RogerBW's Blog

Died in the Wool, Ngaio Marsh 20 February 2017

1945 classic English detective fiction; thirteenth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Florence Rubrick, sheep station owner and local MP, vanished one night from her home; her body was found some weeks later, packed into a bale of wool. Eighteen months later, Alleyn is hunting for spies in New Zealand, and informally takes on the case.

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The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan 17 February 2017

1915 thriller; first of Buchan's books about Richard Hannay. Bored in London, Hannay invites his worried neighbour into his flat, and soon finds both the authorities and a cunning group of terrorists against him.

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The Three Body Problem, Catherine Shaw 11 February 2017

2004 historical epistolary mystery. In Cambridge in 1888, a young schoolmistress tries to solve the murders of three mathematicians before her beau is convicted of them.

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Chapel Noir, Carole Nelson Douglas 07 February 2017

2001 historical mystery, fifth of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler. In Paris in 1889, the Exposition Universelle is in full swing… but a notorious killer seems to have come over from London.

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Borderline, Nevada Barr 05 February 2017

2009 mystery, fifteenth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. After the events of the last book, Anna's on administrative leave; she travels with her husband to the Rio Grande for a rafting trip. They come across a nearly-dead, very pregnant woman; and apparently someone wants to finish the job.

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Justice Calling, Annie Bellet 02 February 2017

2014 modern fantasy/romance. Jade Crow runs a comics-and-games shop in Wylde, Idaho, where lots of magical creatures congregate. She's hiding from someone. But she isn't going to be able to stay hidden.

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Coroner's Pidgin, Margery Allingham 30 January 2017

1945 classic English detective fiction; twelfth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. Back in London after three years overseas on mysterious war work, Campion just wants to catch a train; but Lugg and an unknown lady turn up in his flat with a corpse. US vt Pearls Before Swine.

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Dune, Frank Herbert 28 January 2017

1965 Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction. In the distant future, plots whirl within plots, and the control of the most valuable planet in the universe is a poisoned chalice.

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Be My Enemy, Christopher Brookmyre 26 January 2017

2004 tartan noir. Jack Parlabane is invited to the junket weekend of a new firm that plans to run team-building retreats with a twist. But that twist is going to turn out to be rather more twisted than anyone expects.

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Mike, P. G. Wodehouse 24 January 2017

1909 school stories, compilation from magazine publication in 1907-1908: Mike Jackson, youngest of five cricketing brothers, goes first to Wrykin and then to Sedleigh. Also republished in separate parts later, as Mike at Wrykin and Mike and Psmith; the latter also as Enter Psmith.

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Night Without End, Alistair MacLean 22 January 2017 - 2 comments

1959 thriller. An airliner makes a forced rough landing near a weather observation post in the highlands of Greenland. What was it doing that far north, what foul play was involved, and who is responsible?

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Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein 20 January 2017

2011 non-fiction. Orenstein breaks down various elements of the pink-princess culture as marketed to young girls.

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The Last Frontier, Alistair MacLean 18 January 2017

1959 thriller. British agent Michael Reynolds travels to Budapest to retrieve a British scientist kidnapped by the Russians and due to be shown off at a conference. US vt The Secret Ways.

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Colour Scheme, Ngaio Marsh 17 January 2017

1943 classic English detective fiction; twelfth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. At a run-down hot-springs resort in the back country of New Zealand, one guest seems to be going out of his way to offend everyone; then he vanishes.

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Psycho, Robert Bloch 15 January 2017

1959 horror. Mary Crane has stolen $40,000 from her employer and is running away to get married. Unfortunately she's chosen to stay at the wrong motel.

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Twilight Robbery, Frances Hardinge 13 January 2017

2011 non-historical fiction, sequel to Fly By Night. Mosca Mye and Eponymous Clent are still in trouble, and attempting to flee through Toll, the town that controls the only bridge across the big river. But both entering and leaving have their price. US vt Fly Trap.

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One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night, Christopher Brookmyre 11 January 2017 - 1 comment

1999 tartan noir. Gavin Hutchison has a brilliant idea: convert an oil rig to an offshore resort hotel for xenophobic tourists, with all the comforts of home but warmer weather since it'll be moored off the African coast. What better way to show it off than by hosting a school reunion there?

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Death and the Dancing Footman, Ngaio Marsh 08 January 2017

1941 (some sources say 1942) classic English detective fiction; eleventh of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. For his own amusement, Jonathan Royal invites six mortal enemies to a party at his house in Dorset. Really, the first surprise is that he isn't murdered.

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Lost Things, Melissa Scott and Jo Graham 06 January 2017

2012 historical fantasy, first in the Order of the Air series. In 1929, as Lake Nemi is drained in search of its archaeological treasures, an ancient evil is loosed. Only four heroic aviator-magicians will be able to fight it.

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Surfeit of Lampreys, Ngaio Marsh 04 January 2017

1940 classic English detective fiction; tenth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. The Lampreys are an impoverished aristocratic family; after Lord Charles's rich brother refused to give them yet another handout, he was found stabbed to death. Mad wife? Annoyed brother? Random stranger? Well, it'll never be that last in a classic mystery. US vt Death of a Peer.

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Planetfall, Emma Newman 02 January 2017

2015 science fiction. Ren works as the 3D printer engineer in a colony on an extrasolar planet, right next to the alien biotech artefact known as God's City. Then a stranger shows up, a descendant of the people thought to have been lost in an accident during planetfall.

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2016 in Books 30 December 2016 - 2 comments

In 2016 I've read 133 books, down a little from recent years.

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Dying to Write, Judith Cutler 26 December 2016

1996 mystery; second of Cutler's novels of Sophie Rivers, teacher in a sixth-form college in Birmingham and part-time chorister. Sophie goes on a residential writing course; one of her fellow students dies, and a tutor goes missing.

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Heads You Lose, Christianna Brand 22 December 2016

1941 detective fiction; second of Brand's novels, and first to feature Inspector Cockrill. A visitor to a country house says "I wouldn't be seen dead in a ditch in a [hat] like that"… and is soon proved wrong. The next night another woman is murdered.

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The Mill on the Shore, Ann Cleeves 19 December 2016

1994 detective fiction; seventh of Cleeves's novels of amateur private detectives George and Molly Palmer-Jones. Jimmy Morrissey was the public voice of environmentalism and conservation, but killed himself with an overdose of antidepressants. Or did he?

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God Emperor of Didcot, Toby Frost 17 December 2016 - 2 comments

2008 humorous science fiction, second in the series. Captain Isambard Smith of the British Empire in space is sent to the Didcot system, where a revolutionary movement threatens the Empire's supply of tea.

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Death in High Heels, Christianna Brand 15 December 2016 - 2 comments

1941 detective fiction; first of Brand's novels, and first of two featuring Inspector Charlesworth. One of the senior staff of a London dress-shop dies of poison; her co-workers are the only plausible suspects.

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Spin and Die, Stella Whitelaw 13 December 2016

2000 mystery, third in Whitelaw's Jordan Lacey series. Jordan takes on a job following a woman suspected of compensation fraud against the local department store, and then tries to track down vanishing stock in the run-up to Christmas. And of course there's also a murder.

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Traitor's Purse, Margery Allingham 11 December 2016

1940 classic English detective fiction; eleventh of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. An amnesiac Campion knows he was in the middle of dealing with a truly serious plot… but what is it all about, and whom can he trust? US vt The Sabotage Murder Mystery.

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There's Something In a Sunday, Marcia Muller 09 December 2016

1990 mystery; ninth in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. Sharon's assigned to follow Frank Wilkinson as he spends his Sunday going round the horticultural high spots of San Francisco. But her client's obviously lying about why he wants the job done, and soon he ends up dead.

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Death at the Bar, Ngaio Marsh 07 December 2016

1940 classic English detective fiction; ninth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. In an isolated village in Devon, a game of darts at the pub ends in death. Accidental? Surely not.

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The Praxis, Walter Jon Williams 04 December 2016 - 2 comments

2003 space opera, first book of Dread Empire's Fall. The Shaa subjugated the galaxy, binding all the races they met – including humanity – under their universal philosophy, the Praxis. But ten thousand years later, the last Shaa has chosen to die.

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Thus Was Adonis Murdered, Sarah Caudwell 02 December 2016

1981 mystery, first of Caudwell's Hilary Tamar series. A young barrister, Julia, is taking a tour in Venice; she gets a gorgeous young man to bed, and a few hours later he's found dead, stabbed, with her copy of the Finance Act next to the body.

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Rivethead, Ben Hamper 30 November 2016 - 1 comment

1991 autobiography. Hamper writes about his life working on the GM factory floor in Flint, Michigan.

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Overture to Death, Ngaio Marsh 28 November 2016

1939 classic English detective fiction; eighth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Miss Campanula was killed by a booby-trapped piano, but was she really the intended victim?

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A Case of Spirits, Peter Lovesey 26 November 2016

1975 historical detective fiction; sixth of Lovesey's novels of Sergeant Cribb, policeman in Victorian London. Two thefts during séances conducted by the latest fashionable medium attract the attention of the police, but when the next séance ends in a death, mere spiritualism is clearly not the only deception going on.

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Project Orion, George Dyson 24 November 2016

2002 non-fiction: George Dyson, son of Freeman, recounts what can be told of the history of Project Orion, a plan to propel spacecraft with nuclear explosions.

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Slight Mourning, Catherine Aird 22 November 2016

1975 detective fiction; sixth of Aird's novels of Inspector Sloan and Constable Crosby. Bill Fent, local landowner, died when his car hit another at a notorious corner… but he'd have been dead before morning anyway, from the poison in his system.

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Mr Campion and Others, Margery Allingham 20 November 2016

1939/1950 collection of short mystery stories featuring Albert Campion.

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Last Bus to Woodstock, Colin Dexter 18 November 2016 - 3 comments

1975 detective fiction; first of Dexter's novels of Inspector Morse. Two young women wait for the bus out of Oxford one night; one goes to hitch a ride, and her dead body is found the next day.

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Dying Fall, Judith Cutler 16 November 2016 - 2 comments

1995 mystery; first of Cutler's novels of Sophie Rivers, a teacher in a sixth-form college in Birmingham. Finding one of her students stabbed to death in the lift is bad enough; when her best friend dies in a way that seems plausibly accidental except to people who knew him well, Sophie knows she'll have to look into the situation herself.

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Enter the Saint, Leslie Charteris 14 November 2016

1930 thriller, second of the Saint series. In three loosely-linked novellas, the Saint takes on a succession of criminals.

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Cast in Order of Disappearance, Simon Brett 12 November 2016 - 2 comments

1975 detective fiction; first of Brett's novels of Charles Paris, ageing actor. A friend and occasional lover of Charles's has been dumped by her current sugar daddy, and she asks him to return some compromising photographs. But getting in touch is going to be something of a challenge.

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Earth Flight, Janet Edwards 10 November 2016

2014 young adult science fiction, third in the Earth Girl trilogy. Jarra is Handicapped, unable to leave Earth for any of the colony worlds where most of society now happens, but she's also a famous hero. Which means she's now become a symbol, both for those who want to bring the Handicapped more into society and for those who resist that trend.

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My Drunk Kitchen, Hannah Hart 08 November 2016

2014 non-fiction. Hannah Hart, youtuber, shares recipes and her philosophy of life.

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Death in a White Tie, Ngaio Marsh 06 November 2016

1938 classic English detective fiction; seventh of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Someone's blackmailing London's high society as the Season begins, and Alleyn asks a friend who moves in those circles to look into it; murder will be done.

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I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Alan Bradley 04 November 2016

2011 historical mystery; fourth in Bradley's series about Flavia de Luce, young amateur sleuth in 1950s Britain. As Christmas approaches, Buckshaw is let to a film crew who'll be making The Cry of the Raven, starring the famous Phyllis Wyvern. But not all of the company will be leaving again.

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The Collapse of Western Civilization, Erik M. Conway and Naomi Oreskes 02 November 2016

2014 science fiction. A nameless scholar of the Second Chinese Republic looks back from the year 2393 on the Penumbral Age that brought western civilisation to its close.

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Artists in Crime, Ngaio Marsh 31 October 2016

1938 classic English detective fiction; sixth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. At an informal residential art school, the model has been murdered – by a method all the students had talked about some days before.

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A Red Herring Without Mustard, Alan Bradley 29 October 2016

2011 historical mystery; third in Bradley's series about Flavia de Luce, young amateur sleuth in 1950s Britain. A missing baby, an assault on a Gypsy (sic) fortune-teller, and a murder in Flavia's own home will all turn out to be connected.

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The Mystery of the Yellow Room, Gaston Leroux 27 October 2016

1907 mystery. Mlle Stangerson, daughter of the famous scientist, locked herself into her bedroom… then came the sound of a struggle, shouts of "Murder", and gunfire. When her father broke down the door, she was seriously injured and the only person there – and the window-bars had not been moved.

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The Fashion in Shrouds, Margery Allingham 25 October 2016

1938 classic English detective fiction; tenth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. Georgia Wells, actress and femme fatale, attracts men like moths. But somehow, just as they start to get troublesome, they seem to die. Is Georgia less silly, and more dangerous, than she appears?

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The Weed That Strings The Hangman's Bag, Alan Bradley 24 October 2016 - 4 comments

2010 historical mystery; second in Bradley's series about Flavia de Luce, young amateur sleuth in 1950s Britain. Rupert Porson, the famous puppeteer (at least to those who have televisions), was passing through the village of Bishop's Lacey when his van broke down; since he's stuck there overnight, he might as well put on a show. But it's all going to go horribly wrong.

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The Affair of the Mutilated Mink, James Anderson 22 October 2016

1981 somewhat parodic cosy detective fiction; second of Anderson's novels of the Earl of Burford and Inspector Wilkins. After the last one, the Earl swore off house-parties, but it seems it's all happening again. Including the murder.

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Into the Dark, J. A. Sutherland 21 October 2016 - 6 comments

2014 military SF, first book of the Alexis Carew series. Barred by her sex from inheriting the family estates, Carew signs aboard a ship of the Royal Navy as a midshipman… in space.

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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley 20 October 2016
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Vintage Murder, Ngaio Marsh 19 October 2016

1937 classic English detective fiction; fifth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. This time he's on holiday in New Zealand, sharing an overnight train with a touring theatrical troupe also from England, when the manager says that someone's tried to murder him. The next day, someone will succeed.

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Greenmantle, John Buchan 17 October 2016

1916 thriller; second of Buchan's books about Richard Hannay. Richard Hannay and Sandy Arbuthnot are convalescing from wounds received at the Battle of Loos when word comes from Sir Walter Bullivant of the Foreign Office: the Germans have some kind of trump-card with which they're planning to set the Moslem world on fire.

