Tag Archives: mystery

The best historical who-dunnit…EVER!

Okay, I know the title of this post is a little over the top, but January must be the month for brilliant books. Seriously, I’ve just finished ‘A Star in the Sky’ and I’m in awe of the author’s talent. Under the ‘Look Inside’ you’ll find the review I just left for ‘A Star in the Sky’ on Amazon. 5/5 of course.

Not only does the author, Zichao Deng, [d.z.c. for short] make the world of the ancient Mayans come alive in all its barbaric splendour, he’s also created a murder mystery which could only have occurred in that time!

This is no ordinary murder disguised with a thin vineer of history. Every clue, every backward step, every twist and turn of the plot is woven out of the facts of that world:

  • The man who died was poisoned,
  • The poison was the same poison as used on darts, but he was not shot,
  • In fact, there did not appear to be any way for him to have been poisoned at all,
  • The politics of the situation could have seen the death explained away as ‘magic’, but
  • The female doctor who is charged with investigating the death refuses to allow either politics or superstition to get in the way of the facts, or logic.

And, like the very best who-dunnits, the clues are there all along, but the great reveal doesn’t happen until the very end. In fact, there are two reveals and the second is even more astonishing than the first.

‘A Star in the Sky’ kept me reading when I should have been doing other things, and that was despite not dumbing down the names and Mayan words sprinkled gently throughout the story.

I love alien sounding names, so I had no trouble with the female doctor being called ‘Lady Tz’unun’. I likewise had no trouble with the name of the Queen – Sak K’uk – at least, not inside my own head. As a reader, all I wanted to do was identify the character, so who cares whether my pronunciation was accurate or not? And those names were part of the reason I knew I was not in Kansas any more.

Another thing I loved about ‘A Star in the Sky’ was the richness of the characters. Lady Tz’unun may be the Sherlock Holmes of the story, but her servant Three Rabbits, plus the Queen’s councillor, the Ti’sakhuun are all part of an ensemble cast that just work, individually and as group. The story is finished but I still want to know more about them, and I definitely want to know more about their slice of history.

I sincerely hope that Zichao Deng has more murder mysteries for Lady Tz’unun and her team to solve. Simply brilliant.

My review won’t go live on Amazon for a few more hours, so I’ll just leave you with a concept drawing done by the author himself:

a-star-in-the-sky-concept-drawing

You’re welcome đŸ˜€

Meeks

 


#Innerscape part 10 – the thriller I had no intention of writing

I’m in way over my head! I write sci-fi, not thrillers or mysteries…so how did I get to a point where I’m having to work out time differentials for the plot?

Before I try to explain what’s been driving me crazy, I need to say that all of my favourite sci-fi books weave together a mix of history, culture, psychology, politics, technology, conflict and an element of mystery. Think Dune, and working out the relationship of the great worms to the planet’s ecology. All of that is normal because good sci-fi creates worlds, and worlds are full of people, and people do ‘stuff’.

I understand all that, especially the bit about people doing ‘stuff’. My problem is that I never expected the characters in Innerscape to finish up doing mystery thriller type stuff.

I’ve read mystery thriller type books by the boat load, but there is a world of difference between reading in a genre and trying to write in that genre. I feel as if I’m groping for the ‘rules’ on the fly, and it’s hard. Integrating the requirements of mystery/thrillers into a sci-fi environment is even harder, and at the moment I’m stuck on ‘time’.

To make the plot work, various people have to do various things, together and in sequence, so I have to know when things happen, right down to the last minute. But…in order to make the Residents of Innerscape feel as if they are living for longer, time in Innerscape runs faster than time on the outside. About twenty minutes faster.

As an aspect of science fiction, this time differential between Innerscape and the outside world is not a big deal. I do some hand waving and a bit of arithmetic and the time flows make sense. Easy peasey…until I introduce the twin elements of mystery and thriller to the mix. Suddenly the difference between Innerscape time and real world time matters, a lot. So does how I present this conflict between internal and external time.

Right from the beginning of Innerscape, I’ve worked hard to make the reader feel as if time really is passing, hopefully without hitting them over the head with dates and durations and elapsed blah blah. Now, though, I’ve reached a point where I really am going to have to elevate time to the position of Very Important Plot Element, and I’m struggling.

