The Mammoth Book of the Lost Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes by Denis O. Smith (2014) is an outstanding collection of non-canonical stories featuring th...moreThe Mammoth Book of the Lost Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes by Denis O. Smith (2014) is an outstanding collection of non-canonical stories featuring the great detective. Smith manages to duplicate Watson's narrative voice with great skill--slipping only occasionally. The stories are very reminiscent of the original short stories without appearing to be mere copies of Doyle's work. I thoroughly enjoyed the stories and finding myself once again on the fog-shrouded streets of Holmes's London. I have two minor quibbles. First, there are two longer stories--almost novella-length--included (making this a mammoth-sized book, indeed!) and Smith seems to lose his narrative voice most in these. He maintains Doyle's style much better in the shorter works. Second, I'm not certain what dictated the order of the stories--whether they were published as short stories elsewhere first and then gathered in publication/writing order or if some other criteria was used--but I would have enjoyed them a bit more if the stories had appeared chronologically per the Holmes/Watson relationship. We skip from them have roomed together for some time to Watson being married and longer sharing rooms to a story from the earliest days of their shared rooms and then back forth between the first two options mentioned. Again, minor quibble that didn't prevent me from enjoying myself, it just caused a bit of a disruption in the flow of the work as a whole. Four and 1/4 stars. [finished late last night: 4/13/14]
Here is a run-down of the stories included: "The Adventure of the Crimson Arrow": A man is killed with a certain archer's arrow. Holmes shows how it is possible that the archer in question is innocent.
"The Adventure of Kendal Terrace": Mr. Claydon comes home unexpectedly to find his entire household (wife & servants) missing and strangers in possession of the house as if they had always lived there. Holmes gets to the bottom of it all.
"A Hair's Breadth": Holmes uses a single hair to find the killer of a harmless old lady.
"The Adventure of the Smiling Face": A professor of Classical Archaeology is plagued with ominous notes and a tile with the face of a smiling woman. When the professor is found dead with only one set of footprints leading to the spot where he was found, the authorities are quick to call it accident. But Holmes knows better.
"The Adventure of the Fourth Glove": The Latchmere diamond has been stolen and Holmes must find the culprit. The clue is the fourth glove. (That's no spoiler...and I challenge you to figure out what the glove means.)
"The Adventure of the Richmond Recluse": Mr. David Boldero's brother has gone missing--apparently at the hands of their uncle who scooped the family fortune when their grandfather died. But there is no proof. Holmes discovers what happened to the brother...and who really should have inherited.......
"The Adventure of the English Scholar": Mr. Rhodes Harte meets a learned English Scholar on the train. When Dr. Kennett alights from the train, he leaves his satchel behind. Harte, a kindly good citizen, attempts to return the property...only to find himself in the middle of an international intrigue. He, of course, consults with Holmes who soon finds the truth of the matter.
"The Adventure of the Amethyst Ring": Holmes investigates the disappearance of Jack Prentice, a former dealer of stolen goods who has since gone straight.
The Adventure of the Willow Pool": Captain returns from India to find that his father and all of the townspeople have inexplicably taken against him. No one will tell him why (they all assume he knows what despicable thing he has done). Holmes finds the answer....and a murderer.
"The Adventure of Queen Hippolyta": Mr. Godfrey Townsend is abducted one morning on his way to the dentist and taken to a deserted house. His abductors leave for a short time (locking him in a room)...and fearing that he might be robbed of his expensive cigar case, he hides it under a floor board. The men return with a woman who is furious when she sees Townsend--they have grabbed the wrong man! He is knocked out and awakens in Hyde Park with no clue where the abandoned house might be. He comes to Holmes hoping he can help him find his case. Holmes does--and moreover discovers the secret behind the abduction.
"The Adventure of Dedstone Mill": Holmes takes on one of his youngest clients when Miss Harriet Borrow, age 14, engages him to help discover several things: who is trying to kill her younger brother, where their lovely aunt may be, and what happened to their friend, the tutor. It is a diabolical plot indeed.
"An Incident in Society": The military's secret codes have been copied and it's up to Holmes to stop the information from being passed to an infamous international spy.