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Ask the Cards a Question, Marcia Muller 15 October 2016

1982 mystery; second in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. One of Sharon's neighbours in her apartment building is strangled, and it looks worryingly as if Sharon's house-guest, who's prone to alcoholic amnesia, might have done it.

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Winter Study, Nevada Barr 13 October 2016

2008 mystery, fourteenth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. Anna returns to Isle Royale, this time in winter, to join the wolf/moose wildlife study; it's disrupted by an observer from Homeland Security, who clearly has a brief to shut it down and instead open the park in winter to "beef up security". Then traces of an unexpected large predator show up. Then people start to die.

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The Fifth Season, N K Jemisin 11 October 2016

2015 science-fantasy. The world known as the Stillness is wracked by tectonic activity; only the earth-shapers, the orogenes, can hold things together. So naturally they are slaves.

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Edwin of the Iron Shoes, Marcia Muller 10 October 2016

1977 mystery; first in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. Sharon's been looking into arson and vandalism on a street of junk and antique shops that's in the crosshairs of gentrification. But now one of the shop owners has been fatally stabbed.

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The Case of the Late Pig, Margery Allingham 09 October 2016

1937 classic English detective fiction; ninth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. Campion is called to the village of Kepesake as the recent rich incomer has clearly been murdered… but when Campion sees the body, he realises he went to the same man's funeral five months earlier.

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The Killing of Worlds, Scott Westerfeld 08 October 2016

2003 military SF, second book of Succession. Captain Laurent Zai tries to win a space battle; Senator Nara Oxham tries to survive imperial politics.

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Blood and Circuses, Kerry Greenwood 06 October 2016

1994 historical detection, sixth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Phryne goes undercover in a circus to try to find out who's sabotaging it; and a performer who's moved on from it is accused of murder.

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Unsolved London Murders, The 1920s and 1930s, Jonathan Oates 05 October 2016 - 2 comments

2009 non-fiction. Oates recounts the twenty cases in London during these two decades which were treated as murder, but never solved.

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The Risen Empire, Scott Westerfeld 04 October 2016 - 1 comment

2003 military SF, first book of Succession. Captain Laurent Zai of the Imperial frigate Lynx is attempting to rescue the Child Empress from invading cyborgs. Only that makes it sound dire, and it's actually rather good.

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The Green Mill Murder, Kerry Greenwood 03 October 2016

1993 historical detection, fifth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). During a dance competition at the Green Mill, a figure slumps to the ground. Was he the target of his attacker – or was it Phryne? And why has her partner for the evening bolted?

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Dancers in Mourning, Margery Allingham 02 October 2016

1937 classic English detective fiction; eighth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. Someone's playing silly pranks on Jimmy Sutane, star of a successful musical; he invites Campion to look into it. But then one of Sutane's house-guests dies: accident, suicide, murder? Later US vt Who Killed Chloe?.

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Death at Victoria Dock, Kerry Greenwood 30 September 2016

1992 historical detection, fourth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). As Phryne is driving home one night, someone shoots out her windscreen. As the gunfight moves on, she gets out of the car to find an injured young man, who dies in her arms.

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Spider Light, Sarah Rayne 29 September 2016 - 3 comments

2006 psychological thriller. After a highly public series of tragic incidents, Antonia Weston goes to Cheshire to stay in a cottage near a small market town, hoping for anonymity and peace. But she soon experiences a series of events which seem to be echoing the past she's trying to forget.

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Murder on the Ballarat Train, Kerry Greenwood 28 September 2016

1991 historical detection, third in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Everyone in one of the carriages on the overnight train to Ballarat is chloroformed; Phryne retains just enough consciousness to shoot out the window and let in some air. When everyone recovers, it's found that an elderly passenger has vanished. But why?

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The Empress of Mars, Kage Baker 26 September 2016

2009 SF, loosely connected with the Company series. The British Arean Corporation sponsored the colonisation of Mars… then it turned out that short-term profits weren't possible, and they lost interest. Mary Griffith runs the only place to buy a beer on the Tharsis Bulge.

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Death in Ecstasy, Ngaio Marsh 25 September 2016

1936 classic English detective fiction; fourth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. At a meeting of the House of the Sacred Flame, a small cult, the Chosen Vessel drinks from the Flaming Cup, gabbles nonsensically, and dies of a dose of sodium cyanide.

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Flying Too High, Kerry Greenwood 23 September 2016

1990 historical detection, second in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Phryne takes on the case of a son whose mother is worried he'll murder his father, and then the father is indeed murdered; and she tracks down a kidnapped child.

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The Moon-Spinners, Mary Stewart 21 September 2016

1962; mystery/thriller or romantic suspense. Nicola Ferris, on holiday from her job at the British Embassy in Athens, has been looking forward to getting away from it all in an obscure corner of Crete. But a day of random wandering brings her into contact with two men, one of them badly injured.

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Cocaine Blues, Kerry Greenwood 19 September 2016

1989 historical detection, first in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Intelligent, beautiful, rich, and bored, the Hon. Phryne Fisher travels to Australia in order to find out whether John Andrews is poisoning his wife, her clients' daughter.

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Strong Poison, Dorothy Sayers 17 September 2016 - 8 comments

1930 classic English detective fiction; fifth of Sayers's novels of Lord Peter Wimsey. Philip Boyes, writer on atheism, anarchy and free love, died of quite a lot of arsenic; Harriet Vane, who had lived with him without benefit of clergy for nearly a year until they had quarrelled three months earlier, is accused of having poisoned him. Wimsey, seeing the trial, is convinced of her innocence, not to say smitten by her; when the jury cannot agree on a verdict, he makes it his business to save her from the gallows in the month before the new trial.

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Eye of the Storm, Marcia Muller 16 September 2016

1988 mystery; eighth in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. Sharon's sister Patsy has a new boyfriend, and a renovation project in the Sacramento Delta. But someone's playing tricks, sabotaging the project and scaring off the workers; Sharon takes a long weekend away from her job to help Patsy out.

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Blood at the Bookies, Simon Brett 14 September 2016

2008 mystery; ninth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Jude drops into the local betting shop to take shelter from a sudden hailstorm; another customer staggers out, and turns up stabbed in an alley nearby.

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The Galapagos Incident, Felix R. Savage 12 September 2016 - 2 comments

2014 SF, first of the Solarian War Saga. Elfrida Goto works for the Space Corps, persuading asteroid-dwellers to accept resettlement before their asteroids are dropped into Venus as part of the terraforming project. But her telepresence robot is acting up, and then the space station she's living on comes under attack.

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Death Under the Dryer, Simon Brett 10 September 2016

2007 mystery; eighth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Carole always has her hair cut at Connie's Clip Joint, "same shape, but shorter". This time, Kyra, one of the juniors, hasn't turned up, and she turns out to have been left dead in the back room, strangled with the cord of a hair-dryer.

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Flowers for the Judge, Margery Allingham 08 September 2016

1936 classic English detective fiction; seventh of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. The Barnabas family publishing house is used to strangeness; the founder's nephew disappeared in broad daylight while walking between his house and the main road. Now Paul Brande, one of the cousins who run the firm, is found dead inside a locked room. US vt Legacy in Blood.

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The Stabbing in the Stables, Simon Brett 06 September 2016

2006 mystery; seventh in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Jude's been asked to extend her healing practice to a horse; but she doesn't expect to find the co-owner of the stables stabbed to death. Obviously it was the local "Horse Ripper", caught in the act. Or was it a jealous husband?

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Resolute, Mike Shepherd 04 September 2016 - 2 comments

2006 military SF, fourth of the Kris Longknife books. Kris finally gets an independent command: a single-world "naval district" on the far end of anywhere.

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The Witness at the Wedding, Simon Brett 02 September 2016

2005 mystery; sixth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Carole's son is getting married, but the bride's parents are oddly reluctant to have any announcements made… and then the father is strangled.

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The Nursing Home Murder, Ngaio Marsh 30 August 2016

1935 classic English detective fiction; third of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. In a private hospital, the Home Secretary was operated on for appendicitis: shortly afterwards he was dead, poisoned with hyoscine (scopolamine). And all sorts of people seem to have had motives.

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The Hanging in the Hotel, Simon Brett 28 August 2016

2004 mystery; fifth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Jude is helping out at the Hopwicke Country House Hotel, but the morning after a boozy meeting of the Pillars of Sussex, an organisation of local businessmen, one of them doesn't come down to breakfast… because he's hanging from a beam of his four-poster bed. Obviously a suicide…

…or obviously not, but proving it will be hard work, especially when the Pillars of Sussex close ranks to disassociate themselves from the victim. Everybody's far too willing to talk to Carole and Jude, as usual, but a key player appears for the first time three-quarters of the way through the book, which doesn't help matters.

Most of the investigation is a trudge through local businesses, and Brett's usual cast of horrible people. Everyone has something to hide, of course, and it usually reinforces how ghastly they are.

As in The Torso in the Town, the ultimate villain goes unpunished, which again seems to be a violation of the principles of murder mysteries: the detectives find themselves stymied and essentially give up and go home. But they do that seemingly because there are only a few pages left; if it were half-way through the book they'd go after some alternative source of information, and for their behaviour to be so blatantly affected by a non-diegetic element breaks my suspension of disbelief.

But in this book, the mystery is the bread on which the pâté of human drama is spread: what are these people's secrets, and how do they react as things come out? Also, this marks a significant achievement in the process of Carole's transformation into a human being, as she finds herself become able to talk with her son and his fiancée in a way she certainly wouldn't have been when the series started. (However, I think Brett realised that without having Carole as a pompous prig he loses the contrast she strikes against free-spirited Jude, so her progress from this point on is much slower and sometimes even reversed.)

Followed by The Witness at the Wedding. [more]

The Castlemaine Murders, Kerry Greenwood 26 August 2016

2003 historical detection, thirteenth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Phryne investigates a mummified corpse found in a carnival attraction.

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Murder in the Museum, Simon Brett 24 August 2016

2003; fourth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Bracketts, an Elizabethan house, is to be turned into a museum celebrating the life and work of the local poet Esmond Chadleigh, its most famous resident. Then a skull is dug up in the garden.

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The Shattered Sphere, Roger MacBride Allen 22 August 2016 - 5 comments

1994 science fiction, sequel to The Ring of Charon. This review contains spoilers for that first book.

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The Torso in the Town, Simon Brett 20 August 2016

2002 mystery; third in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). The couple who've just moved into the Big House in Fedborough, inland up the river from Fethering, throw a dinner party to try to get into the local social scene… which is somewhat spoiled when a limbless body is discovered in the cellar.

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Enter a Murderer, Ngaio Marsh 18 August 2016 - 3 comments

1935 classic English detective fiction; second of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. When Arthur Surbonadier is fatally shot on stage during the last act of The Rat and the Beaver, there's no question about who pulled the trigger: the shooting was part of the play. But there wasn't supposed to be live ammunition in the gun.

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Death on the Downs, Simon Brett 16 August 2016

2001 mystery; second in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). While out exploring the South Downs, Carole stumbles on a human skeleton. Jude thinks she knows who it might have been.

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Ruined City, Nevil Shute 14 August 2016

1938 fiction. Henry Warren, a successful banker, works all his waking hours, travelling across Europe to sort out financial deals, particularly share issues. His digestion is bad, and his wife's having an affair with a foreigner. When all the stress catches up with him, he winds up in the hospital of a northern town, one that's been without significant employment since the shipyard closed, and decides to do something about it. (US vt Kindling.)

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The Body on the Beach, Simon Brett 12 August 2016

2000 mystery; first in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Carole Seddon, conventional, divorced, and retired from the Home Office, moves to the small seaside town of Fethering (inspired by the real Tarring in West Sussex). But her neighbour Jude turns out to be distressingly bohemian, and she finds a dead body while walking her dog on the beach… but by the time the police turn up, it's gone.

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Retribution Falls, Chris Wooding 10 August 2016

2009 steampunk fantasy. Darian Frey is the captain of the Ketty Jay and her crew of misfits, as they go about doing small-time jobs for small-time people. But they're all about to play for much higher stakes than they were ever expecting.

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Viper Strike, Keith Douglass 08 August 2016

1991 military fiction; second in the Carrier series. A complex plot sees Burmese, Thai and Chinese renegades orchestrating a breakup of SEATO for purposes unclear at first. Carrier Battle Group 14 is going to get caught in the middle.

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Another Man's Poison, Ann Cleeves 06 August 2016

1993 detective fiction; fifth of Cleeves's novels of amateur private detectives George and Molly Palmer-Jones. Elderly Ursula Ottway lives in a cottage on an estate in the Cumbrian fell country; when she finds her cats dead from eating poisoned bait, she threatens to expose her landlord, rising politician Marcus Grenville, since he's obviously been illegally poisoning raptors to improve the grouse shooting. The next day she's dead. But she was Molly's aunt, and George and Molly were on their way to visit.

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Carrier, Keith Douglass 04 August 2016

1991 military fiction; first in the Carrier series. An American intelligence ship and her crew vanish on the high seas; the North Koreans admit nothing. Carrier Battle Group 14 is sent in to get them out.

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Brotherhood in Death, J. D. Robb 02 August 2016

2016 SF/mystery; fifty-third (roughly) of J. D. Robb's In Death series. Dennis Mira went to confront his cousin Edward over plans to sell the family house, but found him tied up in a chair; then someone knocked Dennis on the head. Now Edward's missing. Fortunately Dennis is married to Charlotte Mira, police profiler and friend of Lieutenant Eve Dallas.

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Deep South, Nevada Barr 31 July 2016

2000 mystery, eighth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. Newly promoted to District Ranger on the Natchez Trace Parkway, Anna finds herself the object of resentment by her time-serving underlings, then discovers the body of a young woman (who "had accrued a surprising number of reasons to be done to death for a girl of her tender years").

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The Mad Scientist's Daughter, Cassandra Rose Clarke 29 July 2016 - 3 comments

2013 science fiction/romance. Finn is a robot who looks and acts human; he arrives in young Cat Novak's life as her tutor, and stays as the years pass.

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Liberty Falling, Nevada Barr 27 July 2016

1999 mystery, seventh in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. With her sister hospitalised in New York, Anna stays on Liberty Island (where the statue is) and explores Ellis Island outside hospital visiting hours. Then a young girl falls to her death from the statue.

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Death of a Ghost, Margery Allingham 25 July 2016

1934 classic English detective fiction; sixth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. The great artist John Lafcadio left twelve final paintings, to be shown one per year after his death. At the unveiling of the eighth, a young artist is fatally stabbed with a pair of decorative scissors.

