Confronting the Invisible (West and Carlyle Victorian Mysteries #3), by David Field

Eight stars

It is always a pleasure to take some time when David Field releases a new novel. His latest series, set on the streets of Victorian London, never fails to stir up some thought-provoking moments, with a stellar mystery woven into the narrative. In this novel, a group of children go missing, with ties to Matthew West’s children’s Bible Group. Could he hold the key to their disappearance, or the fact that they are beginning to appear as ghosts?

It all started with the circus coming to town. Matthew West accompanies his fiancée, Adelaide Carlyle, and her father, Dr. James Carlyle, to the event. West was sure that this night out with Adelaide and her father would calm his nerves ahead of the upcoming wedding. However, during one of the trapeze acts, something goes horribly wrong and Dr. Carlyle can determine that there was some foul play.

The authorities want to hear nothing about it and permit the circus to leave town, which baffles both Carlyle and West to no end. However, life must go on. West is working as a local priest and has organised a Bible Group for some of the parish children. Adelaide comes along one week to show off her nursing skills, which includes a chance to check and treat the numerous cases of head lice. The children love it, particularly when they can show off their iodine-coloured scalps to handfuls of worried parents.

Amidst preparing for and getting married, Matthew and Adelaide discover something troubling has taken place. A number of the parish children have gone missing, most from the Bible group. What’s worse, parents are not only fraught with worry over that, but that some have been seen outside their homes, almost floating at the window. Might there be something sinister taking place in the form of a demonic possession? Matthew West is not about to wait for the authorities to connect the dots.

While West and Adelaide begin poking around, they come across the body of one missing child, her legs badly broken. Dr. Carlyle deduces that it was from a long fall, perhaps the height of a rooftop. This gets the wheels turning and West seeks to explore a little more. What he discovers not only shocks him, but sends him into a panic. Turning to the only people he can trust, Matthew West and his new wife will have to uncover who has taken the children and left them in such squalor, without alerting anyone except a handful of the authorities.

When it comes to David Field, mysteries set in Victorian England come to life. I have read a number of his series, all of which are full of historical goings-on, as well as some wonderful storytelling. This series is no exception, as each page is full of something for the reader to enjoy, while seeking to solve a well-paced mystery.

Matthew and Adelaide West appear to take centre stage in this piece, which boasts some great character development for them both. Their courtship comes to an end as they are able to finally tie the knot, though this does not dilute their passion to discover the truth of what has been going on around them. The reader will see that West is still trying to get his legs under him as a parish priest and Adelaide seeks to make her mark as a nurse, following her father in the medical profession. While their lives advance independently, they surely need each other to make a significant difference. Personal growth can be found throughout this piece, as well as some needed joint advancements that help round out the story by the end.

Field uses a handful of strong characters to support the two protagonists. The story lends itself to a great cross-section of individuals, all of whom work well together. From the stiff investigator who does not want wool pulled over his eyes, to the young children whose curiosity is second to none, Field provides the reader with education and entertainment at every turn. The Wests are surely supported well with these supporting characters and the story flows even better with their subtle steering of the narrative. Field is able to use one-off characters effectively, while also providing a handful of recurring folks that creates a connection between the novels.

Overall, the story worked really well, shining light not only on the life of the traveling circus, but the lack of structure the left many families hopeless. Young children roamed the streets and it would not be uncommon for many of them the disappear without notice. Sickness was also quite prevalent, as Field explores in the middle and latter portions of the book, sending large portions of the population into an abyss that may lead to horrible death.

