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  • Title: The Crown Agent
  • Authors: Stephen O’Rourke
  • Publisher: Sandstone Press
  • Publication Date: 7th November 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:
In 1829, disillusioned young doctor, Mungo Lyon, is recruited by the Crown to investigate a mysterious murder and shipwreck off the coast of Scotland. His adventures lead him on a pursuit across the Scottish countryside, to kidnap and treason, an unwanted trip to the West Indies, an insurrection and love.

My Thoughts:
I can see why Stephen O’Rourke won a a short story competition in 2012 when he used the basis for this story as his submission, and I am mightily glad that he went on to write The Crown Agent in all it’s glory. This is a stunning book, the plotting is superb, characterisation is brilliant and I loved the style of writing.

Every so often, there’s a book that blows you away and I admit, I have been pretty lucky recently as there have been a few books that have stopped me in my tracks and pulled me in to discover the worlds inside their covers. The Crown Agent is one of those books, while I read it I was very aware of how invested I was in the story, feeling a great intrigue about the characters and their schemes, wondering what was going to happen to our disillusioned protagonist and how would he get out of this seemingly impossible situation!

Dr Mungo Lyon becomes involved with an investigation of murder and shipwreck on behalf of the Crown after those in the medical profession find their reputations blackened after the fallout of the body snatching escapades of Burke and Hare. But he has no idea of the danger that lies ahead on his journey, nothing is as it seems and help comes in the most unlikely forms. Weaving through the Scottish countryside, readers are treated to some wonderfully atmospheric scenes, and the vivid descriptions allow crisp mental images to form of the barges used, the rugged terrain and the ports of call along the way. I found myself carried off with the descriptions, I could imagine it all so clearly and it had me keen to go off and look up images online to compare.

Historical tales are always fascinating when they cover aspects I’m not always overly familiar with and I have to say that I felt I’d learned something from reading this book. Although this book is a work of fiction, a lot of research has gone in to making it fit the period of the setting, and making the characters feel authentic and realistic. The plotting is clever, the writing is crisp and O’Rourke sets a pace that keeps readers turning pages as they devour the information to find out the fate of Dr Mungo Lyon.

I think this is a book that fans of historical fiction will be desperate to get their hands on!

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I do love when I can combine Celebrating Indie Publishing with a blog tour for a book that I have really enjoyed, and today is one of those happy days. I initially got an early copy of this book to read and I felt hugely honoured as I am a fan of this author and I think that everyone should read at least one of her books (or maybe all of them, it’s hard to pick just one). Scottish crime fiction is always a winner with me and this book is definitely one of those that will stay in my head for a while!

  • Title: Death at The Plague Museum
  • Author: Lesley Kelly
  • Publisher: Sandstone Press
  • Publication Date: 18th April 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

The pandemic is spreading.

On Friday, three civil servants leading Virus policy hold a secret meeting at the Museum of Plagues and Pandemics. By Monday, two are dead and one is missing.

It’s up to Mona and Bernard of the Health Enforcement Team to find the missing official before panic hits the streets.

My Thoughts:

For those not familiar with Edinburgh and the Health Enforcement Team team in Lesley Kelly’s Health of Strangers series, this is the third book in the series, the first two being The Health of Strangers and Songs by Dead Girls. Information about these can be found on the author’s website or your book buying website of choice. This can be read as a standalone, but to get a real feel for the the characters and the storyline, I would recommend reading th series in its entirety.

In this instalment of the series the HET have a mammoth task on their hands, tracking down a missing official who is a key member of the Virus policy, as well as their day to day job enforcing health checks for the residents of the city to restrict the spread of the deadly virus.
With the HET taking centre stage in this book, the reader gets to know the individuals, their lives and their backstories. A focus on Bernard and Mona in Death at the Plague Museum gives a wonderful human side to the story here, allowing readers to explore their individual stories and leaving them wanting more. This step into the personal lives of the team members allows for some fantastic character development, you get to see the side of them that isn’t the business persona, the organised HET professional, but instead the person with their own troubles, heartaches and wants. I do love a character that can come alive from the pages, the more complex the better and here I felt that these guys were so real, so vivid, and I was rooting for them to find happiness.

The two unexplained deaths and a missing official makes for an exciting plot, and with the investigation taking place over a week, the pace is spot on which is sure to keep readers hooked. The dark humour expertly woven throughout the narrative is pitched perfectly, and the inclusion of difficult themes is what makes this stand out, Kelly has a flair for writing stories that engage the audience and ensure they cannot put the book down.

As with many books with a mystery, it’s hard to say too much about the actual story, there’s always the worry about giving something away, and this is definitely a clever plot that you need to discover for yourself. It’s well structured and leaves the reader breathless as they race through the book. Such a wonderful series from an amazing author, and if Lesley Kelly isn’t a name on your list of authors to keep an eye out for, then I highly recommend you add her name!

Check out the blog tour!

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