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Blind Descent, Nevada Barr 23 July 2016

1998 mystery, sixth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. Lechugilla Cavern is a huge and largely unexplored cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park; whena friend and fellow ranger is injured there, Anna swallows her claustrophobia and goes in to help with the evacuation.

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Endless Blue, Wen Spencer 21 July 2016

2007 science fiction. The starship Fenrir was lost ten years ago to a misjump, but its warp engine has just reappeared in open space… embedded in coral, and accompanied by three dead bodies and a fishing boat. Captain Mikhail Ivanovich Volkov takes the frigate Svoboda to find out where the Fenrir has been.

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Endangered Species, Nevada Barr 19 July 2016

1997 mystery, fifth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. After the events of the previous book, Anna's sent to Cumberland Island Park for "pre-suppression" fire duty, and a bit of a lighter posting. But she and another ranger spot a plume of smoke, which turns out to be the fresh wreckage of the island's drug-interdiction plane.

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Sweet Danger, Margery Allingham 17 July 2016 - 3 comments

1933 classic English detective fiction; fifth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. The Fitton family operate a run-down watermill in Suffolk, but may be the forgotten heirs of Averna, a tiny European principality that may suddenly be terribly important. US vtt Kingdom of Earth and The Fear Sign.

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Firestorm, Nevada Barr 15 July 2016

1996 mystery, fourth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. Anna's called in to help fight a wildfire in Lassen Volcanic National Park, but the wind shifts and a firestorm overtakes the team. When they come out of their protective tents, one of them's been stabbed in the back.

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Swastika Night, Katherine Burdekin 13 July 2016 - 1 comment

1937 feminist alternate history. Seven centuries after Nazi victory, women are uneducated cattle, and men have eliminated history, books, and creativity.

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Ill Wind, Nevada Barr 11 July 2016

1995 mystery, third in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. Visitors to Mesa Verde Park and the Anasazi cliff dwellings have been coming away with a strange and deadly illness.

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Police at the Funeral, Margery Allingham 09 July 2016

1931 classic English detective fiction; fourth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. The very elderly Caroline Faraday has a house in Cambridge run on strict Victorian lines; her ageing son, daughters and nephew put up with the lack of freedom for the free bed and board, having variously failed at their own lives. But everyone's fairly horrible, and it seems that one of them is also a murderer.

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Green for Danger, Christianna Brand 07 July 2016 - 19 comments

1944 detective fiction; second of Brand's novels of Inspector Cockrill. At a military hospital during the Blitz, a patient dies under anæsthetic. Later, someone who'd claimed to know who was responsible is stabbed to death. Six suspects are left, and there's not a visible motive among them.

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Gullstruck Island, Frances Hardinge 05 July 2016

2008 fantasy. The isolated towns and villages of the volcanic Gullstruck Island rely on the Lost, who can project their senses at a distance, to keep them in contact with each other. Arilou is one such Lost, and Hathin is her helper. But it's all going to get vastly more complicated. US vt The Lost Conspiracy.

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A Superior Death, Nevada Barr 02 July 2016

1994 mystery, second in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. In the Isle Royale park off the Michigan coast, one of the dive operators turns up dead in a long-sunken shipwreck.

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The Ivy Tree, Mary Stewart 29 June 2016

1961; mystery/thriller or romantic suspense. Mary Grey has no particular prospects, but she's a dead ringer for Annabel Winslow, the heir to the small farm of Whitescar, who's been missing for eight years. Con Winslow, who's been running the place as Annabel's grandfather gradually declines, sees a chance to pull a Brat Farrar, produce the "missing heir", and get the place whether or not it's willed to him. But Mary has her own plans.

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Track of the Cat, Nevada Barr 27 June 2016

1993 mystery, first in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. After the death of her husband, Anna fled from her life in New York to find solitude as a ranger in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, home to a few mountain lions among other species. But when a colleague is found dead, the paw prints round the body and claw marks on the throat seem to point a little too perfectly to a killer animal.

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Look to the Lady, Margery Allingham 25 June 2016

1931 classic English detective fiction; third of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. The Gyrth Chalice is unique and unsaleable… but it seems that someone is setting up to steal it anyway, for a private collection. US vt The Gyrth Chalice Mystery.

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Training Daze, Mike Shepherd 22 June 2016

2011 military SF novella, a later insertion into the Kris Longknife series. After the triumph of the Battle of Wardhaven, Kris and crew go out to train allied fast patrol boat commanders.

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The Space Barbarians, Tom Godwin 20 June 2016

1964 science fiction, sequel to The Survivors/Space Prison. The survivors of the hell-world Ragnarok have handily won the war against the Gern, but they don't seem to be able to talk sensibly with either Earth or the former Gern-slave colony of Athena. And there's a new threat approaching…

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Mystery Mile, Margery Allingham 18 June 2016

1930 classic English detective fiction; second of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. Multiple attempts have been made to murder an American judge; Campion does his best to keep him safe.

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Defiant, Mike Shepherd 16 June 2016

2005 military SF, third of the Kris Longknife books. As a victim of fallout from a political attack against her family, Kris gets sent on a diplomatic mission, then comes back to a desperate struggle in defence of her homeworld.

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Wave and Die, Stella Whitelaw 14 June 2016

2001 mystery, second in Whitelaw's Jordan Lacey series (private investigation in a small seaside town). Jordan investigates stolen water-lilies, vandalism, theft of a wedding cake, arson, and an errant husband. Oh, and a Second World War aircraft wreck.

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The Crime at Black Dudley, Margery Allingham 12 June 2016

1929 classic English detective fiction; first of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. George Abbershaw, expert pathologist who unexpectedly finds himself in love, goes down for the weekend to the remote country house called "Black Dudley"; but the gathering is afflicted with murder… and then taken over by gangsters. US vt The Black Dudley Murder.

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The Ring of Charon, Roger MacBride Allen 10 June 2016 - 2 comments

1990 science fiction. Larry Chao is a junior scientist at a gravity research station on Pluto, that's about to be shut down. He's just made a remarkable improvement in gravity manipulation, but the chief administrator won't take it seriously, so he fires off an unauthorised experiment to prove to the scientific community that there's real progress being made. At which point something very unexpected happens.

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The Floating Admiral, The Detection Club 09 June 2016

1931 English detective fiction, in fourteen chapters by fourteen authors. The body of retired Admiral Penistone is found in a small boat on the river, stabbed through the heart. Everyone has a story, and everyone has something to hide.

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Wonderment in Death, J. D. Robb 07 June 2016

2015 SF/mystery novella; fifty-second (roughly) of J. D. Robb's In Death series, published as part of Down the Rabbit Hole, a multi-author anthology of stories loosely inspired by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Apparently Darlene Fitzwilliams fatally stabbed her brother, then jumped off his fifty-second floor balcony. But there's no sign that she was the sort of person who'd do that.

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vN, Madeline Ashby 05 June 2016 - 3 comments

2012 science fiction. Amy Peterson is a self-replicating ("von Neumann") humaniform robot, who has been growing up slowly as part of a mixed human/android family. Then her grandmother shows up, and she has to eat her.

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A Man Lay Dead, Ngaio Marsh 03 June 2016

1934 classic English detective fiction; first of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. At Sir Hubert Handesley's country house weekend, five guests play a game of "Murder". But when the lights come up…

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Space Captain Smith, Toby Frost 31 May 2016 - 1 comment

2008 humorous science fiction; first in its series. In the 25th Century the British Empire will soon be fighting the insectoid Ghast; but Captain Isambard Smith, square-jawed, courageous, and perhaps a bit dim, is called on to take an elderly refitted freighter on a courier mission.

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The Bilbao Looking Glass, Charlotte MacLeod 29 May 2016

1983, cozy American detective fiction; fourth of MacLeod's novels of Boston Brahmin Sarah Kelling and art investigator Max Bittersohn. Sarah and Max, teetering on the brink of getting engaged, visit Sarah's summer home on Cape Cod. But someone has covertly added a valuable antique mirror to the furnishings; and a nasty old gossip turns up with an axe in her chest.

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Spiral Hunt, Margaret Ronald 27 May 2016

2009 urban fantasy. Evie Scelan isn't a magician: she just has a knack for tracking things by scent. But staying out of the way of the magical rulers of Boston isn't as easy as simply keeping her head down.

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The Strangling on the Stage, Simon Brett 25 May 2016

2014; fifteenth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing in small-town Sussex). After a rehearsal for a village-hall production of The Devil's Disciple, the lead is found strangled on the "absolutely safe" gallows.

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers 23 May 2016 - 4 comments

2014 science fiction. The mixed human and alien crew members aboard a wormhole-building ship move from world to world, on their way to the job that'll let them move into the big time.

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Verdigris Deep, Frances Hardinge 21 May 2016

2007 young adult fantasy. Ryan, Chelle and Josh fish some coins out of the old well, to pay for a bus home. Then things get far too complicated, far too fast. US vt Well Witched.

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There's Nothing To Be Afraid Of, Marcia Muller 18 May 2016

1985 mystery; seventh in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. Someone's causing minor troubles for the inhabitants of a hotel in the Tenderloin, most of them recent Vietnamese immigrants; Sharon's employed by the Refugee Assistance Committee to look into it. Then things turn deadly.

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The Chemical History of a Candle, Michael Faraday 16 May 2016

1861 non-fiction, popular science, transcriptions of early Royal Institution Christmas Lectures; Faraday starts from the basics of combustion and goes on to the frontiers of nineteenth-century chemistry.

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Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Lois McMaster Bujold 14 May 2016 - 6 comments

2016 science fiction, sixteenth novel in the Vorkosigan universe. Three years after the death of Aral Vorkosigan, his widow Cordelia starts to move her life in a new direction. Oliver Jole, Admiral of Sergyar Fleet, finds himself caught up in unexpected ways.

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Taxonomy of the Occult Secret Service 13 May 2016 - 13 comments

John Dallman invented the term Occult Secret Service to describe the Laundry novels of Charles Stross (from 2001) and the Broom Cupboard novels of David Devereux (from 2008). It's become popular in other fiction and in role-playing games. Is it useful to analyse it further?

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The Survivors, Tom Godwin 11 May 2016 - 4 comments

1958 science fiction. When the aliens capture a colony ship, they take the slaves who can work and abandon the rest on an uninhabited world. That's their error. (Also published as Space Prison.)

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Irene's Last Waltz, Carole Nelson Douglas 09 May 2016

1994 mystery, fourth of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler; here she returns to Prague, to solve a problem for the Queen. Espionage, the Golem, femmes fatales, and really nice dresses ensue. (Retitled as Another Scandal in Bohemia in recent reissue.)

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Caliban's War, James S. A. Corey 07 May 2016

2012 science fiction, second in The Expanse series. Ganymede, the main supplier of food to the outer system, is attacked and its fragile artificial ecosystem destroyed; Earth and Mars seem likely to go to war again.

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The March North, Graydon Saunders 03 May 2016

2014 military fantasy. The unnamed protagonist leads a unit of The Line in repelling an invasion by the Dark Lord in the next country.

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Devoted in Death, J. D. Robb 29 April 2016

2015 SF/mystery; fifty-first (roughly) of J. D. Robb's In Death series. Two serial killers have crossed the USA and landed in New York; Lieutenant Eve Dallas tracks them down.

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Broken Homes, Ben Aaronovitch 27 April 2016

Contemporary fantasy, fourth in the series. Peter Grant, Metropolitan Police constable and magician, looks into a number of cases that seem to be tying back to a Brutalist tower block in Southwark.

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More Deaths Than One, Jean Rowden 25 April 2016

2009 mystery, third in the series. Constable "Thorny" Deepbriar goes to the local seaside town while his broken leg finishes healing, but he can't leave detection alone. Not only is someone stealing garden gnomes, but a body found on the beach is someone Deepbriar thought had died when he was a very green copper sixteen years ago during the war.

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Half a Crown, Jo Walton 23 April 2016

2008 alternate-history suspense/thriller, last in the "Small Change" trilogy. In the fascist Britain of 1960, former Inspector Carmichael still runs the Watch, the secret police charged with rounding up Jews, Communists, and other undesirables; his adopted niece, Elvira, is looking forward to her début.

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Fly By Night, Frances Hardinge 21 April 2016 - 1 comment

2005 non-historical fiction. Mosca lives in a tiny rural village, but her exiled father taught her to read and to love words. She takes her first opportunity to escape, and finds herself (and Saracen the goose) mixed up in matters that will determine the fate of a great city.

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All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders 19 April 2016

2016 SF and fantasy. Patricia is a witch who can sometimes talk with animals, and Laurence is a budding mad scientist. Having met and split up during their hellish schooldays, they meet again as the world seems to be winding towards its end.

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The Damage Done, James Oswald 17 April 2016

2016 supernatural mustery, sixth in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. A police raid following a tip-off about a brothel goes wrong: there's sex being had, but it all seems to have been consenting swingers, except for one registered sex offender. Then people start dying.

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The Science of Everyday Life, Marty Jopson 15 April 2016

2015 non-fiction, popular science; short pieces introduce the scientific explanations for commonplace oddities.

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Antares Victory, Michael McCollum 12 April 2016

2002 military SF, long-delayed final volume in the Antares trilogy. The combined human fleets are taking on the Ryall menace, to remove it once and for all. But is there any option short of extermination?

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Murder in Montparnasse, Kerry Greenwood 10 April 2016

2002 historical detection, twelfth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Phryne looks into trouble at a French restaurant, the disappearance of a young woman, and the murder of old soldiers.

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Equoid, Charles Stross 08 April 2016 - 1 comment

2013 modern occult secret service novelette, between The Apocalypse Codex and The Rhesus Chart in the Laundry Files series. Bob Howard is sent to inspect a livery stables, because they're buying a worrying amount of meat.

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Ha'penny, Jo Walton 06 April 2016

2007 alternate-history suspense/thriller, second in the "Small Change" trilogy. Eight years after the "peace with honour" of 1941, as Mark Normanby's new government is cracking down on Jewish communist terrorists, a bomb goes off in a Hampstead suburb. Inspector Carmichael, compromised but useful to his political masters, investigates.

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The Apocalypse Codex, Charles Stross 04 April 2016 - 2 comments

2012 modern occult secret service, fourth in the Laundry Files series. Bob has been promoted to management, and has to supervise a couple of freelance agents. Seems an American televangelist is getting too much into favour with the Prime Minister…

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Valor's Choice, Tanya Huff 02 April 2016 - 3 comments

2000 military SF, first in the Valor/Confederation series. Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr's platoon of Marines is just back from a hard fight when their liberty is cancelled and they're sent off to escort a group of diplomats as they try to get a recently-discovered world to join the Confederation. Then things get worse.

