I’ve been wanting to read a book by Alex Martin for quite a while. The Rose Trail particularly caught my eye, but has been languishing on my kindle for a couple of years now: the forthcoming Narberth Book Fair gave me the very best of reasons to finally give it a try. Restless spirits might not be entirely my kind of thing, but timeslip most certainly is: published in December 2016 for kindle, also available in paperback, I was surprised to see only 18 reviews on Amazon for this book, and it has to be said that some of them are decidedly sniffy (technical term…). Well, there’ll be no sniffiness from this reviewer. That B.R.A.G. Medallion and Chill With A Book award were thoroughly deserved – I really enjoyed it.
Can a golden pomander contain the power of the past through the scent of roses it carries?
Fay, lost and lonely, feels trapped and unable to move on from tragedy. Haunted by restless spirits her life is not her own. When she meets an old rival she is drawn into a chain of events that both terrifies and fascinates her.
Meadowsweet Manor is also unable to escape its own tragic history from the English Civil War. Only when Fay follows a trail of roses back through hundreds of years can she unlock its secrets and redeem her own.
Is it chance that brings Fay and Persephone together? Or is it the restless and malevolent spirit who stalks them both?
Once rivals, they must now unite if they are to survive the mysterious trail of roses they are forced to follow into a dangerous, war torn past.
Timeslip stories can miss their mark should one of the threads be stronger than the other, but the balance of this book was just perfect. In the present day, I loved Fay and Percy (a short form of Persephone that’s so much nicer than the one her husband uses…), two very different and wonderfully drawn characters. Fay’s ability to see dead people has always marked her out as “different”, and I loved the fact that she decided to suppress it by becoming an accountant (what better way to quieten rebellious spirits, eh?). Their partnership as amateur sleuths is so very well done – there’s a wonderful wry humour, with a touch of near slapstick at times that I really enjoyed, and a rather lovely developing warmth to their unlikely friendship. Fay’s personal history is heartbreaking, and I did like the way it was woven into the story alongside the main historical thread – and its resolution most definitely brought a tear to my eye.
I can be a bit of a wuss about restless spirits and the supernatural, but was relatively comfortable with the content here – it’s suitably disturbing in places, as it needed to be, but the touches of humour lightened things rather nicely. The transitions between the timelines were excellent, and very convincing. And then there’s the historical thread, which I thought was just wonderful, a superbly researched and presented story of the 17th century: strong and well-rounded characters, a family divided over the issues of the day and the love of a woman, with fascinating insights into the political situation and the religious divide, scenes of war vividly and compellingly described. The Battle of Roundway Hill was an event I wasn’t previously aware of, and the book brought it to life for me – and it’s always rather good when you can extend your knowledge while enjoying a novel. In fact, I particularly liked the way location was used to anchor and trigger events across the timelines, particularly the hill itself and the surrounds and labyrinthine depths of Meadowsweet Manor.
What I really did want to say though is that this was an absolutely cracking story, that I raced through in a couple of sittings, and thoroughly enjoyed. There’s enough historical depth to satisfy the most ardent fan of the finer detail, but not too much to put off the reader who might prefer the sleuthing and supernatural touches. I’m guessing it’s unlikely to happen – I know the author’s focus is more on her Katherine Wheel series at present – but I’d love to see this book’s characters developed into a series, as there’s considerably more mileage in that lovely partnership of Fay and Percy. I really loved this book – and Alex, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long!
About the author (from the Narberth Book Fair website)
The Plotting Shed is at the bottom of my garden and is where I can be found bashing both brain and keyboard in an attempt to express those thoughts and ideas that have been cooking since I was seven and read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It was a genuine light-bulb moment when I finished that excellent story and closed its covers. I knew deep-down in my soul that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I had inherited an old black and gold typewriter and, when I wasn’t skinning my knees climbing trees or wandering aimlessly in the countryside with my dog and my dreams, I could be found, as now, typing away with imaginary friends whispering in my ear, but it was many years before I had the confidence to publish any of them.
Now I have five novels on Amazon and a collection of 3 short stories, called Trio (a free copy of which is available at The Plotting Shed).
My first novel, The Twisted Vine, is based on a happy time picking grapes in France in the 1980s. I met some amazing people there but none as outrageous as those that sprang to life on my screen.
Daffodils, the first in The Katherine Wheel Trilogy (and currently free for kindle readers), is quite a different book and is based in Wiltshire where I grew up. It attempts to portray how ordinary lives and the rigid social order were radically altered by the catalyst of the First World War.
The sequel, Peace Lily, takes the characters into 1919 after the armistice. They each have to carve out a new life in the aftermath of the great war and find their way into the new modern age.
The next book is Speedwell, when the four protagonists race into the motoring era of the roaring ‘twenties.
I’m now working on a fourth book in this series, which I’ve already mapped out (Woodbine and Ivy), and this will be set in the second world war, taking the story into the next generation.
Meanwhile, I’ve published something totally different. The Rose Trail is a ghost story with the English Civil War as its backdrop. The story slips between the time of the English civil war and the present day and is woven with a supernatural thread.