WWW Wednesdays – 31st January ’18


Hosted by Taking on a World of Words, this meme is all about the three Ws:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Why not join in too?  Leave a comment with your link at Taking on a World of Words and then go blog hopping!

Currently reading

The Mermaid & Mrs HancockThe Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (eARC, NetGalley)

This voyage is special. It will change everything…

One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.  As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost.

Where will their ambitions lead? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess?

TThe Renaissance Clubhe Renaissance Club by Rachel Dacus (ebook, review copy courtesy of Fiery Seas Publishing)

Would you give up everything, even the time in which you live, to be with your soul mate?

May Gold, a college adjunct teacher, often dreams about the subject of her master’s thesis – Gianlorenzo Bernini. In her fantasies, she’s in his arms, the wildly adored partner of the man who invented the Baroque.  But in reality, May has just landed in Rome with her teaching colleagues and older boyfriend. She considers herself a precocious failure and yearns to unleash her passion and creative spirit. Over the course of the tour, she realizes she has to choose: stay in a safe but stagnant existence or take a risk.

Will May’s adventure in time ruin her life or lead to a magical new one?

Recently finished (click on title for review)

TheCoffinPathThe Coffin Path by Katherine Clements (eARC, NetGalley)

Maybe you’ve heard tales about Scarcross Hall, the house on the old coffin path that winds from village to moor top. They say there’s something up here, something evil.

Mercy Booth isn’t afraid. The moors and Scarcross are her home and lifeblood. But, beneath her certainty, small things are beginning to trouble her. Three ancient coins missing from her father’s study, the shadowy figure out by the gatepost, an unshakeable sense that someone is watching.  When a stranger appears seeking work, Mercy reluctantly takes him in. As their stories entwine, this man will change everything. She just can’t see it yet.

The Power-House CoverThe Power-House by John Buchan (hardcover)

When his friend Charles Pitt-Heron vanishes mysteriously, Sir Edward Leithen is at first only mildly concerned. But a series of strange events that follow Pitt-Heron’s disappearance convinces Leithen that he is dealing with a sinister secret society. Their codename is ‘The Power-House’. The authorities are unable to act without evidence. As he gets deeper involved with the underworld, Leithen finds himself facing the enemy alone and in terrible danger.

Call Me By Your NameCall Me By Your Name by André Aciman (ebook)

During a restless summer on the Italian Riviera, a powerful romance blooms between seventeen-year-old Elio and his father’s house guest, Oliver. Unrelenting currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire threaten to overwhelm the lovers who at first feign indifference to the charge between them. What grows from the depths of their souls is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration, and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing they both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy. (Review to follow)

What Cathy (will) Read Next

TThe Wicked Comethhe Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin (eARC, NetGalley)

The year is 1831. Down the murky alleyways of London, acts of unspeakable wickedness are taking place and no one is willing to speak out on behalf of the city’s vulnerable poor as they disappear from the streets.  Out of these shadows comes Hester White, a bright young woman who is desperate to escape the slums by any means possible.

When Hester is thrust into the world of the aristocratic Brock family, she leaps at the chance to improve her station in life under the tutelage of the fiercely intelligent and mysterious Rebekah Brock. But whispers from her past slowly begin to poison her new life and both she and Rebekah are lured into the most sinister of investigations.  Hester and Rebekah find themselves crossing every boundary they’ve ever known in pursuit of truth, redemption and passion. But their trust in each other will be tested as a web of deceit begins to unspool, dragging them into the blackest heart of a city where something more depraved than either of them could ever imagine is lurking…

The Optickal IllusionThe Optickal Illusion by Rachel Halliburton (ARC, courtesy of Duckworth)

It is 1797 and in Georgian London, nothing is certain anymore: the future of the monarchy is in question, the city is aflame with conspiracies, and the French could invade any day. Amidst this feverish atmosphere, the American painter Benjamin West is visited by a dubious duo comprised of a blundering father and vibrant daughter, the Provises, who claim they have a secret that has obsessed painters for centuries: the Venetian techniques of master painter Titian.

West was once the most celebrated painter in London, but he hasn’t produced anything of note in years, so against his better judgment he agrees to let the intriguing Ann Jemima Provis visit his studio and demonstrate the techniques from the document. What unravels reveals more than West has ever understood – about himself, the treachery of the art world, and the seductive promise of greatness. Rich in period detail of a meticulously crafted Georgian society, The Optickal Illusion demonstrates the lengths women must go to make their mark on a society that seeks to underplay their abilities.

