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Frances Brody: Death of an Avid Reader (Review/ Blog Tour)

Frances Brody's picture

Frances Brody

aka Frances McNeil

Frances Brody has written three novels set in 1920s Yorkshire,featuring Kate Shackleton, First World War widow turned sleuth. (‘An excellent heroine’, Ann Granger.) The third book will be published in September 2011 (hardback) and March 2012 (paperback).

Before turning to crime, Frances wrote for radio, television and theatre, and was nominated for a Time Out Award. She published four sagas, winning the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin Award in 2006.

Book Description


A lady with a secret
Kate Shackleton’s sterling reputation for courageous sleuthing attracts the attention of the venerable Lady Coulton. Hidden in her past is a daughter, born out of wedlock and given up to a different family. Now, Lady Coulton is determined to find her and puts Kate on the case.

A mysterious killing in the library’s basement
But as Kate delves deeper into Lady Coulton’s past, she soon finds herself thrust into a scandal much closer to home. When the body of the respected Horatio Potter is found in the Leeds Library basement, the quiet literary community is suddenly turned upside down with suspicions, accusations and – much to Kate’s surprise – the appearance of a particularly intelligent Capuchin monkey!

The most puzzling case in Kate’s sleuthing history yet
Convinced an innocent man has been blamed, Kate sets out to discover the truth. Who would want Dr Potter dead? Does Lady Coulton’s missing daughter hold a vital clue? As the stories start to emerge in the seemingly quiet Leeds library, Kate is learning fast that this time, she can’t judge a book by its cover . . .


2014 is the year I promised I would step out of my comfort zone, to read other genres and stretch my breadth of reading material. Death of an Avid reader is just such a departure, while it retains it toe in history being set in the 1920’s , this is yesterday in comparison to the ancient historical fiction i normally read. This book is predominately a “Cosy mystery” apparently a new sub genre of the crime market…who knew..i sure didn’t.  If im 100% honest it took me a little to settle with, because my man brain was looking for the swords, the battle the buzz of death and mayhem (im a simple chap with simple needs). But soon the very skilful writing of the author subdued me, and it was exactly what the sub genre states, a nice well written cosy story, something IMHO perfect for a wet raining sunday under the blanket with the fire on. Lovely characters, excellently portrayed and described settings, with that legitimate 20’s feel to the whole story, the author feels like she lived in the period when she wrote it (at least mentally…unless she has a tardis she has not mentioned?)

If you have not read any of the other books in the Kate Shackleton series, fear not, this was my first and it didn’t seem to make any difference, there were no trips of memory or references back to previous books. Would i read another?… TBH.. probably not, i made the journey, i enjoyed the stay, but im bound for new places and new reads. I do recommend this for the coming cold days, i think many will enjoy the gentle mystery and trip back to the majestic 20’s.




Kate Shackleton
1. Dying in the Wool (2009)
2. A Medal For Murder (2010)
3. Murder in the Afternoon (2011)
4. A Woman Unknown (2012)
5. Murder on a Summer’s Day (2013)
6. Death of an Avid Reader (2014)
Dying in the WoolA Medal For MurderMurder in the AfternoonA Woman UnknownMurder on a Summer's DayDeath of an Avid Reader

Frances McNeil Novels

The Sisters on Bread Street (2003)
Somewhere Behind the Morning (2005)
Sixpence In Her Shoe (2006)
Sisters of Fortune (2007)
The Sisters on Bread StreetSomewhere Behind the MorningSixpence In Her ShoeSisters of Fortune


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Filed under Crime, Historical Fiction

David Gibbins: The Pharaoh (Author Interview + Review)

The Author

David gibbins

Author Web Site

David Gibbins has worked in underwater archaeology all his professional life. After taking a PhD from Cambridge University he taught archaeology in Britain and abroad, and is a world authority on ancient shipwrecks and sunken cities. He has led numerous expeditions to investigate underwater sites in the Mediterranean and around the world. He currently divides his time between fieldwork, England and Canada.

