Anne Bonny #BookReview Retribution Road by Antonin Varenne #Historical #CrimeFiction @maclehosepress ‘The depth and the detail regarding the era and British/US social and political climate is what makes it such a fascinating read’

Retribution Road by Antonin Varenne
Translated by Sam Taylor
Review Copy

“We owe you our lives, Sergeant, but you are our worst nightmare . . .”

Burma, 1852. Sergeant Arthur Bowman, a sergeant in the East India Company, is sent on a secret mission during the Second Anglo-Burmese War. But the expedition is foiled – his men are captured and tortured. Throughout their ordeal, a single word becomes Bowman’s mantra, a word that will stiffen their powers of endurance in the face of unimaginable suffering: “Survival”.
But for all that, only a handful escape with their lives.

Some years later in London, battling his ghosts through a haze of alcohol and opium, Bowman discovers a mutilated corpse in a sewer. The victim appears to have been subjected to the same torments as Bowman endured in the Burmese jungle. And the word “Survival” has been daubed in blood by the body’s side. Persuaded that the culprit is one of the men who shared his captivity, Bowman resolves to hunt him down.
From the Burmese jungle to the slums of London to the conquest of the Wild West, Antonin Varenne takes us on a thrilling journey full of sound and unabated fury, reviving the lapsed tradition of the great writers of boundless adventure. Sergeant Bowman belongs to that breed of heroes who inhabit the imaginations of Conrad, Kipling, Stevenson . . . Lost soldiers who have plunged into the heart of darkness and will cross the globe in search of vengeance and redemption.

Translated from the French by Sam Taylor

My Review:

Firstly, let me say this paperback has a beautiful cover and perfectly sets the scene for the novel. It is brilliantly eye-catching!
The novel is historical crime fiction and very literary in parts. We follow protagonist Sgt Arthur Bowman in his quest for justice.
A quest that will see him travel through various countries on his way.

The novel opens in 1852 Burma, when Lord Dalhousie governor-general of India declared war on the king of Burma. Major Cavendish summons Bowman and informs him he is to take on a secret mission under Cpt Wright. He must intercept the ambassador. The mission is foiled and many men are captured as POW’s. Only ten men are ever liberated.

Edmund Peavish
Peter Clements
Edward Morgan
Christian Bufford
Erik Penders
Fredrick Collins
John Briggs
Horace Grennshaw
Norton Young &
Sgt Arthur Bowman
Are the liberated men.

The novel then jumps to London 1858, with Officer O’Reilly and Superintendent Andrews at the scene of a brutal murder. Bowman is tied to the case, due to his previous run-ins with men down at the docks. When he sees the body, he is in for an almighty shock. . .

‘The corpse in the sewer. I’ve seen that before. In Burma. In the forest’ – Bowman

Andrews becomes convinced Bowman is losing it, fearing he is headed for a nervous breakdown. Something we the reader learn, Bowman fears himself. As Bowman is under suspicion, he is placed under house arrest, until the case is solved. But Bowman is unlikely to just accept being a suspect in a gruesome murder on London’s streets.

‘London really was turning into hell’

Bowman acquires a list of the liberated men but is hindered further when the India company denies their existence and that such a mission took place.
Is there a cover-up at the heart of this murder?

Bowman tracks down each man individually. What her uncovers shows the true nature of the psychological/physical impact of mental and violent torture. There are no graphic details of the POW’s plight, but the readers comes to understand the depths of the soldiers despair. The trail of POW’s lead all the way across the oceans to t America, Where Bowman is reunited with old comrades. . .

‘You don’t even know if you’re seeking an honourable death or an honourable life, Mr Bowman. You’ll have to choose in the end, but until you do. You will not belong here, or anywhere else on this earth’

The murders appear to be continuing on American soil. Where black men and native American’s can be wrongly accused, leading to fatal consequences. Bowman becomes determined to correct this injustice and find the real killer.

‘They say it’s Indians. Because whites aren’t that cruel’ –
Dr Vladislav Brezisky
Bowman meets an array of characters on his travels and they truly enhance the storytelling. The display of the 1860s American landscape is remarkable.
I can see this novel drawing both British and American fans.

There is a brilliant ending, with a twist in the tale. The depth and the detail regarding the era and British/US social and political climate is what makes it such a fascinating read. 4.5*

***Don’t miss the other fantastic bloggers on the blog tour***

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #BookReview The Woolgrower’s Companion by @JoyRhoades1 #ww2Fiction #Historical #NewRelease #WoolgrowersCompanion

The Woolgrower’s Companion by Joy Rhoades
Review Copy

Australia 1945. Until now Kate Dowd has led a sheltered life on her family’s sprawling sheep station but, with her father’s health in decline, the management of the farm is increasingly falling to her.

Kate is rising to the challenge when the arrival of two Italian POW labourers disrupts everything – especially when Kate finds herself drawn to the enigmatic Luca Canali.

Then she receives devastating news. The farm is near bankrupt and the bank is set to repossess. Given just eight weeks to pay the debt, Kate is now in a race to save everything she holds dear.

