The Dance of the Serpents

The Dance of the Serpents, Oscar de Muriel

5/5 stars!

Ah, another incredible addition to the Frey & McGray Series. The Dance of the Serpents is a delayed follow-up of the events from the second book in the series, A Fever of the Blood. If you’re new around here you can check out my reviews of the previous books here, however I will give a brief overview of how this book relates back to the second.

A Fever of the Blood deals with the Lancashire witches and ends with McGray killing two of those witches who just so happen to be Queen Victoria’s go-to-guys for contacting her late husband. The Dance of the Serpents commences with the prime minister informing the detective duo of this and the Queen’s desire to see them both dead. The calculating prime minister comes up with an ultimatum for them though. He offers them full resources and a few of his chaperoning goons to accompany them in hopes that they can find some of the scattered members of the witch coven; who could potentially fulfil the Queen’s desires in the occult. This quest is no doubt Frey & McGray’s most dangerous yet, with both various witches trying to kill them along the way as well as the Prime minister’s goons sabotaging them at every turn.

Note: spoilers from here on out, proceed with caution.

Overall this book is a wonderful addition to the series. It has everything you would want to a Frey & McGray tale; clever and tense plot twists, complex characters and an intriguing storyline to suck you in. I will say that given how it relates back to the second book, I doubt very much that it could standalone and wouldn’t recommend it to someone without them having experienced A Fever of the Blood.

The storyline was impeccable. I must admit reading Oscar de Muriel’s previous works have trained my eye to scrutinise every twist and turn of his tales, scanning for any clues as to whose responsible but this book just completely side-swipped me. It was intricate and beautifully curated – Muriel truly left nothing to chance.

How could you do this? This book is a relic! It was already ancient when Henry VIII chose his first trollop!

Frey

Frey & McGray make for a hilarious duo. Ever witty, sarcastic and just all-round perfectly contrasted to one another and yet completely in-sync at the same time. The balance between the two characters is just spot on. Every book I feel like I notice shifts in their dynamic and how they’ve become more in tune with one another. Not just them but also their households have this terrific dynamic which is just amazing to behold.

Caroline Aldglass makes a stunning return. She is a key part of the story but also a great addition to the duo. She has such knowledge and wit, challenging the detective duo whilst also assisting them and just all round kicking things up a notch by being a total badass b!tch. There were moments of tension between her and Frey, like a mild, victorian version of Rachel and Ross from the Friends. Ultimately, I loved her in this book and would love to see her become a permanent character in future books.

Other characters I really appreciated were the return of some familiar witches such as Nettle and Oakley. I found it really interesting having the followup with them and seeing how their lives turned out after the chaos at the end of A Fever of the Blood. The prime minister, Lord Salisbury and his goons were the epitome of high-up, elite tw@ts that you really want to opportunity to smack in the gob. I mean, Boss was so irritating to me. I yearned to see him get killed in the most violent of ways. The depiction of Queen Victoria was so humorous to me. Just the whole bratty vibe was spot on for me.

Overall this book was just brilliant. Almost everything was spot on for me… BUT, yes there’s a but. I have a slight issue with the ending. Usually Frey mentions the reports and papers they’ll have to file following the events, and the various inquests, etc but this had none of that. Instead the book comes to a close as Frey has retreated to his Gloucestershire estate to recover from the hectic events. McGray visits him saying he guessed Frey wouldn’t be returning, to which Frey replies no ***GASP/HORROR/SHOCK/BETRAYAL… never ending plethora of mixed emotions***. McGray, touchingly, seemed dejected and I joined him in the mutual feeling. The prospect of no more additions and therefore, no more adventures for the duo is quite a bleak one for me although I am hoping it’s Muriel’s cunning plan to make Frey return with gusto to a sarcastic McGray saying “thought we got rid of ye, dandy”. In my mind that’s how I want things to unravel but if not, I’ll be quite happy with just the promise of more to come. (…as I’m about to schedule this post, Oscar de Muriel has actually made an announcement about the next addition to the series. I won’t go into it but I’ll just leave a lil link here for you).

