The rating for this book may suffer a bit from comparison. I first came across this book while browsing Valentine's page after being mesmerizing by MeThe rating for this book may suffer a bit from comparison. I first came across this book while browsing Valentine's page after being mesmerizing by Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti. Of the books on the page, this jumped out at me because I have something of a fascinating with flappers and the 20s, and also with fairy tale retellings. But this book just didn't quite have the same magic as the first, for me - thus the comparison thing.
It is told in a similar style, which I think really works for the fairy tale aspect. It sort of goes back and forth in time, with little references to things that happen, which get fleshed out a bit down the line.
I did think it captured the essence of the 112 Dancing Princesses story well, while offering a unique twist on the tale and making the girls much more sympathetic than their Grimm counterparts.
It also captures the flapper spirit fairly well - but I would definitely mark this more as a fairy tale than a historical fiction. I mean, it has the speakeasies and dancing and fashion and whatnot, the raids and the sort of complicit cops and all that, but it still sort of felt more like window dressing than entirely being immersed in the culture. Part of this is because of the girls strange situation with their father, but I think part of it is because it is more about the girls and the Roaring 20s offers a good background for the story - and the suffrage movement and women looking for more rights and freedoms certainly does mesh well with the story of 12 daughters locked away by their disappointed father.
The bulk of this story is told from Jo's perspective - the eldest daughter and 'General' of the others, who lives in a strange middle ground of trying to protect her sisters from their father, but also having to sort of enforce his edicts. As much as the story is about all the sisters, it focuses most heavily on her own precarious position, of trying to walk that line of mother and sister and go-between, and of finding her own voice and her own place in the world.
We do see some of the other sisters' perspectives, but only snippets, and I think I would've liked to learn a bit more about them. It was hard to keep them straight in my head, especially towards the beginning, precisely because we mostly see them through Jo's perspective - so we learn more about those closest to her in age - and the others, for much of the book, are sort of defined by one overall descriptor.
The story started a bit slowly, but really picked up a bit more than halfway through. I will say that I really felt for Jo and the girls at parts in the story, especially for what Jo did for Lou. That was kind of heart breaking. And their father was such an ass, he made me so mad.
But I'm glad that, at the end of the day, everything seemed to work out - but I wished there was just a little more closure at the end. If felt like it ended kind of abrsuptly, especially fter belaboring certain parts that I felt could've gone a bit faster.
The second in the Thomas De Quincey series, I liked this book just as much, if not perhaps slightly more, than the first book in the series.
The second in the Thomas De Quincey series, I liked this book just as much, if not perhaps slightly more, than the first book in the series.
One thing I will say straight off, though, that this is more a suspense-thriller-mystery and less a detective-mystery, and I sort of remember the first being more detective-mystery, so it did me a bit aback. The two detectives, Ryan and Becker, didn't seem nearly as present as in the first story, and even De Quincey's contribution seemed more focused on the psychology of the killer than on the specifics of tracking him down.
That aside, I enjoy thriller stories as much as detective stories, so I took it mostly in stride (except for sort of missing the contributions of the two detectives).
Then there's the issue of Emily. Overall I like her spunk, anachronistic as it might be, but I had a really hide time buying the few interactions she had with the queen. I can't imagine her casually talking about bloomer skirts with Queen Victoria, in front of men no less, nor her blithely checking their food for arsenic when they were guests in the palace. Most of the interactions with Emily are like, "I AM A STRONG INDEPENDENT WOMAN, AND YOU'RE JUST GOING TO HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT."
I like the attitude - but her interactions often come across as forced and unlikely.
Ok, so, that aside...
I really enjoyed the thriller aspect of the story. I enjoyed meeting some new characters in the guise of the Colonel and the family of his intended. The tie-ins with the murder with the past assassination attempts on the Queen was really interesting, and I got quite drawn into the psychology of story.
Can't say too much about the story, though, without giving something away, so I think I'll just have to leave it there.
Overall, enjoyable suspense-thriller type story, and I just wish there was maybe a bit more detective-mystery elements thrown in....more
A sort of homage to the Holmes stories, which purports to be the inspiration thereof. I did appreciate the shout out to Poe's Dupin stories - themselvA sort of homage to the Holmes stories, which purports to be the inspiration thereof. I did appreciate the shout out to Poe's Dupin stories - themselves a predecessor of Holmes - but I was more than a bit agitated that the book misspells the man's name. (It's Edgar Allan Poe, not Allen. You'd think you'd make sure you get the spelling right for something like this.)
We have Grice, the personal detective, doing the Holmes schtick - but it's all brusque rudeness and none of the charm.
Then we have March, the female Watson, with medical knowledge gleaned from helping her father on the battle field, however likely that is, and I guess she sort of balances out Grice's meanness by being a bit overly soft-hearted and naive. I do like anachronistically spunky girls, though, so I dug her, for the most part, even if she's a bit forcefully spunky at times.
Lastly Pound, the Lestrade stand-in, though given to be a bit more competent than his counterpart. Pound was an interesting one - at times sort of progressive, and then profoundly not.
Anyway - I never did grow to like Grice, by any means, but I did find him less grating by the end, and he did have his moments.
Mostly, though, I liked the case. It's hard to discuss it in any detail, though, without getting into spoiler territory. I will say I kept wishing for Grice to get some things wrong, because he was so insufferably smug, but, conversely, I can see how you wouldn't want your protagonist to be proven faulty in his first case. (Well, the first one we see, anyway.)
I liked the twists and turns and reveals well enough to not let the characterizations bother me too much, though. It ends up being a quick, interesting, albeit provoking read, and I'm definitely on board to continue with the series. ...more
I first picked up this series on the recommendation of a friend because of my love for Gail Carriger's Soulless. I can see the similarities, minus supI first picked up this series on the recommendation of a friend because of my love for Gail Carriger's Soulless. I can see the similarities, minus supernatural creatures, but I've never liked this series quite as much.
And of a series that I've thought to be entertaining enough, but not great, this was the worst of the lot so far.
Now, I do mostly like Amelia and Emerson. Their love/rivalry thing is kind of cute, and the banter is cute, but it got a bit wearying by the end that they're just constantly trying to one up each other. (Not to mention really, really tired of Emerson's constantly dismissing and doubting Amelia's detective hunches and theories. For a couple which is meant to be loving and supporting, they never seem to actually trust each other except when forced to by circumstance.)
The biggest character issue I had in this book, though, is Ramses, the "catastrophically precious" 8-year-old who spouts out encyclopedic entries and constantly dictates and lectures to everyone.
I can get down with a precocious child - lord knows I've read enough MG books with kids beyond their ken - but this kid was just blooming irritating and completely unrealistic. (And of course he ends up saving the day.)
I do, however, like the cat Bastet.
But, at the end of the day, that's not really did this book in. It was mostly the fact that the case was just completely uninteresting to me. It didn't feel like it had any real stakes, I didn't care that much about any of the major players, and just didn't really care about much of any of it, to be honest.
I haven't written off the series entirely - I do generally like the writing style, despite the character annoyances, and the Egyptology stuff is interesting - but I will say that the next book is the last test - if I feel about it the way I felt about this one, then I think I'll be over it....more
Right off one of the issues I had with this book was the modern writing and dialogue which comes off as both too modern and also wooden. I had this2.5
Right off one of the issues I had with this book was the modern writing and dialogue which comes off as both too modern and also wooden. I had this same issue with Winters' In the Shadow of Blackbirds, but it bothered me a bit more in this story because this story seems set earlier and so it was even a bit more jarring.
