Monthly Archives: November 2013

Sarah Pinborough: Mayhem (Review)

The Author



Sarah Pinborough is a critically acclaimed horror, thriller and YA author. In the UK she is published by both Gollancz and Jo Fletcher Books at Quercus and by Ace, Penguin and Titan in the US. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies and she has a horror film Cracked currently in development and another original screenplay under option. She has recently branched out into television writing and has written for New Tricks on the BBC and has an original series in development with World Productions and ITV Global.

Sarah was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, and has three times been short-listed for Best Novel. She has also been short-listed for a World Fantasy Award. Her novella, The Language of Dying was short-listed for the Shirley Jackson Award and won the 2010 British Fantasy Award for Best Novella.

You can follow her on Twitter @sarahpinborough

Product Description

Buy the book


When a rotting torso is discovered in the vault of New Scotland Yard, it doesn’t take Dr Thomas Bond, Police Surgeon, long to realise that there is a second killer at work in the city where, only a few days before, Jack the Ripper brutally murdered two women in one night.

Though just as gruesome, this is the hand of a colder killer, one who lacks Jack’s emotion.

And, as more headless and limbless torsos find their way into the Thames, Dr Bond becomes obsessed with finding the killer. As his investigations lead him into an unholy alliance, he starts to wonder: is it a man who has brought mayhem to the streets of London, or a monster?


I realise i’m very late to the party when it comes to Sarah Pinborough, and i have no excuse, i have followed the lovely, lively lady on twitter for quite a while promising myself i would read her books. I have most of them on my shelf waiting.

Very recently i read her novella The Language of Dying, and it was stupendous, if you can say that about a book taking you on a journey towards the cancerous death of a loved one. But her use of words was just wonderful, that sublime skill must exist in her other books?

So next up was Mayhem: first i was impressed that anyone takes on writing a ripper book, but to take on a book set in Ripper London where the murderer isn’t Jack the ripper, that’s insanity isn’t it?

Sarah Pinborough, clearly drawing on the Thames Torso murders as inspiration for this second killer, she takes us on this journey following the trail of this killer through the grim dark fear wracked Victorian London back streets. We are led by the flawed but dogged Dr Thomas Bond a man who when joined by his counter parts in this tale by a mysterious priest and Aaron Kominski starts to show a depth and complexity of character that seems to be the hallmark of Sarah Pinboroughs writing, a man brilliant and yet drawn to the back street opium den, a logical skeptic but paired with a mystic and a lunatic?. While the story for me was a wonderful blend of Supernatural, thriller and crime novel, its the history, the sights sounds and smells of london (both Rich and poor) and the wonderful characters that make this book stand out. Characters that are not inflated caricatures that many writers produce when writing this period and a ripper tale, these are people brought alive through skillful writing, with real flaws and real personas.

I look forward to the next one in the series (Murder due 2014)

Highly recommended


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Filed under Crime, Historical Fiction, Sarah Pinborough, Supernatural

Sarah Pinborough: The Language of Dying (review)

About Sarah Pinborough
Sarah Pinborough was born in 1972 in Buckinghamshire, and now lives just a few miles away after a childhood travelling all over the world (her father, now retired, was a diplomat) . . . until, aged eight, she packed her trunk and left the Middle East for a ten-year stretch in boarding school. The memories provide her with much material for her horror and supernatural thrillers . .
About the book
A woman sits beside her father’s bedside as the night ticks away the final hours of his life. As she watches over her father, she relives the past week and the events that brought the family together . . . and she recalls all the weeks before that served to pull it apart.There has never been anything normal about the lives raised in this house. It seems to her that sometimes her family is so colourful that the brightness hurts, and as they all join together in this time of impending loss she examines how they came to be the way they are and how it came to just be her, the drifter, that her father came home to die with.

But, the middle of five children, the woman has her own secrets . . . particularly the draw that pulled her back to the house when her own life looked set to crumble. And sitting through her lonely vigil, she remembers the thing she saw out in the fields all those years ago . . . the thing that they found her screaming for outside in the mud. As she peers through the familiar glass, she can’t help but hope and wonder if it will come again.

Because it’s one of those night, isn’t it dad? A special terrible night. A full night. And that’s always when it comes. If it comes at all.

