Madame Victoria

In 2001 the skeleton of a woman was found in woodland at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. The hospital checked all of its patient records, DNA tests were carried out and forensic specialists built a reconstruction of her face to be used in public appeals. Despite all of this, the woman has never been identified, and her remains were put into storage, labelled Madame Victoria.

The investigation has stalled. The case has been assigned to a forensic anthropologist and crime novel celebrity*, who runs new tests on the skeleton and finds that Madame Victoria was a Caucasian woman of about fifty suffering from osteoporosis and arthritis-ridden joints but showing no signs of a violent death.

Catherine Leroux has written twelve stories, each of which imagines a different route to the eventual death of Madame Victoria in the woods. She has said in interviews that she was inspired less by the fact that the woman was found, but by the great efforts that the authorities took to identify her. She has said that she intended each chapter as a tribute, and she never forgot that this was a person who actually existed. And that she hopes Madame Victoria is eventually identified.

I enjoyed this book very much. In any selection of stories there some stronger than others, and this is no exception, though I felt that most of the tales here tended to the strong side.

I think it works as a concept because each of the stories is very different – Leroux has tried several genres including historical fiction, fantasy and sci-fi. Some common elements and references pop up in several of the stories but it’s very subtly done and I only really picked it up in the later ones. I wonder if I read it again whether I would find more?

In an interview about the book in the Montreal Gazette, Leroux said that in writing about a completely anonymous woman she found herself examining how women “were, and are, erased, in so many ways.”

This was a read for Twenty Books of Summer, and I highly recommend it if you want to try something a bit different, or you are looking for works by women in translation. Or, you know, both.

*Note – I’m assuming this is a reference to Kathy Reichs

20 Books Report Card | 1-3

Quick thoughts on the first three books I read in this summer’s challenge.

These go way back to June, and I’m not even sorry.

The Deep by Nick Cutter

So, a plague (similar to dementia I think) is destroying the world’s population – sounds familiar, doesn’t it? – but a potential “miracle cure” might have been found in the deep ocean. Hence the title. Our hero – OK, so I’ve forgotten his name and I’m too lazy to look it up – anyway, our hero’s brother is one of the scientists in an ocean floor base studying what has become known as ambrosia. Contact with the base has been lost, because of course it has, but the last message received was from the brother asking for Our Hero. This is strange because they don’t get on at all (again, of course they don’t) and Hero is reluctant to go but does so, and heads down to the base with Kickass Female Sidekick to find out what’s going on. Of course it does not go well.

I’m kind of making fun of the tropes here, but this is a well-written horror novel with a creepy colour out of space vibe, using the feeling of being trapped and afraid of whatever is around the next corner for its scares, although there is still a solid amount of gruesomeness for us horror fans.


Transcription by Kate Atkinson

It is 1940 and Juliet Armstrong (I paid attention to names in this one, aren’t you proud of me?) is 17 years old when she is recruited by MI5 to assist with the war effort. She is assigned to a team responsible for monitoring what British Fascist sympathisers are up to but the work is fairly boring – she is manually transcribing the conversations an undercover agent is having with said sympathisers in the flat next door. She then gets the opportunity to go undercover herself, which leads to a series of events which deeply affect her. Leap ahead to 1950 and Juliet is a radio producer at the BBC when she spots a figure from her spy days who clearly and deliberately fails to recognise her, and she starts to investigate, shedding light on her past.

I loved this book. It is so good, beautifully written with a wonderful nested structure and I spent my time alternating between marking up (far too many) passages which I had enjoyed and speculating on the real-life counterparts for some of the characters. An unexpected revelation towards the end of the book tickled me greatly, but I know some readers have found that difficult to accept. I thought it made a lot of sense, personally.

This is one of my favourite reads of the year so far and I would highly recommend it.


Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

The Emperor needs necromancers. The Ninth necromancer needs a swordswoman. Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines and no more time for undead nonsense.

The Lady of the Ninth House stood before the drill shaft wearing black and sneering. Reverend Daughter Harrowhark Nonagesimus had pretty much cornered the market on wearing black and sneering. It comprised 100% of her personality. Gideon marvelled that someone could live in the universe only seventeen years and yet wear black and sneer with such ancient self-assurance.