Buchan of the Month: The Power-House by John Buchan

Buchan of the Month

The Power-House 1stAbout the Book

When his friend Charles Pitt-Heron vanishes mysteriously, Sir Edward Leithen is at first only mildly concerned. But a series of strange events that follow Pitt-Heron’s disappearance convinces Leithen that he is dealing with a sinister secret society. Their codename is ‘The Power-House’. The authorities are unable to act without evidence. As he gets deeper involved with the underworld, Leithen finds himself facing the enemy alone and in terrible danger.

N.B. The details below are for the collected edition of the Leithen stories.  The Power-House is also widely available as a standalone book.

Format: ebook, paperback (348 pp.)  Publisher: Canongate Books
Published: 1st July 2010                        Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk ǀ  Amazon.com
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme


Find ‘The Power-House’ in The Leithen Stories on Goodreads

My Review

The Power-House is the first book in my Buchan of the Month reading project.  In this case, it is a reread as it’s a book I’ve read several times before.  For a spoiler-free introduction to The Power-House, click here.

Our narrator is Sir Edward Leithen, in his first appearance in a Buchan adventure.  A barrister and Member of Parliament, he describes himself as ‘a placid, sedentary soul’.  In fact, his friend Tommy Deloraine observes acutely, ‘Life goes roaring by and you only hear the echo in your stuffy rooms.’  This all changes when, by a series of seemingly unconnected events, Leithen is drawn into investigating the unexplained disappearance of Charles Pitt-Heron.   Like Leithen, the reader’s interest has by now been aroused: ‘…for every man at the bottom of his heart believes that he is a born detective.’

In his dedication to The Thirty-Nine Steps, Buchan said that his aim was to write ‘romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible.’  Well, it has to be said that the author pushes to the limits the boundaries of the possible in The Power-House.  As Leithen himself admits, ‘I had collected by accident a few odd, disjointed pieces of information, and here by the most amazing accident of all was the connecting link.’

That link resides in the person of a man, Mr Andrew Lumley. Lumley is an example of one of the characteristic features of a Buchan “shocker” (his term for his adventure stories); the concept of an immense intellect unconstrained by common notions of morality.  Similar, if you like, to Professor Moriarty in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Furthermore, the idea of an underground global organisation, subtly wielding the levers of power for malevolent ends but whose members possesses a cloak of respectability.

As events progress, Leithen comes to realise the perceived safety of the London he knows so well is a mere facade.  Not only is he being watched but his watchers likely have more sinister objectives.  In some of the most brilliant scenes in the book, Buchan describes how Leithen comes close to falling into the hands of the secret organisation known as the Power House even as he walks the crowded streets of the city.  He observes, ‘Now I saw how thin is the protection of civilisation.’  The fragility of civilisation is another frequent theme of Buchan’s adventure stories.  As Lumley warns Leithen: “You think that a wall as solid at the earth separates civilisation from barbarism.  I tell you the division is a thread, a sheet of glass.” Kate Macdonald, an acknowledged expert on Buchan, explores this idea in more detail in her article ‘Hunted Men in John Buchan’s London’.

The Power-House is an entertaining story that features many of the elements that would reappear a few years later in Buchan’s most well-known and successful book, The Thirty-Nine Steps.  A relatively short book, The Power-House is an easy read thanks to Buchan’s effortless prose.  It should probably be considered a rehearsal, a first attempt, to master the style of the type of adventure story that would later make his name.

My next Buchan book is completely different in tone – it’s John Macnab.  I’ll be posting an introduction to it shortly with my review due at the end of February.  Why not read along with me…

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In three words: Entertaining, well-paced, adventure

Try something similar…Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household

About the Author

John Buchan (1875 – 1940) was an author, poet, lawyer, publisher, journalist, war correspondent, Member of Parliament, University Chancellor, keen angler and family man.  He was ennobled and, as Lord Tweedsmuir, became Governor-General of Canada.  In this role, he signed Canada’s entry into the Second World War.   Nowadays he is probably best known – maybe only known – as the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps.  However, in his lifetime he published over 100 books: fiction, poetry, short stories, biographies, memoirs and history.

You can find out more about John Buchan, his life and literary output by visiting The John Buchan Society website.