With a strong narrative to keep the story moving, David Field offers readers something both entertaining and educational in equal measure. Life in Victorian England surely contrasts greatly with things today, but Field can breathe some life into it with his well-formed Cockney slang and plot lines that provide some needed context into how things were done at the time. Readers will enjoy the longer chapters, which are used to fully explore the issues of the day, though the writing is never burdensome, allowing for a quick read over a day or two. I cannot wait to see what else David Field has in store for his fans, new and established alike.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for another winner. I know I am in for a treat when I choose one of your books and you have not let me down yet.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Death Comes But Twice (Carlyle and West Victorian Mysteries #2), by David Field

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to David Field and Sapere Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

When I was given the chance to read an early copy of David Field’s newest novel, I knew it was not something I wanted to ignore. This second book in his new Victorian crime series is packed with action and a great deal of information from the time period. Field keeps the reader’s attention while spinning an duplicitous tale at a time when forensic advancements were afoot in the field of police work. When Dr. James Carlyle, a surgeon at the local London Hospital, receives a new body for autopsy, something familiar has him second guessing himself. The man before him is already dead, or was before his poisoning with digitalis. Carlyle reaches out to his sometimes colleague, Matthew West, who is a local Wesleyan street preacher. West’s interest is piqued, as he witnessed the man’s execution not long ago. Wondering if the hanging was a ruse, West returns to investigate a little more. While this is taking place, Dr. Carlyle’s daughter, Adelaide, is mounting her campaign to run for the London County Council, the first female candidate ever to do so. Without universal suffrage, she will have to appeal to the men of the district, many of whom do not take her seriously. With West agreeing to nominate her, Adelaide has high hopes of making a difference and cleaning up London as best she can. When news emerges that a second person with ties to the hanging turns up dead, Carlyle and West begin to wonder if a cover-up is taking place, though they cannot be sure who might be orchestrating it. West receives an interesting proposition by a wealthy London businesswoman, one Mary Miller, who wishes him to work with her to abolish capital punishment. While he is intrigued, there is something not entirely right about her. As West and Carlyle dig a little deeper, they discover that Mary Miller has quite the past, including an indirect tie to West himself. When more men turn up dead, the rush is on to discover who is killing them and what faking an execution might have done to advance someone’s cause. Miller seems innocent, but there is too much in her past to simply dismiss her as a suspect With all this going on, West is also trying to secure himself permanent employment and something even more important. There is little time to wait and much to do before a killer slips away, with additional targets sure to follow. A stunning addition to this new series, Field exemplifies that he is not an author to be taken lightly. Recommended to those who love a quick-paced mystery, as well as the reader who loves Victorian crime thrillers.

Having first come to know about David Field when I read some of his earlier Victorian novels in another series, I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining and educational his pieces can be. I was pleased to see Field return with a new series set in this same era, permitting him to expand on the mysteries of the time, but from a unique perspective. Field uses two strong protagonists, with hints that a third might be in the making. Matthew West continues to grow as a preacher to the poor and out of luck, though he seeks more. His amateur sleuthing ways work well for him as he tries to get to the bottom of the case at hand, though the pressure to find something permanent serves as an underlying bit of character development as the move gains momentum. West has some ideas, but is still too timid to take life by the horns and steer it in the direction he wants most. Dr. James Carlyle is both his colleague and polar opposite, with medical knowledge and life experience that makes him the more grounded of the two. Carlyle educates West (and the reader) to some of the new forensics being used, something called ‘fingerprints’, as well as the details of pharmaceutical poisonings. Carlyle reveals some interesting facts about the case, where possible, while also trying to parent Adelaide, who continues to stir up the pot with her women’s rights movement and attempts to win a seat on the London County Council. Adelaide becomes a third protagonist throughout this piece, pushing her ideas and keeping a constant eye on Matthew West, as their romantic chemistry seems to be building, though neither is ready to admit it to the other. Field uses other characters to enrich the reading experience, offering a great deal of flavouring to an exciting story. With an interesting premise, Field pulls on some of the sentiments surrounding capital punishment, women’s rights, and the dawn of forensic advancements to create this story that is as easy to read as it is captivating. With a mixture of chapter lengths, Field keeps the reader guessing what is to come with each plot reveal. The narrative flows really well and is peppered with great cockney slang to add a layer of realism to the banter between characters. I am eager to see what else the West-Carlyle duo (trio) undertake in upcoming pieces, especially with some of the revelations in the final chapter of this novel.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for keeping me entertained from cover to cover. I just saw the announcement of the series’ third novel and cannot wait to get my hands on it soon!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Interviewing the Dead (Carlyle and West #1), by David Field