That’s kind of all you need to know really.

Oh, OK then.

There are necromancers with their accompanying swords-people. There is an ancient building and a puzzle to be solved. Things do not work out as anticipated.

It’s awesome – a strong story with great characters, a lot of snark and some real horrors, and it’s the first in a trilogy to boot. Very little is better than that.

How can it be September already?

Way back on August 2nd I let you all know that I was taking the month off from blogging and would see you all in September, and what do you know that’s, um, now!

It’s been feeling quite autumnal in my little part of London over the past day or so, if by autumnal you mean grey, damp and chill. This is also going to be a big month for book publishing; a shame as I’m launching into a low spend for the rest of 2020.

The Kibble Palace in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens. I used to live near there when I was a student and it always makes me think of Autumn and the start of a new year at Uni.
Photo by Crawford Jolly on Unsplash

But setting aside all of that, July & August were both good reading months; here are the stats to prove it:

  • Books read = 8 in July, 7 in August
  • Number of pages = over the two months I read 5180 pages
  • Progress against Goodreads = 85% of my target, 11 books ahead of schedule

Very pleased with that.

In terms of the Twenty Books of Summer challenge, which ran between 1 June and 1 September, I did read 20 books but only 7 were from the booklist I announced.

I’m still going to count that as a win and I dare any of you to question that!

I mentioned a low spend earlier and that’s because I have made a lot of impulse purchases over the past few months, so I’m trying to stick to what I have pre-ordered and shove everything else onto my wish list.

Speaking of pre-orders, here is what I have on the slate for September

  • The Trials of Koli by MR Carey
  • Written in Bone by Sue Black
  • Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots
  • Sweet Harmony by Claire North

I’ll write more about those in my Sunday Salon posts as the books arrive. I’ll also be doing some round-up posts so that you can find out a little about what I read, so keep your eyes open over the next few weeks.

I hope you all had a good summer and look forward to a good reading month!

June Reading Round-up

Halfway through the year already. Time is moving quickly despite being at home 99% of the time and the pace of life feeling slower, but that’s physics for you.

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

The Stats:

  • Books read = 5
  • Number of pages = 2267
  • Progress against Goodreads = 60% of my target, still 7 books ahead of schedule

20 Books of Summer – 3 out of 20 (not good, need to get my act together )

June PBB book club – we read Middlegame by Seanan McGuire, a 5* read if ever there was one, and I saw this morning that it received the Locus Award for best fantasy novel of 2019, which is very cool and well-deserved.

June purchases – not going there; I’m seriously looking at a no extra spend for the rest of the summer, but will settle for cutting back.

July pre-orders:

  • Malorie by Josh Malerman – this is the sequel to Bird Box, which I really liked, so I’ll be very interested to see how the story develops
  • Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings – In a small Western Queensland town, a reserved young woman receives a note from one of her vanished brothers—a note that makes her question memories of their disappearance and her father’s departure.
  • Bryant & May: Oranges & Lemons by Christopher Fowler – I think this is the 18th B&M novel and I have them all. Still one of the very best series around
  • A Peculiar Peril by Jeff VanderMeer – Jonathan Lambshead stands to inherit his deceased grandfather’s overstuffed mansion—a veritable cabinet of curiosities—once he and two schoolmates catalog its contents. But the three soon discover that the house is filled with far more than just oddities. The first in The Misadventures of Jonathan Lambshead series.
  • Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay – New England is locked down, a strict curfew the only way to stem the wildfire spread of a rabies-like virus. The hospitals cannot cope with the infected, as the pathogen’s ferociously quick incubation period overwhelms the state. The veneer of civilisation is breaking down as people live in fear of everyone around them. Staying inside is the only way to keep safe. This might sound familiar, and I might not read it for a while 🙂
  • Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell – a rock novel! This is the story of Utopia Avenue’s brief, blazing journey from Soho clubs and draughty ballrooms to the promised land of America, just when the Summer of Love was receding into something much darker
  • Stranger in the Shogun’s City by Amy Stanley – a history/biography of a woman named Tsuneno, born in 1804 and her life in Edo (now Tokyo). Looks fascinating
  • Hell in the Heartland by Jax Miller – On December 30th, 1999, in rural Oklahoma, 16-year-old Ashley Freeman and her best friend, Lauria Bible, were having a sleepover. The next morning, the Freeman family trailer was in flames and both girls were missing. Yes it’s true crime, don’t @ me
  • The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson – Amazon says this is The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Village, so read into that what you will.