I will say, though, that the modern style bothered me less as the story progressed, but the dialogue was often whincingly bad throughout.
My other issue is that while I fully support the themes of the story - women's rights and agency, mostly - I found the book a bit anvilicious and on-the-nose. I suppose you could argue that it was purposely on-the-nose since Olivia's hypnosis makes her "see the world as it really is", but the symbolism was just way too heavy-handed. (It's likely to make supporters a bit ra-ra, but would never serve to make converts. Of course, I'm not saying that's the point of the book, but it became a bit much, even just as narrative.)
Lastly, the characters were pretty thin, especially the villains - who also often had the most cringe-worthy dialogue. One almost expected them to start twirling their moustahces.
And I was conflicted about Henry. I wanted to sympathize with him, but kept running into the wall of what he was doing to acheive his goals - admirable as they may be. (view spoiler)[And I seriously wondered why Olivia didn't think of the money sooner, when he said the only reason he had to keep her under hypnosis was the money from her father. (hide spoiler)]
That said - much like 'Blackbirds', despite it's flaws, I did get wrapped up into the story as it was going. Winters is one of those authors, for me, who has myriad flaws, and yet whose stories kind of win me over anyway - thus the 2.5. It's a bit better than ok, but I was a bit disappointed, in the end, that it wasn't better.
I did like, however, that (view spoiler)[Olivia went off to New York to find her mother and didn't run off with Henry and his sister. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
An interesting installment in the Russell/Holmes series, in which the mystery is personally related to Russell's past. I enjoyed the story overall, buAn interesting installment in the Russell/Holmes series, in which the mystery is personally related to Russell's past. I enjoyed the story overall, but I felt it took a bit too long for Russell to get past her mental block - it was growing quite tiresome by the end.
One thing I really liked about this story is the way that parts of it are written in third-person, following Holmes. Since the story is usually solely first-person from Russell's perspective, and since the two often go their separate ways, we often get Holmes' piece by him relating it - much as we did in the original Doyle stories, actually, but I never really like that style of story telling. This way was much better - especially since pretty much all of the interesting parts were following Holmes.
(Part III, particularly, dragged from Russell's perspective, and I longed to get back to the meat of the story instead of watching her deal with her issues for 35 more pages. I mean, it was fine and interesting in the beginning, but just grew too belaboured by the end.)
One of my favorite parts was when the sory continued past tradition by weaving in historical and fictional characters, and Holmes encounters and then teams up with Dashiell Hammett - and they discuss, amongst other things, the literary devices used in mystery fiction, and how authors often have to cut out the boring, humdrum parts of real detective work. ^_^
Overall, I definitely enjoyed this installment. Not one of my favorites, perhaps - I believe that honour still goes to the first in the series - but far from one of the worst.
Unfortunately it seems the next book is again solely first-person and much devoid of Holmes (based on reviews I've read), so I have to admit that while I did enjoy this installment I'm sort of dreading the next... ...more
I had forgotten about the author's annoying usage of 'were' in place of 'was' for when Scarlet speaks as a way to show her lower class speech. As I meI had forgotten about the author's annoying usage of 'were' in place of 'was' for when Scarlet speaks as a way to show her lower class speech. As I mentioned in the review for the first book, I can deal with dialectic writing, but this is the only thing the author does, and she only does it for Scarlet - which actually makes her sound more lower class than many of the actual low class people, which is just weird.
That aside -
I'm glad that all the love triangle nonsense from the first book has been mostly banished, but the thing with Robin - i.e. the (view spoiler)[PTSD related dreams in which Robin is unaware of his surroundings and in which he attacks Scarlet, all unawares, on several occassions (hide spoiler)] - isn't handled that great. Like the language, it's something thrown in for effect which isn't really carried through or explored in any real depth.
What I liked most about this book was seeing Scarlet in a different context - though I wish, again, this was explored a bit more. We do see a bit of the intrigue and courtly world through Scarlet - and Robin and the gang are sort of more on the perophery - but it would've been cool if we saw her actually adapt, a bit, so we could really see the court from the inside. Instead it's almost like a bad pantomine, at times.
Ditto with Guy. We see some glimmers of depth to his character, but, mostly, we see the same fight happen between the two repeated ad nauseum.
I did think the reveal - i.e. (view spoiler)[that Scarlet is Richard's illegitimate daughter (hide spoiler)] - was interesting, and could add some interesting dimensions to the story, but only if it's handled well. Otherwise, it comes across as too contrived. This is a wait and see thing, to see how it plays in future stories - but I'm not sure my hopes are high.
The funny thing about these books is that they're very readable. They sort of sweep you up into the story, even as all these niggles poke the back of your mind. Looking back on it, several days later, I can't entirely remember why I rated it three stars - but I do remember that, despite it's flaws, I did enjoy reading it and I do intend on reading the next.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
After running away from a provincial town where she was to be married off to an older and potentially abusive husband, Maude comes to Paris to followAfter running away from a provincial town where she was to be married off to an older and potentially abusive husband, Maude comes to Paris to follow her dreams - and the dreams of her departed mother. But she finds life harder than expected, and so answers an add looking for women for easy work - not realizing there's a word missing. "Ugly". But Maude doesn't consider herself ugly, not like the *others*, so runs off... only to later return when life continues to be hard.
And so Maude gets hired and gets to experience the life of a debutante through the Season, but she is there to make her secret client, Isabella, attractive. (Secret because Maude is hired by Isabella's mother without her knowledge.)
But Isabella is difficult because, shockingly, she wants to be more than a painted adornment, and Maude just can't understand.
Except she bloody well should, because isn't that why she ran away from her life?
The biggest problem with this book is Maude. She's whiny and unsympathetic. She often looks down on the other women of the agency, even her supposed friend, because she is ugly and 'crass' - crass here meaning forthright and not cowed by people's opinions.
Maude is also petty and spiteful and jealous and seems to often forget that the Season is not for her. But aside from being "plain" (because we can't have our heroine actually be "ugly"), she doesn't have much else going for her, either. She's not a good friend. She's not intelligent or witty. We're told she has the soul of a poet and an artist, but I'm not sure it says good things about poets and artists if that's the case.
The good thing is that Maude is meant to be in the wrong, and she does learn, but only after having burnt her bridges. But that's ok, because the bridges are very - *very* - easily mended, and everything wraps up all neat and nice and pat and entirely unrealistically.
The story tries to have some themes of beauty being only skin-deep and true beauty lying within, but doesn't seem to really live up to the themes it's trying to convey.
Also, it never really felt very French. It read like the many other YA historical fictions I've read, most of which have been set in England. The Britishisms don't help. And the random words and phrases in French are distracting, since they're meant to be speaking French the entire time.
Overall, rather a disappointment - and I'm almost sorry I asked the library to get this one for me. But it's not all bad, and other people might enjoy it more, so there's that....more
As a random installment in the series, this wouldn't be a bad entry. Not my favorite, by sure, but I'd be ok with it.
