The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin

the-moving-toyshop I can’t remember where or when I first heard about this book, but I’ve been interested in reading it for a long time and was pleased to see that it had been made available through NetGalley. It was worth the wait because it was every bit as much fun to read as I had thought and hoped it would be.

The novel opens with poet Richard Cadogan on his way to Oxford, where he hopes to find some literary inspiration. Arriving in the city just before midnight, he is surprised to find a shop with the door unlocked and goes inside to investigate. Inside he finds nothing but toys – ‘Meccano sets, engines, dolls and dolls’ houses, painted bricks, and lead soldiers’ – but venturing up the stairs at the back of the shop, he stumbles across the dead body of an elderly woman on the floor.

Before Cadogan can react, someone hits him on the head and he wakes up to find himself locked in a tiny room used for storing cleaning products. He manages to escape through a window and wastes no time in informing the police – but when they accompany him to the street the next morning, the toyshop is gone and in its place is a grocer’s which looks as though it has been there all the time. How could a shop possibly disappear overnight? Feeling that the police aren’t taking him seriously, Cadogan calls on his friend, Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford University, Gervase Fen. Fen has some experience of solving mysteries (there are two previous novels in this series, which I haven’t read – The Case of the Gilded Fly and Holy Disorders) and he agrees to help Cadogan investigate.

With the main characters being a poet and an English professor, the dialogue between them is clever and witty, filled with literary allusions and wordplay. When they need a break from crime solving, they amuse themselves by playing games with titles such as Detestable Characters in Fiction. I’m sure we can all think of plenty of those!

“Got you!” said Fen triumphantly. “You miss your turn. Those vulgar little man-hunting minxes in Pride and Prejudice.”

At this exultant shout the muffled, rabbity man at the nearby table frowned, got unsteadily to his feet, and came over to them.

“Sir,” he said, interrupting Cadogan’s offering of Richard Feverel, “surely I did not hear you speaking disrespectfully of the immortal Jane?”

But the literary references are not always just for fun…they form an important part of the plot too. As a mystery involving wills, inheritances, unscrupulous lawyers and small spotted dogs begins to unfold, Fen and Cadogan discover that a knowledge of Edward Lear’s limericks will be useful in deciphering some of the clues. I loved this aspect of the novel; it was so imaginative and made up for the fact that the mystery itself is not a particularly strong one. The plot relies heavily on coincidences, improbabilities and things which are so far-fetched as to be ridiculous – but none of that really mattered to me. I was left with the impression that the author had as much fun writing this book as I had reading it.

Published in 1946, The Moving Toyshop is the third of Edmund Crispin’s Gervase Fen novels but it stands alone perfectly and I didn’t feel that I was at any disadvantage because of not having read the first two books. I’m sure I’ll be tempted to pick up one of the other books in the series soon!

Orphans of the Carnival by Carol Birch

orphans-of-the-carnival It’s been more than five years since I read Carol Birch’s excellent Jamrach’s Menagerie, an adventure novel set in the Victorian period; I had intended to go back and explore her earlier books, but that never happened, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to read her new one, Orphans of the Carnival. It’s a very different book from Jamrach, but just as fascinating in its own way.

Orphans of the Carnival is the story of Julia Pastrana, a Mexican woman born in 1834 with a rare genetic condition, hypertrichosis terminalis, which has resulted in her face and body being covered in thick black hair. In addition to this, Julia also has a jutting jaw and thick gums and lips, caused by another condition called gingival hyperplasia. Julia is an intelligent, talented woman – as well as speaking three languages, she sings and dances well enough to build a career for herself in the circuses and theatres of 19th century America and Europe. However, she knows that the crowds who come to watch are not really interested in her musical ability; they just want to marvel at her unusual looks.

Interspersed with Julia’s story is the story of another woman, this time one who lives in London in the 1980s. Her name is Rose and she’s a hoarder – she hoards useless items she finds in the street, things that other people have thrown away. Near the beginning of the novel, she brings home an old, discarded doll which she names Tattoo; the doll provides a link between Julia and Rose, but we won’t find out exactly what the connection is until we reach the end of the book.

