Pen & Sword Review: Life in Medieval Europe: Fact and Fiction, by Daniele Cybulskie

Life in Medieval Europe

Imprint: Pen & Sword History
ISBN: 9781526733450
Published: 30th September 2019

Price:£12.00 was £14.99

Have you ever found yourself watching a show or reading a novel and wondering what life was really like in the Middle Ages? What did people actually eat? Were they really filthy? And did they ever get to marry for love?

In Life in Medieval Europe: Fact and Fiction, you’ll find fast and fun answer to all your secret questions, from eating and drinking to sex and love. Find out whether people bathed, what they did when they got sick, and what actually happened to people accused of crimes. Learn about medieval table manners, tournaments, and toothpaste, and find out if people really did poop in the moat.

Continue reading “Pen & Sword Review: Life in Medieval Europe: Fact and Fiction, by Daniele Cybulskie”

Unexpected Review: ‘From the Flying Squad to Investigating War Crimes’, by Ron Turnbull

From the Flying Squad to Investigating War Crimes
By Ron Turnbull
Imprint: Pen & Sword True Crime
Pages: 236
Illustrations: 32
ISBN: 9781526758668
Published: 18th November 2019
Price: £15.99

For over ten years he was the first detective on the scene when a murder was committed in south London. In the confusion and horror of the crime scene he identified the forensic clues that would later be needed to convict the killer in the calm and measured atmosphere of the Old Bailey; calling out the necessary experts from pathologists to ballistics specialists; protecting the scene against contamination. One slip and a case would crumble; one moment of inspiration and the Yard would have its man.

He was the natural choice when the UN were looking for an experienced detective to create a trail of evidence linking the mass graves of Bosnia to the people who ordered the worst war crimes seen in Europe since the Second World War.

From the Flying Squad to Investigating War Crimes tells of the rise of forensic evidence against the true story backdrop of a detective who has spent a career at the front line in the war against murder – the ultimate crime. It traces the development of forensic science and techniques from the days of the fingerprint to the battery of tests now available to homicide investigators. It is told in the no nonsense style of a pioneer cop who has seen the worst that human beings can do to each other.
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Pen & Sword book reviews: The Women’s History edition

Thanks to Rosie Crofts, who emails me with lists of books every now and then. I have quite a pile of books to get through so I’m doing themed review posts. In this case, Women’s History. The next one will be ‘True Crime’.

Continue reading “Pen & Sword book reviews: The Women’s History edition”

Colouring book review: ‘Uzbekistan: An experience of cultural treasures to colour’

I do enjoy colouring in when I’m stressed. Or bored. And when this one came up, I just had to accept it.

My Review

The book pairs images of architecture, fabrics, mosaics, carvings and paintings from the last couple of thousand years with line images for the reader to colour in.

The paper is dense and high quality, and I’m scared to get my pencils anywhere near it. It’s so beautiful! And informative. As a cross-roads of cultures and civilisations, Uzbekistan has an artistic legacy that continues to this day.

Thanks to Rosie Crofts at Pen & Sword for sending me this book. I think I’m just going to stroke it a bit rather than try any colouring in.

Bonus Review #2: ‘Margaret Tudor: The Life of Henry VIII’s Sister’, by Melanie Clegg

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 9781473893153
Published: 19th November 2018

Price: £19.99

Format: Hardback


When the thirteen year old Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York, married King James IV of Scotland in a magnificent proxy ceremony held at Richmond Palace in January 1503, no one could have guessed that this pretty, redheaded princess would go on to have a marital career as dramatic and chequered as that of her younger brother Henry VIII.

Left widowed at the age of just twenty three after her husband was killed by her brother’s army at the battle of Flodden, Margaret was made Regent for her young son and was temporarily the most powerful woman in Scotland – until she fell in love with the wrong man, lost everything and was forced to flee the country. In a life that foreshadowed that of her tragic, fascinating granddaughter Mary Queen of Scots, Margaret hurtled from one disaster to the next and ended her life abandoned by virtually everyone: a victim both of her own poor life choices and of the simmering hostility between her son, James V and her brother, Henry VIII.

My Review

Margaret Tudor, the eldest daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Ever heard of her?

