Reading matters...

Top reads in the last years are definitely Knight in Anarchy and  Imperial Governor by George Shipway.

Brilliant writing, strong storylines, evocative landscape descriptions and historical accuracy is evident throughout. Highly recommended.

Also historical, but in a more "magical/poetic" style is The Golden Strangers by Henry Treece. Out of print, but worth finding and reading. For a book written and published in 1956, it really is amazing. Ostensibly, a novel of the 'invasion' of Stone Age Britain by the Golden Strangers, it allows you to live the lives of these folk, with the daily magic that they experience and that rules them. Stunning. Currently (August 2017) available second-hand at the astounding price of GBP 205 !

Also up there is The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi : it is superb science fiction, but equally a brilliant heist novel. Unputdownable, if that is a word !

In "series writing",  best so far are the Ballista series set in 3rd Century Roman Asia Minor by Harry Sidebottom , plus Bernard Cornwell's Saxon series and the Alan Lewrie 18th Century sea novels from, Dewey Lambdin.

All good and consistent  in different ways.

If buying online, I use either Amazon ( no surprise there, although exchange rates mean that I regularly consider local buys for some things , especially CDs )  and also  the Book Depository since its prices include a delivery charge.

Although the Book Depository is also owned by Amazon, now that Amazon stopped the free shipping to my country ( boo, hiss ) , and the Book Depository has good discounts on a regular basis, it is often cheaper to order books from the latter ( use the email notification for a price drop to catch the deals you want ! )

Two observations to add : although very reliable, it doesn't track packages in the way that Amazon does, and it only deals in books and related products.

Marks out of 10..always willing to give more information.

Current Reading

The Evening of the World - Alan Massie

On the reading list
The Death of Bunny Munroe - Nick Cave
The Girl who kicked the Hornet''s Nest -  Stieg Larsson
Carthage must be Destroyed -  Richard Miles
Transition - Iain Banks
The Postman always rings twice - James M Cain
Warsaw 1920 - Adam Zamoyski
The Chelsea Murders - Lionel Davidson

Past  ( Recent and further...)

March 2016 -January 2018
Many, including...

The Edge of the Blade - Graham Shelby
The Guernseyman - Cyril Northcote Parkinson
The Longsword -  Christian Cameron
Colonel Butler's Wolf - Anthony Price
The Chilian Club - George Shipway
Cut Dead - Mark Sennen
Blood Red Sea - William Napier
A long way from Shiloh - Lionel Davidson

The cunning of the Dove - Alfred Duggan [7.5]
Crusade - Stuart Binns [4]
Hammer for Princes  - Cecilia Holland [6]

February 2016 

The Lake District Murder  - John Bude  [7]
Broken Silence  - Danielle Ramsay  [2]

August 2015 - January 2016

The Bearkeeper's Daughter   - Gillian Bradshaw  [8,5]
The Dark Island - Henry Treece [ 9 ]
Leopards and Lilies - Alfred Duggan [ 7,5 ]
The Death of Attilla - Cecilia Holland [ 7]

June  2015 
Appointment with Death  - Agatha Christie  [8]

No Name Lane - Howard Linksey  [3] An uninteresting and very lightweight read. Although sold as a serial killer-type book, its more about a 50-year old crime, and the serial murder, although it appears to take centre-stage, receives almost no attention and no clues and is resolved in a 5 page car chase ( er, spoiler :).  Overall, a pretty pointless read with paper-thin characters and, for me, neither a repeat read or buy. Why did I buy it ? It was on offer and had good cover blurb : a learning point , I think.

May  2015
The Golden Strangers- Henry Treece [10] Out of print, but worth finding and reading. For a book written and published in 1956, it really is amazing. Ostensibly, a novel of the 'invasion' of Stone Age Britain by the Golden Strangers, it allows you to experience the lives of all these folk, with the daily magic that they experience and that rules and guides them. The conflict between these two cultures , with the Golden Strangers superior technology ( copper swords ) giving them the eventual advantage, is well-portrayed, and the heart of the novel. Earth Mother gives was to Sun King.   As Michael Moorcroft observes ( in the prescient introduction from 1979)  you can still see the parallel with Brazilian Indians being ousted from their lands today. Stunning, and thought-provoking.

