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Friday, April 20, 2018

Egyptian Enigma by L.J.M. Owen

Author: L.J.M. Owen
Publisher: 1 March 2018 by Bonnier Publishing Australia
Pages: 250 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, mystery, crime, Egypt
My Rating: 3 crowns

Dr Elizabeth Pimms, enthusiastic archaeologist and reluctant librarian, has returned to Egypt.
Among the treasures of the Cairo museum she spies cryptic symbols in the corner of an ancient papyrus. Decoding them leads Elizabeth and her newly formed gang of Sleuthers to a tomb of mummies whose identities must be uncovered.
What is the connection between the mummies and Twosret, female Pharaoh and last ruler of Egypt's nineteenth dynasty? How did their bodies end up scattered across the globe? And is the investigation related to the attacks on Elizabeth's family and friends back in Australia?
Between grave robbers, cannibals, misogynist historians and jealous Pharaohs, can Dr Pimms solve her latest archaeological mystery?
Filled with ancient murder, family secrets and really good food, Egyptian Enigma is the third adventure in the charming series Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth. Really cold cases.
My Thoughts

I was looking forward to this one, as I love all things to do with Ancient Egypt. However I have to admit to being somewhat disappointed with this book. Thinking I would be on some fabulous journey down the Nile, only the first initial chapter was in Egypt (and that had little to do with the story in general), everything else was discussions around 3D printed mummies. Sadly I have to admit to very quickly losing interest.

Not having read the previous two books in the series, I was informed this would not really be an issue as each was pretty much a standalone and it would be easy to follow. I beg to differ. I was totally lost on family dynamics, underlying familial themes and outside friendship connections. Therefore I found the characters difficult to relate to. I did enjoy the obtuse references to all things to do with Canberra but found the detailed food references rather perplexing.

What I did enjoy - and fervently wished there was more of - were the chapters set in Ancient Egypt. More time spent here would really have added to the story. Following Tausret was very interesting and I would loved to have read more about her. Unfortunately, the present day group of friends sitting around measuring, examining and discussing 3D mummies in an attempt to unravel an ancient mystery was boring, and this sadly takes up the majority of the book. On too many occasions it felt like a huge information dump, ‘Why don’t we walk through it step by step?’ with everything neatly and rather coldly presented and all rather ending up artificial. If I had to, ‘walk through the same basic analysis’ one more time, or read, ‘Can we see that in his teeth?’, ‘What are his teeth like?’ I may just scream.

The story had an unsatisfactory ending and overall was just too academic in terms of forensic science info dumps, there was just not enough pertinent story involving a mystery in Egypt. I do not deny the great amount of research undertaken but just wish there was more from Tausret the final Pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty, rather than present day musings.

‘Elizabeth shared the group’s frustration but tried to remain positive. So far, apart from being able to list various metrics about the mummies, they hadn’t really discovered anything to help them identify the people buried in the Golden Tomb.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

On a Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell

Title:  On a Cold Dark Sea
Author: Elizabeth Blackwell
Publisher: 10th April 2018 by Lake Union Publishing
Pages: 290 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, tragedy, drama
My Rating: 4 crowns

On April 15, 1912, three women climbed into Lifeboat 21 and watched in horror as the Titanic sank into the icy depths. They were strangers then…
Con artist Charlotte Digby lied her way through London and onto the Titanic. The disaster could be her chance at a new life—if she hides the truth about her past. Esme Harper, a wealthy American, mourns the end of a passionate affair and fears that everything beautiful is slipping from her grasp. And Anna Halversson, a Swedish farm girl in search of a fresh start in America, is tormented by the screams that ring out from the water. Is one of them calling her name?
Twenty years later, a sudden death brings the three women back together, forcing them to face the impossible choices they made, the inconceivable loss, and the secrets they have kept for far too long.
My Thoughts

I am always up for anything ‘Titanic’ related, some are good and some ... not so good. I am happy to say, that this is one of the good ones - a unique take on this infamous tale.

‘... men who did their duty and went down with the ship. It sounds like a noble sort of death, but it isn’t: it’s loud and painful and terrifying. No one surrenders to the water without a fight.’

For this particular tale, we have three women who survived the sinking of the Titanic and found themselves together on a lifeboat on ‘a cold, dark sea’. The story is told from their alternating viewpoints, as we gradually learn a bit about each woman's past, her interpretation of the tragedy and what occurred in the years to follow. All up, ‘On A Cold Dark Sea’ is a captivating tale of survival and how one tries to start over after witnessing and being part of such a tragedy.

‘I hate to think where I’d have ended up if the Titanic hadn’t sunk.’

The book is divided into four parts: life before then life after the tragedy, what occurred on Lifeboat 21 and finally, many years later. I really enjoyed the different stories from all three women who came from such contrasting backgrounds, yet together experienced a tragedy that would link them for a lifetime. This is a very well written tale with the pacing being just right. All characters, not just the three main women, are strong and engaging, highlighting three very different lifestyles in the early years of the twentieth century.

Two points that make this book a standout for me: one, although a work of fiction, the necessary research has been done and it came across as a most realistic portrayal of this well documented tragedy. Everything from how passengers were evacuated, to the crew and the implications of them of not having enough training or necessary equipment. Secondly, the background stories really made this tale. It was definitely not just about the sinking, it was more about these three women and how they came to be on the ship in the first place and how they handled what occured in both the short and long term. How could three women from such varying socioeconomic backgrounds forever be linked together? My only slight disappointment was the ending, it did not really tidy things up enough for my liking.

‘The moment she’d pulled Charlie into the lifeboat—without even thinking, simply reaching out in need—was the moment she’d lost him.’

Reading this book you get a first hand account of how lives were before and after being part of such a tragedy. And how, some twenty years on, they were still very much dealing with haunting memories and critical decisions made on that fateful lifeboat.

‘On that night, it was impossible to imagine that each small decision might later be magnified beyond reason, or that one spontaneous gesture could be held up as evidence in the court of public opinion.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release