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to David Field and Sapere Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Never one to pass up the opportunity to read anything by David Field, I rushed to get hold of the debut novel in this new Victorian crime series. With a wonderful premise and keen attention to detail, Field keeps the reader’s attention throughout this fast-paced novel. It’s the late Victorian Era and Jack the Ripper is simply a passing memory for the people of London’s East Side. However, after some bones are unearthed during the construction of an underground station, problems arise. A woman arrives on a country-wide junket to tell fortunes and send messages from the dead to the local population, including that two centuries before this very ground was the dumpling place during a plague outbreak, including those that were unearthed. This means that there are many unsettled souls angered at being disturbed and they have turned their ire on the locals. Soon thereafter, people begin to die unexpectedly and some are seen to act in very suspicious ways,. The people turn to their local Wesleyan street preacher, Matthew West, but he has no idea what’s going on. He, in turn, seeks the medical advice of Dr. James Carlyle, a surgeon at the local London Hospital. While both men come from completely different perspectives on the subject of spirits, they are united in wanting to find out what’s causing all these deaths. Investigating as best they can, West and Carlyle must seek the assistance of a detective, who serves to fill in some of the gaps. When West finds himself on the wrong side of a murder charge after being attacked outside, Carlyle makes a discovery that could help to explain what’s going on. Someone’s been spiking the beer with a potent drug, one not usually found in the region. It’s up to West and Carlyle to find out who and why before the death toll mounts and talk of the dead haunting the streets of London gets any more out of hand. Well-paced and the perfect book to pull the reader in for a day of reading, David Field shows that he is not one to run out of ideas. Recommended for those who love a good Victorian mystery, as well as the reader who has come to enjoy the work of David Field.

Having cut my teeth on Field’s first Victorian mystery series, I was pleased to see him come back to this era, which gives him the chance to delve deeper into the history, medical advancements, and sociology-economic situation of the time. He paves the way for what is sure to be an exciting series with two strong protagonists. Matthew West is a young man who serves no specific flock as he counsels the homeless and those he encounters on his walks through London’s East Side. Still new to the profession, the reader can see the cracks in his character as he tries to be upstanding without yet being able to ignore some of the baser urges that are tossed before him. He seeks to help, but is still largely naive when it comes to matters of deeper thinking. This contrasts nicely with Dr. James Carlyle, whose medical knowledge and life experience make him the more grounded of the two. Carlyle educates West (and the reader) to some of the medical and psychological know-how as it relates to neuroses and poisoning. He reveals some interesting facts about the case, while also trying to parent his daughter, who seeks to stir up the pot with her women’s rights movement, a great sub-plot. Other characters work well within the confines of the piece, offering a great deal of flavouring to an exciting story. Built on a wonderful premise, Field pulls on some of the sentiments around spirits from the day, as well as the rise in mediums who seek to communicate between the two worlds. With a mixture of chapter lengths, Field pulls the reader in before offering them longer explanations to give the book some depth. The narrative flows really well and is peppered with great cockney slang to add a layer of realism to the banter between characters. I cannot wait to see what else the West-Carlyle duo undertake in upcoming pieces, hoping that Field has many ideas to share with his fan base.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for another winner. I am pleased to see us back in Victorian times, where my appreciation for your writing began. Perhaps the attentive reader may see some crossover mentions from the other series?

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

A Plague on Both Your Houses (Oliver Wade #3), by David Field

Eight stars

Reaching for the latest piece by David Field, I was taken back to post-Elizabethan England, where Oliver Wade finds himself in yet another adventure. James I is the new King of England, seeking to rid the country of any Catholic remnants. While many embrace this, there is a core who remain put out by those who would seek to dilute the ‘true faith’. As whispers grow, Oliver Wade is asked by Robert Cecil, the king’s Head of Government, to uncover any plots and report back. Under the guise of a travelling dramatic troupe, Wade and his group discover that a terror plot exists, whereby the House of Lords will be blown up during the State Opening of Parliament, when James I is to be in attendance. With Guido ‘Guy’ Fawkes in charge of the explosives, Wade learns the intricacies of the plot, which includes a major act that is sure to kill all those close to the act of terror. Armed with news that could save the king and keep a Catholic monarchs from ascending to the throne, Wade must decide if it is worth his interference, as he is happy remaining out of the limelight. England could forever change as both religious groups vie for power. A wonderful piece of historical fiction that is sure to entertain. Recommended for those who love pieces from times long past, as well as the reader who is familiar and enjoys the work of David Field.

