Author Archives: M. D. Benoit

Book Review: La Biblioteca Perduta dell’Alchimista

La biblioteca perduta dell'alchimista (Trilogia del mercante di Reliquie, #2)La biblioteca perduta dell’alchimista by Marcello Simoni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second in the trilogy featuring Ignazio di Toledo, a merchant whose only religion is the acquisition of knowledge. Ignazio lives in the beginning of the 13th century when knowledge is considered not only often dangerous but often heretical. Nevertheless, he has a reputation for finding, collecting and selling rare books, often written by the Arabs, and often dealing with alchemy. His vast travels through the Occident and the Orient have won him a reputation for being able to solve arcane mysteries.

The story begins as Ferdinand III of Spain charges Ignazio to find and liberate his cousin, Blanche de Castille, regent of France and mother Louis IX, who was kidnapped and is supposedly kept in a mysterious castle called Airagne. Along the way he is charged with finding an important philosophy text that may be the key to solving the mystery of the Count of Nigredo, involved in Blanche’s kidnapping.

Simoni is a great storyteller, more akin to Agatha Christie than Umberto Eco, although there are similarities to Name of the Rose, specifically its Medieval setting, and the erudite main character. The story is steeped in the history of the time, the protagonists are fallible heroes, the villains appropriately traitorous and villainous, and the surprising twist at the end makes this book a particularly satisfying read.

Note: Although I started with the second book in the trilogy, the books can be read out of sequence.

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Book Review: Knots and Crosses

Knots and Crosses (Inspector Rebus, #1)Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had not read Ian Rankin before, so decided to start with his first Inspector Rebus mystery.

The novel was first published in 1987 and it’s a bit of a shock to read a modern story that has no computers, no Internet, no cell phones, or any of the communications devices we use today. It makes for a much slower story.

Rebus is an Edinburgh police inspector struggling with what we would call today PTSD, a failed marriage, and keeping touch with a daughter he barely knows. We get to see the seedier side of the city where alcohol, drugs, and thieves flourish.

The story starts with the abduction and subsequent murder of two teenage girls and leads us into a search for the identity of the killer.

Rankin draws a portrait of a man who is fumbling through life and his job. The story is more about how he can continue to function day after day without breaking down than about his abilities as a policeman and how he solves the murders. It is disconcerting and defies expectations, while at the same time somewhat disappointing. The prose is strong if not elegant, but I found it a slow read, which is unusual in a mystery.

Rankin’s first book was a good enough read for me to try his second, but not enough to rave about it.

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Sorcerer’s Heir Excerpt

She screamed. Every cell of her body burned, as if he’d poured a vat of hot oil over her. She blacked out for a second but the need to protect Hugh made her push back the dark. The pain was excruciating –her insides were boiling. With another cry, she collapsed on the ground. She could hear Ramsay’s footsteps getting closer. Desperate, she raised her hands, visualized a dust devil, and muttered, “Air. Push at my enemy. Earth. Rise and blind him.” She hit her hand with her fist then flung it open toward Ramsay.

A whirlwind rose between them. She heard him yell and watched the dust devil she’d imagined—about three feet wide and eight feet high—advance on him. It was almost opaque from the debris it had picked up. He threw his hands up to protect his eyes and backed away.

Her body still burned. The dust wouldn’t hold Ramsay very long. She crawled as fast as she could to Hugh, who was still out. She couldn’t see tell if he was breathing.

Behind her, silence fell. It gave her a bad feeling. As quickly as she could she grabbed Hugh under the arms, then pulled and dragged him toward the front porch, head bowed with the effort. She wasn’t sure how she was going to make it up the stairs—he was heavy and she was in serious pain.

“Cute,” Ramsay said. He began advancing again.

At the last minute, she remembered her personal shield and raised it. Another blast slammed into her, cutting her air, but this time it didn’t hurt. Good thing, she thought, because a second dose of Ramsay’s boiling oil treatment would have finished her. She kept dragging Hugh, trying to keep her shield up at the same time. Added to the pain, her muscles had begun to shake. She was close to collapse.

“I want you gone,” she said through clenched teeth.

Ramsay chuckled. He walked a step closer. “Sorry, little girl. Your trick won’t work on me twice.”

He threw his hand up and power slammed into her shield again. Her brain was sluggish with fatigue; her eyes were becoming blurry.

“Why do you bother with him? He’s dead.” Another step.

Then it came to her. He used heat. Maybe she could use cold. “Air and Water,” she muttered very fast under her breath, “form a cage of ice around my enemy.” She dropped her shield on the last word. She let go of one of Hugh’s shoulders, struck her open palm, then made an arc in the air, and threw the spell at Ramsay.

At the same time, he flung another wave of power, but she could see it coming and dodged most of it. It caught her on the shoulder, and she moaned in pain. The burn was twice as bad this time. She closed her eyes and tried to put up her shield. Deep inside her, energy sparked, then fizzled. She was out of juice.

Buy Sorcerer’s Heir, available in ebook and paperback


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New Novel to Be Published

SorcerersHeirI am thrilled to announce that my new Urban Fantasy novel, Sorcerer’s Heir, will be published on 5 October by Amber Quill Press.

Is one woman enough against such powerful, timeless sorcery?

Pragmatic, cynical Jane Brockwell never gave magic a thought, so it comes as a shock when she wakes up one day with magical powers and the ability to see the future through terrifying visions.
Almost immediately, she becomes embroiled in competing Guilds of witches and warlocks who want to recruit her. But it is soon obvious that her magic is different and immeasurably powerful, perhaps as potent as that of Demos the Great, the most revered and reviled sorcerer of all time, who lived in 300AD.
Is Jane the descendant and heir of Demos, and a sorceress herself? Garrick Ramsay, an ambitious, ruthless and powerful warlock believes so and sees her as a threat to his ambitions. He attacks her, nearly killing her and Hugh MacLean, her boss and love interest. Ramsay is relentless in his pursuit of them; a dark, hovering presence surrounds him and, with each encounter, he seems to be gaining strength. Jane and Hugh begin to wonder if there may not be a more sinister force guiding Ramsay’s actions. Where did Ramsay get the Book of Secrets, a grimoire of spells from the Dark Arts? And how important is the Void, a place between worlds Jane can use to travel? Could it be the key that unlocks the mystery of the dark presence that seems to support Ramsay?
Unwillingly dragged into a world not of her choosing, Jane will stop at nothing to neutralize Ramsay and protect the allies she makes along the way.

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