Along with Captain Kirk and the Doctor, my fandom of Sherlock Holmes began in my middle school years. I was aware of the immortal detective but had neAlong with Captain Kirk and the Doctor, my fandom of Sherlock Holmes began in my middle school years. I was aware of the immortal detective but had never really read any of the original source material featuring Holmes until one day in reading lab, I picked up a newly arrived copy of "The Hound of the Baskervilles." I consumed the book in a couple of days and was soon ready to move on to more.
My parents indulged my new interest in Holmes, purchasing a paperback copy of "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes", a hard cover book with reprints of the original Strand editions of the short stories and "Hound" and even buying me a role-playing game called "221 B Baker Street" to try out. (I don't recall playing it much because the game was a time consuming one and required more patience to learn to play than my friends were willing to invest).
It was a good time to be a Holmes novice. The Jeremy Brett Holmes adaptations were hitting my local PBS station. At the time I didn't understand or appreciate their faithfulness to the original material and how refreshing that as compared to other portrayals of the great detective in other mediums.
In my original reading of Holmes, I jumped around a bit. It wasn't until late in my original journey through the Holmes canon that I acquired a copy of "A Study in Scarlet" and "Sign of the Four" in paperback and read them.
Every once in a while, I get a hankering to re-visit the Holmes canon. This time around, the desire came from the debut of the second season of "Sherlock" on the BBC and discovering a series of audio adaptations of the Holmes canon ready by Derek Jacoby. I'd meant to start off where I started all those years before with "Hound" but due to a user error in loading the audio book to my .mp3 player, I found myself starting over where it all began with "A Study in Scarlet."
As a Holmes fan, I have to admit that the novel length Holmes adventures aren't the strongest things in the canon. Conan Doyle seems a bit more comfortable working in the short story format and the early Holmes short stories are among the more memorable and exciting in the canon. But when it comes to "Scarlet" I must admit I find myself enjoying it more for the introduction to Holmes and his methods than the actual mystery itself.
Seeing the first meeting of Holmes and Watson is among the the highlights of the book as is their growing friendship. Seeing Holmes initially keep Watson at arm's length is intriguing. It's also interesting to see how Watson is portrayed here--he's not the bumbler that we Nigel Bruce made him out to be in the later Basil Rathbone films. At several points in the course of the narrative, Watson comments on his general sense of laziness and a lack of motivation.
The characters of Holmes and Watson are interesting enough to more than make up for the novel's lack of compelling mystery. The story speeds along for the first half, but hits a huge speed bump when Conan Doyle shifts the focus to America and his reflections of Mormonism. (Let's just say he doesn't appear to be a fan). The third or so of the story that gives us the details as to why the crime occurred aren't nearly as much fun or page turning as what came before and it's only once Watson takes the narrative back over that things really get rolling again.
All that said, I can still see why Holmes created such an impression and a stir in his debut. He's not entirely likeable, but he's still a compelling and fascinating character. ...more
The writing duo of the University of Tennessee's Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson is back with a third suspense novel featuring Dr. Bill Brockton.
"TheThe writing duo of the University of Tennessee's Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson is back with a third suspense novel featuring Dr. Bill Brockton.
"The Devil's Bones" follows the events of the previous novel as Brockton continues to come to terms with the murder of his lover by his nemesis, Garland Hamilton. Brockton is asked to look into the cremains of a friend's loved one and soon uncovers a scam being perpetrated by owners of a cremation company. Add to this that Hamilton escapes custody and is on the run and you've got a myriad of threads all running parallel over the course of this suspense/thriller.
The story follows three separate threads that, for the most part, only cross paths with Brockton having to deal with them. The authors avoid the tempation to bring everything neatly together in the end and instead concentrate on the specifics of being a foresnic anthropologist. The moments in the novel when Brockton and his team investigate and solve various crimes based on the physical evidence left behind are some of the book's most compelling.
But without a good story, this would all be meaningless. And there is a good story here that will keep you guessing and keep the pages turning. ...more
The tenth entry in Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series finds the Baltimore-native reporter-turned-private-eye rowing her way into the production of tThe tenth entry in Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series finds the Baltimore-native reporter-turned-private-eye rowing her way into the production of the television mini-series Mann of Steel. Tess is hired to provide security for young starlet Selene Waites (think Paris Hilton only with acting ability) due to a series of disturbing incidents plaguing the fledgling series.
