The penultimate book in the series tones it down a bit, cutting back on the swinging from the roof fittings and other Errol Flynn style shenanigans. IThe penultimate book in the series tones it down a bit, cutting back on the swinging from the roof fittings and other Errol Flynn style shenanigans. Instead Enola relies on her usual considerable talent for disguise, sketch making, cryptology and of course her endless supply of pluck. In her hunt to recover her kidnapped landlady she is forced to consult Florence Nightingale, which, teachers take note, means the Crimean War is a part of the story. This series is fun for kids and if the spark of interest in history is fanned then so much the better. Barring casting Florence as a spy the author respects the historical accuracy of the historical figure. One of the better additions to the series....more
Although this one was as easy to read as usual I did think some aspects of the background to the so called villains of the piece were far too horrificAlthough this one was as easy to read as usual I did think some aspects of the background to the so called villains of the piece were far too horrific for younger readers, being disturbing enough even for those of us with hair with the fetching grey streaks....more
Enola Holmes returns, hunted by day by the Great Detective and haunting London's befogged cobbles by night in her alter ego as the Sister of the StreeEnola Holmes returns, hunted by day by the Great Detective and haunting London's befogged cobbles by night in her alter ego as the Sister of the Streets, doling out charity disguised as a nun. She maintains daytime alter egos as Miss Ivy Meshle, and Mrs Ragostin the young wife of the imaginary Doctor Ragostin - seeker of things lost. One of the first consultee's turns out to Doctor John Watson in connection with a missing girl. The story incorporates plenty of Victorian talking points regarding social issues for young readers to discuss or investigate further; social Darwinism, Marxism, emancipation. Mesmerism and some not fully developed theories about the dangers of correcting which hand the Lady Cecily uses and connections with multiple personality disorders aren't perhaps as clearly expounded as they could be. Beyond the social horror of poverty in Victorian England Enola cuts a rather lonely figure herself. She has few confidantes and those she has are handled with caution lest she give herself away to her brothers. Her skills with codes and cyphers almost surpass Sherlock and her sketching of caricatures help her along like early mug-shots. A much improved adventure that tries to be fun, establishing a fresh identity amongst so much obvious historical hardship. ...more
Having decided to hoard the latest escapades of Flavia De Luce for hopefully better days ahead I cast my nets and twitched my literary feelers seekingHaving decided to hoard the latest escapades of Flavia De Luce for hopefully better days ahead I cast my nets and twitched my literary feelers seeking a palatable substitute. It's never been totally dismissed that Sherlock had a canonical sister. He mentions a possibly hypothetical sister several times in The Copper Beeches. The debates go on. It's been a while since I dipped my toes in the YA sea. I've had lots of fun in the past when I have dived in but these days there does seem to be rather more fish than sea. Enola is certainly no match for Flavia (she doesn't even give her bicycle a name for heaven's sake) and Nancy Springer's Victorian England doesn't convince as seamlessly as Pullman's Sally Lockhart books. The author does have great fun with various Victorian minutiae, most notably with Enola's clothing in her various disguises. Enola turns her lack of womanly curves to her advantage by taking advantage of all the vacant storage space with her 'improvised wearable baggage' compartments. The main push of the storyline is taken up by the disappearance of our girl's mother, who vanishes so completely even Sherlock is at a loss. Enola decides to track her down with the aid of her mother's cyphers and a skill for caricature sketching, as much to prove to her disparaging brothers her true cranial capacity. Boarding school and learning to be a proper lady certainly doesn't appeal so she stuffs her baggage compartments full of loot and survival items and sets out on her un-named bicycle in pursuit. It's a short read but entertaining with enough chuckles and even a few Holmsian tingles when Enola and Sherlock collide for me to come back looking for book 2....more
The Case of the Tell Tale Hands. A rather dull and pedestrian story to begin an anthology with, Watson uncharacteristically documReview from Badelynge.
The Case of the Tell Tale Hands. A rather dull and pedestrian story to begin an anthology with, Watson uncharacteristically documenting the intricacies of finger printing rather than injecting any excitement or urgency into the proceedings. At the half way stage I was almost hoping for the introduction of a Pygmy or two. Holmes seems perpetually on the verge of calling all and sundry, including Watson, blithering morons. The only lighter moment in the whole affair is the alacrity that Watson displays in choosing Ilfracoombe over Tenby as a holiday destination.
