Friday, January 23, 2015

Book Review: The Flesh Market by Richard Wright

Media Type: Ebook
Title: The Flesh Market
Author: Richard Wright
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: Paperback; 376
Release Date: February 10, 2014
Source: Author
Genre: Thriller / Historical Fiction

HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy darker tales, with a hint of history hiding underneath.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
"Doon the wynds an' up the streets,
Where revenants sought souls tae eat,
The Butcher called for twitching meat
An' Burke an' Hare did answer." -anon.

1827. A year after the Cadaver Riots tore the heart from Edinburgh. Fear still chokes the Old Town, for though the revenants were driven back with shot and steel, they still lurk in the city's shadowed closes. When night falls, they strike.

In dissecting rooms anatomists slice twitching flesh as they dream of cures and glory. For the greatest among them, Robert Knox, there is no price that cannot be met in the quest for knowledge. Behind closed doors he trades in walking death, dealing with devils to keep the flesh market supplied...

Set between the slums of 19th Century Edinburgh and the ivory towers of its academia, The Flesh Market is an almost true story of murder, mad science, obsession, and the restless dead.

It's no secret that I adore the way Richard Wright weaves his stories. Thy Fearful Symmetry, a story about the very brutal end of the world, shocked me. Craven Place, an unsettling ghost story, wooed me with its setting. I don't quite know what it is about Wright's writing, but I eat it up every single time. He has me in his grasp, and I'm perfectly okay with that.

The Flesh Market was no exception to this rule, and definitely my favorite so far. A stunning mixture of historical fiction and dark suspense, it focuses on the Burke & Hare murders of 1800's Edinburgh, Scotland. Fascinating stuff, that. A lack of medical cadavers means good money to those who deliver them in secret. A person could get wealthy off of "finding" bodies for the doctors. Except, in Richard Wright's novel, sometimes delivering those bodies isn't as easy as it seems. Sometimes, the dead don't stay dead.

Ah, I loved this! Anything that can breathe new life into the zombie craze is my hero, but Wright does it with a flair all his own. At the forefront of this novel are our anti-heroes, Burke & Hare. One, a man who simply wanted a better life for his family. The other, already touched with the madness that would allow him to commit such atrocities. I watched as Burke slowly circled the drain, heading deeper into Hare's clutches. Even if the undead had been completely left out of this story, I would have been hooked. These two, and the darkness that creeps in around them, was terrifying in its own right. It's unnerving what two men can be reduced to.

That being said, the undead added an underlying tension to this story. Wright expertly used them as means to keep this sense of dread going throughout. They aren't the main facet of this story, but neither are they unnecessary. Their presence serves to remind the reader where it all began, and to highlight exactly why Burke, Hare and Knox are covered in darkness. Each character was perfectly placed, each event expertly crafted to allow optimum intrigue. It got to the point where I couldn't put this book down. Literally. I'd be reading with one hand while ironing with the other. There's a slow burn at the beginning, and it leads to something wonderful.

I'm not sure how else to say it. Read this. Especially if you're a fan of historical fiction. While this is definitely a dark story, it isn't over the top gory or violent. If you're not a big fan of horror, don't be put off by the title. This is well worth your time.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book Spotlight: The Blood of the Fifth Knight by E.M. Powell

It's time for another book spotlight! Evil conspirators are trying to overthrow the King of England, and one man is trying to help, but at what cost. Let's take a peek shall we? 

England, 1176. King Henry II has imprisoned his rebellious Queen for her failed attempt to overthrow him. But with her conspirators still at large and a failed assassination attempt on his beautiful mistress, Rosamund Clifford, the King must take
action to preserve his reign.

Desperate, Henry turns to the only man he trusts: a man whose skills have saved him once before. Sir Benedict Palmer answers the call, mistakenly believing that his family will remain safe while he attends to his King.

As Palmer races to secure his King’s throne, neither man senses the hand of a brilliant schemer, a mystery figure loyal to Henry's traitorous Queen who will stop at nothing to see the King defeated.

The Blood of the Fifth Knight is an intricate medieval murder mystery and worthy sequel to E.M. Powell's acclaimed historical thriller The Fifth Knight.
Grab it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble today!
Palmer ran across the deserted courtyard, headed for the silent bell that hung high in its centre. The sharp smell of smoke cut the damp night air.

‘Fire! Awake!’ His shouts echoed into the silence as he undid the neatly coiled stout rope and twisted this way, that, looking for any sign that folk in the many buildings had heard. He pulled down hard, and the big bell swung above him in the first peal. ‘Fire!’ He shouted again, tugged hard on the rope to make as much and as loud a clamour as he could.

Lights flickered at windows—one, two, then several at once. People were stirring, throwing shutters open.

Palmer pulled hard and fast on the rope, his shouts drowned out by the bell’s loud call.

