My (first) September book haul

It’s a very surreal (in some ways) and unsettling time here in the UK as we go through a period of transition. I’ve largely put books aside for the moment, and as I’m not reading much I thought it was a good time to post a book haul.

September is a key month in publishing and I had a lot of pre-orders in place; here’s what’s arrived so far.

REVENGE OF THE LIBRARIANS by Tom Gauld – a wonderful collection of cartoons on “the spectre of failure, wrath of social media and other supernatural enemies of the author” – I love reading his cartoons in the Guardian every Saturday.

SLENDERMAN: A Tragic Story of Online Obsession & Mental Illness by Kathleen Hale – this looks into the shocking stabbings in Wisconsin in 2014 where two 12-year-old girls attempted to kill a classmate, apparently under the spell of an internet meme. I remember this case and the fact the girls were tried as adults, and will be interested in the author’s take

BLACKSTONE FELL by Martin Edwards – the third in the excellent Rachel Savernake series; a locked room puzzle with “a Gothic sensibility” set in 1930 – what’s not to love?

DEATH OF A BOOKSELLER by Bernard J Farmer – the 100th book in the always excellent British Library Crime Collection, I actually got this as a paperback because its the hundredth (obviously), but also because it has a lovely cover. It’s the first time the novel has been in print since 1956.

FAIRY TALE by Stephen King – a mysterious shed, a recluse (and dog) and parallel worlds. It’s Mr King so of course I was going to buy it.

ITHACA by Claire North – I love Claire North and this sounds amazing (and is getting excellent reviews) – telling the story of Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, it “breathes life into myth”.

BACK TO THE GARDEN by Laurie R King – going back to her non-Holmesian roots, this is the story of a fifty-year old cold case opened up by the discovery of human remains in California, taking us back to wealthy people indulging themselves during the counterculture.

THINGS HAVE GOTTEN WORSE SINCE WE LAST SPOKE & Other Misfortunes by Eric LaRocca – an author new to me, recommended by other bloggers and a good opportunity for me to widen my horror reading; looking forward to giving this a go.

KOKO by Peter Straub – sad to hear of the passing of Mr Straub I thought that rather than re-reading something from the books of his that I already own I would get a hold of this, which I missed the first time round. Again, a recommendation, this time on Twitter.

AGATHA CHRISTIE: A Very Elusive Woman by Lucy Worsley – a biography with a particular focus on why Mrs Christie chose to portray herself as a “retiring Edwardian lady of leisure” when she was in fact an extremely successful working woman who loved to try new things. I have a nice little collection of Agatha-related books which I will enjoy reading when the darker nights arrive.

There will be more new books coming in during the next few weeks, so watch this space!

Relic by Preston & Child

The first in the long-running and possibly still going Agent Pendergast series by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child.

The New York Museum of Natural History is built over a subterranean labyrinth of neglected specimen vaults, unmapped drainage tunnels and long-forgotten catacombs.

SOMETHING IS DOWN THERE…..

I remember watching the 1997 film adaptation of this book back in the day but despite having the same title (obviously) I didn’t connect the two, and therefore was able to come to the story relatively fresh. It’s an enjoyable, fast-paced thriller with a reasonable amount of blood and guts and a protagonist who is clearly extremely clever but manages not to be annoying.

Ask me if I still feel that way if and when I get to volume 21.

So the NY Natural History Museum is hosting an exhibition called Superstition with artefacts from many cultures including a relic (hence the name) found during a disastrous expedition to South America where nearly everyone died in various ways while still managing (eventually) to get their finds back to New York. But, did something dangerous come back with them?

Why yes of course it did.

Following the discovery of the mutilated bodies of two young boys in the museum’s basement, our hero, Pendergast himself, arrives from New Orleans to investigate because something similar happened down there. Is there a serial killer, or something more sinister?

If you voted for sinister you would be correct.

Is there a cover-up by arrogant senior museum officials who eventually get their comeuppance? Yes.

Is there a local arrogant and incompetent FBI agent who (a) doesn’t like our hero; (b) won’t listen to advice & (c) also gets what’s coming to him? Yes.

