Monday, 29 March 2010

Review:- Paul DOHERTY – “The Poison Maiden”

Year Published: - 2007
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 9780755328789
Pages: - 294pp
Genre: - Historical mystery
Location:- Westminster, 1308
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** **
One sentence summary:- Another Mathilde of Westminster mystery involving Edward !! and his wife Isabella.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
It's 1308 and England hovers on the brink of civil war. Edward II, his wife Isabella and the royal favourite Peter Gaveston Earl of Cornwall, have been forced to retreat to the King's folly. Just an arrowshot away lie the Great Lords and Philip IV of France, who are demanding that the Earl of Cornwall be charged with high treason. Edward is trapped, and worse, he has learnt that Philip has the 'Poison Maiden' on his side, a formidable spy who did untold damage during his father's reign. As Edward tries in vain to unmask the identity of the spy, Mathilde, handmaiden to the Queen, also attempts to identify the source of this threat.

AUTHOR Notes:- see Paul Doherty

Friday, 26 March 2010

Review – Elliot PATTISON – “Water Touching Stone”

Year Published: - 2002
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 0 09 941486 4
Pages: - 628pp
Genre: - Mystery, Topography,
Location:- Tibet,
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- The news that a venerated teacher has been murdered and a Lama is missing causes a disparate band of outcasts to go to the North Tibetan plateau.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-

Justice is elusive in this borderland area with Western China but Shan Tao Yung, a former Bejing investigator, is determined to solve the problems he is set as a serial killer is on the loose. He is ably assisted by two ancient Tibetans but whose side the Muslim clans, soldiers, smugglers, secret Buddhists and vengeful officials are on seems to vary. .

General comments:-

The best book about modern Tibet that I have read. I can recommend it as a real eye-opener for anyone who is unaware of the history of this ancient area and how the whole culture and peoples have been cruelly damaged in recent decades. I have read a couple of non-fiction books on the subject but neither of them made the experiences live in the way that this mystery story did. Many gems about Buddhism also find their way into the story.

The Inspector Shan series:-
1. The Skull Mantra (1998)
2. Water Touching Stone (2001)
3. Bone Mountain (2002)
4. Beautiful Ghosts (2004)
5. Prayer of the Dragon (2007)
6. The Lord of Death (2009)

Shan sat with the three Tibetans in front of the cabin in the last rays of the sun with the pile of stones collected by Jowa and the lama. Gendun picked a rock from the pile, gazed upon it, and passed it around their small circle. It was a small, ugly thing, crusted with dirt and what may have been camel dung. Jowa watched uncertainly, but accepted the rock from Shan and looked it over before returning it to Gendun. With the rock in one hand, the lama took a dipper of water and poured it over the rock. The dirt fell away, and the rock became brilliant, with a swirl of oranges and browns, and a tiny seam of something green. The lama handed the rock around the circle, and Shan and Lokesh studied its complex beauty. When Jowa took it he passed it quickly on to Gendun. But the lama handed it back to the purba.
Jowa looked at it a few seconds, turning it over, and passed it to Gendun. The lama handed it back to him and Jowa accepted it back, more uncertainly, then began to study the rock in earnest.
It was an exercise Shan had seen often in the gulag. The crust of life, one of the imprisoned monks had called it. They would just sit sometimes on their brief eating breaks, and wash rocks, sometimes using their only water ration for the day, wash away the crust that accumulated from living in the world, to reach the true nature of the rock.

AUTHOR Notes:-

Elliot PATTISON was born in 1951 in Scotland. Details about his globe-trekking life can be found on his website

In the late 1990's he decided to combine his deep concerns for the people of Tibet with his interest in venturing into fiction by writing The Skull Mantra. Winning the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery--and listed as a finalist for best novel for the year in Dublin's prestigious IMPAC awards--The Skull Mantra launched the Inspector Shan series and both The Skull Mantra and Water Touching Stone were selected by for its annual list of ten best new mysteries. Water Touching Stone was selected by Booksense as the number one mystery of all time for readers' groups. The Inspector Shan series has been translated into over twenty languages around the world.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Review:- Richard DOYLE – “Volcano”

Year Published: - 2006
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 9780099469353
Pages: - 693pp
Genre: - Disaster
Location:- The Maine Coast (and the Canary Islands)
How I came across it: - On the new books shelf
Rating: - ***** ***
One sentence summary:- Despite it’s title the ensuing tsunami is the real subject of this well researched disaster story.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
A volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands creates the potential threat of a tsunami all the way across the Atlantic but for most people seeing is believing and the inhabitants of Goodwill, Maine are no exception. All the usual events of a major weekend at Goodwill Sound are going ahead with potentially disastrous results. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic the volcano is getting more and more unstable.

General comments:-
I was a little disappointed. Had I come to this fresh I might have rated it higher but it didn’t have quite the relevance of ‘Flood’ which was something I could relate to personally from my Emergency Planning days.
Nevertheless the skill of story-telling was just as high and the depth of character delineation was probably even better. And one learns so much:-

It is a myth that warm seas are fertile. In fact it is cold seas that are full of life. The reasons warm Caribbean water is so clear is because it is empty of plankton, no food for the fish. Fish cluster round the coral reefs, not in the open sea.

AUTHOR Notes:-
See Richard Doyle -