The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey [7] I read this first when I was a teenager, or possibly in my twenties, and remember it as enjoyable, probably because it was about Richard III. Reading it again, I can say that I enjoyed it , but I wouldn't put it as top-notch. Well-written, with a good central character ( the hospital-bed-ridden detective Grant ) it presents an historical investigation into the "crimes" of Richard III ( ie the murder of his nephews, the ' Princes in the Tower' ). Kick-started by a portrait of Richard that shows a face that our detective believes couldn't possibly be that of a murderer, it continues with a fine presentation of evidence ( in an easy way )  and concludes with Richard's innocence: of those crimes a least. Its style is distinctly of its age ( ie post-war 1940s to 1950s ) with is well-educated, upper-middle-class characters reflecting the mores and opinions of the time. Good conversation, but slipping into the ' Good egg' mode at times. It has made me want to seek out other Tey books that I had read ( ie the Franchise Affair ) and I was surprised to discover that Josephine Tey had written so few novels. I thought she was a Christie-like industry of detectives !

March  - April  2015
The ABC Murders  - Agatha Christie  [6]
The Vault - Peter Lovesey   [8]
Echoes From The DeadJohan Theorin [7.5]
Siege of Heaven - Tom Harper   [7]
Knight with Armour- Alfred Duggan   [7]

January - February 2015
The Cornish Coast Murder - John Bude [8]
The Hammersmith Maggot  - William Mole [8]
Tyrant : Funeral Games- Christian Cameron  [6.5]
The Burning Land - Bernard Cornwell   [10] Fantastic writing, brilliant tale, superb characters. I gave Game of Thrones  a try 7 or 8 years ago, but it didn't work for me. However, Cornwell's interpretation, and re-telling of the Viking-Anglo-Saxon conflicts of 8th century England put GoT to shame. Real history has so much to offer. I think Cornwell these days is even better than when he started off with the Sharpe novels, which were equally enjoyable , although in a different way.

December 2014 

The Ceremonies - T.E.D Klein [8]   A creepily-good, slow-burn of an occult/horror novel. Possibly a bit too long, but everything links together and the writing is very good.

The Accursed - Anthony Cutler ( aka Anton Gill ). Bought as I read some early Anton Gill novels set in Ancient Egypt. Writing very good, but what was put across as a Roman mystery/crime novel ( " for fans of Lindsey Davies" according to the publisher ) transformed into a torrid-sex/horror/vampire novel about halfway through turning a detective-mystery plot to total dross, and managed to turn me off completely. I won't bother again [2 for the decent writing-style only]

August - November 2014

Knight in Anarchy- George Shipway [10]   As good as Imperial Governor and in a different way. A Knight's Tale set in the " Anarchy" of England's Civil War of 1135 - 1153. Yet again, exceptionally well written, superbly described characters ( many actual  people ) with the all the motives and flaws of 12th century brought vividly to life . Not that easy to get hold of , as its out of print, but more than worth the effort.

Megatherion- Francis King [7]  A straightforward biography of Aleister Crowley, warts and all ( and yes, there is more than warts ! )

The Christ, Psychotherapy and Magic- Anthony Duncan [8] The Occult and Magic as experienced and viewed by an Anglican priest. Very thought-provoking, and a clear opinion on how magic can be used in the modern world as an aid to psychotherapy and self-analysis. Written in the 1970s, but still relevant. However, his views on Crowley are understandably coloured by the decades he lived in, without any of the interest in, or acknowledgement  of, Crowley as experimental/provocative thinker, in contrast to Michaelson's  book.

Portable Darkness- Scott Michaelson [9]  A presentation and lively criticism of a selection of Aleister Crowley's writings. Commentary and observation is primarily around Crowley as a thinker, rather than dwelling on whether his Magick worked in reality ( or in any other way). Crowley is often a difficult read, as he displays his education on his sleeve and uses words in all sorts of ways to present his ideas and thoughts. I tried to read bits of Crowley when a teenager and failed, but reading it here with Michaelson's explanation and guidance reveals that Crowley was an intriguing thinker and experimenter. Whether you believe he actually conjured demons or met the 'Secret Chiefs' or was a Satanist, is up to you, but his writings and especially some of his letters reveal a fascinating person.