At first Tess chalks Selene up to a ditzy Hollywood type, but events quickly show that Selene is cleverer than she lets on. When the series of incidents escalates into the death of one of the writing assistants, Tess’ natural curiosity is piqued and she begins to investigate what’s really happening with the Mann of Steel production.
As the story unfolds, a number of likely suspects enter into the picture with Lippman laying out a foundation and motive for each person to be part of the plot to disrupt the production of the show. As always with Lippman’s books, the pages turn easily and the narrative shifts between several characters while staying firmly grounded with Tess. The first half of the book lays out all the characters and their potential motivations and the second half puts the pieces into place, leading up to a satisfying denouncement to multiple mysteries taking place within the novel.
Yet despite having several threads running, the novel never loses focus or the reader.
Along with Elizabeth George, Lippman writes the most satisfying, character-driven mystery novels on the market today. As with George’s Lynley and Havers series, part of the pleasure in Lippman’s Monaghan novels is the chance to “catch up” with Tess. Of course, the mystery is compelling as well or else the novels wouldn’t be worth the time or effort. But the balance of character and mystery is well navigated here. And Lippman does the near impossible task of allowing new readers into the Tess universe while satisfying long-time readers of Tess’ adventures.
The latest in Stephen White’s Alan Gregory series of novels continues his recent trend of shifting between multirple perspectives among the various prThe latest in Stephen White’s Alan Gregory series of novels continues his recent trend of shifting between multirple perspectives among the various protagonists, always settling and centering on Boulder pysychologist Gregory.
“Dead Time” weaves together three perspectives as it slowly unravels the mystery of what happened years before when some friends camped out on the floor of the Grand Canyon. A woman disappeared under strange circumstances and has never been found since. What happened to her and the impact it had on the friendships of those on the trip plays a significant role for the rest of the novel.
The other threads slip back and forth between first-person perspective of Alan and his ex-wife Meredith. Meredith comes back into Alan’s wife when she attends a funeral of an old friend in Colorado and later when Alan visits New York for a few weeks with his newly adopted son. Meredith needs Alan’s help to look into disappearance of the surrogate mother she and her fiancee are using. Both the surrogate and the fiancee were part of the trip to the floor of the Grand Canyon.
What unfolds next is a series of revelations at a fairly reasonable rate, all grounded and set up by the early stages of the novel. And while the central mystery of what happened or what it means to the characters today isn’t exactly the most original mystery storyline around, it’s still compelling enough to keep reader interest as the pages turn.
What is far more interesting is the shifting perspective between Alan and his ex-wife and how they see the world and each other. Also, readers of the series will know that Alan’s current marriage is on dicey ground and following Alan’s struggles with tempations as he and his wife are geographically separated for the summer is intriguing. The real meat of the story comes from the glimpses and justifications as well as the blindness to faults he’d find in patients that Alan undergoes as the story unfolds.
And once the central mystery wraps up, there are still a few revelations about Alan’s personal life to come that are clearly setting things up for the next installment. It’s not quite as “holy cow, I’ve got to know what’s next” as the developments to Inspector Thomas Lynley in Elizabeth George’s novels, but it’s still enough to make the year or so wait between this book and the next an interesting one.
Brilliant first half of the novel, completely let down in the second. The ending stretched my willing suspension of disbelief to the breaking point anBrilliant first half of the novel, completely let down in the second. The ending stretched my willing suspension of disbelief to the breaking point and then some. ...more
Two years ago, Detective Archie Sheridan was captured and tortured by serial killer Gretchen Lowell. However, instead of following her pattern, she leTwo years ago, Detective Archie Sheridan was captured and tortured by serial killer Gretchen Lowell. However, instead of following her pattern, she let Archie go and turned herself in. Why this happened is just one of the questions that haunts the Archie and Chelsea Cain's superb novel, "Heartsick."
Two years later, Archie is still recovering from the mental and physical scars when a new serial killer crops up. Archie is called back in and paired with pink-haired journalist, Susan Ward. Ward's job is to document the hunt and profile Archie.
