#BookReview The Drowned City (Daniel Pursglove 1) by K. J. Maitland @headlinepg

The Drowned CityAbout the Book

1606. A year to the day that men were executed for conspiring to blow up Parliament, a towering wave devastates the Bristol Channel. Some proclaim God’s vengeance. Others seek to take advantage.

In London, Daniel Pursglove lies in prison waiting to die. But Charles FitzAlan, close adviser to King James I, has a job in mind that will free a man of Daniel’s skill from the horrors of Newgate. If he succeeds.

For Bristol is a hotbed of Catholic spies, and where better for the lone conspirator who evaded arrest, one Spero Pettingar, to gather allies than in the chaos of a drowned city? Daniel journeys there to investigate FitzAlan’s lead, but soon finds himself at the heart of a dark Jesuit conspiracy – and in pursuit of a killer.

Format: Hardcover (448 pages)  Publisher: Headline
Publication date: 1st April 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

The author has created an interesting character in Daniel Pursglove. I liked the way small details about his often troubled past were dropped in now and again, laying the groundwork for future books. I also liked that the book was set in Bristol – the ‘drowned city’ of the title – not only because it made a change from the oft-used setting of London but also because it made sense from the point of view of the plot.

The writing was of the quality I’ve come to expect from other books I’ve read by the author, most recently A Gathering of Ghosts. Some episodes that particularly stood out were the dramatic prologue, a scene in which a Protestant mob attacks the house of a cordwainer and his family, and the New Year’s Eve masque.

Like any good hero, Daniel has some narrow escapes from those out to stop him achieving his mission.  This includes an adversary from his younger days. However, he always miraculously manages to turn up safely in his bed at his lodgings in the Salt Cat tavern. He also acquires a useful helper along the way whose knowledge of the city and ability to pass unnoticed aids Daniel’s intelligence gathering efforts as he seeks to carry out his mission but also determine if there is any connection between it and a series of murders.

No historical novel set in the period is complete without an appearance by one of the Cecil family; in this case it’s Robert Cecil. I actually felt some sympathy for him having to deal with the petulant and easily influenced King James I the author presents in the book. Although, with the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot still within recent memory, perhaps the King can be forgiven for imagining assassins at every turn and being concerned that one of the conspirators may still be at large. (I confess that until I read the historical notes at the end of the book I hadn’t realised Spero Pettingar was a real historical figure. For much of the book, I was convinced his name was an anagram!) And there are still adherents of Catholicism to be dealt with as well as the Jacobean equivalent of fake news, spread via illicitly printed pamphlets or ‘broadsides’. As Cecil warns the King, “Sire, even a superstition, if it takes hold of the imagination of the people, can be as powerful a weapon as any truth.” Indeed.

The Drowned City has all the ingredients to make an absorbing historical thriller although at certain points I found it on the slow side. However, it certainly picked up pace towards the end. As Daniel confides, ‘The art of legerdemain is to make the audience look in the wrong place’. In my case the author didn’t quite manage that when it came to the identity of the culprit whom I’d had my suspicions about for a few chapters, but I found enough to enjoy in The Drowned City to make me look out for future books in the series.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Headline via NetGalley.

In three words: Atmospheric, intriguing, dramatic

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karen maitlandAbout the Author

Karen Maitland (writing as K. J. Maitland) is an historical novelist, lecturer and teacher of Creative Writing, with over twenty books to her name. She grew up in Malta, which inspired her passion for history, and travelled and worked all over the world before settling in the United Kingdom. She has a doctorate in psycholinguistics, and now lives on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon. (Photo/bio credit: Publisher author page)

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#BookReview The Consequences of Fear (Maisie Dobbs #16) by Jacqueline Winspear @AllisonandBusby

The Consequences of Fear Blog Tour Twitter Graphic

I’m delighted to welcome you to the first stop on the blog tour for The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear. My thanks to Christina at Allison & Busby for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital review copy via NetGalley.

The Consequences of FearAbout the Book

London, September 1941. Freddie Hackett, a message runner for a government office, witnesses an argument that ends in murder. Hiding in the doorway of a bombed-out house, Freddie waits until the coast is clear. But when he arrives at his next delivery address, he’s shocked to come face-to-face with the killer.