This is an unusual and moving novel based on the life of a real person. Yes, Julia Pastrana really existed and you can easily find pictures and information about her online. Although I didn’t know anything about Julia before I read this book, it seems that Carol Birch has followed the known historical facts as far as possible while using her imagination to fill in the gaps. The novel is written in the third person but mainly from Julia’s perspective and by the end I felt that I knew her well.

julia-pastrana Julia is a gentle and sensitive woman, and also quite an innocent and vulnerable one, largely because she has spent so much time sheltered from the outside world, living with friends and colleagues from the circus and carnival circuit and hiding her face behind a veil when she does venture out in public. I had a lot of sympathy for Julia; I’m sure there would be medical treatment and support available for someone born with her conditions today, but in the 1800s there was nothing that could be done. I felt bad for her when she reads a review of one of her performances describing her not just as ugly (which she was prepared to accept) but also as ‘an insult to decency’ – and again when her show is closed down on advice from a doctor who claims that the sight of her face could be harmful to pregnant women.

Eventually, Julia meets Theodore Lent, the man who is to become both her manager and her husband. I found it hard to tell what Theo really thought about Julia. He does seem to have some affection for her, but he also appears to be much more interested in the money to be made than he is in Julia as a person. It’s so sad when Julia, who just wants a husband who loves her, says to Theo: “It’s not love though, is it? Not like it is with other people. Real humans.”

Julia’s story is interesting and compelling, but I don’t think the 1980s sections add very much – in fact, they are just a distraction. The characters aren’t developed in anywhere near as much depth as the historical ones and although I did appreciate the eventual shocking revelation which links the two storylines together, I didn’t feel that it was really necessary.

This isn’t a perfect book, then, and it’s also not one that I can say I ‘enjoyed’ as I found it quite uncomfortable to read (not because of what Julia looks like, but because of the way other people treat her and respond to her). It’s certainly worth reading, though, and I’m glad I’ve had the chance to learn a little bit about the life of Julia Pastrana.

Thanks to Canongate Books for providing a review copy via NetGalley.

The Bookish Time Travel Tag

By now you’ve probably seen versions of the Bookish Time Travel Tag appearing on other blogs or maybe even taken part in it yourself. I was tagged by Jane at Beyond Eden Rock and although it has taken me a while to put my post together, it’s finally ready! I’ve had fun coming up with my answers to the questions and would like to thank both Jane and The Library Lizard, whose original idea this was.


1. What is your favourite historical setting for a book?

I couldn’t possibly give just one answer to this question – as someone who loves reading historical fiction, I find most historical settings interesting! A few that I particularly enjoy are:

* Medieval England
* Renaissance Italy
* The First and Second World Wars
* The English Civil War and Restoration
* The Tudor and Elizabethan periods

Sunne in Splendour I also love the Victorian period – as well as reading historical fiction set in that era, many of my favourite classics were also written in the 19th century.

But if I have to choose one favourite historical setting, it would have to be the Wars of the Roses. I hadn’t read anything set in that period until just a few years ago, but beginning with The White Queen by Philippa Gregory and then The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman, I’ve been reading everything I can find on the subject.


2. What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?

I’m not sure about this one. In most cases, I prefer to just enjoy an author’s writing without knowing too much about them as a person – and I think if I did meet one of my favourite authors, I would probably be too shy to say very much anyway. I’ve always found the Brontës interesting to read about, however, so I would pay them a visit at Haworth Parsonage and see if they were really as they’ve been portrayed.


3. What book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?

thetalismanring There are a lot of authors I’ve only discovered in recent years (thanks to book blogging) who I know I would have loved when I was younger. I would give my younger self copies of Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart and The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer because I’m sure working through the many novels of both of those authors would have given me hours of pleasure as a teenager.

I would also take Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, both books I’ve read and loved in the last few years but which I think would also have been perfect for the younger me.


4.What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?

