The Raven’s Seal by Andrei Baltakmens – Review

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I received a free ecopy of The Raven’s Seal from the publisher for my honest review.

About the Book:

November 2012 | Fiction-Mystery
Trade Paper | 416 pages | $14.00
ISBN 978-0-9852787-5-5
eBook (ISBN: 978-0-9852787-6-2) | $4.99
A Murder. A Fall from Grace.
A Mysterious Symbol That Could Be the Key to His Salvation.
When the body of Thaddeus Grainger’s rival turns up stabbed to death in an alley just hours after their inconclusive duel, only one suspect comes to mind. Charged with murder, Grainger’s fate is sealed before his trial even begins.
A young gentleman of means but of meaningless pursuits, Grainger is cast into the notorious Bellstrom Gaol, where he must quickly learn to survive in the filthy, ramshackle prison. The “Bells”—where debtors, gaolers, whores, thieves, and murderers all mix freely and where every privilege comes at a price—will be the young man’s home for the rest of his life unless he can prove his innocence.
But his friends, the journalist William Quillby and Cassie Redruth, the poor young girl who owes Grainger a debt of gratitude, refuse to abandon him. Before they can win his freedom, however, they must decode the meaning behind the crude wax seal that inspires terror in those who know its portent and contend with forces both inside and outside the prison determined to keep Grainger behind bars.
Set against the urban backdrop of late 18th-century England, The Raven’s Seal unravels a tale of corruption, betrayal, murder, and—ultimately—redemption and love.

About the Author:

Andrei Baltakmens was born in Christchurch, the descendant of parents and grandparents who had emigrated to New Zealand from Latvia in the aftermath of World War II. Andrei studied English literature at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. After completing a master’s degree that explored the development of detective fiction, beginning with Charles Dickens’s introduction of mystery and the police detective, Inspector Bucket, in Bleak House, he went on to a Ph.D. that focused on the function of mystery, and particularly urban mysteries, in the later works of Dickens.
In 1996 he published The Battleship Regal with Hazard Press, his first novel, and one of only a handful of science fiction works to be published in New Zealand. Since then, he has published short fiction in various New Zealand literary journals and a story in the collection of emerging New Zealand male writers, Boys’ Own Stories (2001).
After graduating, he worked as an information technology trainer and technical writer, while occasionally presenting classes for the continuing education program at the University of Canterbury on topics ranging from academic writing to J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary achievement.
He was married in 2003, and a few months afterward his wife secured a scholarship to study theater at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. They lived there for five years, where Andrei worked for a semester as an adjunct instructor of composition at Keuka College and then as an information technology trainer for Cornell. At this time he began The Raven’s Seal, inspired by the Gothic architecture of the Cornell campus and his interest in urban mysteries, Dickens, and the creative possibilities of an eighteenth-century prison setting.
In 2009 Andrei and his wife relocated to Australia, where his wife is a lecturer and he now works as an editor for the University of Queensland and pursues graduate studies in the Creative Writing program. They live in Brisbane with their young son.
Andrei is planning a new mystery, A Hangman for Ghosts, which will feature Victorian prison hulks and transported convicts.
Visit Andrei at his blog, “Displaced Pieces.”

My Opinion:

I read the first four chapters and my thoughts can be wrapped up with “huh?” I had to keep going back to figure out what was going on; this is not so bad in an actual book but it is a pain in the butt with an ebook. Since I still couldn’t figure out who was who and what was what by the fourth chapter I gave up. I read a lot. I like to read. I don’t like to have to put forth so much effort in a book that it becomes work. I have too many books to read.

So I did not finish The Raven’s Seal. I can’t tell you if it all suddenly makes sense midway through. If it didn’t by the end of chapter four I just didn’t care any longer.


You can purchase The Raven’s Seal on

Disclosure: I received a free ecopy of The Raven’s Seal from the publisher for my honest review. I received no compensation for this post.

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