Is there a more than competent young woman researcher going through personal stuff who is dismissed by almost all of the men around her but is key to unravelling the mystery? Yes

Charming but cranky professor in a wheelchair? Check.

Does the mystery get solved by our team? Partially (but worry not, there is an epilogue).

I enjoyed this greatly, despite unfortunately positive mentions of big game hunting, which YUCK, so much so that I seem to have obtained the next five books in the series. What can I say, these things happen.

This was my first completed read for #20BooksofSummer22

The Autopsy of Jane Doe [2016]

EVERY BODY HAS A SECRET

My husband does not like horror movies. I want to be very clear here; he doesn’t mind monster movies (vampires etc.) but he does not like the kind of horror movie that has situations which could conceivably happen to real people. So when he said that he would be going out to dinner with a former colleague leaving me home alone I took the opportunity to watch The Autopsy of Jane Doe which has been on my radar for ages.

They said don’t watch this alone. But I did, even as it was getting dark (clocks in the UK had not sprung forward as yet). I am brave that way as only someone with Thai food and a large glass of wine can be.

Like I said, I’m brave, me.

So we start at a home where a number of people have been bloodily murdered, and in the basement the police find the body, apparently unmarked, of a naked young woman who has no connection to the crime scene that can be ascertained. The officer in charge needs a cause of death so that he can deal with the press the following morning, so takes the body to the coroner (played by Brian Cox) and his mortuary technician son (Emile Hirsch) and asks for them to work on identifying how this young woman died.

It is late at night. The mortuary is in the basement, and although the place where autopsies are carried out is well-lit etc., the rest of the basement is a bit creepy, with an unhelpful corner around which things (should there be things) can lurk to catch the unwary. There is also a cat, so that’s one potential jump scare accounted for.

No-one should be carrying out an autopsy under these conditions. No one.

Things do not go at all well.

I really enjoyed this unsettling, well-made and gruesome horror/thriller. Did I work out what was going on? In part, yes, yes I did. Did I at one point shout at the TV because (given the evidence they’d found) the answer was kind of obvious? Might have. Did it have one of those endings that means all of the bad stuff is likely to continue? You’ve guessed it. Does the cat survive? Not saying (Spoiler – no).

I love Brian Cox, he is the first and best Hannibal Lecter and of course Scottish so I may be biased. I once saw him play Titus Andronicus on stage and he was fabulous. The rest of the cast is also very good but I will admit that Mr Cox was the main draw for me. Recommended, may watch again.

Dazzling details: The Autopsy of Jane Doe is rated 15, runs for 1h 26 (which is refreshing) and directed by Andre Ovredal (his movie Trollhunter is also really good – I even reviewed it back in the day)

It’s a Book Haul – Sunday 6 Feb

Mostly birthday gifts with a single pre-order and a couple of impulse purchases. Let’s get to it….

The Gifts

  • The Fall of Robespierre by Colin Jones – an hour by hour analysis of the last 24 hours in the life of Maximilien Robespierre, architect of the Terror; a major turning point in French history. Fascinating stuff
  • Woodsmoke and Sage: The Five Senses 1485 -1603: How the Tudors Experienced the World by Amy Licence – “woodsmoke and sage, peacocks and cinnamon, falcons and linen” – an examination of the tactile world in which the Tudors lived
  • Cecily by Annie Garthwaite – a fictional take on Cecily Neville, a key figure in the Wars of the Roses, wife of the Duke of York, mother of 12 including Edward IV and Richard III, and politically very astute – looking forward to reading this
  • She Walks in Shadows, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R Stiles – a collection of Lovecraftian weird stories written by women – “they emerge from the shadows, to claim the night”
  • The Lunacy Commission by Lavie Tidhar – Adolf Hitler is a man forgotten by history, a man who never came to power, and who spends the 1930s making a living in London as a private detective; how could I not want to read that?
  • Pageant of Kings: the Nine Sovereigns at Edward VII’s Funeral by Julia P Gelardi – “Of all the impressive sights that they beheld, the gun-carriage carrying the late King’s body had made a profound impression. But so, too, did the unprecedented sight of nine reigning monarchs astride on their horses. For here gathered the monarchs of England, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Belgium, Norway, Germany, Bulgaria, and Denmark to pay homage to King Edward VII. Follow these monarchs’ lives whose stories are filled with drama, pathos, tragedy, and heroism.”