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The Fuller Memorandum, Charles Stross 31 March 2016 - 4 comments

2010 modern occult secret service, third in the Laundry Files series. Bob Howard becomes entangled in a cultist plot to steal the Eater of Souls.

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My Brother Michael, Mary Stewart 29 March 2016

1959; mystery/thriller or romantic suspense. Camilla Haven, on holiday in Athens, is lamenting that nothing ever happens to her. Then a stranger brings her "the car for Delphi", for "Monsieur Simon", for which someone has apparently already paid the deposit, and tells her that it's a matter of life and death…

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Overtime, Charles Stross 27 March 2016

2009 modern occult secret service novelette, between The Jennifer Morgue and The Fuller Memorandum in the Laundry Files series. The Laundry is down to a skeleton staff for Christmas… so Bob Howard is the one man who might be able to prevent the annihilation of the world.

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The Sorceress of the Strand, L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace 25 March 2016

Collection of six short mystery stories from 1902-1903. Madame Sara, the best "beautifier" in London, is also a master criminal – one might even say a veritable Napoleon of crime.

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Down on the Farm, Charles Stross 23 March 2016 - 4 comments

2008 modern occult secret service novelette, between The Jennifer Morgue and The Fuller Memorandum in the Laundry Files series. Bob visits the asylum where broken Laundry agents go; all, unsurprisingly, is not well.

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Snake Agent, Liz Williams 21 March 2016

2005 futuristic fantasy. Detective Inspector Chen is a cop in the franchised city Singapore Three, in charge of magical and supernatural investigations. When a missing girl's soul turns up demonstrably in Hell, rather than Heaven where it should be, that's the first thread of a long and political investigation.

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The Jennifer Morgue, Charles Stross 19 March 2016 - 3 comments

2006 modern occult secret service, second in the Laundry Files series. Bob Howard is sent to a Caribbean island to stop a billionaire from destroying the world with magic.

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Hard Truth, Nevada Barr 16 March 2016 - 4 comments

2005 mystery, thirteenth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. In Rocky Mountain, three young girls went missing a few months back, and were never found. But now two of them have walked out of the woods…

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The Atrocity Archives, Charles Stross 14 March 2016 - 5 comments

2004 modern occult secret service, first in the Laundry Files series; a short novel of the same title coupled with the novella The Concrete Jungle. Bob Howard is a techie working for an extremely secret part of the British intelligence community, trying to suppress knowledge that could destroy the world… and clean up when it gets out.

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Irene at Large, Carole Nelson Douglas 12 March 2016

1992 mystery, third of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler. In Paris in 1888, a stranger in Oriental garb falls poisoned at the feet of Irene's narrator, Nell Huxleigh. But why does he claim to know her? (Retitled A Soul of Steel in recent reissue.)

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Antares Passage, Michael McCollum 08 March 2016

1987 SF, second in the Antares trilogy. The Altan and Sandarian space navies won't be able to fight the alien menace on their own, but they have a plan for getting back in contact with Earth.

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Murder in the Museum of Man, Alfred Alcorn 06 March 2016

1997 humorous detective fiction; first of Alcorn's novels of Norman de Ratour, Recording Secretary at the Museum of Man, an anthropological museum somewhere in New England. Dean Fessing goes missing, and most of him turns up expertly cooked. That inevitably starts rumours of cannibalism, but there may be fire to go with this smoke…

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The Wallet of Kai Lung, Ernest Bramah 02 March 2016 - 1 comment

1900 collection of funny and fantastic stories of Imperial China.

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All the Way to the Gallows, David Drake 28 February 2016

1996 SF/fantasy short story collection of some of Drake's more humorous short stories.

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Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D'Urbervilles, Kim Newman 24 February 2016 - 2 comments

2011 detective fiction parody, collection of seven short stories. Colonel Sebastian Moran, a cad and a bounder, works for Professor Moriarty the consulting criminal.

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Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey 20 February 2016

2011 science fiction, first in The Expanse series. With the asteroid belt colonised, tensions are rising between Belt, Mars and Earth. When ships start getting destroyed, war is inevitable; but who actually kicked it off, and why?

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Sea Fever, Ann Cleeves 15 February 2016

1993 detective fiction; sixth of Cleeves's novels of amateur private detectives George and Molly Palmer-Jones. On a bird-watching boat trip, the sighting of a rare petrel is much more interesting than a birdwatcher who isn't where he should be. But then he turns out to have been murdered...

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Corsair, James L. Cambias 11 February 2016 - 2 comments

2015 science fiction. In the near future, helium-3 mining on the Moon is big business, but the shipments back to Earth are being hijacked.

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Team Rodent, Carl Hiaasen 07 February 2016

1998, short pieces on the effects of Disney on Florida and other places.

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The Affair of the Blood-stained Egg Cosy, James Anderson 03 February 2016

1975 cosy detective fiction; first of Anderson's novels of the Earl of Burford and Inspector Wilkins. Some time in the 1930s, there's a house party at Alderley, including the Earl's political brother and the foreign dignitaries he's negotiating with, an American millionaire called Hiram, and various others. Nobody is quite what they seem, and that's even before jewels start going missing and guests start turning up dead.

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Abducticon, Alma Alexander 29 January 2016

2015 science fiction. At a regional American SF convention, things are going with the usual level of chaos… until the entire con hotel gets kidnapped by time-travelling androids.

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Earth Star, Janet Edwards 25 January 2016

2013 young adult science fiction, sequel to Earth Girl. Jarra is Handicapped, unable to leave Earth for any of the colony worlds where most of society now happens, but after a daring rescue she's a hero. Now her archaeological and historical skills will be tested in an entirely new field.

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The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco 22 January 2016 - 2 comments

1980 historical mystery. In 1327, Friar William of Baskerville and his novice Adso of Melk try to solve a series of murders at a monastery in northern Italy.

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Skeleton Hill, Peter Lovesey 20 January 2016

2009 mystery, the tenth book in Lovesey's Peter Diamond series. After a Civil War battle re-enactment on Lansdown Hill near Bath, one of the soldiers disappears. Later the police find a headless skeleton in the same area. Later still, a homeless man is found dead with a major head wound. Are the cases connected? DI Peter Diamond is determined that they are.

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Karen Memory, Elizabeth Bear 18 January 2016

2015 vaguely steampunk science fiction. In Rapid City on the Pacific Northwest coast, Karen Memery is one of the "seamstresses" at Hôtel Mon Cherie (sic). It's not a bad life, but she's about to get in the way of a powerful man on his way up even higher.

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Penric's Demon, Lois McMaster Bujold 16 January 2016

2015 fantasy novella in the World of the Five Gods (formerly known as Chalion). Lord Penric, an impoverished nobleman, is on his way to his betrothal when he comes upon a riding accident. Before he knows what's happened, he's inherited a demon, and everyone's looking at him as though he might explode at any moment.

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Farthing, Jo Walton 14 January 2016

2006 alternate-history mystery, first in the "Small Change" trilogy. In 1949, Britain is at peace with the Reich, which is still fighting in Russia. At Farthing, a country house in Hampshire, one of the architects of that peace is murdered. Jews and Bolshevists are immediately blamed, but Inspector Carmichael thinks it's more complicated than that.

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Guns of the Dawn, Adrian Tchaikovsky 12 January 2016 - 2 comments

2015 military fantasy. As the war between Lascanne and Denland drags on, the gentlewoman Emily Marshwic finds herself fighting on the front.

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Good Morning Irene, Carole Nelson Douglas 10 January 2016

1991 mystery, second of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler. Bored in Paris, Irene takes on the mystery of a series of tattooed suicides. (Retitled The Adventuress in recent reissue.)

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Archivist Wasp, Nicole Kornher-Stace 07 January 2016

2015 fantasy. Wasp is an Archivist, hunting, studying and binding ghosts for the goddess Catchkeep and Her priest in a world that has suffered some great catastrophe in the distant past.

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Deserter, Mike Shepherd 05 January 2016

2004 military SF, second of the Kris Longknife books. Thanks to deft political manoeuvres, Kris is now a princess as well as a naval lieutenant. But when a friend goes missing while they're both on leave, she can't really do anything else but go and look for him.

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If Then, Matthew de Abaitua 03 January 2016 - 1 comment

2015 science fiction. The people of a small English town cling on to life after an economic collapse, under the protection of the Process, an ultimate allocating algorithm. But the Process seems to be spending scarce resources on recreating a battlefield of the First World War…

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2015 in Books 30 December 2015 - 4 comments

In 2015 I read 132 books, on a par with recent years but lower than I really like.

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Wrack and Rune, Charlotte MacLeod 27 December 2015

1982 cosy American detective fiction; third of MacLeod's novels of Professor Peter Shandy, set at an agricultural college in Massachussetts. Hilda Horsefall is 105 years old and still keeping the family farm going, until her farmhand is horribly murdered. But is it just part of a land-grab, and if so who's trying to do it? And how is the Viking runestone on her land connected to everything?

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Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho 24 December 2015

2015 Regency fantasy, first of a planned trilogy. "Zacharias Wythe, England's first African Sorcerer Royal, is contending with attempts to depose him, rumours that he murdered his predecessor, and an alarming decline in England's magical stocks. But his troubles are multiplied when he encounters runaway orphan Prunella Gentleman, who has just stumbled upon English magic's greatest discovery in centuries."

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The Corpse on the Court, Simon Brett 22 December 2015

2011; fourteenth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Jude's new lover Piers is a tennis fanatic – real tennis – but when she turns up for a lesson one of the other club members is found dead. Heart attack, clearly, but why is everyone acting so cagey? Meanwhile Jude's friend Carole conducts a separate investigation.

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Kick Ass, Carl Hiaasen 19 December 2015

1999 collected newspaper columns, written from 1985 onwards. Hiaasen gets his teeth into issues of local politics, corruption, finance and wildlife preservation, often all at once.

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High Country, Nevada Barr 16 December 2015

2004 mystery, twelfth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. After four seasonal park employees disappear on the same day in Yosemite, Anna Pigeon goes undercover to try to find out what happened.

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Prayer for the Dead, James Oswald 14 December 2015

2015 supernatural mystery, fifth in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. In a network of man-made caves under Edinburgh, a journalist turns up with his throat cut. Why there, why then, and why him?

[more]
Oath of Fealty, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle 12 December 2015 - 2 comments

1981 science fiction. In the Todos Santos arcology, life is much safer than outside in Los Angeles, if somewhat sanitised: but it's still right next door.

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Antares Dawn, Michael McCollum 10 December 2015

1986 SF, first in the Antares trilogy. The colony world of Alta has been cut off from other planets for more than a century, since Antares exploded into a supernova. Now a ship has come through where there wasn't supposed to be a jump point…

[more]
The Palace Guard, Charlotte MacLeod 08 December 2015

1982, cozy American detective fiction; third of MacLeod's novels of Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn. At a private art museum, a guard falls to his death, having been complaining that his favourite Rubens is different these days.

[more]
Dark Orbit, Carolyn Ives Gilman 06 December 2015 - 1 comment

2015 science fiction; a team of scientists is assembled to explore a newly-discovered planet. Saraswati Callicot is an exoethnologist, and the planet's uninhabited, but she's sent along to keep an eye on Thora Lassiter, the daughter of one of the powerful families who went a bit mad on her previous mission; she's been cured, but she might still be an embarrassment. Then things start to go bizarrely wrong.

[more]
Night of Masks, Andre Norton 03 December 2015

1964 children's SF. Nik Colherne's face was badly burned in an accident, and as a resident of the Dipple he can't afford the advanced surgery that might fix it. The Thieves' Guild offers him a new face, if he impersonates a boy's fantasised hero. But it's all rather more complex than that.

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Falling Upwards, Richard Holmes 29 November 2015 - 1 comment

2013 non-fiction, an informal history of the rise and fall (sorry) of the man-carrying balloon.

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Judgment on Janus, Andre Norton 27 November 2015 - 3 comments

1963 children's SF. Naill Renfro sells himself into servitude to get drugs to make his mother's dying easier. After that, things improve slightly. Well, they'd have to, wouldn't they?

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Double, Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini 25 November 2015

1984 mystery; sixth in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco, and at the same time fourteenth in Pronzini's "Nameless Detective" private eye series. Both detectives are at a convention of private eyes in San Diego, McCone also visiting her family and an old friend who's now head of hotel security. But then the dying starts.

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Catseye, Andre Norton 23 November 2015

1961 children's SF. Troy Horan was thrown off his planet during the big war. Now he lives hand-to-mouth in the Dipple. But a casual job with an importer of exotic pets leads to unexpected intrigue and danger.

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Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie 21 November 2015

2015 SF, sequel to Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword. Fleet Captain Breq is still on Athoek Station, but there are plenty of problems even without the civil war coming closer.

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Deadlier than the Sword, Jean Rowden 19 November 2015

2008 mystery, second of the "Thorny" Deepbriar series. In rural Yorkshire in 1957, Thorny the village bobby is still trying to get into the CID. But his superiors want him walking the beat where he is. He'll need to pull off an impressive feat of detection, but how can he do that in a village where nothing much happens?

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The Box, Marc Levinson 17 November 2015 - 4 comments

2008 non-fiction, an informal history of the shipping container. Until the Second World War, almost all non-bulk freight was breakbulk, loaded one piece at a time into a ship's hold. Fifty years later, pretty much everything long-distance was going in containers. How did the change come about?

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Angles of Attack, Marko Kloos 15 November 2015

2015 SF, sequel to Lines of Departure. The alien Lankies have moved into the solar system, and a random assortment of ship crews from the two previously-warring powers must decide what to do next.

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Festive in Death, J. D. Robb 13 November 2015

2014 SF/mystery; forty-ninth (roughly) of J. D. Robb's In Death series. Just before Christmas, a personal trainer is found in his home, with a nasty head wound and a knife in his chest. He seems to have been a thoroughly nasty person, but for Eve Dallas the homicide cop's job is still the job.

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Flex, Ferrett Steinmetz 11 November 2015

2015 modern fantasy. Magic is in the world, but "'mancers" only use it to cause chaos – and it's still true that nothing is free. Flex is a drug, distilled magic, but the mundanes who take it are even less able to deal with the backlash than the 'mancers are. Paul Tsabo, ex-cop and once known as the only mundane to have killed a 'mancer, tries to track down the terrorist who's filling people with Flex and sending them out to destroy themselves and others.

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The Bone Key, Sarah Monette 09 November 2015 - 1 comment

2007 collection of short horror stories in the style of H. P. Lovecraft and M. R. James. Kyle Murchison Booth just wants to be left alone to work on his antique books and letters. But supernatural events keep happening to him.

