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Fly Girl's Cabinet of Curiosities

curated by Thornton Rigg

Category

crime

Strange Magic : Syd Moore

… great fun, witchy mystery …

fantasy book review witch magic

A chase across England after the bones of Ursula Cadence, a C16th witch, before the ghost of her son does something extreme.

Syd’s deft writing establishes the protagonist, Rosie Strange, as the new owner of the run down Essex Witch Museum whilst smoothly setting up the working (and love/hate) relationship between her and the museum curator, Sam Stone.

The relaxed breezy style and numerous Essex jokes belie the amount of research that obviously went into the novel’s background.  These details add depth and thoughtfulness to an otherwise lightweight read. This isn’t a criticism but more of a comment on an interesting juxtaposition between the constant froth of Essex humour against the dark witchcraft subject matter. This contrast is further highlighted by the fact that in her acknowledgements Syd explains she has tried to get funding for a witchcraft museum – and still hopes one day to achieve this dream; and yet the novel’s by-line on the cover is “The only way is witchcraft” – a reference to the popular British reality soap, “The Only way is Essex” which full of love triangles, fake tans and hair extensions. There’s a lovely 5 minute Youtube clip of Syd Moore explaining the 1980s prejudice, comparison between witches and Essex girls, and her revisioning of them both here.

A thoroughly enjoyable holiday mystery and I am looking forward to the next in the Essex Witch Museum series.

Syd Moore lives in Essex.  She has been a lecturer and a TV presenter before becoming a writer.

This is my fourteenth review in the British Books Challenge 2017.  Come and join us at over at Chelley Toy’s site.

Cover design moment: Superb design by James Jones: clear, vibrant, stand out from shelf kind of work.  Lovely to see that this Art Director of One World name checked on the back and mentioned by Syd Moore in her acknowledgements for the “gobsmacking Oh-my-god-I-love it so-much jacket design”. Bravo!  A selection of his brilliant designs can be found on his Tumblr feed here.

Strange Magic by Syd Moore was published by Point Blank, an imprint of One World, on 4th May 2017. A sequel, Strange Sight, is due to be published in October 2017.

 

 

From Darkest Skies : Sam Peters

… absorbing SF/crime thriller …
isbn9781473214774

An absorbing SF/crime thriller with strong characterisation surfing above some inventive and intricate world building.

Government Agent Rouse returns to the distant planet of Magenta to continue his duties whilst secretly investigating the murder of fellow agent and wife, Alysha.  He has brought with him an illegal AI shell of her, built from her data footprint.  Can Rouse find out what really happened on that train whilst tackling corporate crime and the drugs trade on Magenta?

I enjoyed Sam‘s characterisation, Rangesh in particular, and his sure way with dialogue.   He uses the contrast between Rouse’s grief and the team banter to great effect; and the novel also explores a human’s personal and intense relationship with AI.   It reads as though it was great fun to write and there’s clearly room for a sequel.

Recommended.

Cover design moment: Unfortunately, as this is an ARC, there’s no trace of a designer credit on the copy but – huzzah! – it has a WHITE background and strong, clear image.  UPDATE: Thanks to a heads up from Carole Heidi the design company is the brilliant Black Sheep.  Their website is here.

Sam’s biog reads: a mathematician, part-time gentle-person adventurer and occasional screenwriter who has seen faces glaze over at the words ‘science fiction’ once too often. … Has more hopes than regrets, more cats than children, watches a lot of violent contact sport and is an unrepentant closet goth.

This book is the second review in my British Books Challenge 2017.

From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters will be published by Orion on 20 April 2017.  Emily at Emily’s Bookshop lent me her review copy.  Thanks, Em!

Jonathan Dark : AK Benedict

… captivating supernatural crime thriller …

isbn9781409144557-detail

Emily, my excellent bookseller, thought I might like this … and I was dubious as I’m more of an urban fantasy girl myself.  But, what a read!  This book is written in the present tense balancing the supernatural world of ghosts with the growing tension of a stalker about to pounce.  Its charm builds slowly as the book starts with a boiler plate policeman, DI Dark, who is nursing a broken marriage and a serious drink problem – so what’s new?  Well, quite a lot as it turns out.

AK Benedict deftly plays her stock characters and various strands: a blind mudlark, a vengeful spirit, a psychic funeral director, a criminal ring, and a taxi driving ghost around the main plot of a stalker planning to take his next victim.  DI Dark has already failed to catch this stalker and a miasma of desperation and grief hangs around this story of murder victims, brutal coercion and fading ghosts.  This is lightened by believable characters that linger long after you’ve stopped reading and a truly wonderful and intriguing Maria, the object of the stalker’s desire: “I’m a stalkee.  He’s not MY stalker.”; and her guide dog, Billy who huffs.

AK Benedict also has great fun scattering potential candidates for the stalker liberally around the story : is it Denver, the computer whizz, or Martin, the would-be boyfriend or some one else in the Force?  My mind started to jump with the possibilities.

This is a captivating supernatural crime thriller.  I was rooting for DI Dark and Maria all the way and do I hope they return sometime soon.

AK Benedict lives in Hastings and writes in a room filled with teapots and the severed head of a ventriloquist’s dummy.  Her debut novelThe Beauty of Murder, was shortlisted for an eDunnit award and is in development for an 8-part TV series. Her audio drama, The Victorian Age, was released as part of the Torchwood range at Big Finish while Outbreak, a full-cast Torchwood audio co-written with Guy Adams and Emma Reeves, will be released in November 2016.

Cover design moment: The designer of the smart UK cover is credited in AK’s blog.  He is the lovely Patrick Knowles who is responsible for the hand lettering and cover design for Ben Aaronovitch‘s Rivers of London series.

Jonathan Dark was published in February 2016 by Orion Books.  I was given a proof copy by A Festival of Books.  Thanks, Em!

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