July 2014
The Amber Road- Dr Harry Sidebottom  [8] The culmination  ( for the moment ) of the Ballista tale. Well written as always, Ballista returns to his homeland for a denouement with old friends and rivals.. A great read.

Ritual  - Mo Hayder  - [ 1 ] Boring, laborious, with a poor plot and characters that inspired nothing in me. I stopped reading after 150 pages ( of 550 ). Don't bother with it.

February 2013 - June 2014

Yes, what did I read ?!  :)  more than the below, but I'll take time to put them in...

The Blood Crows - Simon Scarrow [7.5] 
The Experiences of Loveday Brooke : Lady Detective- Catherine Louisa Pirkis [6]

Armadale-  Wilkie Collins [ 8 ]

January 2013

Family Favourites -  Alfred Duggan [8,5/10]   The real life story of a "strange" Roman Emperor, the youth Elagabalus. Written in Duggan's usual style ( that is from the viewpoint of a person close to the action, and in a simple and often factual style) it is a great exploration of an obscure, but interesting person. Dealing as it must with the blatant and public homosexuality of the Emperor, it is quite graphic for its time (1960), although not explicit in any way. Details are left to the reader, but the sexual inclinations and the forced eccentricities of this boy, who has nothing to do all day, since his relatives rule for him, is a model in making real history very interesting. Recommended, just like any Duggan novel.

Rome's Executioner -  Robert Fabbri  [3/10]   I gave up about 40% through. Badly written ( very poor grammar, appalling punctuation. At times reads like a bad translation. ). Ostensibly based on the life of Vespasian, but for all that, a predictable plot and little imaginative writing to make the passages sparkle. Not recommended at all !

November 2012 -December 2012
 A Deadly Injustice-  Ian Morson [5/10]   Historical mystery set in 13th Century China. Not as good as his Falconer books. Competent, but not particularly exciting.

October  2012

Field Grey- Phillip Kerr [7.7/10]

September  2012

In the Shadow of the Sword - Tom Holland [9/10] Fantastic history of Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism in the 6th and 7th centuries AD.
Wolves of the North - Harry Sidebottom [9/10] Up to the usual amazing standards...An ambassador to the Heruli, plus a ritual murderer travelling with the Ballista familia
The Bone Thief - VM Whitworth  [7.5/10] Anlgo-Saxon cleric adventures in Mercia and the Viking Midlands in England. Readable ,and very enjoyable.
Egypt : The Book of Chaos - Nick Drake [ 7/10]
The Last Kashmiri Rose - Barbara Cleverly [6.5/10]
Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End -Persson [9/10]
A Dark Anatomy  - Robin Blake [6.5/10] 17th Century Preston, England, and some strange goings on, clarified by an investigation anatomist ( Quincy MD minus 300 years ! )

July-August  2012

Praetorian - Simon Scarrow [7/10]
An urban setting of Claudian Rome for our heroes this time around.  Solid, believable characters ( I liked, Cestius the Viminal gang leader , and the 'wet-behind-the-ears-and-cocky' Fuscius, the Praetorian optio) mixed up with a fairly standard plot ( grain shortage, Republican and possibly inter-imperial family plots ) and infiltration of elite military unit by real professionals, gives an easily readable and enjoyable book.
Not quite as good as "Legion", but enjoyable and satisfying. Would have been nice to see some of the Praetorians getting a come-uppance though.
Looking forward to being back in Britannia for the next one !

