The killer in this novel by Canadian author Daniel Kalla is not a person. The killer is the bubonic plague. Alana Vaughan is an infectious disease specialist with NATO and is called to Genoa, Italy, to attend a patient suffering from the disease. Could it be bioterrorism or is there another explanation?
Alternating between the modern story with Alana Vaughan and the story contained in an eight-hundred-year-old medieval journal, Kalla pulls no punches when describing the horrible progression of this usually fatal disease and the suffering of its victims.
The clock is ticking as Vaughan and her team hunt for patient zero. As the disease spreads, it’s a race to stop it from reaching epidemic proportions.
A great thriller that’s hard to put down once you read the first page.
The one word that comes to mind when I describe this book is “bland”. Everything about it is bland – the characters, the atmosphere (or lack thereof), the language, and the story. It just doesn’t live up to the intriguing title and I found it to be a real disappointment.
It is 1919, just after WWI, though it could be any time as the author does nothing concrete to make the reader aware of when the events are taking place. In the Derbyshire village of Wenfield, young women are being murdered and found with a dead dove stuffed into their mouths. When the local constabulary is unable to make any headway in finding the killer, Inspector Albert Lincoln of Scotland Yard is called in to handle the case. However, Lincoln’s personal problems and his general inertia leave the reader with little confidence in his abilities to do his job properly.
The story unfolds sluggishly, and even the surprise ending cannot redeem it.
Ava is thrust into a violent and volatile situation when her good friend, Xu, the Mountain Master, asks her to settle a triad war that has broken out in Hong Kong because he is too ill to leave his bed. She is forced to work against her arch enemy Sammy Wing and his nephew Carter – the new Mountain Master of Sha Tin – as they attempt to regain control of Wanchai.
Hamilton provides a comprehensive summary of Ava’s adventures to this point, providing any new reader with enough backstory to make the events in this novel understandable. However, I always recommend that one reads a series from the beginning as there are often subtle references in previous novels that become germane to subsequent stories.
The violence is ramped up in this novel and Ava is forced to do things that she’d rather not have to. Uncle’s presence is felt more than it ever has been since he died, almost as if he is reassuring Ava that she is following the right path. Her years of working as a forensic accountant have trained her well in approaching complex problems and she falls back on the tricks of the trade that she polished to perfection with Uncle by her side.
Offsetting the violence, Hamilton provides a subplot involving Pang Fai, Ava’s friend and lover, which opens the door to some interesting potential plots. I wonder if he’ll incorporate them in his next novel, The Diamond Queen of Singapore, due out in July 2020.
DEAD MEN’S BONES (4 daggers out of 5) PRAYER FOR THE DEAD (5 daggers out of 5)
There’s never just one case at a time that Tony McLean is handed. Nor is it ever a couple of “normal” cases, easily solved, that land in his lap. First he finds himself ankle-deep in snow, peering into the gully of the River North Esk as the SOC officers retrieve the body of a man from the swirling, detritus-filled waters. Easy enough, he thinks, until he bends down to examine the man and discovers that not only is he naked, but his entire body is covered in tattoos with only a few traces of white skin visible. So begins Dead Men’s Bones, Oswald’s fourth book in his Tony McLean series. But before McLean can get back to the station, he’s alerted to a shooting at a farmhouse in north-east Fife. A prominent politician, Andrew Weatherly has shot and killed his wife, two daughters, and then has turned the gun on himself.
When journalist Jo Dalgliesh approaches McLean to ask for his help in finding Ben Stevenson, a fellow journalist who has gone missing, McLean is shocked beyond belief when Ben’s body is found deep in Gilmerton Cove in a sealed chamber, with nary a hair left behind for forensics. Prayer for the Dead takes McLean on a dark and dangerous path, one that he never imagined even existed.
Both of these novels are darker and more disturbing in their content as Oswald brings in more facets of the occult and deviant behaviour. But Tony is never completely on his own tackling the forces of evil. He’s supported by a cast of wonderful characters from Grumpy Bob (DS Laird), Angus Cadwallader, the pathologist, and DS Ritchie, to Madame Rose and Detective Superintendent Duguid (a perfect foil to McLean). These novels are not for the faint of heart!