Book Review: “Loch of the Dead” by Oscar de Muriel

Title: Loch of the Dead (Frey & McGray #4)
Author: Oscar de Muriel
Audio book narrator: Andy Secombe
Genre: historical fiction/mystery
Target age group: Adult
Dates read: 11/07/18 – 04/08/18
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I thought I’d lost interest in this series by about a third of the way through this book. I actually DNFed it at first, before realising that I did actually want to know how it ended, I just didn’t have the patience to listen to the audio book anymore. I still think the first two books in the series are the best, but I did find this an addictive race to the finish line, and definitely an improvement on the third book.

This fourth installment in the series sees Frey & McGray travel to the very north of Scotland, where McGray has been promised access to a potential cure for his sister in exchange for helping when a young boy is threatened.

The format in this book changed once again: while most of it was still in first person from Frey’s perspective, there were some chapters from McGray’s. These were in third person, and I didn’t always realise that the change had happened, so I got pulled out of the story when I suddenly realised the tone was a bit different and Frey wasn’t actually there. As I said in the previous book, my favourite part of this series is the Frey and McGray banter, and when they spend so much of an investigation apart that McGray needs his own chapters, that means the banter is probably not happening.

There were some great moments throughout the book, some that made me laugh out loud (it’s always wonderful when McGray witnesses Frey making a fool of himself), and the climax definitely had me turning the pages rapidly and staying up late to finish. I did think that the eventual villains of the piece were a bit cartoonish and over the top, but it did make for an exciting finish.

This is all there is of the Frey & McGray series for now, but I will definitely pick up any further instalments de  Muriel chooses to write.


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Book Review: “A Mask of Shadows” by Oscar de Muriel

Title: A Mask of Shadows (Frey & McGray #3)
Author: Oscar de Muriel
Audio book narrator: Andy Secombe
Genre: historical fiction/mystery
Target age group: Adult
Dates read: 28/06/18 – 11/07/18
Rating: ★★

Review:

After thoroughly enjoying the first two Frey & McGray books, I was excited to start the next one . Sadly, as you can see from my rating, this one was rather disappointing in comparison.

Oscar de Muriel experiments with his form a bit in this book, and I didn’t think it really worked. Or maybe I’m just resistant to change Rather than just being a straight narrative, this book was in the form of a police report compiled at the end of an investigation. Alongside the usual first person narrative from Frey’s perspective, we also have fragments of Bram Stoker’s (yes, that Bram Stoker, more on that below) journal and letter fragments recovered at one point in the investigation, placed throughout the narrative, ostensibly where Frey thought they best fit.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous reviews, one of the things that makes this series so enjoyable is the relationship between Frey and McGray. In this one, they spent far less time together, so there was so little delightful banter. When it did happen, it was great, but I wanted more. Much of the narrative in this book was just the two policemen interviewing suspects, and then re-interviewing them when someone else brings a new fact to life. By the time the culprit was revealed around the 85% mark, I was just plain bored.

One thing I have noticed in both the previous books, and again in this one, is that there aren’t many likeable female characters, which is a bit disappointing. I think the issue probably stood out more to me this time because I wasn’t enjoying the things that usually make up for it.

To be fair, de Muriel’s historical detail was meticulous. The book centres around the real life production of Macbeth mounted by the celebrated Henry Irving, and Irving, his leading lady, Ellen Terry, and their theatre manager and later author, Bram Stoker,  all feature prominently as characters. While the mystery is fabricated, of course, de Muriel had to invent very little about the historical figures themselves in order to weave the narrative around them. I found myself pausing the audio book to look up Wikipedia articles or YouTube videos about them to learn more.

Fortunately, I’ve seen some reviews from others who thought this book a bit lacklustre who assure me that the fourth installment is back to the standard of the first two. I have already listened to the first twenty minutes and it’s definitely a promising start, so I think this one was just an anomoly.

