author of The Sixth Key, The Seal and Temple of the Grail
The 5 best novels I read this year are…
By Arturo Perez Reverte
Adriana: A retired war photographer lives in a crumbling tower by the sea. He is spending his last days trying to depict on the tower’s interior wall a vast circular mural of war in which landscapes and history fuse together to create a vision of a man made a hell.
When a stranger arrives unannounced the two men begin a long conversation that reveals, not only the reason for the stranger’s visit, but also the motive behind the painter’s obsession.
Blurb: A compelling tale of art, love and war…
A man lives alone in a watchtower by the sea. On the circular walls of the tower he is painting a grand mural – the timeless landscape of a battle. He is a former war photographer and the painting is his attempt to capture the photo he was never able to take; to encapsulate, in an instant, the meaning of war. But one day a stranger knocks on his door and announces that he has come to kill him.
The man is a shadow from his past, one of the myriad faces of war and now the consequences of his actions are brought home to him. As the novel progresses, the story of both the soldier and the artist emerge, entwined with a doomed love affair, and the progress of a painting that is infused with the history of art.
Intense and turbulent this is a book about art, war, love and the human capacity for both violence and empathy. It asks very profound questions about human nature and the role of the artist, but it is also has the intensity of a psychological thriller as the painter trades stories with the man who has come to kill him – like the Knight playing chess with Death in The Seventh Seal….
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Adriana: Sir Charles Baskerville is found mysteriously dead on the grounds of Baskerville Hall. A monstrous creature, a savage beast of legend that haunts the moor is blamed for his death. The great detective Sherlock Holmes has other thoughts. He sends Watson to ensure the safety of the dead man’s heir while he schemes to catch the real culprit. Full of twists and turns!
Blurb: The most famous and thrilling of Sherlock Holmes’s cases.
The Baskerville family curse tells of how a terrifying, supernatural hound roams the moors around Baskerville Hall and preys on members of the family in revenge for a terrible crime committed by one of their ancestors. When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead in his grounds, with a large animal footprint near his lifeless body, the locals are convinced that the hound is back. It is up to Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson to uncover the truth and keep the new heir to Baskerville Hall safe from danger.
By Iain Pears
Adriana: A fellow of New College at Oxford is found dead and a young woman is accused of the crime. The story leading to the incident is seen from four perspectives – all unreliable: an Italian physician; a traitor; a cryptographer and an Oxford antiquarian. Each witness tells his own version of events, but only one version is true. Brilliant!
Blurb: This novel is centred on a suspicious death, that of Robert Grove, fellow of New College. Four witnesses each give their own account of the proceedings, but only one of them is telling the truth.
We are in Oxford in the 1660s – a time, and place, of great intellectual, scientific, religious and political ferment. Robert Grove, a fellow of New College is found dead in suspicious circumstances. A young woman is accused of his murder. We hear about the events surrounding his death from four witnesses: Marco da Cola, a Venetian Catholic intent on claiming credit for the invention of blood transfusion; Jack Prescott, the son of a supposed traitor to the Royalist cause determined to vindicate his father; John Wallis, chief cryptographer to both Cromwell and Charles II, a mathematician, theologican and inveterate plotter; and Anthony Wood, the famous Oxford antiquary. Each witness tells their version of what happened. Only one reveals the extraordinary truth.
“An Instance of the Fingerpost” is a magnificent “tour de force”: an utterly compelling historical mystery story with a plot that twists and turns and keeps the reader guessing until the very last page.
By David Mitchell.
Adriana: Cloud Atlas defies description but here goes!
There are six interlocking short stories that travel through time. They begin in the nineteenth century, culminate in a fallen, distant future at the centre of the book and return again, story by story, to the nineteenth century.
We learn about: an American who falls ill while travelling on a ship across the Pacific Ocean; a young musician who takes a job as an assistant to syphilitic composer; a young female journalist who is investigating an unsafe nuclear power plant; a publisher who is tricked into signing himself into a nursing home; a clone that begins to think independent thoughts; and finally a goatherd on a Hawaiian island in the distant, post apocalyptic future.
Blurb: A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagans California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified dinery server on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each others echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.
In his extraordinary third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanitys dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.
By Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Adriana: The only child of the Marquis de Casalduero is a curious girl. Her hair has not been cut since birth as a pledge to the Virgin for saving her life and wherever she goes, there are reports of strange unexplained occurrences. When she is bitten by a dog and is suspected of suffering rabies she is consigned to the care of a bitter abbess in a Catholic Convent. The abbess suspects the girl of being possessed by demons and calls for a priest to exorcise her, but he falls madly in love with her, with disastrous consequences. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a master of magic realism!
An ash-gray dog with a white blaze on its forehead burst onto the rough terrain of the market on the first Sunday of December…
When a witch doctor appears on the Marquis de Casalduero’s doorstep prophesizing a plague of rabies in their Colombian seaport, he dismisses her claims – until he hears that his young daughter, Sierva Maria, was one of four people bitten by a rabid dog, and the only one to survive. Sierva Maria appears completely unscathed – but as rumours of the plague spread, the Marquis and his wife wonder at her continuing good health.
In a town consumed by superstition, it’s not long before they, and everyone else, put her survival down to a demonic possession and begin to see her supernatural powers as the cause of the town’s woes. Only the young priest charged with exorcising the evil spirit recognizes the girl’s sanity, but can he convince the town that it’s not her that needs healing?
Thanks to Adriana Koulias for sharing her Five Fiction Favourites. Adriana’s latest book “The Sixth Key” is available through Booktopia.
‘In late 2011 a cryptic invitation leads a crime novelist to Venice’s Island of the Dead. Once there he is captivated by his host’s tale, which spans the centuries – but seemingly begins and ends in the dark days of the 1930s …
In 1936, a similarly cryptic invitation brings Grail historian Otto Rahn to an apartment in Berlin. Waiting for him inside is Hitler’s right-hand man, Heinrich Himmler, and Rahn’s life is turned upside down.
For Himmler wants Rahn to locate Les Serpent Rouge, a notorious book of black magic written by Pope Honorius in the 14th century.
Following a trail from Paris down to Carcassone in the South of France, Rahn discovers a web of deceit and murder. Clearly Himmler is not the only powerful figure in search of the grimoire. A shadowy circle of men are watching Rahn’s every move, and they will stop at nothing to possess both the book and the legendary Sixth Key that will unlock its terrifying power…
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.