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Earth Girl, Janet Edwards 07 November 2015 - 2 comments

2012 young adult science fiction. Jarra is Handicapped; something in her immune system revolts at alien worlds, so she's limited to living on Earth with the other people who can't go to the stars and be part of proper civilisation. What's worse, all the offworlders look down on "apes". But that's not going to stop her doing her best to have a good life.

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The Star Beast, Robert A. Heinlein 04 November 2015 - 3 comments

1954 science fiction juvenile. Lummox is the Stuart family pet, brought back a hundred years ago from who-knows-where by great-grandfather the space explorer. He's large, and occasionally hazardous to property, but basically docile. But now he's gone on a rampage, and the forces of law and order want him put down…

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View from the Imperium, Jody Lynn Nye 02 November 2015 - 2 comments

2011 humorous science fiction. Lord Thomas Kinago, foppish distant cousin of the Emperor and son of the First Space Lord, is sent on his obligatory short tour of military service. Meanwhile, a cluster of worlds on the edge of the Imperium is being taken over…

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Away with the Fairies, Kerry Greenwood 30 October 2015

2001 historical detection, eleventh in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Miss Lavender, an author and illustrator of overly-twee fairy stories, has died after receiving threatening letters. Phryne is called in by the police as someone who might be able to spot something amiss in the sea of cuteness that is Miss Lavender's home, and finds rather more motives than anyone could reasonably have expected.

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Voyage of the Basilisk, Marie Brennan 28 October 2015 - 2 comments

2015 fantasy of sorts: third volume of the memoirs of Lady Trent, alternate-Victorian naturalist specialising in dragons. Aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, Lady Trent travels round the world to study dragons wherever they may be found.

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Superposition, David Walton 26 October 2015

2015 science fiction. Jacob Kelley's old friend shows up at his house, babbling about artificial intelligences in the quantum computer that is the universe. Later, the old friend is found dead – having apparently been murdered the night before he turned up – and Kelley is put on trial for his murder.

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Afterburn, Keith Douglass 24 October 2015 - 4 comments

1996 alternate-world military fiction; seventh in the Carrier series. "Tombstone" Magruder is still CAG aboard USS Thomas Jefferson, which is sent to the Black Sea for peacekeeping operations in the context of the ongoing Russian civil war.

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The Withdrawing Room, Charlotte MacLeod 22 October 2015

1981, cozy American detective fiction; second of MacLeod's novels of Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn. While the family affairs get straightened out, the recently-widowed Sarah needs an income; she remodels her house to take in boarders. But one of them falls under a subway train, or maybe he was pushed…

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Gravity, Tess Gerritsen 20 October 2015

1999 thriller. On board the International Space Station, a microbiological experiment has gone wrong. Dr Emma Watson tries to keep the rest of the crew, and herself, alive in an increasingly challenging environment. (Nothing to do with the 2013 film of the same name.)

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Red Equinox, Douglas Wynne 18 October 2015

2015 modern Lovecraftian horror. Becca Philips, photographer and urban explorer in post-hurricane Boston, was mostly raised by her crazy occultist grandmother. But now things are showing up in her photographs that really shouldn't be there.

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Pray and Die, Stella Whitelaw 16 October 2015

2000 mystery, first in Whitelaw's Jordan Lacey series. Asthmatic ex-policewoman Jordan Lacey starts a private investigation business in the seaside town of Latching, West Sussex. Will there be enough work to pay the bills? Surprisingly, yes.

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Good Night Mr. Holmes, Carole Nelson Douglas 14 October 2015

1990, first of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler, opera singer, adventuress, and foil to Sherlock Holmes.

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Coming Home, Jack McDevitt 12 October 2015 - 2 comments

2014 science fiction, seventh in the Alex Benedict series that began with A Talent for War. Alex Benedict the relic-dealer and Chase Kolpath the pilot go hunting for the last cache of artefacts from Earth's early space age.

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Darkest Hour, James Holland 10 October 2015

2009 war story, second in Holland's Sergeant Jack Tanner series. In May of 1940, Tanner is in a training company on the south coast, but will soon be going to France with the BEF. But an old nemesis from his days in India has shown up again.

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Flashback, Nevada Barr 08 October 2015

2003 mystery, eleventh in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. At Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, seventy miles off the end of Florida, Anna replaces a chief ranger who went mad. A boat explosion and anonymous body parts are troubling enough; but then Anna starts to see ghosts…

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They Also Serve, Mike Moscoe 06 October 2015

2001 military SF, third in the Jump Universe series. At the same time as the events of The Price of Peace, Ray Longknife's exploration ship has comprehensively misjumped to where a much earlier lost ship founded a colony. But they aren't the only things on the planet.

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The Headhunters, Peter Lovesey 04 October 2015

2008 mystery. A woman is found on the beach at Selsey, drowned – forcibly. But she isn't going to be the only victim.

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Nine Coaches Waiting, Mary Stewart 02 October 2015

1958; mystery/thriller or romantic suspense. Linda Martin gets a job as governess to the young Comte de Valmy, at his château in the French Alps. But why did her employer seem so keen that she not be able to speak any French?

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The Price of Peace, Mike Moscoe 30 September 2015

2000 military SF, second in the Jump Universe series. The Unity War is over, but that doesn't mean things are peaceful; Commander Izzy Umboto of the cruiser Patton is chasing down pirates, and worse.

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The Luck Runs Out, Charlotte MacLeod 26 September 2015

1981, cosy American detective fiction; second of MacLeod's novels of Professor Peter Shandy, set at an agricultural college in Massachussetts. A few days before the Annual Competition of the Balaclava County Draft Horse Association, the college's farrier has been murdered. And the prize pig has gone missing. Is it a school prank gone horribly wrong, or something more sinister?

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The Annihilation Score, Charles Stross 24 September 2015 - 11 comments

2015 modern occult secret service, sixth in the Laundry Files series. As CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN continues, more and more people are developing occult powers, and they envision them according to their own mythologies. Which means superheroes. Mo O'Brien, combat epistemologist and wielder of the last Zahn violin, now has to run a super-crime-fighting squad.

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The First Casualty, Mike Moscoe 22 September 2015

1999 military SF, first of a series that comes both chronologically and in publication date before the Kris Longknife books. Four soldiers on opposite sides of the war between the Society of Humanity and the Unity do their best to stay alive in the face of enemies both of the conventional kind and in their own ranks.

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Dead Men's Bones, James Oswald 18 September 2015

2014 supernatural mystery, fourth in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. A body is found in the North Esk, dead of a fall, and tattooed all over. A prominent politician shoots his wife and children, then himself. Tony McLean is more interested in the former, but gets the latter on his plate as well.

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Mutineer, Mike Shepherd 16 September 2015 - 3 comments

2004 military SF, first of a series of twelve books so far with at least two more planned. Kris Longknife, daughter of the Prime Minister of the long-settled world of Wardhaven, joined the Navy to get away from politics. But as the old alliance of humanity falls apart, it's not going to be that easy.

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The Secret Hangman, Peter Lovesey 13 September 2015

2007 mystery, the ninth book in Lovesey's Peter Diamond series. A woman is found hanged in a park in Bath; a few days later her partner turns up in the same state. A suicide pact?

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The Grub-and-Stakers Move a Mountain, Charlotte MacLeod 11 September 2015

1981, cosy American detective fiction; first of MacLeod's novels (as "Alisa Craig") of Dittany Henbit and the Lobelia Falls Grub-and-Stakers Gardening & Roving Club. In a small town in Ontario, the local villain has a plan to build houses on a wilderness area. But one of his patsies ends up shot.

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Victory Conditions, Elizabeth Moon 09 September 2015

2009 military SF, last in a five-book series. Ky Vatta has her fleet, and is ready to move against the pirates as soon as they attack. But she doesn't know all their plans.

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Jaggy Splinters, Chris Brookmyre 07 September 2015

2012 collection of six short stories.

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God's War, Kameron Hurley 05 September 2015 - 2 comments

2011 SF. Nyx is a bel dame, an assassin tracking down and killing deserters for the government of Nasheen. Then things go wrong. Now she's being employed for a covert recovery mission, but everyone's hand is against her.

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The End is Nigh, John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey 03 September 2015 - 2 comments

2014 SF anthology about the run-up to the end of the world.

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Murder Goes Mumming, Charlotte MacLeod 31 August 2015 - 1 comment

1981, cosy American detective fiction; second of MacLeod's novels (as "Alisa Craig") of Madoc and Janet Rhys. In a remote country house in Canada, old Granny Condrycke has died peacefully in her sleep. With the house cut off, the family decides to go ahead with Christmas festivities. But Madoc Rhys, a Mountie who's there accidentally undercover with his fiancée Janet, reckons there was more to it.

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Command Decision, Elizabeth Moon 29 August 2015

2007 military SF, fourth in a five-book series. Kylara Vatta is putting together an anti-pirate navy while her cousin Stella is rebuilding the family firm.

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Flesh Wounds, Chris Brookmyre 27 August 2015

2013 thriller, third in Brookmyre's Glasgow crime series. Jasmine Sharp's protector, the vanished and reappeared gang enforcer Glen Fallan, is arrested for the murder of his old enemy Stevie Fullerton; DS Catherine McLeod is happy to see Fallan put away, but wants to do this by the book, and there are disturbing inconsistencies.

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Radiance, Alicorn 25 August 2015 - 2 comments

2011 contemporary fantasy, a "re-imagining" of the Twilight series. Five years after Luminosity, Elspeth Cullen, daughter of Bella and Edward, tries to stay alive.

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Lines of Departure, Marko Kloos 21 August 2015 - 2 comments

2014 SF, sequel to Terms of Enlistment. Humanity is losing the war against the aliens, but Andrew Grayson might as well re-enlist: there's nothing else for him to do.

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The Magic City, E. Nesbit 19 August 2015

1910 children's fantasy. Philip, feeling abandoned after his older sister and sole family member marries, builds a model city from things around the house, then finds he has been sucked into it.

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Don't Point That Thing At Me, Kyril Bonfiglioli 17 August 2015

1972 comedy, first in the Mortdecai Trilogy. Charlie Mortdecai is a cheerfully corrupt, vaguely aristocratic and thoroughly cowardly art dealer, who finds himself called on to act as an unwilling assassin.

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A Place of Confinement, Anna Dean 15 August 2015

2012 historical detection, fourth in Dean's Dido Kent series. Dido is forced to act as companion to her elderly and wealthy aunt, but the house they visit has its own problems: a young lady has disappeared, perhaps to Gretna Green, but her guardian is curiously unconcerned about her.

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The Blue Place, Nicola Griffith 13 August 2015

1998 lesbian noir mystery/romance; first in Griffith's series about Aud Torvingen, bodyguard and borderline psychopath in Atlanta. An art historian's house is burned to the ground, with him in it; six kilos of cocaine are found in the garage. A drug-related execution, or something odder?

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Leave a Message for Willie, Marcia Muller 11 August 2015

1984 mystery; fifth in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. A major player in the flea-markets wants help dealing with a stalker, but his business is not as honest as it could be, and soon people start turning up dead.

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The Odin Mission, James Holland 08 August 2015 - 2 comments

2008 war story, first in Holland's Sergeant Jack Tanner series. In April of 1940, British forces in Norway make a fighting retreat in the face of the oncoming German invasion. Jack Tanner, of the King's Own Yorkshire Rangers, must also deal with poor officers, being cut off from friendly troops, and a civilian who has to be smuggled out of the country.

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Full Fathom Five, Max Gladstone 06 August 2015 - 2 comments

2014 technological fantasy. On the island of Kavekana, the main business is idols: all the convenience of a god, but none of the commitment or free will of the real thing. One of them has died thanks to a bad financial deal, but the priestess Kai tried to save her, and heard something odd as she did.

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A Darkling Sea, James L. Cambias 03 August 2015

2013 science fiction. Six months' hyperspace travel from Earth, a small scientific team explores the lightless under-ice ocean of the planet Ilmatar.

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Shadow Ops: Control Point, Myke Cole 30 July 2015 - 3 comments

2012 modern fantasy. For a few years, people have been manifesting magical powers; in the US, the military has taken control of it all. Some powers are allowed, some aren't. Oscar Britton, Army helicopter pilot, is about to develop one of the ones that isn't.

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Garment of Shadows, Laurie R. King 27 July 2015 - 2 comments

2012 mystery, twelfth in King's series about Mary Russell, wife of Sherlock Holmes. In Morocco in 1924, rebellion is in the air, and fell plots with international ramifications are being prepared.

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Clockwork Heart, Dru Pagliassotti 25 July 2015

2008 steampunk fantasy romance. Taya is an icarus, one of the couriers who strap on wings and buoyant metal to carry messages and small packages across the mountainside city of Ondinium. But a mid-air rescue brings her to the attention of the city's leaders.

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The Hangman's Song, James Oswald 23 July 2015

2014 mystery, third in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. Bodies are found hanging in their homes in Edinburgh, apparently suicides. But how did they all come to do it in just the same way at the same time?

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Terms of Enlistment, Marko Kloos 21 July 2015 - 8 comments

2013 SF. Andrew Grayson is a long-term welfare recipient, and there are only two ways out: hope to win a lottery for the colony worlds, or sign up with the military. He's going for option B.

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Luminosity, Alicorn 19 July 2015 - 2 comments

2010 contemporary fantasy, a "re-imagining" of the Twilight series. Bella Swan is a "rational self-knowledge junkie", so when she meets vampires, she starts thinking about them rather than blindly falling in love.

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A Woman of Consequence, Anna Dean 17 July 2015

2010 historical detection, third in Dean's Dido Kent series. On a visit to a supposedly-haunted ruined abbey, a young lady slips and falls, saying in her delirium only "I saw her – it was her". Was it the Grey Nun of legend?

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The Nelson Touch, Christopher Nuttall 14 July 2015

2014 military SF, second in the Ark Royal series. The outdated and over-armoured carrier Ark Royal did what the newer ships couldn't, taking the war to the alien invaders and even capturing an enemy starship. Now it's time for a larger raid into alien space.

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Death Before Wicket, Kerry Greenwood 11 July 2015 - 2 comments

1999 historical detection. Tenth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Phryne is in Sydney, nominally to watch a cricket match, at the request of two university students, whose friend has been accused of stealing exam-papers: an obvious setup. But it seems that there's more to it than that.

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The Deaths of Tao, Wesley Chu 09 July 2015

2013 SF, by the only non-slate nominee for the Campbell this year. Unaging aliens and their human hosts struggle across the Earth.

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A Night Too Dark, Dana Stabenow 07 July 2015

2010 mystery, seventeenth in the series about Kate Shugak, part-time private investigator in a national park in Alaska. The gold mine has come to the Park, and that's changing everything; but murder is still murder.

