Elizabeth. But soon the giver reveals his true nature. An enraged colleague then questions Elizabeth’s family history. Elizabeth seeks DNA evidence to put all skeletons to rest.

A pregnant enemy, a crystal skull, a New York foodie, and an intruder in Elizabeth’s phrenic library variously aid or interrupt Elizabeth’s attempts to solve mysteries both ancient and personal.

With archaeological intrigue, forensic insight and cosy comfort, Mayan Mendacity takes readers back into the world of Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth. Really cold cases.

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseAs Elizabeth’s new life as librarian and volunteer archaeological detective continues, a new mystery begins to unfold at the university as she bumps into Luke, and the girl he’s agreed to marry after having an affair with her. His gift to Elizabeth upon his return, is the betrayal and the delivery of remains from a Mayan site, that need sorting, cataloguing and investigating. Corralled into doing this, and writing a report on it, Elizabeth must find a way to spend time with her family, especially brother Matty, and attend the counselling sessions with her siblings, Matty and Sam, their sister. The family dynamic is complicated by work colleague Mai, who has been hostile without explanation to Elizabeth since Olmec Obituary, and the two are equally stubborn, refusing to talk, despite Nathan’s attempts, and Elizabeth’s resolve to remain calm throughout as she grapples with interference with the Mayan remains, and family expectations that she feels guilty about missing, though her loving grandparents are supportive.

The pregnancy that has trapped her ex, Luke, into a relationship with Kaitlyn, is yet another obstacle to overcome, and Kaitlyn’s determination to make Elizabeth look bad in her Mayan reports threaten to thwart all the hard work Elizabeth and Matty have done for the reconstruction. Between the challenges presented by Kaitlyn and Mai, will Elizabeth solve the case of Lady Six Sky?

Interspersed throughout the novel, the ancient case of Lady Six Sky and the remains is told in between chapters, slowly revealing what happened to the reader as Elizabeth investigates what happened based on the bones and archaeological remains.

The second in the Dr Elizabeth Pimms series, Mayan Mendacity, continues some of the questions left unanswered at the end of book one, and brings together the threads of relationships that started there. Elizabeth’s analytical, logical mind is constantly at work again, as she tries to put together pieces of various puzzles without muddling them up – and it is enjoyable to read about her doing this, and working in a field she loves, whilst being surrounded by the books and archaeology she so loves. As it is the second in the series, it moves along with a good pace and has a decent gap between the final events of the first book and the events of this one, ensuring the flow of characters works effectively and that will hopefully flow nicely into the subsequent books, the third of which, Egyptian Enigma has just been released and will be reviewed on this blog soon.

I think of all the characters, Matty, Taid, Elizabeth and Nai Nai are my favourites. Matty, for his resilience in the face of a disability that has affected him for most of his life, and his quest to overcome the obstacles thrown into his face to become a chef. Elizabeth, for her love of books, cats and history, and desire to uncover the truth behind the bones. Taid and Nai Nai are awesome grandparents, and all round fabulous characters. The diversity of the characters adds to what I enjoyed about this book, and the various ways in which they interact. I did feel poor Elizabeth was pressured by her sister Sam into things at times, and Sam often demanded, but I’m hoping her character grows over the course of the series.

Another great read from LJM Owen.

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Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutscher

babylon berlin.jpgTitle: Babylon Berlin

Author: Volker Kutscher, translated by Niall Seller

Genre: Crime/Mystery

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 528

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A GEREON RATH MYSTERY

‘Political maelstrom, a populist right on the march — sound familiar? . . . It’s fabulous debauchery and naughtiness, a political maelstrom and a ticking timebomb.’ The Guardian

 

Set in pre-Nazi Germany, Babylon Berlin is the first book in the bestselling German crime series. Seasons one and two on Netflix Australia now.
Berlin, 1929: When a car is hauled out of the Landwehr Canal with a mutilated corpse inside, Detective Inspector Gereon Rath claims the case. Soon his inquiries drag him ever deeper into the morass of Weimar Berlin’s ‘Roaring Twenties’ underworld of cocaine, prostitution, gunrunning and shady politics.

A fascinating, brilliant and impeccably detailed crime series set in the Weimar Republic between the world wars with a backdrop of the rise of Nazism.