The Rest

  • The Grand Tour by Agatha Christie – a century ago Agatha Christies toured the British Empire and this book collects the letters and photographs she made on that trip – a glimpse into a past long gone (and a good thing to)
  • Trio by Aram Saroyan – I can’t remember now what led me into a Wikipedia rabbit hole but where I ended up was Saroyan’s book about the close and long-term friendship between his mother Carol Matthau, Gloria Vanderbilt and Oona Chaplin – the roll call of husbands alone ,are this a must read for me
  • Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt – “Travel journalist and mountaineer Nick Grevers awakes from a coma to find that his climbing buddy, Augustin, is missing and presumed dead. Nick’s own injuries are as extensive as they are horrifying. His face wrapped in bandages and unable to speak, Nick claims amnesia—but he remembers everything.”

Lots of history, a chunk of horror – not bad at all 🙂

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.

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!

Read but not Reviewed | April Edition

Sometimes you just have to accept that you are not going to get around to clearing that backlog of book reviews even if you are sufficiently motivated to give it a try. What to do?

That’s what round-up posts are for.

So here are the books that I read in April which may have been mentioned in passing but didn’t get a review. Anything from the Before Times may be lost to those who will follow but you never know, one or two titles may pop up elsewhere.

But onwards backwards to April!

Pet Sounds by Quinn Cummings

Quinn is a former actor, writer and all-round funny person who is consistent in her ability to make me laugh to the extent that I follow her on Twitter and support her on Patreon. This is the last of her three books that I have read and it’s so good. If you have ever had a pet of any kind you will recognise much of what’s in here. I may now be scared of testosterone-fuelled bunny rabbits.

Mists of the Miskatonic V1 & 2 by AL Halsey

“It wasn’t personal” she coughed. Blood dripped from her teeth stained crimson”

But why not her crimson-stained teeth? Just one example of what irritated me as I was reading these two collections of short stories. I’m possibly being unfair as the premise – using individual stories by HP Lovecraft as a starting point – is not bad but it’s all undermined by annoying repetition and far too much research being shoved onto the page. Yes, we understand that you know what the Latin for that piece of Roman military kit is but you only needed to say it once (if at all…) All of that took me out of the stories. A shame. I believe volume 3 may be on the way. Will I read it? Who knows…

The Adventures of Roderick Langham by Rafe McGregor

A collection of short stories about the titular Mr Langham, described as a retired soldier, a disgraced police detective and someone who becomes involved in investigating the occult. The stories are set in the same world that contains Holmes, Watson and Moriarty. There are nine stories and, as a collection, really enjoyable with a nice sense of place and atmosphere. Can definitely see myself dipping into these again. Great fun.

We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

What if you survived something horrible, in the horror movie sense of horrible, like being partially eaten by cannibals or defeating monsters or having messages carved on your bones which (of course) you can’t read. How do you cope? Well, if invited, you might join a therapy group along with a potential mass-murdering arsonist and someone who never takes his sunglasses off. That’s the thrust of this novella which is so compelling and well-written I just couldn’t put it down. I liked the characters, I thought the premise was excellent and very well executed. I highly recommend this if you like good genre fiction.

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

So, there’s this family, the Barretts living in New England where the older of their two daughters stars to exhibit signs of mental illness. Or does she? Her behaviour, which looks to many to be similar to possession, causes immense stress on the family but somehow they find themselves taking part in a reality TV show which seems to think its the Exorcist. Things do not go well – surprise, surprise! It reminded me of Amityville and an episode of Hammer House of Horror from 1980 (The House that Bled to Death) but is very much its own thing. This is my second Tremblay novel and I think I prefer it slightly to The Cabin at the End of the World, though it is equally dark.

