Tag Archives: books

#BookReview ‘Never’ by @KMFollett #thriller

I’ve read and enjoyed the excellent historical Kingsbridge series by Ken Follett but have never read one of his contemporary thrillers. Never, his latest, is a fast-moving story that, despite being a hefty 832 pages, I read hungrily. Ken FollettInternational politics, terrorism, drug smuggling form an unstoppable chain of events that move the world, inch by inch, to the edge of horrifying conflict. This is the content of so many dramatic films and books and is the basis for Follett’s story. He makes it powerful by letting the events unfold through the eyes of five people in different countries, each involved in local matters with far-reaching implications. As events spiral, I didn’t want to put the book down. It’s an uncomfortable read, the sensible cautious voices are at times shouted down by the brashest, loudest hard-liners and, like all the best thrillers, it makes you think ‘could this happen’ and ‘what would I do.’
Follett’s narrative is premised on how events unfolded prior to the First World War when a chain of seemingly small things culminated in a global conflict. Never starts in Northern Africa. Abdul works undercover, tracking cocaine shipments used to fund IS’s operations in the region. Tamara Levit works for the CIA in Chad where climate change is edging the rural population closer to starvation, forcing many to trek north to Europe in search of a better life. Border conflict with neighbouring Sudan is a daily threat. Chad’s president is an unpredictable dictator and terrorists are using North Korean and Chinese weapons.
In China, the government is polarising. Chang Kai is 45 and vice-president for international intelligence. He is communist royalty. His father is one of the Chinese old guard, a political hardliner, a traditionalist, but Kai is new generation Chinese. He studied at Princeton and is married to a television actress. President Chen is talked at by both sides. Prior to his election he had the ear of the traditionalists but since has taken moderate decisions. Now the North Korean neighbours are causing trouble. When there are problems in the north, it inevitably draws in not only South Korea but also the Americans and Japanese. In America, President Green is dealing with a truculent teenage daughter, an unhappy husband, and a populist challenger who fills the airwaves with dangerous rhetoric.
This is a scary thriller that makes you gobble up the pages without realising. The story is wide-ranging and is better for it. Well researched and expertly paced. The early chapters are slower as characters and situations are introduced and explored, then as the political tensions and dangers increase the story pace picks up. The ending comes in a rush but that is what happens when communications are down and control is lost.
It leaves you asking, ‘what if.’

Click the titles to read my reviews of other Follett novels:-
THE EVENING AND THE MORNING [Kingsbridge prequel]

If you like this, try:-
Exposure’ by Helen Dunmore
The Travelers’ by Chris Pavone
Last Light’ by Alex Scarrow

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#BookReview NEVER by @KMFollett #thriller https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5R4 via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Moonlight & the Pearler’s Daughter’ by @LizziePook

Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter, the debut historical mystery by Lizzie Pook, is a surprise, full of twists and turns with a determined female lead character who defies 19th century conventions to find the murderer of her father.
The gritty, sometimes disgusting descriptions of the pearler’s living conditions are vivid and not for the faint-hearted. Set in an 1896 at Bannin Bay, a poor Australian pearl fishing settlement on the edge of the coast, the settlers are surrounded by indigenous people and their lands. When her father’s pearling lugger, the White Starling, returns from a long sea trip without him, Eliza Brightwell is told her father Charles disappeared from his boat overnight and is assumed drowned. Her brother Thomas, under pressure to keep the family business out debt, departs immediately to the nearby town of Cossack to sell his catch to traders. Alone, Eliza refuses to accept her father is dead but when she asks questions, is advised to accept the inevitable.Lizzie PookThis is a raw town of crime, racism, jealousy, blackmail and abuse. A detailed examination of the available facts, and a mysterious note she finds in her father’s diary, lead Eliza to places she cannot go. Fettered by conventions of the time, Eliza soon realises she needs a male companion to enter the disreputable parts of town. An outsider herself she chooses another outsider, German itinerant worker Axel Kramer, to help her. He can gain admittance to places where she should not be seen or is barred from entering. Alternating with Eliza’s investigations are two other passages – the hunt for Aboriginal crewman Balarri who is automatically assumed guilty of murder, and passages from her father’s diary in which he writes nature observations and notes about his pearl shelling business.
The murder story takes place in 1896 but we also see flashbacks ten years earlier to 1886 when the Brightwell family – Eliza, her parents and brother, plus Uncle Willem and Aunt Martha – arrive in Bannin Bay from England, planning to become wealthy fishers of pearl shell. Pook places clues everywhere so don’t ignore these shorter sections.
I didn’t settle into this story until the second half. The first part establishes the setting – the village of Bannin Bay – with such gritty realism that the descriptions of the climate, mould, insects, smells and unpleasant people dominated everything else. There are also intricate descriptions of the industry of pearl fishing. This meant I was slow to connect with Eliza, other than that she is unconventional. But when she and Axel take a lugger to search the remote islands beyond Bannin Bay, to the Lucettes, Cockatoos, Rosellas and Nevermores, the story becomes more dynamic. Moving the action away from smelly Bannin adds air to story and removes conventions from Eliza and Axel. Knife, their young crewman, is also an intriguing character who is under-used.
This is a complex and ambitious story for a debut and Pook is an author worth watching. It’s a pity that at times the story felt weighed down by Australian history and the treatment of the indigenous population. The book is clearly founded on solid historical research but at times it felt that the pace of the story and the characterisation suffered in need of a lighter hand with research.