The PBB Book Club selection for July is Augustown by Kei Miller, a good choice as I’m trying to read more BIPOC authors.


So that’s it! I’m very behind on reviews but hoping to crack through them all and be up to date by this time next month. Wish me luck!

[Not the] Sunday Salon

When is a Sunday Salon post not a Sunday Salon post? When it’s on a Tuesday, that’s when.

You know I had to check what day it is, right?

So here we are already in another week and I thought I’d round up what’s been going on since I last wrote here, not in the whole world because, let’s face it, there isn’t enough space in my wee blog to even begin to tackle what’s going on everywhere else. I’m just going to tackle my little bit of it.

image via Canva

This is not a summery illustration but it has been very oppressive and we have had quite a few thunderstorms around here over the past few days so this feels about right!


I haven’t finished any books in the past week, but I am still reading (almost) every day.

I’m happily making progress on my reading challenges, and so far:

  • PBB Book Club – I’m 64% of the way through Middlegame
  • 20 Books of Summer – I’m 15% through Gideon the Ninth

They are both really excellent and I would recommend.

New books this week (excluding any pre-orders which I mentioned in my May 31st post) – all links are to Goodreads:

  • Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri – I meant to buy this when it first came out as I have always enjoyed watching Emma on Britain’s Lost Masterpieces, but somehow forgot. But I have it now.
  • Where Are the Women by Sara Sheridan – a guide to an imagined Scotland, where women are commemorated in public spaces. Couldn’t resist.
  • Judas the Hero by Martin Davey – a recommendation by the Book God, which doesn’t happen often and is to be respected when it does, this is all about Judas Iscariot “cursed with immortality by a vengeful and angry God, [he] finds himself in present day London and head of the secret occult crime division known as the Black Museum at Scotland Yard.”
  • The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem – we watched Motherless Brooklyn this weekend and when I realised that it was based on a novel I went looking for the author, and this caught my eye, especially as one of the main characters has his pet opossum in his desk drawer
  • Devolution by Max Brooks – I adored World War Z so wasn’t going to miss this, an oral history of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre. Bigfoot is real, people!

Hopefully I’ll have some finished reads to report on next time. Take care and stay safe.

Sunday Salon | 7 June

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to post today given everything that’s going on in the world and that I’m a Scottish white woman pushing 60, but keeping quiet is how the status quo is maintained even if what you say sounds trite.


We Are the Flowers of One Garden (c) Shayda Campbell

Black lives matter and anyone who has a problem with that needs to stop and take a look at themselves. Access to equal treatment for other doesn’t mean that you somehow lose out, and for too long people of colour have been disproportionately suffering at the hands of authority and a system that was stacked against them from the outset.

I developed a love of history when I was at school and went on to get my degree in that subject (early modern history in particular which explains my obsession with the sixteenth century) but as I got older it became abundantly clear that the history we are taught doesn’t necessarily reflect the reality experienced by many, many people. The racism inherent in the British colonial/imperial rule is rarely addressed in those terms. We talked about our role in ending the slave trade without acknowledging our heavy involvement in starting it. As a Scot, I learned about the wealth brought to our cities, especially Glasgow, by those trading tobacco and cotton but with only oblique references to the slaves and that even after abolition Glasgow shipyards were still building the ships that would end up carrying slaves. In the UK we have huge swathes of people who don’t realise that there have been people of colour in our country for centuries.

And we don’t talk about issues surrounding police behaviour. It isn’t a crime to be black. We don’t have the same tendency to militarise our police force here in the UK (though some politicians would very much like to) but that doesn’t mean we are free from police brutality, deaths in custody and racial profiling.

This needs to stop. I want to continue learning about this issue, speaking out where I can while knowing that I may get it wrong sometimes. Better to make the occasional mistake in trying to be an ally than to stay silent. I also know that I need to read more widely than I do now; my TBR pile doesn’t have as many works by people of colour as it should, and I’m going to try to improve.