I have always found something interesting in the work of David Field, as he entertains and educates in equal measure. This story, purported to be the final the Oliver Wade series, offers the reader some of the most exciting plots yet. Filled with history and an England on the brink of change, the reader can see how the country remained shaky in this post-Tudor era. Oliver Wade remains an interesting, if quiet, protagonist. Enjoying his life writing plays and entertaining an audience, he seems always to be pulled into the middle of something special. His unassuming character sees him be the confidant of many, which makes his spy work all the more effective. Others find their place in this story and keep the plot on point, as the action heats up. England is on the brink of major upheaval and both sides are ready to claim victory. The story that Field shares is both historically on point and full of wonderful fictional shades, which keeps the reader enthralled as they make their way through this short piece. One can only hope that Field will have more to write about years past, filled with aspects of fact and a peppering of fiction.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for another winner. I can only hope others find these stories as interesting while learning about important times in English history.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Heart of a King: The Infamous Reign of Elizabeth I (Tudor Saga #6), by David Field

Eight stars

David Field is back with the final instalment of his Tudor series, which has included many interesting tales about this most influential English monarchical family. After many years of waiting in the shadows, Elizabeth ascends to the throne at a time when England is in disarray. Queen Mary pushed a strong Catholic sentiment across the country, forcing Elizabeth to turn back to what she feels will be a calmer Protestant way of life, accepting private worship of whatever the individual chooses. At greatest issue is a strong alliance for the country, surrounded by powerhouses Spain and France. The easiest way to do this is through a marriage, though Elizabeth is less than eager to give her hand to a man she cannot love. There is one man whose life she is happy to share, but she cannot have Robert Dudley, who is married to another. Elizabeth realises that she cannot keep England isolated and seeks to find a solution that will be effective for all parties. Scotland to the north remains under French rule and there are powerful forces coming from Paris that could cause her many issues. Elizabeth is ruthless in her attempts to protect England, refusing to let the men around her dictate how she will rule. Equally noticeable is Elizabeth’s passion to flex her muscle, keeping her Court in line and not permitting anyone to cross her. With no heir and the years passing, the Tudor era is set to come to an end, something that Elizabeth cannot simply ignored. Looking back on her life and that of her family, Elizabeth must choose who will sit on England’s throne and lead her into a new era, or face obliteration under the boot of a foreign ruler. A wonderful end to a jam-packed series, in which Field takes the reader on an adventure like no other. Recommended to Tudor fans who enjoy a mix of history and fiction, as well as the reader who needs a short piece to tide them over.

I have enjoyed the work of David Field, reading many of his novels when I can find them. His work with the Tudors is of great interest to me, as I thoroughly enjoy this time period in English history. The story seeks to tell of the final Tudor monarch, whose time on the throne was full of controversies as she refused to allow others to dictate her reign or how she ought to act. While England was keen to find new and lasting alliances, Elizabeth refused to sell herself out, thereby leaving the country vulnerable. Field depicts Elizabeth as both a compassionate woman but ruthless when she feels the need to exert control. There are numerous hints at the Elizabeth-Dudley connection, though nothing untoward comes of it. With powerful forces in Europe at the time, Field shows the volatility of England, which comes into play the longer Elizabeth goes without an heir. The story remains strong throughout and the narrative gains momentum as things progress in this important time. Choices made at this time impact much of what is to come in the decades that following, pushing England in directions Field only hints at throughout the narrative. Those who have followed the series will likely enjoy this finale, though I am sure Field has more to come, even if it means a new era and set of strong characters. A mix of chapter lengths and well-presented narratives keep the story from losing momentum and places the reader in the middle of the action. Some will speak of the brevity of these books, but I find them all refreshing, as I can learn a great deal in a single sitting. I am eager to see what is to come and how Field will impress fans yet again.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for a strong series that never lets up. The Tudors live strong in these books and I am pleased to see your dedication as you educate your fans.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Queen in Waiting: Mary Tudor Takes the Throne (Tudor Series #5), by David Field