The Case of the King's Evil. This one was much more to my liking. The plot, though not too murky in its complexity, is still interesting enough to hold the interest, mainly due to how Holmes handles affairs, maintaining a teasing attitude with Watson throughout, which all stems from how the case initially requested aid from the good Doctor and not the better than good detective. The case takes the pair to Norfolk to discover what happened to two brothers, lighthouse keepers both, who have gone missing after a witnessed fight. There are good descriptions throughout of the estuary, the mudflats and the treacherous tides and quicksand under foot. There is a particularly suspenseful sequence out on the mud flats, the tide rushing in, as Holmes pushes bullishly toward a solution with Watson in reluctant tow, the latter seemingly with more mind to the danger the environment poses than the other. I must admit to a fairly rabid fetish in myself for lighthouses, so combining my Holmesian obsession with such is a double whammy. Good stuff.
The Case of the Portuguese sonnets. Back to more dull ramblings among the murky doings of forgers and extortionists. Too much time is spent with the mechanics and history of forgery, which reads sometimes like a light skimming session on Wikepedia. Hired by Robert Browning's son Holmes travels to Venice, which as a location is largely ignored in favour of dusty rooms filled with poetry, documents and manuscripts from a whole host of figures from Byron to Whitman, as he immerses himself in the dubious art of the forgerer. Yes I chuckled several times at some of Holmes' stock put-downs as Watson and Lestrade so obligingly set themselves up but beyond that my main state of mind, despite being doubly armed with a hot Nespresso and a box of Jaffa Cakes, was boredom. Holmes needs an adversary to outwit or a problem to solve, lives to save or judgement to fall.
The Case of Peter the Painter. This one is jam packed full of the things that make a good Sherlock Holmes story one of the all time high marks for cosy reads. It's got a little of everything. Holmes has a visitor and he can't resist showing off his 'method' for Watson by applying it to the woman who calls. The woman in question tells a story of a sick daughter, yellow canaries and foreigners up to no-good. Holmes is on top note. Watson not so much. Unfortunately, at this point it becomes apparent that Donald Thomas' schtick has turned up wearing Doc Martens; Thomas loves to tie in the story with some historical incidence - in this case the clashes between police and Russian Anarchists notoriously remembered as 'the Houndsditch Murders' in which three policemen were gunned down dead and several more wounded and the Siege of Sydney Street in which Winston Churchill was at hand leading armed police and a detachment of Scots Guard against a heavily armed group of robber/anarchists. Watson gets heavily side-lined as the two Holmes brothers get pally with Winston but at least it gives him time to get some quality reading done in the form of Scott's Heart of Mid-Lothian. Although this is one of the better stories by Thomas I still think it had potential to be better without being diluted by the author's little history essays. 'The Siege of Sidney Street' also appeared in Barrie Roberts' 'Sherlock Holmes and the Railway Maniac', the first of nine Holmes novels which I heartily recommend.
The Case of the Zimmermann Telegram. The title is all you really need to know. If you have an interest in the Zimmermann Telegram then google some bibliography and save yourself having to read some historical commentary masquerading as a Sherlock Holmes story. Taking place during the 'His Last Bow' era, the story features Sherlock as our secret master decoder and Watson as a secret agent. Sound good? It isn't. No narrative whatsoever, just a very potted spotty history of the exploits of Room 40's codebreakers during the Great War but with Holmes as the prime mover. It occurred to me that the whole story might be another coded message which I eventually managed to decode. It reads thus: FEEL FREE TO SKIM THIS RUBBISH. Unfortunately the message revealed itself too late.
I do like a good anthology. But I do much prefer a mixed author anthology. In a mixed author anthology Donald Thomas might have been represented by the very agreeable 'The Case of the King's Evil', whereas here, in a single author anthology, his faults are highlighted by their repetition and by the inclusion of stories that are of variable quality. Many of these single author anthologies by authors attempting the Holmes pastiche have their highlights but are also of variable quality. It really underlines just what Doyle achieved to maintain such a high level of consistency throughout all 56 of his Sherlock Holmes short stories.