Alfred Hitchcock's A Hangman's Dozen is a collection of short stories by mystery and suspense story stars such as Evan Hunter, Ray Bradbury, Donald We...moreAlfred Hitchcock's A Hangman's Dozen is a collection of short stories by mystery and suspense story stars such as Evan Hunter, Ray Bradbury, Donald Westlake, and Jonathan Craig among others. You could call this Hitchcock's How-to Guide for committing the perfect crime--although "perfect" may be in the eyes of the beholder. In this criminal do-it-yourself guide we get the following tips:
"Bomb #14" by Jack Ritchie: How to get the girl and be sure you keep her "The Forgiving Ghost" by C. B. Gilford: How to get rid of a bothersome wife "The Children of Noah" by Richard Matheson: How to have the perfect barbeque with an out-of-town guest "An Attractive Family" by Robert Arthur" How to keep murder in the family. "Let the Sucker Beware" by Charles Einstein: How to perfect your con game "Fair Game" by John Cortez: How to turn the tables on someone who plans on framing you for murder "The Curious Facts Preceding My Execution" by Richard Stark: How even the most perfect plans can go awry "Your Witness" by Helen Neilsen: How to get your lawyer husband to arrange for a corroborating witness to your innocence when he dies "Blackout" by Richard Deming: How to dress for success when confessing to murder "The October Game" by Ray Bradbury: How to really make your spouse suffer "Stop Calling me Mister" by Jonathan Craig: How to get rid of a cheating wife and her lover--all in one go "The Last Escape" by Jay Street: How to avenge your own murder--from the grave "Not a Laughing Matter" by Evan Hunter: How to take care of those who make fun of you "Most Agreeably Poisoned" by Fletcher Flora: How to prove to your wife that you're the better man--even if you have to die to do so "The Best-Friend Murder" by Donald Fletcher: How to really make friends and influence people
Each story has a little preface from the master showman himself. And the book provides a good solid collection of entertaining stories. Three stars for a quick crash course on murder.
You can rewrite life all you want, Sandy thought. It's still a play where everyone dies in the end. (p. 193)
When Bambi Gottschalk met Felix Brewer in...moreYou can rewrite life all you want, Sandy thought. It's still a play where everyone dies in the end. (p. 193)
When Bambi Gottschalk met Felix Brewer in 1959, she knew he wasn't perfect--except perfect for her. It was love at first sight for both of them when he crashed that party at the Lord Baltimore Hotel, danced one dance with her, and told her he'd be the only one she'd ever know. And he was right. But...as mentioned...not perfect. He made plenty of money to keep her in finery and was always looking to get ahead, but he cut corners and made his money in ways he didn't like to discuss. And even though she was the only woman he'd ever love, she wasn't the only woman he'd ever have.
She learned to accept the indiscretions...until Julie came along. Julie lasted longer than the others. Then Felix got brought before the Grand Jury for some of his income's irregularities and did a runner before he could be put away. When Bambi discovered that Felix had apparently forgotten to make provisions for her and his three daughters and then Julie disappeared ten years to the day from when Felix disappeared, Bambi believed--as did the general public--that Julie had taken the money and run off to join her lover. At least she believed it until Julie's remains were discovered in a secluded park. But no money was found and no trace of Julie's murderer or Felix.
Twenty-six years later, Roberto "Sandy" Sanchez, a retired cop who now works on cold cases as a consultant, gets interested in the old murder and begins digging into the past. He has a perfect record because he hand-picks his cases and he knows that "the name [of the killer] is always in the file." You just have to look at everything from the right angle. But no matter how he looks at it, he always comes back to the man who disappeared and the five women he left behind.
This is a lovely novel. I picked it up because it's a mystery and I've enjoyed previous books by Laura Lippman. I stayed with it because of the characters. Lippman takes us back and forth between the events in the past and the happenings of the present and does it very effectively. That sort of thing doesn't always work well for me, but Lippman handles it just right. I also enjoyed the various viewpoints in the story--from Sandy to Bambi to Felix to Julie to the three daughters. Each viewpoint gave us the different angles that Sandy insists you have to examine in order to find the truth.
The book is also more than a mystery--sure, we're wondering what really happened to Felix and who murdered Julie--but the story is also about relationships and loss and trust...and what happens when that trust is misplaced. It's about the long-range effects of our actions and how little control we have over the ripples caused by our decisions--and how the best-laid plans can go awry.
The one distraction for me was all the background information on Sandy. There was an awful lot of information about him and his wife and their son. And information about the woman who raised him. We learn about his inadequacies and way more details about his private life than we really need to make the story progress. It's good to get to know the detective and to understand what motivates him, but a lot of what we learn doesn't really help with that. This distraction brings the read down to four stars.
