All Change – the fifth volume of the Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard

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Readers of the four Cazalet Chronicles that proceed this volume will be eager to read this book, concerning as it does the final elements of the stories of the many family members. It would be possible to read this book without the previous books in mind, as I did originally several years after reading the fourth episode. The book is better read fairly soon after the previous novels, if only because it concerns a large cast of characters and it is sometimes tricky to remember who belongs to which family, which is particularly important when one relationship erupts in this book. Howard had a great gift for characterization, so each character, right down to the smallest baby, is a fully realised person. This is a sad volume in some ways; as the Duchy, the matriarch of the Cazalets slips away in the first pages, it is symbolic of the final days of a way of life in which the big house, Home Place, was the centre of the family’s existence. A shelter in wartime for most of the children and many of their parents, the shabbiness of the house and its furnishing becomes a theme. It is comforting, familiar, and thus established as a character in the novel. 


The eldest brother, Hugh, has found happiness with Jemima and her boys, and is cheerfully dominated by his small daughter Laura. Polly is in a large house with her husband Gerald, and is coping well with being a mother and manager of a large estate despite financial challenges. Edward is discovering the challenges of living with Diana, while Villy struggles to move on. Louise is stuck in a relationship which is unfulfilling. Clary, whose marriage was significant in the fourth novel, has  challenges to face in this novel. Meanwhile several of the other cousins begin to discover that life is not easy, especially in love. The narration moves from family members to the various situations they find themselves, honestly and in small details. There is death, but there is also romantic discoveries and a strengthening of relationships. 


This family saga which has stretched over five substantial novels is very worth reading, or re reading, as it is such a vital and dynamic portrait of so many people. Howards’ mastery of dialogue makes this story, or collection of stories, a vivid story of people who become almost real to the readers. She has a particular gift for describing children, their obsessions and speech which makes them feel alive. As these chronicles stretch from before the Second World War to 1956, much has happened over the period in the world which has all been faithfully drawn through the eyes of each person featuring in the novel. Some people have been in the background, others have dominated because of the drama of their lives. Having said that, no one is forgotten in this summation of the saga, as a new and somewhat harsh world has emerged. I found this a fascinating book, full of the lively descriptions of people that make them seem so real. It manages to gather up so many themes which have developed in the previous novels that it is an achievement; it also manages to move them on in a realistic way just as life would over such a long period. Each person is given such a strong voice that I really enjoyed finding out about what motivated them and how they coped with life’s challenges. This book is a triumphant ending to a memorable series of novels, and if you have not yet delved into the world of the Cazalets, I recommend that you will find it more than worthwhile and enjoyable.

Writing Fiction – a user – friendly guide by James Essinger – A resource for writers of many types


This is a book with many useful points for writers. It well earns its subtitle of a User – friendly guide, as it is a readable book in its own right. It also features an index, which is a very helpful addition to a book which is likely to be well bookmarked with post it notes. Having been a member of a creative writing group for several years, I recognise the style and content of a friendly and honest teacher. Essinger is obviously a person of great experience and insight into the writing and publishing process, and honestly suggests the common mistakes that new writers often make. This is a fairly basic book, which refers to everything from grammar howlers which apparently let down otherwise interesting submissions, through to some fascinating details about sense data and other ways of conveying the characters’ activities in a novel. 


Essinger makes frequent reference to a book called “How Not to Write a Novel” by Newman and Mittlemark which apparently gives many details of the mistakes to avoid in writing and submitting novels. This book is more positive; it advises what to do and why with examples from novels, stories and even screen plays. It mentions how most successful authors do not pass on how to do it, but provides the details of a few who do. He refers to several writers of screenplays who have shared hints and secrets from some famous films, as he discusses the overlap between screenplays and novels. I recommend this as a super book for anyone who has an interest in writing novels, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it. 


This book covers many basic points, such as the best length for a novel and the importance of having a hero, with some sort of quest. He acknowledges that there are always exceptions to the rules such as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, but that nonetheless the principles hold good. He points out that even she had rejections both in her own name and an assumed pen name. He urges, for example,  that every novel needs a professional edit before submission. Being a book published in 2019, he is writing about exactly the situation today, which is worth knowing for anyone who is trying to write today. The tricky question of dialogue is discussed, as well as the need for some suspense.


