#BookReview The Red Monarch by Bella Ellis @hodderbooks

The Red MonarchAbout the Book

The Brontë sisters’ first poetry collection has just been published, potentially marking an end to their careers as amateur detectors, when Anne receives a letter from her friend Lydia Robinson.

Lydia has eloped with a young actor, Harry Roxby, and following her disinheritance, the couple been living in poverty in London. Harry has become embroiled with a criminal gang and is in terrible danger after allegedly losing something very valuable that he was meant to deliver to their leader. The desperate and heavily pregnant Lydia has a week to return what her husband supposedly stole, or he will be killed. She knows there are few people who she can turn to in this time of need, but the sisters agree to help Lydia, beginning a race against time to save Harry’s life.

In doing so, our intrepid sisters come face to face with a terrifying adversary whom even the toughest of the slum-dwellers are afraid of…The Red Monarch.

Format: Hardcover (352 pages)             Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 18th November 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime, Mystery

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My Review

In The Red Monarch the Brontë sisters, along with their brother Branwell, leave their beloved Yorkshire Moors for the much less salubrious streets of Victorian London. As well as viewing it as a mission of mercy there is also, they have to admit, the thrill of having a new case to investigate and the prospect of  ‘adventure aplenty and fiendishly difficult riddles to be solved’. Sounds good to me, and so it turns out.

Charlotte, as the last surviving sister, is once again given the role of custodian of the accounts of their hitherto unknown adventures as ‘lady detectorists’. There is a poignant moment in the book when Anne reassures Charlotte, ‘We shall always be at your side, irritating your every thought always, I swear it’ causing Charlotte to shudder ‘as if someone had just walked over her grave… an unwelcome message delivered from an uncertain future’.

As in the two previous books – The Vanished Bride and The Diabolical Bones – the individual characters of the siblings are carefully drawn. Indeed, the sisters themselves recognise one another’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to their role as investigators of crime. Anne’s gift, in Charlotte’s words, is ‘to intuit revelations that are invaluable’, whilst Anne praises Charlotte’s ‘bravery and cleverness’. Emily is the adventurer of the trio, as she soon proves. And Branwell? Well, he comes in useful as a protector when he’s able to lift himself from his current melancholy state, the result of an unsuccessful (real life) love affair.

The bond between the sisters is touching, Charlotte declaring at one point ‘we are never alone when we have one another’. Their other shared passion is, of course, writing although at this point in their lives they are yet to write the novels that will make them famous and are eagerly awaiting the first review of their volume of poetry. Every author knows what that’s like! In one memorable scene Charlotte encounters a famous (male) writer who is dismissive of her literary ambitions. Fortunately, she receives a more sympathetic and encouraging response from a female novelist quite famous in her day but now, I suspect, little known. The said lady novelist proves a useful ally as well.

I had fun spotting allusions to people or places in the Brontë sisters’ novels, including one which refers to a misreading of the title of one of the sister’s poems. Full disclosure: I had to Google that one and I’m sure there were others that I missed! Such references demonstrate the author’s extensive knowledge of, and obvious affection for, the Brontës and their works, as well as acting as little gifts for the observant reader.

Of course there is also an intriguing mystery to be solved that involves Emily, Charlotte, Anne and Branwell exploring ‘the dark and undoubtedly dangerous underworld of the grimmest and most violent parts of the city’. I’ll say. What they uncover is a web of evil and depravity that reaches into the highest echelons of society.

The Red Monarch is another terrific instalment in what has become one of my favourite historical mystery series. It’s a book (and a series) I can highly recommended for fans of historical mysteries or of the Brontës.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton via NetGalley. You can read more reviews of The Red Monarch by following the book bloggers taking part in the blog tour, such as this review by Steph at Steph’s Book Blog or this one by Eva at Novel Deelights.