Now a major international television series

‘Unrelenting in tension until an explosive climax; as well as delivering the thrills Kutscher captures perfectly in dark tones the menacing atmosphere and lurking threats of a unique — and pivotal — time and place in history.’
Craig Russell, author of the Jan Fabel series

‘Twenties Germany in all its seedy splendour: impressive.’
Sarah Ward, author of In Bitter Chill

‘Gripping, skilfully plotted and rich in historical detail.’
Mrs Peabody Investigates

‘Evocative thriller set in Berlin’s seedy underworld during
the Roaring Twenties.’
Mail on Sunday 

~*~

In the months and years before Hitler’s eventual rise to power, and in the months before the Great Depression hits, Detective Inspector Gereon Rath investigates murders and other unsavoury crimes that plague the city of Berlin. It is May when a car is dragged from the Landwehr Canal, complete with mutilated corpse, just one in a string of murders and incidents that are connected and that form the case that Gereon Rath takes on, and digs deeper into, uncovering secrets, and villains he never thought he would. In this world, people are not as they seem, they are secretive, only showing what the world wants them to see. Gereon is like this too, hiding an addiction and a troubled mind and worries. The mystery thickens with each passing chapter and day – each day is encapsulated in a chapter, so it is a rather long book, and it does take a little while to solve the mystery. As things become more complicated, the flawed anti-hero, Rath, starts to become caught up in the very underworld he is investigating, with characters just as morally flawed as he comes across, though perhaps he gets points for trying to question the flawed morals he faces, but not always. It takes a long time for Rath to solve the mystery, which feels a little drawn out at times but then moves along at a decent pace at other times – the lulls seem to show relationships that feel like they fizzle out and disappear, with not much made of them beyond that.

Overall, the plot is intriguing, though a bit long-winded, and could have been edited down to gear up the pacing, the delays that Rath faced did allow for some character development, amidst a growing unrest in Germany, with the SA and Nazis slowly rising and causing trouble, mixed in with a fear of Russians and Communism, presenting a backdrop that doesn’t overshadow the main plot, whilst still setting the scene for Rath and the actions of those around him. Gereon’s flaws are potentially what made him the most interesting character out of a cast of many – some of which only had short roles, maybe a few chapters or a few pages, and then disappeared, and the hinted at romance seemed to fizzle out. However, I will give this the benefit of the doubt as it is the beginning of a series. and it is possible these threads will be picked up in subsequent books.

One thing that could have moved the plot along was less travelling time and time spent on travelling scenes – a few quick transitions here and there would have worked just as well as the intricate descriptions and details. When reading this book, I was much more interested in the case being investigated – I did want to know about the private lives of the characters but felt some of this came out a little too much for the first book in a series – spacing it out makes it more exciting for the reader to discover. Another was the mention of green lights and electric hair dryers – uncommon for the setting, with explanations that felt misunderstood by those questioning the lines about them – though perhaps they work in the sense that the modern world is coming into being and slowly, new developments are taking place, and that is why only a few people know about them.

Though this is a long book, if you enjoy crime fiction and historical fiction, I would still recommend this. But take your time, as there are many details to try and remember, as it does get quite busy at times.

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The Last Train by Sue Lawrence


the last train.jpgTitle: The Last Train

Author: Sue Lawrence

Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Sue Lawrence serves up a brilliant historical mystery, meticulously researched and densely plotted, with plenty of twists and a gripping climax.

At 7 p.m. on 28 December 1879, a violent storm batters the newly built rail bridge across the River Tay, close to the city of Dundee. Ann Craig is waiting for her husband, the owner of a large local jute mill, to return home. From her window Ann sees a shocking sight as the bridge collapses, and the lights of the train in which he is travelling plough down into the freezing river waters.

As Ann manages the grief and expectations of family and friends amid a town mourning its loved ones, doubt is cast on whether Robert was on the train after all. If not, where is he? And who is the mysterious woman who is first to be washed ashore?

In 2015, Fiona Craig wakes to find that her partner Pete, an Australian restaurateur, has cleared the couple’s bank account before abandoning his car at the local airport and disappearing. When the police discover his car is stolen, Fiona conducts her own investigation into Pete’s background, slowly uncovering dark secrets and strange parallels with the events of 1879.

~*~

Three days after Christmas in 1879, the Tay Bridge is battered by a violent storm that destroys the bridge and takes all the passengers on the train down to a watery grave. At home with her children, James and Lizzie, Ann Craig is waiting for her husband Robert to return from visiting an elderly relative in Edinburgh. Ann sees the tragedy as it happens, convinced her husband is aboard and in a watery grave, never to be seen again. Living in a town of mourning, Ann’s doubt that her husband was aboard the train starts to grow, and after a young woman is washed ashore, a mystery surrounding her death, and Ann’s missing husband begins.

Over a century later in 2015, Fiona Craig awakens to find her partner, Pete missing, and all their savings gone. She and her son move in with her parents, Dorothy and Struan, whilst trying to rebuild their lives after Pete has disappeared. What Fiona discovers as she looks into Pete’s whereabouts and disappearance are strange parallels to the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879. What will the mysteries of time and space reveal to these two women, generations apart?

Based on the Tay Bridge Disaster of 1879, The Last Train combines historical fiction elements with intrigue, and elements of mystery. Told in alternating third person perspectives in the days following the Tay Bridge disaster in late December 1879 and early January 1880 and in 2015, the stories mirror each other in some ways with subtle differences to the stories, and more than one mystery to be solved along the way. What connects Ann and Fiona is the desire to keep their children safe, and a desire to find out the truth of what has happened to the men they share their lives with, even if they go about it in rather different ways. Fiona’s interest in the local history pulls her into a job helping curate a memorial for the 1879 disaster, uncovering names and stories that bring light to those who perished, and will solve the questions of Fiona’s secretive father Struan as the novel’s climax brings it to a dramatic and satisfying close, that sews together all the strands that have been dangled.