And don’t get me started on JK Rowling and her latest anti-trans stuff. Just don’t.


But let’s talk about books.

It’s been a good reading week. I finished two books – The Deep by Nick Cutter and Transcription by Kate Atkinson – and reviews will follow. Honest.

I made good progress on the two reading challenges/programmes in which I’m taking part, namely:

  • PBB Book Club – Middlegame by Seanan McGuire (I’m 30% in); and
  • Twenty Books of Summer – the two books I read this week were for that challenge, and I have just started the third, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir.

My full currently reading list is on the sidebar.

Three new books arrived chez Bride this week:

  • Closure Limited (and other zombie tales) by Max Brooks of World War Z fame (I loved that book so much);
  • Putney by Sofka Zinovie; and
  • Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough, which was a pre-order that I thought wasn’t arriving until later in the summer but the Kindle edition was released and just appeared in my app the way ebooks just do.

And that’s it for this week. Please stay safe everyone.

Twenty Books of Summer 2020

It’s that time of year again where Cathy at 746Books hosts her twenty books of summer challenge and this year will be my year to actually finish all twenty of my picks. I’m convinced of it 😀

As you may have seen if you follow me on Instagram I have already posted the handwritten list that I created for my Bullet Journal, but here are the full details. In alphabetical order by title because that’s the way my Kindle app rolls; it’s worth noting that all of these are eBooks and all are fiction.

Brace yourselves – it’s a long one!

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear
Bought March 2019 – 512 pages

A space salvager and her partner make the discovery of a lifetime that just might change the universe in this wild, big-ideas space opera from multi-award-winning author Elizabeth Bear.

I’ve read some of her short stories but this will be the first of her novels I’ve picked up. I adore space opera.


Blood Pearl by Anne Billson – The Camillography Volume 1
Bought June 2019 – 180 pages

Millie Greenwood leads an uneventful life with her overprotective parents in Bramblewood, the most boring village in England – until one day, not long after her sixteenth birthday, she sneakily forges her mother’s signature to go on a school trip to Paris.

I love Anne, she’s a great film critic and I’ve read several of her novels so looking forward to this because, you know, there may be vampires.


Breathe by Dominick Donald
Bought March 2018 – 528 pages

Amazon yells that a killer lurks in the worst fog London has ever known

London, 1952. Dick Bourton is not like the other probationer policemen in Notting Hill. He fought in Europe and then Korea, and has now brought his exotically beautiful Russian fiancée back to drab streets and empty bombsites. The new copper also has a mind of his own. After an older colleague is shot by a small-time gangster in a pea-souper fog, Bourton begins to make connections his superiors don’t want to see, linking a series of deaths with the fogs that stop the city in its tracks.

I picked this up after reading Death in the Air which I found disappointing, so will be interested to see how this compares, even though that’s probably unfair given only one of them is non-fiction.


Cataveiro by EJ Swift – The Osiris Project Book 2
Don’t know when I bought this – 400 pages

For political exile Taeo Ybanez, this could be his ticket home. Relations between the Antarcticans and the Patagonians are worse than ever, and to be caught on the wrong side could prove deadly.

I read the first volume in this series several years ago (I think I was on holiday in Vienna) and it has always stuck with me so it feels like a good time to pick up the story.


Cold Moon Over Babylon by Michael McDowell
Bought in October 2019 – 256 pages

Welcome to Babylon, a typical sleepy southern town, where years earlier the Larkin family suffered a terrible tragedy. Now they are about to endure another: fourteen-year-old Margaret Larkin will be robbed of her innocence and her life by a killer who is beyond the reach of the law.

I discovered Michael McDowell through Christopher Fowler’s Invisible Ink, and have already read Gilded Needles which I really should have reviewed as it was awesome, so looking forward to this.


Dead Astronauts by Jeff Vandermeer
Bought December 2019 – 336 pages

Under the watchful eye of The Company, three characters — Grayson, Morse and Chen — shapeshifters, amorphous, part human, part extensions of the landscape, make their way through forces that would consume them. A blue fox, a giant fish and language stretched to the limit.

Vandermeer is one of the authors I buy automatically regardless of what his new book is about. This takes place in the same universe as Borne, which I adored, so I’m excited.


