Category Archives: Historical

Insanity – Cameron Jace

I’ll be honest, I knew nothing of Cameron Jace…never heard of him, never seen any of his work when one day I received an email from an ebook service that I subscribe to that described one of his books that was on sale (OK free) and the description intrigued me…since the price was right I went and “purchased” it.  I didn’t get around to reading it for quite some time but finally did just before the holidays.

According to Mr. Jace’s web site, he isn’t a professional writer but likes writing stories that he always wanted to read but couldn’t find already done. There’s really not much more I can tell you about the author…which bothers me as I tend to like to know at least something about the author I’m reading so I can get an idea of how their background and experiences have molded their writing.

Insanity is the first book of a series of books that he refers to collectively as Insanity; however, I think a more accurate title would be the Wonderland Wars….but, we’ll see.

Years ago, I purchased and absolutely adored a computer game called American McGee’s Alice.  It tells a very dark tale of Alice (as in Alice in Wonderland) who accidentally set fire to her home as a child which resulted in everything and everyone she loved to be destroyed or killed.  She gets institutionalized in an insane asylum and is eventually called back to a much more dark and twisted Wonderland.

The reason I mention this game is because Mr. Jace’s stories have a striking resemblance to the concept (but not execution).  In Insanity, Alice Wonder is in an institution for having killed her classmates on a school bus.  There she meets Professor Pillar, a serial killer (a-la Hannibal Lector) who believes that she is “THE” Alice and that he is The Caterpiller from Wonderland.  Together they are trying to stop a Wonderland monster that is in the real world who is brutally killing people, leaving a sewn up grin on their faces.

The story is at turns bizarre, humorous, educational and dark…very much like the real Alice In Wonderland books.

Honestly, I could not put the book down (a rarity for me).  Once finished, I actually wrote a review on Amazon.com…which I seldom do and have never done so for a freebie.  I have since purchased the collection for the first 3 ebooks and will likely buy books 4 and 5 (I think that’s as far as it goes so far).   Honestly, I was afraid to start book 2 since often books that may have been intended to be one-off frequently doesn’t translate well into a series, completely changes the characters or changes the sense of wonder…..so far, I’m happy to report that book 2 “Figment” is every bit as much fun as book 1 although perhaps a bit darker.

 

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Except The Dying – Maureen Jennings

Maureen Jennings was born in 1939 in Birmingham, England; however, she moved to Windsor, Ontario, Canada with her mother at the age of seventeen in 1956.  She graduated with a M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto around 1965.  In 1966 she taught English at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute.  She left for a career as a psychotherapist in 1972 and published her first novel, “Except the Dying” in 1997.

This is one of those rare occasions where I first saw a TV movie which prompted me to read the source material.   Having seen “Murdoch Mysteries” listed in a promo clip from a DVD release of something published by Acorn Media, it looked interesting.  I rented the “series” which in reality were three movies that were produced staring Peter Outerbridge in the role of Detective Murdoch.  The first movie was an adaptation of Except the Dying with a number of significant differences between the book and the movie; however, they both stand well in their own rights….well, enough about the movie, what about the book?

Maureen Jennings is nothing if not exacting in her research of her adopted country and city’s past.  The novel takes place in turn of the late 19th century Toronto where William Murdoch is a Catholic police detective investigating the murder of young girl found drugged, strangled and nude in an alley in the red light district in the middle of Winter.  It is later discovered the girl was pregnant but everyone believes she was a prostitute, except for Murdoch.  Murdoch must investigate despite resistance from his superiors, because he dares interview and suspect members of Toronto society.

The novel is well written, completely engrossing and paints an incredibly vivid picture of Victorian-era Toronto following a massive tuberculosis outbreak and bitter winter where many buildings are still abandoned.  TB is still an ever present threat, some of those closest to Murdoch are dying of it, poverty is rampant and the divide between the haves and have-nots is  wide although even those that have are not all living as lavishly as they once did.  The mystery is ever present and it’s hard sometimes to remember that some of the investigative techniques that we take for granted (thanks to TV, movies, etc…) were just beginning to come into existence, such as fingerprints.

I highly recommend the novels.

The movies are good, but not for the squeamish and with some fascinatingly creepy (and titillating dream sequences).

The long running TV series, known as “The Murdoch Mysteries” in Canada and the UK and currently airing on Ovation in the US as “The Artful Detective”, which is based on the characters less than the novels can be hilarious and entertaining.

If you enjoy this, please read:

  • Under the Dragon’s Tail
  • Poor Tom Is Cold
  • Let Loose The Dogs
  • Night’s child
  • Vices Of My Blood
  • A Journeyman to Grief