Now I’ve never actually published my fave of the series in order, despite having discussed it at great length with my unwilling boyfriend; but I think I want to do that here (favourite-least favourite).

  1. Loch of the Dead
  2. The Dance of the Serpents
  3. The Strings of Murder
  4. The Darker Arts
  5. A Fever of the Blood
  6. A Mask of Shadows

I, as you can probably tell, love this series of books. Let me know what you think of them, I’d love to know.

Cheerio for now!

The Darker Arts

The Darker Arts, Oscar de Muriel

You only need to look at my book posts on here to know that I love Oscar de Muriel’s books. His Frey & McGray series is without a doubt my favourite series of all time (yes, I would even say above A Series of Unfortunate Events). So when I saw back in June that the fifth book in the series was to be released in August, I clicked that preorder button like my life depended on it and then did a happy dance whilst marking it on my calendar (blacking out a day or two to devour it for when it arrived).

*Now, before I go on -I must put a brief disclaimer here. While I don’t discuss major spoilers, or give a play-by-play account of what happens in this instalment to the series, I do detail a quick run-through of the overall premise of the book. Now if you are like my boyfriend and liked to go into a book or film completely blind to what will happen, then I would personally skip over the next paragraph so you don’t ruin anything for yourself.

The book picks up in Edinburgh, 1889 after the fatal events of the last book, The Loch of the Dead. The ‘closed-room seance murder’ is as dark and spooky as murder mysteries come, especially when the only survivor claims to have seen the hand of the devil appear. Those involved, and murdered that night, all have one thing in common Grannie Alice: the matriarch of the family, who held an important secret that her family members are desperate to find out. Attempting to communicate with her, those involved find themselves killed in the most terrifying way: something so terrifying that even Madame Katerina, the gypsy fortune teller, is petrified beyond belief. With Katerina as the only survivor she is of-course the culprit or at least, in everyones eyes but Inspector Nine-Nails McGray. With his fierce protection over her he pulls in his colleague Inspector Frey to help prove her innocence. With so many conflicting factors to the case, it seems that in an age of superstition Madame Katerina’s fate is sealed.

Oscar de Muriel’s ensemble of characters is by far superior to any cast of characters I have ever encountered before. They are so diversely interwoven with one another that you have to remember all the other factors that link them to the murder: which makes plot twists and motives absolutely gripping. I have to say, the last ten chapters are just beautifully written and entirely addictive. Once you reach a certain turning point there is simply no putting the book down.

While the fourth book, The Loch of the Dead, is still my favourite I must say I applaud Oscar de Muriel on what a tremendous job he did with this addition to the series. I did not know what to expect from this book. Having enjoyed the fourth so much I really was apprehensive to dive into this next one. As much as I was excited for it, I also held it an arms length in my mind and had a mental ‘proceed with caution’ sign on it. The middle section did lag a little at a certain point but now having read it in its entirety, I must say that the lag was necessary to give the reader a breather before it picks up and reaches its apex of the story.

Ultimately, this is a wonderful addition to the series of Frey & McGray mysteries and although it isn’t my favourite, I would say it’s one of them. I would highly recommend this series to anyone, they are an absolutely fantastic series of books which I personally think should be a part of everyones home library.

Cheerio for now!

Book Review: A Mask of Shadows

A Mask of Shadows, Oscar De Muriel  
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First of all, I’d like to say that if you are not familiar with any of the previous Frey & McGray cases then you can read my reviews for them here; where I have reviewed both The Strings of Murder and A Fever of the Blood
 
A Mask of Shadows starts in London 1889, before moving onto the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland. A bout of terror haunts the acclaimed production of Macbeth, as well as their beloved celebrities, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, along with other actors, seamstresses, and stage hands. In the opening chapter, set in London, the first chilling event happens. As the actors’ soak in their final applause, hell ensues with the screeching cry of a Banshee and a gruesome message, smeared across the stage sets, prophesizing someone’s death. The tale takes place a short time after A Fever of the Blood and so, our narrator brings up his superstitions once more as he and McGray are assigned this case, shortly after the Macbeth cast and production arrive in the City. What follows are numerous plot twists, along with a long list of suspects within the play, behind the scenes and even onlookers and relatives who could all have a motive to kill or even reasons to be killed themselves.

As I stated in my review of A Fever of the Blood, you never know what to expect when you have already read and loved the original book. For me, I loved both the previous books, the first being my favourite, so before reading this book I wondered if maybe the author had peaked (like some do) or whether the characters were starting the die out. Having read it, I can say neither of those points is true. The storyline and characters were very well thought out, although I did think that there were a little too many names and characters involved at times which got a little overwhelming for me reading it. I also think that the end was left a little open which usually I wouldn’t mind but in this case, there were so many questions that were unanswered which left it all rather loose and deflating for me. 

My favourite thing about this edition to the casebooks were the characters we already know from the previous editions i.e. Frey & McGray, Elgie, the family of Freys, Madam Katrina, etc. I always love seeing the progression of Frey & McGrays’ relationship and so, reading this book I loved watching them become more and more so friends rather than colleagues who just put up with one another. I must say, I also adore the Victorian era these books are set in. It gives the books a grimmer vibe to them which I really enjoy. 
 
The next edition of the Frey & McGray cases is The Loch of the Dead, which will be released next year on the 5th April. You can pre-order it here.

Have you read A Mask of Shadows or any of the accompanying books? What did you think? 
Cheerio for now! 
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Book Review: A Fever of the Blood

A Fever of the Blood, Oscar de Muriel 
 In this second case of Frey and McGrays, what starts as a simple inquest into a patient escape and a nurses death at an asylum ensues into a manhunt far beyond their jurisdiction of Edinburgh and down to Pendle Hill, home of the Lancashire Witches. The pair becomes intwined in the dangerous world of black magic which makes for an avalanche of plot twists and adrenaline-packed scenes which keep you turning the pages.

A Fever of the Blood was an amazing read. I was apprehensive before reading this because I loved The Strings of Murder so much however, it pulled through and made for a great read. I will always love the contrast between Frey and McGray, and in my opinion, their relationship is really what gives the story that extra ‘something-something‘ for me.

The next book in this series is A Mask of Shadows, which I already have on my window ledge waiting to crack open. If you haven’t already read my review of the first book, The Strings of Murder, then you can do so here. Stay tuned for what I think of the next book. 

Have you ever read any of these books, what did you think? 
Cheerio for now! 
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Book Review: The Strings of Murder

The Strings of Murder, by Oscar De Muriel 
After becoming hooked on the darker books, like Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and The Hound of Baskervilles, I was finding it difficult to become interested in any other reads. Nothing seemed to grip my attention enough. Then this book came along. 
 
The book is centered around the murder of the violinist Guilleum Fontaine in Edinburgh 1888, who was murdered in a room locked from the inside with no way in or out. The case is perplexing, gruesome and, in the fearful age of the Ripper, to be handled with the utmost secrecy. Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Frey to Edinburgh to work on the case under a fake department specialising in the supernatural. The department is the perfect illusion to work on a case of such importance in secrecy, especially considering Frey’s new boss Detective ‘Nine-Nails’ McGray holds such an infamous reputation in the area. 
 
I’m not one for gruesome elements to stories, however, I enjoyed the darker elements to this book. I think because it was based in the era of the ripper and because of the nature of the storyline, it was written in a very subtle way, instead of being too graphic with details. I also really enjoyed seeing the development of the relationship between Frey and McGray, especially considering they are complete opposites to one another. 
 
This story had so many plot twists and was filled with many interesting details to the storyline which keeps you hooked to the story constantly. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves murder mysteries, puzzles or even just books that keep you on the edge of your seat. I’d particularly recommend to anyone who likes Sherlock Holmes novels. The bond between Frey and McGray isn’t as respectful or open-minded as that of Sherlock and Watson, however, their bickering, digs, and swearing towards one another add a humorous element to the story. 
 
This is the first book in a series of books with Frey and McGray, the second is A Fever of the Blood and the third is A Mask of Shadows. Both of which I have posts coming up on.  
 
What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations? 
Cheerio for now! 
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