The Bishop’s Girl, by Rebecca Burns

And then, as the cloth was split in two, long, black hair tumbled forth, still attached to grey bones, now wet in the midday sun. …Behind, a crow called accusingly.’ Prologue.

A hundred year old mystery, secret lives, torn relationships. The Bishops Girl by Rebecca Burns.
Cover image shows the mystifying nurses smock that both excites and puzzles researchers for decades.
A hundred year old mystery, secret lives, torn relationships. The Bishops Girl by Rebecca Burns

My first impression of The Bishop’s Girl was of a quiet story of frustrated lives as two scholars in hushed archives are stymied in their own ambitions by their boss. And this is indeed one of the stories threaded amidst several layers in this novel. But then it becomes clear that this no less than a cold case detective story. From few clues arise many questions. Why, for instance, was the Bishop considered so important as to be dug up from a wartime district and then reburied in England? How did an unidentified woman come to be buried with him? Who was she? The scholars, Jess and Billy, find hints and fragments in the old letters but will these leads come to anything? And I read on enthralled by the mystery of it.

As we learn more of the unexpected century old romantic connection with Greece, and as Jess begins an affair, I found myself reading for the tangle of relationships between lovers, between spouses, between parents and children, and all of their messiness and importance.

But now, with hindsight, I think this absorbing and satisfying novel is mostly a story of secrets, especially of secrets within families, and how they can have far reaching repercussions. It is a great read on all these levels.

Where to find The Bishop’s Girl which is published by Odyssey Books. At BookDepository, Amazon, and Bookshop Org, among others. More excellent short stories by Rebecca Burns can be read in Artefacts and Catching the Barramundi. Her novels also include Beyond the Bay. See her website here.

You are with Mark at Baffled Bear Books. I am guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson has his own website too, called (wiggles ears modestly) Mawson Bear.

A Single Light, by Patricia Leslie: monsters prowl the Australian highlands

‘When Rick Hendry is contacted by a federal agent to help investigate a growing number of mysterious vanishings across Australia, he finds himself immersed in a world where normal is a very narrow view of reality. The two men are joined by a doctor, an archeologist, a journalist, and an Afflur Hunter.’ 

They soon discover that in the bush, south of Sydney, among the beach goers, walkers and picnickers, a menace grows. The mysterious Bledray monsters are preparing for a Gathering; a feast of epic proportions. Only the Afflur Hunter and Guardians can stop them, but their strength is failing and humans are needed to help prevent a second holocaust’. 

A Single Light is an urban fantasy tale of ghoulish monsters and non-human protectors battling to save humanity amid the spectacular and rugged landscapes of the Royal National Park south of Sydney.‘ From Back Cover.

Reporter Gabriella worries about the state of her colleague Rick Hendry who is clearly not sleeping well. It turns out he doesn’t want to sleep because in sleep he dreams – and the dreams terrify him.

‘There was something out there, taking people ..’ p.36. Officer Anthony Biglia.

Biglia comes across an expose written by Hendry and believes that the reporter can help him. They swap their theories. Jamie Morell finds abnormalities in the victims’ blood. None of them can work out how and why eight people are dead.

‘All are equal in the face of eternal hunger.’

For the Bledray, Maliak, Moriah, Jedidiah and Laeh, the humans exist only to be protected or to be hunted. On the plains below the high country lie millions of souls, a feast to gorge on.

‘ She ran then, urgency gripping her as the screaming of dying souls mixed with the stars and faded into oblivion.’ p. 136

I found that the hunger of the creatures is somehow believable- it’s the idea of insatiable appetite taken to extremes. The sense of menace grows as the hunters of souls and the hunters of Bledray converge upon one another until there is a climatic encounter as bush fire rages. (The fire scenes seemed particularly struck me in the light of the huge fires in NSW last summer covering some of the same ranges.) The author’s attention to detail and sense of place in the descriptions of these highlands in serves to ground the story. You can read more about Patricia Leslie and her work at her website  patricialeslie.net.

Patricia LeslieA Single Light_a novel by Patricia Leslie_The beach almost deserted

Where to find A Single Light: From the publisher Odyssey Books. Also at Amazon Australia, at Amazon USA, at BookDepository, at Barnes and Noble, at Chapters Indigo, Waterstones, Booktopia and more. Or ask your friendly local bookshop to obtain it for you.