The Deep by Nick Cutter
Bought April 2015 – 401 pages

A plague is destroying the world’s population. The ‘Gets makes people forget. First it’s the small things, like where you left your keys … then the not-so-small things, like how to drive. And finally your body forgets how to live.

This is likely to be gross horror which feels about right.


The Devil You Know by Mike Carey – Felix Castor #1
Bought April 2020 – 417 pages

Felix Castor is a freelance exorcist, and London is his stamping ground. At a time when the supernatural world is in upheaval and spilling over into the mundane reality of the living, his skills have never been more in demand. A good exorcist can charge what he likes – and enjoy a hell of a life-style – but there’s a risk: sooner or later he’s going to take on a spirit that’s too strong for him.

I feel the need for a new/additional urban fantasy series to follow, so let’s give this a go.


A Double Life by Flynn Berry
Bought July 2018 – 289 pages

WHO IS CLAIRE’S FATHER? A privileged man, surrounded by devoted friends and a family he adores?Or the deranged killer who attacked Claire’s mother and then vanished in thin air? For thirty years Claire has been obsessed with uncovering the mystery at the heart of her life, and she knows her father’s friends – wealthy, powerful, ruthless – hold the key to the truth. They know where Claire’s father is. And it’s time their perfect lives met her fury.

This is inspired by the Lord Lucan case which I have always found fascinating. This has been well-reviewed and it will be nice to read non-genre fiction.


The End of the Day by Claire North
Bought April 2017 – 432 pages

Sooner or later, death visits everyone. Before that, they meet Charlie. Charlie meets everyone – but only once. Sometimes he is sent as a courtesy, sometimes as a warning. Either way, this is going to be the most important meeting of your life.

I met Claire at a reading once when her novel Touch came out, and as you might expect she was delightful and a Roger Zelazny fan and I love reading her stuff.


Ghastly Business by Louise Levene
Bought August 2012 – 289 pages

A girl is strangled in a London alley, the mangled corpse of a peeping Tom is found in a railway tunnel and the juicy details of the latest trunk murder are updated hourly in fresh editions of the evening papers. Into this insalubrious world steps Dora Strang, a doctor’s daughter with an unmaidenly passion for anatomy. Denied her own medical career, she moves into lodgings with a hilarious, insecticidal landlady and begins life as filing clerk to the country’s pre-eminent pathologist, Alfred Kemble.

This book is set in 1929 and speaks to my interests


Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – The Locked Tomb Trilogy #1
Bought September 2019 – 479 pages

The Emperor needs necromancers. The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman. Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.

Everyone loved this and the sequel comes out soon so need to catch up.


A House of Ghosts by WC Ryan
Bought September 2019 – 297 pages

Amazon yells this is the perfect ghostly golden age mystery

Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives. At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.

Keywords – WWI, spiritualist, islands, gothic. No brainer.


I’m Jack by Mark Blacklock
Bought May 2020 – 272 pages

In this provocative novel, Mark Blacklock portrays the true and complex history of John Humble, aka Wearside Jack, the Ripper Hoaxer, a timewaster and criminal, sympathetic and revolting, the man hidden by a wall of words, a fiction-spinner worthy of textual analysis. In this remarkable work, John Humble leads the reader into an allusive, elusive labyrinth of interpretations, simultaneously hoodwinking and revealing

I was a teenager during the whole Yorkshire Ripper awfulness and remember hearing the tape being played on the TV news, so I’m very interested in what the author will do with this.


The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp

Bought September 2016 – 432 pages

It was no secret that journalist Jack Sparks had been researching the occult for his new book. No stranger to controversy, he’d already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed.Then there was that video: forty seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Full disclosure: I’m one of Jason’s supporters on Patreon and received a Christmas card from Mr Sparks (at least that’s who he said he was!) so it’s about time I picked this up.


Madame Victoria by Catherine Leroux

Bought November 2018 – 240 pages

In 2001, a woman’s skeleton was found in the woods overlooking Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital. Despite an audit of the hospital’s patient records, a forensic reconstruction of the woman’s face, missing-person appeals, and DNA tests that revealed not only where she had lived, but how she ate, the woman was never identified. Assigned the name Madame Victoria, her remains were placed in a box in an evidence room and, eventually, forgotten. But not by Catherine Leroux, who constructs in her form-bending Madame Victoria twelve different histories for the unknown woman.

