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 liked this better than the first in the series, but it's still not in love territory for me. I think it's more to do with it just not being my usualI liked this better than the first in the series, but it's still not in love territory for me. I think it's more to do with it just not being my usual shtick.
That said -
The biggest plus for me was I liked the case better this time. In Cuckoo's Calling, I wasn't really ever invested in the case, but I found this one more interesting and felt bad for poor Leonora and Orlando. It helped, I think, to have that extra human element that was somehow missing from the first case.
And I appreciate going through some of the drudgery. This doesn't overly glorify investigation work, and you don't have the Doyle thing where most of the work happens off-screen and then we're just meant to be wowed by the reveal.
That said, there's one thing all these sorts of books seem to do which bugs me, which is they start playing coy at the end.
What I mean is you watch every step of the investigation unfold, through interviews and surveillance bits and getting thoughts and clues as it goes along... but then once the detective thinks he's solved it, suddenly we get the whole "and he told Robin what he thought, but she seemed skeptical" and the whole "You know what you have to do, right?" after they've talked about the plan off-page.
It's all so that the reveal can be held back for the most dramatic moment, but it always feel like a sort of cheat to me. Well, it is a cheat, and, as I said, it's a common tactic with these sorts of stories, both in books and TV/movies - and it always kinda bugs me.
Just a personal thing, I guess...
I did find the reveal interesting, and I can't say that I guessed the whodunit (though I might have if some things weren't withheld, but ah well... I guess we'll never know).
Overall I think Rowling does a good job of balancing the personal stories of Strike and Robin with the larger story of the case.
The case was also interestingly meta, dealing with authors and the publishing industry, with lots of remarks about how everyone thinks they can write and everyone has this hankering to see their name in print, and about the backstabbing and politics of the industry. The victim of the story was an author who wrote a book lambasting his compatriots, and you have to wonder how much of this is based on Rowling's personal experiences...
That said - I do feel like it was a bit long in the tooth and could've been tightened up a bit more. Some draggy parts of sort of on purpose, as the clues are thin and the case is going nowhere... but there was a bit too much repetition, on both sides of the story, and some parts could've definitely been cut down some.
Not a bad story, overall, and I did like it a bit more than the first in the series, but I'm still hoping to be really wowed someday....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
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
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 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
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
First the disclaimer: I don't generally read regular kind of mysteries. I do read mysteries, sometimes, but they're usually either historical or fantaFirst the disclaimer: I don't generally read regular kind of mysteries. I do read mysteries, sometimes, but they're usually either historical or fantasy. I do, however, what a whole heap of mystery and crime procedural TV shows, so there is that.
Now that that's out of the way -
Rowling definitely sets up the main characters and makes them real and believable people. While there's some tropishness to it - i.e. the down-on-his-luck PI who just broke up with his girl and is having trouble paying the bills - it goes beyond the tropes and cliches into fully fleshed out people.
But I didn't feel like the same care was really given to the alleged victim or the suspects/friends/witnesses. Granted, we don't see nearly as much of them, flitting in and out as the story demands, but, while I cared about Cormoran and Robin, to some extent, I didn't care that much about the case.
At least not until about 60% through.
Things did pick up a lot towards the end, becoming a much smoother read overall. And, I do have to say, the ending was kind of fab. It was done in the sort of typical "I'm going to tell you exactly what you did and watch you try to weasal out of it so I can keep chipping away at your veneer of innocence", but it was done well. And I was a bit surprised at the culprit, thinking it was gonna maybe be someone else, and Ienjoyed the reveal and all the tidbits of stuff that we gleaned in bits and pieces throughout the story laid bare.
But then, when it was over, I didn't feel any lingering sense of, well, much of anything. It was cool enough while reading, and then it was over and it was gone.
And that's sort of it all over. While I was reading I was interested enough to keep going, but, when I wasn't reading I never felt any real compulsion to have to continue.
Now the real question - will I continue the series?
