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Book Reviews April 2006

In Glasgow, a toddler goes missing, snatched from the front garden of his home. But while the city braces itself for the discovery of a lone sexual predator, the police are led to the doors of two eleven-year-old boys. Paddy Meehan – eighteen and fresh out of school – has just started work on the Scottish Daily News.Her conventional working-class parents assume that she will get married and start a family, but all Paddy dreams of is becoming an investigative reporter. Everyone at the Daily News believes that the boys acted alone. Only Paddy feels that there may be more to it than this, and her hunger to uncover the truth sharpens when she discovers that one of them is her fiancé’s cousin. Unsure whether she is motivated by personal ambition or social concern, Paddy begins to ask awkward questions – much to the annoyance of her immediate family. Shunned by those closest to her, she soon finds herself dangerously alone. Set in Glasgow in 1981, The Field of Blood is the first in a compelling new crime series featuring Paddy Meehan. Infused with Denise Mina’s unique blend of dark humour, personal insights and the social injustices that pervade our society, it is a terrifying novel that will challenge readers’ perceptions of right and wrong. Review: Sensational story, brilliantly written - Denise has a finger on the pulse of Glasgow - read my interview with her here.

Synopsis: Journalist Joe Oakes makes a living exposing supernatural hoaxes. A born sceptic, he believes everything has a rational explanation. But when he visits a secretive religious community on a remote Scottish island, everything he thought he knew is overturned. Questions mount: why has the community been accused of Satanism? What has happened to their leader, Pastor Malachi Dove? And perhaps most important, why will no one discuss the strange apparition seen wandering the lonely beaches of Pig Island? Their confrontation, and its violent and bloody aftermath, is so catastrophic that it forces Oaksey to question the nature of evil, and whether he might not be responsible for the terrible crime about to unfold. In her compulsive and haunting new novel, Mo Hayder dares her readers to face their fears head on and to look at what lurks beneath the surface of everyday normality. "Pig Island" is about the unspeakable things people can do to each other. Brace yourself for a terrifying read. Review: Stunning! Mo Hayder is the next Stephen King - you won't guess the outcome, and the grisly detail are just this side of bearable! Terrific read.


Set in Grahamstown, South Africa, during the 1990s, at the height of political unrest and opposition to apartheid, this is the bittersweet story of two people whose lives intertwine without them ever knowing each other - one a heavy-drinking white man and the other the young daughter of a black activist. Reuben Cohen van Tonder's battle with unresolved grief and his search for hidden peace and Vita Marangxa's innocent resolve to remove the bad luck which has troubled her family for generations, climax together in a wondrous resolution of personal and national triumph. This tale captures the harsh and brutal realities of South Africa's past with its raw and sore racism, interlacing them with enchantment, tenderness, forgiveness and hope.

It is 1969: London swings, men land on the moon and thirteen-year-old Kim Tanner appears on Imogen’s doorstep to announce she is her long-lost daughter. Imogen wrote a bestseller about the baby she was forced to give away, so there have been many contenders, but Kim is special and she is convinced. Kim and her dog Welly move in with the beautiful, bohemian Imogen and proceed to bring order to chaos. Then along comes pretty, appealing Sukie, also claiming to be Imogen’s child. Kim is determined to prove she is Imogen’s daughter but when she starts digging she uncovers a very murky story… ‘If you love the Sixties and mystery, you’ll enjoy this’ Marie Claire ‘Contains some fine, playful moments, but it’s when observing the real discomfort of not being loved, and not being known that Yardley’s writing shines’ Glasgow Herald ‘Touching and funny’ B Magazine

