Featured Book: Baudelaire’s Revenge, by Bob Van Laerhoven

Baudelaire's Revenge by Bob Van Laerhoven Book ReviewAtmospheric Historical Mystery Tells the Story of Darkness, Debauchery and a Depraved Serial Killer

1870. Paris, France is a city under siege, both literally and figuratively. In the midst of the Franco-Prussian war, it has not yet been invaded by the Prussian army, but as Paris readies itself for the inevitable onslaught, its citizens indulge every imaginable debauchery. Police commissioner Paul Lefevre, who is no stranger to self-indulgence himself, is on the hunt for an uncommonly brutal and inventive serial killer — a killer who leaves scraps of poetry with the corpses of his victims. It is three years after the death of the scandalous poet Charles Baudelaire, yet the very people who tormented him during his lifetime are the ones being murdered. And after each brutal killing, the murderer leaves behind a verse from Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs du Mal,” all of which deal with themes of evil, eroticism and decadence. Is the killer exacting revenge? Is the controversial poet somehow directing the killings from beyond the grave?

In this sometimes gruesome, always fascinating and uncommonly well-crafted novel of 19th century Paris, author Van Laerhoven does a masterful job of evoking the dark atmosphere and mores of an era. Themes of dissolution, loss of hope, class warfare and the scars that past traumas leave behind make Baudelaire’s Revenge more than just an engrossing mystery. They allow the reader to feel the oppressive atmosphere of the time and to experience the violence and hopelessness of Paris during the mid-19th century. Baudelaire’s Revenge is the winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Crime Novel and of the USA Best Book Award, and it is not hard to see why. Van Laerhoven manages to weave the stories of real historical figures into a fictional tale that reveals much about the mores and ethos of an era while taking the reader on a fascinating, albeit dark, hunt for a killer.

Baudelaire's Revenge on Amazon

About the Author

Bob Van LaerhovenBob van Laerhoven was born on August 8th 1953 in the sandy soil of Antwerp’s Kempen, where according to the cliché ‘pig-headed clodhoppers’ live. This perhaps explains why he started to write stories at a particularly young age. A number of his stories, set in the future but focusing on social trends and dangers instead of science, were published in English, French, German, Spanish and Slovenian.

Van Laerhoven made his debut as a novelist in 1985 with Night Game.  He quickly became known for his ‘un-Flemish’ style: he writes colorful, kaleidoscopic novels in which the fate of the individual is closely related to broad social transformations. His style slowly evolved in his later novels to embrace more personal themes while continuing to branch out into the world at large. International flair has become his trademark.

During the Bosnian war, Van Laerhoven spent part of 1992 in the besieged city of Sarajevo. Three years later he was working for MSF – Doctors without frontiers – in the Bosnian city of Tuzla during the NATO bombings. At that moment the refugees arrived from the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. Van Laerhoven was the first writer from the Low Countries to be given the chance to speak to the refugees. His conversations resulted in a travel book Screbrenica. Testimony to a Mass Murder. The book denounces the rape and torture of the Muslim population of this Bosnian-Serbian enclave and is based on first-hand testimonies. He also concludes that mass murders took place, an idea that was questioned at the time but later proven accurate.

Bob van Laerhoven is also a prize-winning author:  in 2007 he won the Hercule Poirot Prize for best suspense novel of the year with his novel Baudelaire’s Revenge. In 2013, the French translation La Vengeance de Baudelaire was published in France and in Canada. Baudelaire’s Revenge won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category “mystery/suspense“. Currently, the English translation of another novel – Return to Hiroshima – is finished. and his latest novel The Shadow of the Mole is being translated in English.

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“Flood” by Ryn Shell

Dreaming BuyHistory, Both Personal and Australian, Inspire Author Shell’s Writing 

“Flood” is part of Ryn Shell’s “Dreaming Billabong” series, and like the others in the series, it is a sweeping epic that has elements of romance, mystery, crime and adventure. It tells the stories of Fife Springs, a fictional town in remote  inland Australia 60 years ago.  A time when white European settlers journeyed to Australia to make a new life following the Second World War and found themselves thrown into close contact with the aboriginal people who had inhabited the land for centuries.  As is often the case, the people who had been living in Fife Springs long before the arrival of Europeans find themselves displaced and discriminated against in “Flood.” And the settlers find that Australia’s outback is more challenging than they ever dreamed it would be.

The story centers around Emily and Jarrah, young people from different sides of the cultural divide who, on the surface, have very little in common.  As they are forced to work together following a natural disaster, the two find a commonality that surprises both of them, and a relationship develops.  They find that, despite the difference in their race and socioeconomic status, they have similar family histories. But what binds them most is their love of the place they live: Fife Springs and the Dreaming Billabong, the lagoon thatreflects every colour of the Rainbow Serpent that rests in its depth. When the serpent sleeps, even life-hardened swagmen swear they hear the ghost.”

Beautifully written, “Flood” and the other books in the “Dreaming Billabong” series illuminate Australian culture and history through the stories of ordinary people struggling to survive Australia’s harsh and beautiful landscape.

The series is available in 2 bundles: Stolen Years and Billabong Secret. Stolen Years Billabong Secret

 About the Author

Ryn ShellRyn Shell is a prolific author and artist who has been writing for 60 years.  As Ryn Shell, she wrote the 7 books in the “Dreaming Billabong” series. As Kathy Shell, she writes books on art instruction and designs eBook covers, including for the “Dreaming Billabong” series.  As Gray Nomad, she writes nature, travel and lifestyle non-fiction as well as instruction books on plot plans for almost every writing genre: epic, romance, young adult, mystery and more.

Shell’s own life has been as fascinating as the lives of the characters in “Flood”.  Indeed, the character of Emily in the “Dreaming Billabong” series is based on Shell herself.  Shell says that she felt she needed to wait 50 years until she felt safe enough to tell the stories contained in the books.

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Wattle and daub hut similar to those in the early settlement town of Fife Springs

Like Emily, Ryn Shell was born into a wealthy family, to parents whose talents included the criminal. As a young child, her father, on the run from the authorities, abandoned the family. More loss followed when her mother, who was left in near poverty, became incapacitated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In reaction to the losses and loneliness of her childhood, young Ryn created an imaginary friend, Charlotte, as does the fictional character Harry in Dreaming Billabong. Ryn modelled Emily after herself, having her draw strength from nature and the place she lives.

Shell’s lifetime of experiences and her ability to become a stronger, more resilient person because of them are evident in the characters she creates in her fiction.  Multi-faceted, with depth and sensitivity and keen powers of observation, Emily is a heroine that readers will instantly identify and empathize with. She, like Ryn Shell, gets fortitude from her connection to nature and to Australia itself.

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