You can read my review of the first book in the Frey and McGray series, The Strings of Murder, here, and the second, A Fever of the Blood, here.


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Book Review: “A Fever of the Blood” by Oscar de Muriel

Title: A Fever of the Blood (Frey & McGray #2)
Author: Oscar de Muriel
Audio book narrator: Andy Secombe
Genre: historical fiction/mystery
Dates read: 14/06/18 – 22/06/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This book was just as fun as the last one, and de Muriel continues to build on the characters that he introduced us to in The Strings of Murder. Andy Secombe’s narration also continues to be incredibly entertaining.

The plot is well-paced, with some great action scenes that were particularly exciting in the audio book. I thought at one point I must have reached the climax, only to realise I was only at 65%. The actual climax actually did build from there, and the situation for many of the characters was difficult to guess, which kept me hooked.

The relationship between Frey and McGrey was once again the highlight. There is plenty of the banter that came out in book one, but there is also genuine conflict which I expect will play a part in the subsequent books.

Having said that, I did have a few criticisms. I felt this installment was a bit more reactive than the previous one. There were fewer clues for the detectives to follow; instead, a lot of the plot relied on them simply ending up in certain places at the right time. I also found that the antagonists who show up at about the 70% mark bordered on the comical and cartoonish at times.

Still, that can all be forgiven in the name of fun and entertainment. I am waiting to get my hands on the third audio book, which I hope is up to the same standard.

You can read my review of the first book in the Frey and McGray series, The Strings of Murder, here.


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Book Review: “The Strings of Murder” by Oscar de Muriel

Title: The Strings of Murder (Frey & McGrey #1)
Author: Oscar de Muriel
Audio book narrator: Andy Secombe
Genre: historical fiction/mystery
Dates read: 06/05/18 – 19/05/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Well, this book was a whole lot of fun. It’s a cracking historical mystery, and the audio book is narrated with so much interesting variance that I often forgot I was listening to one person.

Jack The Ripper has London in a panic, and when a disemboweled body shows up in Edinburgh, Scotland Yard fears a copycat. Disgraced police officer Ian Frey is sent north to investigate, along with Scottish officer Adolphus McGrey. McGrey has his reasons for believing the case has a supernatural bent, and the two lock horns in a race against time to find the murderer.

The interactions between Frey and McGrey were definitely the highlight of this book for me. McGrey takes to calling Frey a “London lassie” and Frey is constantly sputtering in shock over the things that come out of McGrey’s mouth. McGrey’s unconventionial methods also clash with Frey’s by-the-book nature. The side characters are also well-drawn; I was able to form distinct opinions about all of them, even the characters we don’t see all that oftne.

The mystery itself was complex without being overly complicated. I felt some information did come out of the blue towards the end with very little to hint at it, but that was a small issue, really.

Andy Secombe is a masterful audio book narrator and I’m pleased to see he has also recorded the subsequent books in the series. His character voices are so varied that I did often have to remind myself there was only one person reading the story. I think this made the book even more entertaining. Reading “Och, shut up, ye London lassie” is one thing, but hearing it in a thick Scottish brogue is quite another.

I’m definitely intending to continue with this series, and recommend it to any fan of historical fiction.


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#WWW Wednesday – May 23, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesdayWhat have you recently finished reading? 

I‘ve had so much going on the last couple of weeks and I also fell into a bit of a reading slump. With that combination, it took me a full three weeks to finish Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton. It was… fine, and I was interested enough in the outcome that I wanted to stick it out, but I can’t say I was terribly invested in the characters. I can’t be bothered writing a full review but you can read my thoughts on GoodReads here.

I finished The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel on audio and this one was a lot more enjoyable. I have recently signed up for an Audible subscription, and while I didn’t pick up the second book immediately, I think it might be next month’s choice. I’ll have my review of this one up this week.

I posted by review of Lessons in Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder by Corinne Grant this week. You can read it here.

What are you currently reading? 