This book is quite slim, and would not replace a creative writing course. It is a reference book for anyone who wishes to write for publication, and gives many positive hints as well as the obvious pitfalls. It also helps those of us who write about books to spot the elements of good writing and good finished manuscripts, so is a worthwhile practical book to own for many people. I found it very readable, and I suspect I will return to it if only to justify my thoughts on a book. It would make a very useful book for anyone who has ever thought of writing for others, or even privately.  I would have liked to see a bibliography of other writing books and resources. It manages to cover a wide range of subjects within the field of writing fiction, and is a very worthwhile book.   

The Flower Arranger by J.J. Ellis – a murder mystery set in contemporary Japan


Murder in Japan sounds complicated, but this book caters for those with no knowledge of Japanese culture or language. J.J. Ellis manages to combine a stunning mystery with several strands of family strains. This marks the introduction of two characters who have different motivations for tracking down the killer, an experienced police Inspector and a young journalist. Tetsu Tanaka, known as Tanaka, is a family man with a keen sense of responsibility, a little hesitant in the seedier side of Tokyo life, but determined to discover the truth. Holly Blain is a young reporter from the U.K., whose assimilation into Japanese society and language is impressive to all who encounter her. Assigned to show business coverage, she is ambitious to cover crime and more exciting stories. The instincts of both lead them in unforeseen ways to follow the trail of a flower arranger, a killer whose signature seems to be the use of beautiful flowers. The discovery of a body in terrible circumstances soon becomes potentially linked with the case of a missing girl. While all these elements may be familiar to readers of crime fiction set anywhere in the world, this book has a particularly Japanese flavour in every respect. This comes from a deep knowledge of Japan from an outsider’s point of view. The delicacy of the flowers throughout is in sharp contrast to the violence of the death of the victim. While there are frequent Japanese words and phrases, the meaning of each becomes obvious from the context, and the writer is skilful in introducing new ideas and information in a completely understandable way. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this novel.


The book opens by looking at the activities of three characters. The first is a mysterious man who is arranging flowers in a Japanese style, remembering his mother. Immediately we learn that in his pursuit of ikebana, the art of flower arranging, has led him to “borrow” or steal some rare orchids from a distant island. Chillingly he wants to fill the space in the arrangement. The first sight of Blain is linked with her perfect Japanese and her role at the newspaper, reporting on the schoolgirl bands much loved by both teenage girls and older men. Her knowledge of music from various cultures is of great importance, as well as her ability to size up a person and strike up conversations easily. She is ambitious to become a serious reporter in the field of crime, even if it is going to be difficult as a woman in a male dominated society. Tanaka is attempting to deal with a distraught father from France whose teenage daughter has gone missing, a situation not helped by his deliberate omission of what he had really been doing. It is only when Blain finds some leads that suggest that young women have been disappearing that Tanaka truly discovers that a relationship with this unusual reporter may be mutually beneficial. 


While I had my initial doubts about  following a book set in Japan, I was pleased to discover that I quickly became involved in the story. It is a very clever novel with a complex yet understandable plot, and the pace picks up as a murderer is desperately sought. References to American music and various cultures make it a colourful read, and I enjoyed the deep knowledge of Japan the author demonstrates. A very enjoyable read, it is challenging and informative throughout. I recommend it as a contemporary crime novel in an unusual setting which I found enthralling. 

Eight Hours From England by Anthony Quayle -a reprinted gem of wartime complexity in Albania

Eight Hours From England by Anthony Quayle


This is a contemporary book of the Second World War, which never forgets the humanity of those who were fighting. For much of this well written book there is very little actual fighting; survival is much more important in a challenging landscape. Written by a man who had undoubtedly been there, the actor Anthony Quayle exceeds all expectations in his moving and often painfully realistic record of life in Albania in late 1943. Having been disappointed in love by Ann, who he continues to idolise throughout the novel, Major John Overton offers to go on a mission to create trouble in Nazi occupied Albania. Finding a complex situation of near civil war between the Albanians themselves, this is far from a straightforward disruption of German  forces. As shifting loyalties and opposing interest mean that few people, if any, can be trusted, diplomacy is the order of the day as tribal leaders must be placated and bribed with gold, weapons and essential supplies. While establishing a foothold in the unfriendly and largely inaccessible countryside is a priority, difficult decisions must be made when any connection with headquarters is tenuous. There are very few forces to command, as British officers are sent sparingly and relations with those from America and the retreating Italians can be difficult. This is a fascinating account of the humans involved in a complex and changeable situation; the local warlords, the interpreters and guides, the shepherds and the locals trying to survive and preserve their territory. The soldiers who have to survive literally on the edge of mountains with tiny amounts of basic supplies are well drawn. The ever present menace of the German forces threads throughout this war novel which is far more about people than battle. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this reprinted novel in the series of Wartime Classics produced by the Imperial War Museum. 


