#BlogTour #BookReview Blasted Things by Lesley Glaister @sandstonepress

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Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Blasted Things by Lesley Glaister. My thanks to Ceris and Niki at Sandstone Press for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my review copy.


Blasted ThingsAbout the Book

1920: Britain is trying to forget the Great War.

Clementine, who nursed at the front and suffered losses, must bury the past. Then she meets Vincent, an opportunistic veteran whose damage goes much deeper than the painted tin mask he wears.

Their deadly relationship will career towards a dark and haunting resolution.

Format: Paperback (352 pages)              Publisher: Sandstone Press
Publication date: 16th September 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

Structured in three parts – Before, During and After – the opening chapters of Blasted Things transports the reader to the mayhem and horror of a Casualty Clearing Station close to the Front and the Allied trenches in 1918. The job of nurses like Clementine (Clem) and the other medical staff is to ‘patch up’ the wounded for the journey to hospital; many of them will not make it, dying on the operating table or from infection. The sheer awfulness of what Clem witnesses – the results of what human beings can do to other human beings – is vividly depicted. I loved the imaginative metaphors, such as the descrption of the sounds Clem hears as she lies exhausted on her bunk in her cramped quarters: ‘the rat-tat-tat of gunfire, rapid and snippy like the keys of two vast, duelling typewriters battering out threats to each other in a paper sky’.  Snatched moments of joy are intense and serve as a temporary distraction. Just how temporary, the reader will discover. The dramatic event which ends part one of the book is conveyed in a quite remarkable way. 

Part two of the book, set in 1920, sees Clem, now married and with a young child, suffering the after-effects of her wartime experiences. Taking the form of something between shellshock and post-natal depression, it brings Clem to the brink of a monstrous act. She spends the next few months confined to bed, isolated and in a drug-fuelled haze as a result of the medication prescribed by her doctor husband, Dennis. ‘Months, months after months, a blur. Fingers on the arms, a steel shaft in a vein, sparkle of drug in blood, limbs loose, child cries, someone always looking in…’  Clem imagines her brain as ‘a house with an upstairs room and a basement: the basement locked with a long, serious key’ containing the traumatic memories she dare not face, the memories Dennis urges her to put behind her.  Gradually, Clem recovers but she finds herself restless – ‘There is not enough – though enough of what she was not clear’ – and finally determined to assert herself. 

Chance brings an encounter with Vincent Fortune, left with severe facial wounds by his time in the trenches. Clem is drawn to him by a resemblence – real or imagined – to someone she once cared about deeply.  The mask Vincent wears seems as much a way of concealing the baser aspects of his nature as a means of hiding his injuries. Yet, as we learn more about his background, his wartime experiences and impact of his injuries, he becomes a slightly more sympathic character.  I was especially touched by his pathetic devotion to his landlady, Doll, imagining his feelings are returned despite all evidence to the contrary.  The events that follow will have consequences for Clem, revealing an unexpected source of love and loyalty, but even more so for Vincent.  His is a story of misfortune, not fortune, and the final sections of the book will surely tug at the heartstrings.

As Clem observes at one point, ‘It was normal to be damaged these days, visibly or not’. Blasted Things explores the multiple ways in which that damage can manifest itself and the struggle to overcome it, if indeed it ever can be. The book left a deep impression on me both for the quality of the writing and the power of the story it tells. 

In three words: Intense, compelling, moving

Try something similar: The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason

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Lesley Glaister (c) Gayle McIntyre - University of St AndrewsAbout the Author

Lesley Glaister is a fiction writer, poet, playwright and teacher of writing. She has published fourteen adult novels, the first of a YA trilogy and numerous short stories. She received both a Somerset Maugham and a Betty Trask award for Honour Thy Father (1990), and has won or been listed for several literary prizes for her other work. She has three adult sons and lives in Edinburgh (with frequent sojourns to Orkney) with husband Andrew Greig. She teaches creative writing at the University of St Andrews and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

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#BlogTour #BookReview Ghosts of the West by Alec Marsh @RandomTTours @AccentPress

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Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Ghosts of the West by Alec Marsh. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Headline for my digital review copy via NetGalley.


Ghosts of the West Cover -2About the Book

When daring journalist Sir Percival Harris gets wind of a curious crime in a sleepy English town, he ropes in his old friend Professor Ernest Drabble to help him investigate.

