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Review: Ravenna by Judith Herrin

Review: Ravenna by Judith Herrin

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Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe by Judith Herrin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published:  27th August 2020 (Allen Lane)

O lone Ravenna! many a tale is told
Of thy great glories in the days of old’
(Oscar Wilde)

Wilde’s 1878 poem ‘Ravenna’, for which he won the prestigious Newdigate prize, is a celebration of the city’s rich history, and a lamentation of its decline, ‘in ruined loveliness thou liest dead’. In the poem, his 19th century experience of Ravenna is strikingly contrasted with its classical past, but the sense of loss he evokes well reflects every period of Ravenna’s history. A deathly commemoration may be one poetic step too far, but Ravenna is a city which doesn’t loom large in historical memory, despite its long term significance. Even for this history buff, Ravenna’s role at the heart of empires, especially between 402 and the end of the 7th century, was almost entirely unknown. Here, Judith Herrin seeks to fill in those gaps, charting Ravenna from its time as capital of the Western Roman Empire to the late 8th century, when it acts as inspiration for Charlemagne’s imperial and religious building projects in Aachen.

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Book Review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Book Review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

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The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Published: 15th October 2020 (Orbit)

‘Proper witching is just a conversation with that red heartbeat, which only ever takes three things: the will to listen to it, the words to speak with it, and the way to let it into the world. The will, the words, and the way.

… everything important comes in threes.’

‘Once upon a time there were three sisters…’ Three Eastwood sisters, to be precise. Agnes, Bella, and James Juniper. They live in a world where magic and power were female, once. Now it is all hushed words passed from mother to daughter, hidden workings and small tricks, all the better to stay beneath notice. For in this place, which is also our place, women are less than they were. They are made small by the power of men— and expected to stay that way.

The year is 1893 and in New Salem the suffragists are rallying for the vote. But the ballot box isn’t the only path to change and a little witchery might be what’s needed to counter the arrival of a new danger, one cloaked in shadows and sickness. Juniper certainly thinks so. But these are sisters are riven by their past, too uncertain with each other in the present. To have a future, they’ll need mend the hurts that broke them, find a way to bring back what was forgotten, and forge something new… something wild and witchy.

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Book Review: Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Book Review: Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

 

Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the wrong hands a secret is a weapon.

Caroline Corsham’s life is forever altered the night she stumbles over the brutalised body of a woman she thought she knew…and hears her dying words. Caro can’t get the tortured whisper of ‘he knows’ out of her mind. Could it be about the secret she holds close? But then everything changes. It stuns her to discover that her ‘friend’ was not an Italian noblewoman, but a high-class prostitute. One with dangerous acquaintances in both high and low society. It’s clear that the police intend to brush the murder aside. After all, who cares about a dead whore? But Caro isn’t the type of lady to let things slide. Hiring the thief-taker Peregrine Child to assist her enquiries, she sets out to discover what happened in the bower of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens that evening. And it turns out that there are, in fact, a good number of people taking an interest in this murdered girl, because they all have something to hide. To bring the killer to justice, Caro is going to have to put everything she has on the line…

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Book Review: We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

Book Review: We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

 

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Published: 2nd April 2020 (Bonnier Books UK)

 

Chris Whitaker is one of those authors whose every release makes me wonder just how much better he can get. He’s only on book 3 and I’m wondering if this time he might have created something unmatchable. Honestly, I’ve been sitting on this review for ages because I can’t seem to write anything that’s not offensively superlative. We Begin at the End is a triumph. Spectacularly plotted, gut-wrenchingly genuine, and memorable in that way that sits heavy on your heart.

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Book Review: The Holdout by Graham Moore

Book Review: The Holdout by Graham Moore

 

The Holdout by Graham Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published: 20th February 2020 (Orion)

Being a juror on a high profile murder case has got to be a thrill ride and a half: looking at the bloody evidence and weighing witness statements, the savage craziness of the media interest, then finally getting to decide the fate of a man charged with murder. It’s got to be just like tv, right? Exciting. Maybe even a shot at your own fame… 15 minutes or otherwise.

But what Maya Seale got wasn’t quite fame, it was INFAMY. Not convinced of Bobby Nock’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, she campaigned for a Not Guilty verdict and eventually persuaded, or wore down, all the other jurors. The result was spectacularly unpopular, provoking uproar in both the courtroom and the real world, and changing the jurors’ lives forever.

Now it’s 10 years later and they’re back together again. Apparently there’s new evidence to consider and more questions to be asked. Everyone wants to know if they got it wrong. But when one juror ends up dead, it looks like someone’s willing to kill to keep their secrets buried for good.

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Book Review: Between Two Evils by Eva Dolan (DI Zigic and DS Ferreira, #5)

Book Review: Between Two Evils by Eva Dolan (DI Zigic and DS Ferreira, #5)

 

 

Between Two Evils by Eva Dolan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published: 5th May 2020 (Raven Books)

Between Two Evils, the 5th instalment of the DI Zigic and DS Ferreira series, has Eva Dolan turning her searching gaze towards yet another significant social question: the multifaceted forms of racism and abuse experienced by immigrants to the UK. When a doctor is found dead in his home, his work in the local all-female detention centre provides an obvious avenue for investigation, especially when the detectives discover his role in whistle-blowing a culture of horrifying misconduct. But that’s not all the officers have on their plate. A violent serial rapist has been freed thanks to police malpractice and Zigic and Ferreira know that it’s only a matter of time before he attacks again. And this time it might be even closer to home…

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Book Review: Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee

Book Review: Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee

 

Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published: 14th November 2019 (Harvill Secker)

Fourth in the Sam Wyndham series, Death in the East continues the trend of Smoke and Ashes in significantly upping its game. It offers a more challenging read, deepening the themes and character relationships, and marking a significant reshaping of both the form and the content of the books. And to top it off, it’s all done through two locked-room murder mysteries that have you guessing right till the end…

 

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Book Review: Safe House by Jo Jakeman

Book Review: Safe House by Jo Jakeman

 

Safe House by Jo Jakeman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published: 31st October 2019 (Harvill Secker)

Steffi Finn was in love with her man. So when he told her that the police were trying to fit him up for something he hadn’t done, she lied for him. Said he was with her all night. Because that’s what you do, right? You protect the ones you care about. Most of all, you believe them. In cases like this, you have to believe them. Otherwise those questions about missing women mean there’s something a whole lot worse going on than you just making a mistake….

And boy was she ever wrong, with a prison sentence to prove it.

Now she’s out. New name. New life. A chance to start again.

But someone thinks she doesn’t deserve it.
They’re going to show her what it really means to be sorry.

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Book Review: The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger

Book Review: The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger

 

The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Published: 03 October 2019 (HQ)

Bad people win. They win all the time.

Rain Winter was outraged by the not-guilty verdict that allowed Steve Markham to get away with killing his wife and their unborn child. Her investigation of the murder had left her with no doubts about his guilt, the injustice of his freedom and the inevitable media circus that gifted him the celebrity spotlight leaving her feeling sickened and powerless. Taking time out from journalism to care for her husband and baby seemed like a welcome and necessary step, a break from all the madness. But now Markham’s dead. Butchered by the same method he used to get rid of his family. And word is that it’s not the only time this vigilante has acted. That the first was actually Eugene Kreskey, the man who tried to abduct her as a child. The man who killed one of her friends and tortured the other.

If there’s a link, a story, she needs to find it. All of a sudden, she’s right back in, bringing to light all kinds of secrets that should have stayed buried. Especially her own.

 

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