The novel begins with the confusion of a war declared and emerging on so many fronts. Desperate to leave London and an admiration of the seemingly unattainable Ann, John Overton travels to a large British base in Cario. The administration are unsure what to do with this technically trained but inexperienced officer, so he is dispatched to Albania, “the least developed of all the Balkan sections”. In an exciting transfer to the coast of the country, a base rejoicing in the name of “Sea View”, Overton soon discovers that leading a small group of men who are not all under his command will be a delicate matter. As defeated Italian troops defect to Allied protection, their physical presence complicates the situation. Despite his expectations and training, simply blowing up roads and disrupting German forces proves to be far from straightforward, as a factional and fierce situation is revealed, with betrayal and self protection being the dominating motivation, made more complicated by language differences.


This book is far from the traditional military account of an ex soldier. It is fictionalised autobiography of the most intimate kind, full of the telling details of sights, sounds and even tastes of someone who experienced them first hand. Quayle was a memorable actor especially in films depicting small groups of people in war. On the evidence of this book he was also an acute and inspiring writer. I recommend this book as an immensely readable account of a confusing yet life changing experience in a lost world, but recognisable for its people full of  fear, loyalty and sheer determination to survive.   


  This is my final review of the set of four books produced by the Imperial War Museum in its Wartime Classics series. With a wide range of novels even in these few books, I would love to know if they are proposing to reprint any more difficult to find novels of the Second World War period. If they are as good as these four, they will be worth collecting!

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – fantasy in an historical context

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This book suggests several different things about the world, or worlds. There are doors, or Doors, to be found. The written word has power in the hands of certain people. A young woman is an unusual guest of a wealthy man, another young woman cannot live completely within her family. The subtitle of the book “Every Story opens a Door” gives a valuable clue to the way the leading character January copes, even escapes, from the difficulties of her life. This partial fantasy novel is a powerful comment on the world in which roles are assigned to those of a different race, and how women are treated, especially those who do not fit the mould. January is a young woman who has grown up in the household of Mr Locke, wealthy and a member of a mysterious Society. Her behaviour sometimes causes upset, and she seeks escape, especially in the face of trauma. A memorable dog is a significant character, as January tries to discover those she can trust. Another young woman, Ade, wants to escape from the sheltered life of her female relatives, but the tiny moment of revelation she discovers is soon over. There is a scholarly theme that runs through the book as the geography of the world is seen in a new light, with mysterious Doors in many places. The written word becomes vital as this many stranded story develops in its complexity. This can be a vivid, sometimes violent seeming book, but essentially it is a story of courage, strength and a search for truth. An unusual book, I was fascinated by its narrative and pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this novel.


The book opens with January’s memory of being seven and discovering a Door. On a foreign trip the lively little girl runs off from a hotel and discovers a Door into a different world, or does she? She has one “non-fictional” friend, Samuel, the grocer’s son, who supplies her with novels and adventure stories, and she must contend with her strict homelife until she is sent a friend by her absent father. She discovers a book which postulates the possibility of different worlds which can be accessed through mysterious doors. There is a story which features a young woman who spends her life trying to find them. When a party for the mysterious Society meets amid a traumatic time for January, she makes a decision which puts the rest of her life and her closest allies in peril.


This book has elements of fantasy and even supernatural beings, as people’s motives and actions are seen in complex ways. The heroine, January, is an “unusual” girl who will never quite fit in, which she admits to herself from early on. Proceeding at a fast pace, some of the episodes are thrilling and a little confusing, but the reader has to explore the narrative along with January as she comes to terms with her situation. I found this an immensely readable book, with an impressive central logic amidst a deep story of many layers. This book can be enjoyed by many people, as both adults and young people would find much to challenge and entertain. I recommend this book to those who enjoy fantasy based in a world like ours, a historical context not hidebound by many inconvenient facts. A splendid and special book, it is an unusual read with female characters in the forefront.  