June  2012

Hawk Quest - Robert Lyndon [10/10] 

A thick, 1100+ page  book, but very well written, excellent characterisation and an intriguing plot. Core of the book are hawks and hawking ( as indeed is one of the final key plot threads ), but a great adventure book in the best tradition.  Not an action book in the style of Cornwell, but action and fight scenes are richly written and enjoyable when they occur. A wonderful  historical novel, set mainly in 10th Century Northern Europe.
May  2012

Captain of Rome - John Stack [5/10]
Just about passable as "pass-the-time" read.  Spelling and grammar errors irritate and the plot is a mish-mash of the genres. Not worth bothering with the final part of the trilogy in my opinion.
Terror of Constantinople - Richard Blake [8/10]
Well-written, interesting setting and plot. Worth investing time and money for an entertaining plot involving the out-of-place Saxon working for the Church of Rome in 7th Century Constantinople !
March - April  2012
True Soldier Gentleman- A Goldsworthy [5,5/10] 

Overall this was a competent novel, but I don't think this lives up to the hype that surrounded it, and I would recommend borrowing this, rather than buying, just to find out if you like it.
Described  as Jane Austen-meets-Bernard Cornwell, I think it matches neither of those authors.
The Austen part is presumably the first part ( ie 40% or more ) set in England as our heroes join, train and participate in the details of regimental life. Doubtless grounded in reality ( ie extracted from original sources ) but it seems laboured and forced as a way of introducing his rather lifeless characters , and doesn't have the style or wit of Austen, especially in the relationship interactions ( male and female ) ! Not to say its bad writing or reading, but definitely not Austen ! Hardly surprising that this reader was glad to see the regiment embark for Portugal ( on page 173 out of 370 ).
The remainder of the book covers the boredom of the initial campaign,and campaign life, followed by the battles of Rolica and Vimiero, and does these well enough, with our rather dull characters' army careers being moved on and fleshed out. The style, at least to me, is more of a populist military historian, than that of a novelist, but it is competent, and the Vimeiro episode in particular gives a good, exciting and necessary lift to the novel's end.
The Russian sub-plot is risible and completely pointless ( perhaps it was inserted to counter the campaign boredom ? ). Maybe it will be the basis of a future novel ( particularly involving the girl , Maria ) but the section with the "nun" in the ruined convent...well, no doubt intending to show how influential Mrs Radcliffe was, even with rough soldier-boys, but hardly required.
Overall, I think this should be edited down and tightened up : maybe that is the case for the later novels, but personally, I will give the next a miss ( or borrow from a library :)
The Guernseyman- C Northcote Parkinson [7.5/10] A well-written novel that is probably more aimed at filling in the gaps of the series, rather than offering a fully-fledged reading experience that the first three published books ( Devil to Pay, Fireship ...) did for me.
All of Delancey's experience's are adequately described, but they are not quite so seamlessly strung together, and some parts ( ie Gibralter, and perhaps some of the America's ) are more history than " cracking naval novel" : not bad for that, but just be aware !
Significant land-, rather than sea-action, but overall enjoyable and if you have read others in the series, you will want to read this.
In my opinion, not as good as the first three, but enjoyable, well-written and enough to encourage reading of the last in series : we will see !
February  2012
Jester's Fortune- Dewey Lambdin [6,5/10] Not as action-packed as previously, this book finds our hero in a detached squadron in the Adriatic preying on French shipping and allied with Serbian pirates.
This is 1796 and the Invasion of Italy by Buonaparte, who is shown in action as well, presumably to add some depth and personal contact, since Alan met him ( lost his sword to him ! ) at the siege of Toulon.
Lewrie is more developed as a character here ( more mature ) book-wise and in life, and less naval- and bed-action is the result. Still it is well enough written, although a touch laboured at times when giving background on Balkan and Venetian politics. It also needs some sharper editing, perhaps to reduce the length and focus some actions.
The efforts to represent English spoken by Hungarian's, Serbs etc, although laudable can be tiring.
