A decidedly "bleh" homage to Sherlock Holmes, which reaches a nadir of unreadability with "The Startling Events in the Electrified City." I couldn't f...moreA decidedly "bleh" homage to Sherlock Holmes, which reaches a nadir of unreadability with "The Startling Events in the Electrified City." I couldn't finish the story and thought of giving up on the collection entirely.
I persevered, however, and the remaining stories weren't too bad. Just not "too good."
Except for one story, "The Last of Sheila Locke-Holmes," which has nothing to do with Holmes but is about a young girl dealing with her parents' marital problems, and quite good.
And I will mention one more story - "The Adventure of the Concert Pianist" - to say that it shamelessly steals the murder plot from Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, except there's no insane monk.(less)
This is the second book in Nancy Springer's series about Sherlock Holmes' younger sister Enola. She's in London and trying to stay below the radar of...moreThis is the second book in Nancy Springer's series about Sherlock Holmes' younger sister Enola. She's in London and trying to stay below the radar of her brothers while still doing good, and the stresses of maintaining several identities is beginning to grind Enola down.
She stumbles upon an apparent elopement of an upper caste daughter and only just manages to keep out of her brother Sherlock's hands while solving the mystery.
As with the first book in the series (The Case of the Missing Marquess), this one is a fast paced, enjoyable read. The Mesmerism plot is hackneyed but - upon reflection - is reminiscent of Conan Doyle's style of writing in some of his Sherlock stories.
Highly recommended both to adults and/or that adult looking to find something exciting for his/her "rugrat" to read.(less)
Always on the look out for things to stock my nieces' bookshelves with and being a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I was very pleased to come across Wealhtheo...moreAlways on the look out for things to stock my nieces' bookshelves with and being a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I was very pleased to come across Wealhtheow Wylfing's reviews of this series on my update feed, especially as it's Hailey's birthday this month (May).
Enola Holmes is the much younger sister of Mycroft and Sherlock, and for the past 14 years has been living with her mother on the family's estate, Ferndell Hall. When Mum disappears on Enola's birthday, the girl comes under the direct guardianship of Mycroft. A state of affairs that quickly grows intolerable since Mycroft's (and Sherlock's) idea of a proper lady includes corsets and boarding schools. Fortunately, Enola is a worthy fruit of the tree that produced her brothers, and her mother has left her clues that give her the resources to strike out on her own, escaping to London, where she quickly becomes involved in the case of a missing heir. All the while, she's also trying to find out what happened to her mother.
This is a very fun, very fast read with a likable character in Enola and is definitely recommended for the 10-14 crowd, but also worth a look if your a fan of the Great Detective.(less)
Another enjoyable entry in the author's Ruso series.
Ruso is back with the XX Legion in Britain and has decided to make an inspection tour of the legio...moreAnother enjoyable entry in the author's Ruso series.
Ruso is back with the XX Legion in Britain and has decided to make an inspection tour of the legion's medical facilities so as to avoid crossing paths with the Emperor's retinue. In the wake of the recent troubles, Hadrian has come to the island to supervise the building of the Wall and settle the VI Legion there as reinforcements. While in Eboracum (York), he stumbles across several mysterious deaths and injuries amongst the British recruits and soon finds himself and Tilla embroiled in a messy situation involving a bigoted, sadistic centurion; his nephew, the ambitious tribune; and the Imperial household (because, inevitably, Ruso does cross paths with the Emperor).
As with the first four novels in the series, Semper Fidelis is a quick enjoyable read with just enough gravitas to make it memorable.
The only caveat is the new character of Virana, whose dimwittedness is almost too dim to be believable. Hopefully, she won't descend too far into slapstick in future books (as she's become a member of the Ruso household).(less)
The situation in Rome becoming uncomfortable, Falco finds it expedient to take an assignment (two, in fact, one from the Emperor and another from Thal...moreThe situation in Rome becoming uncomfortable, Falco finds it expedient to take an assignment (two, in fact, one from the Emperor and another from Thalia, the statuesque snake-dancer from The Silver Pigs) that takes him and Helena Justina to the Empire's eastern frontier.
Last Act in Palmyra read a bit more grimly than the previous few novels, going back to the atmosphere of the first book, but I still enjoyed it and continue to recommend the series.(less)
Lindsey Davis must have met my friend Mike's family. His parents are first-generation Sicilian immigrants and could have provided the source material...moreLindsey Davis must have met my friend Mike's family. His parents are first-generation Sicilian immigrants and could have provided the source material for Falco and his.
Poseidon's Gold finds Falco discovering uncomfortable facts about his dead brother Festus, the darling of the family and decorated hero of the Judaean War, and he becomes the prime suspect in the murder of one of his brother's former associates.
As usual, though, despite a certain pig-headed stubbornness Falco manages to work things out (even saving Festus' reputation - such as it was - in the process).(less)
The second book in Davis's series about Marcus Didius Falco, an informer in the Rome of the Flavian emperors, picks up immediately after the events of...moreThe second book in Davis's series about Marcus Didius Falco, an informer in the Rome of the Flavian emperors, picks up immediately after the events of the first novel, The Silver Pigs. Falco is helping to track down the remnants of the conspiracy he uncovered and confounded and finds himself tracked by and tracking Barnabas - the freedman of Atius Pertinax, now deceased conspirator and ex-husband of Helena, Falco's socially unobtainable lover.
There are a few plot twists - nothing is quite what it seems in the cut-throat world of Roman politics and society - but nothing too taxing for the brain.
The charm for me in Davis's stories are her characters and her writing style. As I mentioned in my Silver Pigs review, I'm strongly reminded of "The Rockford Files" when reading: A sardonic wit with just enough seriousness to make the reader care.
The Silver Pigs is fun to read. And if you're looking to read to relax, there's no better praise.
As I mentioned in my comment, the voice and tone remi...moreThe Silver Pigs is fun to read. And if you're looking to read to relax, there's no better praise.
As I mentioned in my comment, the voice and tone reminded me of Glen Cook's Garrett, P.I. series sans the fantasy element. Even more strongly, I'm reminded of a Roman Rockford Files, which may be brilliantly illuminative to those of a certain age or who have a taste for '70s detective shows. For the rest, you can wiki it and then hunt down copies of the episodes (which stream on Netflix).
But I'm digressing...
Marcus Didius Falco is an ex-legionary, current informer (i.e., private investigator) in the Rome of Vespasian (AD 69-79). If you're looking for fast-paced, engaging and smartly written bedside/airplane reading then I can recommend this series.
Fortunately, my library has all but 3 of the 20 books Davis has written so far. Though, of course, they wouldn't have #2 but my luck continues good as my alternate library has a copy, which I've duly ordered.(less)
Assumption is a very different novel in style, voice and ostensible subject than the other Everett novel I recently finished, Erasure: A Novel. It is...moreAssumption is a very different novel in style, voice and ostensible subject than the other Everett novel I recently finished, Erasure: A Novel. It is at least as good, if not better, in my opinion. It's made up of three novella-length stories tied together by the character of Ogden Walker, a deputy sheriff in a rural New Mexico county, and the problem of finding out who we are. (view spoiler)[In Ogden's case, the answer is terrifying. (hide spoiler)]
I really can't talk about the book without spoilers. As other reviews have mentioned, everything you thought you understand from the first two stories is turned on its head.
In the two novels of Everett's I've read so far, one of my favorite aspects is that he doesn't lead the reader to a conclusion but leaves enough clues for you to work things out for yourself, if you want to take the trouble. If you don't, Assumption still works as a mystery (at least the first two stories).
Some might find the novel contrived but it worked for me so I'm going to recommend it even more strongly than Erasure.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I've been listening to the Audio CD for the last week on the ride to and from work. I don't recall ever having actually read the book. My mother was a...moreI've been listening to the Audio CD for the last week on the ride to and from work. I don't recall ever having actually read the book. My mother was a great fan of mysteries, and I remember reading - I think - Mrs. Pollifax On Safari by Dorothy Gilman when I was a kid. But for me Agatha Christie was always better watched in one of the many movie adaptations than read.
What's most striking about this audio version is the reading by David Suchet - the at-the-moment quintessential Hercule Poirot. He pretty much nails every character, and you're not often scrambling to figure out who's speaking.(less)
Despite the rather glowing reviews from Wealhtheow and Ben, I can't quite "like" Altered Carbon. And that's not because it's not well written, or that...moreDespite the rather glowing reviews from Wealhtheow and Ben, I can't quite "like" Altered Carbon. And that's not because it's not well written, or that the characters and the setting aren't interesting. It may be a matter of technological-dystopia fatigue. For all the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed nonfiction works about how bright the future is (cf. The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology) why can't I seem to find a fiction one where things don't seem pretty crappy for the majority of us?
Well, as I said: It is well written and Morgan can tell a story so I'm still going to keep my eye out for The Steel Remains, his venture into fantasy.(less)
Gaius Petreius Ruso's penchant for falling into mysteries and his hapless relationships with former wives, family members and strong-willed British wo...moreGaius Petreius Ruso's penchant for falling into mysteries and his hapless relationships with former wives, family members and strong-willed British women continues to please.
This third installment of Ruth Downie's series finds Ruso called back to his family's estates in Gaul by a terse letter ostensibly sent by his brother Lucius. The family has been pressured by its creditors ever since Ruso's father's death but things take a decided turn for the worse when the agent of one of the largest creditors is poisoned while meeting with Ruso.
On top of that, Ruso's half-sister Marcia has fallen in love with a gladiator and Tilla has gotten mixed up with those crazy Christians.
Persona Non Grata is comfort food but delicious comfort food and I'll continue to recommend the series.(less)
The fourth book in Ruth Downie’s mystery series about Gaius Petreius Ruso, erstwhile medicus of the XX Legion, finds him and his new bride Tilla (aka...moreThe fourth book in Ruth Downie’s mystery series about Gaius Petreius Ruso, erstwhile medicus of the XX Legion, finds him and his new bride Tilla (aka Darlughdacha) back in Britain. Wanting to get as far away from his family as possible, Ruso has returned to Londinium looking for a job. His friend Valens, another former legionary doctor, helpfully “volunteers” him for an assignment with the Procurator’s office. An assignment that has nothing to do with medicine: Julius Asper, Verulamium’s tax collector, and his brother have disappeared, as have the taxes, and the Procurator wants to know where the money went. Without an immediate means of support, Ruso reluctantly takes up the case.
In addition to Valens, we again meet up with Albanus, Ruso’s clerk when they both were stationed in Deva, who is now getting by as a tutor. He leaps at the chance to help his old officer. Less happily, Ruso also crosses paths with Metellus, the provincial governor’s spymaster. He’s got Tilla’s name on a list of possible insurgents and blackmails Ruso to supply him information regarding the investigation.
This volume felt more “intense” than the first three. The mystery’s a bit more complex than the earlier ones, and the antagonists more ruthless, and there was less humor that I noticed (that may have been an artifact of listening to it on CD rather than reading it, however). There was also Ruso and Tilla’s developing relationship. Neither is an ideal spouse (one of the things I like about Ruso is that I see a lot of me in him).
Overall, this was a fine addition to the series, and I’ll keep my eye out for the sure-to-come sequels.