I have had to look deep before writing this review, i read the 144 page book twice in a few days. On the surface for some it may be simple to wave it away as a bit morbid, a bit depressing, lets fave it the book on the surface is about a man dying of cancer.
But as much as there is a man dying of cancer its about the woman, about how she is and isn’t coping, how she feels about her family, how she loves and hurts over her siblings, how she has cocooned herself in her childhood whilst trying to recover from her adulthood, about how where she has always felt in the family. All the introspection that someone would feel during a massively traumatic experience, its the same introspection we turn on ourselves in smaller and or greater levels when dealing with life.
For me the language of introspection is the language of dying, we are all dying, we are all dealing with dying and death, life is about death and how well we get there, you cannot escape it. (she oh so nearly broke me when the son Davey, despite everything steps up and takes his father for a wash… so close, massive lump in throat).
Sarah Pinborough’s writing in this case is beautiful, it whilst one of the shortest books i have read this year is one that has made me stop and assess and think the most. It is also one of the books i will recommend the most. (some of you will not enjoy the experience, but you cannot fail to enjoy the writing).  I still don’t know that i have come close to writing the impact of this little book, but i tried, and that should tell you enough about the quality of it.
Now i need (and i do mean need) to go and read some of the Dog faced gods series, i finally get what people have been saying about her writing.
For anyone on twitter wanting to chat with her @SarahPinborough  she is the life and soul of the tiwitterverse, so pop along.
do not miss this book, it is an experience as much as a read.
Dog-Faced Gods
1. A Matter Of Blood (2010)
2. The Shadow of the Soul (2011)
3. The Chosen Seed (2012)
A Matter Of BloodThe Shadow of the SoulThe Chosen Seed
Tales From the Kingdoms
Poison (2013)
Charm (2013)
Beauty (2013)
Tales From the Kingdoms (omnibus) (2015)
The Hidden (2004)
The Reckoning (2005)
Breeding Ground (2006)
The Taken (2007)
Tower Hill (2008)
The Language of Dying (2009)
Feeding Ground (2009)
Mayhem (2013)
The HiddenThe ReckoningBreeding GroundThe Taken
Tower HillThe Language of DyingFeeding GroundMayhem
Apocalypse: Year Zero (2012) (with Rhodi Hawk, Sarah Langanand Alexandra Sokoloff)
Apocalypse: Year Zero
Series contributed to
10. Into the Silence (2009)
Long Time Dead (2011)
Into the SilenceLong Time Dead
Anthologies edited
Waiting For October (2007) (with Adam Pepper, Jeff Strand andJeffrey Thomas)
Waiting For October

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Raymond Khoury: Rasputins Shadow (review)

The Author

Raymond Khoury

Raymond Khoury was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1960. The family move to Rye, New York when fighting broke out in Lebanon in 1975. After graduating from Rye Country Day School, he returned to Lebanon to study architecture at the American University in Beirut. A few weeks after he graduated, civil war erupted and he was evacuated from Beirut. He ended up in London where he joined a small architecture practice. In an attempt to explore other career options, he earned his MBA at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France, and joined an investment bank, which he stayed at for three years. Not satisfied with world of investment banking, he sought a more creative career, and hooked up with an banker who dabbled in the film business. Though unintended, he ended up with a career as an acclaimed screenwriter both in London and in Los Angeles.

Khoury lives in London, with his wife and two young daughters.

Product Description


For me Raymonds books are a different sort of thriller, the journey is just that a journey, its never for me a thrill ride. Instead its a tale on an epic scale everytime with a problem that has global ramifications. In this latest take we are back with our old friends Sean Reilly and Tess Chaykin (the 4th book in this series).  There is a splendid time-slip element, taking us back to walk in the time of Rasputin, there is a fantastic continuation of the over all story arc for Sean Reilly and Tess Chaykin (this is also going to be frustrating as hell for anyone who has not read the last book).

The plot of this book is scary as hell, the concept of the technology (that i mention due to spoilers) is a terrorist nightmare, a horror that is so easy to envisage, the software and hardware exists, the science is sound, its just not been put together……or has it?

When you read how this technology could be used by a man or a government without a conscience, that’s just scary, and its that which is the true skill and power of a Raymond Khoury book, the power to provide horrifyingly realistic visions of what could be.

well worth reading


Sean Reilly and Tess Chaykin
1. The Last Templar (2005)
2. The Templar Salvation (2010)
3. The Devil’s Elixir (2011)
aka Second Time Around
4. Rasputin’s Shadow (2013)
The Last TemplarThe Templar SalvationThe Devil's ElixirRasputin's Shadow
The Sanctuary (2007)
The Sign (2009)

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Raymond Khoury, Supernatural, Thrillers

Paul Collard: Maharajah’s General (Review)



Paul’s love of military history started at an early age. A childhood spent watching films like Waterloo and Zulu whilst reading Sharpe, Flashman and the occasional Commando comic, gave him a desire to know more of the men who fought in the great wars of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. At school, Paul was determined to become an officer in the British army and he succeeded in wining an Army Scholarship. However, Paul chose to give up his boyhood ambition and instead went into the finance industry. Paul stills works in the City, and lives with his wife and three children in Kent.

