Sunday, November 26, 2023

The Conscience of a King: The Medieval Saga Series Book Seven by David Field


Publication Date: March 31, 2023

Length: 276 pages

I have purchased books one, six, and seven in this series as they have gone on sale. They sat in my Kindle for awhile and I decided to read the last book in the series first. This was because it is about Simon de Montfort and there are so few historical fiction books about him. 

Simon de Montfort begins his young life watching his parents' quest to conquer the religious Cathars in the Albigensian Crusades in southern France. His father is killed in 1218 while fighting and Simon and his brother Amaury are left as heirs to a family title that must be fought for after it is stolen and given to a distant cousin by a vengeful King John. Amaury agrees to relinquish all rights to the earldom, being the older brother and first in line to inherit any lands, if Simon gives up all rights to the family lands in France. When Simon travels to England to regain his title, Earl of Leicester, he becomes a close ally for a time of King Henry III. He spends countless time and energy proving himself as a military leader and strategist, convincing Henry of his loyalty and rightful place as part of the English nobility.

As a frequent member of the court, Simon witnesses Henry's ability to be swayed by whomever is in his current circle. Henry's wife, Eleanor of Provence and her foreign relatives, often influence him in negative ways, wanting lands, money and titles of their own. Henry's mother, Isabella, who has married into another influential family, the de Lusignans of France, also vie for special privileges and the result is a bitter revolt of the barons and native English nobility who see their rightful inheritances being squandered by those without the authority to do so. 

When Simon marries and begins a family with Henry's sister Eleanor, the stakes increase and the couple work to navigate the tricky political world they are thrust into. When the King and Simon have a serious disagreement and falling out over money owed, the de Montforts flee to France, living as exiles. As things become more tense in England between the barons and Henry, Simon is eventually to return, fighting against Henry and his son Edward, with a showdown of epic proportions.  

This book stuck to the facts of Simon's life as a history book would, only adding a few fictional characters. It is not a long book but packs a lot into the pages. We witness Simon growing both physically and emotionally as well as spiritually and as he moves from young, idealistic boy to military leader, husband, and father, he gains respect from those around him and devotion from those he has saved from a life of poverty and misery. 

Field does a great job of simplifying what is a complicated period, with the Barons' Wars, the foreign influences at court, and the reasons behind the discontent in the nations of England and France. Using a fictional girl, Merle, who is given to Simon as a concubine, whom he never treats as one, the author allows us to glimpse the compassionate part of de Montfort, when he treats her well and cares for her when he doesn't have to.

I have always found this period and subject to be a bit on the dry side, as it is hard to keep up with the political machinations going on but I understood things so much better after reading this book. The significance of de Montfort's attempts at reforms with the provisions of Oxford is not easy for the casual reader and I wish I'd read this one first before Falls the Shadow, by Sharon Penman because I think I might have kept things straight a bit more in her much longer, involved novel. 

The only downside I felt was that there was a bit of hero worship regarding de Montfort. I know from researching him that he had his faults, including his treatment of the Jews and history of anti-Semitism. While I can appreciate not dwelling on this for long and focusing on his obvious contributions to English Parliamentarian reforms, I nevertheless like to know all aspects of a historical character's legacy, warts and all. It just informs and makes them all the more human to give the whole story. 

Field's goal is to write books that teach English history in an easy, entertaining way, much like Jean Plaidy, but with a more adult style. I intend to read the other books in this series as well as his Tudor and Maritime ones focusing on Sir Francis Drake. If you are looking to better understand the period of the Norman Conquest through the reign of Henry III, I highly recommend these books in the Medieval Saga Series. 

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Stacking the Shelves #20

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Reality. It's a place to showcase any books I have purchased, borrowed, or been lucky enough to have been given an advance copy of. Hope you find something that looks interesting to you or that makes you remember a favorite book you need to finish. Enjoy your reading this week :)

I am really enjoying this author's book, The Conscience of a King, about Simon de Montfort and Henry III. I have three of his books set during and just after the Norman Conquest. This is his first book in his Tudor series and it centers around Henry VII. The series finishes with Elizabeth I and includes a book on Cardinal Wolsey and another on Thomas Cromwell. These are subjects that rarely get their own book. I bought this first one in the series and hope to read it soon. He has a simple style but he combines solid historical fact with a great narrative that really teaches history in an interesting way. Simple, but effective. It was on sale on Kindle for $1.00 this week too so that was a great find.