An enticing historical fiction novel tinged with two mysteries that allow secrets to be revealed and families to become close. Scotland’s landscapes and history are as important as the characters of Ann and Fiona, and the nation itself, in particular Dundee, play an important role in the story and who the characters are. A well-rounded novel for fans of historical fiction and mysteries.

Book Bingo One: A Book Set More Than 100 Years Ago

 

 

 

AWW-2018-badge-rose

To kick off my book bingo, I have a book that would have ticked off three squares. However, as with the Popsugar Challenge, I would like to see if I can do a different book for each square.

 

Throughout this challenge, I will be marking off squares as the books fit them, at least for the rather open categories. In doing it this way, I am not purposely deciding which book will fit where or what order I will get a bingo in, or even if I do. I am letting by review books for the most part, guide me through the challenges as I find the categories that they can fit into, possibly stretching a few to make some fit or interpreting them as open, as some categories have that feel about them.

rose raventhorpe 3

To check off the very first square, A Book Set More Than 100 Years Ago, I have allotted one of my first #AWW2018 reads, reviewed on the 11th of January, Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Hounds and Hauntings by Janine Beacham. This book would also check off a book by an Australian woman, however, there are many contenders for that, and it will be easily filled. The other square it wouldhave ticked off is A book with a mystery – another category I will be able to fill easily in the coming months.

book bingo 2018

So that is one book of twenty-five in the bingo challenge down, and hopefully, there will be a few more to report in early February.

Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Hounds and Hauntings (Rose Raventhorpe #3) by Janine Beacham

rose raventhorpe 3Title: Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Hounds and Hauntings (Rose Raventhorpe #3)

Author: Janine Beacham

Genre: Historical Fiction/Crime/Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Published: 11th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 277

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: The city of Yorke is under attack and it’s up to Rose Raventhorpe and Yorke’s secret society of butlers to find the culprit! The third mystery in the Rose Raventhorpe Investigates series.

The Clockwork Sparrow meets Downton Abbey

The city of Yorke is in a panic. There’s been a murder! Is an ancient ghost-hound called the Barghest on the loose?

ROSE RAVENTHORPE, her friend Orpheus and the secret society of butlers search for clues in the dark, eerie skitterways, on the mist-covered moors, and atop the ancient walls of the city. Rose believes that the villain is human, and she’s determined to prove it.

There’s no sweeping this crime under the carpet…

 

~*~

 

AWW-2018-badge-roseRose Raventhorpe returns in her third adventure, Hounds and Hauntings. Yorke awakens one day to the death of a young local pickpocket named Moll, in Mad Meg Lane. The old legends of the Barghest start to be bandied about, calling up the old superstitions of Yorke and the surrounding areas within the walls. As Rose, her friend Orpheus, and Heddsworth, Rose’s butler, head towards a new chocolate shop that is opening, they stumble across the crime scene, where they are soon joined by Miss Wildcliffe, her dog, and the other Silvercrest Butlers as the police try to convince everyone Miss Wildcliffe’s dog is to blame. Told to leave by the police, Rose, Orpheus and the butlers of Silvercrest begin their own investigations, leading to unforeseen events and consequences, and an exciting ending where the case is solved, but a sense of mystery still abounds. And Rose’s cat, Watchful, is ever present, keeping Rose safe and secure. Just as in the previous books, the clues and hints are dropped at the right time for the reader to discover at the same time as Rose, creating an exciting atmosphere and pace that keeps the story going, and ensures a well-timed yet quick discovery when it is most needed.

 

Three books into this series, and each one is as good as the previous one. None have disappointed so far, delving into myths and legends from around the area Rose’s Yorke is based on to create a story and place that feels just as real as York in Yorkshire, including the Cathedral. Within this book, the world of Rose is very Victorian but with characters who are not what everyone expects them to be – Bronson, the female butler, was at first a surprise in the first book, but is quite a favourite now – the kind of surprise that works so well, it is a delightful surprise that I simply was not expecting. Rose bridges a gap between a proper Lady of society, and breaking out of gender and class roles as she works with the butlers to solve cases. Miss Wildcliffe is referred to as the authoress, a very Victorian phrase that works exceptionally well in this book to situate the character within her time and place, and what she represents.

 

Each book has something unexpected and new to discover as we venture through Rose’s world. With her parents absent in this novel, Rose had a lot more freedom, though at times, was still constrained by what adults around her thought she could do – nonetheless, she as usual, fought alongside the butlers for justice, and uncovered secrets at the end that those holding them would rather have kept to themselves.

 

Another delightful read from Janine Beacham, I hope there are more Rose Raventhorpe books to come.

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