The crime is a grave robbery, and as Drabble and Harris pry deeper, events take a mysterious turn when a theft at the British Museum is soon followed by a murder.

The friends are soon involved in a tumultuous quest that takes them from the genteel streets of London to the wide plains of the United States. What exactly is at stake is not altogether clear – but if they don’t act soon, the outcome could be a bloody conflict, one that will cross borders, continents and oceans…

Meanwhile, can Drabble and Harris’s friendship – which has endured near-death experiences on several continents, not to mention a boarding school duel – survive a crisis in the shape of the beautiful and enigmatic Dr Charlotte Moore?

Format: Paperback (272 pages)            Publisher: Headline Accent
Publication date: 9th September 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Find Ghosts of the West on Goodreads

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My Review

Ghosts of the West is the third book in the Drabble and Harris series. I haven’t read either of the previous two books – Rule Britannia and Enemy of the Raj – so it took me a little bit of time to get to know Sir Percival Harris and Professor Ernest Drabble, especially as the author plunges the reader straight into the mystery. I think I would have benefited from having read the earlier books in the series to learn more about the backgrounds of Harris and Drabble. For example, how they met, how Harris earned his knighthood, and their ages. (They turned out to be much younger than I had imagined.) Harris is a journalist for whom it is ‘always the story’ whilst Cambridge University professor of history Drabble acts as his sidekick much in the manner of Dr. Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Their initial enquiries into the theft of artefacts lead them to attend a Wild West Show staged in lavish style, albeit conforming to the stereotypical views of the time – the Indians definitely being the ‘baddies’. The only truly authentic element of the show is an elderly Native American, Black Cloud. As Harris and Drabble interview him as part of their investigation the reader gets a lesson in American history from the perspective of the Native American people. It becomes clear what a raw deal they’ve had from US governments over the centuries: driven out of their ancestral lands, the buffalo they relied on for food wiped out, not to mention bloody encounters with the US cavalry. Whereas Drabble is engaged by the history of an indigenous people, Harris is excited at the prospect of a possible scoop if he can persuade Black Cloud to reveal who killed Colonel Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Harris and Drabble follow the cast of the Wild West Show as they travel across the Atlantic, with Harris drinking what seems at times enough to float the ocean liner they are aboard. At the Captain’s table Harris and Drabble encounter some of their fellow passengers, including Fanny Howell and Colonel Grant from the Wild West Show, as well as Major Sakamoto, a Japanese diplomat. As Harris and Drabble pursue their enquiries both find themselves in danger, giving rise to some hair-raising scenes and necessitating some daring escapes. Although the story is told from both Harris’ and Drabble’s point of view I felt I got to know the latter slightly better. Having said that, Drabble’s romantic encounter took me by surprise; I’d imagined him to be a dusty old professor but he proves to be nothing of the kind.

Set in 1937, there are references to the increasingly unstable situation in Europe and the territorial ambitions of Japan. But how might these be connected with rumours of a new determination by Native American tribes to restore their rights? Finding the answers takes Harris and Drabble to South Dakota for some exciting final scenes… and more narrow escapes.

Ghosts of the West is an entertaining historical mystery that moves along at pace. I thought the Native American angle of the plot was inventive and I enjoyed the banter between Harris and Drabble.

In three words: Amiable, ingenious, action-packed

Try something similar: Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons by David Stafford

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Alec Marsh Author PIcAbout the Author

Alec was born in Essex in 1975 and studied history at Newcastle University before embarking on a career in journalism. Over the last 20 years he has written for most of the national newspapers as well as for the New Statesman, the Spectator and Country Life. He is currently editor-at-large of Spear’s magazine, and lives in Essex with his wife and family.

Alec is the author of Rule Britannia, a light-hearted historical thriller set against the backdrop of the Abdication Crisis in 1936 – described by Rebus-creator Ian Rankin as ‘a rollicking good read’ and by Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency author Alexander McCall Smith as ‘an immensely readable treat’. Rule Britannia is the first in a series featuring protagonists Drabble and Harris and was published in October 2019 by Headline Accent. The second novel in the Drabble and Harris series, Enemy of the Raj, set in British India in 1937 was released in September 2020. He is working on the fourth novel in the Drabble and Harris series, which will be set in Turkey.

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