Sounds intriguing, and different and I can’t resist.


Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Bought October 2017 – 449 pages

The long-awaited novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Visit from the Goon SquadManhattan Beach opens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles.

I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of Jennifer Egan and this sounds cool.


The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson – Shades of London #1
Bought July 2016 – 387 pages

Thrilling ghost-hunting teen mystery as modern-day London is plagued by a sudden outbreak of brutal murders that mimic the horrific crimes of Jack the Ripper.

I was going to say that I don’t remember why I bought this but boy, when you look at the synopsis it becomes dead obvious, doesn’t it?


The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
Bought March 2019 – 432 pages

For centuries the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by a god known as the Raven. But in their hour of need, the Raven speaks nothing to its people. It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo – aide to the true heir to the throne – arrives. In seeking to help his master reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven’s Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself… and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.

I have absolutely no idea why I haven’t read any Ann leckie, especially as her surname is one of my famil names, – but this isn’t about me) and I’ve heard really good things about this so thought it was a good place to start.


Transcription by Kate Atkinson
Bought September 2018 – 332 pages

In 1940, eighteen-year-old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever. Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past.

Cross with myself that it’s taken so long to get to this but I’m here now, so that’s good, surely?


So that’s it – wish me luck!

Sunday Salon | 1 September

It’s been a quiet week mainly doing stuff around the house. And as it’s 1 September I have, of course, deployed a cardigan; it really does feel a bit cooler today.

A picture from my long walk around the town yesterday.

In terms of bookish stuff, I have been reading but haven’t finished anything yet. I totally failed on #20BooksofSummer – I managed to read 9 (might make it to 10 before Tuesday), with 2 started and not progressed. I blame my August reading slump for this, and will Do Better next time.

New books – very low this week (by no means a bad thing)

The Art of Dying * Ambrose Parry – second in a series which I haven’t started yet but fully expect to enjoy; the details “Edinburgh, 1850. Despite being at the forefront of modern medicine, hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. But it is not just the deaths that dismay the esteemed Dr James Simpson – a whispering campaign seeks to blame him for the death of a patient in suspicious circumstances.

The Man Who Played With Fire * Jan Stocklassa – Subtitled Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin. “The author of the Millennium novels laid out the clues. Now a journalist is following them. When Stieg Larsson died, the author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had been working on a true mystery that out-twisted his Millennium novels: the assassination on February 28, 1986, of Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister. It was the first time in history that a head of state had been murdered without a clue who’d done it—and on a Stockholm street at point-blank range.

Drowning with Others * Linda Keir – “Prep school sweethearts Ian and Andi Copeland are envied by everyone they know. They have successful businesses, a beautiful house in St. Louis, and their eldest daughter, Cassidy, is following in their footsteps by attending prestigious Glenlake Academy. Then, a submerged car is dredged from the bottom of a swimming hole near the campus. So are the remains of a former writer-in-residence who vanished twenty years ago—during Ian and Andi’s senior year. When Cassidy’s journalism class begins investigating the death, Ian and Andi’s high school secrets rise to the surface.” 

That’s all I have guys. Have a great reading week!

Strange Practice

Greta Helsing inherited the family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills – vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta’s been groomed for since childhood.

Can you feel a BUT coming?

BUT, when Greta is called in by her friend, the vampire Edward Ruthven, to tend to another famous vampire, Sir Francis Varney, who has been attacked in his home with a combination of garlic and a cross-shaped dagger coated with something nasty, it becomes clear that there is a concerted effort to destroy the “monstrous” and the humans who work with them.

Of course, this means Greta herself is in danger along with the motley crew of vampires, ghouls, a demon and a researcher from the British Museum from a rampaging group of monks with a mission. But what’s motivating them and how can they be stopped?

Strange Practice is a really enjoyable urban fantasy which manages to mix traditional mythology (garlic, crosses and os on) with a different approach (alliances between human and undead), particularly the concept that such creatures would need medical support.