True Crime Addict by James Renner

As a young boy, the author became obsessed with a local girl who had gone missing, developing over time into an overwhelming interest in true crime, which he turned into a journalism career, a couple of successful books, and which left him with PTSD. In 2011 he started to look into the case of Maura Murray who disappeared after a car crash, and once again his interest became obsessive as he delves into the details of the case, not looking after himself, and allowing it to intrude into his personal relationships. The book focuses almost equally on both aspects of the story, for me more successfully in Renner’s personal story as it isn’t even definite that Maura has been the victim of any crime. She is still missing.

And with May’s reading so far covered in my recent post (which you can read here) I am up to date!

Sunday Salon | Books read in May so far

So here we are after a break of 3 weeks and I thought it might be fun to look at the books I’ve finished so far this month.

It’s been a fairly good month for reading but not a great one for blogging; what can I say? More mini-reviews are likely to follow, but let’s stick with these six for now, along with an update on what I’m currently reading and some other stuff that might be of interest.

Somewhere Beneath Those Waves by Sarah Monette – a collection of short stories missing fantasy & science fiction which I really enjoyed, especially as it includes a Kyle Murchison Booth story (see my review of her collected Booth stories here)

Follow Me by Angela Clarke – an enjoyably fast read, a police procedural with social media right at the forefront. I read it in one sitting and have bought the sequels

Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky – a very creepy sci-fi novel which was almost psychedelic in its language and imagery. Very unsettling. So good.

The Love-Charm of Bombs by Lara Feigel – as I’m getting older I’m finding that my interest is shifting from WWI to WWII, especially social history and the home front. This is a joint biography of several authors (namely Elizabeth Bowen, Rose Macaulay, Henry Green, Graham Greene and Hilde Spiel) who were all based in London in the Blitz. It was fascinating to find out about their complicated personal lives.

The Last Book on the Left – from the guys who write & present the Last Podcast on the Left, this is a quick trot through the lives and crimes of several very well-known serial killers. Now, if you’ve been here for any length of time you will know that I cannot resist true crime and I follow many podcasts (I’m a proud Murderino for example) but I’ve never found this one particularly engaging. The book is fine but the comic interjections just didn’t work for me.

The Killing Streets by Tanya Bretherton – another true crime read, this covers the story of what appears to be the first known serial killer in Australia. Set in the 1930s in Sydney, the main interest for me is the social history elements – the expectations on women, the behaviour of the police and so on – but I wasn’t totally convinced that these murders of young women were connected.


In terms of what I’m currently reading, I seem to be stuck in the middle of several books and not making much progress.

Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch – the seventh in the Rivers of London series, I started this in January and have been making very slow progress for reasons I don’t understand, but I do want to finish it because I have three more to read 🙂

The Outsider by Stephen King – enjoyed what I’ve read so far and really want to know how it turns out so this will get finished

True Detective by Max Allan Collins – the first Nathan Heller novel, I picked this up because the Book God has read many (if not all) of the series and thought I would enjoy it and so far he has been spot on.

As none of these titles is on my list for this year’s Twenty Books of Summer challenge, I need to make an effort to finish them by June 1.

As if that wasn’t enough, my need for non-fiction has led me to start a book about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, which ticks so many boxes for me it isn’t true.

And I have finally succumbed and signed up to Audible so that if nothing else I can listen to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman when it launches in July.


Being indoors apart from forays for groceries and exercise, we’ve been watching more films – I miss going to the cinema more than anything else – and some great TV. Killing Eve hasn’t finished yet so I’m reserving judgement, but last night, so much later than everyone else, of course, we finished watching DEVS. I loved it so much. I think Alex Garland is an amazing writer/director and the series was thought-provoking and beautiful. A highlight of this year so far.

How are you guys holding up in these unusual times?

Carpathia | Matt Forbeck

It has been a very long time since I have written a standalone book review. I had to go back to September 24, 2019, to find one so apologies if I’m a little bit rusty 🙂

It seems fitting that the book I’m talking about today is one I’ve had in the stacks for absolutely ages – Carpathia by Matt Forbeck.

