Saturday 31 December 2016

Catching up

Time to catch up on a couple of reviews... as always I seem to be behind. First up, my 24th. book for Bev's Mount TBR 2016 challenge, The Fellowship of Ghosts by Paul Watkins. This is also my 5th. book for the European Reading Challenge 2016 covering the country of 'Norway'.

I'm pinching the Goodreads synopsis for this one: Acclaimed writer Paul Watkins describes his spellbinding solo trek through the wilds of Norway's Rondane and Jutunheimen mountains—grand but harsh landscapes where myth and reality meet. His adventure takes him through valleys bordered by thousand-foot cliffs, roaring waterfalls wreathed in rainbows, blinding glaciers, and shimmering blue snowfields. Yet this is also some of the harshest, most challenging terrain in the world. Watkins's route follows razor-thin ridges, hair-raising paths, and vertigo-inducing drops. An engaging and reflective memoir, The Fellowship of Ghosts captures the profound connection between the Norwegian landscape and the myths, peoples, and dreams that it inspires.

Norway seems to be one of those countries that doesn't get written about a lot so when I saw this on Goodreads somewhere I nabbed myself a copy from Amazon. The author, Paul Watkins, follows in the footsteps of several walkers and mountain climbers who wrote about their experiences in Norway in the late 19th. and early 20th. century. The area covered is the mountainous part of southern Norway, but Watkins also explores fjords, various towns and a little of the capital city, Oslo. He recounts quite a lot of history as well, ranging from the vikings all the way up to WW2 and the country's occupation by the Nazis. He also talks about those other earlier explorers and what they got up to and how they coped with the conditions. It's all fascinating and I enjoyed it very much, particularly the section where he discusses supernatural experiences people have had in these mountains. Algernon Blackwood even based one of his ghost story novellas on a weird experience he had there. The Willows can be read here and I've downloaded it to my KIndle to read very soon. The Fellowship of Ghosts is a nice addition to the 'mountains' section of my travel writing shelf and not to be parted with.

Next, a crime fiction story, The Frozen Shroud by Martin Edwards.

In the tiny Lake District community of Ravenbank two murders have been committed. One took place before the first world war, the second only five years ago but the similarities are startling. Both women were battered to death in the same spot and a shroud placed over them to conceal their ruined faces. Daniel Kind, historian and friend of DCI Hannah Scarlett, is fascinated by the original murder and talk that the village is haunted by the ghost of the murdered servant girl. There's a lot of digging to be done and head of cold cases, Hannah, eventually becomes involved when another murder is committed. To all intents and purposes each of the killings was separately solved and the culprit found or on the run. Cut and dried. But is it? Perhaps not...

The Hannah Scarlett 'Lake District' series is one of those that every time I pick up a new instalment it never takes more than a page or two for me to sink right into the story and characters and feel right at home. The Frozen Shroud was no exception. I love the setting of The Lakes and author, Martin Edwards, is fantastic at describing the atmophere and landscape no matter what the weather and conditions. These stories are wonderfully atmospheric. This particular story begins around Halloween so is quite ghostly in feel. One aspect I enjoyed was the discussion of the ghost stories of Hugh Walpole, some of which I've read, and the works of Thomas de Quincy who was obssessed with murder of course and lived in The Lake District for a while. Daniel Kind is a historian and very into these kinds of books so this makes the series doubly enjoyable for me. The investigation into the murders made for a good, enjoyable crime yarn... quite complicated and involved. My early guess as to who the culprit was turned out to be correct but I didn't know that until the end. I have to admit to getting a bit frustrated with the complications of Hannah's personal life but that's fine, I think we're supposed to, to be honest. These books are never less than very readable, always well written and one of my favourite crime series of the moment.



DesLily said...

Wow you are ending the year with a bang!
Funny that you mention David Morrell and Thomas de Quincy! I just got a book by Morrell with de Quincy in it! Ruler of the Night is the title. I am in a book now but this one won't wait too long!

Cath said...

Pat, I was really pleased to see De Quincy mentioned in this book... gave me a little tingle. lol I love these little connections. The author even mentioned one of my favourite weird tales by Hugh Walpole which I didn't think anyone else had heard of. Enjoy the new David Morrell book! I think I read the first book of that series and thought it was excellent.

Judith said...

Fellowship of Ghosts sounds fascinating. I'm going to look it up and recommend it to a mountain-climbing traveler I know who loves true life adventures of this sort. I haven't read Martin Edwards's series yet, but your enthusiasm for them definitely makes me want to try one. Should I start with the first book in the series, do you think?
Happy New Year!

Nan said...

I haven't heard 'pinching' since my father - who died in 1968. I'm so surprised to hear it. Thanks.

Cath said...

Judith: Happy New Year to you too!

I too love true life adventures of the mountaineering kind (even though I've never done it) and I thought this was an interesting book. A true mountaineer might find there is not enough actual mountaineering... it just depends on their taste.

If you want to try the Martin Edwards series, yes, I would definitely start at the beginning as there's quite a bit of ongoing background info that you should know.

Nan: Isn't it funny how some words go out of use in one country but stay in use in another? We still use 'pinching' here as a matter of course. While in the US the first time we came to a junction while driving and saw a sign to 'yield' we were really tickled. Here our signs say 'Give way'... but I prefer 'yield'.

Kailana said...

Looks like you ended the year off well! Happy New Year!!

Nan said...

So, funny about the yield and give way. When Tom was driving in England, he was in a rotary (roundabout, I think you say) and he entered it incorrectly. Some guy yelled at him, 'you're supposed to give way you tw..' (rhymes with slot).

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

I haven't come across the books of Martin Edwards before and I am definitely adding his name to my list, although I have decided to go back to the start of the series to 'The Coffin Trail', to begin my journey. I just noticed that you have given that same piece of advice to a fellow blogger, so I am guessing that like so many other fictional detectives DCI Hannah Scarlett has something of a chequered past and personal baggage.

Thanks for sharing and I hope that you enjoyed your New Year celebrations :)


Cath said...

Kelly: Yes, I think I ended the new year with some good books but also have some good ones lined up for 2017. :-)

Nan: I do love these little differences. :-)

Roundabouts can be problematical even for us Brits... you don't have many in the US so it's easy to see how hard it must be. In France they drive on the right as you do and we really took a while to get used to how to approach them and work out the priorities.

Yvonne: Yes, definitely best to start at the beginning with the Martin Edwards series. Not so much a chequered past but her personal life, which seems settled, starts to change with book one and it's necessary really to be with it from the start.

Thank you, I did, and I hope you enoyed yours too. :-)