Meh - I'm kind of ambivalent. I'm certainly not opposed to continuing. As I said, it was a decent enough read. And I have the hope that now that all the character set-up is out of the way, the next can pick up a bit quicker from the start. But I'm not in any way chomping at the bit or anything, either. I'll pick it up if I see it and think to, but won't go out of my way to get it.
Solida three, but that's about it.
ETA: Oh - I did want to say, though, that while there was some of that 'information being withheld to up to reveal' thing going on, there wasn't that much of it.
But, more important, there was not, as in a book I recently read, a sort of unreliable narrator who misdirects you via his/her musings and ponderings. We don't really get any conjecture from Cormoran about who he thinks it might be or any of that. We just watch as he follows the clues and tracks down leads, and we're, generally, not lead by the narrator in one direction or another at all.
At first I thought I might find it a bit irritating, as the author does that talking to the reader thingA fun little mystery for the middle grade set.
At first I thought I might find it a bit irritating, as the author does that talking to the reader thing which often annoys me - especially when calling attention to the fact you're reading a book, such as saying things like "well, that's a lot of characters to keep track of, but this last lot aren't important so we'll just ignore them - at least until chapter 35" - but I didn't mind it as much as I sometimes do. I think it's because the tone is just silly, so it kind of adds to the humor instead of being annoyingly distracting.
This book is a send-up of Victorian mysteries, with the upstairs/downstairs class lines heavily drawn, but with a few wrenches thrown in in the character of the lovely Celia and the elder Luggertuck. It's mostly just a zany story, with a bumbling detective, snobby aristocrats, ingenious and eloquent stable boys, land-locked pirate, and poor, maligned Horton - hijinks ensure, but the mystery is solved through pluck and cleverness...
But while I sometimes lament these zany type stories for being all flash and no substance, Angleberger makes sure he has some strong characters and some moral lessons thrown in.
Cute, quick and fun story, definitely written for the MG crowd, but delightful for an adult in the right frame of mind....more
This book is a hot mess. Often times, books which are a hot mess are fun to review, because I go into rant mode and just let loose on all the many wayThis book is a hot mess. Often times, books which are a hot mess are fun to review, because I go into rant mode and just let loose on all the many ways I hated it. But, honestly, I didn't hate it. I didn't care enough about it to hate it. And, in a way, that's kinda even more sad than hating it.
It's just kind of there.
I think, overall, it just tried to be too many things. There's a smattering of Rocketeer like superheros. There's some prohibition/gangster kind of stuff that's mostly there for window dressing. There pocket dimensions and guys in gas masks (and for a brief, shining moment I thought it was going to have some 'Dark City' vibes - but no such luck). It's got a noir, down-on-his-luck detective who does absolutely zero detective work and generally just gets led by the nose from one hot mess to the next, and we know as little about wtf is actually going on as he does...
And in some books this works, and in some books it just makes a convoluted nightmare that I can't even begin to care about.
This is the latter.
It didn't help that the characters were all charicatures and just generally uninteresting.
And it felt like it went on for. ever.
But I'm still gonna give it 2-stars and not 1 because it had some interesting ideas - and that's mostly what the second star is for. I mean, the execution was painful, but the ideas were pretty cool.
Ya know, it wasn't even painful as much as just kinda shoddy. And sorta boring.
And, for the second review of today I'm gonna say this coulda been awesome as a graphic novel. Take the general ideas of the world and outline of the story, strip out a lot of the repetitive prose and crappy dialogue, and the over explaining everything... basically, keep the good stuff, dump the extraneous crap, and graphicalize it. It would totally work better in that format, I think.
ETA: One thing that did bug me was that there weren't really any rule to the pocket. Sometimes your alternate would be the opposite of you. Sometimes they were just like you, but with your names being weirdly opposite. Sometimes they were pretty much the same people.