I think the author tried to balance a novel with an action novel, and doesn't quite succeed. Maybe 10 years into the series he reached a watershed and this is the result.
I'll probably continue with the series, but give it a break before the next one, just to allow it to settle in my head, so to speak !
January  2012
Trick of the Dark- Val McDiermid [6.5/10] An above average psychological  crime novel, but not among her best. Interesting ( for me ) with its Oxford background, but although a decent plot, it was a slow burner and never quite burst into flames.  I worked out the main thrust, but the final  twist on one of the murders did elude me !
December  2011
A King's Commander - Dewey Lambdin [6.5/10]
Mystery Mile - Margey Allingham  [6/10]
The Prow Beast - Robert Low [9/10]
Smallbone Deceased - Michael Gilbert [8/10]
November  2011
Strong Poison - Dorothy L. Sayers [6.5/10]
October  2011
The Caspian Gates - Harry Sidebottom [8/10]
September  2011
The Quantum Thief - Hannu Rajaniemi   (10/10 )
Utterly wonderful and amazing hard SF heist novel...
Buy it and read it.
The Preacher - Camilla Lackberg [3/10] (review from my Amazon one ) I didn't really enjoy this book, and admit to fast-reading the last 20 pages or so, just to complete it.
Her first book, "The Ice Princess", was a great story, good plot and translated very well.
This book is too long, badly edited, if at all, and the translation is poor, lacklustre, naive and very basic. It seems like a word-for-word translation, the letter rather than spirit of the book. Stephen T. Murray may have translated the Steig Larsson books, but he either outsourced this one, or had a series of very bad "off days" while working on it !
This translation detracts enormously from what is an adequate, although not, it must be admitted, a sparkling plot. There are far too many clumsy sentences and a bizarre mixture of British and American English, which, for me at least, was a great distraction from the book and plot.
Although there a a few twists, I think the plot itself is fairly simplistic, and had little of the interest or sophistication of The Ice Princess. The characterisation is limited, and, quite frankly, many of them are naively drawn. I became fed up with the complete incompetence of the "rebel", older detective, and of the police chief as well : they added little to the novel and should have been dealt with quickly. Also the swearing seemed a bit incongruous for some of the characters, and the descriptive passages were far too clichéd.
The attempt to develop the main detective/Hedstrom family via the hard-done-by younger sister, Anna and her relationships, added very little to the plot. If it was an attempt to show character interest and development for the series it was poorly done (although that might be the journeyman translation effort as well ).
Personally, I would have to check the reviews of other books in this series carefully before purchasing another, but I hope that Camilla Lackberg gets backs to the level of the Ice Princess, and that her translators put in a real effort to bring what promised to be an interesting author to the English-speaking world.
Empire : Wounds of Honour - Anthony Riches [8/10]
The Chalk Circle Man - Fred Vargas [ 8/10]
The Gun Ketch - Dewey Lambdin [ 8/10]
HMS Cockerel - Dewey Lambdin [8/10]
The Last Days of Newgate - Andrew Pepper [5/10]
August  2011
Absorption - John Meaney   (7/10 )[ Review to come]
Tragedy at Law - Cyril Hare   (8/10 )[ Review to come]
July  2011
Tyrant:Storm of Arrows - Christian Cameron (6/10 )[ Review to come]
White King and Red Queen - Daniel Johnson (7/10)[ Review to come ]
June  2011
Tyrant - Christian Cameron (7/10 )[ A slightly unusual period for an historical novel, as it is set in 323 BC around the Black Sea, and follows an ex-captain of Alexander the Great's army who is dismissed by his employer ( outsourced to cheaper troops :) , then finds a new job and mission with the Tyrant of Olbia. A great story follows, well-written ( although the author seems obsessed with using the phrase " currying a horse"  and never reverts to the simpler "grooming"  that would give our ears a rest and our eyes variety ! ) and well-paced read. Enough detail of mercenary and other life in a Euxine city as well as on the Steppes. I enjoyed it enough to order the next in the series, and expect to devour that as much.]
Rome: The Emperor's Spy - M C Scott (2/10 )[ Have to admit, this is one of the rare books I gave up on. M C Scott is also Manda Scott, writer of the half-decent Boudicca books.  Here, however, she tries to re-invent herself as MC Scott ( not quite sure why ) and this tale of a Roman 'super-spy' during Emperor Nero's  reign is the result.