I hope to read and review this one in time for New Year's Eve. I've been reading a lot of history and heavy historical fiction so it's fun to get back to my Verity Bright series and see what is happening with Eleanor, Clifford, and Gladstone the bulldog. There are so many cozy mystery series out there but this one is my favorite! The only one I've really stuck with in order from the beginning. I got it for only $2.00 with my Amazon Kindle credits this week.

This author is kind of hard to find unless you want to pay full price. Libby and Hoopla don't carry many of her books and my local library here in Texas has none.  I didn't mind buying this one because for some inexplicable reason I am fascinated by the events in the country of Burgundy during the 1400's and I know Margaret of York marries into the royal family eventually. This book centers around her life and so it seems like a unique one. If you've read it let me know what you think. Also, if you've read anything by this author as she's a new one for me. I own her book, Queen By Right, about Cecily Neville but still haven't read it yet.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Noteworthy News #1: The Missing Princes Project


I have been wanting a place to post things I've come across that might not fall into the book review or book accumulation category. This might be an author I heard on a podcast, a book advertised online that is already out but I haven't read yet, or just an article that covers a topic related to history or books that looked interesting. So this is my first blog entry titled, "Noteworthy News." If I hear or read something noteworthy that I want to share I'll do it here. Likely it will involve history or mysteries as that is what I love the most!

I have been listening to the podcast Gone Medieval with various guests that centers around, of course, all things Medieval. Yesterday's episode was titled, "Princes in the Tower: New Evidence Revealed" and Philippa Langley was interviewed about her years of research and subsequent book on the subject. I was fascinated to learn that she was the driving force behind the search and eventual discovery of Richard III's body and that this set off a desire for her to prove whether or not he was involved in the death of his nephews. Many people think Richard was unfairly targeted by men of his time and by Shakespeare and made into the villain in this story without the goods to back it up. The Tudor version of him as the evil Uncle has stayed with him for centuries. 

In her interview for the podcast she explains how she spent four years just putting together a timeline of events and trying to determine if there was any reason to believe the princes had died in Richard's care. She talked about the enormous amount of research she compiled and how overwhelming it all was to keep track of. Her book, published just today, November 17th, details the hunt for the truth. It is called The Princes in the Tower: Solving History's Greatest Cold CaseShe worked with police to find out how they conduct cold case investigations, and spent hours reading archival material related to the story. It was called, "The Missing Princes Project" and is the first attempt to use forensic science to really dig into the facts. 

I found all of this so interesting and informative and while I may not get a chance soon to add this to my TBR pile, the podcast interview summed it up enough to give me an idea of the contents of the book. It is obviously a well researched new theory behind a very old unsolved mystery. There were some unique documents uncovered that I won't give away here but either go listen to the podcast episode or read the book and you will be surprised at what was uncovered. 


Sunday, November 12, 2023

Stacking the Shelves #19


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Reality. It's a place to showcase any books I have purchased, borrowed, or been lucky enough to have been given an advance copy of. Hope you find something that looks interesting to you or that makes you remember a favorite book you need to finish. Enjoy your reading this week :)

I have been listening to a great podcast called Gone Medieval and this author was interviewed about his work on Henry VII. He has other books on that subject but this one really caught my eye because it is rare to find a book on just the Beaufort family, Henry's ancestors. I can't think of another one like it. It should be interesting as the author was informative but not stuffy and boring either. 

It's time to start the November Read Christie book. This one doesn't feature either Poirot or Marple but it does say on the synopsis that it was one of Agatha Christie's personal favorites. It is hard to believe that next month is the last for this challenge of 2023. It has been a lot of fun participating!

