Review | The Fire Court (Ashes of London 2) by Andrew Taylor

More slow-moving intrigue in Restoration London. 3.5/5 stars.

The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor (Ashes of London 2)

Thank you to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: 

Somewhere in the soot-stained ruins of Restoration London, a killer has gone to ground…

The Great Fire has ravaged London, wreaking destruction and devastation wherever its flames spread. Now, guided by the incorruptible Fire Court, the city is slowly rebuilding, but times are volatile and danger is only ever a heartbeat away.

James Marwood, son of a traitor, is thrust into this treacherous environment when his ailing father claims to have stumbled upon a murdered woman in the very place where the Fire Court sits. Then his father is run down and killed. Accident? Or another murder…?

Determined to uncover the truth, Marwood turns to the one person he can trust – Cat Lovett, the daughter of a despised regicide. Marwood has helped her in the past. Now it’s her turn to help him. But then comes a third death… and Marwood and Cat are forced to confront a vicious and increasingly desperate killer whose actions threaten the future of the city itself.

My take:

I read the first installment in this historical mystery series – The Ashes of London – right before moving onto this book. And while I’m sure you could read and enjoy The Fire Court without having to read book 1 – it is a new mystery which introduces a group of new characters – I would recommend seeking out The Ashes of London first. A lot of my enjoyment in reading book 2 came from seeing how established characters and their relationships developed under the pressures of this plot, and in this regard there certainly is a great deal going on. I can only praise the author for giving us high stakes: he isn’t afraid to put his main characters in true peril and let them get hurt. I lost count of the number of times Cat had call to use or threaten to use her knife in self-defence!

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Review | The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

A great backdrop filled with vivid historical detail. 3.5/5 stars.

The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

Thank you to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: 

London, 1666. As the Great Fire consumes everything in its path, the body of a man is found in the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral – stabbed in the neck, thumbs tied behind his back.

The son of a traitor, James Marwood is forced to hunt the killer through the city’s devastated streets. There he encounters a determined young woman, who will stop at nothing to secure her freedom.

When a second murder victim is discovered in the Fleet Ditch, Marwood is drawn into the political and religious intrigue of Westminster – and across the path of a killer with nothing to lose…

My take:

The second book in this series – The Fire Court – is coming out on 5th April and was available on NetGalley. It sounded interesting but, being a completist, I took the opportunity to go back and request the first book in the series. Always best to start at the beginning!

I haven’t read any historical fiction for a while and I’ve never read anything set in this specific period. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that apart from knowing that the Great Fire happened in 1666, I know little else about it. In fact I don’t know much about the history of the Restoration at all, another reason why I was keen to read this series. And, in that regard I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The historical details, both in the descriptions of London and how the main characters have been affected by the execution of Charles I and the return of his son, Charles II, to the throne, are fascinating.

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Review | The Body in the Library (Miss Marple #3) by Agatha Christie

My first Marple and a classic whodunnit. 3.5/5 stars.


The blurb: When the Bantrys wake up to find the body of a beautiful, young stranger in their library, Dolly Bantry knows there’s only one person to call: her old friend Miss Marple.

Who was the young girl? What was she doing in the library? And is there a connection with another dead girl, whose charred remains are discovered in an abandoned quarry?

Miss Marple must solve the mystery, before tongues start to wag, and the murderer strikes again.

My take:

This review is spoiler-free.

After I read my second Christie and second Poirot mystery – Death on the Nile – back in March, I promised myself I’d read a Miss Marple before the end of 2016. A kind fellow book blogger recommended The Body in the Library. Sorry I can’t remember who it was, but thank you!

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Review | Journey to Death by Leigh Russell

A perfect beach read. 3/5 stars.

Journey to Death by Leigh Russell book cover

The blurb: Lucy Hall arrives in the Seychelles determined to leave her worries behind. The tropical paradise looks sun-soaked and picture-perfect—but as Lucy soon discovers, appearances can be very deceptive. A deadly secret lurks in the island’s history, buried deep but not forgotten. And it is about to come to light.

As black clouds begin to gather over what promised to be a relaxing family break, Lucy realises that her father stands in the eye of the coming storm. A shadow from his past is threatening to destroy all that he holds dear—including the lives of his loved ones.

A dark truth is about to explode into their lives, and that truth is going to hit them right between the eyes.

My take:

Firstly, I must mention that I met the author of Journey to Death – Leigh Russell – at a blogger/author event in London and she very kindly asked her publisher, Thomas & Mercer, to send me a copy of the book. Thank you.

Journey to Death is the perfect beach/holiday read for the following reasons:

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Review | The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine, illustrated by Júlia Sardà

Another fun, glittering mystery. 4/5.

The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine and illustrated by Julia Sarda book cover photo

Look at how beautiful that book is! Silver embossing, my friends!!!