Interview with David Gibbins for www.parmenion-books.co.uk, 8 August 2013

What was the inspiration for Jack Howard?

There’s a good deal of me in Jack – we share a diving and archaeological background, and have many of the same historical and intellectual interests. But I very much think of him as a separate fictional character, drawn from my experience of others in our profession. Like many leaders Jack can be solitary and introspective, but his friendships are intense and down-to-earth and a driving force in the novels. What Jack and I share most is a passion for archaeology and the determination to see a project through, and that’s where I identify most closely with him.

How does a marine archaeologist become a writer?

I’ve been writing fiction since I was a teenager – my English teacher at school was adamant that I should study English at university, not archaeology – but I hadn’t attempted a full-length novel until Atlantis, which I completed when I was nearly 40. During my previous career as an academic I’d begun to think more and more about how my own experiences as an archaeologist could be the basis for fiction, and when the idea for Atlantis came to me I finally took the plunge, resigned my job and went for it. One of the other reasons I left my university teaching career was to create more time for research and exploration, and my novel-writing has been closely associated with that – so I never left one profession for the other.

What is the most exciting wreck you have dived?

The wreck I’ve just discovered this summer, a 17th century site with cannons and Spanish silver coins! I’d probably always say that the site I’m currently working on is the most exciting. In the past some of the highlights have included a classical Greek wreck of the 5th century BC, but I can also remember my first sighting of an intact wooden wreck looming out of the depths of the Great Lakes in Canada – it only dated from the 19th century but was an incredible thrill.

In the books there are some insanely dangerous dives where Jack risks all, have you ever taken a risk in the search for history, or is that all fiction?

I never felt it at the time, but looking back on my early years I certainly stretched the envelope a few times. Once during a very deep exploration in the Mediterranean my dive buddy panicked and froze, and we very nearly didn’t make it back to the surface. On another occasion I was so intent on excavating that I failed to realise that my regulator was leaking air, and I reached the safety tank on the site just as I was beginning to black out. So the answer is yes, many times, but the occasions when it’s nearly gone wrong have been few and far between. I was superbly trained and that’s what counts. And since becoming a father I’ve been a good deal more cautious about risk-taking!

Are the characters based on people you have worked with?

Not specifically, but yes – on expeditions you get to know people intimately including all of their quirks and strengths, and there’s no doubt my cast of characters is drawn from that.

Jack Howard seems to be on a story arc that is philosophical as much as historical. Was this planned from day one? Or did it evolve?

I think this represents my own intellectual bent, and my intention to keep true to myself even in a genre which traditionally has little of that kind of content. Many archaeologists and adventurers have a strong philosophical demeanour; even Indiana Jones was a professor! The great joy of adventure is in the voyage as much as the destination, and that voyage is often about self-discovery and reflection. Jack’s particular arc probably represents the time in my own life when I’ve been writing these novels, through my 40s, as I’ve begun to reflect more on my own philosophical interests – in the broad sense of the term – and where I’d like to go with them.

The concept of Atlantis in the Black Sea is probably the best put together I have ever read; it seems 100% plausible. How much is based on real life research and how much on speculation?

Thanks very much! It’s great to return to that question ten years after I wrote my novel Atlantis. I still stand by the real-life basis for the story, that the Black Sea inundation several millennia after the end of the Ice Age would have flooded Neolithic settlements along what is now the coast of Turkey. My sequel The Gods of Atlantis was partly inspired by some extraordinary early Neolithic sites recently found in Anatolia, reinforcing my belief that one day something like that will be discovered underwater in the Black Sea.

Where and when are Jack and Costas going next?

Aha! That would be a secret. But those who’ve read my novel Pharaoh will have guessed that the story in the book doesn’t end there, and I can reveal that the sequel Pyramid next year will take up where that one left off. After that they’re on a very exciting adventure in a part of the world where they’ve never explored before. More on that in due course on my website!