Book Description





A riveting tale of battle and adventure in a brutal land, where loyalty and courage are constantly challenged and the enemy is never far away. Jack Lark barely survived the Battle of the Alma. As the brutal fight raged, he discovered the true duty that came with the officer’s commission he’d taken. In hospital, wounded, and with his stolen life left lying on the battlefield, he grasps a chance to prove himself a leader once more. Poor Captain Danbury is dead, but Jack will travel to his new regiment in India, under his name. Jack soon finds more enemies, but this time they’re on his own side. Exposed as a fraud, he’s rescued by the chaplain’s beautiful daughter, who has her own reasons to escape. They seek desperate refuge with the Maharajah of Sawadh, the charismatic leader whom the British Army must subdue. He sees Jack as a curiosity, but recognises a fellow military mind. In return for his safety, Jack must train the very army the British may soon have to fight…


Maharajah’s General: Reading this book has been a pleasure, Since book one The Scarlet Thief i have been a fan of Paul Collards writing, he has an engaging style, he writes like able characters. One thing that hamstrung him slightly in book one was book brevity, as a debutante he had been limited to a low page count, and as such the book was edited down, removing, i feel some of the extra depth and flavour of the Crimea and the the books characters.

This doesn’t happen in book 2, I devoured book 2 in a single day, and then broke my normal never return to a book rule and read it again the next day. This is the first book in years i have enjoyed that much that i had to go back and read it again immediately ,(i just have too many books to do this).  What we the reader have here is a new Sharpe, its not since i first picked up Sharpe’s Eagle that a single character captured my imagination so totally, this supported by a fast fluid pace of writing, and a vivid portrayal of the Indian country, people, time period, the east India company and as usual the brutal, uncompromising and occasionally morally bankrupt officer corp coupled with the efficiency of the ordinary men of the British army, all this condensed into 336 pages of explosive action, violent emotions, uncompromising unbending discipline and a man with the courage to do what is right.

The impressive thing about this book is that it hooks you in from the first page with realism, i have read in reviews that there is no way a man from the ranks could impersonate an officer, This isn’t as far as i can see a valid point, there are examples of officer impersonation in history, Jack Lark as an orderly was around officers enough to be able to copy their mannerisms etc, so that point for me is covered. His skills as a soldier..well we see him learn most of them on the battle field, and as most officers learned the same hard way, again this is not going to make him stand out. So to any naysayers, “sit back and enjoy the book, stop looking for fault where there is none, just enjoy a bloody good book.” Oh and a very nice fitting nod to the authors love of Zulu with the use of regiment and last ditch battle (loved it, as its one of my favorite films).

The spirit of Sharpe lives again in another time, in another war, in the guise of Jack Lark, buy the books and enjoy the adventures. I hope the publisher have the sense to get book 3 underway quick smart.

Very Highly recommended


Jack Lark
1. The Scarlet Thief (2013)
2. The Maharajah’s General (2013)
The Scarlet ThiefThe Maharajah's General


Filed under Historical Fiction, Paul Fraser Collard

Phil Hogan: A Pleasure and a Calling (Review)

The Author

phil hogan

Phil Hogan was born in a small northern mill town, and now lives in a small southern commuter town. He is married with four children and has been a journalist for 25 years.


Buy a signed copy

a pleasure and a calling

You won’t remember Mr Heming. He showed you round your comfortable home, suggested a sustainable financial package, negotiated a price with the owner and called you with the good news. The less good news is that, all these years later, he still has the key.

That’s absurd, you laugh. Of all the many hundreds of houses he has sold, why would he still have the key to mine?

The answer to that is, he has the keys to them all.

William Heming’s every pleasure is in his leafy community. He loves and knows every inch of it, feels nurtured by it, and would defend it – perhaps not with his life but if it came to it, with yours…


I normally review a book the same night i finish reading it, so this book is new for me in 2 ways, 1) its way way outside my comfort zone 2) i waited a week before reviewing it.

I was talked into reading this book by some very nice, well read and clever ladies…. that alone would normally scare me off, but they were batting 2 for 2 on recommends so i had to give in. They had told me the book was “chilling” and “disturbing”. So Initially i was a bit worried that i didn’t find it affected me that way. I found it intriguing and thought provoking. I found it to be something that was so normal, and then so wrong, and yet so easily real that it may well be happening right now. It was then that the disturbing hit. We have a man, a normal everyday man, who has access to every house he has ever sold. Would you in his place with unfettered access to a strangers house, would you look, could you resist, and even more so, if you had access to the house of people you know, could you resist a peek?

The answer is Yes, but isn’t there just that little voice that yearns in us all to know, that little bit of uncertainty, the inner paranoid self that wants to know more…or maybe that’s me? Could you ever look is the question the book asks me. The answer thankfully is no. But the fact that it makes you ask this question and others is a testament to its clever powerful writing.