Walden of Bermondsey by Peter Murphy – the first of a series of fictional legal encounters in London

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Walden of Bermondsey by Peter Murphy


This is the first book of a series of books concerning the fictional accounts of life in Bermondsey Crown Court. Full of gentle humour, some revelations and non technical facts concerning the law, this book records several cases dealt with by Charlie Walden, Resident Judge. Married to the local vicar, the Reverend Mrs Walden, who sometimes weighs in with advice and a greater world experience, Charlie is an amiable and able judge who tries to find and keep the middle line, which is not always easy with all of human life which appears before him. Furthermore, he is plagued by the constant interruptions of the “Grey Smoothies”, more correctly known as the supervisory administrators from the civil service who are seemingly ignorant of the work actually carried out in the court, with their cost cutting and streamlining of the operations of the courts. He also has to supervise and sometimes restrain the activities of the other three judges, although he admires Judge Marjorie Jenkins, whose knowledge of the law and procedure frequently silence him. With Judge “Legless” whose particular skills and abilities are sometimes especially remarked on, and Judge Hubert Drake of uncertain vintage and Garrick club membership, the judicial crew are aided and abetted by several court functionaries. With frequent mention of those who supply daily food and newspapers, this community is able to withstand the various trials and tribulations that come its way, hoping always not to make the front page of the tabloid press in a negative way. This early collection of stories from the court introduces not only the characters in the building, but those who appear before them in every sense. It is well worth a read, not only for fans of Rumpole but also those who enjoy a somewhat sideways view of contemporary life.


The book opens with a surprising case of arson which rapidly assumes all the excitement of a mini soap opera. Meanwhile, Marjorie must deal with a fight in a rugby match, dismissed by the knowledgeable Legless. We learn that the defendent is always referred to as “Chummy” by the judges, a fact which later confuses a civil servant. Political punch ups later emerge, as do the risks of pretending to be a solicitor. “Artistic Differences” deals with the perils of portraiture, while matters of a recently formed state confuse everyone in another case. The final case in the book concerns the keeping of an unusual business above an otherwise respectable restaurant. Always in the background the community of the courts keeps throwing in challenges big and small, and it is only by good luck and literally good judgement that the show is kept on the road.


I have already read and reviewed the third book in this series, and my enjoyment of both suggests that they can be enjoyed as standalone reads. The humour is sometimes robust, always gentle, and small victories are duly celebrated in a satisfactory way. I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the workings of the law in Britain, the complications of daily life, and enjoys a fictional memoir written in a humourous way. 


With today’s focus on legal judgements this is a very timely read, as well as being a gently amusing one.

Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt – a wartime murder mystery with and element of comedy


A murder mystery, a comedy, a brilliant plot, all set against a background of the London Blitz, rationing and so much more. The Imperial War Museum Wartime Series has discovered some wonderful books and reprinted them; this is the only one by a woman and features the Home Front in a lively way. Originally published in 1943, this reprint puts a book by a prolific but little known author back into the easy to buy lists, and it stands up to comparison with many late Golden Age detective fiction. The body appears on the first page, the mystery is investigated by a Flight-Lieutenant David Heron, war hero in a completely natural way, the events are dramatic but understandable, the characters truly live in their speech and behaviour. The investigation is given a time limit by David, the friends and acquaintances who help and hinder all have their own priorities. His relationship with Tess is lovely, and their conversations flirtatious and funny. Another memorable character is Bob Carter, disappointed in his attempts to join up to the military, he decides to establish a club for nationals from the twenty six allied nations. His progress via contacts in laying hands on furniture, alcohol and other necessities is a funny counter point to the shop of the title; the mysterious fancy goods shop that proves to have rationed items “Under the counter”  for those willing to pay extra. David is an ex actor, and his knowledge of the theatre provides an added layer of humour and entertainment, as well as a background to his jolly relationship with Mrs Meake, his landlady. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this insightful and mainly light-hearted murder mystery. 


The book begins with David’s rather rude awakening to discover that a body has been discovered in the garden of the house he has returned to from hospital following his plane being shot down. Mrs Meake is shaken by the questioning of a police inspector, which has already led to one of her lodgers departing. As David explains to his friend Bob and girlfriend Tess, the lay out of the house includes rooms for Mrs Meake’s daughter, Thelma, a sailor’s room who is frequently away, and a Mr Smedley. There are other eccentric lodgers who all have their moment, despite their tenuous links to the mystery. Strangers in the area turn up in the local pub and the streets, as this is a novel which happens in a small geographical area, a part of London full of atmosphere in 1942 when the novel is set.