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Engaging the Enemy, Elizabeth Moon 04 July 2015

2006 SF, third in a five-book series. With the space pirates moving in earnest to extort protection money from interstellar trading polities, Kylara Vatta starts to build a fleet to take them on.

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Fly Navy: The View from the Cockpit 1945-2000, Charles Manning 02 July 2015

2000 non-fiction, a collection of anecdotes by officers of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm.

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Hugo 2015: Graphic Story 30 June 2015 - 2 comments

Four nominees in this category that conform to my criteria. I'm not much of a comics reader as a rule, but there's a pleasing diversity of styles.

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Guns in the Gallery, Simon Brett 28 June 2015

2011; thirteenth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Jude and Carole go to a private viewing by a consciously controversial artist at a local gallery, but the evening ends in violent death. The police reckon it's suicide, but…

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Hugo 2015: Beneath Ceaseless Skies 157, Scott H. Andrews 26 June 2015

For this year's Hugo awards there are three semiprozines in contention that satisfy my voting criteria. One didn't bother to provide a sample in the Hugo packet. This is one of the other two.

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A Soldier's Duty, Jean Johnson 24 June 2015 - 4 comments

2011 SF, first of a five-book series. Ia is a precognitive who foresees the collapse of human civilisation… unless she takes a specific path, which starts with becoming a space marine.

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Hugo 2015: Lightspeed 44, John Joseph Adams 22 June 2015

For this year's Hugo awards there are three semiprozines in contention that satisfy my voting criteria. One didn't bother to provide a sample in the Hugo packet. This is one of the other two.

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Marque and Reprisal, Elizabeth Moon 19 June 2015

2004 SF, second in a five-book series. Kylara Vatta survived her first solo trading venture, but now someone's taking on the family firm. UK vt Moving Target.

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The Cutout, Francine Mathews 17 June 2015

2001 espionage thriller. Caroline Carmichael, CIA intelligence analyst, thought she'd lost her husband in a plane bombing. Until he showed up in a photo of the people who had just kidnapped the Vice-President of the USA during a terrorist attack in Berlin.

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Hugo 2015: Novelette 15 June 2015

There's only one non-slate novelette on the ballot this year, so that's what I'm reviewing here: The Day The World Turned Upside Down, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt.

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Trading in Danger, Elizabeth Moon 12 June 2015 - 2 comments

2003 SF, first in a five-book series. Kylara Vatta is thrown out of space navy academy, then gets a job taking one of the family firm's oldest ships on its final voyage to the scrapyard. Of course it all gets more complicated than that.

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Speaking from Among the Bones, Alan Bradley 10 June 2015

2013 cosy mystery, fifth in Bradley's series set in the early 1950s about child detective Flavia de Luce. The corpse of the angelic-looking young organist has been hidden in a saint's tomb that hasn't been opened for years. But how and why did he die?

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My Friend Mr Leakey, J B S Haldane 08 June 2015 - 2 comments

1937 children's fantasy. Six stories of wonder, three of them dealing with the modern magician Mr Leakey.

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The Severed Streets, Paul Cornell 06 June 2015 - 2 comments

2014 urban fantasy, sequel to London Falling. As protests brew into riots during a hot summer, important people are being murdered in a bizarre and impossible way. Fortunately, the Met has four officers who specialise in the impossible.

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Countdown, Keith Douglass 04 June 2015

1994 alternate-world military fiction; sixth in the Carrier series. "Tombstone" Magruder is still CAG aboard USS Thomas Jefferson, which now gets involved in the Russian civil war of 1994+4.

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Nuclear Weapons: Principles, Effects and Survivability, Charles S. Grace 31 May 2015 - 1 comment

1994 non-fiction, volume 10 of the Brassey's New Battlefield Weapons Systems and Technology series. A practical primer on the design and operation of nuclear weapons, their effects, and their simulation.

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Windscale 1957, Lorna Arnold 29 May 2015

1995 non-fiction. In October 1957, the core of Windscale's Pile 1 caught fire, burned for three days, and spread radioactive contamination across what was then Cumberland. This is the official history of the incident and its aftermath.

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A Gentleman of Fortune, Anna Dean 26 May 2015

2009 historical detection, second in Dean's Dido Kent series. Rich invalid Mrs Lansdale has died, of an overdose of laudanum. Her nephew stands to inherit. But did he do it?

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The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin 23 May 2015

2014 translation of 2006 SF from China. In the long shadow of the Cultural Revolution, various people try to work out why scientists are committing suicide.

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Natural Causes, James Oswald 20 May 2015

2012 mystery, first in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. A prominent city elder in Edinburgh is killed, but less than a day later his killer commits a public and messy suicide. Case closed, and the police are happy. But McLean won't let it lie, especially when the same thing happens again.

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Thunder on the Right, Mary Stewart 18 May 2015

1957; mystery/thriller or romantic suspense. Jennifer Silver goes to the Pyrenées to visit her widowed cousin, who's staying in a convent and thinking about taking orders. But when she arrives, she finds her cousin has suddenly died and been buried. Or has she?

[more]
The Family Vault, Charlotte MacLeod 16 May 2015

1980, cosy American detective fiction; first of MacLeod's novels of Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn. In Boston, an old family vault is opened for the first time in thirty years… to reveal the corpse of a well-known burlesque dancer.

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A Small Colonial War, Robert Frezza 14 May 2015 - 1 comment

1990 military SF. In the 22nd century, the Japanese empire which controls Earth and the colony worlds sends a task group to suppress a three-way colonial revolt. It doesn't help that many of the colonists are exiled Boers.

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Fox Five, Zoe Sharp 12 May 2015

2011 thriller: five short stories about Charlie (Charlotte) Fox, former soldier and current private bodyguard.

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The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison 10 May 2015 - 2 comments

2014 fantasy. Maia is the fourth son of the emperor of Elfland, exiled to a rural estate and forgotten about. But now the emperor is dead along with his other sons, and Maia becomes the new emperor, thrown headlong into court politics for which he is unprepared.

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Souls in the Great Machine, Sean McMullen 08 May 2015

1999 SF. More than a thousand years after Greatwinter destroyed civilisation, new cultures have grown up in what was once Australia. But what is the secret at the heart of the Library?

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Bury in Haste, Jean Rowden 06 May 2015

2007 mystery. In rural Yorkshire in 1956, Constable "Thorny" Deepbriar is a village bobby who's always longed to try his hand at detection. Now he's going to get his chance.

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Anywhere but Here, Jerry Oltion 02 May 2015

2005 SF, sequel to The Getaway Special. With cheap hyperdrive available to the world, things are falling apart; two people try to work out their options.

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The Circle, Peter Lovesey 25 April 2015

2005 mystery. A publisher's house is burned down, with him in it. What's the connection with the local circle of unpublished writers?

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A Moment of Silence, Anna Dean 21 April 2015 - 4 comments

2008 historical detection, first in Dean's Dido Kent series. In 1805 at Richard Montague's engagement party, he suddenly puts off his fiancée Catherine and leaves for parts unknown. And a woman's body is found in the shrubbery. Catherine's spinster aunt Dido tries to clear up the mystery. US vt Bellfield Hall.

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Sunglasses After Dark, Nancy A. Collins 17 April 2015 - 6 comments

1989 horror, prototypical urban fantasy. Sonja Blue, vampire killer of vampires, is locked up and medicated in a mental hospital. But that isn't going to stop her for long.

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Wolf in Shadow, John Lambshead 13 April 2015 - 2 comments

2013 urban fantasy. Rhian, a young woman from the valleys with some unusual talents, finds herself in east London, where ancient magics are mixing with modern in a distinctly unpleasant way.

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Good Enough for Nelson, John Winton 11 April 2015

1977; ninth of Winton's novels. The Artful Bodger (Commander R. B. Badger, RN) is now in charge of the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth.

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Raisins and Almonds, Kerry Greenwood 09 April 2015

1997 historical detection. Ninth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). A man drops dead of strychnine poisoning in a bookshop; the owner's the obvious suspect. But Phryne is unconvinced.

[more]
Every Secret Thing, Laura Lippman 03 April 2015

2003 suspense. Seven years ago, two eleven-year-old girls stole a baby, which died; maybe one of them killed it. Now they're out of juvenile detention… and a young child has gone missing.

[more]
The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross 01 April 2015 - 4 comments

2014 modern occult secret service, fifth in the Laundry Files series. Everybody in the Laundry knows there's no such thing as vampires. Why are they so very sure?

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The Book of Souls, James Oswald 28 March 2015

2012 mystery, second in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. Twelve years ago Tony McLean caught the Christmas Killer, whose last victim was McLean's fiancée. Now that man's been killed in prison, but another young woman's corpse has just turned up, killed in the same way. A copycat? Or did McLean get the wrong man?

[more]
Obsession in Death, J. D. Robb 26 March 2015

2015 SF/mystery; fiftieth (roughly) of J. D. Robb's In Death series. At the end of 2060, Homicide Lieutenant Eve Dallas comes up against a new threat: a murderer who's such a fan that he's killing people who've offended Dallas. And there are a lot of them.

[more]
The House Sitter, Peter Lovesey 23 March 2015 - 2 comments

2003 mystery, the eighth book in Lovesey's Peter Diamond series. Is a killing on a beach connected with the murder of a celebrity film director?

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London Falling, Paul Cornell 18 March 2015 - 3 comments

2012 urban fantasy. The big crime boss is finally arrested, curiously easily, but explodes in a shower of blood while he's being interviewed. In trying to work out what happened, four coppers accidentally step into a much larger world.

[more]
Redshift Rendezvous, John E. Stith 16 March 2015

1990 SF. On a passenger liner in hyperspace, the speed of light is a mere ten metres per second. But humans are still humans.

[more]
A Pint of Murder, Charlotte MacLeod 14 March 2015

1980, cosy American detective fiction; first of MacLeod's novels (as "Alisa Craig") of Madoc and Janet Rhys. In a small Canadian town, the local old biddy has died of eating her own contaminated preserves. But was she really that careless?

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Bad Monkey, Carl Hiaasen 12 March 2015

2013 Florida Weird. On Key West, former Miami cop Andrew Yancy has a human arm in his freezer. But there's a reason for that. Yancy thinks the story about the arm's owner dying in a boating accident is full of holes, and sets off on an unofficial investigation.

[more]
Starhawk, Jack McDevitt 09 March 2015 - 2 comments

2013 SF, seventh in the Academy series and a prequel. Priscilla Hutchins is just completing interstellar pilot training, but already demand for pilots is dropping. And terrorists are threatening the terraforming project. Spoilers.

[more]
A Distant Mirror, Barbara Tuchman 05 March 2015 - 2 comments

1978, popular history. Tuchman recounts the history of France and some nearby countries in the latter part of the Fourteenth Century, with particular focus on the nobleman Enguerrand de Coucy.

[more]
Captains Courageous, Rudyard Kipling 02 March 2015 - 2 comments

1897: the spoiled son of a millionaire, washed overboard from a steamer, is rescued and put to work by the crew of a Grand Banks cod-boat.

[more]
Maelstrom, Keith Douglass 27 February 2015

1993; fifth in the Carrier series. "Tombstone" Magruder, CAG aboard USS Thomas Jefferson, continues to fight against the Russian invasion of Norway in 1993+4.

[more]
The Ninth Daughter, Barbara Hamilton 24 February 2015

2009 historical mystery. In Boston in 1773, Abigail Adams (wife of lawyer and future president John Quincy Adams) tries to solve the murder of one woman and the disappearance of another.

[more]
The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins 22 February 2015

1868 mystery; often considered the first detective novel in English. The huge diamond, looted from India, goes missing after a birthday party. Who took it? And how was the trick managed?

[more]
The Warden, Anthony Trollope 17 February 2015

1855 novel, first of Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire. The warden of Hiram's Hospital, an almshouse supported by a charitable bequest, comes under attack for keeping too much of the now-substantial income to himself.

[more]
Wildfire at Midnight, Mary Stewart 14 February 2015

1956; mystery/thriller or romantic suspense. In 1953, the fashion model Gianetta Drury has over-worked herself, and leaves London just before the Coronation to spend some time in a remote hotel on Skye. But it's not the peaceful retreat she'd hoped for.

[more]
Wanderlust, Ann Aguirre 11 February 2015

2008 SF/romance, second in the Grimspace series. In the previous book, Sirantha Jax was instrumental in bringing down the evil corporation that ran everything. But nature abhors a power vacuum.

[more]
Bones under the Beach Hut, Simon Brett 09 February 2015

2011; twelfth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Carole Seddon takes over the rental of a beach hut along the shore from Fethering, only for human remains to turn up underneath it.

[more]
I Think You'll Find It's A Bit More Complicated Than That, Ben Goldacre 06 February 2015

2014; a collection of Ben Goldacre's short writing, mostly for the Guardian.

[more]
Brat Farrar, Josephine Tey 03 February 2015

1949 mystery. Simon Ashby is about to come of age and inherit the family estate Latchetts (sadly fallen, but still worth a bit). Eight years ago, after the sudden death of their parents, his older twin Patrick committed suicide, or so everyone thought; but now someone claiming to be Patrick has turned up to take over again.

[more]
Personal, Lee Child 31 January 2015

2014; 19th book of Jack Reacher. Some bad man has had a long range shot at the chief man of France, but few men are good enough to have a go, and Jack put one of them in clink some years back. So some spies bring him on board to help catch the bad man, and be bait.

[more]
Whit, Iain Banks 29 January 2015

1995: Isis Whit is the Elect of God and heir-designate to the small cult of Luskentyrianism, the granddaughter of its founder; she's lived all her life in its holdings near Dunblane. But now one of the members in London has fallen out of contact in an odd way, and it's up to Isis to travel outside and try to get her back.

[more]
The Portable Door, Tom Holt 26 January 2015 - 2 comments

2003 comic fantasy. Paul Carpenter applies for a job as a "junior clerk" at J. W. Wells, not knowing just what it is that they do; but it seems to be something really quite strange. He'd chuck it in if he hadn't fallen for his fellow junior clerk…

[more]
Fifth Victim, Zoe Sharp 24 January 2015

Ninth thriller in the series about Charlie (Charlotte) Fox, former soldier and current private bodyguard. Children of the super-rich are being kidnapped in the Hamptons, and Charlie is hired by the mother of one of the potential victims. But it's all more complex than it looks.

[more]
The Getaway Special, Jerry Oltion 22 January 2015

2001 SF, expansion of 1985 short story. A scientist invents a hyperspace drive that's easy to build and use, and tells the world. Things don't go as smoothly as he expects.

[more]
Rest You Merry, Charlotte MacLeod 18 January 2015

1979, cosy American detective fiction; first of MacLeod's novels of Professor Peter Shandy. In a New England agricultural college, the local busybody has had an accident, or been murdered. But was it really over the question of Christmas decorations?