Audiobook quality: Simon Vance, who reads the book, is OK but a lot of his voices didn’t synch with my conceptions of the characters, most gratingly with Valens. He is of an age with Ruso but Vance makes him sound like an asthmatic old man. His “Metellus” had an annoying nasal twang, and his female voices were “adequate” at best.(less)
Terra Incognita is the second installment in Downie’s series about the hapless legionary physician Gaius Petreius Ruso and his slave, the British Till...moreTerra Incognita is the second installment in Downie’s series about the hapless legionary physician Gaius Petreius Ruso and his slave, the British Tilla (aka Darlughdacha). This time he’s traveling north to Hadrian’s Wall with a cohort of the XX Legion; as it happens, he’s also heading into Tilla’s homeland, whose natives are being incited to revolt by the Stag Man. An accident strands Ruso at the border fort of Coria for several days, and he’s asked to write a pro forma postmortem for the garrison’s murdered trumpeter Felix. As it would make the novel extraordinarily short otherwise, complications begin to accumulate of course, and Ruso becomes convinced that the convenient “solution” favored by the Prefect Decianus and his aide Metellus is going to send an innocent man to his death.
As in Medicus, Downie’s touch is light and undemanding; and while you know Ruso and Tilla will somehow come out on the other side, the fates of the rest of the cast are not so sure.
I’m compelled to write about the master-slave dynamic between Ruso and Tilla. So far Downie has managed to walk a fine line between the realities of slavery in the early Empire and the believability of Ruso and Tilla’s relationship. Ruso is a fundamentally decent man who has little experience with slaves; Tilla is a formerly free Briton, who still often acts like one unchained. Though Ruso knows that by law he can do pretty much anything he likes to his property, he’s too aware of Tilla’s humanity to seriously contemplate punishing her (something she’s all too aware of to Ruso’s occasional dismay). I suppose it calls for a certain suspension of disbelief but it’s something I’m willing to do in this case because – as I’ve written here and in my earlier review – I’m enjoying the read.(less)
Reading Medicus I’m put in mind of Colin Cotterill's Siri Paiboun series. In both two men more devoted to their jobs than anything else find themselve...moreReading Medicus I’m put in mind of Colin Cotterill's Siri Paiboun series. In both two men more devoted to their jobs than anything else find themselves reluctantly involved in murder investigations. In both we have a comedic more than tragic writing style that still manages to inject notes of seriousness along the way – in Medicus, it’s a reflection on slavery and sex trafficking.
Medicus is not a “heavy” read, however. It’s a very nicely written, moderately complex murder mystery set in the Romano-British town of Deva (modern day Chester) at the beginning of Hadrian’s reign (AD 117). Our put-upon protagonist is Gaius Petreius Ruso, a doctor in the XX Legion, whose marriage has failed (because he was too devoted to his craft and not devoted enough to advancing his career), whose family is drowning in debt and in danger of losing their Gaulish farm, and whose first “mistake” is rescuing a British slave girl from her slimy owner.
The mystery isn’t all that complex or hard to figure out. I enjoyed reading the book because I enjoyed following Ruso as he stumbles along, inadvertently uncovering the clues (view spoiler)[that lead him to a corrupt and murderous Roman official and the illegal transport of slaves and kidnapped citizens (hide spoiler)]. Our hero is by no means stupid, he’s a rather good doctor, in fact, but he is often blind to his environment, awkward socially and politically inept*. Ruso is a man I can identify with and Downie’s writing is engaging and “user friendly” if you’re looking for a diverting, not-too-serious reading experience.
I’d enjoy seeing PBS or BBC adapt this into a series like Brother Cadfael; it practically cries out for it.
I’m going to head down to the library this weekend and get some more entries in this series – I’ve been reading too many depressing things lately.
* Downie makes Ruso the “mysterious stranger” who rescued the Emperor Trajan from a collapsing building during an earthquake in Antioch but – much to his wife’s disgust – Ruso never parlays it into anything advantageous.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Another impulse check-out from the library (see my comments on The Last Page) and another hopefully entertaining distraction for the ride to work (see...moreAnother impulse check-out from the library (see my comments on The Last Page) and another hopefully entertaining distraction for the ride to work (see my comments on Halo: Ghosts of Onyx. 8 CDs).
Plus it's read by Michael Kitchen. __________________________________
Even with Kitchen's narration, I just couldn't get into this book.(less)