It seems plain to me that I just don't get mysteries as written by Chinese authors. Previously, I had read A Pair of Jade Frogs by Ye Xin and I strugg...moreIt seems plain to me that I just don't get mysteries as written by Chinese authors. Previously, I had read A Pair of Jade Frogs by Ye Xin and I struggled with it as well. The problem for me is pacing and expectations--I realize this is absolutely my problem and no reflection on the authors at all (thus, I have not given a star rating to this novel--it wouldn't be fair). Decoded takes forever to get to the main kernel of the story--namely the problem highlighted in the first paragraph of the synopsis above. The synopsis that grabbed my attention and caused me to pick this up at the library.
The entire first half of the novel (perhaps even a bit more) is taken up in a minutely-detailed exposition of Jinzhen's ancestry--his family and all the details surrounding them and his birth and who he his and where he came from and where they lived and how they made riches from salt and how they lost their wealth and.... And--by the time we actually got around to the meat of the story I found I had no interest at all. Is there a need for an explanation of Jinzhen's background? Absolutely. Is there a need to go into such mind-numbing detail? In my opinion, absolutely not--because by the time I had made my way through the first half Mia Jia had lost this reader. And the intrigue of the thriller never brought me back.
Readers who are more capable at discarding preconceived notions about the pacing of a mystery/thriller may thoroughly enjoy this novel--and judging by the rating on Goodreads that is absolutely possible. I am sorry it wasn't possible for me.
The League of Frightened Gentlemen (1935) is the second of Rex Stout's books featuring the detective duo of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. Stout's tea...moreThe League of Frightened Gentlemen (1935) is the second of Rex Stout's books featuring the detective duo of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. Stout's team--made up of the gargantuan genius Wolfe and his street smart legman Goodwin--always provide good entertainment even early in the series.
Here we have a group of frightened men who are certain that their college friend, Paul Chapin, is set on a path of revenge for a crippling injury he suffered at their hands during a hazing incident. Two of their number have already died and each of them received a poetic message following the deaths. Messages in which Chapin seems to be claiming responsibility for the deaths and which tell the group that they should have killed him when they had the chance. A third member of the group, Andrew Hibbard, approaches Nero Wolfe and asks him to keep Chapin from murdering him--but he doesn't want the man turned over to the police. Wolfe tells him that he can't help him under those conditions.
Not too long after, Hibbard disappears and another note is delivered saying that Chapin has killed him as well. Hibbard's niece comes to Wolfe with more information about the league of men, but he also tells her that he can be of no help--abstracting a list of the men involved from her materials before she leaves. His plan is to approach the group and promise to remove any threat from Paul Chapin, discover who (if anybody) really killed the first two men, and prove what happened to Hibbard. Anyone who knows Wolfe, knows that he'll fulfill his promise (and collect his huge fee in the bargain).
This is going to be a short review--I listened to this one on my way back home for a family get-together. While I enjoy listening to books on tape occasionally (especially on long drives), I find it more difficult to review them. I just sit back and enjoy the show, so to speak, and don't really concentrate on the details. Let me start by saying that Saul Rubinek, who is th itsee reader for this particular version, does an excellent job. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him and he was excellent in the male parts. Fortunately, there weren't many female speakers--because he had one voice for all of them.
The story itself was a good one--entertaining, finely drawn characters, a nice twist ending, and worth the price of admission just to listen to (or read) the scene where Archie is drugged and then tries to fight his way out of the stupor.
A Tale of Two Biddies by Kylie Logan is the second in the League of Literary Ladies series set on South Bass Island (one of Ohio's islands in Lake Eri...moreA Tale of Two Biddies by Kylie Logan is the second in the League of Literary Ladies series set on South Bass Island (one of Ohio's islands in Lake Erie). The group was originated when a judge required them to form a book club and work out their differences after they had appeared before him once too often. They had just settled themselves down in that task in the first book, when the owner of a local restaurant (The Orient Express) was murdered--and naturally they had to help solve that crime.
This time out, a rather unlikeable young man named Richie is murdered during the inaugural Bastille Day--a local festival celebrating the Dickens classic, A Tale of Two Cities. He had already complained to Hank, the local police officer, that someone had tried to kill him by shoving him into the lake earlier that week. But given his tendency to complain and dramatize, his story was discounted. When he winds up full of poison in the corner of the bar, it looks like the dunking in the lake was more than an accident. There are a lot of motives floating around--from the man who lost everything because of Richie's "little mistake" to the owner of a million-dollar home that was blown sky-high because Richie forgot to turn off the gas to the lead singer of Guillotine (a rock band playing at the festival) who had a heated discussion with Richie despite claiming that he never met the man before in his life. While Hank follows the official routes, Bea Cartwright and her literary ladies follow up with casual questioning.