Eight stars

David Field is back with another instalment of his Tudor series, educating readers about this history of this most entertaining of monarchical dynasties. Those who have followed the series to date will know that Henry VIII is gone, forcing the offspring to assume their time on the throne. Edward has served and died young, followed by the controversial Jane Grey. Now, it is time for Mary to ascend, though things are far from smooth for her. As she seeks to return England to its Catholic roots, Mary will have to remove all the Protestant hierarchy and reestablish a connection with Rome. While these may seem pressing, she also has the concern of offspring, having no one to whom she is betrothed. While Parliament seeks a fine Englishman for her, Mary has her eyes set on international connections, seeing an option in Philip of Spain, a country still a sworn enemy to England. Mary is adamant that she knows best, forging ahead with an alliance in memory of her mother. In the shadows is the young Elizabeth, who is happy to honour her sister, but far from a sycophant. Elizabeth has her own life to live, which seems to ruffle Mary’s feathers and she is called before the queen. When Mary appears to be pregnant, the Royal Court awaits formal news of an heir and Elizabeth must accept that her position in the secession must wait. However, not everything is always as it appears and Elizabeth’s role becomes all the more important, for herself and England as a whole. A wonderful mix of English history and some fictional interpretations, Field continues to dazzle with this piece and the series as a whole. Recommended to those who love all things Tudor, as well as the reader who finds historical fiction right up their alley.

I have long enjoyed the work of David Field, reading anything of his on which I could get my hands. His work here with the Tudors is of particular interest to me, as I enjoy this time period in English history. The story seeks to tell a double narrative, with the power that Mary has acquired as she tries to reshape England in her Catholic image, while Lady Elizabeth waits her turn and forges bonds of her own around Court. Field builds up both women throughout the piece, hinting at their differences and similarities in equal measure. This time is history was surely harrowing and with powerful women at play, it is an added layer of excitement. The story takes place over a short time period, but is full of history and political intrigue, leaving the reader to find themselves in the middle of what was an important time. A quick read with easy to digest chapters, Field has shown that he is a master at historical fiction without drowning the reader in the minutiae. As the Tudor dynasty is coming to an end, Field will have to pull out all the stops in the sixth novel. I cannot wait to see how it all comes together.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for another wonderful novel. I have thoroughly enjoyed all you’ve written and cannot wait for more.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Midwinter Mysteries: A Christmas Crime Anthology, by Various Authors

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, the writers in this collection, and Sapere Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

With the holiday season just around the corner, I was happy to receive this collection of mysteries. Filled with short stories by a number of authors—most of whom I have never read—this was sure to be a wonderful early gift that any lover of mysteries could enjoy. I’ll jot down a brief summary of each piece and provide an overarching sentiment about the collection thereafter, for those who are interested.

Away in a Manger, by Graham Brack

Graham Brack takes readers to Prague, where Lieutenant Josef Slonský is working on Christmas Eve. Wanting to help some of the other members of his team see crime in action, Slonský convinces them to head down to the town square. While he partakes in a cup of hot wine, the others watch a short nativity play. A thief makes a grab for a woman’s wallet and the chase is on. This will be one Christmas that Slonský will not soon forget.

Footprints in the Snow, by J.C. Briggs

In this J.C. Briggs piece, Charles Dickens is stuck in a winter storm with a household and chooses to tell an impromptu story to pass the time. When his tale of a ghost appears to cause one guest to react, Dickens is surprised, but does not make much of it. However, the following morning, the same guest seems to have put himself in quite the predicament, with only a trail of footprints in the snow to explain his actions.

