All posts tagged: Britain

Dissolution – C. J. Sansom

Dissolution is one of those immaculate novels where the reader is immersed in history, not that history is a heavy cloak, but where the author brings a period in time to life and the pages are saturated in historical details which makes the time period in question even more vivid. C. J. Sansom works magic in Dissolution. I could actually feel the stigma of being a hunchback, as the main character is, feel the mud of a cold November road cling to my shoes, and feel the warmth of a well-stoked fire in an otherwise stone cold room. The relevant time-period is 1537 and for once, the plot line is not Henry VIII and his capricious love affairs, leaving many a wife dead. Henry has proclaimed himself Supreme Head of the Church, and Thomas Cromwell implements new laws and the following terrorizing regime of trails both swiftly and without compromise. One order of business is ensuring the obedience of the monasteries and the building of wealth through the monasteries’ concession to the crown. A commissioner …

Instruments of Darkness – Imogen Robertson

“Instruments of Darkness” depicts an interesting historical time around the 1770s. Although the main plot plays out in England, there are shapshots of the American war of independence and life at sea around the world. Old noble families with old money are crumbling morally and financially in comparison to new industrial gentiles, who buy into manor houses. Secrets are hidden under the surface and while some wish to let them lie, others search to uncover the truth especially when an unknown man and a nurse are murdered. These others are Harriet Westerman, nouveau riche, who runs the Caveley estate while her husband is at sea and Crowther, natural scientist, who only partakes on Harriet’s insistency and carries secrets of his own. They fight a tough battle against suppressed truths and general contentions that inquisitiveness is not in the interest of society. “Instruments of Darkness” was a great read – excellent story, good characters, and both enough details to make it interesting and enough pace to keep the pages turning, but I doubt the book will …

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club – Dorothy L. Sayers

Refined, quirky, and intelligent are the first words that come to mind when describing this Peter Wimsey mystery, followed by undeniably English with that dry humor that can be delivered with a stiff upper lip, but left me giggling aloud. For example from page 15: ‘Acid man you are,’ said Wimsey. ‘No reverence, no simple faith or anything of that kind. Do lawyers ever go to heaven?’ ‘I have no information on that point,’ said Mr. Murbles dryly. What’s not to love? The center of the story is the death of two elderly siblings and the question of which one of them died first. This has importance regarding the wills. However, the story is anything but simple and spirals outward from there in an all together organic way. The story takes place in the 1920s and the exquisite storyline is coupled with an intricate portrait of the era. The result is a murder mystery of the highest order. This is one of those few books that I enjoy so much that I want to read …

The Yard – Alex Grecian

In the aftermath of Scotland Yard’s failure to check Jack the Ripper, new murders and heinous crimes are piling up on the desks of the twelve detectives in the Murder Squad. New-comer Day is given the case regarding the murder of one of their own, stabbed to death and stuffed in a suitcase, and from that point a kaleidoscope of fascinating stories spring. “The Yard” is an action-packed Victorian crime novel that at the same time excels with its magnificent characters. Every character in “The Yard” is complete with a believable backstory. Alex Grecian shows his forte in the many changes in point of view and back flashes. Normally, alarm signals flare at the continuous back and forth, but Alex Grecian does not just make it work, he has created a fast-paced story around it. I especially like the scenes at the workhouse, where the same sequence of events is related from two different points of view in subsequent chapters. In many novels that take place in the Victorian era, the characters and story seems …

A Week in December – Sebastian Faulks

There is something about Sebastian Faulks; I so would like to say that his novels are sheer genius, but my gut says no. I have read “Birdsong” and now “A week in December” and let me just remind you that my gut is subjective and does not belong to an English professor. Sebastian Faulks’ aim with “A week in December” is evident – to portray the zeitgeist of today (2007) through a series of storylines that interconnect and characters that are somewhat typical: the hedge fund manager, the teenager addicted to skunk and reality TV, the tube driver who escapes in novels and a virtual reality, an Islamic religious young man, a barrister without cases, and a book reviewer who trashes contemporary literature. None of these characters are sympathetic or worthy of a novel themselves and in some ways it seems to me that Sebastian Faulk simply uses the novel to flaunt his research in the Koran and trade in derivatives. I generally love when stories come full circle, but Sebastian Faulks takes the full …

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary – Susan Elia MacNeal

British born, American raised Maggie Hope works at No. 10 Downing Street as a typist, despite her qualifications as a mathematician. She is caught by circumstances in London during World War II, trying to sell her late grandmother’s house. The Blitz, war devastation, murder, espionage and secrets color the picture in this off-to-the-side-yet-right-in-the-middle-of-the-action historical novel (se below). “Mr. Churchill’s Secretary” is an excellent period piece in which plot and historical precision and description complement each other. I especially enjoyed the breadth of historical treats in “Mr. Churchill’s Secretary”. There are Downing Street politics, WWII, IRA, gender issues, everyday details and much more. Despite this I would still call the novel an easy read. Off-to-the-side-yet-right-in-the-middle-of-the-action historical novel: maybe I should elaborate. Susan Elia MacNeal has chosen a typist as her protagonist based on memoires from real life typists. A brilliant choice in my opinion. Maggie Hope is not based on a historical superstar, but off to the side support personnel. Still the storyline action packed and believable (with a discretionary leap of faith). “Mr. Churchill’s Secretary” …