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Be careful in vineyards

October Man Book Cover October Man
Rivers of London
Ben Aaronovitch
crime fiction, mystery, thriller, Greeks, and Romans,Urban fantasy
Gollancz
| 13 Jun 2019

Trier is famous for wine, Romans and for being Germany's oldest city. So when a man is found dead with, his body impossibly covered in a fungal rot, the local authorities know they are out of their depth.

Fortunately this is Germany, where there are procedures for everything.

Enter Investigator Tobias Winter, whose aim is to get in, deal with the problem, and get out with the minimum of fuss, personal danger and paperwork. With the help of frighteningly enthusiastic local cop, Vanessa Sommer, he's quick to link the first victim to a group of ordinary middle aged men - and to realise they may have accidentally reawakened a bloody conflict from a previous century. But the rot is still spreading, literally and with the suspect list extending to people born before Frederick the Great solving the case may mean unearthing the city's secret magical history.

. . . so long as that history doesn't kill them first.

This book takes us away from the usual London magic haunt and Peter to Germany and a new character who was apprenticed to a Mistress Practitioner of Magic – in the police of course.

Germany suffered badly after the war and its initial need for practitioners was to eradicate the werewolves, it was only once that task had been completed that it was possible to look at the strange occurrences from a policing viewpoint. But as in Britain, the official practitioners had been decimated by the magical battles and ‘magic ‘ police were still learning and had not yet linked up with the more established London police.

Nonetheless, it was rivers and their goddesses that were causing issues. Or perhaps one could say more accurately the lack of such goddesses and their worship.  Especially as some rivers had ‘birthed’ baby goddesses, who being toddlers really had little control of their powers. So we get wine growing, rivers and some very strange deaths and perhaps a new apprentice.

Nice but not quite as original and atmospheric as the London stories.

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Lose Nothing

Nothing to lose Book Cover Nothing to lose
Ziba MacKenzie #2
Victoria Selman
police procedurals, psychological thrillers
Thomas & Mercer
26 Mar 2019

He’s looking for his next victim. She looks just like his last.

Primrose Hill, London. Offender Profiler Ziba MacKenzie arrives at the scene of a gruesome murder with a disturbing sense of déjà vu. Nine days earlier, another woman’s body was found: same location, same MO, same physical appearance. For the police, it’s clear a new serial killer is on the loose. But for Ziba, it’s even more sinister—because the victims look just like her.

Ziba has been the focus of a killer’s interest before, and knows that if she gets too close again this case could be her last. Still, she’s not one to play by the rules—especially when her secret investigation into her husband’s murder begins to attract unwanted attention.

With someone watching her every step, can Ziba uncover what connects the two victims before she becomes one herself?

This is number 2 in this series about a profiler looking for her husband’s murderer and the reason why he was murdered. Even going so far as to bring in Wolfie for extra help.

Our profiler is still grieving and as such is perhaps not as clear-headed as she should be and so makes mistakes. Ones she should know better than …

For me, the writing style had improved over book 1 and so was the story-telling. As with all these genre of books, red herrings abound and there is a great twist to the ending.

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What a Gothic Tale

Nettie's Secret Book Cover Nettie's Secret
Dilly Court
Romance , Women's Fiction
HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction
Pub Date 16 May 2019

The new novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author.

As the wind whipped around her, dragging strands of hair from beneath her bonnet and tugging at her skirt, Nettie left behind the only home she’d ever known…

London, 1875. Taking one last look around her little room in Covent Garden, Nettie Carroll couldn’t believe she wouldn’t even be able to say goodbye to her friends. Her father had trusted the wrong man, and now they would have to go on the run. Once again.

Well I think Nettie wrote her own Gothic novel in this story with its ups and downs and the frequent villains and flitting from police and and and…

I really enjoyed this book after a slow start. Do persevere as it gets better. The fake paintings are very current as there was an article in the Guardian newspaper on Saturday 15th June claiming that a museum dedicated to the work of Étienne Terrus (a friend of Matisse but lesser known) has now discovered that most of the paintings (60%) are fakes.. https://www.theguardian.com/global/2019/jun/15/french-art-museum-full-of-fakes-etienne-terrus

It seems that top artist fakes are now too easily found so people are copying the work of lesser known artists. But when this novel is set, fakes of well known artists were much rarer. Amusingly earlier this year it was discovered that what was thought to be a fake Botticelli was actually real!

So Nettie lives in dire poverty in reality with almost no protein and in the slums of London with a father who is profligate yet without earning much at all.