Patricia Leslie also wrote The Ouroborus Key, an absorbing blend of Sumerian mythology, esoteric Templar secrets, and a detective story. This makes for a fascinating combination as you can see from my review here.

The graphics shown here are courtesy of the author and of publisher Odyssey Books.

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Seven Ghostly Spins – A brush with the supernatural, by Patricia Bossano

When isolated from the bustle of civilisation, the mind slips unfettered.’

Seven Ghostly Spins contains six paranormal tales that are short enough to read during a commuter ride to work. (But will you then feel a bit too disturbed to carry on as usual that day?) One tale, ‘Abiku’, is a creepy novella perhaps best read when safely at home with the lights turned on.

‘Amelia’s mouth opened and an infinite, desolate scream escaped.’

I am not a frequent reader of ghost or horror tales. Although the author offers tantalising notes on the inspirations for this collection, for instance, that one of the stories is based on “a real walk in the moonlight”, I still began by thinking, “All right then, so let’s just see if you can get to me.”

Fellow Baffled Ones, these stories got to me.

We get crumbling houses and overgrown paths in abandoned gardens, dark basements, cemeteries, fortune tellers, and birds ominously pecking at the window. Yet, as the book’s subtitle suggests, the stories are more about ‘brushes’ with the supernatural than with horror. We are offered different levels of the mind and of sight, portals that open unexpectedly, places that seemingly tug at the mind, objects that influence actions.

‘I close my eyes and I float for a while, not in my room but in a dream. I think I should go home but I don’t know how. I’m not worried though ‘.

‘Alison’ is the sweetest ghost story I’ve encountered although very sad.  It’s based on the legend of a girl who died in a real theatre in San Francisco.

‘By The Iron Gate’ is as much about the pathos of a woman’s tightly restricted life as about the supernatural. ‘I would grab the iron bars and stare into the moonlit garden, like a prisoner longing to return to her cell.‘ In ‘She Caught A Ride’, a hazing goes wrong, and in ‘Carolina  Blue’ a chiffon dress leads to a fateful encounter of the heart. The dully named story called ‘205 1/2, 25th Street’ is anything but as a man’s viewing of a real estate purchase turns into a chilling time slip through to the actions of his forebears.

I enjoyed these stories both for the brushes with supernatural elements and also for the well written glimpses of the characters’ lives wherein time and again a carefully added word or phrase by the author turns the ordinary into something else. Why not let your own mind slip unfettered for a while. I think you may close the book, as I did, feeling thoughtful about particular ‘odd’ events in your own lives.

Seven Ghostly Spins, by Patricia Bossano, with featured author Kelsey E Gerard, is published by Water Bearer Press. Patricia Bossano has also written Faery Sight, Nahia,  and Cradle Gift.

Where to unshroud it: From BookDepository (free shipping worldwide) and Amazon in Kindle and soft cover, Barnes and Noble in Kobo and soft cover,  also Waterstones and Chapters Indigo. Hardcover editions are also available. Or, ask your friendly local bookstore to order it in for you, and for your friends who appreciate a frission of the supernatural.

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Twilight, Dusk, Mirrors, Dreams: Tales by Dan Djurdjevic

‘To sleep, perchance to dream- ay, there’s the rub.’ Hamlet (III, i, 65-68)

For when you are dreaming, you will wake. You assume. But what sort of waking will it be? I think we have all experienced at some time that dread, dripping, crushing sense of fighting our way back up from .. something .. out from .. something. And to emerge as though breaking through an ocean surface, taking great gulps of waking reality, and to realise that the place or something you have fled from was not really there, and must have ‘only’ been a nightmare.

“He dreams of blackness: an endless blackness, darker than the crow and more inscrutable. There is a solidary light far in the distance, a dull yellow pinpoint swallowed into the void, and he stumbles towards it on his phantom legs.” The Crow. 

Hazy  3194.jpg

But what if, as you sit up taking in your surrounds, another realisation crashes in – that perhaps you have just woken from someone else’s nightmare?

The calm prose of Dan Djurdjevic’s Hazy Shade of Twilight stories (new edition issued as The Shadow of Dusk) belies the growing consternation of his characters as their personalities and identities shift and change. Frequently their perceived realities seem distorted.

“It took a while to realise that I was now in a different place altogether: a blank, featureless room of cold white … empty save for the bleached glare. There were no shapes, no corners, no lines. No shadows”.

They reassure themselves: it was only a dream, a nightmare, it’s because I’m exhausted, it’s what happens out in space, it’s the drugs I took for the pain. But again and again these ‘explanations’ don’t hold up. The characters sometimes seem to be changing places. Their loves and romances, fears, jealousies, start to seem to belong to other selves, as if they are seeing them through distorted memories. Or they might be seeing mirror images of themselves – which of course are similar but reversed, and perhaps distorted and warped too. Such a possibility is explored in The Mirror Image of Sound. (My review here.)

Dan MIOS 2744

Dan’s stories, to different degrees, float in half lights and shadows where things may not be what they seem. In the modern romantic drama Nights of the Moon to which The Shadow of Dusk collection serves as a kind of “sequel”, we met the same characters (or are they) who apparently have a very definite existence in the harsh geographical reality of a mining camp in Western Australia. But they are presented to us only through the memories of one person’s point of view. Are we reading what has ‘really happened’?Dan moon 2745

Perhaps somewhere in the obscurities of moon light, twilight, dusk, and shadows all of us are able to become more acutely aware of alternative lives that we could be living had we made other choices. Perhaps those alternative ‘I’s sometimes merge with and partially morph into the “I’ that we think we own.

To dream. Ah there indeed is the rub. For how can we know if we ever wake fully?

My review of The Mirror Image Of Sound is here. And of The Girl in the Attic here.

Where to find Dan’s books: Book Depository (also with free shipping):
A Hazy Shade of Twilight – and other nightmares, The Mirror Image of Sound, Nights of The Moon , The Shadow of Dusk , Essential Jo and, suitable for Young Adults, The Girl In The Attic.

On Amazon: The Mirror Image of Sound, Essential Jo, The Girl In The Attic, Nights of The Moon, The Shadow of Dusk   (first edition titled Hazy Shade of Twilight). You can also find them at AbeBooks.com: there is a general link below.

AbeBooks. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Girl In The Attic, by Dan Djurdjevic

‘She’d checked her room three times and yes, the lock on her door was fastened .. She was safe. She finally felt her self drifting off to sleep. Until she heard a cough – a girl’s cough- coming from the attic.’

Rose’s dad started doing pointless things up there in his man-cave attic that didn’t even make the grim space more habitable. Then he quarreled with Rose and her mother and abruptly left home. That was three years ago. About then her mum started drinking. Rose herself has been shoplifting, taking useless things that she doesn’t even want. Even being punished by her mum by having to sleep up in the attic didn’t stop that urge. By the third offence Rose is in big trouble with the judge. She is forced to see a pyschiatrist as part of the sentence and the shrink, though sympathetic, seems to be suggesting that something is very, very wrong with her.

GirlinAttic  3181.jpg

Rose is scared. Scared of her lapses of memory about the hours when, according to the friends she is fast losing, she has behaved completely out of character. And she is scared of the sounds coming from the attic.

What is the secret of the attic?

In this easily readable, well paced novel, author Dan Djurdevic spans a number of ‘difficult issues’ confronted by young people – and by older ones! Compulsive behaviours such as gambling, getting tangled up in the justice system, being harshly judged by friends and badly treated by employers, feeling that no one is listening to you, no one believes in you. But these matters don’t bog you down. Rather, in this story, they flow into each other, all necessary elements of the mystery that keeps you reading on. I am so tempted to add a spoiler somewhere here, even a little one. But with restraint I will simply say – you don’t get your resolution until the last page! Read on.

From the back cover: A young adult mystery that explores themes of compulsive behaviour, addiction, the importance of family, the nature of chance and how choices shape your destiny.

Where to find this book
BookDepository (also with free shipping): Girl In The Attic.
Amazon: Girl In The Attic (Note that you can read this for free with Kindle Unlimited membership just now).

More mysteries from Dan Djurdevic:
Bookdepository and with free shipping:
A Hazy Shade of Twilight, The Mirror Image of Sound, Nights of The Moon , The Shadow of Dusk .
Amazon: The Mirror Image of Sound, Nights of The Moon, The Shadow of Dusk.

You can also find them at AbeBooks.com: there is a general link below.

My review of The Mirror Image Of Sound is here.

AbeBooks. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.