‘If you’re thinking that I’m just a middle-aged woman who should stay at home with her cats and her book club for a couple of decades until its time to go into a hospice and die, then you can think again.’ (Sybil in Chapter One.)
Hello blog reader. So, its been another dreary week of blah work and same-old, same-old, has it? Yeah, I know. You deserve something for yourself. So you head to a book shop (of course) seeking an old time adventure, a ripping yarn, a tale of deering do and plucky heroes, a tale that involves absolutely no commuter trains and no grey-walled offices. Oh look, here’s one with a cover of a faded mustard colour and the title, After The Bloodwood Staff by Laura E. Goodwin, printed in enticing Art Nouveau font. Oh, this looks perfect.
‘Why would you want me along? Fat, unemployed, out of shape.. how would I stand up to pirates or savages or wild beasts or even leeches? …. The thought of trudging through a jungle picking leeches off his private’s and drinking blood from a cut on the neck of his pack horse .. ‘ ( Chapter One In Which Hoyle Meets An Adventurer.)
You start to read. The main character, Hoyle, enters a bookshop (good man; already you like him) after his pretty dreadful week. He selects an obscure vintage 19th Century adventure novel called After The Bloodwood Staff which has a cover of faded mustard colour and a title printed in enticing Art Nouveau font .. (Umm, what?) .. But a woman snatches it from his hands. This is Sybil who has convinced herself that it contains a Vital Clue to a mysterious artefact. Next thing Hoyle knows, he is travelling to a far flung land (Australia) to trudge through gum-tree-jungles alive with creepy birds (kookaburras) in search of the artefact described in the vintage novel, the Bloodwood Staff. It’s a bizarre journey for a soft middle-aged city dweller to set out on with someone he barely knows. But then again, why not?
‘What is this, Lord of the Rings? he thought irritably. Be careful what you wish for. You wanted an adventure? You wanted to do something meaningful? Well, here you go.‘ (Hoyle in Chapter 21).
In this twist on the classic vintage yarn, with chapter headings like ‘In Which Things Go Badly Wrong’ and ‘In Which The Anarchists Descend Into Anarchy’, the redoubtable Sybil leads Hoyle and Ada, a foul mouthed ‘urchin’ from Sydney, into one predicament after another. We get kidnappings, hideouts, bad-guys, murders, daring rescues, mad evil villains, mysterious ancient powers, and even romance! It’s all here, the adventure that is going to take you away from that working day dreariness, at least for an afternoon. You might even close the book wondering, as I did, whether to just leave your present existence behind and charge off on a crazy adventure yourself. I mean, apart from the leeches, why not?
Also from Laura E Goodwin: Mud and Glass with conspiracies and mayhem on a university campus. I loved this madcap book. Just a couple of of the lessons I took from it are – do not underestimate librarians, and never order a cup of macadamia-chilli ice-cream, even if you do want to ‘feel more alive’. See more about it in my review.