I found it far too ordinary, and had far too much unnecessary details when trying to show how "super-human" her super-spy is.  The plot appears to be about a prophetic scroll that gives the date of when Rome will burn , and a Jewish rebellion will occur, although it is subsumed under details of daily life with a chariot-race team . It could be good, but for me is continually sluggish, and was getting nowhere fast. I tried twice to re-invigorate my interest in it, but when I tell you that a history of chess in the Cold War reads better and has more interest, I think you understand why I gave it the boot. I now remember that I didn't actually read the third book of Manda Scott's Boudicca trilogy, as the second was nowhere as good as the first. There's a lesson there !]
May  2011
The Schoolgirl Murder Case- Colin Wilson 7.5/10 [ Competent, but not an inspiring detective novel. Probably more interesting as an observation on mid '70s London life ( they go to the pub often at lunchtime, drink vodka rather than beer if there is an interview later ! ) and a fine insight into occult/sex links for murderers ( or maybe how magic/occult/sex obsession works its way into physical violence and murder ). I'd probably read another of his, as they are well-written.
April 2011
The Boat of Fate - Keith Roberts 8.5/10 [ The publishers' blurb calls this "a fine thumping panorama of Rome's death throes in Gaul, Africa and Britannia : high romance". Certainly, that encapsulates the core of the plot and locations, but there is more than that there. The tale is of an Hispanian son of a Roman and a Briton who seeks himself, if he but knew it. Seduced by dreams of glory in the Roman Army as a boy, he stumbles through his puberty and early adulthood, fumbling for a real life, and encountering expulsion from his home, work in Rome with his uncle and through a lucky accident he finally ends in the army as a Tribune in Gaul.
We follow his military adventures ( although these are in no way like those in Scarrow's or Cornwell's books : here the military action is limited, since this is a novel, and not an action novel ! ) with each part well described in natural language and simple action. Misfortune on misfortune puts our (anti-) hero in various interesting situations until he ends up in Britannia at the point that the Roman legions leave. Here is the crux of the novel and here the complex character of our hero arises and is resolved. A well-written novel with varied locations, descriptions, incidents, all well-described and satisfying.A great novel of the decay of the Western Roman Empire and how one man copes and comes to terms with it, and growing up inside it. Thoroughly enjoyable.]
The Hidden - Tobias Hill 8/10 [ Superbly written, and in a poetic style. Descriptions ( nature and other ) are truly exceptional. The plot is relatively simple, and develops slowly, although the novel is never boring. The blurb speaks of a 'dark epiphany' as the novel's climax. Well, not quite sure if that hype is really the culmination, but it is a thought-provoking novel. A man in search of his life, escaping his old world of divorce and probable guilt, becomes drawn into a closed society in an archaeological dig in Sparta. Is he accepted ? or not. This is the key point in the novel, along with his view of himself and his participation in, and/or acceptance of, general society. A good insight into ancient Spartan society as well. The Hidden of the title is reflected in the Spartan background. Well worth the read ]
 March 2011
The Gotland Deal - N J Crisp  6/10 [ Competent enough, but not the best. Written in 1976, by a TV screenwriter, and sometimes it seems a bit like that, with characters just sketched, and not always developed enough. Decent enough plot, accurate relationships, but lacking a touch. I feel that a modern take on this, or a more "literary" author would add greater depth and excitement. Interestingly, his later thriller "Dangerous Obsession" was turned into a film that he disowned ! ]
Legion - Simon Scarrow  7.5/10 [  Up to scratch for the series. A different location, but similar themes.Properly fleshed-out characters, with maturity for the main characters showing through. A nice history lesson as the battle-plan of Cannae is re-used by a well-read Prefect. The next in series will be on my list !]
February 2011