Ditto with the Enemy. (view spoiler)[They were a "reflection", which is why the ships turned into airships, except it's not just like the sky was reverse or anything, because the land was still on the land, and the airships were in the air and all... and the airships even had hydrogen... so it's not like they were just water ships that were somehow reflected in the sky - they were actual airships.
But they were airships because the Enemy is a reflection of the Pocket.
But if it's a reflection, shouldn't it be, ya know, a reflection? (hide spoiler)]
The rules were basically "it works however it needs to work for the purposes of the story". Like I said - shoddy.
Oh, and, no, it doesn't make it less shoddy when you sort of call attention to it in the book and just be like "no one really knows how it works". ["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'd originally going to bump this 2.5 up to three, but then, when I was thinking about it this morning, I realized it didn't leave much of an impre2.5
I'd originally going to bump this 2.5 up to three, but then, when I was thinking about it this morning, I realized it didn't leave much of an impression and I had to strain to remember how it ended...
So, overall impression, enjoyable enough while reading - though a few things did annoy me - but instantly forgettable. Also, I'm not likely to continue the series.
Now, to the annoying things:
I was first a bit irritated when we played out the scene of 'Protag finds person bleeding, near death. Protag tries to keep person alive by holding/shaking them (as opposed to getting help), wherein someone walks in, finds protag, literally, "red handed", and automatically assumes protag is guilty.'
I'm not a very big mystery reader, but I've read that particular scene far too often.
But more than that, my ire was raised by the 'Protag gets all weak-in-the-knees over totally hot guy, even though guy is a complete and utter dick'. This happens not once, but twice.
I never really did understand the thing between Brooklyn and Derek. I mean, aside from animal magnetism, or whatever, I'm not sure how they end up together. I like a bit more depth to my relationships, but whatever.
That aside - it was a decent enough beach-read type thing. The best thing about it, aside from some book love, is that it's written in a very engaging style, though I did feel like it was trying to extend the whodunit mystery by throwing random extra people at you and having weird sort of subplots.
And the ending felt a bit forced.
But the characters were interesting, if a bit overly quirky. I liked Abraham most of all, from what we saw of him.
Not a bad book, but I think it ends up being just a bit above ok for me....more
I was interested in the idea of a noir story with sci-fi elements and, off the bat, I was definitely intrigued by the accouterments of the story -2.5
I was interested in the idea of a noir story with sci-fi elements and, off the bat, I was definitely intrigued by the accouterments of the story - alarm clocks that send images into your dreams, musical news, and other esoterica. It promised to be an interesting world. Unfortunately, though, most of this is just window dressing - even the evolved animals which are allegedly rare in the world, and yet which we seem to encounter around every corner.
Speaking of window dressing, I had a hard time reconciling the typical noir sexism with the future time period. Apparently, per other reviews, it's meant to be a dystopian future - and this seems to mean that we've gone forward with some technology, like the aforementioned, and yet backwards in social mores and also in other technology. For instance, no one seems to have a cell phone, and at one point our intrepid hero is searching for coins for a pay phone. How do you have an alarm clock which jacks into your freaking dreams, and yet we've lost cell phone technology?
But, more than the inconsistent setting, it was that sexism that niggled. Maybe it's just the optimist in me, but I like to think of a future, even a dystopian one, that sounds less like a pulp novel from the 50s.
As to the mystery itself, it was typical noir fashion where the detective hunts around for clues, being dogged by the cops and the bad guys and everyone else, getting beat up a lot, but determined to keep at it.
It was interesting when it jumped forward several years, and it was cool seeing the new again setting and Conrad having to try and navigate this new and strange world. (A lot changed in a little time.)
But while certain aspects of the whodunit were given to us throughout the story, other bits of Conrad's explanation seems to come out of nowhere, and I couldn't help but think that none of it would hold up in court, 'cause it's mostly a lot of theories and conjecture.