If you like this, try:-
Rush Oh!’ by Shirley Barrett
The Pearl Sister’ by Lucinda Riley
The Night Child’ by Anna Quinn

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
MOONLIGHT AND THE PEARLER’S DAUGHTER by @LizziePook #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5Q6 via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Jumping the Queue’ by Mary Wesley #contemporary

Jumping the Queue is a must-read for fans of Mary Wesley’s writing. It is a slim volume about a deadly serious topic. Widow Matilda Poliport prepares to commit suicide. She cleans the house, organises her papers, destroys anything incriminating and gives away her pets. On the day she judges the tide to be favourable, she makes a picnic and takes a bottle of wine to the beach. She plans to wade into the sea and drown. What happens changes the course of Matilda’s death, and life. Mary Wesley
This is a quirky mixture of a book with heavy topics which, as you get older, become more familiar and understandable, with dark humour and a touch of forbidden romance. There is also betrayal, all kinds of betrayal actually – between husband and wife, between parents and children, between friends. As Matilda contemplates suicide, she thinks, ‘I am the great betrayer… That is my sin. I am not a sticker. I betray from laziness, fear and lack of interest.’
The story is told from Matilda’s point of view, at times despairing, at times wickedly funny and lusty. It’s hard to believe Jumping the Queue was Mary Wesley’s first adult novel, published in 1983 when she was seventy; its topics are as pertinent today, as then.
Matilda and her husband Tom made a pact, to end it all when they were old and no longer enjoying life. But when Tom dies suddenly in Paris, Matilda is left alone in an isolated West Country house, rarely visited by her four children. The villagers pretty much leave her alone except for her neighbour Mr Jones, who carries a not-so-secret torch for Matilda. But not everything is as it seems. What was Tom really doing in Paris, why don’t the children visit, and does Mr Jones really see UFOs?
When Matilda’s plan at the beach is interrupted by a group of holidaymakers, she retreats to the town to wait. There she meets The Matricide, a man on-the-run, wanted for killing his mother and whose face is in all the newspapers. Matilda is anything but conventional and she doesn’t fear for her safety. The Matricide, whose name is Hugh Warner, checks she understands who he is and that he killed his mother. ‘Of course’, says Matilda. ‘Lots of people long to. You just did it.’
At first glance, this could be a depressing novel about getting older and longing to be out of it. But in fact it is a tale of loyalty, love and trust; just in unexpected places. Thought provoking, sad and uplifting, all at the same

Here’s my review of THE CAMOMILE LAWN, also by Wesley, or read its #FirstPara.

If you like this, try:-
Whistle in the Dark’ by Emma Healey
The Hoarder’ by Jess Kidd
‘The Carer’ by Deborah Moggach

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
JUMPING THE QUEUE by Mary Wesley #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4jF via @SandraDanby