I really enjoy novels which were written at a time when the outcome of the war was still uncertain, without the benefit of hindsight. Often written as entertainment and to raise morale among those spending time in difficult settings, these writings are spontaneous and full of the small details that the authors were witnessing every day. This novel is a fine example of an apparently prolific writer who manages to combine a mystery with a fine novel in any sense. I really enjoyed the dialogue, pace and setting of this book, but the characters are the real achievement. This is a great read for fans of middle twentieth century novels, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys classic crime novels.   

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – the story of both Boleyn sisters and their relationships

The Other Boleyn Girl

A dated historical novel? Those readers who have read the more recent ‘Cousin’s War’ series or indeed her most recent bestseller ‘Tidelands’  may wonder why I am reviewing a much older book, but the simple answer is that it is a wonderful historical novel originally published in 2001. Written from the point of view of Mary Boleyn/Carey, a young woman who becomes the mistress of Henry VIII, mother to a least one child by him, and most famously predecessor of her sister Anne. This is an historical fiction. In some sources she was a famous mistress to others while in the court of the French king, in others she was part of a family who had other dubious ‘contact’ with Henry. In this book, despite her early marriage, she is still essentially innocent and surprised that the handsome, powerful king has looked in her direction.She is flattered and confused; her family, the Howards, push her towards where they see most political advantage. The power and influence of a woman’s family is one of the main themes of this book, another is the efforts made by Anne to ensnare the king into marriage for various motives. Whatever the truth of the various women’s experiences, this is a book which tries to explain how a woman could become a queen and yet go on to be executed in the most public way. It tells of  loyalty to a tragic queen who was rejected, and the family influence on a woman who must strive to preserve what what becomes important to her. It has romance and danger, details of life at the times through the clothes and the settings, and the behaviour of an ambitious woman and a changeable king. There is so much to enjoy in this book, as well as challenge and learn about the lives of women in a different era with some familiar difficulties. 


The book opens with Mary witnessing the execution of Duke of Buckinghamshire, hoping that at the last minute there will be a reprieve. This chilling glimpse of the future shows that the stakes are indeed high for individuals who were are some point favoured by the king. This is a young Henry, attractive, powerful and majestic, yet also open to being manipulated by those around him. As Mary unintentionally attracts his interest, she is encouraged by her ambitious family to submit to his attentions. Anne, attractive in a completely different way, becomes involved with a nobleman, but when thwarted becomes vengeful. As Mary begins to realise how she is betraying Katherine, Henry’s first queen, and when she gives birth to children, she knows she is no longer the chief object of the king’s interest. It is Anne who becomes the focus of all the attention, and she lives up to her reputation for being difficult. 


Anne Boleyn’s relationship with Henry VIII is the famous second marriage which did not produce the much wanted male heir, but instead produced one of England’s greatest monarchs. Anne’s controversial end can obscure the background story of her family, and the essential purpose of this novel is to give a voice and identity to her sister Mary. While not all the narrative is true, this novel provides an enjoyable and solid read which exposes the position of women in a society which has some overlaps with our own, and reveals a fascinating portrait of both Boleyn girls.  

Spring Magic by D.E. Stevenson – a Furrowed Middlebrow reprint of a cheerful book from wartime

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Dorothy Stevenson wrote many good books in the middle of the twentieth century, and this is one of the most approachable and delightful. While on the surface it is about a young woman who travels to a small Scottish village to escape the drudgery of working for impossible relatives and the bombing of London in the Second World War, it is actually a sincere look at relationships. Stevenson wrote many books in the mid twentieth century, some featuring a number of characters on a series basis. This book is a one off, but still achieves a certain lightness and insight. It combines excellent characterisations of individuals with an accurate portrayal of complex relationships in both the civilian village and the army base.  The book’s heroine, Frances Field, is a well written character as her innocent view of a new environment and the complications of new people allow the reader to explore alongside Francis in her new life. The range of characters is enormous, from the flirtatious colonel’s daughter, the small boy with a big vocabulary, and the secretive lord of the manor. The setting of the small village, seashore and countryside is wonderful, as well as the glimpses of the stricken south of England. The war in the background means that there is threat and change beneath the surface of the narrative; it is significant that this book was originally published in 1942. I am so pleased that the good people of Furrowed Middlebrow and Dean Street Press have given me the opportunity to read and review this most enjoyable book. 