I have started the audio book of Uprooted by Naomi Novik at the recommendation of a friend. I am really enjoying this so far. The prose has a really fairytale-like quality, and the narrator’s voice is really suited to that. I’m not entirely sold on the Dragon, but I am hoping he’ll improve.

I’m also reading The Owl Service by Alan Garner. A few people at work read it and I wanted to get in on the action. I’m not quite sold on it yet, but I think I know where it’s going and it sounds like it could get interesting. Opinion at work is divided, so it’ll be interesting to see where I fall.

What do you think you will read next?

I have Purple Threads by Jeanine Leane and After the Party by Jesse Blackadder out from the library. Neither of these is what I would normally read but they are for my Australian Women Writers Challenge, in particular, my own diversity challenge-within-a-challenge.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#WWW Wednesday – May 09, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading? 

I finished Lessons in Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder by Corinne Grant. To be honest, at first I wasn’t sure if I would finish it, as the chapters about where her hoarding began and how it affected her life were quite depressing. But once she got onto how she faced the problem once she recognised it, I became much more engaged. Review will be up next week.

I am finally reviewing again! I posted my reviews of Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie and Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery this week. Click the titles to read them.

What are you currently reading? 

I am still going with Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton. I haven’t had much of a chance to make a dent in it. So far, though, I feel like it maintaining the standard of the previous two books.

I am also listening to The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel. This is a great historical mystery and if you enjoy audio books, I definitely recommend this one. The narrator is great. The conflict between the two leads, London gentleman Ian Frey and his new boss, rough-around-the-edges Scotsman Adolpho McGrey, is a lot of fun.

What do you think you will read next?

I have borrowed a copy of Blackwing by Ed McDonald from a friend. This friend is as picky, if not more picky, than I am about fantasy, and he thought it was great, so I’m hoping I feel the same way.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

“The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.” // Review of “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie

Title: Murder on the Orient Express
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Date Read: 25/04/2018 – 26/04/2018
Rating:
 ★★★★☆

Review:

As someone who very often finds classic literature dry, stuffy and inaccessible,  I  had put off reading Murder on the Orient Express for a long time. It’s so iconic, and I didn’t want to sllog my way through it and then end up disappointed. I needn’t have worried. I flew through it in two days. It was completely engaging.

While I’d never read a Poirot book before, I had seen many an episode of the TV series starring David Suchet. Poirot is just as interesting a character on paper; his way of talking to people makes me laugh, but his powers  of deduction are masterful.

Having reached the end of the book, I could see why this particular one is so iconic, and widely considered Christie’s best. I tried keeping track of details, but of course, the outcome took me completely by surprise. Just when I thought things were getting completely unrealistic and ridiculous, that gets addressed and is part of the solution.

The reason that this doesn’t get a full five stars from me is because the decisions made by Poirot in literally the final paragraphs threw me off a bit. I couldn’t quite reconcile it, and even after googling some discussions surrounding the ending and coming to understand it, I still don’t know how I feel. But honestly, that was the only issue I had.


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#WWW Wednesday – May 02, 2018

 

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading? 

I finished Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie in two days and really loved it… I was a little weirded out by the very last page or two and what goes down then… but I won’t say too much here  because I don’t want to spoil things.

Galax-Arena by Gillian Rubinstein. This was… quite strange. One of those books that seemed to have some interesting ideas but didn’t do enough with them. Also it was really obvious it was written in  the early 90s.

I didn’t review at all in April but I have some reviews scheduled to  go up in the coming days, and I should be back to my usual schedule of Monday and Friday review posts.

What are you currently reading? 

I am listening to the audio bookk Earthly Delights by Kerry Greenwood. This is a cozy mystery set in Melbourne and the main character owns a bakery… I like it enough so far, though the baker is a bit judgey and like Galax-Arena, I can kind of sense this book’s age from some of the language used.