To find out a little more about Victorian life, wages and cost of living I did a little exploring. I found the following quote from Dickens:

There are several grades of lawyers’ clerks. There is the articled clerk, who has paid a premium, and is an attorney in perspective, who runs a tailor’s bill, receives invitations to parties, knows a family in Gower Street, and another in Tavistock Square; who goes out of town every long vacation to see his father, who keeps live horses innumerable; and who is, in short, the very aristocrat of clerks. There is the salaried clerk—out of door, or in door, as the case may be—who devotes the major part of his thirty shillings a week to his Personal pleasure and adornments, repairs half-price to the Adelphi Theatre at least three times a week, dissipates majestically at the cider cellars afterwards, and is a dirty caricature of the fashion which expired six months ago. There is the middle-aged copying clerk, with a large family, who is always shabby, and often drunk. And there are the office lads in their first surtouts, who feel a befitting contempt for boys at day-schools, club as they go home at night, for saveloys and porter, and think there’s nothing like ‘life.’ Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers,1836

For interest I found the following statistics:

For the average coffee-stall keeper, general labourer or female copy clerk in the City the wages/salary was – £1 per week: http://victorian-era.org/the-victorian-era-wages-salary-earnings.html

And Clerks in general were paid as follows:

The cost of accommodation – bearing in mind that in this era nearly everyone rented was:

If you worked at sewing as Nettie did then you could be expected to be paid as follows:

So you can see that it was very difficult to make ends meet unless you were middle class earners.

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When you need a Miracle

Miracle Creek Book Cover Miracle Creek
Angie Kim
Mystery & Thrillers General Fiction (Adult) ,
Hodder & Stoughton
Pub Date 16 Apr 2019

A thrilling debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng about how far we'll go to protect our families - and our deepest secrets.

In rural Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine - a pressurised oxygen chamber that patients enter for "dives", used as an alternative therapy for conditions including autism and infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos' small community.

Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak themselves, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night: trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges, as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice.

Angie Kim's Miracle Creek is a thoroughly contemporary take on the courtroom drama, drawing on the author's own life as a Korean immigrant, former trial lawyer, and mother of a real-life "submarine" patient. Both a compelling page-turner and an excavation of identity and the desire for connection, Miracle Creek is a brilliant, empathetic debut from an exciting new voice.

A disastrous event – deliberately caused – but by whom?

So there is a trial as the detectives think they know the answer to the question, and the story covers this trial as they try to establish the truth of the arson and thus murder.

But as the trial progresses, what started out as a small white innocuous lie seems to be just one lie among many, by many.

The untruths start spilling out and what seems obvious starts to become a lie too. And the little white lies become big and important.

I like the twist of using Korean immigrants and allowing their traditions to influence their behaviour in this story.

And note, all the treatments Elizabeth uses, including HBOT, seem to be at least partially recognised as potential ‘cures’ or assistance in alleviating autism. None of course have passed clinical trials so they are difficult to assess their outcomes, especially as many are used alongside each other.

Note that the author has used HBOT herself and is a trial lawyer and a Korean immigrant.

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And sail away

The Backpacking Housewife: The Adventure Continues Book Cover The Backpacking Housewife: The Adventure Continues
#2 The Backpacking Housewife
Janice Horton
Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy
HarperImpulse
(19 Sept. 2019)

They say home is really where the heart is… Lori Anderson should be bursting with happiness. Since leaving behind her life as a housewife to embark on an incredible backpacking adventure she’s met a man she’s fallen head over heels in love with and is living aboard a yacht in the turquoise waters of the sun-drenched Caribbean. She should be instagramming photos of her swimming with dolphins and sipping cocktails at sunset….and yet Lori finds herself desperately missing her grown-up family, and her normal London life. But when she’s unexpectedly called home, reality hits hard. The urban bustle she used to find exciting is now just exhausting – and why doesn’t it ever stop raining? If there’s one thing Lori has learnt it’s that you have to fight for what might make you truly happy – so Lori is determined not to let her chance of a little slice of paradise slip through her fingers….

This is the latest in this series but I was new to the books and story.

To summarise. Our housewife had put her career on hold to support her husband and raise the children and then he ran off with her best friend – after her finding them in her bed together.

Fed-up she  filled a backpack and went on an adventure for a year or more. Working in eco-centres; helping animals in sanctuaries and eventually finding a rather dishy man who took her on his research ship as the housewife (! Irony) of the ship to cook etc.  They fall in love and this part of her story begins. With nefarious brothers, idyllic islands, butterflies and adventures.

My main issue was the section at the end of the book – after all the insect life had been killed by spraying with the relevant poison, how come small green butterflies survived? So for me, the ending was trite and spoilt it.

I’m giving this 3 stars for not thinking through the ending well enough.

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