Author: The Medieval Murderers, 2008.
Genre: Historical Murder Mystery. Science Fiction (1 story)
Other Details: Large Print Paperback. 528 pages.
The Medieval Murderers are a group of British writers who specialise in historical murder mysteries. They are Michael Jecks, Susanna Gregory, Bernard Knight, Ian Morson, Philip Gooden and C. J. Sansom. Rather than write an anthology of short stories, they hit on the idea of each writing a novella that would build up into a coherent tale. Each book has a relic that passes from one hand to another down the centuries, allowing each author to feature their own main characters, usually from the series that they are best known for.
As for the plot of this one: Michael Jerks writes on the web page dedicated to the book: A mysterious book of prophecies written by a sixth century Irish monk has puzzled scholars through the ages. Foretelling wars, plagues and rebellions, the Black Book of Bran is said to have predicted the Black Death and the Gunpowder Plot. It is even said to foresee the Day of Judgement. But is it the result of divine inspiration or the ravings of a madman? A hidden hoard of Saxon gold. A poisoned priest. A monk skinned alive in Westminster Abbey. Only one thing is certain: whoever comes into possession of the cursed book meets a gruesome and untimely end.
This is their fifth collaboration though the first one I have read. Aside from Sansom, I hadn't previously read the other authors' series though this didn't detract from my enjoyment as each author did give a thumbnail back story of their main protagonist. Each are accomplished in their own way and the tales gave me a taster of each author's style and characters. Still I was surprised that of all the stories, it was C.J. Sansom's one set in the future that gripped me the most.
Lost Prophecies web page - gives more details on the stories and who wrote what.
Author: Bill Bryson, 2006.
Genre: Memoir. 1950s-1960s USA.
Other Details: Paperback. 404 pages.
"My kid days were pretty good ones, on the whole. My parents were patient and kind and approximately normal. They didn’t chain me in the cellar. They didn’t call me “It.” I was born a boy and allowed to stay that way. My mother, as you’ll see, sent me to school once in Capri pants, but otherwise there was little trauma in my upbringing."
Subtitled: Travels Through My Childhood, I rather loved that he opened with this declaration of it not being a misery memoir. Bryson grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and as much as this is a memoir of his childhood, it also chronicles aspects of American culture during the 1950s and early 60s.
Although this was quite funny in places, it was also tinged with sadness for a time now lost outside of an episode of Mad Men As I grew up in the same period as Bill Bryson there was a lot here I could relate to even though I was growing up in Canada. Therefore, this was very much a trip down memory lane for me. It was a selection for the library reading group I attend and it was notable that it had more appeal to members who recalled the period themselves.
Bill Bryson on the book (YouTube)