Lost and Found, by Keith Moray

In the small community of West Uist, Torquil McKinnon is hosting a small gathering, which includes a rag-tag group set to act as a band for the upcoming Hogmanay Dip and Nip. The following day, McKinnon learns that one of the group was found at his dining table, dead from an apparent attack of angina. Furthermore, the snuffbox in which he kept his pills was nowhere to be found. When someone commits a petty crime at the local police precinct, everyone begins to wonder if there is something to tie the death and crime together. Torquil and his fellow coppers will have to do some sleuthing before the Hogmanay Dip and Nip takes over their thoughts.

The Spirit of Christmas, by Cora Harrison

While doing some begging on the street, a young, blind boy hears his dog and minder being dragged away. Worried, Sammy tries to follow without seeing a thing and is barely saved from being killed. When his older brother, Alfie, arrives to collect him, there is much wrong with the situation. Not only is Sammy bruised, but someone has stolen a large amount of gold bullion. While Alfie processes this, he discovers a body. Alfie takes a moment to scan the scene and feels he may have an idea of what’s taken place.

The Stolen Santa Sack, by Seán Gibbons

Ben Miller enjoys driving his cab around Galway, even if he sometimes gets some odd requests. When a member of the police asks him to transport a man dressed as Santa to a hotel, he is happy to oblige. However, somewhere along the way, this Father Christmas ends up with a dagger in his chest and his sack is missing. Miller tried to stay out of it all, but cannot help sleuthing, as it seems all the coppers want is the contents of the sack. Lost in all of this is the question about what to do with the dead man in the red suit!

Will Power, by Marilyn Todd

Julia McAllister is great at her work, even if Victorian England is not ready to welcome a woman into the profession of photographer. Still, she runs her business as best she can, handling a handful of customers with a variety of requests. Julia dabbles into photography of both the living and dead, which only adds new and exciting wrinkles to her work, as well as a peppering of danger on the odd occasion. This holiday season is one of those times.

Christmas Spirits, by Gaynor Torrance

DI Jemima Huxley and her partner are on the lookout for a recently spotted murder suspect. While scanning the city, they come upon one of Cardiff’s most talked about toy stores, just in time for Huxley to ponder holiday gifts. When they find themselves being ignored by the staff, DI Huxley and her partner end up in the middle of a battle for that ‘must-have’ toy, though it is far from the scenario they might have expected. Forced to fend for themselves, DI Huxley must go above and beyond, while trying not to extinguish her holiday spark!

The Essex Nativity, by David Field

Jack Enright is in the holiday spirit, but has yet to be able to convince his mother to let him host the festivities. As Jack and Esther have come to realise, when Constance says something, you nod and go about your day. During a meal with his uncle, Percy, both coppers are called to the scene of a rural farm, where they discover a couple trying to stay warm and in the midst of delivering a baby. Percy takes up the leadership role and discovers that one of his active cases might have a new lead, forcing him to rush and make a call to Scotland Yard, while also seeking a doctor for the young couple. What follows is a feast and a touching revelation about the strength of the Christmas spirit.

Secret Santa, by Kim Fleet

Eden Grey is a hard-working private investigator with many resources at her disposal. When Eden receives an anonymous note at her office, she cannot help but begin a little surveillance effort, watching a man appear to stalk a much older woman. After confronting this mystery man, Eden learns his story, which only opens new avenues of investigation. Now, Eden must decide what to do and how to go about substantiating the claim made to her.

Stir Up Sunday, by M.J. Logue

Thankful Russell runs a popular printing shop in the 17th century. When he and his wife, Thomazine, are visited by a member of King Charles II’s Court, they agree to print a document said to be some of His Majesty’s recipes. However, it would seem someone wants the manuscript for themselves, breaking into the shop and trying to steal it. Thomazine, the brains of the family, posits that this could be more than a collection of hearty meal ideas, tied to the recent Cromwell uprising. What follows is a race to discover the truth so that Thomazine and Thankful can enjoy their Christmas together.

The Christmas Ghost, by Linda Strathman

Mina Scarletti has a way of communicating with those who have passed on and is summoned to the home of a grieving mother. Mina soon learns that the woman’s son died in a freak accident one past Christmas Eve and she hopes to be able to see her beloved boy. While Mina breaks the news that she cannot sense the boy in the house, she reveals an interesting piece of advice that might help salve the woman’s ongoing pain.

