I’m alive! Kind of… or rather I have unearthed myself from unpacking boxes long enough to shout my praises for Christopher Bowden’s latest noir gem in the blog tour for The Amber Maze. Subtle and nuanced, I constantly found myself caught off guard as to how much this little books packs in. This isn’t your typical hardboiled case, but it’s most certainly the kind of cozy fire-side read that will keep you on the edge of your seat ad your mind racing to make connections.
Title: The Amber Maze
Author: Christopher Bowden
Publication Date: September 6, 2018
Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noir Fiction
Themes: Friendship, Family, Relationships
Features: Features for the author’s other books.
My Rating: 4/ 5
The Amber Maze
While staying in a Dorset cottage, Hugh Mullion finds a mysterious key down the side of an antique chair. No one can say how long the key has been there or what it opens.
Hugh’s search for answers will unlock the secrets of the troubled life of a talented artist, destined to be hailed a neglected genius fifty years too late. And no secret is darker than that of The Amber Maze, from whose malign influence he never escaped.
The trail takes Hugh from Edwardian Oxfordshire to 1960s Camden Town, where the ghosts of the past are finally laid to rest.
Delicately crafted noir fiction at its best.
Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0955506751
Smash words – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/880652
At just 119 pages, The Amber Maze covers a lot of ground. Touching on everything from crime to coming of age, and from complicated family dynamics to uncovering a contemporary mystery, there’s a little of something for everyone. One word of warning though, Bowden makes regular references to characters and events from his other works, particularly The Blue Book, and if you’re unfamiliar with them there are some occasional moments of confusion. However, so long as you’re willing to accept these references as implied backstory, it makes for a most pleasant read.
And can I just mention how much I loved the fact that books were at the centre of this narrative? The constant references to the types of bindings, vintage bookstores, personal collections, and missing volumes seriously made me miss my research days. I was chomping at the bit to swap places with Hugh and the archivist and get back to hunting down missing pieces and making sense of the muddle. Needless to say, the part of me that wrote a Masters dissertation reconstructing the reading network of a single book was very happy!
I enjoyed Hugh’s tenacity and persistence in finding the answer to his little mystery. Too many people would find an old key in an old chair and pass it off as quaint and walk away. But not Hugh. Thankfully his wife is quietly supportive – even though she gets her kicks out of bugging him – and his circle of friends are always willing to assist where they can. And who couldn’t love Hester with her pantaloon’s and adventure filled life? Although, I was surprised at her forthrightness when it came to disclosing family information. Perhaps it was because of her willingness to share all other information, that I found it infuriating when she was guarded when discussing Lionel’s art and family life. But I suppose that’s what makes both of their characters intriguing.
The art connection too, was something that I really enjoyed. There was as much intrigue in tracking down the various works of art throughout the book as there was in the mystery of Lionel’s life itself. The descriptions of his work were succinct and easy to visualize and I was left wanting to track down an abstract art exhibition in my area. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the select group of collectors that was upset by the retrospective of his work, but understood Lionel’s desire for anonymity in life after his involvement with The Amber Maze, and the actions of it’s members.
Although not as intense and twisty as I have come to expect from the noir genre, this baby ticks all of the boxes in a subtle and understated way. There’s enough crime, intrigue, and philandering in the past to drive the inquest at the present; the characters are developed and believable; and multiple plots are woven together to create an utterly engaging story. The Amber Maze is well worth the read.
About The Author
Christopher Bowden lives in south London. The Amber Maze is the sixth of his colour-themed novels, which have been praised variously by Andrew Marr, Julian Fellowes, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Shena Mackay
Social Media Links : https://www.facebook.com/christopher.bowden.90
Many thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to join in this tour, and to Christopher Bowden for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.