The blurb: The honour of your company is requested at Lord Beaucastle’s fancy dress ball. Wonder at the puzzling disappearance of the Jewelled Moth! Marvel as our heroines, Sophie and Lil, don cunning disguises, mingle in high society and munch many cucumber sandwiches to solve this curious case! Applaud their bravery as they follow a trail of terrible secrets that leads straight to London’s most dangerous criminal mastermind, and could put their own lives at risk… It will be the most thrilling event of the season!

This is a fast-paced and compelling mystery adventure with gorgeous Edwardian period detail. This is Mr Selfridge meets Nancy Drew!

My take:

I reviewed the first book in this series, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, last year. I bought it because the beautiful blue and yellow cover with gold embossing called to me. And then, once it was in my clutches, the blurb made it sound like a fun mash up of Nancy Drew and Mr Selfridge. And it turned out to be just that. I enjoyed it a great deal and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on book 2 and more of Sophie and Lil’s adventures.

I’ve gone back and read my review of book 1 and, to be honest, I have little to add for this review for book 2: Jewelled Moth is more of the same excellent stuff.

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Review | Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes #2) by Anthony Horowitz

Mostly entertaining, but Moriarty left this Sherlock fan disappointed. 3.5/5 stars.

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz book cover

The blurb: Sherlock Holmes is dead.

Days after Holmes and his arch-enemy Moriarty fall to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls, Pinkerton agent Frederick Chase arrives in Europe from New York. The death of Moriarty has created a poisonous vacuum which has been swiftly filled by a fiendish new criminal mastermind who has risen to take his place.

Ably assisted by Inspector Athelney Jones of Scotland Yard, a devoted student of Holmes’s methods of investigation and deduction, Frederick Chase must forge a path through the darkest corners of the capital to shine light on this shadowy figure, a man much feared but seldom seen, a man determined to engulf London in a tide of murder and menace.

My take:

I enjoyed the first of Anthony Horowitz’s new Sherlock Holmes stories – The House of Silk – back in February. And, for the most part, I really enjoyed Moriarty, which is the second book he’s written with the permission of the Conan Doyle estate.

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WWW Wednesday 6th April 2016


This meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Wait! There’s more. Click to find out what I’ve been reading!

Review | Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Classic Poirot: a great mix of drama and mystery. 4/5 stars.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie book cover

The blurb: The tranquillity of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish and beautiful, a girl who had everything – until she lost her life. Hercule Poirot recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: ‘I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.’ Yet in this exotic setting’ nothing is ever quite what it seems...

My take:

This review will be rather sparse to avoid any and all spoilers.

I read my first Agatha Christie last year: Murder on the Orient Express. I “only” gave that book 3 stars because I felt it lacked build-up: it was too economical with its descriptions of the setting and background to the murder. Death on the Nile, another Hercule Poirot mystery, lacks in none of these departments. The pre-death drama is top-notch and Christie gives us just enough descriptions of Egyptian temples and other tourist hot spots to create a sense of the exotic without turning the book into a travel guide.

In fact, this book contains a great balance of dialogue, narration and description. My only slight gripe – as with Orient Express –  was that there were too many characters to keep track of. On the bright side, this does mean there are so many plausible suspects that the guilty party remains hard to guess. I felt the edition I read would have been improved by featuring a diagram of the boat, showing all the cabins the characters were staying in (Agatha Christie: Cluedo game board edition!).

Overall: a classic murder mystery with great pre- and post-death drama. I’m planning for my next Christie read to be a Miss Marple. Any recommendations?

Claire Huston / Art and Soul

WWW Wednesday 30th March 2016


This meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Wait! There’s more. Click to find out what I’ve been reading!

Review | The House of Silk (New Sherlock Holmes #1) by Anthony Horowitz

Almost as good as the original. 4/5 stars.

The House of Silk Sherlock Holmes 1 by Anthony Horowitz book cover

The blurb: In freezing London, November 1890, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson receive a man unnerved by a scarred-face stalker with piercing eyes. A conspiracy reaches to the Boston criminal underworld. The whispered phrase ‘the House of Silk’ hints at a deadly foe.

My take:

If you enjoy Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventures then it’s likely you will enjoy this book. Anthony Horowitz does an admirable job mimicking the style of the original tales for this new Holmes-Watson adventure. However, this mimicry extends to the perhaps less enjoyable aspects of Conan Doyle’s style. For example, characters are allowed to sit down and give three-page long monologues to explain their predicament. If that sort of thing bothered you in the original stories – which are usually only a few pages long – then you might not be able to stick with it over the 300 pages of The House of Silk.

The mystery at the heart of The House of Silk is sufficiently complex to keep you puzzled. Its resolution is also far darker than we might have come to expect from Holmes’ stories. Watson warns us of this in the prologue, but I was still surprised by just how grim the big secret turned out to be. Apart from a couple of moments which dragged slightly, the pacing is excellent and our heroes face enough peril to keep you turning the pages.

Overall: an entertaining mystery in the company of one of my favourite fictional duos. I already have the sequel waiting!

Claire Huston / Art and Soul