I remember reading The Professor’s House by Willa Cather and thinking that it might be a book I would appreciate more if I was older, so maybe I would give that one to my older self to see what she thinks of it. Otherwise, I’ll leave her to decide for herself what she wants to read. One thing is certain: if my TBR continues to grow at its current alarming rate, she’ll never run out of books to choose from!


5. What is your favourite futuristic setting from a book?

The Time Machine I don’t read a lot of books set in the future – I much prefer books set in the past – and of the few futuristic novels I have read, I can’t really say that any of the settings particularly appealed to me. The first book that comes to mind here is The Time Machine by HG Wells which takes us forward in time to the year 802,701, an eerie and unsettling world in which the human race has evolved into two species, the Eloi and the Morlocks. I found it a bleak and depressing view of the future, so can hardly describe it as a favourite!


6. What is your favourite book that is set in a different time period (can be historical or futuristic)?

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett Well, after my answer to the previous question you won’t be surprised to hear that I won’t be mentioning any futuristic books here – my favourites are all historical! This could be a long list, but I’ve limited myself to five.

The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman
The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett (technically six books, but I couldn’t single out one of them)
Katherine by Anya Seton
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Far Pavilions by MM Kaye

If I can also include books written in a different time period – but not strictly ‘historical’ – my list would be even longer and would include some of the following (again I’ve restricted my choices to five):

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


7. Spoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?

No, never. I like to be surprised by all the twists and turns of a story and I’m always disappointed when I inadvertently come across a spoiler. There have been times when I’ve flicked through the pages ahead looking for a chapter break and seen something I would rather not have known, so I’m always very careful now. I avoid reading introductions in books for the same reason.


8. If you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?

I don’t think I would like to travel into the future, but with my interest in history, I would find it fascinating to go back to any earlier time and see how people lived. Of course, some time periods are more dangerous than others, so I would have to think carefully about when and where it would be safe to go! I would only want to observe; I would be too afraid to do anything that might change the course of history, tempting as it might be in some cases.

Imperium From a literary point of view, I think it would be interesting to spend some time in the 19th century so I could read those wonderful classic novels while they were being serialised week by week, as the authors intended. While I’m there, I would like to go and see one of Charles Dickens’s public readings (I remember reading about this in The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl and lamenting the fact that we don’t have any recordings to listen to).

Which reminds me that when I was reading the Cicero trilogy by Robert Harris recently, I kept thinking how great it would be to sit there in the senate in Ancient Rome, listening to Cicero’s famous speeches, so maybe I could go further back in time and do that as well.


9. Favourite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?

The House on the Strand I have always loved reading about time travel – one of my favourite books as a child was Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle. As for books set in multiple time periods, I’ve read a lot of those too. Again, I could put a long list of books together in answer to this question but I’ve forced myself to just choose a few.

The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier
Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd (no time travel but set in many different periods!)


10. What book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?

And Then There Were None I would like to be able to read Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None again without knowing the solution to the mystery. This also applies to any other mystery novel, I suppose, or any book with a clever twist – they can still be enjoyed on a re-read, but it’s not the same when you know what’s going to happen!

I do enjoy revisiting my favourite books – there are some on my shelves that I’ve read over and over again, so many times I’ve lost count – but the first read is always very special. Reading the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett for the first time in 2012 was the greatest reading experience I’ve had since I started blogging. I remember my surprise on reaching a point in the first book, The Game of Kings, where things suddenly became much clearer and a certain character’s behaviour started to make a lot more sense; I would like to be able to recapture that moment!


Now I’m supposed to tag other people who I think might like to take part, but as so many of the bloggers I follow have already been tagged and I’ve lost track of who has and who hasn’t – I’m simply going to tag anyone who wants to join in! If you decide to do this yourself, please let me know in the comments. I would love to see your answers.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

magpie-murders It’s been nearly a week since I finished reading the wonderful Magpie Murders, but it wasn’t until this morning that I felt able to start writing my review. I loved it – it’s one of my books of the year, without a doubt – but I’ve spent a lot of time staring at a blank screen wondering what I could possibly say about it that would explain exactly why I loved it without spoiling things for future readers in the process. The reason I’ve found this such a difficult book to write about is because it’s a mystery novel which contains not just one mystery, but two – and part of the fun was in not only trying to solve each one, but also in discovering the connections between the two.