My Review:

The Woolgrower’s Companion is without a shadow of a doubt an atmospheric saga novel. It brings alive in the mind, the era and outback of New South Wales, Australia. I really enjoyed the time I spend with Kate, during reading and the various themes which offered an insight into 1940s Australia.

The novel opens at Longhope railway station on 10th January 1945. Kate along with her father Ralph awaits the arrival of two POW’s from North Africa. We become aware these are not only POW’s but were previously fighting Australian soldiers. The situation is quite tense; and we become aware that the family is unsure what it has entered into.
But they require extra hands at the farm as labourers.

Kate is married but her husband Jack is away training soldiers for war at Kogarah. Kate comes across as quite a rigid character at first. It is only when things begin to get tough, we start to see the woman inside.

The POW’s Sgt Luca Canali and Private Vittorio Bottinella, are extremely young. They claim to be conscripted soldiers and therefore at war through no choice of their own.
It is unsure at first, if this is really true.

Harry Grimes is the nephew of ranch hand Keith Grimes. He is an unusual character, that truly brightens up the pages. He is an orphaned child and his conversation comprises of various questions and lots of swearing.
There are moments that I found him quite hilarious, to listen to.

At the ranch is domestic servant Daisy, who is just 14yrs of age. Daisy is an aboriginal and the theme and role of aboriginals in Australian society is fully explored. The race relations are fraught, to say the least. I have never come across aboriginals in ww2 fiction and it was a welcome addition of diversity.
Even if the racism and tension is unsettling.

At the ranch bills remain unpaid, Kate finds she must not only work on the ranch but actively take over the management or face financial ruin. Her father continues to grow more confused and Kate wonders what their future will hold. She writes to her husband Jack, in hope of financial and emotional support.
She receives neither and Kate is left feeling truly alone.

When Kate is served with an eviction notice, her sheer determination and grit is released. Not losing the ranch becomes her primary focus in life. Unbeknown to Kate, this means she fails to notice other situations occurring at the ranch.

The novel is slow burning and the characters grow on you over time. There are not only book club questions at the back of the novel but a series of recipes too.

Kate’s personal journey in The Woolgrower’s Companion, sets up beautifully for a series and I look forward to returning to the ranch in the future. 4*

Joy Rhoades

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***

Anne Bonny #BookReview The King’s Witch by @TracyBorman #HistoricalFiction #Witchcraft #NewRelease @HodderBooks ‏ @HodderPublicity ‘A novel rich in historical detail and accuracy, with a spellbinding tale and a feisty young protagonist’

The King’s Witch by Tracy Borman
Review Copy

Already a great historian, Tracy Borman proves with this thrilling debut novel that she is also a born storyteller.

As she helps to nurse the dying Queen Elizabeth, Frances Gorges longs for the fields and ancient woods of her parents’ Hampshire estate, where she has learned to use the flowers and herbs to become a much-loved healer.

Frances is happy to stay in her beloved countryside when the new King arrives from Scotland, bringing change, fear and suspicion. His court may be shockingly decadent, but James’s religion is Puritan, intolerant of all the old ways; he has already put to death many men for treason and women for witchcraft.

So when her ambitious uncle forcibly brings Frances to court, she is trapped in a claustrophobic world of intrigue and betrayal – and a ready target for the twisted scheming of Lord Cecil, the King’s first minister.

Surrounded by mortal dangers, Frances finds happiness only with the precocious young Princess Elizabeth, and Tom Wintour, the one courtier she can trust.
Or can she?

My Review:

The novel opens with our protagonist Lady Frances Gorges at the Longford estate. We become aware she is of noble birth and has a passion for seeking herbal remedies. When the Reverend Pritchard (the new local priest) preaches warnings of witches, Frances knows she must heed caution.

‘I have done nothing against the laws of god or nature. I only use my medicines for good’ – Frances
Frances must withhold her skills or bring the attention of Lord Cecil and those whom seek a witch to blame. . . .

Frances is appointed to the household of Princess Elizabeth by King James. Her parents and sisters are banished to Richmond, tainted by their association to the previous Queen. Frances is alone and filled with worry. She makes an unlikely friendship in Thomas Winter, but is he all he seems. . . .

Lord Cecil takes Frances to witness the hanging of a local witch at Tyburn. He is issues her a stern warning, that leaves her in no doubt, she must be on her guard
‘I am watching you’

When Lady Arbella is accused of witchcraft, Frances is certain an accusation will be yielded against her. With the plotting and scheming of royal court, there are eyes everywhere.

Who can Frances trust? And does she carry the devil’s mark?

A novel rich in historical detail and accuracy, with a spellbinding tale and a feisty young protagonist. 4*

Tracy Borman

Anne Bonny #BookReview Call Of The Curlew by @ManxWriter Elizabeth Brooks #HistoricalFiction #Literary #ww2Fiction #NewRelease @TransworldBooks ‘This novel is simply beautiful’

Call Of The Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks
Review copy

Virginia Wrathmell has always known she will meet her death on the marsh.

One snowy New Year’s Eve, at the age of eighty-six, Virginia feels the time has finally come.