My reading at home book is Lessons in Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder by Corinne Grant. Corinne is a well-known Australian comedian and while I haven’t read much of this yet, I already really like her writing style. It’s interesting hearing about a more vulnerable side to her, too.

And my reading at work book is Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton, which is the final book in the Rebel of the Sands trilogy. I only started it today, and I’m only up to about page 10. I appreciated the cast of characters list at the beginning, since it’s been over a year since I read the last book. That really helped to jog my memory.

What do you think you will read next?

Despite avoiding it for ages because I’m about 90% sure it’s not going to be my thing, I picked up Nevernight by Jay Kristoff when I saw it on display at the library the other day. So I might try that. Or I might pick up either Greythorne or The Iron Line by L. M. Merrington. I went along to her book talk the other day and bought both and they are both currently sitting on a table near my TV tempting me.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#WWW Wednesday – April 25, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading? 

It’s been a slow reading week. The only thing  I finished  was a very short audio book, The Best Bear in All the World by Paul Bright, Brian Sibley, Jeanne Willis and Kate Saunders. This was written for the 90th Anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh. Each author wrote a Winnie-the-Pooh story set during one of the seasons. They did a pretty good job of capturing what I love about the original books.

Last night I finally realised how much I was not enjoying The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon and decided to DNF. It was taking me far too long to read and I was looking for distractions. I actually wish the book had been more about Paige’s gang. I really liked Jaxon, Nick, et al. Didn’t care so much for Warden, and half the time I couldn’t keep track of the other characters because they were referred to by their numbers.

What are you currently reading? 

I am finally reading Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Why didn’t I read this book long ago?! I kept putting it off because I thought it would be dated and dry, but I am nearly halfway through it, having really only started it this morning. I’m trying to keep track of all the little details which will no doubt be key to the resolution, but I have no real hope of solving this case and I will wait patiently for the denouement.

What do you think you will read next?

I’m not quite sure just yet. I have set up my May-June TBR but I’m not really feeling like any of the titles on it right now. I’m just looking over my Australian Women Writers TBR shelf on GoodReads and thinking maybe Galax-Arena by Gillian Rubenstein might be a good option.  It’s aimed at an older-MG/lower-YA audience, so should be fairly digestible.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#WWW Wednesday – April 18, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

I am back from Nepal! I had a great time, though the trek itself was quite challenging, physically and emotionally. But I had a fantastic group of people supporting me. Those 12 days went way too fast, but I am glad to be home.

What have you recently finished reading? 

I finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline before I went away.  I… look, there’s an okay YA dystopia in there somewhere, but I couldn’t find much of it. It was my first ever one star review! (Said review is full of spoilers, read at your own risk).

I also read The Sherlockian by Graham Moore prior to that. It was fine, but nothing special. I definitely enjoyed Graham Moore’s other novel more. I reviewed it here.

Remember how I was all  “I’m going to read so many books on the plane and have a super long post for you when I get home!”? Yeah, I read two. And one of them was super-short.

The first was Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I had never read it before and I’m not sure if perhaps I missed the boat with it? I mean, I enjoyed it, but I think a lot of people probably have a certain amount of nostalgic love for it that comes from reading it when one is the same age as Anne Shirley.

I also picked up and read Folk Tales from Nepal by Kesar Lall at Pokhara airport. The English translation wasn’t brilliant but it was fun reading these stories while I was travelling around the locations where they took place.

What are you currently reading? 

At time of writing, I haven’t actually picked up The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon since the day before I left for Nepal. I wasn’t entirely into it. Coincidentally, one of the women in my group was reading it on the plane and she wasn’t that into it either, but we did both say we would see it through. .

What do you think you will read next?

I want to try and read something else off my March-April TBR before the end of the month. I am leaning towards Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie because I didn’t read that on my Jan-Feb TBR either… but I also have an ARC of Bookworm by Lucy Mangan, so I should probably read that soon… I don’t know. I’ll see what I’m in the mood for.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily