Review: THE DEATH HOUSE by Sarah Pinborough (Gollancz)

PinboroughS-TheDeathHouseUKAnother great short novel

Toby’s life was perfectly normal… until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House; an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They’re looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it’s time to take them to the sanatorium.

No one returns from the sanatorium.

Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, and everything changes.

Because everybody dies. It’s how you choose to live that counts.

What happens when kids and teens are thrown together in a situation, under minimal supervision, knowing they’ve not got long to live? This is, basically, what The Death House is about. The kids are “defectives”, guaranteed to get sick and be disappeared in the night, whisked away to the sanatorium never to return. This novel gives us a brief glimpse into the lives and minds of the doomed teens. It’s a moving, brilliantly written book. Continue reading

Review: MAYHEM by Sarah Pinborough (Jo Fletcher Books)

Pinborough-MayhemDr. Bond, I presume…

A new killer is stalking the streets of London’s East End. Though newspapers have dubbed him ‘the Torso Killer’, this murderer’s work is overshadowed by the hysteria surrounding Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel crimes.

The victims are women too, but their dismembered bodies, wrapped in rags and tied up with string, are pulled out of the Thames – and the heads are missing. The murderer likes to keep them.

Mayhem is a masterwork of narrative suspense: a supernatural thriller set in a shadowy, gaslit London, where monsters stalk the cobbled streets and hide in plain sight.

This is the first of Pinborough’s novels that I’ve read, and I rather enjoyed it. It has all of the elements that I look for in fiction, in one tightly-written package: crime, investigation, mystery, a dash of the supernatural and horror. It’s an excellent mix, well-executed. And it’s the first in a series. Continue reading

Books Received (Easter Week & a Bit)

BooksReceived-201404-17

Featuring: Mark Alder, Charles Cumming, Stella Gemmell, Terry Hayes, Sarah Pinborough, Justin Richards, Marcus Sakey, Tom Rob Smith

AlderM-SonOfTheMorningMark Alder, Son of the Morning (Gollancz)

Edward the Third stands in the burnt ruin of an English church. He is beset on all sides. He needs a victory against the French to rescue his Kingship. Or he will die trying.

Philip of Valois can put 50,000 men in the field. He has sent his priests to summon the very Angels themselves to fight for France. Edward could call on God for aid but he is an usurper. What if God truly is on the side of the French?

But for a price, Edward could open the gates of Hell and take an unholy war to France…

This has been creating quite the buzz around the UK SFF community. It took me a little while to discover that “Mark Alder” is a pseudonym for “M.D. Lachlan” (which, incidentally, is also a pseudonym…). I really enjoyed Wolfsangel and Fenrir, but have yet to catch up with the rest of Lachlan’s werewolf series. Soon, hopefully. You can read an excerpt from the novel, here.

Also on CR: Interview with M.D. Lachlan, Catch-Up Interview

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Cumming-AColderWarUKCharles Cumming, A Colder War (Harper)

A top-ranking Iranian military official is blown up while trying to defect to the West. An investigative journalist is arrested and imprisoned for writing an article critical of the Turkish government. An Iranian nuclear scientist is assassinated on the streets of Tehran. These three incidents, seemingly unrelated, have one crucial link. Each of the three had been recently recruited by Western intelligence, before being removed or killed.

Then Paul Wallinger, MI6’s most senior agent in Turkey, dies in a puzzling plane crash. Fearing the worst, MI6 bypasses the usual protocol and brings disgraced agent Tom Kell in from the cold to investigate. Kell soon discovers what Wallinger had already begun to suspect – that there’s a mole somewhere in the Western intelligence, a traitor who has been systematically sabotaging scores of joint intelligence operations in the Middle East.

Charles Cumming is one of my favourite authors – not just of thrillers, but of any genre. I’ve fallen behind a bit, but I’m really looking forward to jumping into this novel. A Foreign Country, the first in this series, is one of the books I haven’t read, so I’ll be reading that in a few days, before starting in on this one.

Also on CR: Reviews of Typhoon and The Trinity Six

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GemmellS-CityUKPBStella Gemmell, The City (Corgi)

The City is ancient and vast and has been waging almost constant war for centuries. At its heart resides the emperor. Few have ever seen him. Those who have remember a man in his prime – and yet he should be very old. Some speculate that he is no longer human, others wonder if indeed he ever truly was. And a few have come to a desperate conclusion: that the only way to halt the emperor’s unslakeable thirst for war is to end his unnaturally long life.

From the crumbling catacombs beneath the City where the poor struggle to stay alive to the blood-soaked fields of battle where so few heroes survive, these rebels emerge. Their hopes rest on one man. A man who was once the emperor’s foremost general – a revered soldier who could lead an uprising and liberate a city, a man who was betrayed, imprisoned, tortured and is now believed to be dead…

The paperback release of this novel arrives. I received the large, trade-paperback last year. I started reading it when I was really not in the mood for fantasy. It was very well-written, and the world was really well-realised. But at the time I found it rather slow, and a bit too heavy on the world-building over the story-telling. I’ll give it another go, hopefully, some time later this year.

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Hayes-IAmPilgrimTerry Hayes, I Am Pilgrim (Corgi)

Can you commit the perfect crime?

Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn’t exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation.

But that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. And it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where the body of a woman is found facedown in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder – and Pilgrim wrote the book.

What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to a deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.

Another novel I’ve heard great things about, but for some reason haven’t got around to reading. It’s a biggie, but I’m really interested in reading it.

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PinboroughS-LT2-MurderSarah Pinborough, Murder (Jo Fletcher Books)

Dr. Thomas Bond, Police Surgeon, is still recovering from the event of the previous year when Jack the Ripper haunted the streets of London – and a more malign enemy hid in his shadow. Bond and the others who worked on the gruesome case are still stalked by its legacies, both psychological and tangible.

But now the bodies of children are being pulled from the Thames… and Bond is about to become inextricably linked with an uncanny, undying enemy.

This is the next in Pinborough’s historical London crime novels (with a hint of the supernatural). I’m currently reading the first, Mayhem, and really enjoying it. Review pretty soon, hopefully.

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RichardsJ-SuicideExhibitionUKPBJustin Richards, Suicide Exhibition (Del Rey UK)

WEWELSBURG CASTLE, 1940.

The German war machine has woken an ancient threat – the alien Vril and their Ubermensch have returned. Ultimate Victory in the war for Europe is now within the Nazis’ grasp.

ENGLAND, 1941

Foreign Office trouble shooter Guy Pentecross has stumbled into a conspiracy beyond his imagining – a secret war being waged in the shadows against a terrible enemy.

The battle for Europe has just become the war for humanity.

Another paperback release, and another novel I’ve been so slow about getting around to reading. I do like the sound of it, I’ve just been distracted constantly whenever I think about reading it. Maybe now I’ll get my act together.

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Sakey-B2-ABetterWorldMarcus Sakey, A Better World (Thomas & Mercer)

The brilliants changed everything.

Since 1980, 1% of the world has been born with gifts we’d only dreamed of. The ability to sense a person’s most intimate secrets, or predict the stock market, or move virtually unseen. For thirty years the world has struggled with a growing divide between the exceptional… and the rest of us.

Now a terrorist network led by brilliants has crippled three cities. Supermarket shelves stand empty. 911 calls go unanswered. Fanatics are burning people alive.

Nick Cooper has always fought to make the world better for his children. As both a brilliant and an advisor to the president of the United States, he’s against everything the terrorists represent. But as America slides toward a devastating civil war, Cooper is forced to play a game he dares not lose – because his opponents have their own vision of a better world.

And to reach it, they’re willing to burn this one down.

This is the sequel to Brilliance, which I have but have not yet got around to reading. (That is a bit of theme for this post…) I’ve never read anything by Sakey, but I’ve heard lots of very good things.

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SmithTR-TheFarmUSTom Rob Smith, The Farm (Grand Central)

If you refuse to believe me, I will no longer consider you my son.

Daniel believed that his parents were enjoying a peaceful retirement on a remote farm in Sweden. But with a single phone call, everything changes.

Your mother… she’s not well, his father tells him. She’s been imagining things – terrible, terrible things. She’s had a psychotic breakdown, and been committed to a mental hospital.

Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother calls: Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad… I need the police… Meet me at Heathrow.

Caught between his parents, and unsure of who to believe or trust, Daniel becomes his mother’s unwilling judge and jury as she tells him an urgent tale of secrets, of lies, of a crime and a conspiracy that implicates his own father.

Tom Rob Smith’s previous novels have been huge, international hits. Which, as with so many in an ever-busier publishing environment, I haven’t managed to try, yet. After seeing it on NetGalley, and my request being accepted, I’m hoping to get around to this very soon. Especially since I seem to have developed a real taste for international thrillers, lately.

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Which of these catches your eye? Have you been waiting for any of them?

Mini-Review: THE LANGUAGE OF DYING by Sarah Pinborough (Jo Fletcher Books)

Pinborough-LanguageOfDyingAn affecting, slim tale of loss, family and never-forgotten pain

Tonight is a special, terrible night. A woman sits at her father’s bedside watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters – all traumatised in their own ways, their bonds fragile – have been there for the past week, but now she is alone. And that’s always when it comes. As the clock ticks in the darkness, she can only wait for it to find her…

Clocking in at only about 125 pages, The Language of Dying nevertheless packs an emotional wallop. A daughter watches over her dying father, as her brothers and sister visit their childhood home. Each is dealing with their own issues and difficulties – be it drug abuse, general unhappiness with their lives, and also their difficulty in dealing with the imminent death of their father. The narrator recounts a number of fond memories and also some extremely painful ones (which, if I recall correctly from a blog-post the author wrote not too long ago, may be at least inspired by certain real events). The book is filled with a great many small, intimate details – it’s quite British, too, in that respect. The family is clearly a broken family, in many ways, and their dealings with each other can be difficult and cause friction. But then, at other times, they reminisce together over happier times. There is perhaps, also, a history of mental instability. This gives a certain dreamlike and questionable quality to a possibly-supernatural slant to the story that is alluded to at the start, and appears again at the end (one I really liked – and I enjoyed the ambiguity).

“… I still look. Forty next birthday and I’m looking out of the window for something that may be imaginary, that I haven’t seen in fifteen years, if ever I saw it at all…”

This is, as I say right at the top, is a powerful, elegant tale of loss and family, and some of the different manifestations of grief. The story is incredibly moving, and I will admit to shedding at least a couple of tears (ahem, ok, more than that). A remarkable, short piece of fiction. Very highly recommended.

Gift Guide #1: Jo Fletcher Books

JoFletcherBooks-Logo

The first of this year’s round-ups of bookish things you and your bibliophile and SFF friends that should make your Christmas and/or holiday season all the better. I’ll be breaking these down by publisher, and maybe a smorgasbord post at the end. And, because I am always looking forward, I’ll include some recommendations for the new year, too. As much as I would like to include all the books published by my favourite publishers, it would take far too long, and so I’m just picking out a selection.

First up, books you should check out from Jo Fletcher Books…

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untitledKaren Lord, The Best of All Possible Worlds

A proud and reserved alien society finds its homeland destroyed in an unprovoked act of aggression, and the survivors have no choice but to reach out to the indigenous humanoids of their adopted world, to whom they are distantly related. They wish to preserve their cherished way of life but come to discover that in order to preserve their culture, they may have to change it forever.

Now a man and a woman from these two clashing societies must work together to save this vanishing race — and end up uncovering ancient mysteries with far-reaching ramifications. As their mission hangs in the balance, this unlikely team — one cool and cerebral, the other fiery and impulsive — just may find in each other their own destinies… and a force that transcends all.

I have sadly not had a chance to read this, but it has received so much praise and support from the SFF community. It is a must-read, in my opinion, and I’m hoping to get around to it ASAP.

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Ian McDonald’s Everness Series

McDonald-Everness1to3UK

There is not one you. There are many yous. There is not one world. There are many worlds. Ours is one among billions of parallel earths.

When Everett Singh’s scientist father is kidnapped from the streets of London, he leaves young Everett a mysterious app on his computer. Suddenly, this teenager has become the owner of the most valuable object in the multiverse — the Infundibulum — the map of all the parallel earths, and there are dark forces in the Ten Known Worlds who will stop at nothing to get it. They’ve got power, authority, the might of ten planets—some of them more technologically advanced than our Earth — at their fingertips. He’s got wits, intelligence, and a knack for Indian cooking.

To keep the Infundibulum safe, Everett must trick his way through the Heisenberg Gate that his dad helped build and go on the run in a parallel Earth. But to rescue his dad from Charlotte Villiers and the sinister Order, this Planesrunner’s going to need friends. Friends like Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, her adopted daughter, Sen, and the crew of the airship Everness.

Can they rescue Everett’s father and get the Infundibulum to safety? The game is afoot!

The first two of these novels (Planesrunner and Be My Enemy) are already out, with Empress of the Sun due at the end of the year. I’ve seen so many people raving about this series. And hey, it’s Ian McDonald – he’s one of today’s SF masters.

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Sarah Pinborough’s Mayhem and The Language of Dying

XmasList2013-JoFletcher-Pinborough

The Language of Dying: Tonight is a special, terrible night.

A woman sits at her father’s bedside watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters – all traumatised in their own ways, their bonds fragile – have been there for the past week, but now she is alone.

And that’s always when it comes.

As the clock ticks in the darkness, she can only wait for it to find her…

Mayhem: A new killer is stalking the streets of London’s East End. Though newspapers have dubbed him ‘the Torso Killer’, this murderer’s work is overshadowed by the hysteria surrounding Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel crimes.

The victims are women too, but their dismembered bodies, wrapped in rags and tied up with string, are pulled out of the Thames – and the heads are missing. The murderer likes to keep them.

Mayhem is a masterwork of narrative suspense: a supernatural thriller set in a shadowy, gaslit London, where monsters stalk the cobbled streets and hide in plain sight.

This has been a pretty awesome year for Pinborough, and these two novels – quite different – are among the cream of the year’s crop.

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Stephanie Saulter, Gemsigns and Binary

SaulterS-Gemsigns&Binary

For years the human race suffered from a deadly Syndrome, but when a cure was found – in the form of genetically engineered human beings, gems – the line between survival and ethics was radically altered.

Now the gems are fighting for their freedom, from the oppression of the companies that created them, and against the norms who see them as slaves. And a conference at which Dr Eli Walker has been commissioned to present his findings on the gems is the key to that freedom.

But with the gemtech companies fighting to keep the gems enslaved, and the horrifying godgangs determined to rid the earth of these ‘unholy’ creations, the gems are up against forces that may just be too powerful to oppose.

Gemsigns was one of my favourite reads of the year. Binary is out next April, so be sure to make a note in your calendar.

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untitledDavid Towsey, Your Brother’s Blood

Thomas is thirty-two. He comes from the small town of Barkley. He has a wife there, Sarah, and a child, Mary; good solid names from the Good Book. And he is on his way home from the war, where he has been serving as a conscripted soldier.

Thomas is also dead – he is one of the Walkin’.

And Barkley does not suffer the wicked to live.

More zombies? Yes. But this is a great, intelligent novel, and just goes to show that there’s (un)life in the sub-genre yet. (Yes, I had to go there and use a pun.) Go read it.

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For the New Year…

deCastellS-GC1-TraitorsBladeSebastien de Castell, Traitor’s Blade

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…

This just sounds great, as I mentioned earlier this month. (Due out in March.)

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Vermes-LookWhosBackTimur Vermes/Jamie Bulloch, Look Who’s Back

Summer 2011. Berlin. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of ground, alive and well.

Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman. People certainly recognise him, though – as a brilliant, satirical impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable, happens, and the ranting Hitler takes off, goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own TV show, becomes someone who people listen to. All while he’s still trying to convince people that yes, it really is him, and yes, he really means it.

Look Who’s Back is a black and brilliant satire of modern media-bloated society, seen through the eyes of the Führer himself. Adolf is by turns repellent, sympathetic and hilarious, but always fascinating. Look Who’s Back is outrageously clever, outrageously funny – and outrageously plausible.

Ok, so this is actually published by Maclehose Press, but as that’s another Quercus imprint, it counts. It sounds really, really… well, potentially awesome. I do love a good, subversive novel…

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Which other books from Jo Fletcher Books are you most looking forward to? [As I mentioned at the start, any exclusions from this list are not to be taken as lack of interest.]

Quick Review: “Poison” by Sarah Pinborough (Gollancz)

Pinborough-FTN1-PoisonAn intriguing tweaking of the classic Snow White Fairy Tale

A beautiful, sexy, contemporary retelling of the classic Snow White fairy tale, illustrated by Les Edwards.

POISON is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the Snow White story which takes all the elements of the classic fairytale that we love (the handsome prince, the jealous queen, the beautiful girl and, of course, the poisoning) and puts a modern spin on the characters, their motives and their desires. It’s fun, contemporary, sexy, and perfect for fans of ONCE UPON A TIME, GRIMM, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN and more

This book isn’t very long, so it’s a little tricky to review at any great length without ruining the whole story. Pinborough has taken this classic story and approached it with a modern sensibility, tweaking the tale here and there to make it a little more edgy and fresh. I must admit that I’m not the greatest fan of fairy tales to begin with, which probably makes you wonder why you should care about my opinion on this book. My lack of familiarity with the source material will also have had an impact on how much I got from this novella. I can see why people will enjoy this, though. I liked it a fair bit, too.

Poison is basically a story about two young women: one an evil step-mother (Lilith) and the other a princess (Snow). They are the same age, more or less, with the King having decided on a younger model after the death of Snow’s mother. They are also, of course, very different. Snow is carefree, confident, and quite fun (she can often be found drinking and hanging out with the dwarfs, pulling practical jokes), and she’s a bit of a tomboy. Lilith, on the other hand, is cold, calculating, self-conscious, surprisingly insecure, and highly resentful of the male-dominated world in which she lives (understandably – she seems to be better suited to ruling than her warmonger, imperialist husband). She yearns for power and the ability to wield it, and takes her husband’s latest campaign abroad as an opportunity to wield it in his name.

Pinborough’s characters are interesting – they are clearly identifiable as those in the original, but updated and a little more modern. At times, the dialogue and writing felt a little archaic, which was at odds with the contemporary feel I think the author was going for. Nevertheless, they’re all pretty interesting. Lilith controls a psycho-Aladdin, for example! That was a very cool development, I thought. That’s also all I’m going to say about it, lest I ruin that darkly delightful character for you. Lilith’s grandmother, the old crone of the story, is as wicked and devious as the Queen. She’s also a bit dotty, which added some extra levity (she mothers Lilith a bit, and her first scene made me chuckle). The Huntsman seems to be the typical manly-man of fairy tales (who seems to have some magical stud-powers…).

Despite not being the biggest fan of fairy tales, I thought this was a pretty interesting, quick read. I didn’t love it, unfortunately, and there were a couple of fleeting lulls in the narrative, but it was still a good read. If you’re looking for a new, fresh and modern take on this classic fairy tale, and enjoy the swathe of fairy-tale-related reinterpretations (Grimm and Once Upon a Time in particular, I think), then Sarah Pinborough’s Poison will be right for you.

A quick, fun, diversion; an intriguing contemporary take on one of the all-time classic stories. I’m looking forward to seeing what the author’s done with Beauty and Charm, the other two novellas in the ‘series’ (also published this year by Gollancz).

Pinborough-FairyTaleNovellas

The Complete Covers for Sarah’s three Fairy Tale reinterpretations

Upcoming: “The Language of Dying” by Sarah Pinborough (Jo Fletcher)

Pinborough-LanguageOfDying

I wrote an earlier “Upcoming” round-up for the talented, unstoppable Sarah Pinborough. Since then, though, I’ve learned that she has another novel coming out this year. Here’s some info and details about The Language of Dying

Tonight is a special, terrible night.

A woman sits at her father’s bedside watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life.

Her brothers and sisters – all broken, their bonds fragile – have been there for the past week, but now she is alone.

And that’s always when it comes.

The clock ticks, the darkness beckons.

If it comes at all.

The Language of Dying will be published by Jo Fletcher Books in December 2013.

Some Books Received… (May 2013)

BooksReceived-20130514

A nice selection of books have arrived, recently (also some non-fiction books, but I’ll feature them over on the other website in the near future). So, here’s the latest selection of delectable and intriguing ARCs, etc., that have arrived…

Faye-SevenForASecretLynday Faye’s SEVEN FOF A SECRET (Headline)

Six months after the formation of the NYPD, its most reluctant and talented officer, Timothy Wilde, thinks himself well versed in his city’s dark practices—until he learns of the gruesome underworld of lies and corruption ruled by the “blackbirders,” who snatch free Northerners of color from their homes, masquerade them as slaves, and sell them South to toil as plantation property.

The abolitionist Timothy is horrified by these traders in human flesh. But in 1846, slave catching isn’t just legal—it’s law enforcement.

When the beautiful and terrified Lucy Adams staggers into Timothy’s office to report a robbery and is asked what was stolen, her reply is, “My family.” Their search for her mixed-race sister and son will plunge Timothy and his feral brother, Valentine, into a world where police are complicit and politics savage, and corpses appear in the most shocking of places. Timothy finds himself caught between power and principles, desperate to protect his only brother and to unravel the puzzle before all he cares for is lost.

I really enjoyed Faye’s previous novel in this historical crime thriller series, The Gods of Gotham. It’s set in 18th Century New York, and covers the early years of when an official, ‘professional’ police force was created. It’s a great series, and Faye has a great prose style and approach to her characters and plotting. Highly recommended.

Also on CR: Interview with Lyndsay Faye

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Gaiman-MakeGoodArtNeil Gaiman’s MAKE GOOD ART (Headline)

In May 2012, bestselling author Neil Gaiman delivered the commencement address at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, in which he shared his thoughts about creativity, bravery, and strength. He encouraged the fledgling painters, musicians, writers, and dreamers to break rules and think outside the box. Most of all, he urged them to make good art.

The book Make Good Art, designed by renowned graphic artist Chip Kidd, contains the full text of Gaiman’s inspiring speech.

This is an interesting little book… I’ll review it in the next couple of days, hopefully. This weekend, perhaps.

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HandE-GenerationLoss2013Elizabeth Hand’s GENERATION LOSS (Constable & Robinson)

Cass Neary made her name in the 1970s as a photographer embedded in the burgeoning punk movement in New York City. Her pictures of the musicians and hangers on, the infamous, the damned, and the dead, got her into art galleries and a book deal. But thirty years later she is adrift, on her way down, and almost out. Then an old acquaintance sends her on a mercy gig to interview a famously reclusive photographer who lives on an island in Maine. When she arrives Downeast, Cass stumbles across a decades-old mystery that is still claiming victims, and into one final shot at redemption.

Elizabeth Hand grew up in New York State. In 1975 she moved to Washington, DC, to study playwriting at Catholic University. After seeing Patti Smith perform, Hand flunked out and became involved in the DC and New York City nascent punk scenes. From 1979 to 1986 she worked at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; she returned to university to study cultural anthropology, and received her BA in 1985. The author of seven previous novels and the recipient of a Maine Arts Commission and an NEA Fellowship, she is a regular contributor to The Washington Post Book World. Hand lives with her family on the Maine coast.

I’ve never read anything by Elizabeth Hand. She writes both SFF and crime novels, and all the ones I’ve taken a look at have pretty intriguing premises. So, now that this one has arrived, I’ll definitely be taking a look as soon as possible.

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KristjanssonS-SwordsOfGoodMenSnorri Kristjansson’s SWORDS OF GOOD MEN (Quercus)

To Ulfar Thormodsson, the Viking town of Stenvik is the penultimate stop on a long journey in his riveting adventure of clashing Viking powers. Tasked with looking after his cousin after disgracing his father, he has traveled the world and now only wants to go home.

Stenvik is different: it contains the beautiful and tragic Lilja, who immediately captures Ulfar’s heart – but Stenvik is also home to some very deadly men, who could break Ulfar in an instant.

King Olav is marching on Stenvik from the East, determined to bring the White Christ to the masses at the point of his sword, and a host of bloodthirsty raiders led by a mysterious woman are sailing from the north.

But Ulfar is about to learn that his enemies are not all outside the walls.

I’ve written about this quite recently, so I’ve included it here for the sake of completeness. I’m really looking forward to getting around to it.

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Meltzer-FifthAssasinBrad Meltzer’s THE FIFTH ASSASIN (Hodder)

From John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, there have been more than two dozen assassination attempts on the President of the United States.

Four have been successful.

But now, Beecher White discovers a killer in Washington, D.C., who’s meticulously re-creating the crimes of these four men. Historians have branded them as four lone wolves. But what if they were wrong?

Beecher is about to discover the truth: that during the course of a hundred years, all four assassins were secretly working together. What was their purpose? For whom do they really work? And why are they planning to kill the current President?

Beecher’s about to find out. And most terrifyingly, he’s about to come face-to-face with the fifth assassin.

I have had a mixed experience with Meltzer’s novels. I really enjoyed The Tenth Justice, his debut, and The First Daughter was pretty good. A couple of his others have been a bit weaker (and there was one DNF). This is the sequel to The Inner Circle, which wasn’t bad, had an interesting premise, but didn’t blow me away.

[I didn’t get sent this by the publisher, not did I buy it – I got it at the local library, but decided to feature it on here anyway.]

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Pinborough-FTN1-PoisonSarah Pinborough’s POISON (Gollancz)

POISON is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the Snow White story which takes all the elements of the classic fairytale that we love (the handsome prince, the jealous queen, the beautiful girl and, of course, the poisoning) and puts a modern spin on the characters, their motives and their desires. It’s fun, contemporary, sexy, and perfect for fans of ONCE UPON A TIME, GRIMM, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN and more.

It’s Sarah Pinborough. Of course I’m interested in reading it. This one, though, I’ll actually make sure I read in a timely manner. It appears that Pinborough’s books (all of which sound awesome) have been suffering from my annoying Save For Later syndrome… I will remedy this. I will!

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ShannonS-BoneSeasonSamantha Shannon’s THE BONE SEASON (Bloomsbury)

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

I have heard nothing about this novel before, but according to the publicist’s blurb and information, it is going to be huge. It’s been optioned for the big screen, bought to be translated into 19 languages, and Bloomsbury seem to believe it’s going to be the next big thing, filling in the hole left by the end of Twilight and The Hunger Games. Colour me intrigued. [Also, I have no idea how they got my address/details…]

Upcoming: “A Matter Of Blood”, “Mayhem” & More by Sarah Pinborough (Ace/Gollancz/Jo Fletcher)

With a number of exciting releases on both sides of the Pond, it looks like 2013 is going to be a very good year for British author Sarah Pinborough.

Pinborough-FG1-AMatterOfBloodUSFirst up, and already out in the UK for ages (published by Gollancz in 2010), we have the author’s critically-acclaimed A Matter of Blood will now be hitting shelves in the US.

In a world steeped in darkness, a new breed of evil has fallen…

London’s ruined economy has pushed everyone to the breaking point, and even the police rely on bribes and deals with criminals to survive. Detective Inspector Cass Jones struggles to keep integrity in the police force, but now, two gory cases will test his mettle. A gang hit goes wrong, leaving two schoolboys dead, and a serial killer calling himself the Man of Flies leaves a message on his victims saying “nothing is sacred.”

Then Cass’ brother murders his own family before committing suicide. Cass doesn’t believe his gentle brother did it. Yet when evidence emerges suggesting someone killed all three of them, a prime suspect is found – Cass himself.

Common links emerge in all three cases, but while Cass is finding more questions than answers, the Man of Flies continues to kill…

This is the first novel in Pinborough’s Forgotten Gods series (which I shamefully have not yet read). In the UK, the series title was The Dog-Faced Gods. A Matter of Blood is followed by The Shadow of the Soul (August 2013) and The Chosen Seed (December 2013). As a bonus, here are the three UK covers for the series:

Pinborough-DFG-Trilogy

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Pinborough-MayhemWhile North Americans will be able to finally get their hands on this trilogy in 2013, Brits will also be treated to Sarah’s latest novel, Mayhem (April 25th, published by Jo Fletcher Books)

When a rotting torso is discovered in the vault of New Scotland Yard, it doesn’t take Dr. Thomas Bond, Police Surgeon, long to realise that there is a second killer at work in the city where, only a few days before, Jack the Ripper brutally murdered two women in one night.

Though just as gruesome, this is the hand of a colder killer, one who lacks Jack’s emotion.

And, as more headless and limbless torsos find their way into the Thames, Dr. Bond becomes obsessed with finding the killer. As his investigations lead him into an unholy alliance, he starts to wonder: is it a man who has brought mayhem to the streets of London, or a monster?

This sounds really cool, so I’m going to try to get a review done A.S.A.P.

And finally, Pinborough also has three novellas – Poison (April 18th), Charm (July 18th) and Beauty (October 17th) – coming out this year in the UK, to be published by Gollancz. Here are the complete covers for the three, which have been described as “absolutely superb, fun, mischievous novellas”:

Pinborough-FairyTaleNovellas