As a finale, though, it left2.75
As a random installment in the series, this wouldn't be a bad entry. Not my favorite, by sure, but I'd be ok with it.
As a finale, though, it left me a bit disappointed.
The main issue is just that the mystery itself was pretty weak. It didn't have much in the way of twists or even suspense, aside from one brief moment towards the end. It should've been a good mystery and a good finale, tying back into the first story as it does, but, no.
The second issue I had was that the mystery contrived to keep James and Mary away from each other for much of the story. Since it is there interactions - their banter and wit - which are the highlights of the story, this did the story no favors. Also, since the last book left us off with James and Mary officially joining forces, I was looking forward to seeing them really working together and how that dynamic would work.
Instead, most of the story revolves around Mary's feelings about her various relationships - her feelings about marriage and losing her independence (which is actually handled quite well and it was cool to see how much James has grown in the series), with Anne and Felicity, and with some long-lost family. (That last bit, especially, seemed rather tacked onto the story.)
Overall, it wasn't terrible, and I've certainly read worse finales, and what the series does well it continued to do well enough... but I would've like more out of the mystery, and the ending was a bit weirdly abrupt....more
I really liked the first book in this series - the mystery and romance but, above all, I think, the more gothic elements. As such, I was a bit torn3.5
I really liked the first book in this series - the mystery and romance but, above all, I think, the more gothic elements. As such, I was a bit torn with this one. I was still enjoying the story and the characters, generally - but this one seemed more mystery/intrigue related and I felt a real lacking of the gothic, so while I enjoyed the story I also found myself a bit disappointed.
But I tried to set that aside and judge the story by its own merits and not just on my expectations - and, as I said, I did enjoy the story - which picks up about 18 months after the events on the first book. I think, overall, I like the feel of the story and the characters. Ms. Cameron does a good job of setting the tone of the period without beating you over the head of it. I also really like the odd little relationship between Mary and Katharine, and the weird line it walks between that of master/servant and one of friendship.
My biggest issue, I think, is that some of the growth we saw in Katharine from the first book seemed to be a bit reset in this story - and that always kind of irritates me. I also found myself wondering why she didn't just send Henri packing, considering how untoward he was. I am glad, however, that my fears of a (view spoiler)[love triangle (hide spoiler)] went unmanifested - at least for the most part.
I also really liked the growth that Uncle Tully went through, though a lot of it - too much of it - seemed to happen either off-stage or all-of-a-sudden. The transformation at the end didn't seem entirely genuine.
Katharine, however, really shown at the end, and I quite like the way she handled the situation with Lane, though it, of course, leaves room for more drama. Here, again, was the Katharine we saw at the end of the first book - and I'm hoping in the third we see more of her and don't open the book after another backslide.
Aside from missing the gothic elements, I wasn't quite as wrapped up in this story and the various political issues going on in France that they were getting themselves wrapped up into - so I'm hoping the next book is more focused on Stranwyne and its inhabitants again. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
First and foremost I have to say I hate the cover. The brightass pink and the stupid floating magnifying glass which looks like an absurdly large monoFirst and foremost I have to say I hate the cover. The brightass pink and the stupid floating magnifying glass which looks like an absurdly large monocle... blech. But the title intrigued me, so I was able to look past the hideous cover and give it a go.
It reminded me a bit of The Agency, but only a little bit - and one thing I liked was that it takes place during the time of King George I. Most books of this sort I come across either seem to be 1) Elizabeth 2) Victoria 3) Made-up, so I was glad to have something which introduced a bit more variety. (Though, lord, I can't imagine having to wear all that make-up and those wigs. Yeesh.)
Anyway - this story sort of mixes the fish out of water story with both personal and political intrigue within the walls of the palace, but, being a YA story, focuses on the intrigue as it relates to our heroine, Peggy, which I liked because it didn't get overwhelming. We were introduced to people and situations and she was, and had to try to figure things out as they came.
My main gripe was the spector of a love triangle - but this was actually sort of explained within the context of the story, and didn't become the main focus of the story, which was nice. It was decently handled by the end, too.
Overall, I liked Peggy and the story, though it didn't quite wow me. It was a decent read and entertaining, and I'll continue with the series. I just hope the next cover isn't quite as horrid. ;)...more
I almost abandoned this book around the 80-something page mark, because it was slow and plodding and I didn't really care about any of the characters.I almost abandoned this book around the 80-something page mark, because it was slow and plodding and I didn't really care about any of the characters. I ended up pushing through, but can't say I'm particularly glad that I did.
The story alternates between two perspectives - Lucinda, a prostitute trying to make a better life for herself through cons and thievery, and Nate, a short-term Texas law man who hooks up with rangers Deerling and Dr. Tom on the hunt for McGill, a "ruthless killer", as the blurb says.
The two stories converge, of course, and as the story progresses the many ways that the two stories come together gets to be on the ridiculous side, especially at the end. I mean, my last thoughts on finishing the books were an eyeroll and a "seriously?".
But the biggest problem, really, is just that's just so slow. I mean, most of the time spent with Nate is riding, camping, sitting by sick beds, some more riding... the only character I really liked was Dr. Tom.
As for Lucinda, it's like we're meant to feel sympathetic for her, but it's kind of impossible to do so. I mean, I guess I did at times, but I also felt like she sort of made her bed, ya know?
It's a meh story with meh writing and while I didn't hate it, I certainly wouldn't recommend it....more
I was recently talking about this series with a friend of mine, and I told her how I have a sort of love/hate relationship with this series. Or, at2.5
I was recently talking about this series with a friend of mine, and I told her how I have a sort of love/hate relationship with this series. Or, at least, love/ambivalence. Because I really like the idea of the stories, and I love the characters and their interactions... but they actual plots/mysteries have often been the weaker aspects of the books. I can deal with so-so plots, though, as long as I'm loving the characters.
Of course, after saying that, I was reading this book and couldn't help but notice that even the character interactions were a bit sparse and lackluster. There were a few really good moments, mind you... but...
And this was followed by the realization that, at a little more than half-way through, I didn't feel like much had actually happened (unless you count Mary's remarkable ability to learn new languages and juggling and all sorts of nifty things in a couple of weeks, while travelling and doing a million other things... )
It did pick up after that, and things were pretty interesting for awhile, but while I thought the ending was decent enough, it was not enough of a pay-off for the really slow build up - especially since, as I said, even the character stuff was lacking.
I felt like this one had so much travelogue and descriptions. I mean, I like to feel immersed in the world and all, but I sort of started zoning at all the political stuff.
Maybe we can blame Mycroft...
I had been warned when I started this series that the books started going downhill after the 5th, or so. I was sort of hoping that my experience would be different, but I'm sad to think that this installment is an example of what's to come... because it was definitely the weakest of the lot so far. (I mean, I thought 'Letter of Mary' had a really slow and meandering build-up, but at least the ending mostly made up for it...)
I haven't written off the series yet. Hope springs eternal and all that... and I guess we'll see what the next installment brings - when I get around to reading it....more
I think I gave it a fair shot, but at nearly 40% in I don't care about a single person who thing about this book. (Well, I'm mildly curious to see ifI think I gave it a fair shot, but at nearly 40% in I don't care about a single person who thing about this book. (Well, I'm mildly curious to see if (view spoiler)[Jane ever gets one over on Sarah, but that's it (hide spoiler)].