[more]
Grimspace, Ann Aguirre 12 January 2015

2008 SF/romance. Sirantha Jax is a jumper, one of the rare humans who can navigate FTL ships through grimspace. But her ship crashed, her pilot/lover died (along with everyone else on board), and she may be going mad.

[more]
Whispers Under Ground, Ben Aaronovitch 10 January 2015 - 1 comment

Contemporary fantasy. Peter Grant, Metropolitan Police constable and magician, investigates the death of a man found stabbed on Baker Street station.

[more]
Heaven's Queen, Rachel Bach 08 January 2015 - 2 comments

2014 SF; sequel to Honour's Knight. With most of the powers in the known universe arrayed against her, Devi is still infected with the virus that could solve everything (or bring it all crashing down).

[more]
The Cardinal's Mistress, Benito Mussolini 06 January 2015

1910; melodrama. In the middle of the 17th century, Claudia Particelli is mistress to the Cardinal (Prince-Bishop) of Trento, and everybody will come to a Bad End.

[more]
Gold from Crete, C. S. Forester 04 January 2015

1971 collection of earlier fiction; various stories of action during the Second World War.

[more]
Unfinished Books of 2014 30 December 2014 - 2 comments

Mostly I finish the books that I start. Sometimes I don't. These are the ones I didn't finish this year.

[more]
Honour's Knight, Rachel Bach 27 December 2014 - 1 comment

2014 SF; sequel to Fortune's Pawn. Devi is now security chief on the tramp space-freighter she signed on with, but clearly something very strange is going on.

[more]
Delete All Suspects, Donna Andrews 22 December 2014 - 2 comments

2005 SF/mystery. Turing Hopper, an AI emergent from research assistant software, looks into the affairs of a techie who's been hit by a car and is now in intensive care. Was it an accident?

[more]
Kim, Rudyard Kipling 18 December 2014

1901: an orphaned Irish boy, growing up on the streets of Lahore, puts his natural talents to better use.

[more]
Revenge of the Cootie Girls, Sparkle Hayter 16 December 2014

1997; third of Hayter's mysteries about TV journalist Robin Hudson. Robin's just trying to find her intern and other co-workers for a girls' night out, but somehow it doesn't seem to come together.

[more]
Access Denied, Donna Andrews 14 December 2014

2004 SF/mystery. Turing Hopper, an AI emergent from research assistant software, follows up on a lead to an old enemy.

[more]
Games to Keep the Dark Away, Marcia Muller 12 December 2014

1984; fourth in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. McCone investigates the disappearance of a famous photographer's roommate, which leads to secret goings-on in a decaying coastal town.

[more]
Click Here for Murder, Donna Andrews 08 December 2014

2003 SF/mystery. Turing Hopper, an AI emergent from research assistant software, has just lost a friend and employee: he's been murdered. The police reckon it was random drug-related violence; she tries to find out more.

[more]
Libriomancer, Jim C. Hines 06 December 2014

2012: Isaac Vainio used to be a libriomancer, someone who can reach into books and pull out the objects depicted there; but things went bad and now he works at a small town library. Until the vampires show up. Minor spoilers will follow.

[more]
Three Men and a Maid, Robert Fraser 04 December 2014

1907; romantic melodrama-cum-mystery story. Who killed Robert Courthope? Why did Philip Warren flee from the scene?

[more]
Whistleblower, Tess Gerritsen 01 December 2014

1992; romantic suspense. Catherine Weaver is a makeup artist for low-budget films who's driving to visit her pregnant friend on a rainy night, when she hits Victor Holland who's just stumbled onto the road having been shot. Then things start moving.

[more]
In the Land of Invented Languages, Arika Okrent 29 November 2014 - 5 comments

2009: Okrent examines the history of invented languages, and in particular the rare instances that weren't immediately forgotten.

[more]
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie 25 November 2014 - 2 comments

Sequel to Ancillary Justice. Breq, now a Fleet Captain, travels to a backwater world to help assure its survival in the civil war.

[more]
Bedlam, Christopher Brookmyre 23 November 2014 - 2 comments

Ross Baker is having a bad day. He'd just lain down for an experimental brain scan, and now he seems to be a cyborg soldier in an endless war. And it's going to get a lot stranger than that. If you plan to read this book, know that I thought it fairly good (I'd rate it with Pandæmonium as minor but worth reading, much better than When the Devil Drives) and stop reading now to avoid the spoilers.

[more]
Meet the Tiger, Leslie Charteris 20 November 2014

In a small village by the Devon coast, a very strange fellow has moved into the old pill-box on the cliff. Excitement ensues.

[more]
Bad Pharma, Ben Goldacre 18 November 2014

Ben Goldacre explains at length how pretty much everything about drug research and selection is rotten.

[more]
USS Seawolf, Patrick Robinson 16 November 2014 - 2 comments

In an attempt to get details of the latest Chinese missile submarine, an American attack boat is sent in to shadow her. Spoilers.

[more]
The Good Soldier Schweik, Jaroslav Hasek 12 November 2014

After the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Austro-Hungarian Empire goes to war. Josef Švejk, a dealer in stolen dogs, does his best to get by.

[more]
Owls Well That Ends Well, Donna Andrews 10 November 2014

Sixth mystery starring Meg Lanslow, contemporary blacksmith. Meg and her boyfriend have bought a huge old house very cheaply, on condition that they clear out and sell the accumulated junk left by the previous owner. But during the sale, a dubious dealer in antiquities turns up dead…

[more]
Hunting Season, Nevada Barr 08 November 2014

Tenth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. Back on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, a body's been found in an old plantation house, left in a manner suggestive of sexual homicide.

[more]
Comet in Moominland, Tove Jansson 06 November 2014 - 3 comments

Tove Jansson's second book about the Moomins. Original title Kometjakten.

[more]
What If?, Randall Munroe 03 November 2014

The author of the webcomic xkcd works out back-of-the-envelope answers to odd scientific questions.

[more]
Save the Cat!, Blake Snyder 31 October 2014

This highly influential book on screenwriting lays out a standard structure to which all saleable scripts should conform.

[more]
Fourth Day, Zoe Sharp 27 October 2014

Eighth thriller in the series about Charlie (Charlotte) Fox, former soldier and current private bodyguard. A man's son joined a cult, and later got killed; he went in to find out what had been so tempting, and decided to stay. Now Charlie's on the team that's getting him out. But it's all rather more complicated than it looks…

[more]
Chickenhawk, Robert Mason 25 October 2014 - 6 comments

Robert Mason flew Hueys for a year in Vietnam. This is his story.

[more]
Madam, Will You Talk?, Mary Stewart 23 October 2014

1954; mystery/thriller or romantic suspense; first published novel by Mary Stewart. Charity Selborne is on holiday in Provence, and meets young David Shelley and his stepmother Loraine Bristol. Somewhere in the background is David's father, recently acquitted of the grisly murder of his best friend, and believed by many to be mad…

[more]
Moon Over Soho, Ben Aaronovitch 21 October 2014

Contemporary fantasy. Peter Grant, Metropolitan Police constable and magician, investigates the sudden deaths of jazz musicians.

[more]
Pirate King, Laurie R. King 19 October 2014

Eleventh in King's series about Mary Russell, who… well, this is basically Sherlock Holmes fanfiction, but against all the odds it manages to work. Strange things have been happening around a film crew; Russell joins it to work out what's going on.

[more]
The Cheshire Cat's Eye, Marcia Muller 17 October 2014

Third in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. McCone investigates the murder of a painter and decorator in a rough area that's being gentrified.

[more]
Third Strike, Zoe Sharp 15 October 2014

Seventh thriller in the series about Charlie (Charlotte) Fox, former soldier and current private bodyguard. Charlie's estranged father turns up unexpectedly in the USA, and seems to be bent on professional self-destruction under the eyes of the media. Why?

[more]
Flame-Out, Keith Douglass 13 October 2014

Fourth in the Carrier series. "Tombstone" Magruder is now deputy CAG aboard a Nimitz-class carrier, and Russia is invading Norway.

[more]
The Sword-Edged Blonde, Alex Bledsoe 11 October 2014

Hard-boiled fantasy. Down the mean streets goes Eddie LaCrosse, a swordsman who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.

[more]
Nice Girls Finish Last, Sparkle Hayter 09 October 2014

Second of Hayter's mysteries about TV journalist Robin Hudson. This time her new gynæcologist has been found, handcuffed and then shot in the head, and there's no shortage of people who might have wished him ill.

[more]
Choosers of the Slain, James H. Cobb 06 October 2014 - 4 comments

Naval technothriller. Argentine troops invade key locations in Antarctica, and the only force in a position to do anything about it is a new US Navy destroyer.

[more]
The Most Dangerous Game, Richard Connell 03 October 2014

Short story. An expert hunter, washed overboard from his ship, makes it to an island where his host explains how he makes hunting a real challenge: his prey is human beings.

[more]
Circle of the Moon, Barbara Hambly 01 October 2014

Sequel to Sisters of the Raven. The new female wizards, and the king their patron, have to cope with dream-communications of suffering from abroad, a possible magical assassin, some new kind of plague that is wiping out villages, and the king's re-coronation ordeal (which was easier to fake back when magic was reliable).

[more]
Bookmonth, August 2014 27 September 2014

Here's what I've read in August.

[more]
The Three Hostages, John Buchan 27 September 2014

Fourth of Buchan's books about Richard Hannay; 1920s thud-and-blunder.

[more]
Whisper to the Blood, Dana Stabenow 25 September 2014

Sixteenth mystery in the series about Kate Shugak, part-time private investigator in a national park in Alaska. Gold's been found on park lands, and that means mining, and that means objections from the locals. The mining company's hired a minor celebrity to be their spokeswoman. But that doesn't solve everything.

[more]
The Girl in the Green Raincoat, Laura Lippman 23 September 2014

Novella; eleventh in Lippman's contemporary mystery series about Tess Monaghan, private investigator in Baltimore. Restricted to bed thanks to difficulties with her pregnancy, Tess passes the time watching people in the park outside, particularly a young woman in a green coat (with a greyhound in a matching one). One day, the greyhound passes by on its own…

[more]
Two Serpents Rise, Max Gladstone 20 September 2014 - 2 comments

Technological fantasy. Sixty years after the Aztec-like city-state of Dresediel Lex was "liberated" and its gods killed, someone seems to be trying to break the hold of the company that replaced those gods.

[more]
Second Shot, Zoe Sharp 18 September 2014

Sixth thriller in the series about Charlie (Charlotte) Fox, former soldier and currently private bodyguard. Charlie guards a woman whose ex-boyfriend is causing trouble after a lottery win, but it soon becomes more complicated than that.

[more]
Silent Mercy, Linda Fairstein 16 September 2014

Thirteenth in Fairstein's contemporary mystery series about Alexandra Cooper, sex crimes prosecutor in Manhattan. When a burned, decapitated body is found on the steps of a church that used to be a synagogue, there could be any number of reasons. When a second body is found at another church, things start to come together.

[more]
Rivers of London, Ben Aaronovitch 14 September 2014 - 2 comments

Contemporary fantasy ("urban fantasy" gives the wrong idea now, even if it's much more appropriate to this book than to many published under that banner). New constable Peter Grant is about to be sent off to the paperwork unit, but while he's standing guard over a murder scene in the small hours a ghost starts to talk to him. Then things get stranger.

[more]
The Sleeping God, Violette Malan 12 September 2014

Lightweight but lengthy fantasy, the first in the Dhulyn and Parno series.

[more]
You've Got Murder, Donna Andrews 10 September 2014

SF/mystery. Turing Hopper, an AI emergent from research assistant software, is worried about her programmer: he seems to have vanished, and the records she can find aren't helping. So she turns for help to the two humans who are aware of her nature.

[more]
What's A Girl Gotta Do, Sparkle Hayter 08 September 2014 - 2 comments

Robin Hudson had a promising career as a TV journalist, but blew it with some public embarrassment. Now her ex-husband has a younger and prettier fiancée, her job for not-CNN involves investigating a sperm bank, and she's about to be blackmailed. Then the blackmailer turns up dead…

[more]
Firebrand, Ankaret Wells 06 September 2014

Self-published industrial fantasy romance. The relict of a bishop inherits her mother's great airship, and tries to avoid becoming the mistress of the Emperor.

[more]
The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza, Lawrence Block 04 September 2014 - 1 comment

Fourth mystery book about Bernard Rhodenbarr, professional burglar in 1970s New York.

[more]
HMS Unseen, Patrick Robinson 02 September 2014 - 2 comments

Airliners over the Atlantic are being shot down by submarine-launched missiles. How can this be stopped? Spoilers.

[more]
Bookmonth, July 2014 30 August 2014

Here's what I've read in July.

[more]
To Love and Be Wise, Josephine Tey 30 August 2014

Classic detective fiction; fourth, roughly, of Tey's novels of Inspector Alan Grant. An unreasonably beautiful young man visiting from America goes to the country to stay with casual acquaintances in a village that's been Discovered by writers and artists, causes social ructions, then disappears. What happened, and was it murder?

[more]
The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch 29 August 2014 - 1 comment

First of a projected seven-book fantasy series. In a decaying imperial city, a thief and con-man just wants to be left alone to get on with his business. But people keep interfering.

[more]
The Shooting in the Shop, Simon Brett 26 August 2014

Eleventh in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). A local bric-a-brac shop is burned down, but the body found inside it was shot first. Carole Seddon and Jude investigate again.

[more]
Gladly Oddly, Paul Jennings 23 August 2014

Sixth (though the order doesn't really matter) of the collections of Paul Jennings' short humorous pieces, mostly from The Observer, published in 1958.

[more]
Loncon 3 19 August 2014 - 2 comments

Over the weekend I went to the Worldcon, at ExCel in Docklands. With images; cc-by-sa on everything.

[more]
Kilo Class, Patrick Robinson 17 August 2014

In the mid 2000s, China tries to buy seven Kilo-class diesel submarines from Russia. The Americans aim to prevent this. Meanwhile, something odd is going on at Kerguelen Island.

[more]
With Blood and Iron, Douglas Reeman 15 August 2014

In the latter days of the Second World War, a U-boat group leader tries to maintain morale and keep his crews alive.

[more]
The Lost Fleet: Victorious, Jack Campbell 13 August 2014

Last of a six-book series. In the distant future, a long-frozen space-navy captain tries to lead his fleet home. I'm going to deal in spoilers both for this book and for the whole series.

[more]
The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling, Lawrence Block 09 August 2014

Bernard Rhodenbarr, the closest New York in the 1970s can get to a gentleman burglar, is back for his third mystery book appearance. This is the one where the formula changes a bit.