It wasn't a bad story, really, but, aside from window dressing, it was far too typical. I had considered bumping my 2.5 up to 3, 'cause I did like it well enough when I was reading it - but I realized a few days later that it hadn't left any impression on me at all, so down to 2 it goes....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
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
Once again, it’s not a bad book, but I keep expecting something more from it. There are moments of real cleverness, wry humor and dry wit, and these moments really shine out.
There are other moments, however, where the humor feels more forced than anything, and where everything sort of just falls flat. More than that, though, is the fact that while the devil carnival is not exactly a unique premise, was still more original than the locked door mystery of this book, complete with expositionary explanations of what happened that aren’t really hinted until the big reveal.
And it just took a good while to get there. The set-up was slow, especially when we were first meeting everyone and setting the scene, and I found myself dozing off more than once while trying to read.
It did pick up, and I’ll say the intrigue was handled well enough, the action, though sort of restricted to the end, was done pretty well, and the inclusion of Leonie was a more than welcome addition. I also enjoyed the growth of Cabal, after his getting his soul back in the last book. He’s still pretty amoral and all, but with the occasional twinge of conscious which makes things interesting.
Not bad, overall, but far from great. I may continue with the series, but I may not purchase the next in the series, favoring getting in from the library instead. I don’t see much reread potential if things continue as they currently are....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
In 2009, with the release of the Robert Downey, Jr. version of Sherlock Holmes, I started becoming a bit obsessed with the character. Prior to tha3.75
In 2009, with the release of the Robert Downey, Jr. version of Sherlock Holmes, I started becoming a bit obsessed with the character. Prior to that I had always considered myself something of a Holmes fan, but I only had the PBS shows to really go by... and so I started reading the actual book by Doyle.
That, eventually, lead me to the Enola Holmes series, which I loved, and that, in turn, lead someone to mention to me the Mary Russell series. I must say, like the Enola series, I enjoyed this story much more than the actual Doyle stories, which I often found a bit too simplistic and straight-forward. (And there's actually a nod to this in the Russell story, though she attributes it to Watson seeming to think his readers are as slow on the uptake as he, himself, is. Ouch.)
Anyway - the series starts around 1915, after the time Holmes has "retired" and takes to the country to raise bees (thus the title of the book). A chance encounter, in which Mary shows off a bit of her own astute mind and keen observations, brings them together and forms them into a team. In this book we follow the beginning of their relationship, watching as Holmes, at first, is in distinct charge, and as it progresses to where Mary becomes a more equal member of the partnership.
And, along the way, they become friends and confidants and true companions.
It's very much a character based book, and we don't even get to their first case until about a third, or so, through the book. Luckily, I'm a character based reader, and I enjoyed it very much.
Actually, I would say it starts to dip, in the middle, when the focus becomes more on the first case (there are a few, in the book, and it's divided into parts), but, luckily, the main case of the book is equally divided between the specifics of the case and how it effects their relationship.
A few cons:
I wasn't entirely happy with the portrayal of Watson. I prefer the more recent takes of Watson as a capable doctor and former military man seen in both the Downey Jr. movie version and BBC's Sherlock. (While they are rather different portrayals, they both shine a more favorable light on Watson than earlier adaptations and, even, in the Doyle stories.) This book follows the doddering old man version I never quite liked - though I have heard this gets better in later books in the series.
Also, Mycroft seems a bit too active in the book, and I'm not sure how I feel about the villain of the main case. Having it be (view spoiler)[Moriarty's daughter just seemed a bit much, not to mention being a bit on the cliche side. (hide spoiler)]
For the pros:
Aside from the great character development and representations of Mary and Sherlock, I would say it holds mostly true to canon - even bringing in tidbits from the stories to further develop Holmes - and it had a nice blending of showcasing Holmes' and Mary's clever observations, etc, along with plodding-the-course type investigations.
Overall, I really enjoyed it and longed for it to continue. It was one of those books where I both wanted to get to the ending to see how everything ended up, but also wanted it to just keep going forever because I didn't want to stop spending time in this world and with these characters.