How did Rome II: Destroy Carthage come about? (review coming soon on Parmenionbooks)

It was mainly a confluence between an idea from my agent, that the Total War: Rome games might lend themselves to companion novels, and the enthusiasm of the people at The Creative Assembly and Sega for the project. What attracted me was the high degree of historical accuracy and authenticity in the games, similar to my own approach as a novelist. It’s been a great experience for me to do something a bit different, and will undoubtely benefit the writing in my main series.

What/Who do you read for personal enjoyment

I’ve always been a voracious reader of fiction but less so since beginning to write my own novels, mainly because of time. Most of my reading is research for my novels, and I’ve particularly enjoyed 19th century history, travel and biography where the novel requires it – for Pharaoh one of my favourites was the journal of General Gordon of Khartoum, a really fascinating work. Among fiction I’ve been doing a lot of re-reading of authors I first read years ago, most recently Hemingway, Orwell, Defoe and Patrick O’Brien’s marvellous Jack Aubrey novels.

When/What is your favourite period of history?

That’s really hard to say, and tends to change according to the period of my most recent novel. I’ve always been fascinated by the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly maritime exploration and the early development of archaeology, but also British colonial adventure and war. For ancient history I’d probably say the long period, veering back into prehistory, when seafarers were stretching the boundaries of the Mediterranean and beyond – that really take us from the Bronze Age through to Roman traders on the Indian Ocean, but I’m more comfortable saying I’m fascinated by that breadth of history than I am with a particular period.

Finally if you had to sell someone new on Pharaoh and the Jack Howard series, how would you do it?

I’d say that my novels are often singled out for their historical plausibility, but for me what makes them work is as much the passion that I put into them – they have an authenticity that I think is unusual in this genre because I’ve actually come close to living the fiction myself. But I’m also a dreamer, and have gone one step further into a realm where anything is possible. Then I’d tell them to read this interview!

 David Gibbins

8 August 2013


Book Description

Buy a signed copy


Marine archaeologist Jack Howard has made an astounding find in the depths of the Red Sea: proof of a mass suicide by a pharaoh and his army. But what could have driven the most powerful people of their age to hurl themselves to their deaths? What terrible new king, revered as a new god, came to take their place?

Howard’s search leads back through the ages to the discovery of the vault of Tutankhamun in 1928, the legacy of American adventurers in Egypt, the fate of General Gordon’s doomed garrison in Khartoum – and a long-shrouded catastrophe that saw a unit of Gordon’s would-be rescuers swallowed by a mysterious Nile whirlpool. Between the story told by a crazed survivor of that horror, a lost labyrinth, and the truth behind a three-thousand-year-old conflict, Howard is on the verge of a discovery that will change history – for good, for evil, and for the future of all humankind.


I have been a fan of David Gibbins since the first Jack Howard book (Atlantis) was released in 2005, when I first started into the series I thought he was one of the new writers opening up a genre of History mixed with action adventure. But it soon became obvious that he had more passion for his subject matter than the average writer in this genre.

His love of archaeology and of diving really brings these books to life, alongside Jack Howard and his friend and sidekick Costas who are an extension of the author as much as a creation. Add to this passion for diving, a true passion for history and a writing skill that has grown book by book. By the time we get to Pharaoh the series is as serious example of how this genre should be written it does not get much better than this. Don’t be fooled into thinking this writer is another guy who writes the implausible and the mythical, and that you the reader have to swallow the imaginary.  Gibbins makes the astounding seem more than plausible, he writes the history in such a way that the myth feels factual or at least highly plausible, and its more that just places and names, its a philosophical undertone to the extended plot, to the ethos of Jack Howard and his search for the facts and the truth.

I find every single one of these books so plausible, so real I hate coming up for air. I thought that Gods of Atlantis was the pinnacle of this series, when I should have known that there was more and better to come.