The pic below is a screenshot of the StoryBox navigation pane for Part 10. It’s one of the reasons I love StoryBox as it allows me to outline, more or less on the fly:

innerscape navigation time

 

As an outline, the pic only makes sense to me [just as well or I’d have to post a Spoiler Alert!]. But it does show how I’m trying to work out what happens when.

Sadly, the reason I’m writing this post is that I’m sort of stumped…and procrastinating. Once I finish the post, I’m going to have to resort to pen and paper to storyboard the exact sequence of events because at the moment, I feel horribly muddled. -sigh-

If there are any thriller/mystery writers out there with tips, I’d love to hear them.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 


Death of Choice – Ilil Arbel

Well over a year ago, my friend Ilil Arbel brought out a delightful detective story set in the flapper era. That story was called Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch, and you can read my 5 star review here.

I wish I could tell you that Ilil has brought out a second volume in the adventures of Madame Koska, but I can’t. However I can tell you that she has contributed a story to the anthology called ‘Death of Choice’.

Ilil Arbel anthology

If you click on the picture it should take you to the Amazon page where you can do the ‘look inside’ thing.:) To be honest, I didn’t look inside because I know how good Ilil’s writing is, but don’t take my word for it. Look inside and enjoy!

cheers

Meeks


Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch – a review

This is my 130th post on Meeka’s Mind and it seemed rather appropriate to celebrate that milestone by reviewing the book I finished reading at 1 am this morning.

I’ve know Ilil Arbel, author of Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch, for a long time now, [by online standards], so I knew she was an accomplished artist, meticulous researcher and a prolific author, but I was not aware of her sense of fun, until now. đŸ™‚ Apologies for the back-handed compliment Ilil – it’s the aussie way!

When I finished reading Madame Koska I had a big grin on my face. This morning, the word ‘fun’ just popped into my head. Good, clean fun. The word we use to describe some of our happiest memories. You know the ones – they have a sort of warm, golden halo around them. Well, that was how Madame Koska made me feel!

Okay, I’ve probably teased long enough. You don’t want my subjective waffle, you want facts and facts you shall have!

Madame Koska is a mystery set in the flapper period of the 20th century and tells the story of a small group of Russian nobility who have been exiled from Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution. As a mystery, the story has all the elements I associate with the genre – lots of subtle clues that make you suspect literally everyone and a protagonist [Madame Koska herself] who is both likable and very clever. But not a professional sleuth.

If a comparison is needed, then Madame Koska is a little bit like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. Unlike Miss Marple though, Madame Vera Koska is both incredibly stylish and sexy. Another point of difference is that Madame Koska has forged a place for herself in a man’s world and is doing nicely, thank you very much!

Forgive me if I slip into a little subjective waffle again, but I really, really related to Madame Koska! She has all the get up and go I wish I had had, at ‘that certain age’. She is independent, brave without being a Xena-warrior-princess, and strong willed. The fact that she is also a talented fashion designer and always looks elegant is something I might dream of if I were not sitting here in my trackie daks and ugg boots*.

And then there is Mr Korolenko, a Russian Ă©migrĂ© with a scandalous past and an ambiguous present. He is sexy in a very erudite, gentlemanly way, but could he also be a criminal? I did say Ilil kept me guessing didn’t I?

Beyond the delightful characters and the clever unravelling of ‘The Mystery’, the book has something else that truly delighted me. To explain what I mean I’m going to have to ask you to picture the setting of Jim Cameron’s Titanic. Think back to the sheer beauty of everything the camera touched. From the table settings to the lush garments of the upper crust guests, the movie shrieked style and opulence. I wanted to be there. Well, not on the ill-fated Titanic exactly, but in a time and place where such over-the-top beauty was the norm, at least for some.

Can you see it? Well, Madame Koska transported me to that world for a few short hours. I’m not saying the novel didn’t have some gritty moments – as in the opium den for example – but the overall feel was one of elegance and style. And the slightly exotic flavour imparted by the Russian-centric characters immersed me in a ‘vorld’ I had never visited before. It’s a world I would like to visit again and I truly hope Ilil continues the adventures of Madame Koska in the future! Highly recommended. đŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks

*trackie daks = track pants

*ugg boots are sinfully warm, comfortable, sheep-skin boots. If you don’t own a pair then you don’t know what you are missing. đŸ™‚


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