The novel opens with Susan Ryeland, editor for Cloverleaf Books, a small, independent publisher, settling down to read the latest manuscript from bestselling author, Alan Conway. Conway has achieved enormous success with his series of Golden-Age-style crime novels featuring the detective Atticus Pünd. Susan has never liked the author but she loves his books and has high hopes for his new one, Magpie Murders.

We are then given the privilege of reading the manuscript of Magpie Murders in – almost, but not quite – its entirety. This story-within-a-story is set in the 1950s in the little English village of Saxby-on-Avon. One of the villagers, Mary Blakiston, has been found dead at the bottom of the stairs in Pye Hall, where she worked as a cleaner, and Pünd has been called in to investigate. The story has everything you would expect from a classic whodunnit – plenty of red herrings, some intriguing clues, a long list of suspects all with secrets to hide, an eccentric detective and his hapless sidekick. It’s a real treat for anyone who enjoys reading Agatha Christie!

Eventually the manuscript comes to an end and we return to the present day, where a second mystery, every bit as perplexing as the one we have just been reading, is beginning to take shape. As Susan tries to draw parallels between the fictional world of Saxby-on-Avon and the private life of its creator, Alan Conway, she finds that Magpie Murders really is one of those life-changing books which, until now, she thought were just a cliché.

This is one of the most compelling mystery novels I’ve read for a long time. Both the fictional story and the ‘real life’ one had me completely gripped, trying to figure out which clues were important and which were designed to mislead us, who had a valid alibi and who didn’t…needless to say, I failed to solve either of the mysteries and fell into most of the traps that had been set for the reader. I didn’t mind, though – I was happy just to watch everything unfold as more information came to light and secrets were revealed.

There were so many other things to enjoy…the insights into the publishing world, the little puzzles and word games woven into the plot, even the chapter titles based on the One for Sorrow nursery rhyme. My only disappointment is that the rest of the Atticus Pünd mysteries referred to in the novel don’t really exist. I loved Alan Conway’s Magpie Murders so much I’m now desperate to read Atticus Pünd Investigates, Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, Gin & Cyanide, and all of the others – apart from maybe Night Comes Calling, but I’m not telling you why!

This is the first of Anthony Horowitz’s adult novels I’ve read, although I do remember, as a child, reading one of his Diamond Brothers detective stories. His recent Sherlock Holmes novels The House of Silk and Moriarty didn’t appeal, but now I’m wondering if I should give them a try. Has anyone read them? And have I convinced you to read Magpie Murders? I hope so!

Thanks to Orion for providing a review copy via NetGalley

The 1947 Club: The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie

1947-club-pink This week, Karen (of Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings) and Simon (of Stuck in a Book) are hosting a 1947 Club. The idea is that we all read and review books which were published in 1947, forming an overview of the literary world in that particular year. Having enjoyed the books I read for the first two clubs – 1924 and 1938 – I’ve been looking forward to taking part in this one.

First, here are some reviews of 1947 novels previously posted on my blog:

The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger

I can highly recommend all three of those – and I also enjoyed the book I chose to read for the club: Agatha Christie’s The Labours of Hercules. I love Christie and as it’s been a while since I read one of her books, I was pleased to find that she’d had one published in 1947!

the-labours-of-hercules The Labours of Hercules begins with a foreword in which we learn that Hercule Poirot is planning to retire from crime-solving and devote himself to the growing of marrows. Before giving up detective work for good, he decides to take on twelve more cases, each inspired by one of the twelve Labours of Hercules from Greek mythology. This is in response to a friend who has pointed out that although Poirot may be Herculean by name, he is hardly Herculean by nature!