#Books ‘This is the Night They Come for You’ by Robert Goddard

Robert Goddard is a thriller writer with a particular skill at writing mysteries where the past remains entangled with today. This is the Night They Come for You features Algerian police Superintendent Mouloud Taleb; believable, likeable, he’s the type of character you instantly root for. Robert GoddardThe story starts today in Algiers as Taleb, sweating in his dingy un-air-conditioned office, considers approaching retirement. But when Wassim Zarbi, a former agent convicted of corruption, is released from prison and then disappears, it is feared he is reuniting with old colleague Nadir Laloul. Events in Paris in 1961 come alive again and Taleb is pulled into the dangerous search for Laloul, Zarbi and the truth of a cold case murder. The history and peoples of Algeria and France are entwined and Goddard puts at the heart of his story a shadowy organisation in Algeria named ‘hizb franca’, the ‘party of France’, dedicated to undermining the success of the fledgling Algerian republic. A small practical note, it would have been helpful to have the Glossary at the front of the Kindle edition rather than at the back. And, for a novice at Algerian politics as I am, a short historical context would also be useful. As a character in the book says, ‘No one learns anything from history in Algeria. They just keep repeating it in ever more exaggerated forms.’
There are two strands to the story and I admit to temporary confusion about who is who, on which side, in the first half of the book. But Goddard portrays a situation and politics disrupted, with truths sewn together by deception. I trusted Goddard to make it all clear, and he does. The various allegiances become aligned as the story progresses, until the twists occur.
Taleb finds himself assigned to work with Souad Hidouchi, an agent from the Algerian secret service. Neither trusts the other, unsure of their unstated objectives. It is a delight to watch the development of their relationship, their suspicions, the small details of friendship, the willingness to take a risk on placing trust. In comparison, the second strand featuring Stephen Gray and Suzette Fontaine, is less dynamic. Stephen has dedicated his life to uncovering the truth about his sister Harriet who disappeared in Paris in 1961. Suzette meanwhile has received a strange call from a Swiss solicitor. A document, claimed to be a memoir written in Algeria by her bookseller father, Nigel Dalby, tells the truth of what happened in Paris in 1961.
As Goddard alternates the viewpoints with excerpts from Dalby’s typewritten manuscript, at times the reader knows more than the characters. But the characters are not all telling the truth, motivations and secrets are hidden, and Goddard juggles the tensions and unveilings like a master.
A thoroughly enjoyable historical thriller. Knowing little of Algerian politics, it’s so good to read fiction that makes me turn the pages while teaching me something new. A small design note, I hated the cover which trivialises the subject matter of the novel and is befitting a young adult title.

Read my reviews of Goddard’s other books:-
Panic Room
The Fine Art of Invisible Detection
The Ways of the World #1 The Wide World Trilogy
The Corners of the Globe #2 The Wide World Trilogy
The Ends of the Earth #3 The Wide World Trilogy

If you like this, try:-
Waiting for Sunrise’ by William Boyd
The Museum of Broken Promises’ by Elizabeth Buchan
Exposure’ by Helen Dunmore

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:-
THIS IS THE NIGHT THEY COME FOR YOU by Robert Goddard #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5Pq via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘The Paris Apartment’ by @lucyfoleytweets #thriller

I read The Paris Apartment, the latest thriller by Lucy Foley, in two sittings. It kept me guessing nearly to the end, with some unexpected twists along the way. When penniless Jess arrives in Paris to spend some time with her half-brother, he has disappeared. What follows is a page-turning story of the apartment block where Ben has been living, its inhabitants and the confusing discoveries Jess makes as she tries to find him. It makes her question if she really knows her brother and why he has been so distant from her. Lucy FoleyThis is a book about secrets, small ones, shameful ones, old and new secrets. And one huge one. Jess, at times vulnerable at times recklessly brave, attempts to be pleasant to Ben’s neighbours in this surprisingly elegant old Parisian apartment block. The snobbish couple in the penthouse, the two young women sharing on the fourth floor, a thug and his wife, the silent concierge plus Ben’s old university friend, Nick. The viewpoint swaps quickly between Jess and the other residents as Foley pushes the action quickly from event to event. The chapters are short and snappy and this makes it easy to read just one more, and one more. As Jess struggles to make a connection with these neighbours, she doesn’t know who to trust; and neither did I. I didn’t like any of them and Jess herself is difficult to connect with. But the mystery led me on.
The apartment block offers a kind of ‘closed room’ setting, well-used in crime stories, and it does its job well. It is grand yet mysterious with hidden doors and stairs, spooky attic and cellar, a cranky old lift and a C-shaped construction around a courtyard allowing residents to observe each other. I had a clear picture of it in my head.
Where is Ben? Did someone see him leave? Why hasn’t he answered his phone? And why is he living in Paris anyway? Nick offered him the flatshare but the two men haven’t been in touch for years. Given we don’t see Ben’s viewpoint except a brief Prologue, some things are hidden until the very end. The lines between current time and flashbacks at times seemed blurred and I got a little irritated with Jess’s naivety. A couple of scenarios I thought might be possible turned out to be wrong, but it was fun guessing.
Lucy Foley uses glamorous Paris alongside the sinister apartment building, riots on the streets, juxtaposing Parisian elegance with the seedier side streets and alleys, clubs and bars. As Jess considers each of her neighbours, trying to work out who knows what, shuffling up and down stairs trying to eavesdrop, she inevitably lands in trouble.
A satisfying fast read, helped by short chapters in different viewpoints which gradually construct the mystery like layers of filo pastry.