It works because not only is the conceit well-thought-out, but the characters, especially Greta, are complex, engaging and likeable. There’s even a glorious cameo from the Devil, and the use of my new favourite phrase “inferno-celestial politics”

I loved this and am looking forward to reading the remaining books in the series.

June 2019 | Second Half Round-Up

Halfway through the year already and as I didn’t post last week because I was under the weather for a few days this will be a catch up for the second half of the month. Here we go!

Books read

I managed to finish two books, both in this past week. The Man From the Train is a true crime book which was totally fascinating, and Strange Practice was a really excellent urban fantasy which I’ve had on my virtual TBR shelf since it came out a couple of years ago. I enjoyed it so much I’ve bought/pre-ordered the rest of the series (see below). Reviews of both of these books will follow later this week if I stick to my planned schedule.
I’m also on track for my #20BooksOfSummer reading plan.

New books

  • Chanel’s Riviera * Anne de Courcy – Life, Love and the Struggle for Survival on the Cote d’Azur 1930-1944 – ‘Far from worrying about the onset of war, in the spring of 1938 the burning question on the French Riviera was whether one should curtsey to the Duchess of Windsor. Few of those who had settled there thought much about what was going on in the rest of Europe. It was a golden, glamorous life, far removed from politics or conflict.
  • Chaos * Tom O’Neill – Charles Manson, the CIA and the Secret History of the Sixties – ‘In 1999, when Tom O’Neill was assigned a magazine piece about the thirtieth anniversary of the Manson murders, he worried there was nothing new to say. Weren’t the facts indisputable? Charles Manson had ordered his teenage followers to commit seven brutal murders, and in his thrall, they’d gladly complied. But when O’Neill began reporting the story, he kept finding holes in the prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s narrative, long enshrined in the bestselling Helter Skelter. Before long, O’Neill had questions about everything from the motive to the manhunt. Though he’d never considered himself a conspiracy theorist, the Manson murders swallowed the next two decades of his career. He was obsessed.
  • Dreadful Company * Vivian Shaw – A Dr Greta Helsing novel – ‘When Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead, is called to Paris to present at a medical conference, she expects nothing more exciting than professional discourse on zombie reconstructive surgery. Unfortunately for Greta, Paris happens to be infested with a coven of vampires – and not the civilised kind. If she hopes to survive, Greta must navigate the maze of ancient catacombs beneath the streets, where there is more to find than simply dead men’s bones
  • Our Rainbow Queen * Sali Hughes – ‘This riotously colourful book takes a photographic journey through Queen Elizabeth II’s ten decades of colour-blocked style. The photographs, which span the colours of the rainbow and a century of style, are gloriously accessorised with captions and commentary by journalist and broadcaster Sali Hughes.
  • The Affair of the Mysterious Letter * Alexis Hall – ‘Upon returning to the city of Khelathra-Ven after five years fighting a war in another universe, Captain John Wyndham finds himself looking for somewhere to live, and expediency forces him to take lodgings at 221b Martyrs Walk. His new housemate is Ms Shaharazad Haas, a consulting sorceress of mercurial temperament and dark reputation. When Ms Haas is enlisted to solve a case of blackmail against one of her former lovers, Miss Eirene Viola, Captain Wyndham is drawn into a mystery that leads him from the salons of the literary set to the drowned back-alleys of Ven and even to a prison cell in lost Carcosa. Along the way, he is beset by criminals, menaced by pirates, molested by vampires, almost devoured by mad gods, and called upon to punch a shark.

Currently reading

This morning I started The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason, a sort of steampunk-alternative-history-YA-romance-mystery starring Sherlock Holmes’ niece and Bram Stoker’s sister. So far lots of fun, a lovely light read..

Other stuff

We had a couple of really good days out this last week despite horrendous humidity which left us both exhausted and grateful for our aircon at home.

On Tuesday we went to the House of Illustration in King’s Cross with our friend Susan to see the Posy Simmonds retrospective. It was so, so good to get close to her work; many of the cartoons I remember from reading her contributions to the Guardian’s Women’s Page back in the day had the original artwork on display. I may have bought one or two things from the gallery shop.

We also went to the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden which was huge fun; it’s ages since I’ve been there.

Photos from both events are available to view on my Instagram feed; do go and have a look if you don’t follow me there already.

Hope you all have a great reading week!