I already own book 1 in this series but haven't started it yet. They just look interesting and unique so hopefully they can go on my TBR list soon. It's part of a mystery series called Captain Lacey and the author goes by both Jennifer Ashley and Ashley Gardner, depending on which series she's writing. I like to start with the first book but this is book 12 and was on sale so I went ahead and bought it. It centers around a Captain returning home from the Napoleonic Wars who becomes involved in various mysteries and I'm always drawn to a series like this with a strong male lead in the Regency era.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Kings and Queens of Britain: Every Question Answered by David Soud


Publication Date: September 1, 2014

Length: 1190 pages

I am still making my way through this wonderful book. But as crazy as my week has been I decided since I haven't finished another complete book, I wanted to review this one anyway as it is one you can read a little at a time, skip around in, treat it more as a "coffee table" type of book. That, and I absolutely love it. It is the kind of history book I will come back to again and again. The colorful pictures and sidebars alone are worth the price and even though I bought it on Kindle I am thinking of ordering the hardcover copy just to have the glossy pictures at my fingertips. 

This book is organized into short chapters on every British monarch, beginning with the Kings of Wessex and starting with a brief history of Roman Britannia. It covers all the important dates and events in the lives of the rulers and the common people, while skipping too many details that would confuse and bore readers who might not have all the background knowledge to follow along easily. Although I consider myself to be better educated in this area than say the average American friend I know, there are many monarchs I know very little about and so giving a general overview of each King and Queen and the milestone historic events in their lives, allows me to see if I am interested in learning more about that person or time in history. 

The sections included are: The House of Wessex, The Norman Kings, The House of Plantagenet, The Houses of Lancaster and York, The House of Tudor, The House of Stuart, The House of Hanover, The House of Windsor, and Royal Edicts. Beautiful pictures of landmark buildings, people, castles, and original documents are included and I spent a lot of time looking at those before I even started reading anything. 

Another plus with this book is that it is not filled with dry and dull facts. The author states that he wanted it to be a "pageant of personalities" rather than a straight history book and he does a great job of focusing on the personal stories while also adding the necessary background of the time period to complement the subjects' life events. 

The last section on Royal Edicts is a wonderful addition. It begins with the Laws of William the Conqueror and runs all the way to Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Speech. As someone who is a bit lazy about reading authentic, primary sources when researching an event in history it was really great to have the major ones complied together and ready to read. There were some like The Assize of Clarendon or The Magna Carta that I know a bit about from reading historical fiction but had never bothered to look at outside of the novel I was reading. It just made this book that much more thorough of a source to pick up when I need to see a chronological timeline of rulers and resources. 

If you are someone interested in the entire chronological timeline of British rulers while not wanting a gigantic, super detailed, time consuming tome this is the book for you. I have found other ones that focus on just Kings or just Queens or maybe a certain era, but this is the best one I've run across that fits in all the rulers with colorful, engaging stories and fascinating supplemental material. It's a perfect gift for the true Anglophile in your life!

Friday, November 3, 2023

Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman (Plantagenet Novels Book 4)


Publication Date: October 4, 2011

Length: 624 pages

I looked back at my Amazon purchases to see when I actually bought this book. It was March of 2022. I couldn't believe it because I started it the week it arrived. It has taken me a year and a half to read every page and it was worth the time. When I finished it, I felt as if I had lived through every moment of the third crusade along with Richard, Berengaria (his wife and queen), and Joanna (his sister and former Queen of Sicily). It is a masterpiece of storytelling and research. 

The first half of the book the main subjects are making their way across Europe to the Holy Land; not necessarily together. We see Joanna, widowed and desperate in Sicily as her former husband's scheming cousin Tancred tries to seize the throne and takes her prisoner in Palermo. She is rescued by Richard as he is traveling to Jerusalem on his crusade to retake the holy city. He frees his sister while subduing Tancred and regaining Joanna's dowry. It is a glimpse into the character and bravery of Richard to come as he stops to exert time and energy into the situation, never doubting his ability to create events to unfold according to his plans. 

Joanna and Richard are eventually joined by their mother Eleanor of Aquitaine (whom Joanna has not seen in decades) and Richard's new betrothed, Berengaria of Navarre. Richard, Joanna, and Berengaria continue on their journey to Jerusalem and Eleanor returns to England to deal with brother John and his scheming back home. The journey across the sea to Acre is hardly uneventful as Richard manages to conquer the island of Cyprus along the way, marrying Berengaria there before continuing on their way. 

Also traveling to the middle east is Phillip II of France and their whole relationship is one of necessity and dysfunction. Jealousy, greed, and eventually bitterness become the heart of their interactions and as things unfold along the way, the two men and their entourages are embroiled constantly with infighting and suspicion. Neither leader wants to concede power or prestige to the other and their inability to work together to defeat Saladin will be the undoing of the carefully laid plans to retake Jerusalem. 

The second half of the novel focuses on what happens after the arrival of the Crusaders in Acre and their many battles, setbacks, victories, and perilous attempts to accomplish their goals. It feels like Richard and Phillip are always one foot forward, two steps back with success and failure. Other major players getting in the way include Hugh III of Burgundy, who always seems to be opposed to whatever Richard decides, the irritating Guy of Lusignan, and Conrad of Montferrat, whom Richard must unwillingly work with in order to secure the Holy Land after he eventually has to leave to return to his place as King of England. At every turn, Richard skillfully works to lead his soldiers, showing no fear, and that he will be right alongside them in the trenches, along with striving to maintain diplomacy between the Crusader leaders and the Muslim factions with whom he often has a cordial relationship. It is a lot for one man to shoulder.

Interspersed between the chapters with Richard as the focus, we see the relationship between Joanna, Berengaria, Richard, and other minor characters. These are nice breaks of quiet domesticity because the intense fighting and political discussions are frequent and require much concentration to follow. I especially loved getting to know the person of Henry II of Champagne, Richard's nephew, who strives to keep the peace between those around him and stay loyal to those he believes in. 

This book is incredibly dense with material. There are vivid descriptions of the major battles, the landscape, and the cultures found in Sicily, Cyprus, Tyre, and Acre. Even the first half of the book had me intrigued to find out more about Sicily. I thought I'd be bored by the fact that we don't even arrive in the middle east until halfway through the book, but the battle to conquer Cyprus is so wonderfully told I found myself a bit sad when they finally leave the island. 

There is a definite bias Penman displays towards Richard in that she clearly feels he is usually making the correct decisions for those around him. One comes away with the feeling that Richard is stubborn, but thwarted by others, rather than sometimes wrong. She does do a good job of showcasing his inability to be an attentive husband and in that area the reader can't help but side with Berengaria, who is portrayed as loving, sweet, and desperate for a child with Richard. It is this that makes him appear a bit cold and unfeeling with his often one sided obsession with his mission, rarely considering how it all will take a toll on his wife and sister Joanna, who is also often waiting around to see what they will have to endure next. 

What really got to the heart of the novel for me though were the last few chapters in which Richard makes a last push at the Battle of Jaffa. The account Penman gives of Richard leading his men and pushing them on despite the odds against them is breathtaking. I could see it all in my mind, could feel the courage and loyalty between him and his soldiers and afterwards I truly understood why he is called Richard the Lionheart. Normally I do not enjoy long, drawn out battle descriptions but this book was superb in this area. She was able to capture everything that makes it an epic: suspense, fear, and victory in the hearts of the men fighting whether they win or lose. That is what makes this book a true gem. I am looking forward to reading A King's Ransom, and seeing how Richard deals with his harrowing journey back to England and his mother Eleanor's fight to save him and his throne from the clutches of his brother John and Phillip of France. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Black Coffee by Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot Book Seven)


Publication Date: December 8, 1930

Length: 193 pages

I had already read and reviewed October's Read Christie book, Murder On the Orient Express, and so I went looking for a new one to tackle. This cover and title looked interesting and I read that it was orginally a play that Christie struggled to finish writing. So I thought I'd give it a try and see exactly what "black coffee" meant. It was definitely not one of her books that I'd seen anywhere else. I also thought it was fitting to post a murder mystery review on Halloween. And I am wanting to read every Poirot mystery at some point too. 

Our story begins with the scientist Sir Claud Amory realizing a secret formula he has been working on has been stolen from his safe. It is top secret and has the potential to be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands as it is the formula for an atomic explosive. Turning to Poirot for help, he summons the members of his household together and tells them that when the lights go out in the room they are gathered in, there will be a one minute time limit in which the thief can return the stolen documents. If they are returned, nothing will be done to the person who stole them. If they are not returned and Sir Claud finds out who has stolen them, they will be prosecuted.