Where this all leads and how it ties into Lowell makes for a compelling, page-turning mystery. In a field where serial killer novels can be a dime a dozen, Cain steps up and delivers a story that has richly done, sympathetic characters and one of the most chilling pyschos to haunt the printed page since Hannibal Lecter. While not featuring in the story until halfway through, Lowell hands like a spectre over the novel and the final few twists and turns are well set up but still manage to surprise the reader. ...more
With an endorsement by best-selling author Stephen King and a vast majority of those writing suspense fiction today, you have to wonder why Meg GardinWith an endorsement by best-selling author Stephen King and a vast majority of those writing suspense fiction today, you have to wonder why Meg Gardiner hasn't broken through in a big way here in the United States. From what I understand, she's published several successful novels in the UK, all of which are being published here over the next several months.
After reading "Dirty Secrets Club," I can see why she has the ringing endorsement of Mr. King and others. And I can definitely see her being the next "big thing" not only in the mystery/suspense genre but also in the publishing world as a whole.
Set in San Francisco, "The Dirty Secrets Club," is a secret society of people, all of whom have a dark secret from their past that they've shared with members of the group. Run in cells to keep one person from having too much power, members of the group are dying at the rate of one every three days, all in spectacular fashion and in a way that looks like suicide. The latest victim works for the district attorney's office and is one of the founding members of the club.
After her death, the case is given a high priority to be solved, leading to foresnic pyschologic Jo Beckett being brought onto the case. Beckett's job is to explain the why of the death and the pyschological state of the victim of a crime. But just like the victims, Beckett has her own secret from the past she doesn't want brought into the light of day.
Fast paced and exhilerating, "The Dirty Secrets Club" is one part pyschological drama, one part character study, one part suspense thriller and one part mystery. Gardiner shifts efortelessly from scene to scene and follows several characters in the story, weaving together a story that is suspenseful, exciting and one hell of a good read. I will warn you that this is not a book to read as you're getting ready to turn out the light and need to be up early the next day. Not only can Gardiner draw you into her universe with the story unfolding, but her writing style is effortless and addictive to read. You'll find yourself up way past bedtime, just wanting to read one more chapter to see what happens next.
Along the way, there are revelations, twists and turns to the story all of which are surprising and well set up by the early stages of the story. Nothing comes entirely out of left field, making the reader roll their eyes. Instead, the twists will shock and then begin to make sense based on what we know about the situation and the characters.
Meg Gardiner could be the next big thing in the writing world. But don't let it be a dirty secret...share her writing and this great novel with not only yourself but everyone you come in contact with. This is a great book and I highly recommend it. ...more
While walking home one day, six-year-old Joanna Mason's family is attacked and killed by a man wielding a butcher knife. Joanna escapes by fleeing intWhile walking home one day, six-year-old Joanna Mason's family is attacked and killed by a man wielding a butcher knife. Joanna escapes by fleeing into a cornfield and hiding. She's eventually found and the killer is caught and sent to jail.
Now before you get upset with me for revealing too much, let me just say that all of what I described above happens in the first twenty or so pages of Kate Atkinson's latest novel "When Will There Be Good News?" The death of Joanna's family is the catalyst for everything that happens for the rest of the story and the impact is felt on every single character we meet over the course of this story.
As usual, Atkinson's novel is one that defies easy description. It's one part a mystery, one part character study and one part suspense thriller. The story starts out on a deceptively slow note, allowing readers to get to know the various players in the events to come and slowly building to a train wreck (literally and figuratively) of a turning point that has a direct impact on each of the characters. Atkinson brings back Jackson Brodie, the private detective who featured in her previous novels "Case Histories" and "One Good Turn" as well as several other familiar faces.
As I read this story, comparions to Elizabeth George kept creeping up on me. (And that's a good thing as George is one of my favorite authors). Atkinson has a storytelling style that highlights characters, but continues to build the story with each page. She's subtle, working in details to the storyline naturally and rewarding readers when a payoff comes several pages later. Watching the story unfold, building up momentum until we finally see the bigger picture is fascinating. Several storylines cross over and we get to see events from several points of view.
The various elements will keep you guessing, keep you curious and keep the pages turning. I consumed this book eagerly, anxious to find out what happens next. It's one of those where once the final page is turned, you'll walk away satisfied but wishing there was more to savor. ...more