The foreword is followed by twelve stories, each one a complete mystery in itself. If you’re familiar with the original Labours of Hercules (Poirot himself admits to having no knowledge of the Classics and has to do some research before beginning his mission), you will know that the first one involves the slaying of the Nemean Lion. The ‘lion’ of Poirot’s first Labour is slightly less terrifying – a Pekinese dog stolen during a walk in the park – but it forms the basis of a case which is much more intriguing than it initially appears. The other stories in the book are also loosely related to the Labours but instead of tackling monsters and wild beasts, Poirot finds himself facing an assortment of thieves, drug dealers, kidnappers and murderers.

Until now, I have only read full-length Poirot novels and have avoided the short story collections as I often find short stories disappointing, lacking the depth and complexity I prefer in longer books. However, this particular collection is surprisingly satisfying; fun to read, nicely varied and with at least one clever twist in each story. I’m not going to discuss all of them here, but a few of my favourites were The Stymphalean Birds, in which Poirot attempts to rescue a British politician from the clutches of a pair of blackmailers, and The Cretan Bull, where a young woman seeks Poirot’s help after her fiancé ends their engagement because he fears he’s going insane. I also enjoyed The Erymanthian Boar, set in a hotel on top of a mountain in Switzerland to which Poirot has travelled in the hope of disturbing a rendezvous arranged by a dangerous Parisian gangster.

Poirot is very much alone throughout most of his adventures in this book. We don’t see anything of Captain Hastings, but other recurring characters from the series do make an appearance in some of the stories, including Chief Inspector Japp, Poirot’s valet, Georges, and his secretary, Miss Lemon (I loved her brief but hilarious role in the final story, The Capture of Cerberus, when Poirot asks her what she would do if a friend wanted to meet her in Hell).

Apart from one or two stories towards the end which I found slightly weaker than the others, I really enjoyed reading this collection. I’m sorry that I’m not going to have time to read anything else this week for the 1947 Club, but I’m pleased that the one book I have read proved to be such a good choice!

Top Ten Tuesday: Recommendations

Top Ten Tuesday

For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) we are asked to list ten books we read because they were recommended to us. Most of my recommendations these days come from reading other bloggers’ reviews and from comments left on my own blog – and while I’m grateful to everyone who has recommended a book I’ve gone on to enjoy, I would find it difficult to single out just a few of them. For the purpose of this Top Ten, then, I’ve chosen ten recommendations I received from other sources – some are recent and some are from years ago, some were successful recommendations and some weren’t.


1. Recommended by my mother


Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

I think I was about sixteen when my mother persuaded me to try Gone with the Wind. I loved it and quickly went on to read more of the family sagas and sweeping historical novels she recommended, including The Thorn Birds, Roots, All the Rivers Run, The Far Pavilions and John Jakes’ North and South Trilogy.


2. Recommended by my father


Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock

My dad is not a big reader – and his reading tastes are very different from mine anyway – but Michael Moorcock’s fantasy novels were among the few books he did recommend to me and which, as a young teenager, I really enjoyed. His Elric stories were my favourites and I had fun rediscovering them a few years ago.


3. Recommended by my English teacher

Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

This wasn’t a very successful recommendation. My teacher knew I had enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and recommended Mansfield Park next; unfortunately I found it very difficult to get into and it put me off reading anything else by Austen for years. I loved it on a recent re-read, which I suppose is proof that reading tastes can change over time. The same teacher had been much more successful with his recommendations of To Kill a Mockingbird and Animal Farm, by the way!


4. Recommended by Goodreads

Watch the Wall My Darling - Jane Aiken Hodge

Watch the Wall, My Darling by Jane Aiken Hodge

This was a more recent recommendation; I spotted it in the “Readers Also Enjoyed” section on Goodreads after reading Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart. It wasn’t as good as the Stewart novel, but still an enjoyable Gothic romance.


5. Recommended by my sister

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg

My sister loves reading as much as I do but we aren’t usually drawn to the same books. This was a book she read for her English Literature degree and she thought I would like it. She was right; it was one of my books of the year in 2013!


