The Iron Hand of Mars – Lindsey Davis

The Iron Hand of Mars - Lindsey Davis
The Iron Hand of Mars – Lindsey Davis

A thoroughly enjoyable romp on the wrong (non-Roman) side of the Rhenus / Rhine, for the reader at least, as Marcus Didius Falco is ordered by Emperor Vespasian to deliver the Iron Hand of Mars to the 14th Gemina, one of the legions controlling the border between Roman Gaul and Free Germany. And to do a spot of investigating on the side with the aim of reaching a peace settlement with the Celtic tribes of Free Germany. Not much to do there then.

Experiences en route to to frontier, and beyond it, prove to be rather less enjoyable for those involved – Falco, Helena’s beloved younger brother Justinus, and a crew of novice legionaries under the command of grizzled Centurion Helvetius. And a flamboyantly attired hairdresser to Emperors, keen to do a spot of sight seeing abroad…….

My favourite Falco of recent reads.

Author page: The Iron Hand of Mars – Lindsey Davis

Venus in Copper – Lindsey Davis

Venus in Copper - Lindsey Davis
Venus in Copper – Lindsey Davis

Roman private eye, Marcus Didius Falco, tangles with the nouveau riche of the Pincian Hill, and his ensuing investigation brings him into the nefarious realms of rogue developer landlords and a professional bride trailing three deceased husbands in her wake.

Very kindly purchased for me by the Barbican Library team, “to ensure we have the whole series.”

Author page: Venus in Copper – Lindsey Davis

The Corner That Held Them – Sylvia Townsend Warner

The Corner That Held Them - Sylvia Townsend Warner
The Corner That Held Them – Sylvia Townsend Warner

From the chaos and confusion wrought by the Black Death to the Peasants Revolt, with a 12th century prelude, Sylvia Townsend Warner takes us on a slow progress through thirty years of medieval history in the company of novices, nuns and prioresses, priests and bishops, villagers breaking the bonds of feudalism and educated young men rising on the coat tails of family connections, all connected by the church and priory at Oby, isolated amidst the marshlands and wastelands of the Norfolk coast.

This mid 20th novel has popped up in a few different recommendations I’ve read over the last year, and it turns out I was not alone in being inspired to read it; I had to pounce when I spotted the Little Brown 2012 edition on the Barbican Library’s recommended reads display. That said, I have an inkling that I’ve read it before, a long time ago….

A favourite few sentences:

He was looking at the spire. As the web of low-lying cloud scurried under the wind it seemed to breathe like a living thing. Sometimes it inhaled the light of day, and then its pallor enriched to the colour of a primrose; a moment later it waned and pulled the misty air over it like a veil; and whether it brightened or waned it seemed to be flying towards him against the scudding sky, so that he felt that in a moment it would bend down to his embrace.

Publisher page: The Corner That Held Them – Sylvia Townsend Warner

Lonesome Dove – Larry McMurtry

Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtry
Lonesome Dove – Larry McMurtry

Borrowed from Phil, on the recommendation (his and USA Today’s) that “If you only read one Western, read this one”, I started this weighty tome a few weeks before flying out to Nepal. I found Lonesome Dove a slow start, and although it accompanied me all the way to Tsum and around the Manaslu Circuit, it remained largely unread during the trek, partly due to lack of opportunity and partly due to lack of inclination.

However, once back in London I reached the stage where retired Texas Rangers, Captains Call and McCrae, are ready to leave Texas, leading their crew of cowboys on an epic cattle drive from the heat of the Mexican border, north across the plains and the rivers that run down from the Rockies, to the blizzards and mountains of Montana.

Cowboys and Rangers. Young settlers and old trappers. Indians and outlaws. Cows and buffalo. Grizzlies and rattlesnakes. Happiness and sadness. Lonesome Dove turned out to be a very good read.

Publisher page: Lonesome Dove – Larry McMurtry

Holy Spy – Rory Clements

Holy Spy - Rory Clements
Holy Spy – Rory Clements

John Shakespeare becomes embroiled in the Babington Plot to free the exiled Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, to assassinate her Protestant cousin Queen Elizabeth I and to put Mary in the English throne.

We enjoy subplots galore, weaving around fishing fleets and family dynasties, a criminal mastermind, his thugs and hideouts, ensnaring highborn and low in a web of connections Shakespeare has to unravel in a race against time to save his former lover, Kat, from the hangman’s noose.

Author’s page: Holy Spy – Rory Clements