The "intrigue" of everyone in the house having secrets and spying on each other just doesn't do it for me, when I don't like or care about any of the characters.
The fight between anthropometry versus finger printer could be interesting, but we obviously know how that turns out and it doesn't seem to be handled very well through Robert.
Lastly, and this is the real killer, to be honest, is the writing is just so bland to me. Others have described it as bleak and atmospheric, but I'm just finding it bland, dull and tedious. It's one of those books that I have to struggle to keep my eyes open for.
So I'm calling it quits. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Yet another book where I'm wavering between 2 and 3 stars. (There have been far too many of these recently. Of course, I suppose it could be worse...Yet another book where I'm wavering between 2 and 3 stars. (There have been far too many of these recently. Of course, I suppose it could be worse... )
I first became aware of this book looking on a friends to-read shelf, and when I saw that it combines Sherlock Holmes with Jack the Ripper, I had to read it. (I have since learned that there are actually a crap-ton of Holmes/Ripper books, but this was the first I encountered.)
First, to the good. Faye does a decent job of mimicking Doyle, and while the voice isn't perfect, it is pretty damn good, imo.
Of course, good is subjective... I mean, it's a certain kind of talent, to be sure, but I'm not actually positive it's for the best.
See, I have a sort of complicated relationship with Holmes. Like some other things in my repertoire - like Alice in Wonderland, for instance - I like the *idea* of a thing more than the actuality of a thing.
I like the idea of Holmes, and I've considered myself a fan of Holmes since I was a child and my parents watched the PBS versions. But I had never actually read a lot of Doyle, aside from 'Hound of the Baskervilles' in high school. When I finally got around to rectifying this sad state of affairs - by reading Volume 1 of the two volume Doyle collection - I found myself a bit, well, disappointed. Often times I felt that the stories came across less as abounding in Holmes' brilliance, and more in highlighting the idiocy of everyone around him.
Also, the style, what with John doing the narration, always has the problem of a) telling over showing and b) most of the exciting stuff happening off-screen, and then getting described latter in chunks of dialogue.
SO, yes, Faye does a good job of sticking to this style, but it's not really all that great a style in the first place. (Granted, some of this, at least, is probably a time period thing, and altering expectations, so on and so forth, but, still...)
So - long story shorter: If you like Doyle's prose, you'll probably like this a bit better than I did.
But I just didn't feel a whole lot of tension. There were moments here and there but, overall, there just wasn't either the grip or the ambiance that I was expecting. I guess I was expecting something a bit bleaker.
I do think Faye does a good job with the details of the period and the case. Granted, it's been awhile since I've read the specifics of the Ripper case, but, from what I remember, Faye does a good job of incorporating what facts are known, and adding a few twists of her own to make the focus on Holmes, as opposed to, say, Abberline, make sense.
I liked the character of Mrs. Monk. She had the most personality of anyone in the book, and I half wished more time was spent with her.
I thought her version of the killer was an interesting take. Lord knows there are enough theories, and the idea that (view spoiler)[it was a copper (hide spoiler)] isn't one I've heard before, I don't think. So that was pretty cool.
But the reveal and the climax was a bit lackluster after the slow build of getting there.
Faye does a good job with the details - both with, generally, keeping to Doyle's style and true to the characters, and with the time period and specifics of the case(s).
But it lacked any real intensity or suspense, which, honestly, should be built into the damn story. (I felt more like there were more stakes involved in (view spoiler)[the newspaper reports and the threat to Holmes' reputation (hide spoiler)] than I felt from the cat-and-mouse game, which is just wrong, man.)
ETA: If someone has a good suggestion for a better Holmes/Ripper story, I might be game.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This was a pretty decent gothic mystery for kids - but it's definitely more for kids, meaning it's written a little too simply to be a good crossov2.5
This was a pretty decent gothic mystery for kids - but it's definitely more for kids, meaning it's written a little too simply to be a good crossover.
But, as an introduction for kids, well, it's got the old, rundown mansion, a precocious shut-in child, ghosts and magic and mystery - so, yeah, it's an ok story. It was a little obvious what was going on and what was going to happen but, like I said - kids.
My biggest issue with the book, really, is the tin-ear dialogue. And, well, the narration wasn't that great, either. The author didn't seem, to me, to do a good job with establishing the time period in the world building, aside from a few references here and there, like to riding a carriage and whatnot.
She seems to try to make up for this lack by having period sounding narration and dialogue, but it just came across as so phony and forced. Lots of "dears" when used to refer to people - constantly. Affected language does not a period piece make.
Also, the interactions between people - especially the two children - were just so harringly awkward.
I think, despite it being a fairly simple and straight forward "mystery", I would've enjoyed it a lot better if the writing didn't make me cringe in places.
That said, I did like the idea of the story, and how the personalities of the birds were expressed.
Overall, not a bad introduction to gothic mysteries for young'uns, but I wouldn't recommend it to adults more familiar with the genre. ...more
A fair to middling entrance in the series - not terrible, and not great, but maybe a little bit better than just ok.
It was interesting to see2.75-ish
A fair to middling entrance in the series - not terrible, and not great, but maybe a little bit better than just ok.
It was interesting to see Mahmoud and Ali again from 'O Jerusalem', and in such a different context.
I think some of the best parts were the historical bits - like learning more about the War and the British governments cases of executing soldiers for desertion or, in the case of the story, for refusing bad orders, without any real trial or defense. It was sad and horrible.
The case... well, like I said, fair to middling. As with these books in general, there isn't a lot of seeing scant evidence and making grand deductions via ratiocination as much as there's a lot of normal detective type wandering around, looking for/stumbling across clues, sometimes getting lucky, sometimes not, so on and so forth.
Stuff that did happen in Doyle's stories, but mostly off the page.
While I do enjoy the stories, and the characters and the world, I don't feel like any of the cases really make the characters really shine.
I can't really put my finger on my mixed feelings of this series... so I guess I'll sum it up by saying I like them, but I think they could be more....more
I wasn't really familiar with Thomas de Quincey before I read this book, but he seems like a fascinating figure - both how he was portrayed in the3.5
I wasn't really familiar with Thomas de Quincey before I read this book, but he seems like a fascinating figure - both how he was portrayed in the book and just generally what I've read of him. He was definitely a boon to this story, and watching his character at work - and people's reactions to him - was definitely one of the hightlights of the book.
I also had a bit of a geek-out when I found at, per the author's notes at the end, that de Quincey's true-crime stories were a large influence on Poe in his creation of the mystery story with his C. Auguste Dupine, who was, himself, a large influence on Doyle in his creation of Holmes. I very excitedly related this to my husband, and told him that this book was essentially like following the real life Holmes! ^_^
I do admit that this was probably a large part of why I bumped my 3.5 stars up to 4 instead of down...
Which isn't to say it's not a good book even without the historical tidbits of De Quincey, 'cause it is, but it defitely put it over the top for me.
Speaking of historical tidbits, one of the blurbs says that fans of The Alienist would like this book - and I'm happy to report that I enjoyed this story much more than the Alienist. Iirc, one of my issues with the Alienist is that it didn't adequately portray the sense of time and place of the story, but 'Murder' has no such problems.