I have already put a hold for books 2 & 3 in the library, so, hopefully, they won't take too long to arrive. (I thought of just buying them, as I do tend to buy books I really love so I can reread them - but a friend warned me the series takes a dive after the first several books, so I'm wanting to see how it goes before I commit myself to the long haul.)
In a sort of related pondering:
It's interesting to sort of compare and contrast the Enola Holmes books and the first Mary Russell.
Both stories are told from the perspectives of young women close to Sherlock, though in different ways. Mary is a bit older than Enola, though, and Enola is trying to elude her brother while Mary works with him.
But both Enola and Mary are strong willed and independent women - and it is these women who are the leads of their stories, while Sherlock is a part of their lives and development. An important part, yes, but these are not his stories, per se.
That said, pertaining to him, in the Enola series, which is set in 1888 or so, Sherlock is younger, still in London, and confounded by his young sister who won't confirm to the roles of women.
The Russell series starts in 1915, or so, and finds an older Sherlock who is more ready to accept Mary's independence and breaking of traditional roles - though he partially seems to do this, at least at first, by ignoring the fact of her femaleness.
While neither series is in the least bit canon, there's a part of me who likes to think that Sherlock's having had to deal with, and accept, Enola's uniqueness amongst females sort of paved the way for his easier acceptance of Mary's. ;)["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 was first drawn to this book for the obvious reason that stories of Jack the Ripper interest me. I tThis may be a case of disappointed expectations.
I was first drawn to this book for the obvious reason that stories of Jack the Ripper interest me. I think it's the morbid fascination of an unsolved mystery - who was this man that did these horrible things, and what compelled him to act? So the large, bold word Ripper across the book with a slash of blood diagonally across - well, it draws the eye, dunnit?
And the blurb seemed interesting. An established fan of YA titles, I thought it could be an interesting take, with this boy drawn into the mystery in America.
And there is some speculation that maybe the murders stopped because Jack was American and went home, or fled to America for fear the police were finally honing in, so it's not completely out of left field that the murders might pick up in America a year or so down the line.
But, for all that, it just didn't do much for me.
I expected something... something more.
For one it's the writing style and the characters, who feel more MG level than YA - and I think I was expecting not just YA, but older YA. I can't really say what lead to that expectation - maybe just an assumption based on the subject material?
But the writing, dialogue, characters all came off more juvenile that I was expecting.
It also just didn't have the dark depth that I had anticipated. I don't know what, precisely, I had hoped for. Maybe something more psychological in its approach - a thriller which got into your head and would stay with you, as opposed to a more surface mystery/chase thing that it ended up being.
But the killer seemed, to me, more cartoonish than menacing. Scary because of his bulk and just because he was a killer, but I was expecting a Hanibal, or, well, Jack the Ripper. Someone both terrifying and yet debonair... charming, even.
But this isn't really a book about the bad guy. It's about Carver, a young orphan who dreams of being a detective, and Hawking, the retired Pinkerton who takes him as an apprentice. (And, honestly, Carver? I presume the parallel to Ripper was intentional. I found it kind of distracting for that reason, though.)
And then there's Roosevelt, who blusters and bullies his way through the book, most often being a foil for our intrepid heroes. And Tudd, the other foil. Oh, and Finn, the other, other foil. (Yes, it's that kind of book.)
Anyway - I never really connected with the characters - they never seemed very real to me. Actions and dialogue seemed sketchy and almost surreal at times.
The world building was interesting. I did get a vague sense of the scope of the city and the feel of the time period, though I think there could've been more in this direction.
And I think I can see why some people would enjoy it - piecing together the clues/puzzles, and the chases and all. Maybe I would've liked it better if I hadn't guessed the identity of the killer about halfway through - and found myself disappointed to be right. I mean, really? (view spoiler)[Carver's not altogether on the ball, now, is he? (hide spoiler)]
I think it would've been better if the mystery was left a mystery...