Having made my way through the collection, I must say that I am thoroughly impressed with what I read. These authors do know how to put together a wonderful set of stories, impressing the reader with a vast array of settings, characters, and approaches. While I know that I have read two of the full-length series hinted at above, there are now a number of others I am interested in finding and hopefully adding to my ongoing long list of series I follow. The publisher did well in gathering these authors together with the general Christmas theme running through their writings. I hope others are dazzled as much as I have been with this collection.

Kudos, writers of this collection, for a great set of short pieces. There’s nothing like a little mystery to heighten the excitement of the holiday season.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Game’s Afoot (Oliver Wade #2), by David Field

Eight stars

David Field delivers the second of his new three-novella series, dealing with the early rule of James I (or IV, depending on how you view history). The story picks up just after the debut novella ended, with the first plot against the king foiled and those responsible preparing for execution. A new plan emerges to remove the king and replace him with a Catholic sympathizer. The king’s Master Secretary, Sir Robert Cecil, is eager to quell all the issues and turns to William Wade. A promise by Cecil to Wade includes a high-ranking position at the Tower of London, turning the former soldier towards this powerful man. Meanwhile, William’s son, Oliver, is back to writing and staging his own plays. When Oliver is approached to assist with an investigation into the death of Christopher Marlowe, he reluctantly agrees. It would seem there is more to the story than a simple tavern brawl, but perhaps some out of place sympathies that needed snuffing out before they could be shared with a larger audience. When the two Wades learn that their investigations are linked, they work together to foil the plot to overthrow the king and round-up the usurpers. Cecil surely has his fingers in many pies and his power is only becoming more concentrated with the monarch refusing to tend to England’s daily needs. When truths come to light, the Wades discover that there is no middle ground in the battle, where everyone will have to choose a side, or die for their indecision. Field does well in this second novella, continuing his ability to pull the reader in with history and fiction linked arm in arm. Recommended to those who love much of David Field’s work, as well as the reader who enjoys all things historical.

David Field continues to impress me with all his writing, much of which takes me back into English time periods that are full of history and thrills. The reader is able to discover so much, as Field is detailed and entertaining in equal measure. Oliver Wade returns as an intriguing character, still wanting to focus his life on all things related to the stage. However, he seems to get pulled into the middle of yet another mystery. His reclusiveness is apparent throughout, though this likely comes from living in the shadows of his father, William. The chemistry between the Wade men is apparent from the start, forcing them to work together even as the elder cannot understand Oliver’s need to live in the world of the arts. They are able to forge a connection and see that they are both operatives from the cunning and deceptive, Sir Robert Cecil. There remains an interesting chemistry between Cecil and those working under him. Using the impetus of keeping England safe, Cecil forges a split between friend and foe, with little middle ground. It will be interesting to see how Field resolves this in the final novella, which is sure to prove highly entertaining and full of history. Field does well with this piece, highlighting some events in English history while also finding a fictional thread to keep the reader turning pages. Short chapters, full of information, keep the reader wanting to know more as they trudge forwards. There is little room to breathe, as the action is ongoing and the reader cannot help but want to know more. Field is a master and I can only hope he’ll keep producing pieces of such interest to me.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for keeping the caliber of your writing high and the topics of interest to many. Where you will take us next, I can only imagine.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Uneasy Lies the Head (Oliver Wade #1), by David Field