New Year’s Eve, 1939. Virginia is ten, an orphan arriving to meet her new parents at their mysterious house, Salt Winds. Her new home sits on the edge of a vast marsh, a beautiful but dangerous place. War feels far away out here amongst the birds and shifting sands – until the day a German fighter plane crashes into the marsh. The people at Salt Winds are the only ones to see it.

What happens next is something Virginia will regret for the next seventy-five years, and which will change the whole course of her life.

My Review:

Call Of The Curlew is another novel released this year with phenomenal characterisation. The character of Virginia Wrathmell slowly captivates your heart, as you turn the pages. It is quite tricky to explain, as we don’t just meet the 86yr old Virginia, but we meet her at 11yrs old and watch her come of age in difficult circumstances.

The novel opens with Virginia in the present day. It is New Years Eve and she is waiting for a sign. A sign of her death…… on the marsh. When it arrives in the unusual fashion of the skull of a Curlew. I didn’t grasp the significance straight away. But it becomes very clear as the novel progresses and on the last few pages.

December 1939, saw Virginia’s arrival from Sinclair house a local orphanage to Salt Winds. Where she is finally brought to live with her adopted parents Clem and Lorna Wrathmell. Virginia doesn’t instantly bond with Lorna, that will come much later. But her instant love and affection for Clem, is beautiful to see. She meets Bracken the dog and Mrs Hill the cook. Life at Salt Winds, seems to be one of luxury, Virginia has previously unknown. Clem is sure to issue a stark warning to Virginia about the dangers of the marsh. . .

“Tollbury Marsh is good for birds but bad news for people, so you must promise me that you’ll not set foot on it. Never ever’ – Clem

With every great story comes a great villain and this novels villain is Max Deering. He is rude, obnoxious and full of self-righteousness. Virginia took an instant dislike to him and she isn’t the only one. However, this being 1939 people weren’t so quick to ignore or distance themselves from their neighbours. They relied upon them intensely during the war and the home front effort was evident throughout history. So, the Wrathmell’s find it increasingly difficult to keep Max from their door. As he continues to darken it.

There is a particular incident with Mr Rosenthal, a German Jew is belittled by Max and spoken of as though he is unworthy. I suppose due to Virginia’s upbringing in an orphanage this strikes a chord with her.
It becomes something she will never forgive Max Deering for.

Back to the modern-day 2015 and Virginia sees the arrival of an uninvited guest at Salt Winds. Sophie is a young woman claiming to be lost upon the marsh paths. Something Virginia knows to be untrue and yet serves to make her further grumpy. She reluctantly invites in her new guest.

‘The Curlew has reminded her how to hate’ – Virginia

In June 1940 Max Deering suffers a personal loss when the train carriage carrying his daughter Juliet is bombed. Leaving Max alone with son Theodore. This pushes the Deering’s closer to Salt Winds, much to Virginia’s disgust!
She is invited to Theodore’s 11th birthday party and sets off on the walk with her father Clem. When he spots an enemy plane fallen down upon the marsh. Despite the great risk to himself, Clem decides to attempt to save the enemy. Clem is never seen again. A search party is organised. Yet no sight of Clem can be seen. An optimistic Virginia remains adamant he will return.

It is at this point Virginia and her adoptive mother begin to bond. It is a relationship that is beautiful to watch develop but is not without its dangers from outside predators.

“We cannot afford to make an enemy of Max Deering” – Lorna

As Mrs Hill begins to lose her patience with Lorna, old secrets are brought to the surface. Virginia learns more and more about her adoptive parents and their pasts. Then the women must unite as they rescue Mr Rosenthal. They hide Jozef Rosenthal in the attic, away from Max’s prying eyes. But is Jozef who he says he is?

In the modern-day Sophie makes some confessions about her own ancestry when she spots her grandfather on a photo in Virginia’s house. It would appear young Sophie has a tie to Virginia’s past too.

This novel is simply beautiful 4*

Elizabeth Brooks Twitter

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Giveaway 5 Ebook copies #International #TheGildedShroud by @lizbwrites #NewRelease #Murder #Mystery #Historical @SapereBooks

The Gilded Shroud
The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey – A Lady Fan Mystery #1
Review to follow

When a murder is committed a lady’s companion finds herself as an amateur sleuth…

1789, London

When Emily Fanshawe, Marchioness of Polbrook, is found strangled in her bedchamber, suspicion immediately falls on those residing in the grand house in Hanover Square.

Emily’s husband – Randal Fanshawe, Lord Polbrook – fled in the night and is chief suspect – much to the dismay of his family.

Ottilia Draycott is brought in as the new lady’s companion to Sybilla, Dowager Marchioness and soon finds herself assisting younger son, Lord Francis Fanshawe in his investigations.

Can Ottilia help clear the family name? Does the killer still reside in the house?

Or could there be more to the mystery than meets the eye…?

Elizabeth Bailey (002)
Elizabeth Bailey

To be in with a chance of winning one of five Ebooks. Simply RT the pinned Tweet or comment on the original FB post or comment on this blog post!

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
The Gilded Shroud (1)