History, Mystery and Myth all brought together to astound the reading senses.

A true leader of his genre and his art.

Highly Recommended


Jack Howard
1. Atlantis (2005)
2. Crusader Gold (2006)
3. The Last Gospel (2008)
aka The Lost Tomb
4. The Tiger Warrior (2009)
5. The Mask of Troy (2010)
6. The Gods of Atlantis (2011)
aka Atlantis God
7. Pharaoh (2013)
AtlantisCrusader GoldThe Last GospelThe Tiger WarriorThe Mask of TroyThe Gods of AtlantisPharaoh
Also coming soon, something new:
Total War Rome II: Destroy Carthage (2013)
Total War Rome II: Destroy Carthage


Filed under Action/ Adventure Thrillers, Historical Fiction, Thrillers

Kings Deception: Steve Berry (Now with author Q&A)

The Author
Steve Berry is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of The Columbus Affair, The Jefferson Key, The Emperor’s Tomb, The Paris Vendetta, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Venetian Betrayal, The Alexandria Link, The Templar Legacy, The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room. His books have been translated into 40 languages with more than 15 million printed copies in 51 countries.  They consistently appear in the top echelon of The New York Times, USA Today, and Indie bestseller lists.
History lies at the heart of every Steve Berry novel.  It’s his passion, one he shares with his wife, Elizabeth, which led them to create History Matters, a foundation dedicated to historic preservation. Since 2009 Steve and Elizabeth have crossed the country to save endangered historic treasures, raising money via lectures, receptions, galas, luncheons, dinners and their popular writers’ workshops.  To date, nearly 2,000 students have attended those workshops. In 2012 Steve’s devotion to historic preservation was recognized by the American Library Association, which named Steve the first spokesman for National Preservation Week.  Among his other honors is the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award.
Steve was born and raised in Georgia, graduating from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. He was a trial lawyer for 30 years and held elective office for 14 of those years.  He is a founding member of International Thriller Writers—a group of more than 2,000 thriller writers from around the world—and served three years as its co-president.
Cotton Malone is back!
A behind-the-scenes political fight between the United States and England has the unintended result of landing Cotton Malone’s son, Gary, in the hands of a man with a dangerous personal agenda. It also forces Malone to come face-to-face with a baffling historical mystery: a long-buried secret that throws into question the legitimacy of the entire reign of Elizabeth I – a revelation with explosive modern-day consequences.
In the past I have usually found it very easy to review a Cotton Malone book, but this time I have to be honest, I’m struggling.
At times I found it hard to get into, at others I found it took off and the pages almost read themselves. But something kept bringing the story to a clunky halt. I’m not sure if its my innate Englishness that took offence at the different portrayal of one of our finest monarchs, or my equality vibe and the view that to have achieved as much this monarch did she had to have been a man. Even looking up the myth behind the book (the Bisley Boy) it just didn’t gel for me all the way through.
Steve’s writing as ever is well tuned, has that pace that draws a reader in and with just the right level of history to intrigue a reader. As usual his research is impeccable, but for me it was the wrong conspiracy. Even with making an allowance for that, this book is no Amber Room, probably his finest work.
This will make a very decent poolside thriller for this summer.
4/5 Stars despite my personal quibbles with the conspiracy. Steve Berry is still one of the true masters of this genre and i will be pre-ordering his next book.

How does a Lawyer become one of the leading thriller writers in the world?

 Just a lot of hard work.  I wrote my first word 23 years ago in 1990 and I’ve been writing constantly ever since.  Currently I have 11 novels in print.  The King’s Deception is book 12, the 8th on the Cotton Malone series. I’ve been fortunate that my choice of stories and characters have proven popular.  Each book has built on the one before it.

What was the inspiration that led to The King’s Deception?