Though, thankfully enough, in the real world, it still is. And if it ever is solved, all I can hope is that the truth is more satisying than this fiction.
I think that, maybe, I might've liked it more if I hadn't sort of been expecting more of a psychological thriller sort of thing and less a more standard procedural/crime story. Then again, considering I don't think the writing is particularly good, it might not have matter either way.["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 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
This book was recommended to me on the basis that it's very similar to the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger - and in several ways it is. AThis book was recommended to me on the basis that it's very similar to the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger - and in several ways it is. Amelia is similar to Alexia (or, I suppose, the ohter way around since Amelia came first), Emerson = Maccon, Evelyn = Ivy, Walter sort of = Lyall... in general, the archetypal characters are, well, archetypal.
But, in my opinion, this book suffered, a little, in the comparison to Soulless, et al, because while it was fun and charming in its own way it wasn't quite as fun or charming as PP.
Part of it, perhaps, was just the fact that I liked the world of PP, with it's steampunkish elements and vampires and werewolves and ghosts, oh my, whereas the Peabody books are set firmly in this world. Perhaps it was just because I didn't find the characters quite as fleshed out and I felt the romance a bit more forced in this one.
Perhaps, though, it was the lack of any sleuthing or detective work in this "mystery" novel. I think it would be more aptly named an adventure tale - and, ya know, that's fine, but I was expecting more of a mystery.
I mean, sure, there is a mystery in the sense that we need to discover who is behind the dastardly plot to try and drive our intrepid heroes away but it was more in the vein of "let's try and set several unsuccessful traps to catch the villain" as opposed to "let's do some sleuthing to try and deduce the identity and motive of our villain".
(In fairness, towards the end you do discover Emerson has been doing some ratiocination and whatnot on his own, but since everything it told first person from Amelia's perspective, we don't actually see anything being done.)
Which brings us to the issue of the first person perspective. Any loyal readers of my rambling reviews know by now that it's not a favorite of mine. In this instance, Amelia's (sometimes a a bit repetitive) perspective was interesting, but I would've liked to have gotten in some other people's heads, too, and I think it might've been better, all around, if we had.
All-in-all, though, it was still an enjoyable read and I do think I'll continue with the series. I think I'll get the next one from the library, though, instead of buying it....more
Fresh on the heels of the Enola Holmes series, I was on something of a kick - so when I came across the notion of a story showing us a boy Sherlo2 1/2
Fresh on the heels of the Enola Holmes series, I was on something of a kick - so when I came across the notion of a story showing us a boy Sherlock Holmes and how he came to be who he was, I was certainly intrigued.
Unfortunately, I had some major issues with the story.
Now, there were parts of it which were interesting and Peacock seems to have given some serious thought to a background story which could possibly lead the adult Holmes to be how he was.
On the other hand, it read like many a usual detective novel, with the boy Holmes sort of blundering around looking for clues and almost accidentally coming across some bits - and having a good deal of help with others. Now, granted, this is his first case so we can't expect him to have the same deduction skills he develops - but, on the other hand, I had a hard time figuring out how this made a Holmes story, per se. Aside from some details and names, it felt like a dozen other YA mystery books I've read.
Also, I sort of got tired of the names and faces parade.
At one point Holmes meets a kindly jail visitor named Andrew C Doyle, which I could only see as a shout-out to original Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle. Mr. Doyle also has a young daughter who is interested in justice and who is introduced to the shadier sides of life through the case of the name of Irene. I presume she is the Irene Adler to be - introduced to the criminal element through Holmes, no less.
Also, Holmes is often tormented, then helped, but a gang of ruffians lead by someone called the Malefactor, who is as brilliant as Holmes and who has a grudging respect and yet hatred for our intrepid young detective. Obviously Moriarty in the making - he's even referred to as a young Napoleon of crime at one point.