[more]
Three Parts Dead, Max Gladstone 07 August 2014

In a city powered by steam heated by a fire-god, that fire-god has suddenly died. An inexperienced mage looks into what happened. Gladstone is nominated for the John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer.

[more]
Nimitz Class, Patrick Robinson 04 August 2014 - 1 comment

In a now-alternate 2002, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier suddenly disappears at sea, apparently in a nuclear accident. What happened?

[more]
The House of the Four Winds, John Buchan 01 August 2014

Third of the "Dickson McCunn" novels: superior thud and blunder. The affairs of Evallonia, the mitteleuropan country that provided motivations in Castle Gay, are now in the foreground, as forces gather round the potential restoration of its monarchy.

[more]
Hugo 2014: Editor, Short Form 30 July 2014

These are my thoughts on the remaining Hugo packet submissions for Best Editor, Short Form. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so. There will also be spoilers here.

[more]
Fearsome Journeys 28 July 2014

Fantasy anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan. Twelve new stories that "encompass as wide a range of types of fantasy story as possible". Nominated for Best Editor (Short Form).

[more]
The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination 26 July 2014 - 1 comment

SF anthology edited by John Joseph Adams. Twenty-two stories on the general theme of mad scientists. Nominated for Best Editor (Short Form).

[more]
Bookmonth, June 2014 26 July 2014

Here's what I've read in June.

[more]
Hugo 2014: Novella 24 July 2014 - 1 comment

These are my thoughts on the Hugo-nominated novellas. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so. There will also be spoilers here.

[more]
Hugo 2014: Novelette 22 July 2014

These are my thoughts on the Hugo-nominated novelettes in 2014. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so. There will also be spoilers here.

[more]
Hugo 2014: Short Story 20 July 2014

These are my thoughts on the Hugo-nominated short stories in 2014. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so. There will also be spoilers here.

[more]
The Lost Fleet: Relentless, Jack Campbell 18 July 2014

Fifth of a six-book series. In the distant future, a long-frozen space-navy captain tries to lead his fleet home. Spoilers will follow.

[more]
One Hundred Days, Admiral Sandy Woodward and Patrick Robinson 16 July 2014 - 2 comments

In 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands; a Royal Navy task group was sent to take them back. This is the memoir of the task group's commander.

[more]
Sisters of the Raven, Barbara Hambly 14 July 2014

As wizards, hitherto exclusively male, gradually lose their magical power, some women discover that they are gaining it.

[more]
Urn Burial, Kerry Greenwood 12 July 2014

Eighth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia); a homage to the novels of Agatha Christie.

[more]
The Burglar in the Closet, Lawrence Block 10 July 2014

Bernard Rhodenbarr, the closest New York in the 1970s can get to a gentleman burglar, is back for his second book appearance, and the formula sets in: while our hero the burglar is hiding from his victim who's come home unexpectedly, she gets murdered.

[more]
The Lost Fleet: Valiant, Jack Campbell 08 July 2014

Fourth of a six-book series. In the distant future, a long-frozen space-navy captain tries to lead his fleet home.

[more]
The Young Lady from Paris, Joan Aiken 05 July 2014

In the late 1850s, Ellen Paget is employed as a governess in Paris.

[more]
Burglars Can't Be Choosers, Lawrence Block 03 July 2014

First in Block's slightly less-well-known series. Bernard Rhodenbarr is a burglar, and a good one. It's bad enough when the cops walk into the apartment where he's doing his latest job. But then one of them discovers a recently-dead body nearby.

[more]
The Lost Fleet: Courageous, Jack Campbell 01 July 2014

Third of a six-book series. In the distant future, a long-frozen space-navy captain tries to lead his fleet home.

[more]
Blood Lure, Nevada Barr 29 June 2014

Ninth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series. In Glacier National Park, a trip to move sampling traps for bear DNA is disrupted by an odd bear attack, and the next morning a woman is found dead and mutilated… by human tools.

[more]
Red Army, Ralph Peters 27 June 2014 - 1 comment

The invasion of Europe, seen entirely from the Soviet point of view.

[more]
Bookmonth, May 2014 27 June 2014

Here's what I've read in May.

[more]
The Lost Fleet: Fearless, Jack Campbell 25 June 2014

Second of a six-book series. In the distant future, a long-frozen space-navy captain tries to lead his fleet home.

[more]
I Was A Stranger, John Hackett 21 June 2014 - 2 comments

In September 1944, then-Brigadier John Hackett commanded the 4th Parachute Brigade during Operation Market Garden. He was wounded at Arnhem and captured, and spent several months hiding with members of the Dutch underground.

[more]
When the Devil Drives, Chris Brookmyre 19 June 2014

Second in Brookmyre's new literary direction, moving from the tartan insanity of his earlier books to strictly conventional crime writing.

[more]
The Viewer's Complete Tale, Andrew Rilstone 17 June 2014 - 1 comment

Andrew Rilstone recounts his reactions to the 2005 revival of Doctor Who.

[more]
Trinity's Child, William Prochnau 15 June 2014 - 2 comments

The USSR launches a limited nuclear strike against the USA. Things get worse.

[more]
The Lost Fleet: Dauntless, Jack Campbell 13 June 2014

First of a six-book series. In the distant future, a long-frozen space-navy captain may tip the balance in a century-long war.

[more]
Private Angelo, Eric Linklater 11 June 2014

In a tale that begins with the Italian armistice of 1943, the reluctant soldier Angelo bounces around war-torn Italy, serially drafted into one army after another. He is a very poor soldier. If only he had the dono di coraggio.

[more]
The Hostile Shore, Douglas Reeman 08 June 2014

Twenty years after the Second World War, a crippled veteran travels to the Pacific to try to find out what happened to his family during the evacuation of Singapore.

[more]
The Third World War: The Untold Story, General Sir John Hackett 06 June 2014 - 5 comments

Some time in the 1980s, the USSR invades Europe.

[more]
Bookmonth, April 2014 06 June 2014

Here's what I've read in April. Hmm. I really ought to post the book reviews a bit faster so that I don't get so far behind.

[more]
Red Storm Rising, Tom Clancy (and Larry Bond) 30 May 2014 - 2 comments

Some time in the 1980s, a terrorist attack on oil infrastructure leads the USSR to invade Europe.

[more]
Diamond Dust, Peter Lovesey 22 May 2014

Diamond Dust is the seventh book in Lovesey's Peter Diamond series, and one that makes for a very substantial change in tone.

[more]
Dive in the Sun, Douglas Reeman 16 May 2014

Late in the Second World War, the crew of a midget submarine gets into trouble off the Italian coast.

[more]
Rebuilding the Royal Navy, D. K. Brown and George Moore 10 May 2014

In 1945, Britain had a large and often hastily-constructed fleet which was clearly close to obsolete, and very little money with which to update it. This is the story of what happened next.

[more]
Shattered Trident, Larry Bond and Chris Carlson 05 May 2014

In 2016, China and an alliance of South-East Asian nations go to war over the Spratly Islands.

[more]
The Martian, Andy Weir 02 May 2014

Astronaut Mark Watney is on Mars. Alone; the rest of the crew thought he'd died in the dust storm that they were escaping from. Now he's trying to work out how to survive.

[more]
Alternate Generals 26 April 2014 - 2 comments

Anthology from 1998 of alternate histories based on different decisions by military leaders; edited by Harry Turtledove, Roland Green and Martin H. Greenberg.

[more]
Castle Gay, John Buchan 19 April 2014

Second of the Dickson McCunn novels, though he has only a minor part in most of it. Two of the former Gorbals Die-Hards, Dougie and (no longer Wee) Jaikie, go off on a walking holiday, and get involved with a kidnapped press baron and two separate lots of Sinister Foreigners.

[more]
Exit Plan, Larry Bond and Chris Carlson 14 April 2014 - 2 comments

Jerry Mitchell, aboard an Ohio SSGN, goes on a mission to extract two Iranians with knowledge of the nuclear weapons programme from that country. Mild spoilers will follow.

[more]
Bookmonth, March 2014 14 April 2014

Here's what I've read in March.

[more]
The Poisoning in the Pub, Simon Brett 11 April 2014

Tenth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series. Several pubgoers go down with food poisoning, and other events start to make it look like a concerted campaign against the pub. But who's doing it? And why?

[more]
Concealed in Death, J. D. Robb 08 April 2014 - 2 comments

Concealed in Death is the forty-eighth story of J. D. Robb's In Death series, and a huge improvement on its immediate predecessor Thankless in Death. It drops many of the science-fictional trappings of the setting to deliver a powerful and well-told story.

[more]
Armageddon Mode, Keith Douglass 05 April 2014 - 3 comments

Third in the Carrier series. "Tombstone" Magruder is a naval aviator aboard a Nimitz-class carrier, as the USA gets involved in a major conflict with India.

[more]
High Water, Douglas Reeman 02 April 2014 - 2 comments

In the 1950s, retired MTB commander Philip Vivian gets into trouble while struggling to run a small yacht charter business.

[more]
Cold Choices, Larry Bond and Chris Carlson 30 March 2014

Some time after the events of Dangerous Ground, Jerry Mitchell heads north again in USS Seawolf. Mild spoilers will follow.

[more]
Never Go to Sea, John Winton 27 March 2014

Fourth of Winton's novels and in the loosely-connected series. The Artful Bodger (Commander R. B. Badger, RN) takes over public relations for the Royal Navy, and gets involved in running a horse in the Derby.

[more]
Dangerous Ground, Larry Bond and Chris Carlson 24 March 2014

A Los Angeles-class submarine, USS Memphis, goes on an intelligence-gathering mission off Novaya Zemlya.

[more]
SSN, Tom Clancy 21 March 2014 - 4 comments

In 1997, an Improved Los Angeles-class attack submarine, USS Cheyenne, joins the war against China.

[more]
The Last Ship, William Brinkley 18 March 2014 - 3 comments

After the total nuclear war, the captain of a missile destroyer leads his crew through the irradiated world and towards a new life.

I am going to talk about plot details, so if you care about not knowing that sort of thing you probably shouldn't read this review.

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Fateful Choices, Ian Kershaw 15 March 2014

Kershaw examines ten choices made during the years 1940-1941 that, in his opinion, substantially affected the course of the Second World War.

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A Prayer for the Ship, Douglas Reeman 12 March 2014 - 1 comment

Sub-Lieutenant Clive Royce is assigned to a Motor Torpedo Boat working off the east coast of England during the Second World War.

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Bookmonth, February 2014 12 March 2014

Here's what I've read in February.

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Ruddy Gore, Kerry Greenwood 09 March 2014

Seventh in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series.

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Ark Royal, Christopher Nuttall 06 March 2014 - 3 comments

Some time in the future, most major countries have space fleets and interstellar colonies. Ark Royal is an outmoded carrier left in a parking orbit, not broken up only because of her famous past, and her captain's a drunken embarrassment. Then the aliens arrive, and blow straight through the more modern fleet…

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John Macnab, John Buchan 03 March 2014

Three men find themselves successful, but un-challenged, and bored with their lives. They decide to take on a challenge: they will poach from well-defended estates in Scotland, and warn the owners that they're coming, by sending letters over the name "John Macnab".

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Divergent, Veronica Roth 28 February 2014

Young adult novel, read because a film based on it is coming out soon and I want to be able to complain about the film-making separately from the writing. (And because last time I did this I read The Hunger Games, which I quite enjoyed.) Here be spoilers.

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Operation Mincemeat, Ben Macintyre 25 February 2014

This is the story of the well-known deception operation in the Second World War: dropping a dead fake courier into the sea near Spain, in the hope that his deceptive paperwork would be taken seriously by the Germans and misdirect them as to the location of Allied landings in the Mediterranean.

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Steadfast, Mercedes Lackey 22 February 2014

The ninth and so far final book in Lackey's Elemental Masters series. This time our heroine is a circus acrobat fleeing from an abusive husband.

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Home from the Sea, Mercedes Lackey 19 February 2014

The eighth book (or, if you believe the publisher, seventh) in Lackey's Elemental Masters series. This time our heroine is a Welsh fisherman's daughter, and as one might expect from the title and that set-up the main supernatural beings are "selch", a variant of selkies.

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Bookmonth, January 2014 19 February 2014 - 6 comments

Stealing the idea from Vatine, here's what I've read in January.

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Fortune's Pawn, Rachel Bach 16 February 2014

First of a projected trilogy. I learned about it from a half-chapter free sample in the back of Ancillary Justice.

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Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome 12 February 2014 - 2 comments

A classic, of course. But one I hadn't read until now.

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Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie 08 February 2014

This first novel marks Leckie as someone to watch.

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A Choice of Evils, Elizabeth Ferrars 05 February 2014

Eighth and final book in Ferrars' Andrew Basnett series.

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Mirror Mirror, J. D. Robb and others 02 February 2014

I picked up this collection of novellas for the Robb story, as I was clearly intended to. All the stories here are loosely based on, or more properly inspired by, fairy stories (something of a coincidence given the Elemental Masters series I've also been reading).

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Unnatural Issue, Mercedes Lackey 30 January 2014 - 3 comments

The seventh book (or, if you believe the publisher, sixth) in Lackey's Elemental Masters series; for a change, it's not just more of the same.

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A Sea of Troubles, Donna Leon 28 January 2014 - 1 comment

The tenth book in Leon's Commissario Brunetti series, as with other series entries I've been reading lately, offers more of the same: descriptions of the seamy underside of Venice interspersed with lightweight police work.

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Ready Player One, Ernest Cline 25 January 2014 - 1 comment

Ready Player One is a young adult SF novel, the first by this author. Set in the future, it deals with its protagonist's efforts in a pervasive virtual world to win a contest based in the videogaming and related culture of the 1980s.

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The Vault, Peter Lovesey 21 January 2014

The Vault is the sixth book in Lovesey's Peter Diamond series. I'm definitely liking Lovesey: like any good author of detective fiction, he plays fair with the reader, giving all the necessary clues while hiding them under a chaff-screen of red herrings and misdirection.

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Thankless in Death, J. D. Robb 17 January 2014 - 2 comments

Thankless in Death is the forty-sixth of J. D. Robb's In Death series. It's also, for me, the first disappointment.

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Notorious Nineteen, Janet Evanovich 14 January 2014

As one can see from the title, this is the nineteenth full novel in Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. And, well, it feels like a nineteenth novel: it's tired.

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Mrs Miniver, Jan Struther 12 January 2014 - 2 comments

Yes, I'm talking about the book, or more accurately the collection of newspaper columns, not the film. The film is a wartime story, made as part of the Allied propaganda effort. The columns are earlier and more interesting:

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