This is achieved in little side tangents detailing historical points of interest which at first seem to come out of nowhere, but which the author generally manages to tie into the main narrative. Once in awhile I found these asides a bit awkward, and lines that read sort of like "things were different back in 1845" could be a bit jarring - but, mostly, they were well handled and, to me at least, very interesting.
Also of interest were the times we slip into the PoV of "the artist". These were often gruesome and disturbing - which made them all the more effective. I admit that the more we learned of "the artist", though, the more I was sort of disappointed in the direction the story took with him, though. It seemed a bit too, well, normal, in a weird sort of way.
As to the other characters, I liked Emily, de Quincey's strong-willed and anachronistic daughter. The author admits that as little is known of her, he was able to take more liberty with her than with Thomas, and she's definitely very progressive and, perhaps, a bit too modern. But I loved bits with her, and watching her sort of gently take charge of events and watching the men sort of be lead by her, often without realizing she was doing it, and I loved her forthrightness and the way we learn more about how the time period effected women of the age, even while she generally subverts expectations.
The two detectives, though, were a bit one-note and sort of forgettable. My main impression of Ryan was that he was too limited in his views and often blinded by prejudice, and my main impression of the other lad, Becker, was that he was a bit too much a blank slate, in some ways. They are tropes, in many ways, but that also sort of works for the story in some ways. They are, afterall, in many ways secondary characters, despite the impression one gets at the outset of the story. The really weird (view spoiler)[love triangley vibe between those two and Emily (hide spoiler)] was entirely out of place and unnecessary, though.
The last character of note - at least that I recall - is Lord Palmerston, the home secretary who is more worried about seeming to do something instead of actually doing something, and who is more than happy to arrest an innocent man as long as it makes the populace complacent. He was sort of the everyman of useless bureaucracy, and often put both the investigation and his officers, in more peril than they were already in.
Of course, the populace was a true and present danger - mobs rioting and attacking anyone that seemed an even remotely likely suspect based on rumor and hearsay and any passing piece of gossip. In some ways, the incomptence of the police force mixed with the volatility of the populace was at times infuriating and other times terrifying - in some ways more terrifying that the horrific murders that spurred them on.
And, in some ways, that's sort of the point...
Now, I've been very praiseful of this book, and it's definitely one of my favorite reads of recent memory - but it wasn't perfect. As I said, the characters, aside from De Quincey, were a bit flat and one note - though this is amerliorated, at least for me, by De Qincey being so fascinating.
The history was, overall, well done, but there were times that the asides became tedious and badly paced.
And, as I said, the real kind of let down, for me, was the revelation of the motives of the murderer was on one hand psychologically interesting, if a bit outre, but, on the other hand, a bit too commonplace based on the build up to get there. (This is hard to explain without getting into spoilers, so sorry for the vaguery.)
But, overall, I really enjoyed this read. The thriller part was, ultimately, only so-so, but the historical aspects enraptured me.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book is light and fun and fluffy - which was pretty much exactly what I was looking for when I picked it up. It reads like a rom-com, of sorts, aThis book is light and fun and fluffy - which was pretty much exactly what I was looking for when I picked it up. It reads like a rom-com, of sorts, and the plot is cliche and predictable - but sometimes you go into a book wanting the familiar, and so it's a comfort to get it.
That said, the characters were fun and interesting, especially Penelope, and I found myself invested in her story, despite knowing how it would ultimately come out. (I really felt for her at times, poor dear.)
That said, it was a bit over the top at times, and while the silliness sort of gave it some charm, there were times when it seems a bit too much - particularly when detailing Charles' wretched luck in love and Penelope's many gaffes.
The middle section was laid on just a bit too thick all around, really, and the characters are at their most tropish (Lydia the meangirl, Charles the boor, Penelope the clueless, so on), but, luckily, just as I thought things were getting too much, we marched past it and things started picking up again.
My favorite character was Madame Bellafraunde. She was a delight and so much fun - but I was a bit disappointed that (view spoiler)[she was not actually a transgendered character, but, rather, a man acting as a spy. I was pleasantly surprised to find a transgender character well treated - well, inasmuch as any of the characters are well handled in this book - and even more pleased to see other characters reactions to her, especially in a period piece where often people use "historicity" as a reason to portray stereotypes and bigotry.
In this story we have one of the better portrayals of a transgendered character that I've encountered (though, granted, I haven't encountered many), and then it was snatched away at the end. Tres disappoint. (hide spoiler)]
But, aside from that, she was a force to be reckoned with, and I loved the parts with her the best.
Overall, this was a fun book, and a quick read. I'm glad I read it, and I did enjoy it - though I'm not entirely certain I'm interesting in the next book in the series.
Side note, I'm not sure if I received an ARC copy, as I received a copy from a friend and it didn't say - but there were several typos and/or misspelled, missing or misused words.
For instance, at one point when they are shopping for clothes for Penelope for the Season, they reference a trousseau; however, a trousseau is specifically the clothing and things gathered for a bride - not for someone being presented to the ton for the first time.
In another instance, it refers to Charles' horse drawn pantheon, where I'm fairly certain it's meant to be phaeton.
There was some missing words in lines such as "she seen... " instead of "she had seen". Things of that ilk.
It definitely needs a bit of editing - though it wasn't so obtrusive or consistent to detract overly from the story as a whole.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
A lot is happening for Mary, both personally and professionally, in this latest installment. It opens with Mary on her first assignment as a fully3.5
A lot is happening for Mary, both personally and professionally, in this latest installment. It opens with Mary on her first assignment as a fully trained Agent, even though the case - petty thefts at the palace - is a bit humdrum after the excitement of previous cases.
But then, while she's at the palace, this go awry for the Prince Bertie, and the case touches on Mary's on past. She also is left in a position of having to decide just how far she'll go to compromise herself to get information she needs.
And while all this is going on, there's another crossing of paths with James Easton, which causes both tempers and passions to flare.
All in all, I found it a page turner, and one of those ever rarer books, of late, where I found myself chomping at the bit to get back to the story while I was forced to be away from it. (Stupid work.)
There were moments of eye-rollingness in the romance department, as these sort of drawn out 'will they or won't they' kind of romances have, but also nice little moments of butterflies and frisson.
My only real complaint is that more time seemed to be spent on the personal side of things, and Mary often seemed so distracted by things that the case at hand often felt like it was on the back-burner, to the point where clues were almost stumbled upon accidentally as opposed to actually being investigated.
And, within the personal front, some of her reactions surprised me, namely (view spoiler)[that she wasn't more angry with her father, and the length she seemed willing to go to to help him, though she does say, towards the end, that that might've been more romantic fancy than anything. (hide spoiler)]
And I'm definitely glad some things went the way they did - (view spoiler)[that Mary did not give up her virginity to Bertie in order for some clues to the case, and that the situation with her and James is finally resolved. Yay! (hide spoiler)]
Anyway, as I said, some of the personal bits seemed a bit belabored at the cost of the mystery part, though, as I'm more a character-based reader, this bothered me less than it might bother those looking more for a juicy mystery.