The detective who gives Holmes and his family such trouble is elder Lestrade, and in the course of the book Holmes views younger Lestrade helping out his father.
A newspaper vendor who is friendly towards Holmes is called Dupin, which I imagine is a shout-out to Poe's detective C. Auguste Dupin - a character which laid the foundation for Doyle's Holmes in the first place.
And, lastly, in one scene we briefly see a young medical student who was a bit stout around the middle. I actively rolled my eyes at this point on the assumption that this was a glimpse of a young Watson.
Now, sometimes I read stories which have these little shout outs and things and I can smile - usually those stories are more humorous in tone, though. In this book which was ever-so-serious (sometimes rather melodramatically so), it just seemed twee. (And while I'm not a purist, per se, introducing Holmes to Irene Adler and Moriarty at a young age just plays with the timeline far too much for my tastes.)
Anyway... aside from all that, and the melodrama, there's also the fact that it just sort of meandered on. Again, I don't expect the young Holmes on his first case to come in and solve it in 5 minutes, but nor do I expect him to wander practically aimless for days on end, either. Towards the end of the book I flipped ahead to see how many pages I had left because it just seemed to develop far too slowly.
All that aside, it wasn't terrible, and I see potential here. I may pick up the second book at some point to see if the general narration gets any better - tighter, more fast paced, less riddled with oh-so-clever easter eggs... because it is an interesting, if not entirely original, conceit and I do think it offers some possibilities....more
So, I picked this book up because it came recommended and because I like Hugh Laurie both from House and Black Adder, so I was curious as to what a2.5
So, I picked this book up because it came recommended and because I like Hugh Laurie both from House and Black Adder, so I was curious as to what a book of his would be like.
Well, the one aspect which seems to be promoted above all others is the humor - it's dry and droll and nigh constant. But, while I did find some of the observations wry and humorous, I did not, unfortunately, find it nearly as uproarious as some others did. I also found it to wear kind of thin after not too long a while.
Honestly, for the first half of the book, I was kind of bored and hating it. Aside from the bits of humor, it read like a pretty standard 'guy gets in over his head, people think he knows more than he does, so he tries to find the bad guys both for his self-preservation and the hot thang he 'falls in love with' after 5 minutes of staring at her legs'.
I know it's meant to be a parody, so the over-the-top aspects of the story are meant to be a send-up of the genre, but I didn't find it funny so much as tedious. More tedious, though, were the oh-so-many names and motivations being thrown at us, while we only ever get glimpses of the whole story. (I had serious issues with keeping track of who was who with this one though, admittedly, some of that might have to do with the fact I was reading it rather sporadically.)
All that said, I did think it picked up and got much better in Part II. Some other reviewers, who really loved the humor of Part I, didn't seem to like the gear-change into a realm of seriousness of Part II - but since Part I was not working for me at all, I found the change of gears refreshing and welcome.
I found that observations and one-liners to be more natural in this part, too - less forced. In the first part I felt like Laurie felt this need to be funny *all the time* and, like I said, it kind of started grating on me after awhile. In the second part things just generally flowed much better, including the wry bits. (Except for the three page diatribe about how men and women have sex differently... )
I even though of bumping this up to 2.5 - 3 stars (instead of 2 - 2.5) on the strength of the second half, but since the first half had me literally considering abandoning the book entirely (which is very rare for me to do), I couldn't quite justify the bump....more
Can't really decide how I feel about this book. I enjoyed it, and it was, like the first in the series, a quick and compulsive kind of read,3 to 3 1/2
Can't really decide how I feel about this book. I enjoyed it, and it was, like the first in the series, a quick and compulsive kind of read, but there were some things that didn't quite sit right with me, but I'm having a hard time putting my finger on exactly what those are.
One issue I think is that there are time when the books skirts towards some really serious issues - poverty, classism, racism, etc - but it never seems to want to really deal with them. It touches on them, presents them as things to be sad about, but then backs away from really getting into it. I guess I understand why - the book is a mystery and romance, not a social commentary - but I feel like it should either flit over them entirely like some other series of these ilk, or address them in earnestness. The sort of half-assedness bothers me.