Gathered in the room are Claud's sister Caroline, his niece Barbara, his son Richard and his wife Lucia, his secretary Edward Raynor, and one Dr. Carelli, a friend of Lucia's. All proclaim their innocence and shock at Sir Claud's accusations and insist they don't know anything about the stolen documents. The lights go out and when they come back on, Sir Claud himself is dead and the envelope he left beside him for the thief to put the documents in is empty. Richard remembers Sir Claud commenting on the bitter taste of his coffee and when Poirot arrives and investigates, he discovers the drink was indeed poisoned. 

Poirot begins his careful, trademark interviewing of the members present, sparing no one from suspicion. As he learns more about the family, especially Lucia, he begins to unravel secrets that involve blackmail, spies, and hidden identities. Everyone has motive to want Sir Claud dead and Poirot himself will eventually become the target of the thief, putting his life in jeopardy. 

I enjoyed Black Coffee and in fact did guess correctly as to who the murderer and thief were. I did not see the twist concerning Poirot's welfare so that was a fun little side scene in the story. This wasn't a terribly long or complicated case but it did involve a unique backstory for one of the characters and showcased Poirot's compassionate side as he works to clear the name of one he feels strongly to be innocent despite the person's insistence of guilt in some of their life choices. 

If you are looking for a quick, engaging mystery to brighten your week this is a good one. Nothing too heavy here, but there is the usual Christie charm and clues to piece together. Happy Halloween everyone!

Friday, October 27, 2023

Voyager (Outlander Book 3) by Diana Gabaldon


Publication Date:  January 1, 1994

Length: 870 pages

This week I finished my third read of this book. I have wanted to read and review all the Outlander books for my blog eventually but this one is especially important to me as it is my favorite of the series. This book is magical.  The first three Outlander books are the best but Voyager has it all. Battles, time travel, sea voyages, Pirates, plague, exotic islands, and witchcraft. And that's only the beginning of the unique storylines and settings found between the covers. I already know someday I will read it again, which sounds crazy because I can't think of another book I've read four times. But it is also 870 pages and every time I think I will be bored and remember everything I am proven wrong. It just never gets old for me. 

The story begins with Jamie's perspective of the Battle of Culloden and his miraculous survival. In the first two books of the series it feels as though one is waiting forever to get to this moment and it makes the opening of the story so satisfying. We see him go from Scottish warrior, to fugitive, to prisoner, and indentured servant in the first parts of the story and this timeline is overlapped with his time traveling wife Claire's life back in 1960's Boston. She is trying to raise their daughter, Brianna, with her husband Frank, failing miserably in her grief over losing her 18th century life with Jamie and believing he has died on Culloden Moor. Although her life as mother, and eventually, doctor is rewarding in its own way, Claire can never escape her ghosts, and she and Frank pretend, for Brianna's sake, to get along in their shaky marriage.

This storyline develops over a period of twenty years. Gabaldon masterfully switches back and forth through the first third of the book between their two centuries, letting the reader in on each of their lives in detail, weaving memories with current situations all of which lead them to a joyous, tumultuous reunion and ultimately, a test to see if they are still made for each other. Jamie and Claire are reunited but what makes the story so realistic and unique is that the challenges they face seem to worsen and test them instead of a world of romantic nostalgia where they just live happily ever after. Both have changed dramatically, while still retaining deep love and connection, but with the maturity that comes with age and life experience. Jamie has a somewhat shady past and occupation,  and Claire struggles to fit back into the world of long ago, having had to create such a different life after she traveled back through the stones in the previous book. All of this takes place while mourning what they have lost over the last two decades and feeling guilt for certain choices they have had to make.

As we settle in for the second half of the book things become a bit more stable between Jamie and Claire, but not with their lives. Starting from Jamie's ancestral home, Lallybroch in Scotland, they end up halfway across the world, looking for one of Jamie's kidnapped relatives. Plague, pirates, and pursuing British officers are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their troubles and with a displaced Chinaman and young married couple in tow, Claire and Jamie find themselves struggling to manage it all without losing each other again. We are taken on a wild ride from the island of Hispanola, where we meet a strange, befuddled priest, to Jamaica where we meet not one, but two characters from the past. Finally, they are blown off course to a new life which will begin in the next book, Drums of Autumn. 