But I did like the resolution of the case, particularly the role played by Vicky, Herself. Quite a plucky thing. ;)
The ending leaves things for the future looking interesting, and I look forward to the next installment of the series.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Those who have read the Holmes stories are, no doubt, familiar with the Baker Street Irregulars, the group of "Street Arabs", as they are called in thThose who have read the Holmes stories are, no doubt, familiar with the Baker Street Irregulars, the group of "Street Arabs", as they are called in the Doyle stories, who sometimes provide help to Holmes via spying. No one notices them, you see, so they're free to see and hear many things on the streets.
In the stories, though, they're often mentioned in passing, and never really dwelt on. Well, this book seeks to set that record straight but claiming that Watson was jealous of the kids, which is why he always gave them such short shrift. (Watson, in general, is portrayed in a very negative light in this book. Perhaps understandably so, considering the premise, but I always feel like Watson gets short shrift and don't really like to see another book doing so.)
That aside, the kids are a cool little group, lead by Wiggins and seconded by Osgood, who is, himself, no slacker and a great admirer of Holmes and his method, to the point of emulating it.
The book also does a good job of setting the scene, and discussing some of the more unsavory facets of Victorian life, such as the workhouses, which the boys feared above all.
As is necessary to the story, Holmes is more a background sort of character, while the story follows the kids to the circus as they investigate the deaths of a troupe of tightrope walkers. Instead of just looking and listening, though, they actively investigated, questioning the various members of the circus, and getting themselves into a bit of bother along the way.
At the circus they are joined by Pilar, a headstrong Gypsy girl and fortune-teller, who is bored of the circus and follows the boys back to Baker Street to join in the investigation - much to everyone's chagrin, but proving herself useful (if a bit conveniently so).
Overall, it was definitely an entertaining story, though missing a little something in the telling that could've pushed it to a higher rating. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but there's just something missing. I think it might've been one of those ever present telling vs showing things, but I'm not entirely sure.
I'll keep an eye out for the next in the series, though, the next time I'm idly browsing at the library.
Oh, also, the story is purported to be told by someone who was there, and we are given clues, in the form of overlarge letters every few pages, to his identity. I guess it pretty early on, but can't say the conceit entirely worked for me. I mean, it was an interesting idea and all, but there are too many logistic questions that would be open for such a thing to be true....more
A return to Dartmoor, where one of Holmes' most famous cases took place - The Hound of the Baskervilles, which I haven't read since high school, bu2.5
A return to Dartmoor, where one of Holmes' most famous cases took place - The Hound of the Baskervilles, which I haven't read since high school, but remember the general gist.
I think this was the weakest book of the series so far. I complained, in 'Monstrous Regiment of Women', how much time was spent of theological and historical issues, which were interesting but not entirely relevant to the case. But while that book meandered about in various directions, those philosophical ponderings were at least interesting.
In this book, however, I felt the first half lingered over descriptions of the moor, but they weren't really atmospheric or ambient - unless by atmospheric you mean bleak and wet and yicky. And I'm not really sure I can dig Holmes' describing the moor as having a sort of life of its own. Not solid, rational Holmes.
I could accept if from Russell well enough, but it sort of bothered me a bit coming from Holmes.
Anyway, aside from the fact that we sort of just plodded around the moor being wet and miserable for half the book, there's also the fact that, while Holmes and Russell were together, I didn't feel like she was really doing much in the way of investigating.
This is partially mitigated by the fact that she was begrudgingly pulled away from her own studies and didn't really want to be there but, still. Even when she went off on her own the first time it was just to listen to people's tales, really.
Even the chemistry between Holmes and Russell, which has been a highlight for me, even when the mystery was lacking, seemed a bit tepid in this installment.
Things picked up markedly about halfway through, though. Some actual investigating and deductive work seemed to happen, and things got a bit exciting towards the end as pieces were being put together. I found the overall mystery a bit too reminiscent of the Baskerville story, though, since it's intentionally done, I give it a bit of a pass.
But, anyway, the ending was enjoyable enough, but it was as tiresome getting there as it would be slogging through the moor of cold, wet evenings. Not an experience one would wish for....more
Book 5 in the Mary Russell series takes place, chronologically, in the middle of book 1, when Holmes and Russell are forced to leave England for awhilBook 5 in the Mary Russell series takes place, chronologically, in the middle of book 1, when Holmes and Russell are forced to leave England for awhile and go to Palestine and, while there, look into a little something for Mycroft.
After being a bit underwhelmed with books 3 and 4 - especially 4 - I was glad to find myself generally enjoying this one. I think some of it might be that I was more forgiving of Mary's little gaffes precisely because she was an apprentice once again. (After she's recognized as being a partner, I'm less forgiving of her, erm, inadequacies in the detective aspect.)
It was a bit weird to go back in time in Holmes and Russell's relationship, but also kind of interesting.
I also enjoyed the case itself. Though it meandered a bit like in the Moor, where they were more looking for clues and leads and things, this one felt much more focused. The meandering and journeying had more of a purpose, as opposed to just wandering around hoping to stumble onto things.
And I enjoyed seeing Palestine through Mary's eyes. I was introduced to the figure of General Allenby, a British officer who was a large part of freeing the area from Ottoman rule during World War I - and a figure which I was unfamiliar with. It was also interesting to see their efforts to create a unifed Arab space - though it was a bit sadly ironic to read it now, knowing how things are still so volatile in the Middle East.
So, anyway, I enjoyed the history and the experience of the time and place through Mary's eyes, and also the case. I did find some of Mary's constant need to prove herself a bit belabored - though I imagine it was probably pretty accurate, all things considered.
I did think that the climax was a bit haphazard, and wonder how Holmes and Russell seem to survive through all of the hazards King throws at them time and time again... but, overall, I liked the story....more
When Katherine is sent to her uncle's estate with the instructions of declaring him insane, for the purpoThis was a fun book, in a gothic sort of way.
When Katherine is sent to her uncle's estate with the instructions of declaring him insane, for the purpose of salvaging an inheritance she can only barely hope to get a part of, she comes upon an entire village being supported by the estate. She discovers an uncle who is a savant, and the people who care for him and each other. Can she destroy their lives to save her own - all while dealing with her own possible failing sanity?
I liked the writing of this. It captured the essence of a historical story, without being entirely tied in by its contraints. One of the fun things about the book was seeing Katherine grow and learn her own strength, away from the strictures of her aunt and society.
There's also a fair bit of suspense and mystery, madness and mayhem. And, of course, some romance.
It's not without its faults. It definitely treads the waters of the gothic tropes, and the ending seemed a bit too convenient, though the threads are there from the beginning when seen in hindsight.
But I liked the characters, and while it took me a few chapters to get into the story, once in I was fairly caught up in the whole thing.
I groaned a bit at the denounement and the threads left dangling for continuation in the next book, and I worry, a bit, at the direction the next book might go - but I'll definitely be along for the ride.
ETA: I was very intrigued to learn that the uncle in the story, and his estate, is based on an actual historical figure. It seemed such a fantastic story, that the idea it's based on truth is fascinating. ...more
I'm a bit torn with this series. I really liked the first one, but have found the second disappointing, though I did like the third better than the seI'm a bit torn with this series. I really liked the first one, but have found the second disappointing, though I did like the third better than the second. (Even though I gave them both three stars. Curse goodreads and their lack of half-stars.)
Here's the thing:
I really like the characters. Holmes, I think, is the strongest. I mean, he really shines in this and while I'm not sure I'd say the representation is 100% canon, I really like it.