Click the title to read my reviews of two other novels by Lucy Foley:-

If you like this, try:-
These Dividing Walls’ by Fran Cooper
Smash All the Windows’ by Jane Davis
The Quarry’ by Iain Banks

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE PARIS APARTMENT by @lucyfoleytweets #thriller #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5Pk via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Love in a Time of War’ by @adriennechinn #WW1

Love in a Time of War by Adrienne Chinn is the story of three sisters during wartime, how the inconveniences of war can shatter dreams and promises, disguise lies, hide secrets and offer opportunities previously unimagined. Adrienne ChinnIn 1913, Cecilia Fry, eldest of the three Fry sisters, is nineteen when this story starts. She has fallen in love with her young German teacher and must decide whether to spend the summer with Max in Germany or in London working for the suffragist movement. Eighteen-year old Jessie is studying at nursing school and has been offered an amazing opportunity of which her mother disapproves. Jessie’s twin Etta visits the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts where she meets an Italian artist. All three sisters have dreams for the future, but those dreams are to be thrown into disarray by the Great War.
Love in a Time of War starts with a Prologue set in Italy in 1891. A young Englishwoman called Christina, visiting her Italian family on the island of Capri, falls in love with a young tourist. What happens during this Italian summer reaches through every page of this novel with its themes of the life of women at the dawn of the twentieth century, the new possibilities for women, promising independence, a voice and freedom of expression, weighed down by society’s traditional expectations of their role and behaviour. This is a view of a prosperous middle-class family, though the plight of working-class women is glimpsed via Milly, the Fry’s maid of all work who leaves to work in a munitions factory, and Jessie’s nursing friend Ivy. The three sisters choose completely contrasting paths in life and their stories are followed as war is declared and the family separates. Each in turn faces a difficult choice and then must learn to live the life they have chosen. Little do they realise how their own decisions echo the choices their mother also faced at a similar age.
Towards the end there are number of coincidences which enable the tying up of loose ends, these felt awkward and abrupt. But the Acknowledgements at the end explains how the novel was inspired by the author’s own three great-aunts and grandmother who lived in Britain, Canada and Egypt. So perhaps real life does provide coincidences that are presumed good, or bad, luck.
A gentle, romantic war story, ideal for reading on holiday. As the first book in a family saga series, ‘The Three Fry Sisters’, this book ends as life after war begins and the sisters face the new lives they have chosen. Book Two will cover the Twenties and Thirties, while Book Three will span World War Two into the Seventies.

If you like this, try:-
Waiting for Sunrise’ by William Boyd
The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing’ by Mary Paulson-Ellis
My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You’ by Louisa Young

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
LOVE IN A TIME OF WAR by @adriennechinn #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5Pd via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘The Leviathan’ by @rosieandrews22 #historical 

