I basically skimmed/read this book in day. It's short, and it's mostly in comicbook form. It had its interesting moments. Batman is probably my favoriI basically skimmed/read this book in day. It's short, and it's mostly in comicbook form. It had its interesting moments. Batman is probably my favorite superhero (though, okay, yes, he doesn't really have superpowers, just training, wits and gadgets, and a really tragic backstory to fall back on), but I have to say I have no experience reading comicbooks (just manga). My interest in this book sprung out of researching an animated Batman TV show from the 1990s, "Batman: The Animated Series", one that I had watched and enjoyed then and am buying on DVD now. One of the components that made the show great then and now was the style of animation coupled with the grim, dreary backgrounds of Gotham City. (During the fourth season, the characters became more stylized, which was a little unsettling.) Anyway, this a great book to check out for fans of Batman. ...more
**spoiler alert** After 100 pages, I can't stomach reading anymore of this. I am so disappointed, especially because I love Carol Goodman's usual "atm**spoiler alert** After 100 pages, I can't stomach reading anymore of this. I am so disappointed, especially because I love Carol Goodman's usual "atmospheric thrillers", and I had been excited to see she had written another mystery. (I understand as of recently she has been writing romance novels and young adult series, neither of which I've read.) I even bought it as a hardcover, which I rarely ever do because hardcovers are so much more expensive than paperbacks.
Anyway, I found this novel to be lacking all of the usual things I have loved in Goodman's previous novels, such as "The Ghost Orchid", "The Seduction of Water", "Arcadia Falls", "The Night Villa" and "The Drowning Tree"—a strong female character, an inevitable attraction, a dark past/secret, a suspenseful atmosphere. On the surface, "River Road" does appear to have these things, but the unbelievable as actually human stock characters pull the whole narrative down, as does the specter of the narrator's daughter, killed on the same road as the latest victim. Nan, the narrator, is a drunk in extreme denial, though it's almost hard to fault her since her daughter was killed—except that it was a drunk driving accident, and the narrator decides to stay in the house right on this road where her daughter died. I found that hard enough to buy, so trying to swallow the implication of Nan craving the same brand of bourbon that was found in the car of the woman who killed her daughter seems like utter crap. Just the fact that she drinks bourbon at all feels like utter crap.
And who says "Poor [insert character name here]" to a character's face? "Poor Nan," says both Dottie and Cressida. It rang so false.
The other characters also came off as so fake to me: Dottie (the mothering, gossiping type), Ross (the former flame, the other drunk, the seductive professor who may have been having an affair with students), Cressida (WTF kind of name is that, btw? the way-too-good-to-be-true best friend and perfect teacher), McAffraty (the cop and obvious love interest), Leia (the most perfect student and person until her horrible death), Nan's ridiculous family. The whole novel appeared cartoonish and comical when it was supposed to be serious and somber (but not sober, of course). Nan's constant repetiton in the beginning that she "Hit a deer! It was deer, officer!!!! A deer!!!!" and "Well, I wasn't drunk! I wasn't!!!! I only had two glasses of wine!!! It was a deer!" and then everything she did to make it worse with the cop, Ross, Dottie, the entire student body—it was laughable. I just kept thinking, "What a dumb-ass! This woman is a teacher? At a college? Why is she such a moron?" (Cue a reminder of her dead daughter and her craving for alcohol.)
As a stylistic choice, I was bothered by all the dashes which ended several paragraphs. I wasn't sure why so many were necessary; perhaps her editor told her to cool it with ellipses and this was a second choice. Was the point of so many to reflect how many sharp, long pauses the narrator needed to collect her drunken thoughts? It was overkill.
I skimmed the rest because I couldn't really take reading any more. I'm not sure what Ross was up to with all his creepy, suspicious behavior, but he was apparently not the killer. I won't spoil who the killer was for anyone who can actually make it through this novel.
I'm disappointed, a little angry and feeling cheated by "River Road". It's subpar, and not up to the excellent standards (in my own opinion) of the Goodman books mentioned above. "The Ghost Orchid" is one of my favorite books, and after reading it I went out and bought her three other novels that were out at the time: "The Lake of Dead Languages" (the one I found the weakest of the bunch), "The Seduction of Water" and "The Drowning Tree" (both which I loved immensely). I have yet to read "The Sonnet Lover" but am really holding the hope that it's a million times better than this absolute stinker "River Road".