This was a fun, quick read. Definitely a cozy mystery--small town, quirky characters, no blood & gore, very little official police work, and an amateur sleuth who doesn't take herself too seriously. The references to Dickens' work throughout the book fit very nicely and add to the fun. The only drawback? The culprit was as plain as plain could be--if you pick up on the right references and notice the spoiler on the cover of the book. Fortunately, getting to know the characters and enjoying their interactions made for so much fun that having a puzzle to solve wasn't as necessary as usual in the mysteries I read. Three stars for good, solid fun.
If one must chase villains, one should do so in style. (p. 247)
India Black is at it again in India Black & the Gentleman Thief...rounding up the b...moreIf one must chase villains, one should do so in style. (p. 247)
India Black is at it again in India Black & the Gentleman Thief...rounding up the bad guys with style and flair. She and French have barely recovered from their latest adventure--saving London from bomb-happy anarchists--when danger comes knocking. Literally. Just as India is trying to worm information out of French about her ancestry, a messenger arrives at the door with an envelope from one of her customers. Colonel Francis Mayhew wants her to hold the missive until he comes to collect it. Opening other people's mail is by no means taboo when one hasn't volunteered for the job of postmistress and India promptly slits the envelope open--only to find an ordinary shipping bill. As she and French ponder the meaning behind it, another knock brings a different sort of messenger--in the guise of three burly thugs who beat up our intrepid heroes and make off with the bill of lading.
Of course, our Madam of Espionage isn't about to take that lying down...well at least not once she's recovered from the trouncing...and she and French head out to track down Mayhew and find out why he deposited such a dangerous document at Lotus House. Unfortunately, the Colonel is in no condition to explain anything. Someone has reached him first and sent him out of this world in the most horrible way possible. India and French will follow a trail that leads from the dockyards of London to the War Office and armaments supply to a lonely farmhouse in the countryside where an arms trafficker lurks. Along the way, India discovers that she has an acquaintance with one of the chief suspects...an acquaintanceship she'd rather not confess to French.
As if India's life is not complicated enough, the Dowager Marchioness of Tullibardine shows up with enough boxes and trunks to stay for months and creates general havoc in Lotus House--from running off anti-Scottish customers to allowing her dogs the run of the house (and have puppies while they're at it). The only redeeming factor is that the Marchioness is finally willing to tell India what she knows about her background. But what is India to do with the information? If she can just find time between hunting down blood-thirsty killers, escaping a nasty death at the bottom of the ocean, and tracking down arms dealers, then she might give it some thought.
This is a whirlwind of a book. The story moves at full throttle and keeps the reader on the edge of her seat waiting to see what will happen next--whether it's the next step in the mystery plot or where the relationship between India and French is headed or what India plans to do about the hereditary information she gets from the Marchioness. There is a lot going on and Carol K. Carr handles it all superbly. The India Black series is wonderful and just keeps getting better. If you love a good adventure mystery set in Victorian times with a bit of romance for flavor and haven't started reading these yet, then what's keeping you?
Two years ago (just about a week shy of exactly to the day) Steve (aka The Puzzle Doctor) reviewed Agatha Christie's Endless Night and got me interest...moreTwo years ago (just about a week shy of exactly to the day) Steve (aka The Puzzle Doctor) reviewed Agatha Christie's Endless Night and got me interested in reading the book again--just to see if my less-than-stellar two-star rating from twenty-some years ago would still hold true (and fall pretty much in line with his reading of the book) or if I might like it better now. My paperback copy is buried somewhere in storage, so when I came across a nice 1967 British Book Club hardcover I snatched it up and put it on the TBR pile for this year.
And, Steve, I'm with you and Patrick and am sticking with my two-star rating. This book is just not my idea of the best of Agatha Christie. I'm pretty picky about the suspense novels I read. There are definitely authors in that genre that appeal to me. Christie writing suspense isn't one of them. Give me her good old fashioned Golden Age style books any day. Like Steve, I also do not care for the way she recycled a certain plot device. I thought it clever the first time I encountered it, but even though I had forgotten that it was employed here it didn't make me like it any better this time around. It's difficult to discuss this one in any great detail without addressing the plot point in question--and I hate to spoil the book for anyone who might like to read it. But, please, don't let my lack of enthusiasm dissuade you from picking it up--there are plenty of people who consider this one of Christie's best novels from her later years. You might like it as well--especially if suspense is your favorite genre.