As a child she lived in luxury in the royal nursery with Prince Henry and Princess Mary. There were others but they died young, and Prince Arthur had his own household elsewhere. At the age of 13, after losing her brother Prince Arthur, her mother and then her grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, Princess Margaret married King James IV of Scotland, who was 29.

That’s about the time her life got complicated. Poor lass, her first husband slept around on her, her second and third husbands were abusive theives, her brother was a dick to her, she was separated from her daughter, and people who were supposed to support her didn’t. She wasn’t the most intelligent or educated woman and didn’t really care for politics, but she did her best when she was dropped in the muck, to help her son on to the throne and keep him there. She tried to act as peace maker between her husband, and then her son, and her brother, however the distrust between monarchs put paid to all her efforts.

This is a sympathetic and easy to read biography of a rather unfairly obscure but important woman in a formative time in early modern Europe.

November Bonus Review #7

Published By: Pen & Sword

Publication Date: 4th October 2018

I.S.B.N.: 9781526722034

Format: Hardback

Price: £15.99

Purchase Link


She is the most prolific children’s author in history, but Enid Blyton is also the most controversial. A remarkable woman who wrote hundreds of books in a career spanning forty years, even her razor sharp mind could never have predicted her enormous global audience. Now, fifty years after her death, Enid remains a phenomenon, with sales outstripping every rival.

Parents and teachers lobbied against Enid’s books, complaining they were simplistic, repetitive and littered with sexist and snobbish undertones. Blatant racist slurs were particularly shockingly; foreign and working class characters were treated with a distain that horrifies modern readers. But regardless of the criticism, Enid worked until she could not physically write another word, famously producing thousands of words a day hunched over her manual typewriter.

She imaged a more innocent world, where children roamed unsupervised, and problems were solved with midnight feasts or glorious picnics with lashings of ginger beer. Smugglers, thieves, spies and kidnappers were thwarted by fearless gangs who easily outwitted the police, while popular schoolgirls scored winning goals in nail-biting lacrosse matches.

Enid carefully crafted her public image to ensure her fans only knew of this sunny persona, but behind the scenes, she weaved elaborate stories to conceal infidelities, betrayals and unconventional friendships, lied about her childhood and never fully recovered from her parent’s marriage collapsing. She grew up convinced that her beloved father abandoned her for someone he loved more, and few could ever measure up to her impossible standards.

A complex and immature woman, Enid was plagued by insecurities and haunted by a dark past. She was prone to bursts of furious temper, yet was a shrewd businesswoman years ahead of her time. She may not have been particularly likeable, and her stories infuriatingly unimaginative, but she left a vast literary legacy to generations of children.

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November Bonus Review #6

Landru’s SecretPublished By: Pen & Sword

Publication Date: 10th October 2018

Format: Hardback

I.S.B.N.: 9781526715296

Price: £15.99

Purchase Link









On 12 April 1919, the Paris police arrested a bald, short, 50-year-old swindler at his apartment near the Gare du Nord, acting on a lead from a humble housemaid. A century later, Henri Désiré Landru remains the most notorious and enigmatic serial killer in French criminal history, a riddle at the heart of an unsolved murder puzzle.

The official version of Landru’s lethal rampage was so shocking that it almost defied belief. According to the authorities, Landru had made “romantic contact” with 283 women during the First World War, luring ten of them to his country houses outside Paris where he killed them for their money.

Yet no bodies were ever found, while Landru obdurately protested his innocence. “It is for you to prove the deeds of which I am accused,” he sneered at the investigating magistrate.

The true story of l’affaire Landru, buried in the Paris police archives for the past century, was altogether more disturbing. In Landru’s Secret, Richard Tomlinson draws on more than 5,000 pages of original case documents, including witness statements, police reports and private correspondence, to reveal for the first time that:

Landru killed more women than the 10 victims on the charge sheet.

The police failed to trace at least 72 of the women he contacted.

The authorities ignored the key victim who explained why the killings began.

Landru did not kill for money, but to revel in his power over what he called the “feeble sex”.

Lavishly illustrated with previous unpublished photographs, Landru’s Secret is a story for our times: a female revengers’ tragedy starring the mothers and sisters of the missing fiancées, a lethal misogynist and France’s greatest defence lawyer, intent on saving his repulsive client from the guillotine.