6. Recommended by Amazon


Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

I don’t usually pay much attention to Amazon’s recommendations but that’s how I discovered Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, shortly after it was first published. I was browsing through the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” section, clicked on the red cover and was so intrigued by the description that I ordered the book.


7. Recommended by my uncle


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

My uncle (another of the book lovers in our family) gave me Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder for my fifteenth birthday. When I told him I had loved it, he recommended Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, another book on philosophy. I found it an interesting read – although I’m sure I didn’t understand half of it – but I don’t think it’s the type of book I would choose to read today.


8. Recommended by a friend

Review: Watership Down by Richard Adams

Watership Down by Richard Adams

This is the earliest recommendation on my list. I think I must have been ten years old when I noticed Watership Down on my best friend’s bookshelf; she told me it was her favourite book and Fiver was her favourite rabbit. It wasn’t long before I read it myself and it immediately became my favourite book too – although Bigwig was my favourite rabbit, not Fiver. I still loved it when I re-read the book as an adult a few years ago.


9. Recommended by Jo March

The Heir of Redclyffe

The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M Yonge

Actually, it was Lisa’s review that made me decide to read this book, but Jo March also reads it in Little Women. She is discovered in the attic “eating apples and crying over The Heir of Redclyffe”. After reading the book for myself I could understand why she was crying!


10. Recommended by…you?


Now it’s over to you. If you could recommend just one book to me, what would it be? Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned in this post and if so, what did you think of them? What’s the best book you’ve read based purely on someone else’s recommendation?

Historical Musings #19: The Halloween edition

Historical Musings October is here and has brought with it (in my part of the UK at least) a change in the weather, longer, darker nights and a distinctly autumnal feel. With Halloween just a few weeks away, I thought it would be fun to give this month’s Historical Musings post a seasonal theme! I would love to hear about any historical novels you’ve read which deal with any of the following subjects:

  • Witches and witchcraft
  • Magic (black or white)
  • Ghosts and hauntings
  • Vampires/zombies/werewolves/monsters or other supernatural beings of any kind

My suggestions:

The Vanishing Witch Karen Maitland is one of the first authors to come to mind when I think about this type of historical fiction. The Vanishing Witch is set during the time of the Peasants’ Revolt and features both ghosts and witchcraft; at the beginning of each chapter is a spell, a piece of folklore or a superstition, which I thought was a nice touch! The Raven’s Head, set in the early 13th century, is a darker novel with a strong supernatural element. I haven’t read her other books yet, but am about to start her new one, The Plague Charmer.

Although I didn’t particularly enjoy it, Katherine Howe’s The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (also published as The Lost Book of Salem) deals with the Salem witch trials. It’s a dual time-frame novel but is set at least partly in the past so I’m including it here.

For those readers who are interested in witches and witchcraft but prefer a gentler read, I can recommend The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge and Thornyhold by Mary Stewart. The first is set during the English Civil War while the latter is set in the 1940s (but published in 1988, which is why I’m classing it as historical here). There’s also Susan Fletcher’s Corrag (also published as Witch Light), a beautifully written novel about the Glencoe Massacre of 1692; the main character and her mother have both been accused of witchcraft due to their knowledge of herbs and healing.

Vlad the Last Confession C.C. Humphreys has written a novel called Vlad: The Last Confession, which tells the story of Vlad the Impaler, the fifteenth century Prince of Wallachia who is thought to have provided at least part of the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This is not actually a vampire novel, but because of the Dracula connection and the dark atmosphere I’m including it here anyway.

There are also two ghostly novels by John Harwood that come to mind: The Séance, a gothic mystery set in Victorian England, and The Ghost Writer, which includes four genuinely chilling short ghost stories supposedly written by a fictitious author in the 1890s.

Finally, there’s Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy, in which our hero and heroine are a vampire and a witch. The first book, A Discovery of Witches, is set in the present day but in the second, Shadow of Night, we travel back in time to 16th century Europe. I’m not sure about the third book as I haven’t read it yet.

Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned here? Can you think of any other historical fiction novels with a ghostly/witchy/magical feel?