Imperial Governor - George Shipway  10/10 [ A superb novel. Set in Roman Britain in AD 61 : the time of the Iceni's rebellion under Boudicca. It is presented as the memoirs of the Roman Governor, Suetonius, and succeeds brilliantly. Not in the same slash-and-burn individual-action style of Simon Scarrow, but a refined and elegantly written book that is extremely satisfying to read : I will look out some more of his work.  The Chilian Club and The Paladin are recommended, but both are out of print : here I come ! See here for fine information about him and his books]
January 2011
Supping with Panthers - Tom Holland  7/10 ( excellent Gothic tale. If I mention characters such as Bram Stoker, Doctor Bell, Mary Kelly and the fact its set mainly in 1888 London, you can guess which direction it takes !  Tom Holland also wrote the excellent non-fiction Persian Fire and Rubicon., histories of, respectively the Persian Invasion of Greece, and the end of the Roman Republic  : both superb.)
Twelve  - Jasper Kent 5/10 ( not quite what I expected, having veered into vampire fantasy in Russia, 1812, but acceptable - just. I doubt if I will buy the sequel. )
December 2010 
Ship of Rome - Jack Stack 5.5/10  [ Competent, and a decent enough plot,but not particularly exciting. Some passages are well-enough written, but for me, despite the unusual setting of the Roman Navy, it doesn't quite make it. A first novel, I think it needed more editing and polishing, and with those, a removal of the pointless sex scenes, and an addition of a bit more overall balance, it could be acceptable, but at the moment, I won't be buying the next one. Maybe the library... ]
November 2010 
The Lady for Ransom - Alfred Duggan 7/10 [ Another fine novel from Duggan. Always the same style, but invariably well-written, excellent characterisation, enough action, plenty of historical detail and a good plot. Not much more you can ask for, and its just the right length at around 250/300 pages. Why wasn't this guy phenomenally successful ? ]
October 2010 
Lion of the Sun - 7.5/10 Harry Sidebottom ( a good continuation of the the tale. I think the writing is excellent and the background detail enough to satisfy, but not enough to intrude on the story. Great characters all around and fine history. I did think the end a little rushed and possibly a touch convenient, but it just about worked !  Looking forward to the next episode )
August 2010
Tutankamun - Nick Drake [7/10]
July 2010 and before 
The King's Commission - Dewey Lambdin
The French Admiral - Dewey Lambdin
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club - Dorothy L Sayers
Warrior of Rome " King of Kings" - Harry Sidebottom ( 7/10 Well written and plotted - a good read. Not quite in the Bernard Cornwell league, but not far off. I will read the next one without a doubt )
Conflict of Empire - Sam Barone (journeyman read - just about competent, but not gripping : too much unnecessary and  "bad sex"  as well 3/10 )
The King's Coat - Dewey Lambdin (wonderful read 8/10..action on board 18thC ship and ashore in bed ! Next two in series already ordered )
The Rose of Tibet - Lionel Davidson (8/10...brilliant. He is sadly missed. I read his Kholimsky Heights many years ago: also excellent, and a touch more modern thriller)
The Redeemer - Joe Nesbo (7/10)
Bobby Fischer Goes to War - Edmonds and Eidenow (7/10)
The Gladiator - Simon Scarrow (7/10..a continuing Roman-based series...every one excellent)
The Crime at Black Dudley - Margery Allingham (6/10)
Borkmann's Point - Hakan Nesser (7/10...a chess-playing detective ! in a Scando-Dutch setting)
The Fall of Rome - Michael Curtis Ford (6/10...competent historical adventure set in the 480 ADs )
Blood on the Strand - Susanna Gregory (6/10..competent 1600's whodunnit, but a bit stretched at times)
Falconer and the Ritual of Death - Ian Morson (7/10...1300 Oxford setting for a monkish detective)
Fever of the Bone - Val McDermid (9/10...she is an awesome crime writer..superb)
The Dante Club - Matthew Pearl (7/10..intriguing 1860s US-based mystery)
Too Close to Home - Linwood Barclay (2/10...not even close to the previous "No Time for Goodbye"..actually, why bother : a waste of time))
The Whale Road - Robert Low (8/10...superbly written Viking adventure tale set in the frozen wastes of 10th century Russia)
The Northern Crusades - Eric Christianssen (7/10...a history of the Northern Crusades : how European Christians  subdued the "Pagan" Baltic States, Finland and a bit of Russia: you didn't even know they happened!!)
Credo - Melvyn Bragg (8/10)
Reaper's Gale - Steven Erikson (7/10...a continuing fantasy series..all a good, with a strong dose of humour to flavour the tales, although  a touch "dense" at times)