Soldier Thomas Treadwater returns home on leave from the army, summoned to Norfolk by a pleading letter from his sister Esther. ‘Our home is under attack by a great and ungodly evil’, she writes. The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews is a tale of religious extremism and intolerance, fear of witches, superstition and the power of evil. The atmosphere at all times is full of foreboding. As Thomas approaches his father’s farm at dawn, he sees dead animals in the field. Rosie Andrews This is 17th century Norfolk when England is riven by civil war. The story of Thomas and Esther, narrated by Thomas in two timelines – 1643 and 1703 – is ultimately a slow one. The beginning is excellent, ‘She is awake,’ and moves quickly as Thomas investigates the strange goings-on. When this moves from witchcraft to theology and the meaning of evil, the pace slows. The explanation of the title is remarkably late in arriving and I was distracted by trying to fit ‘the leviathan’ into the domestic story of the Treadwater family.
According to Esther, their religious father has been corrupted by their servant Chrissa Moore who is with child. Richard Treadwater is now insensible after suffering a stroke and cannot explain. Chrissa, since accused of witchcraft and imprisoned, denies she is pregnant. When Esther must give evidence in front of the Justice of the Peace, Sir Christopher Manyon, and his assistant John Rutherford, Thomas realises Esther herself may be charged as a deviant. Struggling to understand what is happening, he turns to his former tutor John Milton, for help. It was only after finishing The Leviathan that I made the connection with the real poet and author of Paradise Lost.
Steeped in historical detail and the superstitions of the time, the early mystery of the unexplained deaths and the accusations of witchcraft are well written but this momentum is lost as the story transitions to one about possession and evil. All of it is a metaphor for the cruel and intolerant acts of war when sensible men behave without reason.
I struggled for an emotional connection to the story and wonder if a second viewpoint – perhaps of Mary – may help, also sharper transitions between the three phases of story which seem oddly disconnected. But the early passage of Thomas walking home with his horse Ben is particularly lovely. I finished it not knowing what to think, wanting to like it more, in awe of the scope of subject matter and the intensity of writing.

If you like this, try:-
The Almanack’ by Martine Bailey
The Witchfinder’s Sister’ by Beth Underdown
Rush Oh!’ by Shirley Barrett

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE LEVIATHAN by @rosieandrews22 #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5OQ via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Spook Street’ by Mick Herron #spy #thriller

Read in entirety on a train journey, Spook Street by Mick Herron is an absorbing tale of 21st century spies and terrorists combined with old-school tactics of indoctrination. The story, fourth in Herron’s ‘Slough House’ spy series, opens straight into the action with a flash mob bomb attack unsuspected by the security services. Mick HerronWhen the ‘OB’ – the elderly former-spy grandfather of slow horse employee River Cartwright – says stoats are on his trail, his claims are dismissed as advancing senility. Until a man is shot at the OB’s house and the old man disappears. This a story with a tight timeline, everything takes place within a couple of days of the first page. This brings an urgency to the danger and also makes the pages turn quickly. For Slough House fans, there are a couple of new characters to adjust to – Moira Tregorian has taken over the administrator’s desk previously occupied by Catherine Standish, and River now shares an office with the silent, hoody-wearing JK Coe. No one is sure why the latter is there, ie what he has done wrong to deserve being sent to Slough House, or the nature of his particular skill. Jackson Lamb may be a sarcastic, shabby, foul-mouthed drunk but he is also a skilled and wily operative. So when one of his team is threatened, he leaves no stone unturned.
Witty, sharp and fast-paced, this bunch of passed-over has-beens once again demonstrates that the compulsory tradecraft training required of all new recruits to the security services is never forgotten. There are less of the political jibes which were a feature of the earlier books but the darkly funny ping-pong sparring between office colleagues continues. Slough House is a place of painfully slow boring work, digital paper shuffling, of dirty coffee cups and closely-defended territories [desks], it’s a place where even the radiators work slowly. But when one of the slow horses is threatened, everyone leaps into action grabbing whatever unlikely weapons that are to hand.
The storylines are unpredictable, the characters are oddities who somehow manage to work together, and the humour is wicked. Excellent.

Click the title to read my reviews of the first three books in the Slough House series:-

If you like this, try:-
The Farm’ by Tom Rob Smith
The Second Midnight’ by Andrew Taylor
Panic Room’ by Robert Goddard

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:-
SPOOK STREET by Mick Herron #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5Nu via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Darling Blue’ by @AuthorTracyRees #historical

