Andrew Mayne, Black Coral (2021)

Author: Andrew Mayne

Title: Black Coral

Format: e-book

Pages: 317

Series: Underwater Investigation Unit #2

Andrew Mayne has been getting a lot of good reviews – and a lot of publicity – in recent years. Specializing in well, specialist police procedurals/mystery thrillers, where the protagonists have each unique skillsets and viewpoints markedly different from your run-of-the-mill police detectives, Mayne made a name for himself. I guess his previous career as an illusionist gave him a lot of experience in creating intricate structures and patience in preparing the big show in incremental, consecutive steps, because that approach is clearly noticeable in his newest book, Black Coral. Black Coral is the second installment in the Underwater Investigation Unit series, but can be read as standalone.

I confess that I chose this book from NG on a whim, not having read anything by Mayne before. But the premise, promising a special diving unit solving crimes in Florida, sounded really cool – and my own experience with crime thriller series (from Nesbo’s Harry Hole to Rankin’s Inspector Rebus to Larsson’s Millenium, or even Peters’s Brother Cadfael) is that I’m usually happier NOT reading them in the chronological order. This way there’s more to discover:  I can have more fun with the mystery puzzle pieces and the inner workings of protagonist and/or their team, as well as the psychological makeup of the characters, and I don’t get bored by the ever-growing historical background :D.

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Olivier Barde-Cabuçon, The Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths (2020)

Author: Olivier Barde-Cabuçon

Title: The Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths

Format: E-book

Pages: 384

Series: The Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths #1

The Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths, from now on TISUD for the sake of me finishing this review this year and you ever reading it in full, is the first instalment in a 7-book series, a recipient of a Prix Sang d’encre for 2012, and the only Barde-Cabuçon book currently translated to English. Published by Pushkin Vertigo imprint in their series of non-English mysteries and crime novels, it had earlier existed on the market under a probably less sellable but more faithful to the original title, Casanova and a Faceless Woman. So, if you’ve read Casanova, TISUD is not a sequel, but the same exact book, just republished 😉. Ooof. Since this book is about mysterious, mistaken and hidden identities, the whole affair with the English title is simply delightfully ironic.

TISUD is a historical crime novel, and a very peculiar one at that. It takes place in 1759 in decadent Paris, somewhere between the shiny halls of Versailles ruled by debauched Louis XV and his cohorts, and the dirty, dangerous hovels of Parisian suburbs inhabited by the desperate poor. The social climate is the most compelling character in this novel, as the general population of Paris is seething with resentment, misery and anger, and seems on a brink of revolution, while the decadent elites seem oblivious to both the inequity and the inherent risks (and since it’s historical fiction, TISUD gets this part to a t).

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The Wanderlust Book Tag

It’s been some time, actually, since we did a book tag. As we were recently tagged by the wonderful Orangutan Librarian with The Wanderlust Book Tag we decided to do one now 🙂 It looks very interesting, especially as one of us starts thinking about this year’s travelling plans, and the other is just finishing their holidays… 😀

First, Rules of Engagement:

  • Mention the creator of the tag and link back to original post [Alexandra @ Reading by Starlight]
  • Thank the blogger who tagged you – thanks, Orangutan Librarian! This one’s fun!
  • Answer the 10 questions below using any genre
  • Tag 5+ friends

and now,

the questions:

1. Secrets and lies: a book set in a sleepy small town

Ola: James Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon is a really nice example of the “cozy mystery” genre, full of nods in all the important directions, and yet still holding up commendably on its own.

Piotrek: Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip takes place in a sleepy village, but there are secrets and lies in a small community, and getting to the hard truth is the key to success of our protagonist.

2. Salt and sand: a book with a beach-side community

Piotrek: H.P. Lovecraft, The Shadow Over Innsmouth. I don’t remember if there was an actual beach, but definitely a sea-side community of sorts is the central part of the story 🙂 No the perfect seaside for you summer vacation, mind you. Re-reading Lovecraft is one of the great many things I need to do!

Ola: Zoe Gilbert’s Folk is definitely a book that stays with the reader long after the covers are shut. I was deeply impressed by the maturity and melody of her writing voice, and more than a bit appalled by the ferocious abuse visited by her on Folk’s protagonists – the violent fantasy clad in the everyday reality of a small beach-side community, hidden in gorse bushes and suspended indefinitely somewhere between the eighteenth and early twentieth century. Thanks to Bookforager for putting this one on my radar!

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Neil Gaiman, Rafael Albuquerque, A Study in Emerald (2018)

A Study in Emerald

Author: Neil Gaiman, Rafael Albuquerque

Title: A Study in Emerald

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 88

Right in time for October spookiness, Gaiman’s cheeky and heartfelt tribute to both Arthur Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft is a lovingly crafted mystery clad in horror. Gaiman’s short story won 2004 Hugo Award for Best Short Story and the 2005 Locus Award for Best Novelette, and had been adapted to the comic book medium by Rafael Albuquerque, Rafael Scavone,  and Dave Stewart over a decade later.

I must admit I did read the short story back in the time, but the comic book adaptation somehow made a much greater impression on me. Maybe it’s the Lovecraftian vibes, which so greatly lend themselves to the dark, shadowy frames filled with menacing tentacles and splotches of vivid green, or maybe it’s the structure of the story, beautifully misleading the readers, throwing red (or rather emerald) herrings left and right, only to reveal its true nature to the careful reader (and indeed, half the pleasure from reading Gaiman’s take on the world’s best detective stems from knowing all necessary facts about Sherlock Holmes ;))

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Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Stairs (2014)

City of Stairs

Let’s take a tour through the streets of the fabled city of Bulikov, where gods lived, where they created and destroyed, took care of their followers and inevitably issued edicts. Bulikov, city of grand spires and beautiful gardens, shining like an immense jewel of the world. A seat of gods, a place of power, a source of pride – and hubris – for the people dwelling on the Continent.

If you were to walk through the streets of Bulikov now, you wouldn’t see any of the wonders. You’d see a forest of decrepit, half-ruined buildings, hundreds of thousands of stairs ending in the thin air, as if cut by a gigantic scythe, and a sea of poverty, resentment and anger.

Because the gods weren’t omnipotent, omniscient or immortal. They were killed, and with their destruction came the destruction of everything they have ever built. Bulikov is now a gaping wound in social memory, a festering boil waiting to burst at the slightest pressure. And guess what? That pressure is easily applied, from many directions at once.

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