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Monday, September 28, 2015

The Jesuit Letter


Review of The Jesuit Letter by Dean Hamilton

Overview from

England 1575
Ex-soldier turned play-actor Christopher Tyburn thought he had left bloodshed and violence behind him when he abandoned the war against the Spanish in Flanders, but fate has different and far bloodier plans waiting.The inn yards of London are closed due to plague and the Earl of Worcester's Men are on the road, touring the market-towns of the Midlands.When Tyburn accidentally intercepts a coded letter from a hidden Jesuit priest in Warwickshire, he is entangled in a murderous and deadly conspiracy. Stalked by unknown enemies, he must race to uncover the conspirators and hunt down the Jesuit to clear his name... or die a traitor's death.

My Review:

Again, I issue what is becoming my standard apology for being late with this post. Rather than go into all the boring details, let’s just dive right in.
My review for today focuses on the novel The Jesuit Letter by Dean Hamilton. This one promised to be very much in the vein of a previous book that I reviewed a while back (and liked) called Sacred Treason by James Forrester.
Plot-wise, Mr. Hamilton’s novel measure up nicely and involves similar types of situations. Instead of William Harley, King of Arms, our main character is one Christopher Tyburn, otherwise known as Kit. His main occupation, and I mean that literally, is as a player. And when I say player, I don’t mean that he has a few girls on the side. I am guessing that it is an Elizabethan term for an actor.
Kit is out for a stroll one day while his company is playing in Stratford, yet that Stratford, when he comes upon a young Will Shakespeare being assaulted by some not so nice men. The men are after a letter that young Master Shakespeare carries. Against his better judgement, Kit retrieves Shakespeare’s letter while the later bolts only to find a longtime family friend dead at the same hands that assaulted him. Thus begins our story.
When Kit’s friend is later killed because he is suspected of having the same letter in his possession, Tyburn determines to find out why this letter is so important. To do that, he must borrow young Shakespeare from his father while the two put their heads together to try to figure out how they can stay alive.
The good points of this story are that it has plenty of action and great characters. Tyburn is not a perfect man thankfully but he does have some heroic qualities even if he does make his living by lying to people and pretending to be something that he is not. We get the impression that he is the reason for young Will’s later interest in the stage, though his impeccable Latin might also have something to do with it.
It is been a while since I last read a biography of Shakespeare so I really couldn’t remember how accurate this story is with what we know about the bard as a person. I think most of my information was about his adult life anyway.
The biggest negative was how the pages were organized. My e-book copy had references besides some of the dialogue so as to explain certain points to the reader. When you click on them you are taken to the notes section. However, when you want to go back to where you were, there’s no link to take you there. You are on your own. This was annoying. I hope that when this book comes out officially as e-book, the publisher will have fixed this problem but if not, beware.
The downside for me was, unlike Forrester’s novel, our main character is a less moral man. He has experienced his own version of PTSD and seems to be scared by it many years later. Also he has a job where he is considered only one step above a beggar in the hierarchy of things which I suppose accounts for his lack of manners at times (he likes to swear in both Dutch and English).
Because of this character trait there are scenes in the book that I skipped over due to sexual content that was a bit too explicit for me as well as the swearing which became more and more intense throughout the progress of the book. If you can overlook these things and you enjoy your Historical Fiction with a lot of intrigue, you just might enjoy this.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Half Killed


Review of Half Killed by Quenby Olson

Overview from Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.
She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London. And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control.

My Review:

More apologies from me as I have to ask pardon for making you wait so long for this latest review. I think I might have to amend my review schedule to one review every other week instead of every week. This, as I mentioned before, is due to me going back to school. I will publish more often when I can but I apologize in advance for the times when it is not possible.
This week’s story was sent to me by a fellow author on Facebook months ago and I am just now getting around to reviewing it. I also have another story from a fellow Facebook member whose book I will be reviewing next time which just shows how far behind I am on keeping my promises.
The story centers on a young London woman whose name is Thea Hawes. Thea has a troubled past but not in the way that most of us do, she is troubled by the spirits of the dead rather than the confrontations with the living. Specifically those of her parents who were mysterious killed years ago.
One day she receives a visit from a Mr.Chissick who claims to know her yet she knows that she has never met him before. Soon enough she finds out the purpose for his visit and doesn’t like it one bit. Chissick brings her to the body of murder girl who has an unusual burn wound across her throat, the apparent cause of death. But who or what could have done this? This is what she must find out. And the most disturbing thing of all is that it is exactly the same way her parents were found on the night they died.
The story itself gets points for uniqueness. I can’t say that I have ever read anything quite like it before. I kept wanted to turn the page. First, I was trying to figure out the time period. I knew it was historical but I couldn’t tell in the beginning if it was the 1800’s or the early 1900’s. It was only the reference to the queen that gave me any idea at all. That and the fact that there were no cars mentioned.
Later, I was drawn in further by this unusual; I guess you could call it a supernatural mystery. It becomes apparent from the beginning that this is no ordinary crime and so the perpetrator must not be any ordinary person either.
The characters were also well-done and interesting. You can feel for both Thea and her Mr. Chissick and, to a lesser extent, some of the less minor characters.
The downsides for me were the Prologue and the description. The Prologue is set in second person and this bothered me. I didn’t want to read an entire story in second person and I didn’t know whether or not it would continue on that way. I kept thinking that if the author did it intending for the reader to identify with Thea, she would have done better to use first person, and beginning in the first chapter, that is exactly what she did.
Then there was the description. Don’t get me wrong it was beautiful. It just seemed like there was too much of it. I felt like a lot of it didn’t really need to be there, especially in the beginning.
I did like it in the end. I liked it quite a lot though I don’t think I would go so far as to say that I loved it. Still it was a great story without a lot of objectionable material so that counted for a lot and it got me through it. I hope you agree.