The weeks gap before writing this review has actually led me from this book being a clever read to its true impact, because in a week its not left me, i have had parts of the book jump back into my head at odd times, take over my dreams, generally disturb my thoughts, colour some of my views and question, Would I?

all of this has led me to the realisation that this book is truly a terrifyingly, creepy, disturbingly real tour de force, showing how trusting we can be with modern services and suppliers, people who we let in our lives and houses, and that’s before we even worry about digital entry. Read it and be afraid…bloody afraid.

Very highly recommended


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Filed under Crime, Phil Hogan, Thrillers

Simon Scarrow: Blood Crows (Review)

The author (in his own words)


I was born in Nigeria and was raised in a number of countries before settling in Britain. Like my brothers I have always been interested in writing and started on my first novel once I had finished my degree and started working in the civil service. After two years of working in London I decided that I was better suited to a more academic career and returned to university to do a research degree. Once that was over I became a teacher. It was a great job. I have worked alongside some fine colleagues and great students. I would truly recommend teaching as a profession since the rewards are so diverse and real.

After I secured my first book deal I continued teaching full-time for as long as possible, before I was forced to scale back on my hours to focus on the writing.  Finally, at the start of 2005, I realised that I could not teach well while devoting so much time to writing and reluctantly decided to give up on teaching until I had more time to devote to it.

At the moment I am committed to writing one book a year in the EAGLE series as well as one book for other projects.

For now, I live in Norfolk with my wife, Carolyn, who runs her own copywriting business,  and two sons.

Blood Crows (Book Description)

blood crows

Macro and Cato are back in town, and bring with them their usual amount of mayhem, intrigue and collateral damage.

They just don’t seem able to sit idle and enjoy some down time, or lady fortuna has a sick sense of humour. Once again they are back in the legions, and once again its not a nice comfortable billet. But I don’t think either of these boys would want or expect one, honours are earned at end end of a sword, and these boys still have medals and higher rank in mind.
In this book we are back where we began, in Britain, there is an unfinished conquest, a guerilla war being waged by the locals, and it needs to end. Tactics on both sides have got bloody and nasty. Cato has command of an auxiliary Unit called the blood crows led by a somewhat sadistic and nasty centurion, and someone that Cato and Macro need to work with, or work around.
Its a book that see’s the need fr Cato to really grow into his new rank as prefect, and get over any fears he may have, to get past his concerns regarding his friend and having to command him, its time to grow up.
Will they survive… probably… it wouldn’t be the time to end the series would it… but how they get there is a hell of a ride and really is a trip back to the early days of Macro and Cato.. (Julia hardly gets a mention… thank you simon).
A word of caution though, i do echo another reviewer, Simon has shown huge writing skill with his other series and stand alone books, and some times i do wonder if its not time to push Macro and Cato to their conclusion, before they become a stagnant parody of themselves. This book was a great trip back to where we began… can that be sustained forever? or should Simon drive towards the year of the 4 emperors with greater speed?
(everyone will have their own opinion).
But for now… bloody and excellent book.


Other Books

1. Under the Eagle (2000)
2. The Eagle’s Conquest (2001)
3. When the Eagle Hunts (2002)
4. The Eagle and the Wolves (2003)
5. The Eagle’s Prey (2004)
6. The Eagle’s Prophecy (2005)
7. The Eagle in the Sand (2006)
8. Centurion (2007)
9. The Gladiator (2009)
10. The Legion (2010)
11. Praetorian (2011)
12. The Blood Crows (2013)
13. The Zealot (2014)
Under the EagleThe Eagle's ConquestWhen the Eagle HuntsThe Eagle and the Wolves
The Eagle's PreyThe Eagle's ProphecyThe Eagle in the SandCenturion
The GladiatorThe LegionPraetorianThe Blood Crows
The Zealot
1. Young Bloods (2006)
2. The Generals (2007)
3. Fire and Sword (2007)
4. The Fields of Death (2010)
Young BloodsThe GeneralsFire and SwordThe Fields of Death
1. Fight for Freedom (2011)
2. Street Fighter (2012)
3. Son of Spartacus (2013)
4. Vengeance (2014)
Fight for FreedomStreet FighterSon of SpartacusVengeance
Roman Arena
1. Barbarian (2012)
2. Challenger (2012)
3. First Sword (2013)
4. Revenge (2013)
5. Champion (2013)
Arena (omnibus) (2013)
BarbarianChallengerFirst Sword Revenge
Champion Arena
The Sword and the Scimitar (2012)
The Sword and the Scimitar


Filed under Historical Fiction, Simon Scarrow