Continue reading “November Bonus Review #6”

November Bonus review #5: ‘England’s Witchcraft Trials’, by Willow Winsham


England's Witchcraft TrialsPublished By: Pen & Sword

Publication Date: 6th September 2018

ISBN: 9781473870949

Format: Paperback

Price: £12.99

Purchase Link









Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

With the echo of that chilling injunction hundreds were accused and tried for witchcraft across England throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. With fear and suspicion rife, neighbour could turn against neighbour, friend against friend, with women, men and children alike caught up in the deadly fervour that swept through both village and town.

From the feared “covens” of Pendle Forest to the victims of the unswerving fanaticism of The Witch Finder General, so-called witches were suspected, accused, and dragged into the spotlight to await judgement and their final fate.

Continue reading “November Bonus review #5: ‘England’s Witchcraft Trials’, by Willow Winsham”

November Bonus Review #4: ‘Madness, Murder and Mayhem’, by Kathryn Burtinshaw and Dr. John Burt

Madness, Murder and Mayhem

Published By: Pen & Sword

Publication Date: 2nd October 2018

I.S.B.N.: 9781526734556

Format: Hardback

Price: £15.99


Following an assassination attempt on George III in 1800, new legislation significantly altered the way the criminally insane were treated by the judicial system in Britain. This book explores these changes and explains the rationale for purpose-built criminal lunatic asylums in the Victorian era.

Specific case studies are used to illustrate and describe some of the earliest patients at Broadmoor Hospital – the Criminal Lunatic Asylum for England and Wales and the Criminal Lunatic Department at Perth Prison in Scotland. Chapters examine the mental and social problems that led to crime alongside individuals considered to be weak-minded, imbeciles or idiots. Family murders are explored as well as individuals who killed for gain. An examination of psychiatric evidence is provided to illustrate how often an insanity defence was used in court and the outcome if the judge and jury did not believe these claims. Two cases are discussed where medical experts gave evidence that individuals were mentally irresponsible for their crimes but they were led to the gallows.

Written by genealogists and historians, this book examines and identifies individuals who committed heinous crimes and researches the impact crime had on themselves, their families and their victims.

Continue reading “November Bonus Review #4: ‘Madness, Murder and Mayhem’, by Kathryn Burtinshaw and Dr. John Burt”

November Bonus Review #3: ‘The First Forensic Hanging’, by Summer Strevens

The First Forensic HangingPublished By: Pen & Sword 

Publication Date: 5th September 2018

Format: Paperback

I.S.B.N.: 9781526736185

Price: £10.39 (normally £12.99)

Purchase Link

This is one of the new books Pen & Sword have sent me to review (Thanks to Rosie Crofts, Digital Marketing, Pen & Sword). There will be a few coming up, as I have four more in this delivery, nine in a delivery due today, and two or three more on order. What can I say? I do enjoy their books. Next up will be Murder, Madness and Mayhem by Kathryn Burtinshaw and John Burt.




‘For the sake of decency, gentlemen, don’t hang me high.’ This was the last request of modest murderess Mary Blandy, who was hanged for poisoning her father in 1752. Concerned that the young men in the crowd who had thronged to see her execution might look up her skirts as she was ‘turned off’ by the hangman, this last nod to propriety might appear farcical in one who was about to meet her maker. Yet this was just another aspect of a case which attracted so much public attention in its day that some determined spectators even went to the lengths of climbing through the courtroom windows to get a glimpse of Mary while on trial. Indeed her case remained newsworthy for the best part of 1752, for months garnering endless scrutiny and mixed reaction in the popular press.

Opinions are certainly still divided on the matter of Mary’s ‘intention’ in the poisoning of her father, and the extent to which her coercive lover, Captain William Cranstoun, was responsible for this murder by proxy. Yet Mary Blandy’s trial was also notable in that it was the first time that detailed medical evidence had been presented in a court of law on a charge of murder by poisoning, and the first time that any court had accepted toxicological evidence in an arsenic poisoning case. The forensic legacy of the acceptance of Dr Anthony Addington’s application of chemistry to a criminal investigation is another compelling aspect of The First Forensic Hanging.

Continue reading “November Bonus Review #3: ‘The First Forensic Hanging’, by Summer Strevens”