Dismissed by the police when reporting the crime, Freddie turns to private investigator Maisie Dobbs. While Maisie believes the boy and wants to help, she must exercise caution given her work with the French resistance. When she spots the killer in a place she least expects, she soon realises she’s been pulled into the orbit of a man who has his own reasons to kill – reasons that go back to the last war.

Format: Hardcover (352 pages)       Publisher: Allison & Busby
Publication date: 23rd March 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Crime

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My Review

I was a late arrival at the party when it comes to Jacqueline Winspear’s hugely popular series, my first introduction being The American Agent, the fifteenth outing for the intrepid and resourceful Maisie Dobbs. Ardent fans of the series will have been eagerly anticipating Maisie’s next adventure but even if – like me – you’re a recent convert, or indeed if The Consequences of Fear will be your first foray into Maisie’s world, I guarantee you’ll quickly be drawn into the story.

Although there are brief references to Maisie’s previous cases and it may take a bit of time to sort out the various members of her extended family, The Consequences of Fear can definitely be enjoyed by readers new to the series. Those familiar with her previous adventures will be pleased to see the return of characters such as Billy Beale, Maisie’s assistant in her private investigation business, intelligence chief Robert MacFarlane and Anna, her adopted daughter. Not forgetting, of course, Maisie’s ‘gentleman friend’, Mark Scott.

As well as the ever reliable Billy, Maisie has a number of resources to call upon to help with her investigation, including her friends Priscilla and Gabriella. As Maisie observes, ‘She had her worker bees, valuable contacts who would seek whatever information she needed, buzzing around their gardens of endeavour until they found the pockets of intelligence she had requested.’ Unfortunately, being one of Maisie’s ‘worker bees’ can sometimes be a risky business. And when all else fails, Maisie can call on her memories of the wise advice of her former mentor, Maurice Blanche.

The book’s title is cleverly explored in various ways. For example, as one character remarks early on in the book, “where secrets reside, so does fear – it’s the unknown.” It transpires there are indeed secrets to be revealed some of which go longer back in time than anyone might imagine. Whilst fear can be ‘the scariest of emotions…a seed in the fertile seed of doubt’, it can also bring much-needed alertness. ‘Fear had to be handled with care, managed so it became a tool, not a weight.’

Increasingly, Maisie feels the tension between the important but secret work she undertakes alongside the cases that come to her private investigation business, and her new caring responsibilities. It doesn’t help that her secret work involves potentially life or death decisions about others, or that Mark Scott’s equally confidential work takes him away frequently. Naturally, like the rest of the population, she’s also concerned about her family’s safety –  the threat of further bombing raids and the possibility of invasion. ‘She realised that she had never trusted the world to keep herself or those she loved safe.’ It all leads at one point to Maisie concluding, “I think I’ve had enough”.

By the end of the book, I think even new readers will have come to the conclusion that Maisie doesn’t easily give in to fear when it comes to pursuing her investigations. But what about fear of commitment in her personal relationships? Should Maisie heed the advice that ‘Love is always worth the leap’? (I know my answer in Maisie’s case!)

The backdrop of wartime of London is vividly evoked: checking the blackout curtains as darkness falls, listening to the rumble of bombers overhead, navigating streets of bombed out houses, seeing young boys like Freddie Hackett running through the dark streets carrying messages between Air Raid Precautions depots.

The book’s conclusion sees scenes of both sorrow and joy, and – tantalizingly – a world on the brink of a new phase of the war.  As a now committed Maisie fan, I say roll on the next book!

In three words: Gripping, intriguing, atmospheric

Try something similar: The Mathematical Bridge by Jim Kelly

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Jacqueline WinspearAbout the Author

Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in Kent and emigrated to the USA in 1990. She has written extensively for journals, newspapers and magazines, and has worked in book publishing on both sides of the Atlantic. Her acclaimed Maisie Dobbs crime series, set in the aftermath of WWI, is beloved by readers worldwide.  (Photo/bio credit: Publisher author page)

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