My Week in Books – 30th September ’18


New arrivals  

A Pivotal RightA Pivotal Right (Shaking the Tree #2) by K. A. Servian (ebook, review copy courtesy of the author and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours)

Florence struggled for breath as she stared in the face of a ghost. “Jack?”

Twenty years after being forced apart Jack and Florence have been offered a second chance at love. But can they find their way back to each other through all the misunderstandings, guilt and pain? And what of their daughter, Viola? Her plan to become a doctor is based on the belief she has inherited her gift for medicine from Emile, the man she believed was her father. How will she reconcile her future with the discovery that she is Jack’s child?

A Pivotal Right is the second book in the Shaking the Tree series set in colonial New Zealand. It continues the story of Jack and Florence begun in The Moral Compass.

The Monastery MurdersThe Monastery Murders (Stanton & Barling #2) by E. M. Powell (ebook, review copy NetGalley and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours)

Their lives are ones of quiet contemplation – and brutal murder.

Christmas Eve, 1176. Brother Maurice, monk of Fairmore Abbey, awaits the night prayer bell. But there is only silence. Cursing his fellow brother Cuthbert’s idleness, he seeks him out – and in the darkness, finds him brutally murdered.

Summoned from London to the isolated monastery on the Yorkshire Moors, Aelred Barling, clerk to the King’s justices, and his messenger Hugo Stanton set about investigating the horrific crime. They quickly discover that this is far from a quiet monastic house. Instead, it seethes with bitter feuds, rivalries and resentments. But no sooner do they arrive than the killer strikes again – and again.

When Barling discovers a pattern to these atrocities, it becomes apparent that the murderer’s rampage is far from over. With everyone, including the investigators, now fearing for their lives, can Barling and Stanton unmask the culprit before more blood is spilled?

The Lion Tamer Who LostThe Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech (ebook)

Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes it hadn’t.

Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined.

Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it? What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?

A dark, consuming drama that shifts from Zimbabwe to England, and then back into the past, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a devastatingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart.

Miss MarleyMiss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye (proof copy, courtesy of HQ Stories)

Orphans Clara and Jacob Marley live by their wits, scavenging for scraps in the poorest alleyways of London, in the shadow of the workhouse. Every night, Jake promises his little sister ‘tomorrow will be better’ and when the chance to escape poverty comes their way, he seizes it despite the terrible price.

And so Jacob Marley is set on a path that leads to his infamous partnership with Ebenezer Scrooge. As Jacob builds a fortress of wealth to keep the world out, only Clara can warn him of the hideous fate that awaits him if he refuses to let love and kindness into his heart…

In Miss Marley, Vanessa Lafaye weaves a spellbinding Dickensian tale of ghosts, goodwill and hope – a perfect prequel to A Christmas Carol.

Pre-order Miss Marley from Amazon UK

On What Cathy Read Next last week

Blog posts

Monday – I published my review of The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason.

Tuesday –  This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was Books By My Favourite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read.  Plenty to choose from there…  I also published my review of The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana.  Jenny  is one of the many authors appearing at this year’s Henley Literary Festival which runs from Saturday 29th September to Sunday 7th October 2018.

WednesdayWWW Wednesday is the opportunity to share what I’ve just finished reading, what I’m reading now and what I’ll be reading next…and to go blog hopping.

Thursday – My Throwback Thursday post was a review of Please, Mister Postman by Alan Johnson, the second in his award-winning series of memoirs.  Alan is another author appearing at Henley Literary Festival 2018 and I’m excited to have a ticket to hear him speak on 30th September at the historic Kenton Theatre.

Friday – I shared my review of The Long and Winding Road by Alan Johnson, which continues the story of his life in and out of politics.

Saturday – I published my review of The Temptation by Vera Morris.  Vera is appearing at Henley Literary Festival’s ‘Crime and Wine’ event alongside Vaseem Khan, author of Murder at the Grand Raj Palace, and Jessica Fellowes, author of Bright Young Dead.

Sunday – I republished my review of Dear Mrs. Bird by A J Pearce to mark the author’s  appearance on 1st October at Henley Literary Festival 2018.  I also shared my publication day review of crime mystery The Moving Blade (Detective Hiroshi #2) by Michael Pronko, set in a vividly rendered Tokyo.

On What Cathy Read Next this week

Currently reading

Planned posts

  • Book Review: Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks
  • Book Review: Macbeth by Jo Nesbo
  • Book Review: Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
  • Book Review: Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan
  • Book Review: The Dark Tide by Vera Brittain
  • Book Review: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Book Review: The Moving Blade (Detective Hiroshi #2) by Michael Pronko

The Moving BladeAbout the Book

When the top American diplomat in Tokyo, Bernard Mattson, is killed, he leaves more than a lifetime of successful Japan-American negotiations. He leaves a missing manuscript, boxes of research, a lost keynote speech and a tangled web of relations.