In a time before Caesar, before Augustus or Constantine, before the Gallic Wars or the conquest of Britain, in a time before Rome’s place in the history of the western world was assured, the nascent empire had first to survive a devastating assault by its most formidable foe. Celebrated and feared like few figures from history, his name was Hannibal Barca, and the bitter conflict between his people and the Roman Republic shaped the destiny of nations… Capturing the panoramic scope of what would become known as the Second Punic War (218-202BC) – from Hannibal’s famous elephant-mounted crossing of the Alps to the savagery of battles like Trasimene and Zama – this epic novel chronicles a titanic struggle through the actions of individual characters: Hannibal, his nemesis Publius Scipio, their princes, generals and foot soldiers, friends, lovers and wives. In these pages, ancient history is brought to thrilling and unforgettable life. ‘Wonderful…not only deeply evocative of time and place, character and situation, but also lyrically written, compellingly composed...a masterpiece’Jeffrey Lent, author of Lost Nation ‘Vividly captures the frenzy of ancient warfare…a skilfully structured and gripping novel’New York Times

Sinatra is the complete life story, for the first time, of a man whose career was built on raw talent, sheer will power – and criminal connections. Anthony Summers, best-selling author of Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, and Robbyn Swan deliver stunning revelations: - Sinatra’s Mafia connection, and its origin in the hills of Sicily - His tangled relationships with U.S. presidents - His tragic passion for Ava Gardner, including the actress’ own bittersweeet memories – and moving interviews with other women who loved him - The alcohol consumption that was not a joke, but a destructive addiction. 'Summers and Swan tell us much that is new, and with panache...Compelling' Sunday Times 'A definitive, generational work' Vanity Fair 'Astonishingly well-researched…incredibly well-sourced' Independent on Sunday 'First-rate reporting…dense and intimate' People 'Anthony Summers never writes a book that fails to offer accurate material you will find nowhere else…No surprise then that Sinatra: The Life is one of the very few, bona fide, three-dimensional portraits of an amazingly complex, interesting and sometimes god-awful guy' Norman Mailer

A nobleman and his wife, an apothecary nun, an astronomer-mathematician, an inquisitor, a poet who is both lover and villain, a portraitist, a queen and loyal servants deftly act out a beautiful drama of tantalizing relationships. They take up their roles in castle and convent, some surrounded by ornate interiors, garbed in velvets and silks, garlanded with precious jewels; while others abide in simple space devoid of art or representation, and dressed in plain linens and dull calicos. The Apothecary’s Daughter is a wondrous tale, rendered in erotic prose and poetry, stitched through with rich imagery, humour and tenderness. A universal story of inquisition, book burning, persecution and intolerance of new knowledge, it also depicts trade and exotic travel, both across the surface of the earth and among the stars.

A gruesome but fascinating biography…Definitely not for the squeamish, this visceral portrait offers a wonderful insight into sickness, suffering and surgery in the 18th century. Excellent’ Guardian Revered and feared in equal measure, John Hunter was the most famous surgeon of eighteenth-century London. Rich or poor, aristocrat or human freak, suffering Georgians knew that Hunter’s skills might well save their lives; if he failed, their corpses could end up on his dissecting table, their bones and organs destined for display in his remarkable, macabre museum. Maverick medical pioneer, adored teacher, brilliant naturalist, Hunter was a key figure of the Enlightenment who transformed surgery, advanced biological understanding and even anticipated the evolutionary theories of Darwin. He provided inspiration both for Dr Jekyll and Dr Dolittle. But the extremes to which he went to pursue his scientific mission raised question marks then as now.

‘I thought I'd read the best there was on Troy. I was wrong. This is the best’ Sara Douglass Three lives will change the destiny of nations. Helikaon, the young prince of Dardania, haunted by a scarred and traumatic childhood. The priestess Andromache, whose fiery spirit and fierce independence threatens the might of kings. And the legendary warrior Argurios, cloaked in loneliness and driven only by thoughts of revenge. In Troy they find a city torn apart by destructive rivalries. And beyond its fabled walls blood-hungry enemies eye its riches and plot its downfall.It is a time of bravery and betrayal; a time of bloodshed and fear. A time for heroes. ‘This is the grand style of storytelling. Gemmell’s triumph is creating men and women so real that their trials are agony and their triumph is glorious’ Conn Iggulden ‘Hail to Lord of the Silver Bow! Bravo, Mr Gemmell!’ Steven Pressfield 'This is how the oldest tales should be read and known. This is the grand style of storytelling. Gemmell is a master of plot, but his triumph is creating men and women so real that their trials are agony and their triumph is glorious'
Conn Iggulden ‘I thought I'd read the best there was on Troy. I was wrong. This is the best’
Sara Douglass