 In 2010 my wife, Elizabeth, and I were north of London in the town of Ely doing some publicity work for Hodder, my British publisher.  A lovely  woman was showing us around the magnificent cathedral and told me about a local legend.   In the village of Bisley, for many centuries, on a day certain, the residents would dress a young boy in Elizabethan costume then parade him through the streets.  I researched the legend and discovered that another writer, Bram Stoker, in the early part of the 20th century likewise heard the tale.  The creator of Dracula was so impressed that he included the Bisley Boy in his non-fiction work, Famous Imposters, published in 1910.  I found that book and read it.  Then I found more books and discovered that much truth lay at the heart of the Bisely Boy legend—all of which centers around Elizabeth I, the last reigning Tudor monarch, who died in 1603¾and the novel was born.

Elizabeth I was a unique individual.  All of her life she wore heavy make-up, wigs, and clothing that sheathed her body.  She refused to allow doctors to physically examine her and left orders that, at her death, no autopsy should be performed.  Her main duty as queen was to produce an heir so the Tudor lineage would continue, yet she refused to marry, refused to birth a child, and proclaimed herself the Virgin Queen.  Most curious of all was that she was buried with her half-sister Mary, in the same grave, their bones allowed to mingle together.  I discovered that all of this happened for a reason, and it’s that reason which my recurring hero, Cotton Malone, becomes entangled with while in England.

Cotton Malone has been a fantastic success for 7 years.  Have you ever been tempted to start a new series with a new hero? (discounting stand alone books)

  I still have many tales to tell for Cotton.  But, you never know, there could be another series one day.

Will Cotton Malone have to leave the bookshop again (how long a wait), or is he retiring?

Cotton is back in The King’s Deception, drawn from his bookshop into another adventure, this one in England.  And he’ll be around for the next 4 novels too. There are no plans for him to retire.

 What is your favourite book:  a.) that you have written;  b.) written by another? (my all time fav Steve Berry is still Amber Room)

I’ve written 4 stand alone novels, 8 Cotton Malone adventures, and 4 e-book original stories  I have to say, I love all of my children equally.  My personal favorite book of all time is Hawaii, by James Michener.  It was the first adult fiction book I ever read (at age 14), so it remains special.

What genre do you read for fun?

 I’m a thriller junkie, so I gravitate toward those.  But I also love pure historical fiction.

Will you and James Rollins ever combine talents?

That could well come to pass sometime in the next 2 years.  Keep a check on my website, www.steveberry.org for more details on this.

I was fascinated to read about History Matters, what can you tell us about why you formed the foundation, what you are working on? and how can people help you?

Money for historic preservation and conservation is one of the first things to be cut from any budget.  So my wife, Elizabeth, and I  thought it was time to come up with an innovative way to raise money, and that’s what History Matters is all about. So far, the most popular thing we’ve done is a 4 hour seminar that we teach where writers, aspiring writers, and readers buy their way in with a contribution. Usually, that’s somewhere between $75 and $150. All of the money raised from the workshop goes to the particular historical project that has invited us to be there. No expenses or appearance fees are charged. In fact, we pay all of those ourselves. History Matters offers a way to raise money from a group of people who might not normally contribute to historical preservation — writers — with me acting as the conduit, providing education and expertise that might not normally be available in their area. So far, we have taught over 2000 students. Other ways History Matters raises money is through meet and greets, speaking engagements, gala events, receptions, luncheons, dinners, club meetings, or a cocktail party.  We have participated in many of these.  To date, we’ve raised $600,000 for various projects.  We have several more scheduled this year, all of which can be found at http://www.steveberry.org under History Matters.  All people have to do to help is drop us an e-mail and let us know if there is a project in their area.  We’d love to do one in England.

  Sell Kings Deception to the readers in your own words…what makes it stand out from the crowd?

 The answer to the second question above lays out the basic premise of the great secret at the novel’s heart.  But it’s also a modern day political thriller with a solid historic hook.  You’re going to learn things about English history you never knew.

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Filed under Action/ Adventure Thrillers, Historical Fiction