The Blue of the title is Ishbel Camberwell but Darling Blue by Tracy Rees is not the story of one woman but three. Although the main voice is that of Blue’s, this is really an ensemble piece about a year in the life of a wealthy family living in Richmond-upon-Thames in the 1920s. Tracy ReesAt her 21st birthday party, Blue’s father makes a startling announcement. Suitors interested in marrying Blue must woo her by letter within the next twelve months. Blue, who wants to be a writer and has no pressing desire to marry, is horrified by her father’s challenge. She’s even more appalled when she receives three letters. Determined to make her own decisions, she gets a temporary job as a reporter on the local newspaper.
Delphine Foley is trapped in a violent marriage. Desperate to escape and determined to protect her mother and sister from potential threats from her husband, she forges a secret plan. When her plan takes an unexpected turn, she finds herself in Richmond-upon-Thames, a beautiful place only miles from where she lived but somewhere she didn’t know existed. When an accident throws her into the path of the Camberwell family, she senses a chance of a new start.
The third woman whose story this is, is Midge, Blue’s step-mother, who spends the first part of the book involved in a plan to redecorate their grand townhouse, Ryan’s Castle. As a new bride, her husband Kenneth brought her home to the house he shared with his first wife Audra. The presence of the deceased Audra remains and puts pressure on Midge’s sense of inferiority and she becomes more lost as the story progresses.
The character I found most fascinating was Delphine, a stranger whose path crosses with the Camberwell family in the most unexpected manner. An enjoyable and quick read, this is by no means a Bright Young Things light portrayal of the Twenties. The author lived in Richmond and it shows in her accurate portrait of the town. The story is set in a time of confusion and change as the effects of the Great War continue to affect the population, with opportunities and hardships affecting people unequally. Blue is accused of taking work away from ex-soldiers when she doesn’t need the money. Workers are about to go on strike, and domestic violence and prejudice against homosexuals add darker undertones.
Tracy Rees always tells a good story built on a solid historical foundation and Darling Blue is no different. Despite the romantic cover design, there is a strong focus on the lives of women and their struggles to overcome their lot in life, featuring experiences not identified at the time but recognised now a century later.

Note: I bought this hardback copy of Darling Blue in the Book Aid for Ukraine charity auction in spring 2022. The book is now published as The Love Note. Tracy Rees

Click the title below to read my reviews of three other novels by Tracy Rees:-
Amy Snow
The House at Silvermoor
The Rose Garden

If you like this, try:-
The Glass House’ by Eve Chase
The Cottingley Secret’ by Hazel Gaynor
The Ballroom’ by Anna Hope

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
DARLING BLUE by @AuthorTracyRees #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5ML via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘The Silver Wolf’ by @JCollissHarvey #historical

The Silver Wolf by JC Harvey is first in the Fiskardo’s War series set in 17th century Europe during the Thirty Years War. If, like me, your history is a little hazy, the author’s note at the beginning is helpful. This was a time of sprawling wars and disputes, religious, political and national plus local personal grudges being settled. Into this soup of battle, Harvey has inserted the story of Jack Fiskardo. And what a story this is. JC HarveyYoung Jack is an orphan, surviving on his wits in the Amsterdam docklands. Around his neck he wears a silver token of a wolf. He knows neither its provenance nor its meaning. People who meet him and recognise it, look at him askance. Jack is a brilliant hero. Feisty, brave yet considered, he has a fondness for the bullied and those weaker than himself. And he is also something of a horse whisperer.
This is a long book – 560 pages, though not as long as Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth – and slowly we pick up hints about the relevance of Jack’s wolf necklace. There is a huge cast of characters, but a limited number in each place that Jack tarries awhile. All of the time, he is on the move, looking for answers to the mysterious deaths of his parents, seeking the murderer. He slips quietly into each new community, clearly different, attracting curious glances but earning respect and affection. And all the time, war is raging somewhere in Europe. Troops are on the move, battles are won and lost, soldiers must be fed and watered, billets found. Around the troop movements, a village of suppliers grows; food, alcohol, whores, horses, munitions. Jack slips in and out of groups, sometimes changing his name.
Once I stopped worrying about the true historical context and relaxed into Jack’s story, the pages turned easily despite the occasional lull in pace. There are occasional flashbacks to Jack’s childhood in the seaside village of Belle-Dame, near Rochelle in France. Some names are similar and therefore confusing – I constantly got Bronheim and Bertholt confused – others have names and nicknames.
Excellent. Such an ambitious novel for a debut. The research and world-building is extensive, but the real star is Jack. The series can only get better.

The Dead Men, second in the Fiskardo’s War series, will be published in 2023. Read more HERE.

If you like this, try:-
The Burning Chambers’ by Kate Mosse
The Evening and the Morning’ by Ken Follett
Winter Pilgrims’ by Toby Clements

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE SILVER WOLF by @JCollissHarvey #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5Lo via @SandraDanby