Control was the word Dr Toby Harper lived by. She strove to keep her life in order, her ER in order. But no one could have been prepared for the man she admits one quiet night to the Springer Hospital. Delirious and in a critical condition from a possible viral infection of the brain, he barely responds to treatment. And then he disappears without trace. The subsequent search leads Toby to a second patient with the same infection. And it reveals an unsettling twist – the infection can only be spread through direct tissue exchange. Soon Toby's on a trail that winds from a pregnant sixteen-year-old prostitute to an unexpected tragedy in her own home. Only then does she discover the unthinkable: a terrifying and deadly epidemic is about to be unleashed … WITH A NEW INTRODUCTION BY THE AUTHOR ‘This is crime writing at its unputdownable, nerve-tingling best’ Harlan Coben ‘Richly drawn hospital scenes … chilling science … and breathless ER-style pacing make Life Support a quick, delightfully scary read’ People ‘[Gerritsen] has an imagination …so dark and frightening that she makes Edgar Allan Poe … seem like goody-two-shoes’ Chicago Tribune

I can’t be with those who throw stones at women and children.It’s beyond me. Beyond my love for Ezra. Beyond my respect for God. In 397 BC, in Susa, the opulent capital of the Persian empire, where the Jews are living in exile, a young woman is destined for a happy life. Her name is Lilah. Lilah is due to marry Antinoes, a great Persian warrior well known at the king’s court.But her beloved brother Ezra, with whom she has been close since childhood, is opposed to this marriage with a foreigner.If Lilah insists, she will have to renounce Ezra, and that is something she cannot do, for she senses that he has been chosen by God to lead the exiled Jews to Jerusalem and, after centuries of displacement, revive the laws of Moses: laws which promote justice and give human life a meaning. Abandoning the promise of a golden future, Lilah urges her brother to leave for Jerusalem and gives him new hope that a return to the Promised Land is possible. But Ezra, blinded by faith, orders the rejection of all foreign wives. At the risk of losing the one person she still has left in her life, Lilah opposes her brother’s fanaticism, thereby ensuring the survival of the women and children condemned to leave the city. But her opposition comes at great personal cost . . .

This journal will be the perfect companion on any trip to the locations visited in The Da Vinci Code. There are pages featuring every location, packed with pictures and fascinating nuggets of information. There are also blank pages for you to write your own observations and add your knowledge and observations to the story. Brown’s novel adroitly blends the chase-scene-stuffed thrillers of Robert Ludlum and the learned romps of Umberto Eco…For anyone who wants more brain-food than thrillers normally provide
  Sunday Times The more I read, the more I had to read. Dan Brown has built a world that is rich in fascinating detail, and I could not get enough of it. Mr Brown, I am your fan
Robert Crais Intrigue and menace mingle in one of the finest mysteries I've ever read. An amazing tale with enigmas piled on secrets stacked on riddles
Clive Cussler

Set over three thousand years ago, a sweeping historical adventure in the tradition of The Red Tent. Her name was Zipporah. A black child, she was found on the shores of the Red Sea, and given a name that meant ‘bird’. But, because of the colour of her skin, her fate was sealed; in the tribal lands where she lived, no man would want her. Then, as she was drawing water at a well, she met an outcast like herself.His name was Moses, and Zipporah was to share his destiny. Together they set out on an epic journey across the desert to Egypt, where they would confront the Pharaoh and beg him to set their people free. But Zipporah’s love for Moses condemned her too: for among the Hebrews of the Exodus her status as a black woman was to have catastrophic consequences…

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