Russell is a strong, intelligent, competent woman, and I generally like her, too, though she doesn't sparkle in quite the same way Holmes does - which is a pity since the stories are told from her perspective.
I really like when Holmes and Russell are together the best. They play well off of each other, even if Holmes gets a bit patronizing, but their sort of banter and, with the cases, the way they build off of each others findings is one of the best things about the series.
The lesser characters aren't quite as fleshed out, but I still enjoy their presence - Mycroft and Lestrade, especially.
And I even enjoy the religious and political issues - especially when they're not overly belabored. (a point which was improved in this book because the theological aspects were less tangential, sort of, and we were treated to long diatribes of philosophy or feminist history. They were there, but shorter, more to the point, and more relevant.)
But the thing that seems to be the most lacking in the stories is the actual mystery aspect. I'm sure you can see how that could be a problem...
It also doesn't help that, for a large stretch of this story, the four mains go off their separate ways to track down and spy on different leads. Since this is first person from Mary's perspective, this means that we don't see those bits of Holmes', Mycroft's and Lestrade's investigations, and instead get a summary as they, literally, tell what they did and what they found.
While they're off doing their various bits, we follow Mary in her own bit and, frankly, not much happens. I can't say too much without getting into spoiler territory... so I'll just stick with the fact that a lot happens off-screen while we go through some of the more tedious aspects of detective work.
And, in part, this seems to be to the point. Mary even discussed how real detective work isn't like the books. But, see, there's a reason for that - real detective work is kind of boring, and people don't want to read about it.
Now, I've mentioned before that I'm very much a character based reader. When I'm enjoying the characters I can forgive some other failings. But, as I said, the characters, especially our erstwhile due, are best when they're together, but King keeps forcing the issue of the fact that this is Mary's story by having them be separate a lot of the time.
I think part of the problem is that King, obviously, loves Holmes and Holmesian stories, which is why she wrote her own, but she wanted to write it from a female perspective, but we're left with a situation where Holmes is the better character of the two, and he's often missing for large chunks of the book.
Frankly, Mary's just not as strong a character, and the mysteries are so-so.
Speaking of the mysteries -
The titular 'Letter of Mary' is not referring to Russell but, rather, to Mary Magdalene. (My aforementioned theological aspect of the story, which was seemingly part of the mystery.) But, as I mentioned in the above spoiler, (view spoiler)[the letter is actually a red herring, and the actual (hide spoiler)] mystery ends up being rather pedestrian.
Holmes, himself, is frustrated with the mundane turn the story took - and so am I, damn it. The story had so much potential, and ended up being banal instead.
As I said, this seems to be part of the point, what with the whole "real detective work is boring" thing, but, as a story it's meh.
So why three stars instead of 2?
Because when it's on form, I really do love the characters. And the writing is evocative enough that I can feel myself sitting in Mycroft's drawing room, with the wooden walls, in a plush armchair before the fire, drinking some port, or something.
I want to spend time with these people, and in this world. I long for it in a way I do about few books and, for me, that's a wonderful thing.
And if only the mysteries could be worthy of the characters... oh, how wonderful these books could be.
See, as I mentioned in my comment at page 145, the first 43% of the book was, for me, pretty slow. It revolvedI'm a bit torn on how to rate this book.
See, as I mentioned in my comment at page 145, the first 43% of the book was, for me, pretty slow. It revolved around Mary's friend Ronnie, from Oxford, introducing her to Margery Childe, who is this sort of spiritual/feminist leader who Mary is both drawn to and repelled by. The ensuing mystery - which takes a long while to get off the ground - revolves around the finances of the Temple and whatnot.
But most of it, really, is long treatises/sermons about the history of feminism, mistranslation issues of the Bible (particularly how the feminine aspect of God has been removed), and longwinded speeches about the power of love.
And, honestly, I wouldn't have minded so much if I felt like this stuff had shaped Mary along the way. If we got a deeper understanding of her character or if she changed in any real way by it, but she wasn't. (And, yes, there's the issue of Mary's independence being made possible by the feminist movement, and of course it's relevant to her, but, honestly, we already know she's a single-minded person, don't we?)
The thing is, I'm actually interested in many of these issues, but the way it was presented was mostly via expositionary dialogue - i.e. one of the most boring ways possible - and since I didn't feel like it was quite necessary to go into it in the depth and breadth that they did, I felt more like it was a particular issue of the author and that she wished to educate her readership.
And I hate when plots and characters get side-lined for agendas.
I'd give this part 2-stars.
But, then, shortly after I made that note, the story took a change. Holmes, who had been mostly absent thus far, was much more present - and one of the best things about these books, so far, has been the interaction and developing relationship between him and Russell.
Also, the focus became more on the mystery at hand and on the characters. Our heroine is put into danger, there's derring-do and actiony bits, rescues and relapses, and all sorts of things which, once again, made me invested in the story and the characters.
So much so that I stayed up to the wee hours of the night to finish the story. (Though, in fairness, I didn't have work the next day, which would've changed this fact, I'm sure.)
I was involved and invested in this part of the story and I did "really like it" - so I'd give this part 4 stars.
But does the 4-star ending absolve a 2-star beginning?
Furthermore, more objectively speaking, does the ending really deserve 4-stars? On a purely emotional level, sure. But the mystery was a bit weak, again, and I was a little annoyed that there was less in the way of deduction and more in the way of following and tricking people. (Not that disguise and a spy network and whatnot aren't part of the Doyle canon.)
Worst, though, was that the case was resolved by Holmes and Russell stumbling on an argument which sort of explained everything - and that's always just sloppy writing, even moreso in a Holmes-related story.
I liked the ending a lot because it's very character based and, while I was spoiled about (view spoiler)[the fact that Mary and Holmes get married (hide spoiler)], I still got all soppy reading it, even though I'm a bit unresolved on (view spoiler)[the issue the age difference, and the line the Holmes said he'd wanted to kiss her when he first met her. She mentions that she was dressed as a boy, which he comments gave him minutes of consternation... but how about the fact she was 15 at the time, and him in his 50s!
Part of me resolves it by not thinking overly much about it. After all, I don't think of Mary as 21, really, because of her maturity. And, as she says, for her love is about the mind and, for her, I could see no better counterpart. Nor for Holmes, for that matter.
Another part writes it off as historical differences. There were many points in history were larger age gaps where not quite the issue they are today - though I'm not entirely sure the 1920s wouldn't find it a bit scandalous. Not that either Mary or Holmes would care for such things! (hide spoiler)]
So, yeah, I enjoyed it, even though I knew it was coming...
But if I were more a purely plot-based reader, more focused on the mystery, I think I'd be much less enthused about the whole ending because, as I said, it was kind of weak.
And, so, I've settled on 2.5, bumped up to 3 stars... It balances the first half's 2 and the second half's sort of 4, and accounts for the other flaws of the book.
That said, I'm totally jonesing for the next in the series (which I have on order at the library), so there's that, too. ;)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'll admit up front that I didn't really want to read this book. I only did so because it was picked for the BotM of a group I'm in. The reason I didnI'll admit up front that I didn't really want to read this book. I only did so because it was picked for the BotM of a group I'm in. The reason I didn't want to read it is because I was expecting it to be depressing and, frankly, I wasn't in the mood for something so heavy.