When his alluring daughter, Jamie, returns from America wanting answers, finding only threats, Detective Hiroshi Shimizu is dragged from the safe confines of his office into the street-level realities of Pacific Rim politics.

With help from ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi, Hiroshi searches for the killer from back alley bars to government offices, through anti-nuke protests to military conspiracies. When two more bodies turn up, Hiroshi must choose between desire and duty, violence or procedure, before the killer silences his next victim.

Format: Paperback, ebook (339 pp.)    Publisher: Raked Gravel Press
Published: 30th September 2018   Genre: Crime, Thriller, Mystery

Purchase Links*  ǀ 
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Moving Blade (Detective Hiroshi #2)  on Goodreads

My Review

“A moving blade is unseen, hidden in the blur of motion, felt but not perceived.”

The Moving Blade is the second book in the Detective Hiroshi series, the sequel to The Last Train which I really enjoyed when I read it at the end of last year.  I was thrilled to be offered an advance review copy of The Moving Blade by the author and I’m delighted to report that it was just as enjoyable as its predecessor.

What I really liked about The Last Train was the insight it gave the reader into Japanese culture and its depiction of Tokyo life in all its variety.  I’m pleased to say this is equally the case in The Moving Blade, a result, no doubt, of the author’s experience of living and working in Tokyo for some years and of learning to navigate the intricacies of Japan’s social customs.

Like its predecessor, the book reveals the fascinating mix of old and new that makes up Japanese society: high-speed bullet trains and mobile phones alongside ceremonial swords and ancient Japanese woodprints.  Once again, I loved the insight into small details of Japanese social customs, such as bowing (‘the most fundamental Japanese ritual’) and the exchange of meishi name cards when meeting someone new.  Or the fact that surprises are something largely alien to Japanese culture: ‘In Japan, the details for everything  – a meeting, a conference, even a visit with friends – were worked out far in advance.’

Not forgetting, of course, the mouth-watering descriptions of food such as this account of a trip to a ramen shop:  ‘Jamie cracked open her chopsticks and surveyed the nori seaweed, chasu pork slices, green scallions and seasoned egg swimming in steaming broth.’   Plus I loved this portrayal of the district of Tokyo that sounds like a book lover’s Paradise.  ‘Along the main street of Jinbocho, store windows displayed journals, textbooks, magazines, manga, chapbooks, maps and prints – each store with its own speciality.  Library carts, fold-up tables and string-tied stacks of used books spilled onto the sidewalk.  Everywhere, people stood reading.’

Of course, alongside all this, there is a deliciously compelling crime mystery at the heart of The Moving Blade with Detective Hiroshi and his colleagues once again facing a ruthless killer.  However, this time, Hiroshi’s investigation takes him into a world of political conspiracy and corruption that increasingly seems to encompass the highest levels of power.  Along the way, the reader gets a fascinating history lesson about American-Japanese relations since the 1950s and the impact of realpolitik on the decisions governments make.   At one point, Hiroshi observes, “I never imagined the past could be so dangerous” and receives the astute response, “Nothing more dangerous”.

Last, but not least, the book presents Hiroshi with an opportunity to renew old friendships and make what might be promising new ones.  It also leaves him with some difficult choices about his career and personal life.  Oh, and he gets a bit battered and bruised along the way.

The Moving Blade is a compelling crime mystery that vividly brings to life contemporary Tokyo and also provides a fascinating insight into Japanese life and culture.  I can’t wait to read the third book in the series, promised for 2019.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of the author.

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In three words: Compelling, immersive, suspenseful

Try something similar…The Last Train by Michael Pronko (read my review here which also contains a link to my Q&A with Michael )

MichaelPronkoAbout the Author

Michael Pronko is the author of three award-winning collections of writings about life in Tokyo: Beauty and Chaos, Tokyo’s Mystery Deepens, and Motions and Moments. His debut novel, The Last Train, a Tokyo mystery, came out in 2017, winning several awards. The follow-up in the Hiroshi series, The Moving Blade, will be released in 2018.

He has written about Japanese culture, art, jazz, society and politics for Newsweek Japan, The Japan Times, Artscape Japan, Jazznin, and ST Shukan. He has appeared on NHK and Nippon Television and runs his own website, Jazz in Japan. A professor of American Literature and Culture at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo, after class he wanders Tokyo contemplating its intensity.

Connect with Michael

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