When the survivors of the Titanic are picked up by the passenger steamship Carpathia, they thought their problems were over. But something’s sleeping in the darkest recesses of the ship. Something old. Something hungry.

Something that’s trying to get back to the Old Country. Yes, you’ve guessed it – vampires.

Vampires have always been my favourite supernatural monster-type thing, going way back to reading Dracula of course, but mostly I blame Stephen King and Salems Lot, both the TV version starring David Soul and the amazing book it’s based on, still my favourite of King’s vast output. However, I had drifted away from them due to a combination of the increasing daftness of Anne Rice’s novels and the twinkly dark romance of the Twilight saga.

Then, over the New Year, we watched the BBC Dracula which was awesome, and as I was looking for my next read I decided Carpathia would be just the ticket.

And I was right – it’s great fun as long as your idea of fun is out of the frying pan (the freezing Atlantic post-iceberg) into the fire (a band of vampires travelling back to Europe because they were becoming too visible in America – spoiler – not all of the vampires are happy about that) with a love triangle and early feminism thrown into the mix.

Our main protagonists all have names derived from the original Dracula and in a nice touch it becomes clear that their parents (a) knew Bram Stoker, (b) were referenced in the novel and, (c) had a lot of garlic and crosses around their homes when the kids were growing up, from which you can draw your own conclusions.

The descriptions of the sinking of the Titanic and the ordeal survivors went through are well done, and the willingness to believe in actual vampires by a (small) number of the characters arrives quickly given the evidence of their own eyes. I’m often exasperated by the tendency of figures in horror blithely banging on about how there must be a rational explanation for the handsome man in a cloak chewing on someone’s neck.

I also really liked the idea that “modern” vampires might be reckless compared to the older ones who are more reserved (and have therefore survived) and will not listen to their advice.

It gets a bit breathless towards the end and there is a lingering suspicion that a sequel may have been on the cards, but overall I liked it.

Sunday Salon | 26 January

It has been very grey and murky in SW London for the past wee while which is ideal weather for reading and not actually that bad for going on a walk. This week has been a bit of both for me.

January so far has been a good reading month; I’m ahead of my Goodreads target (not something I bother about too much but it’s nice to know). Reviews will follow for some of these but I thought I’d capture here one that I enjoyed very much.

Beast by Matt Wesolowski

Elusive online journalist Scott King examines the chilling case of a young vlogger found frozen to death in the ‘legendary vampire’ tower in another explosive episode of Six Stories

I love the Six Stories series; I enjoy the mix of podcast transcript and background notes with a nice bit of foreshadowing (as often happens in real-life podcasts). At the end of the third volume, I really thought that there weren’t going to be any more – it felt like the revelation at the end of that story provided an element of closure. So I was thrilled to see Beast pop up when I was looking for something else, and of course I had to buy it.

And it’s a really good story. Elizabeth Barton is a vlogger who has built up a large following in her small town in Northumberland (and further afield). She was found dead at a local landmark after taking part in a challenge and three young men were convicted of causing her death.

But someone is trying to throw a spotlight on the case by asking “who locked Elizabeth in the tower”? In looking into the story Scott finds that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Of course.

The manipulation of followers and participants along with the curated nature of (some) vloggers’ output is brought to the fore here, and as well as Elizabeth’s individual story there’s a lot for us to think about in terms of how far we should believe what we see.

It’s a really good story and I hope there will be more.


This last week we have also been on an outing to Osterley House and gardens, part of the National Trust but once owned by a large banking family. The house is closed at the moment but there is an exhibition of treasures including a famous work portraying Saint Agatha by Dolci. It’s a luminous work but Agatha’s story is beyond grim and possibly should have a content warning.


It was this blog’s birthday this past week, and this coming week is my actual real-life birthday at the end of the month, actually on Brexit Day (boo hiss). My way of coping with this is to assume that anyone daft enough to celebrate our exit from the European Union is actually commemorating my special day.

Hope you all have a wonderful reading week, with apologies for the rambles. I’ll see you in my next post!