I thought the mystery was ok, but there seemed to be a lot more of Mary being introspective and reflecting on how much she doesn't know and less of actual investigations. There was a bit of this in the first book, too, though this book handles the "villain revealing the plot" thing slightly better. (But just slightly.)
But I continue to like Mary and James as characters, and I really like their interactions and elevating relationship. I'd still say that, at its core, this is pretty much a chick book because the relationship and personal aspects are really handled much better, imo, than the mystery and time-period stuff.
That said, I half dread that (view spoiler)[Lee is going to drag out the will-they/won't-they thing past the point of credulity/tolerance and I really groaned at the end with the hint of a possible love-triangle sort of thing developing. Hate love-triangles. Hate, hate, HATE! So here's hoping that, as with the first book, it amounts to much ado about nothing. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The first chapter starts with a bang (see, I can do puns, too), and we're thrust into the world of Books and Braun.
Yes - Books (the Archivist/libra2.5
The first chapter starts with a bang (see, I can do puns, too), and we're thrust into the world of Books and Braun.
Yes - Books (the Archivist/librarian/stuffy one) and Braun (the muscle/spunky/fighter). (There is also a character named Bruce Campbell, which may or may not be a nod to the man with the chin, and a couple named Barnabas and Angelique Collins - though they are of little consequence to the story.)
One thing I often expect from books set in Victorian England, and which I often don't feel like I get, is a certain expression of language and attitude. Often the writing is a bit too modern to really feel period, and I like my period-y books, even ones with a decidedly modern bend, to feel period. This one didn't quite manage. (And I don't think pepperpot was a word around at the time and, even if it was, you really need more adjectives for Braun.)
Speaking of Braun - I like a good anachronistically spunky woman in these adventure stories as much as the next gal, but Braun was just a little bit much. Too modern, I suppose.
But back to the first chapter, from Books's perspective. For a minute there there were hints of The Parasol Protectorate, and it seemed like it would follow the sort of tongue-in-cheek humor of that wonderful series, but that tone barely lasts the chapter.
Then the tone seems sort of Adventure style story - sort of like Larklight, though that's a younger series - but there's that whole over-the-top excitement and silliness about it that makes things like using Books and Braun as names perfectly acceptable.
But that didn't last, either - except via the chapter titles.
In other words, it didn't seem to know what it wanted to be. I don't know if this was because of the two authors or what, but it didn't seem to want to settle.
Of course, I guess in a way that fits since the characters didn't always seem to know who they were or how they wanted to be, either. (And while I sympathize with Books and his daddy-issues, the Jekyll-Hydeness was a bit odd.)
Personally, I think if the tone had kept to the more light-hearted Grand Old Adventure story it could've worked better. But, really, just picking one and sticking with it would've been better.
As for the Steampunky elements - I thought these were mostly handled pretty well, and were parts of the story as opposed to the story being about the tech. (Which I, personally, prefer as I'm not much of a hard sci-fi reader.) That said, I would've liked a little more originality with the tech (as well as some constraints, since the Analytical Engine worked more like a modern day PC/butler and less like an advanced calculator).
But, really, it's not all bad. I did enjoy it well enough, and while the characters were sort of charicatures more often than not - and while this mystery sort of felt more like an introduction to the characters as opposed to a thing in its own right (as evidenced by the various hints to a larger plot afoot and various background goings on) - I did enjoy it enough to give it another shot.
I may pick the next book up at the library instead of buying it, but I do think I'll see how it fares. (One thing I will hope is some better editing. The first time I came across "treamours" for tremors I thought it would be a one-off typo, but then it kept happening. And "shear ridiculousness" instead of "sheer ridiculousness"? Really? I expect better copy-editing from a professionally published work.)...more