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

Ghosts of the West BT Poster

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

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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

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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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#BlogTour #BookReview The Wrecking Storm (Thomas Tallant Mysteries 2) by Michael Ward @RandomTTours

The Wrecking Storm BT Poster

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Wrecking Storm by Michael Ward, the second in his Thomas Tallant historical mystery series. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in the tour and to the author for my digital review copy.

The Wrecking StormAbout the Book

London 1641. The poisonous dispute pushing King Charles and Parliament towards Civil War is reaching the point of no return. Law and order in the city are collapsing as Puritan radicals demand more concessions from the King. Bishops and lords are attacked in the streets as the Apprentice Boys run amok. Criminal gangs use the disorder to mask their activities while the people of London lock their doors and pray for deliverance.

No one is immune from the contagion. Two Jesuit priests are discovered in hiding and brutally executed – and soon the family of spice merchant Thomas Tallant is drawn into the spiral of violence. Tallant’s home is ransacked, his warehouse raided and his sister seized by kidnappers.

Thomas struggles to discover who is responsible, aided by the enigmatic Elizabeth Seymour, a devotee of science, maths and tobacco in equal measure. Together they enter a murky world of court politics, street violence, secret codes and poisoned letters, and confront a vicious gang leader who will stop at nothing to satisfy his greed.

Can Elizabeth use her skills to unpick the mass of contradictory evidence before the Tallants are ruined – both as a business and a family?

And as the fight for London between King and Parliament hurtles to its dramatic conclusion, can the Tallants survive the personal and political maelstrom?

Format: ebook (218 pages)            Publisher:
Publication date: 22nd April 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

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My Review

The Wrecking Storm is the second book in Michael Ward’s historical mystery series featuring Thomas Tallant, the son of a London spice merchant. The book can be read as a standalone but those who have read the first book in the series, Rags of Time, will benefit from greater knowledge of the main characters. I was particularly pleased to see the return of Thomas’s friend, the pipe-smoking Elizabeth Seymour whose interest in science and mathematics often helps her to come at problems from a different perspective than everyone else.

The book opens in 1641 during the turbulent period before the outbreak of the English Civil War. The execution of Thomas Wentworth, the Earl of Strafford, and rumours of papal plots has created turmoil on the streets of London as opposing groups – both religious and political – clash. The conflict provides cover for those with more nefarious objectives.

Initially it is the brutal murder of two Jesuit priests that is the focus of an investigation by two of Thomas’s acquaintances: his fellow Member of Parliament, Sir Barty Hopkins, and Robert Petty, chief investigator to the Merchant Adventurers. When it is discovered one of the murder victims had been in hiding close to the Tallant family’s warehouse on the banks of the River Thames, it all becomes a little too close to home. What Thomas doesn’t realize is just how much closer to home things will soon get.

Together, Thomas and Elizabeth set out to discover who – and why – the Tallant family is being targeted. The identity of the culprit will keep you guessing until the final pages of the book; if you guessed before then, you are extremely clever!

The author skilfully incorporates the fictional elements of the story into actual historical events, such as King Charles’s attempt to arrest John Pym and four of his fellow MPs in the House of Commons chamber. The book closes with the threat of civil war looming, the ‘wrecking storm’ of the book’s title. As Thomas observes, ‘Our family has experienced what awaits us all. Father against son. Husband against wife. Brother against brother.’ It will be interesting to see how events unfold for Thomas, Elizabeth and their families.

In three words: Atmospheric, intriguing, lively

Try something similar: The Magick of Master Lilly by Tobsha Learner

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Mike Ward Author picAbout the Author

Writing has been central to Mike Ward’s professional life. On graduating from university he became a journalist, working in newspapers and for the BBC. He then went into journalism education, teaching and researching journalism practice before becoming head of the UK’s prestigious Journalism School at UCLan. For the last eight years he has run his own content creation company. Rags of Time was Mike’s debut novel.

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