I don't want to give away too much of the details because I find half the joy of Voyager is in the not knowing, or in my case, not remembering, all the tiny, moving parts throughout the novel. There are so many surprises, coincidences, and exotic settings that it makes your head spin at times. Just when you think you've figured things out, another side story is thrown in. I especially love the atmospheric surroundings created in Jamaica, and when I visited the island in 2019, I re-read the section of the book in which they travel there. It had been described perfectly, and I even toured Rose Hall, a real plantation that is mentioned, although it is slightly different from the one used in the story. The small bits of history, including the Maroons of the island made me want to research more on my own, and to appreciate the people I met in Jamaica all the more. 

The hardest part of reading Voyager for me is when it ends. I feel like the first three Outlander books are their own story. When we reach book four a new chapter in Jamie and Claire's lives begins and for me, it just never feels quite the same as before. I love all of the series books in their own way, but the world created in Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, and Voyager will always stand out as a cut above. The heart of the story never returns quite as much as it did before so I'm always a little sad to see it go. Luckily these books are so long and detailed they never get old and you can always start again at the beginning, knowing you will likely pick up some new detail you missed the last time.  

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Can't Wait Wednesday: A Christmas Vanishing by Anne Perry (Christmas Novel Book 21)


For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, I'm featuring A Christmas Vanishing by Anne Perry. She passed away earlier this year and  I'm sad to think it is her last holiday story. I have read almost all of her Christmas novels and am a twenty plus year fan of her Monk and Pitt series. This story will be extra special this holiday season for all of her lifelong fans. 

November 7, 2023

Historical Mysteries/Holiday Mysteries

Description courtesy of Amazon books

Mariah Ellison, Charlotte Pitt’s grandmother, accepts her longtime friend Sadie’s gracious invitation to spend Christmas with her and her husband, Barton, in their picturesque village. But upon arrival, Mariah discovers that Sadie has vanished without a trace, and Barton rudely rescinds the invitation. Once Mariah finds another acquaintance to stay with during the holiday season, she begins investigating Sadie’s disappearance.

Mariah’s uncanny knack for solving mysteries serves her well during her search, which is driven by gossip as icy as the December weather. Did Sadie run off with another man? Was she kidnapped? Has someone harmed her? Frustratingly, Mariah’s questions reveal more about the villagers themselves than about her friend’s whereabouts. Yet in the process of getting to know Sadie’s neighbors, Mariah finds a kind of redemption, as she rediscovers her kinder side, and her ability to love. 

It is up to Mariah to master her own feelings, drown out the noise, and get to the bottom of what occurred, all before Christmas day. With the holiday rapidly approaching, will she succeed in bringing Sadie home in time for them to celebrate it together—or is that too much to hope for?

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Stacking the Shelves #18


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Reality. It's a place to showcase any books I have purchased, borrowed, or been lucky enough to have been given an advance copy of. Hope you find something that looks interesting to you or that makes you remember a favorite book you need to finish. Enjoy your reading this week :)

I have wanted to read Georgette Heyer for awhile now and see her reviewed positively by so many of my fellow bloggers. This book particularly interests me due to the focus on the Napoleonic Wars period so I'm thinking it's a good place to start. I have borrowed a copy from the Libby App and started today. I am very confused by some of the initial conversation but that hopefully will iron itself out as I continue with the book. Also, I'm going to probably swap it out for one of the classics on my Classics Club list that just isn't doing it for me. If you've read this one, did you like it?

It's time to start another Cadfael book. The last one I read was book 4, St. Peter's Fair and it wasn't my favorite but this one looks unique and interesting. I like to go in order with most series books I read so this is next. Always full of great atmosphere set in the 1100's world of Shrewsbury and Wales, the Cadfael Chronicles are fun to pick up for a quick read and great mystery. Also, they are often on sale so you can slowly collect them all for around $1.99 each. My daily Book Bub emails really pay off when it comes to Kindle books!

I read and reviewed MacLean's stand alone novel, The Bookseller of Inverness recently and really enjoyed it. This is book one in the Captain Damian Seeker series and I always hear good things about the novels. Set during the Cromwell period in London, it has been called, "the best historical crime novel of the year" by one paper and that sounds like a book I should try. Another one I got on sale for $1.99 this week thanks to my daily Early Bird Books email.