Seeing as how this anthology consisted of five stories I decided to award a star for each story which was worth reading....more
This was probably the first anthology of Sherlock Holmes pastiches that I ever read back in the dim and murky past when dinosaurs walked the Earth inThis was probably the first anthology of Sherlock Holmes pastiches that I ever read back in the dim and murky past when dinosaurs walked the Earth in mortal terror of Doug McClure. Basil Rathbone was still my main source of Holmes with most of Conan Doyle senior's stories still not having a place on my bookshelves. So now that all those brilliant works by dear Arthur are all indelible features of my memory, perhaps it's time I revisited his son's attempts to recreate his father's style with the help of his dad's old desk and of collaborator John Dickson Carr. Only the first two are full on collaborations with perhaps one of them, The Seven Clocks, being the best story in the collection. It's got a suitably bizarre fellow in it who goes in for some full on random clock smashing but it's the spot on atmosphere that makes the tale. The other being the rather poor The Gold Hunter. Carr's The Wax Gamblers is like one of those old school friends you bump into every five years or so, turning up in various anthologies. It has a very humorous tone and features boxing, an injured Holmes and Watson getting the butt of the jokes but saving the day anyway. Good story. Unfortunately Carr steps over the line too much in the farcical Highgate Miracle. Carr has almost no involvement in the very forgettable Black Baronet but must surely have loaned Conan Doyle some expertise to craft The Sealed Room. Carr is regarded as one of the greatest to pen the sub-genre of the locked room and one of his stories was voted the all time best by his peers. Conan Doyle's father also penned a story of the same name. What results is also quite a good story and another that pops up from time to time. From here on in Conan Doyle junior is left to his own devices as illness took a toll on Carr. What follows are six very derivative stories, mostly dull, with many of the right elements but no finished shine. The pick of them is The Debtford Horror, deeply derivative of The Speckled Band, but quite atmospheric with a nice frisson of creepiness to accompany one of the most creative methods of bumping off unwanted family members ever seen. Though thanks to Conan Doyle senior for sewing the seed by first mentioning in Black Peter the arrest of Wilson the notorious canary-trainer. Although Wilson is not arrested in the story Conan Doyle junior lays the blame at Watson's feet calling it 'a typical Watson error.' Holmes quite uncharacteristically spouts proverbs throughout. Fun though. What always occurs to me after reading a Sherlock Holmes anthology, and the number is legion, is that no matter how closely the writers mimic Conan Doyle senior's style, or how many Holmsian elements are included, none of them come close to performing the alchemy that Arthur Conan Doyle did. In many ways the formula to the literary alchemy of the perfect Victorian Sherlock Holmes story is lost to time because no one has first hand experience of the Victorian era nor the acquaintance of the men the great detective was based upon....more
Review from Badelynge The God of the Hive follows on directly from events in The Language of Bees and is the 10th book to feature Mary Russell. Mary anReview from Badelynge The God of the Hive follows on directly from events in The Language of Bees and is the 10th book to feature Mary Russell. Mary and Sherlock are separated again and on the run. At first assessment you think of Reichenbach, and there are certainly deliberate similarities but the suspense gets left behind too often. Laurie R. King chooses instead to tell a more character driven story, examining Russell's new relationship with the recently discovered granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes. It's easy to forget that the whole business began as a search for the girl's missing mother. King has covered similar ground to this in her Kate Martinelli detective series. The die hard Sherlockian in me can't read the start of a chapter beginning with the words 'Chief Inspector Lestrade' without at least a slight twitch of my arm muscles (perhaps to punch the air) even if this Lestrade is a younger chip off the original block. A lengthy interlude in the wild woods of northern England takes up a large section of the book, including the introduction of a new character called Goodman. A man with a tortured history of war damaged psychosis, King fancies as an embodiment of the English folklore legend of The Green Man and a similar revisit to another of King's character experiments - see the Martinelli book To Play the Fool. It's this particular Holy Fool who is partly responsible for a funeral so bizarre it might not have looked out of place on an episode of The Prisoner. The writing is as good as ever but with the plot, thin though it is, sidelined so often the experience isn't quite as compelling as usual. When the plot does finally emerge from the London fog with so few pages remaining I was beginning to think we were going to end as the last book ended with another 'TO BE CONTINUED'. Thankfully that doesn't happen and we are treated belatedly to a proper Reichenbach style finale in the shadow of Big Ben. ...more
Quite poor. The author seems to have a limited number of phrases that are trotted out again and again. I wish these writers would stop trying to writeQuite poor. The author seems to have a limited number of phrases that are trotted out again and again. I wish these writers would stop trying to write stories based on mysteries that were only mentioned in the original stories. If I have to read another story featuring a red leech I think I will shoot myself. Fan fiction and published fiction has been doing this for decades. They've all been done - many times. It just makes the story sink without trace amongst the rest like a sprig of parsley in a pat of butter on a hot day. ...more