It's a bit ironic, then, that of all the issues I had with this book, being sad wasn't one of them. In fact, because of the many other issues I had, I didn't feel much of an emotional impact at all - aside from irritation and, at times, boredom.
As to those issues I did have, well, there's not much I can say which hasn't been said before, so I'll be brief:
Mostly I just couldn't buy Bruno. For one thing, he read more like he was 6 than 9, but, at 9, I just couldn't accept that he was as clueless naive and innocent as he's portrayed - especially considering who his father was and what his position in the military was.
But that level of obliviousness extends past Bruno to his older sister and even to poor Shmuel.
Honestly, what was meant to be wide-eyed naivete came across, to me, more as willful obstinance and complete self-centeredness (and I mean to levels well above and beyond that which can be excused as "well, he's a young boy and they're all in their own worlds").
Aside from that, there's just the sheer level of historical inaccuracy. And, yes, I get that it's meant to be "a fable", but, no, I don't think this excuses the author from either the level of unreality it has - on both the historical and psychological level. (And, as I said, I wasn't at all moved by the moral of the story precisely because the execution was so lacking.)
Or, as I said in the aforementioned group:
The two morals that I got out of it are:
1) The ease in which someone could go against their moral compass for fear of repercussions (especially the scene in the kitch with (view spoiler)[Bruno, Shmuel and asshole guy (hide spoiler)]
2) How hatred is a learned thing and not natural
Overall, though, I think my feelings about it are the same as I feel about many things which primary purpose is to have a moral lesson, wherein I agree with the lesson but find the execution lacking:
It's been done before, and it's been done better.
ETA: Also, for books that portray the actual, historical horrors of the Holocaust - that's been done much better, too.
In addition to all that, I thought the ending was pretty manipulative, and it really pissed me off that our heartstrings are, seemingly, meant to be tugged more for Bruno than the many, many other people who suffered and died there. And that... that's just wrong on so many levels.
Anyway - I said I'd be brief and I can tell I'm getting a bit ranty, so I think I'll just cut it short here.
That said, I did want to leave readers with this link which points to a review of the book by Rabbi Benjamin Blech, because I think he says it best:
"My Auschwitz friend read the book at my urging. He wept, and begged me tell everyone that this book is not just a lie and not just a fairytale, but a profanation."["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
November was my birthday month, so I got to pick a book for the group to read - so it's a bit double disappointing that I just never quite connecte2.5
November was my birthday month, so I got to pick a book for the group to read - so it's a bit double disappointing that I just never quite connected with it.
And the thing is, I'm not really sure I could tell you why.
There was a few issues... There are some parts that seem a bit mature for a younger audience, though I do think that some of the implications will likely go over their heads. But, still, it was a bit surprising for a kid's book to basically set-up a situation in which one of the protagonists is on the verge of (view spoiler)[being raped by some pirates - an act which is only stopped by the captain because they're kids, and for no other reason. (hide spoiler)]
There's also some pro-Colonial vibes, with passing lip-service given to how "the Natives" were poorly treated - which is probably setting up a White Man Saves the Natives thing for later in the trilogy.
And then there's the fact that Millicent, who many reviewers refer to as "spunky" came across, to me, as more spoiled and entitled and bratty than anything else.
And I didn't quite buy Egg - a 12 or 13 year old boy - fantasizing quite so much about kids and marriage - but, then, there's also the fact that his infatuation with Millicent seems to revolve around the fact that she was nice to him, when no one else ever was, and she's beautiful. I mean, I get puppy love and infatuation and whatnot, it was really more than whole "I'm going to marry her!" thing that struck a false chord with me.
But, honestly, none of these things were enough to ruin the book. They niggled, sure, but, well, even before any of that it just never grabbed me.
I don't know. This review is just one of those pointless reviews where I ramble about stuff that bugged me because I can't really put my finger on why I didn't like it, but it just never clicked for me.
I did like Guts, though, and would be curious to learn more about Healy. I doubt I'll continue the series, though.
p.s. I would like to say I wrote a slightly better review, but then goodreads had an "unexpected error" and ate the damn thing. Freaking goodreads.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I found out after I finished the book that Caleb Carr started off by writing historical non-fiction and that he even first pitched this book as non-fiI found out after I finished the book that Caleb Carr started off by writing historical non-fiction and that he even first pitched this book as non-fiction, afraid that his editor and publisher wouldn't accept a work of fiction from a non-fiction writer.
I mention this because I feel that his background in non-fiction shows through in the writing style - including the descriptions of the city and places in the city itself which I felt were more textbook than evocative. (Granted, judging by the reviews I'm in a clear minority on this point.)
Anyway - I was worried, initially, when reading the book because the first several chapters didn't grab me. I found them rather boring, actually, and was afraid I was going to hate the book.
(ETA: One thing that kept bugging me was the fact that the narration kept alternating between using first name and last name. For example: "Kreizler switched off the desk lamp and sat back down. I took a blind stab and guessed that the quote was from the Bible, to which Laszlo nodded, remarking..." I found it distracting and jarring, especially during the slow bits.)
But once the case got going, the book hit a better stride, and I started quite enjoying the discussions of psychology and the budding forensic field. (Side note to delicate readers - he does go into a fair bit of description about the dead bodies as well as the various methodologies, and some scenes could be rather disturbing for some people.)
Actually, at a point a little less than half-way through I decided that the book read more like a true-crime story than a crime drama/thriller, and once I shifted my expectations in that direction I enjoyed it a good deal more - but I think it really helped that I find psychology to be interesting.
The reason why I found it easier to read as true-crime instead of crime drama, though, is because other aspects of the story were a bit lacking - like character development, for instance.
But then the book stopped focusing on long discussions of said psychology and forensics, tried for a bit of suspense and action (which is did a fair job of), but then it settled back down into a bit of a slog.
Arguably the slog is done on purpose, as its during a downturn in the investigation, but there's also some character drama which happens which didn't quite have the emotional impact on me it ought to have because I never really connected with the characters as people so once the focus kind of shifted to that again, instead of the investigative techniques, my interest started waning again. Also, when it did focus on the psychology and whatnot it felt very repetitive in these sections - like we just kept rehashing the same things we discussed at length earlier on.
It picked up towards the end - but I had a bit of an issue with the way the reader is brought along the investigation the whole time only to be left in the dark towards the end so that we could be wowed by the various happenings.
Aside from that, one thing which kept popping into my head was the fact that the whole thing's a bit far-fetched. Of course, we accept a certain level of outlandishness in crime dramas but here, perhaps because it's presented in such a factual manner, I sometimes had a hard time swallowing that they really were able to figure out as much as they did working from the methods they had. Many of the suppositions were so dead on as to be beyond the pale - and even those which were wrong ended up being at least a little bit valid.
Maybe it's because my husband informed me, while I was reading the book, about an article he'd read awhile back which called into question the validity of psychological profiling, and which pointed out that for the few cases were it seems to work, there are a lot of other cases where the profile has been flat out wrong or too vague to be helpful. So I kept finding myself wondering at the level of detail they were able to glean from their profiling, and whether it fell outside of all realms of credulity or not.
Though since they did back it up with good old fashioned detective work, as it were - and since it is fiction - I'm willing to give it a pass....more