He tipped his head back to check the tower. The glow had brightened in the windows. A lick of flame shot from one and dropped back. The fire was gaining in strength. He dropped his gaze to the main door of the tower. Firmly closed. No sign of Rosamund, no sign of anyone fleeing from within.

Over the clangs of the bell, he heard faint shouts from the main part of the palace. But still no stir from the tower. He flung the rope from his hand, the bell’s work done in waking folk up.

Palmer ran to the tower’s door and turned the large metal handle. Unlocked. Good for him to get in. But bad that no one had come out. Rosamund was up there, and Geoffrey had said he’d posted guards. Nothing could be holding anyone back except the flames. He wrenched the door open. Inside, smoke hazed the air. A wooden spiral staircase led upwards from the narrow vestibule.

Cupping his hands to his mouth, he shouted upwards. ‘Wake up! Wake up! The tower’s afire!’

Nothing from above.

He filled his lungs for another shout and drew in smoke. He coughed it out and shouted again. ‘Awake!’

Still nothing.

Palmer looked back out to the courtyard. The bell hung silent now. Should he ring it more, push the urgency?

A few sparks drifted down in the darkness, the start of a lethal blizzard.

Faith, Rosamund was only a girl. She could be cowering where she thought she was safe, not realizing that smoke brought death as sure as the flames. He had to go up.

Palmer climbed the curving wooden staircase, two, three steps at a time.

‘Guards, stir yourselves!’ The smoke thickened, stung his eyes and nose as well as his throat. And still no response.

He climbed on, breath fast and deep with his exertion as his lungs pulled in dirty air. His spittle thickened, along with water streaming from his eyes. He knuckled at them, trying to clear them. Each step up became harder, his legs weighing more as he raised them again and again.

Finally: a landing. Though he could scarce see through the hot, stinging fug, he could make out a smaller staircase at the other end. He must be close now. Stumbling the few steps across it, his foot caught on a large object. He bent low and his fingers found the metal of chainmail. One of the guards, face down on the floor.

‘Stir yourself!’ A storm of coughing broke with the effort of his words. He shook the man hard but there came no reply, no movement.

Palmer peered around.

Another form lay close by. Surely not? He moved to it, keeping low, heartsick at what he might find. A large body. More chainmail. Another guard, this man as unmoving as the other.

The smoke must have felled them suddenly. Too suddenly. But even if they yet lived, he couldn’t save them. They were too far gone. His own chest tightened worse than ever. And he still hadn’t found Rosamund.

Searching the nearby floor with careful quick hands, his fingers closed on what he sought. The handle of a sword.

As he went to carry on, he heard a shrill scream from above.

‘Rosamund!’ He shot to his feet into thick smoke and bad air. Doubling over, he retched his stomach empty of sour bile. ‘Rosamund!’ He ran low and swift to the next staircase and looked up.

A worse challenge than the smoke. Fuelled by air from narrow windows, flames ate at it, the heat pulsing at his face and head.

‘Help me! For the love of God!’

Rosamund. Her screams held pure terror.

Palmer ducked, his forearm across his face. He charged up the burning stairs, fire stinging his flesh and singeing his hair in a hissing stench. He stumbled from the top step onto a small corridor, a closed door facing him. He flung himself at the handle, sleeve pulled over his hand to grasp the hot metal. It wouldn’t budge.

‘It’s me, Benedict!’ His voice came hoarse. ‘Open the door!’

‘I can’t, I can’t! It’s locked!’

Palmer swore. The guards must have the keys. But he couldn’t waste time fighting his way back down. ‘Stand back from the door, Rosamund. Stand well back’. He raised the sword high and hit it against the door.

The wood gave.

Coughing hard, he swung again. This time, he broke through. Raising a boot, he kicked three, four times. Then he was in.

‘Benedict’. Rosamund cowered beneath the window, wearing only her shift, her eyes streaming from terror and smoke. ‘You came for me’. She choked into rasping coughs and sobs.

Palmer strode into the room and grabbed her by the arm. ‘We need to get out of here. We have little time’.

‘Back through there?’ Her eyes widened in horror as she stared past him at the burning staircase.

‘Yes’. He yanked a small, heavy wool tapestry from the wall. ‘Cover your head with this. Hair catches the worst’.

She followed his order but still didn’t move. ‘I don’t think I can’.

‘You can’. He flung an arm across her shoulders and hauled her from the room towards the top of the stairs.

The flames leapt fiercer, higher then when he’d ran through just minutes before. He hesitated for a moment.

The burning wood gave a loud creak, followed by sharp, loud cracks. Then the staircase collapsed in a cascade of burning wood, throwing out sparks and a wave of intense, new heat.

There was no way out now.

E. M. Powell is the author of medieval thriller The Fifth Knight, which was a #1 Amazon Bestseller. Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in the northwest of England with her husband and daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society (HNS), International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America, as well as a reviewer of fiction and nonfiction for the HNS.
Her latest book is the historical mystery/thriller, THE BLOOD OF THE FIFTH KNIGHT.

E.M Powell's contact:  


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