Review – The Stars Were Right

The Stars Were Right

The Stars Were Right by K.M. Alexander

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Stars Were Right by K. M. Alexander
Reviewed of a TBRindr copy from the author.

This is a noirish murder mystery in a post-Lovecraftian apocalypse city, when “the stars aligned” and various nefarious beasties arose to send the world into chaos. Now, however, things are overall OK, and the world seems at peace. It just happens to be populated by various non-human sentient races in addition to traditional humanity.

The story follows a caravan master named Mal Bell who returns from a voyage only to end up accused of an increasing number of murders–all the victims being people connected to his life. He goes on the run from police as well as the murderers he tries to clear his name and survive to the next day.

This was a fun little noir in the classic “fugitive” tradition. The characters were well built and natural, and the dialog was very smooth. I was eager to follow Mal’s story to the end, and I was satisfied when I got there. This book kept the tension up and paced it right, and stuck a solid ending.

The Lovecraftian trappings, though, often struck me as just that: trappings. There are references galore to the mythos, and to other elements of classic weird literature, but in many cases they don’t really impact the story. The fundamental conflict centers around a reference to Arthur Machen’s work, but in many ways this same story could have been told about a cult in New York. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think a lot of fans of the Mythos works will feel slightly unfulfilled.

Apart from that, there are certain structural elements of the story that don’t work for me. The opening flashback strikes me as mildly confusing, because it’s actually a flashforward to something that happens in the first quarter of the book. However the book had no typos that I noticed, and the overall structure was pretty tight.

I enjoyed the book, and I was satisfied in the end.
That’s all you can ask for, in the end!

I’d like to thank the author for the opportunity to read and review!

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Resurrection Fireplace – Review

The Resurrection Fireplace

The Resurrection Fireplace by Hiroko Minagawa

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Resurrection Fireplace by Hiroko Minagawa, Translation by Matt Trayvaud

In 18th Century London, a group of anatomy students and their professor get caught up in murder, fraud, and confusion as deception piles on deception in this whirlwind mystery.

This is far and away one of the most intricate, convoluted plots I’ve read in recent years. There are lies within lies, plots within plots, and crimes both real and imagined. The villains are revealed, then changed, and finally, when all is made clear, the light comes on and you realize the clues were there all along… Or were they?

It’s a trip, and one well worth taking.

This is the rare Japanese novel that doesn’t revel in its Japanese-ness. It does a wonderful job of evoking the grime, corruption and class heirarchy of Georgian London without exoticizing it, although there are certain times with the exposition of cultural norms can feel heavy for people familiar with the setting (as most Japanese audiences definitely aren’t).

The overall pace is smooth and fast, and the characters are well-drawn. The misery of the underclass is played out without pandering, as well. I quite enjoyed the irreverence of the anatomy students at their grisly work, but there are definitely sections that might turn off the squeamish. The violence is not gratuitous, but anatomists in 1700s London dealt in rotting flesh and death. It’s not pretty.

I will say that the last section, where everything was tied together, felt a bit rushed and entirely over-complicated, but it seems to fit the overall tone of the story well. I was genuinely taken by surprise by one or two turns, but it was not confusing at all.

Let me say one thing about the translation: This was masterful. I am a professional translator of Japanese to English, and the mere thought of some of the challenges this book brought (the use of original Middle English poetry?! Translated from Japanese?! Holy moly…) makes me dizzy. The language is natural, and the characters have clear voices, and the translation never gets in your face as “translation.” It’s outstanding.

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