The rating is higher more for the two essays at the end, which were the anthology's strongest pieces. The first few stories were poorly written and woThe rating is higher more for the two essays at the end, which were the anthology's strongest pieces. The first few stories were poorly written and worse, poorly edited! I should preface this review by stating that I never read any of the original Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories, and that I've mainly come to this book out of interest for the BBC Sherlock tv show, which I love and enjoy. So that said, I'm not sure if some of these stories were imitiating the original stories, which prehaps lacked in more thorough punctuation, or if the editing of this anthology was just that bad. Misuse (or absense) of commas irritates me, and thus, the first story was very irritating for that reason, mostly. After reading the first two stories, I seriously considered putting the book down for good, since they were fairly unremarkable (besides the comma misuse) and bored me. They also made me wonder if, in the original Sherlock Holmes stories, Holmes is presented as a smart-ass who doesn't do much detective work and just shows up at the end to make a "stunning deduction" and out the criminal.
The third story, however, was decent and kept me reading the rest of the book. It's called "The Siren of Sennen Cove" by Peter Tremayne. There's a "ghost" involved, and an actual mystery which is investigated, so when it came time to make the "stunning deduction" and out the criminal, there was actual thought and intellect put into the evidence. I was impressed. The other stories I enjoyed:
"The Case of the Bloodless Sock" by Anne Perry, a Moriarty story (though he's not ever seen), has some good suspense;
"A Hansom For Holmes" by Gillian Linscott, the only story in the collection not narrator by Watson, but by a hansom cabbie: this one was fun to read, and very humorous as well;
"The Adventure of the Arabian Knight" by Loren D. Estleman, well-written with a well-told mystery, with good descriptions and believable characters, and with an ironic epilogue;
"The Adventure of the Cheshire Cheese" by Jon L. Breen, a story with a twist that proves just how good Sherlock Holmes really is;
"Darkest Gold" by L.B. Greenwood, which seemed to be tiresome at first but actually had a well-deserved, well-earned ending, and got better after disguises were shed;
"The Remarkable Worm" by Carolyn Wheat, one of the best well-written stories of the collection, which has an "A" story and a "B" story which dovetail nicely to make for a good conclusion to the mystery.
As mentioned, the last two are essays (actually, there's a third essay which I didn't read the whole of because my eyes were glazing over; it's called "And Now, A Word From Arthur Conan Doyle" by Jon L. Lellenberg. It's basically a summary of all the new words Doyle coined, or that were coined because of Sherlock Holmes, or what words took on new meanings because of Doyle, or Sherlock, and what was included in either the Oxford English Dictionary, or one of its many Supplements. But after its intro, I wasn't interested in reading the essay.) are reason alone to get and this book.
The first essay is by Arthur Conan Doyle himself, called "Sidelights on Sherlock Holmes". Conan Doyle spends time talking about his "most notorious character" mostly in terms of stage plays, what he wrote to be adapted for the stage, and what his relationship was with some of the actors who portrayed Sherlock on stage. He mentions his friendship with J.M. Barrie, who presented him with a short Sherlock parody following the disaster (and complete failure) of a play they'd co-written. Doyle also discusses the look of his Sherlock versus the look given by an illustrator, Sidney Paget, who had based the Holmes model on his brother Walter, who was more handsome that Doyle originally intended Sherlock to be. He also talks about the films (of the 40s, I'm guessing), of which his "only criticism is that they introduce telephones, motor cars and othe luxuries of which the Victorian Holmes never dreamed." What an interesting insight, which is just one among many in this great essay.
The second essay, "100 Years of Sherlock Holmes" by Lloyd Rose, I at first thought was another short story, but is instead a lengthy rumination on all of the actors who played Sherlock in the different movie versions (of the 40s). I found it very informative, and fascinating, so much so that I took the author's notions to heart when I went to the library and borrowed some of these old films. In summary, Jeremy Brett plays Sherlock as a strung-out coke addict, laughing too loudly at all the wrong moments. Basil Rathbone, his appearance based strong on Sidney Paget's illustrations, is one of the most lasting impressions of what Sherlock looks like and behaves like. Though, the author states, Rathbone's films were set during WWII and feature Holmes "fighting Nazis" and have little to do with the stories Conan Doyle wrote. Rathbone's films are also melodramas which feature Holmes constantly in some kind of physical danger or peril, and also portray Watson as, according the author, "obtuse", and in my own description, a stupid old man who's only purpose is comic relief, perhaps. (I borrowed all of the Basil Rathbones I could find; the creators of the BBC Sherlock always mention that the version Basil Rathbone portrayed stuck with them the most as they re-created Sherlock for a modern age.)
A few other actors are mentioned by the author who calls each performance one that "fell flat"—from "a fool", "a smug bully", "a bisexual" and "a soft-hearted liberal"—all attempts that "were beside the point", since these are outside of the realm of which Doyle created for Sherlock. The author says: "The actors invovled don't seem to *get* it. As a character, Holmes is very precisely defined; an actor approaching the role plays it successfully only if he plays by Conan Doyles' rules."
So, overall, I was impressed by the aforementioned works, and I highly encourage fans of the original Sherlock Holmes—or any more modern counterpart—to check out this collection.