The book begins with the twenty five year old Frances coming to terms with her lot as unpaid housekeeper for her selfish and demanding aunt following the death of both of her parents some years before. Her only hope is Dr.Digby, who recommends that she must have a holiday, and she accordingly heads north to a small fishing village, Cairn. She is unsure how to even get accommodation, but manages to reawaken a hotel. This is really helpful when she encounters three army wives keen to find housing near their husbands, Elise, Tommy and Tillie. Through them and their husbands she meets many more people from the army base, including the intriguing Guy.  Frances witnesses much and begins to understand the underlying stories of those on the base and in the village. For a small community there is plenty going on, and Frances has several adventures. While there is a war in the background, this is not a novel of blitz and bombing, but of the way the upheaval and movement of people changes lives. 


The general sense of this book is cheerful and hopeful, despite the timing. Much is going on amidst the seashore, hotel and small house, Sea View. This book has an exciting climax, though much of its power comes from the careful build up of characters through the novel. While Frances is seen as an innocent, she begins to see that her new life is very different from her previous invisibility in London, and she becomes involved in the lives of others. Stevenson’s eye for detail picks out the small, significant elements of the surroundings which will have some importance later. She also has a telling way with dialogue which is not only amusing but reveals much about character. I recommend this book to all fans of mid twentieth century literature for its plot, characters and setting, and overall air of optimism from a dark place.


This is only one of the many wonderful reprints of hard to get books from the mid twentieth century written by women. Available in paperback and ebook, they are generally great reads which have slipped from lists unjustly.  Some more wartime books have been recently been made available, and I recommend them (as you will see if you look at some of “their” authors I have reviewed). Why not take a look at their website, where you will find the full Dean Street range ?

Nexus by Alison Morton – a Roma Nova novella featuring Aurelia, diplomat, soldier and survivor

Nexus by Alison Morton


A thriller, set in an alternative Europe, featuring a ex-military officer determined to protect her family and friends, Nexus is a short but vivid episode in the Roma Nova series by Alison Morton. A standalone novella, this is a brilliant book which maintains a fast pace while keeping in touch with other Roma Nova stories. Aurelia Mitela has served her time in Special Forces, and can disarm a gunman with or without the help of her bodyguards. Her determination to help an old friend and desperate father is second only to her passion to protect her daughter and partner. From the flat lands of Cambridgeshire to the streets of Roma and beyond, this novel never pauses in its revelations of international crime and petty grudges. A terrifically physical book, this again contains a certain vulnerability on Aurelia’s part when not playing by the rules, but is also punctuated by her leaps of intuition when a threat is perceived. Morton’s creation of a state run by women from earliest times gives a sharp focus on the responsibilities that can be assumed when traditional expectations are overturned. While cleverly steeped in a world where Roman gods and army ranks are still common terms, the main characters are set in a 1970s Europe where London still stands but has the legation from a Roman state within its environs. As modern technology begins to emerge even if referred to by different names, this book is cleverly constructed and executed. It is an adventure that I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review. 


The book opens with a conversation between Aurelia and her friend Harry Carter. He is consulting her because his troubled son Tom has disappeared once more. As a widower, Harry has tried to bring up his son with every material advantage and ambition, but apart from a brief interlude when Aurela’s companion Miklos managed to gain the young man’s confidence with horses, Tom has seemed angry with his life. Aurelia is soon involved in her own offspring’s problems, as her daughter Marina is being bullied by another schoolchild. Her position is difficult as her military training and experience is unsettling in diplomatic circles, but it is not long before she must remember every survival skill she has ever learnt.


This book is an excellent episode in the Roma Nova series, fitting in between other novels and consistent in the massively able Aurelia from whose point of view this book is told. She is not a superhero, but a survivor in nearly impossible circumstances. This particular book offers an alternative view of Britain which has endured a different history; I was particularly drawn by the description of the Cambridge ara and “Oldmarket” instead of “Newmarket” and other little hints of the nature of a different European history. The importance of family, of love, is still central to this thriller- adventure, and I was instantly drawn back into the world of Aurelia and her state responsibilities. I recommend this book which is part of a series which has made room for fierce female protagonists, and it is as carefully and engagingly written  as its predecessors and no doubt successors, of which I hope there will be many!  


Having finished my dissertation, we had a great evening with some of the other students on the course, when much food was eaten and a little drink taken (not that much – several drivers present!). Here’s hoping all of our marks reflect the efforts we have put in!