Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Book Review Smoke on the Whiteadder

 

This thrilling historical novel takes place in Scotland in the 1500's.  It is very well researched and in addition to following the  tale of the Cowan family you will learn about historical figures such as Mary Queen of Scotts, Queen Elizabeth, King James I, Sir Walter Raleigh, and many more memorable people from this time period.  

The Plot Line

     The story follows the lives of the Cowan family who live in Chirnside, Berwickshire, Scotland in the estate called Edington.  They are tenants of Sir Lauder.  Sir Lauder lives in the castle on the  manor and his tenants live on his property in meager housing.  They tend the land around their homes and pay a portion of their income as rent to Sir Lauder.  Sir Lauder has great control over his tenants including what they plant and what animals they have.
      In this book we are first introduced to Paul Cowan, as he is meeting with Sir Lauder for his report of his crops.  In the book we follow the joys and sorrows of the family through three generations.  We rejoice in the marriages and births and are sad when death, famine and home burnings are way too prevalent through the years.  The book shows how the political and religious turmoil of the times effects the family and their lifestyle.

The Book on Amazon

Here is a link to the book which can be purchased through Amazon both as a paperback and in electronic form.  Smoke on the Whiteadder

The Author's Notes

The author's notes are of course at the end of the book, so I didn't realize that the Cowans were a real family until I got to that point.  For me, this made the story even more interesting,  Here is a quote from the author's notes.
     "This family saga is based on the genealogial journey of my maternal ancestors, the Cowans.  It necessarily includes mention of related families as they encoountered the Cowans.  Consequently, you will be introduced to people with many other surnames.
     I like to put my stories in context with the broader social picture, especially as it describes the conditions that resulted in particular actions on the part of the story's charcters.  For this reason, the book includes vignettes about people like Henry VIII, Mary I, known as Bloody Mary, Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh and many more."

My Recommendation

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I found  it very compelling and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.  I am looking forward to the next book by the author where he continues on with the story of the Cowans.




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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Ian Rankin's Knots and Crosses Book Review

Knots & Crosses: Tartan Noir Crime Novel by Ian Rankin 

In 2019, I was introduced to Ian Rankin via Carleton University’s Learning in Retirement program, Classics of Detective Fiction: From the 1960s to Today. I really enjoyed Rankin's Black and Blue, which was the book we read but only recently returned to start at the beginning of the series and read Knots and Crosses.

When Rankin wrote Knots and Crosses in 1987 he thought he had written a standalone crime detective novel and had even planned on killing Detective Rebus at the end of the book. Success for Rankin and Rebus was not fast in coming. After publishing Knots and Crosses to little fan fare, Rankin put Rebus aside and moved on to write his next book with no idea that he would eventually return to Rebus' world and that he would still be writing books for the series in 2020

Knots and Crosses Book Review
Anyway, I read Knots and Crosses. I really enjoyed it. I recommend it. Need I say more? Well, yes, I suppose I should because you may not have read anything by Ian Rankin and you may not have seen my earlier review of the eighth book in the series, Black and Blue.

I wrote about the number of covers that the eighth book has had and you won't be surprised to hear that this book also has had many covers. I had to work a bit to find a picture of the original cover, which I believe the image at the bottom of this page to be since Rankin describes the original cover as having knots and crosses on it and this is the only one that fits that description. 

Knots and Crosses is a classic detective story with a strong plotline. It was written in 1987 and based firmly in the Scotland of the time. It is considered British Realism Noir or Tartan Noir as it was written by Scottish writers and is set in Scotland. The Scottish story has style elements from other American and European crime writers of the same time period. 

Detective Rebus is a former Special Air Service (SAS) officer now doing police work and coping with a difficult past in a very destructive manner. Typical to noir, he is a working class main character who doesn't have ordinary heroic qualities like idealism, courage and morality. He's a drinker and a smoker and does not have many friends nor successful relationships. He is not above stretching the law in an effort to solve the case he is working on, which is also common in gritty, noir detective novels. 

Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin
Because Knots and Crosses is the first book in the series, we are given the back story of Detective Rebus while he attempts to solve the nasty case of a serial murderer who is killing young girls and advertising that fact to the police.

REVIEWS


"Most of Knots and Crosses is claustrophobically situated inside his mind – and it’s a lonely, uncomfortable place. His asperity, his broken marriage, his drinking, his cold flat, his falling asleep in chairs because he can’t quite drag his tired hide into bed … Perhaps you could argue that these too are the stuff of cop cliché. But they feel real here. He feels like a character with weight. Rankin...nails the essentials."  I agree with The Guardian, Rebus seems perfectly developed in this story.

Another review on The Guardian says, "It is not always easy to read because of the context, but it grips you so hard that it feels compulsory to read on..."  Yes, this book has some uncomfortable moments but it will have you wanting to know who did it and you will read on.

Ian Rankin's First Book, Knots & Crosses
Finally, in the year that this book was written, Kirkus said, "Solidly drawn characters, keen psychological insights and an intriguing, well-knit plot—along with a rather florid but individual writing style—make Rankin a newcomer to watch." More than twenty successful novels later, I say they were right with that prediction. 

Knots and Crosses comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me.

WHO WILL LIKE KNOTS & CROSSES? 


If you enjoy a well-written detective novel, I believe that you will enjoy this one. It is a crime fiction classic now and it is immensely readable. It does have violence, sex, drugs and murder but nevertheless I enjoyed the story, getting to know Detective Rebus a bit better in the process. For armchair travelers, it is also a look at the nice and the not-so-nice underbelly of Scotland's Edinburgh.

On Amazon, you will find Knots and Crosses by clicking here and all of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels by clicking right here.

See you at 
the book store! 
Brenda 
Treasures By Brenda 

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Knots & Crosses Book Review

Ian Rankin's Knots and Crosses Book Review







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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Shetland Series Reviewed

Shetland Islands Featured In Mystery Series

I recently began watching the Shetland Series through my Britbox subscription. If you aren't familiar with it; the television series is drama/mystery series of episodes taking place in the picturesque Shetland Islands in Scotland. 

shetland series
Mysteries taking place in the Shetland Islands of Scotland
image courtesy of pixabay.com

I'm coming in sort of late for watching this popular television series which first began filming in 2014. I'm not sure it was available to me until recently; if it was somehow I missed it. I'm enjoying it so much that I don't think it will take me long to catch up to Season 5.


What can you expect in the series?

The episodes revolve around a small police force with DI Jimmy Perez leading his fellow officers in their duties on the islands in Northern Scotland. Detective Inspector Perez is a single dad of a teenage step-daughter. Cassie's mother died several years ago and her step-dad has brought her back to the small village in the Scottish archipelago to expose her to her roots. Another interesting little twist to the overall plot is that Cassie's birth father also lives in the village; the two men have different views on how best to raise a teenage girl. Their attempt at co-parenting adds some depth to each episode in the crime drama.

Being able to solve the mystery of each story line while experiencing what life is like up in the sub-arctic environment of the Shetland Islands is extremely enjoyable. Each mystery spans two episodes. So far, the ones that I have watched are full of twists. About the time that I think I know who is responsible something comes up to dismiss that person as the culprit. 

Living in a land-locked area, I am fascinated with DI Perez having to take the ferry over to an area to investigate. The scenery is beautiful and the local people are interesting. I find myself daydreaming wishing that I could go there someday. Some of my ancestors lived in Scotland, although I don't think any lived quite that far north.


You will have to stream it


If you are in the US, your only option to watch Shetland is to stream it. I signed up for Britbox through my Amazon Prime membership. I used to be able to see a lot of the British television shows through another streaming service but they no longer carry them because the licensing changed. I finally justified signing up for another service because I truly enjoy the programs that are produced. 

Anyway, if you are looking for a good series to watch I highly recommend Shetland. You can get a trial period for the streaming service to try it out. If you don't care for it, you can always cancel.




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