In three words: Intriguing, suspenseful, atmospheric

Try something similarThe House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

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Rowan ColemanAbout the Author

Rowan Coleman is the Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author of sixteen novels including the Richard and Judy pick The Memory Book and the Zoe Ball bookclub choice, The Summer of Impossible Things.

Rowan also writes the Brontë Mysteries under the name Bella Ellis, a series that imagines that before they were world renowned novelists the Bronte sisters were amateur sleuths. These include The Vanished Bride, The Diabolical Bones and The Red Monarch with more on the way in 2022.  (Photo: Goodreads/Bio: Author website)

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#BlogTour #BookReview #Giveaway The Custard Corpses by M.J. Porter @rararesources

The Custard Corpses Full Tour BannerWelcome to the first day of the blog tour for The Custard Corpses by M.J. Porter. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for my digital review copy. Do check out the posts by my tour buddies for today, Jo at books_for_the_shed and Lynn at Ellesea Loves Reading.

WinIf you like the sound of The Custard Corpses, then I’m pleased to say there’s a giveaway with a chance to win one of two copies of the book. Enter via Rafflecopter here.

Giveaway terms and conditions

  1. Open to entrants aged 18 or over.
  2. Worldwide entries welcome.
  3. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner.
  4. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.
  5. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize

The Custard CorpsesAbout the Book

Birmingham, England 1943. While the whine of the air raid sirens might no longer be rousing him from bed every night, a two-decade-old unsolved murder case will ensure that Chief Inspector Mason of Erdington Police Station is about to suffer more sleepless nights.

Young Robert McFarlane’s body was found outside the local church hall on 30th September 1923. But, his cause of death was drowning, and he’d been missing for three days before his body was found. No one was ever arrested for the crime. No answers could ever be given to the grieving family. The unsolved case has haunted Mason ever since.

But, the chance discovery of another victim, with worrying parallels, sets Mason, and his constable, O’Rourke, on a journey that will take them back over twenty-five years, the chance to finally solve the case, while all around them is uncertainty, impossible to ignore.

Format: ebook (225 pages)               Publisher: N/A
Publication date:  21st March 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime, Mystery

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My Review

Ever mindful of the murder on his patch that remains unsolved and determined to one day provide the answers the victim’s family crave, as well as to bring the culprit to justice, Chief Inspector Sam Mason leaves no stone unturned when new evidence puts a completely different slant on the case.  Is there a link between the murder of Robert McFarlane and that of another murdered boy? If so, what could it be and what is the significance of the curious modus operandi of the killer?

Much like custard, as the plot thickens a series of fortunate discoveries lead to a painstaking search for clues and a delve into the past as Mason and his assistant, Constable O’Rourke, try to piece together the often flimsy evidence gathered at the time. With no recourse to modern forensic techniques, it’s down to good old-fashioned paper and pencil, and searches through dusty archives (all fuelled by plentiful cups of tea) that eventually provide Mason and O’Rourke with the breakthrough they have been looking for. But what they discover is more disturbing than they might have imagined.  I’ll admit I found some of it unexpectedly macabre.

The plot of The Custard Corpses is certainly ingenious and, of course, custard is delicious. However, given the nature of the victims, it isn’t what I would describe as a ‘cosy’ mystery.

In three words: Ingenious, intricate, suspenseful

Try something similarThe Ghost Tree (A Betty Church Mystery #3) by M.R.C. Kasasian

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About the Author

M.J. Porter writes: “I’m an author of historical fiction (Early English, Vikings and the British Isles as a whole before the Norman Conquest) and fantasy (Viking age/dragon-themed). I’ve recently written a relatively modern mystery novel set in 1943. I was born in the old Mercian kingdom at some point since 1066. Raised in the shadow of a strange little building, told from a very young age that it housed the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia and that our garden was littered with old pieces of pottery from a long-ago battle, it’s little wonder that my curiosity in Early England ran riot. I can only blame my parents! I write a LOT. You’ve been warned!”

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The Custard Corpses