Eight stars

David Field offers up another of his short stories, this time introducing a new character in a slightly new era of English history. It’s that period just after Elizabeth has died, when England is still rubbing its collective eyes and the Tudor Dynasty has come to an end, ushering in James I and his Scottish flavour to the monarchy. While many past monarchs have sought the adulation of their people, James was raised to feel that he has an inherent right to rule, divined by God to oversee England. Therefore, he leaves such trivial matters as a Council and engaging with most anyone to the mere mortals, in this case, Sir Robert Cecil. Meet Oliver Wade, a playwright and amateur actor who is able to entertain the masses with his plays that some might call a little too bawdy for the era. When he is arrested for public lewdness, he defends his art, but is put before Cecil, who has a plan for him. Wade is to discover a whispered plot that is brewing against the new king and report back without delay. While Wade is able to do just that, playing on some of the ongoing anti-Catholic sentiments in the country, he learns that a group is planning a dastardly act just before the coronation. Wade returns with the news, but does not entirely meet the expectations that Cecil had for him, finding himself tossed in the Tower with threat of punishment to come. Cecil is forced to send another, one who knows Wade all too well, to complete the task of killing those involved. While Sir Robert Cecil may be acting on behalf of the king, he certainly has his own plans that are likely not approved by any Deity. An interesting beginning to what should be a great series set just outside the Tudor era. Recommended to those who love short stories set in another time period, as well as the reader who has come to enjoy David Field and his royal novels of espionage.

I have read a number of the books David Field has published and can admit to liking them all. They not only provide the reader a wonderful glimpse into another time period, but they are highly informative and serve to educate as much as entertain. Oliver Wade proves to be a cunning character, though perhaps a little too honest for his own good. His ties to the community as a playwright and entertainer are clearly on offer here, though he seems eager to help King and country when called into duty. Perhaps not what you would call the most likely candidate for the job, Wade does the best he can with the tools he is given. Others who make their mark in the story include Sir Robert Cecil, whose antics will have to be watched, if the ending of this piece is any indication. There will likely be an interesting chemistry between the two, even if it ends up being something caustic. The story was quite good, coming together in quick order in this short story. Looking to the era of James I, Field will be able to expand his wings and give the reader something new on which to focus. The chapters fitted together effectively and proved highly entertaining. I am glad that I have the second book in the series all ready to go, as I am intrigued to learn a little more.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for a great introduction to this series. You never cease to impress me with your ideas.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

An Uneasy Crown (Tudor Series #4), by David Field

Nine stars

David Field’s masterful Tudor series continues, as the politicking and drama turn to the next generation. While series fans may have enjoyed being neck-deep in Henry VIII’s antics, his health is waning. To fill such large shoes will be a daunting task. Young Edward ascends to the throne at age nine, unable to rule alone. A Recency Council is appointed, headed by Edward Seymour, to guide young King Edward through the perils of ruling over England. The Earl of Somerset may be respected across the country, but his younger brother, Thomas, is far from pleased. While the Regency Council has a plan for the longevity of Tudor monarchs, young King Edward has a plan for the line of sucession that does not necessarily include his Catholic sister, Mary. Rather, Edward wants to see his young cousin, Jane Grey, find her path cleared to reign, which ruffles more than a few feathers. With the decree signed by the young monarch, it is only when the news reaches the Regency Council that public outrage reaches a boiling point, with additional ire directed at Edward Seymour. The Tudor dynasty could be in jeopardy, not least because King Edward is ill and the future remains murky. Tudor politics and backstabbing is front and centre in this piece, allowing Field to offer up some wonderful drama to entertain readers. Recommended to fans of the series to date, as well as the reader who has a passion for all things Tudor.

I am pleased that David Field keeps adding to this series, which mixes well-known aspects of English history with lesser published bits. Field uses a solid narrative, balancing it with a cast of strong characters in this tumultuous time in Tudor history. From the young boy king, Edward, who seems to be going through the motions, to the deeply influential Regency Council, whose members include the persuasive Edward Seymour, Field uses them all to push forward a variety of plots that come together as the story unfolds. With little time for adequate development, Field thrusts them before the reader in hopes of making a great first impression. The story’s structure is strong, though the time Field wishes to cover makes it hard to encapsulate everything in an effective manner. Mixing long and short chapters, Field is able to push forward an impactful narrative that tells of the internal divisions within the Tudor Court—none of which had anything do to with the validity of marriage, for once. Field has done well with the entire series to date, using strong characters and developing lesser-known facts to create an entertaining piece that is sure to educate as well. New and seasoned David Field fans alike will take something away from this novel, as the series gets better the further one delves.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for another winner. I am so eager to see all your ideas coming to find the light of day. Keep up the fabulous work!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: