Gods of Gold is the debut novel in Chris Nickson's historical mystery series set in 1890s England. It introduces the reader to Detective Inspector TomGods of Gold is the debut novel in Chris Nickson's historical mystery series set in 1890s England. It introduces the reader to Detective Inspector Tom Harper who must juggle an investigation into the disappearance of eight-year-old Martha Parkinson, the murder of her father Col Parkinson, and an assignment to help quell the violence expected in connection with the striking gas workers.
The constable who has taken over Harper's old beat comes to the Inspector with his worries over the missing girl. Her mother is in prison (again) and her father claims he has sent the girl to stay with his sister. A sister that no one ever knew he had. The constable doesn't buy the man's story and neither does Harper once he interviews the man. Before they can make many inquiries, Col Parkinson is found dead the next morning. The description of a couple of toughs who called upon the dead man during the time period when Martha vanished cause Harper to believe that Martha has been sold. But to whom? And for what purpose.
Pressure from above forces Harper's superior to pull him from the local investigation to provide protection for the "black legs" who have been brought in to cross the picket lines and keep the gas works going. Things take a turn for the worse when one of the replacements is stabbed and killed outside the Town Hall and Harper will have to work twice as hard to solve both mysteries before the gas strike violence makes it impossible.
This is a fairly solid beginning to a new historical series. Good background and interesting set-up. I have personal difficulties with children in danger, but, fortunately, there isn't a lot of graphic detail about what happened to the missing girl. Harper and his sergeant, Billy Reed, have the makings of a good team--a little more depth to the characters, which hopefully will come as the series progresses, will add much to the story. The most finely drawn character, even though she isn't in the foreground throughout, is Harper's bride-to-be Annabelle. Perhaps this is because she is based on stories from Chris Nickson's father about a distant relative. ★★★ for a promising beginning.
The Mangle Street Murders takes us to Victorian London to meet the most famous personal detective. Personal--not private. Don't even think about usingThe Mangle Street Murders takes us to Victorian London to meet the most famous personal detective. Personal--not private. Don't even think about using the word "private" in his presence. Just as Sidney Grice has taken on the guardianship of the daughter of a man to whom he feels indebted, he is approached by Mrs. Grace Dillinger to investigate the murder of her daughter. The man accused of stabbing Sarah Dillinger Ashby forty times is her husband--but Mrs. Dillinger is certain that he is innocent. When Grice finds out that Mrs. Dillinger has no money, he is ready to decline the case--after all, the most important thing is his fee, not justice. But his ward, March Middleton, has means of her own and offers to pay him herself--provided he allows her to accompany him in his investigations. He reluctantly agrees, but the more they discover the more convinced he becomes that the police have arrested the right man. March is just as sure that they may be sending an innocent man to the gallows and she keeps goading Grice on to continue looking for the truth. A truth that may surprise both of them.
Sidney Grice is the most unlikeable "good" guy I've ever met in detective fiction. There are detectives with big egos (Nero Wolfe or Hercule Poirot, anyone?). There are detectives with irritating habits, poor manners,or an apparent loathing of their fellow-man...but Grice absolutely takes the cake. He is rude to just about everyone he meets. His ego is as big as steam engine. He'll do just about anything to make sure he gets the credit for solving a case and once he's got the credit, he absolutely does NOT want to admit that he might have been wrong. He has all the faults of Holmes and none of the redeeming qualities.
March Middleton, on the other hand, is a very likeable, outspoken young woman who isn't about to live up to her Victorian male companions' opinions of women. She's assisted her father, the army surgeon, out in the field and she isn't about to swoon at the sight of blood or the use of strong language. She has no problem telling her guardian, Inspector Pound, various constables, shopkeepers, and others exactly what she thinks. She's definitely good for Grice--he needs someone to tell him he's not nearly as wonderful and perfect as he thinks he is.
The other supporting characters are also finely drawn and engaging. The mystery is a tad convoluted and it's not as fairly clued as one might like, but a nice solid debut novel. I definitely want to read the next one...if only to find out if Grice mellows at all after having March in his household for a while. I'm also curious to see if the mystery is better constructed and explained.
The Mammoth Book of the Lost Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes by Denis O. Smith (2014) is an outstanding collection of non-canonical stories featuring thThe 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.
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 bIf 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?
To Kingdom Come is the second book in Will Thomas's Barker and Llewellyn historical mystery series set in Victorian England. Thomas Llewellyn has beenTo Kingdom Come is the second book in Will Thomas's Barker and Llewellyn historical mystery series set in Victorian England. Thomas Llewellyn has been in the employ of enquiry agent Cyrus Barker for a mere two and a half months--only one month has passed since the events in their debut novel, Some Danger Involved, and already the stakes have gone up dramatically.
Two bombs have gone off in London--destroying a portion of Scotland Yard and the Junior Carlton Club. Members of the Irish Republic Brotherhood claim responsibility and threaten more attacks to come if Parliament does not grant Ireland liberation from English rule within a month. Barker offers his service to the Home Office and comes up with a plan to discover and infiltrate the cell of the IRB responsible for the bombings. He and Llewellyn pose as explosive experts in order to win the group's confidence. But will they be able to maintain their cover long enough to allow Scotland Yard to arrest the dissidents without actually blowing up Parliament and the Prince of Wales?
Once again Thomas gives us an interesting, believable historical mystery set in the Holmsian period with far more action than most of the Holmes stories. The writing and description are up to par, but I have to say that I did not find the mystery or the story overall to be nearly as captivating as the debut. I still enjoy the interactions between Barker and Llewellyn...as well as with the other supporting characters and Thomas portrays the Irish resistance with just as much flair. But the first story was a more authentic mystery--the hunt for the killer of a young Jewish scholar with all the suspects and clues to follow of a standard detective novel. That is far more to my taste than the cloak of espionage that covers our heroes. Infiltrating the IRB and spending time manufacturing bombs just really didn't interest me as much. It also didn't help that the mastermind behind the group was obvious from about the midpoint of the book
However, slight misgivings about the topic aside, Thomas has produced a lively second novel--one that is a quick read and full of atmosphere and historical detail. I will definitely continue the series. Three and a half stars.
Around the World in Eighty Days is a classic adventure novel by Jules Verne. I had seen two filmed versions of the story--the 1956 version starring DaAround the World in Eighty Days is a classic adventure novel by Jules Verne. I had seen two filmed versions of the story--the 1956 version starring David Niven and a host of stars in cameo roles and the 1989 TV mini series starring Pierce Brosnan and his own host of stars--but had never read the story (despite having a huge book with all of Verne's major works). I still haven't "read" it. Faced with a long car trip over the Thanksgiving holiday, I popped in the audio version featuring Christopher Plummer as my narrator and listened to Verne's original story. I'm pleased to say that each of the films are remarkably faithful to the original--with only a bit of Hollywood glitz sprinkled in.
The story should be a familiar one, but just in case, here is a brief run-down. Phileas Fogg is an eccentric English gentleman of precise habits. He dines at the same hour every day, arrives at his club exactly on time, and always plays whist with his fellow club members at the same hour and for the same amount of time. He is something of a mystery--beyond his obsession with precision and his preference for the game of whist, little is known about him. That he is wealthy is obvious--how he came to be wealthy is another matter--whether it be through inheritance or sound investments or some other means...no one knows.
Fogg is so particular about the details of his life that as the story opens he has just dismissed his manservant for the inexcusable error of providing shaving water that was two degrees too cold. He advertises for a replacement and a Frenchman by the name of Passepartout arrives at his door in response to the ad. Passepartout has led a rather varied and adventuresome life, but is looking for something quiet and regular. Having heard about Fogg's passion for regularity and precision, he believes this to be the perfect position. Fogg hires him on the spot and sets off for his club.
At cards that evening, the subject of travel and how small the world has become with all the modern travel (trains, steamer ships, etc) options available--why, a man can go 'round the world in three months! Eighty days, is Fogg's reply. His fellow club members scoff at this, but Fogg recites the various methods of travel available, the length of time required for each leg of the journey, and adds it all up to eighty days. After much discussion back and forth, a wager is made. Fogg will offer up twenty thousand pounds (five thousand for each of his colleagues) if he is unable to return to the club in time for their usual whist game in precisely 80 days. He finishes the card game and heads home to inform Passepartout that they must pack and prepare to journey around the world. And so Fogg's grand adventure begins--an adventure that will include saving an Indian woman from being burned on a funeral pyre with her dead husband, preventing American Indians from taking over a train, and inciting a seafaring crew to mutiny in order to reach England in time.
In the meantime, a great bank robbery has taken place and it is said that the thief is--of all things--a gentleman. When the detective on the case--one Detective Fix--hears of Fogg's intended trip around the world, he becomes convinced that this mysterious gentleman with abundant funds but no visible means of support must be the thief and he takes off after him on the famous journey. Fix dogs Fogg's steps until Phileas sets foot on British soil once more...where he serves him with a warrant. By the time it is proved that Fogg is not the thief in question and flies by special train to London too many hours have passed and it looks like Fogg has lost his bet. But there is one last surprise waiting for Fogg, Passepartout, and the Indian woman Aouda. Fogg may collect after all.
This is my favorite Verne novel to date. I've read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth and they're both fine adventure stories, but Around the World is the best. I really enjoy reading about the proper, precise British gentleman making his way around the world and overcoming the various obstacles along the way. And Passepartout is such a charming sidekick for Fogg. I'm afraid I don't have much in the way of in-depth analysis on this one--listening to audio novels makes for pleasant driving, but limits my note-taking for review purposes. A delightful novel coming in at four stars....and now I want to pull out my Brosnan version of the film and rewatch it.
A Christmas Promise continues Anne Perry's shorter holiday mystery series with the story of thirteen-year-old Gracie Phipps and her new friend MinnieA Christmas Promise continues Anne Perry's shorter holiday mystery series with the story of thirteen-year-old Gracie Phipps and her new friend Minnie Maude Mudway. Gracie is running errands for her Gran when she runs across Minnie Maude--looking sad and lost. Minnie Maude is an eight-year-old girl on a mission to find Charlie, the beloved donkey that belonged to her Uncle Alf. Uncle Alf has just been found dead...apparently from a fall from his rag and bone cart. But the cart and Charlie have both disappeared and Minnie Maude is worried that the donkey is scared and lost.
Gracie promises Minnie Maude that she will help find the donkey. Not knowing where to go or how to set about it, they wind up consulting Mr. Balthazar, a wise old shopkeeper who warns them that there may be danger in asking too many questions. They soon discover that Uncle Alf was on the wrong route and may have picked up a valuable object that wasn't intended for the junk collector. Did someone kill to get the object back? Will the girls and their ally find the answers before Christmas--so Charlie can be home and safe in time for the holiday? You'll have to read and find out.
This is a very short and straight-forward mystery with just the right amount of Christmas charm. It is a good character study in the Victorian era and it is enjoyable to watch the girls quickly become friends. A bit of suspense and a fast-paced wrap-up make for a very solid Christmas mystery. Three stars.
In Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, Ann Margaret Lewis successfully brings us three tales that John Watson mentions inIn Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, Ann Margaret Lewis successfully brings us three tales that John Watson mentions in his stories but never gave readers the details. The Great Rat of Sumatra has often been the subject of authorial speculation, but this the first time I have found renditions of "the sudden death of Cardinal Tosca," "the Vatican cameos," and "the two Coptic Patriarchs." Lewis handles the well-known characters of Homes and Watson with great care and attention to the ways and writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And in the second story (cameos), she turns the narration over to Pope Leo XIII and manages a charming narrative that remains true to the spirit of Holmes.
Unlike many Americans who have written Holmes pastiches, Lewis makes us believe that these really could be stories penned by Dr. Watson and discovered in that battered dispatch box. The details are vivid and the tales feel authentic. She also manages to work theological explanations into the narrative without making readers feel as though they have sat through a religious lecture. Full marks for Holmesian atmosphere as well as pretty little puzzles for the master detective to unravel. Holmes is given full scope to exhibit his famous observational powers and deductive reasoning. An added bonus is his interactions with a certain soon-to-be Father Brown and the period-style pen and ink illustrations.
London is still reeling from the reign of terror brought on by Jack the Ripper. Scotland Yard has lost a great deal of the respect the populace had inLondon is still reeling from the reign of terror brought on by Jack the Ripper. Scotland Yard has lost a great deal of the respect the populace had in its police force--all because it could not bring the Ripper to justice. In the wake of this failure, Sir Edward Bradford, the new Commissioner of Police, creates the Murder Squad--an elite team of 12 detectives who will take on the most heinous crimes. The Squad is immediately put to the test when one of their own is found brutally stabbed and disfigured, stuffed into a steamer trunk and left in the Euston Square Station.
Detective Inspector Walter Day is about to get a baptism by fire. Fresh from Devon, he is plunged into his first murder case--as the lead Inspector. He can't afford to fail--not only are his fellow officers watching to see how the new man will work out, but how can the public feel safe if even police officers are being struck down? Fortunately, Day has the backing of Sir Edward and the help of Inspector Blacker, a veteran detective, Constable Hammersmith, a dedicated young policeman whose sense of justice in the death of a young chimney sweep will help lead to the killer, and Dr. Bernard Kingsley, the doctor and coroner who examines the body.
This novel is a whirlwind of Victorian era murder and mayhem. There is the main story--the horrific killings of police officers (yes, there will be more murders). But there is also the "Beard Killer," a murderer who shaves and then kills his victims. There are two prostitutes who are haunted by the shadow of the Ripper....and who take their own precautions against his return. There is a kidnapped boy and the death of the 5-year-old chimney sweep's apprentice.
And there is atmosphere--plenty of Victorian atmosphere. From the hansom cabs waiting at the corner, to the early days of forensics, to the elderly doctor who still believes in bleeding his patients (yikes!). Gas light and fog. Alex Grecian does a good job setting the stage. He is also very adept with his characters--I instantly like Day, Blacker, Hammersmith and Kinglsey. I enjoy them individually and I enjoy seeing their early work together. I think Grecian has the makings of a good series in his hands--and I hope the next book (which I need to order up at the library...) fulfills the promise.
One thing you should know--this is an inverted mystery. There is no secret about the killer's identity. We know who it is and we get to see his thoughts and begin to understand his motives long before the police figure out who it is. This sort of story doesn't always work for me--but it does here. I'll be interested to see if Grecian uses the same formula for the next book. In the meantime...this one is a good, solid three-star beginning to the series.
Christina Rossetti was considered by many of her contemporaries to be Britain's finest living poet. "Goblin Market" is her most famous poem--a poem thChristina Rossetti was considered by many of her contemporaries to be Britain's finest living poet. "Goblin Market" is her most famous poem--a poem that I read repeatedly as I made my way through high school and college English classes. But I had discovered her long before that...in a small volume of "best-loved poems" found on the shelves of the Wabash Carnegie Library. I promptly fell in love and then searched in vain for collections of her poetry.....until I discovered this book--Poems & Prose--about three years ago at Borders (before it went away).
Poems & Prose is billed as containing Rossetti's strongest and most distinctive work: poetry (including "Goblin Market", "The Prince's Progress", and the sonnet sequence "Monna Innominata"), stories (including the complete text of "Maude"), devotional prose, and personal letters. The collection includes published work as well as that which she withheld from publication. And the work is presented in chronological order--which gives the reader a chance to see her development as a poet and a writer.
I do wish that I could say that I was as enchanted with Rossetti's work as I was when I first discovered her. Unfortunately, I found the longer poems just that--long. Very long. Long enough to make me lose interest before the end of most of them. The sonnet sequence and the shorter works are lovely and the language of the poems quite beautiful. "Maude" is an interesting short story that is very autobiographical--featuring a young poet and her interactions with contemporaries. The other short stories that I found most interesting were "The Lost Titian," about a missing masterpiece, and "Vanna's Twins," described as a sort of "Babes in the Wood" without the happy ending. "Vanna's Twins" is a very touching and sad story. Overall--three and a half stars, rounded to four on GoodReads.
The lead-in to one of the most famous friendships in all of fiction:
Young Stamford looked rather strangely at me over his wine-glass. "You don't knowThe lead-in to one of the most famous friendships in all of fiction:
Young Stamford looked rather strangely at me over his wine-glass. "You don't know Sherlock Holmes yet," he said; "perhaps you would not care for him as a constant companion."
"Why, what is there against him?"
"Oh, I didn't say there was anything against him. He is a little queer in his ideas -- an enthusiast in some branches of science. As far as I know he is a decent fellow enough."
And, then, the famous meeting:
"Dr. Watson, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said Stamford, introducing us.
"How are you?" he said cordially, gripping my hand with a strength for which I should hardly have given him credit. "You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive."
The Study in Scarlet was the world's introduction to the first consulting detective. In it we are introduced to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson--along with recurring character Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. Holmes and Watson meet and decide to share lodgings (to share the costs). Watson is curious to discover what exactly his new roommate does: he meets him in a lab, knows from a mutual acquaintance that he's studying various sciences--but not apparently for the purposes of being a doctor, and watches as an odd assortment of people come to talk with Holmes in their sitting room. Finally, Holmes receives a message from Gregson of the Yard inviting him to take an interest in a very odd death--and Watson learns of Holmes's standing as an amateur detective.
They are off and running on the case of the death of Enoch Drebber--a man found dead in an empty house with no trace of violence on his person and no visible cause of death, despite the vast amount of blood in the room. Holmes will scour the room (and the outdoors surrounding the house) for clues and discover that the death has it roots in the southwestern U.S. With the help of his Baker Street Irregulars, the band of street urchins who serve as his eyes and ears in the city, he manages to track the culprit down in three days.
I grew up on Sherlock Holmes. My big ticket item for Christmas when I was about ten years old was a green, leather-bound edition called The Celebrated Cases of Sherlock Holmes. I read "The Red-Headed League" long before it was required in high school English. I'm revisiting the first recorded case of the famous consulting detective for a couple of challenges and just have a couple of thoughts on this delightful Victorian mystery about love and revenge.
First, I love the meeting between Holmes and Watson. Two strangers meet up, answer a couple of questions apiece, and immediately decide to share lodgings. Can't see that happening in this day and age--at least I wouldn't want to share an apartment with someone I knew had been beating up dead bodies in his spare time. Not without knowing him for longer than about 15 minutes, anyway. It's amazing how times have changed--Doyle apparently knew that his audience wouldn't even bat an eye at that scenario.
And, second, the Baker Street Irregulars. I enjoyed them when I first read these stories. But I appreciate them even more now and I realize that I wish they had shown up in more stories. Doyle uses them in Study and then in The Sign of Four and then, as far as I remember, they just sort of disappear. I realize that Holmes and Watson are the main characters....but I do think judicious use of the Irregulars would have been a good thing sprinkled throughout other stories.
This is as fine a historical novel as I've read. David Morrell tells us in the Afterword that "for two years, [he] lived in 1854 London." For two daysThis is as fine a historical novel as I've read. David Morrell tells us in the Afterword that "for two years, [he] lived in 1854 London." For two days, so did I. He so expertly weaves his research about Thomas De Quincey and Victorian England into his story that I expected to look up from the pages and see a hansom cab go by in the thick London fog. I knew very little about De Quincey before reading this book, but that didn't matter. Morrell told me everything I needed to know without making it feel like loads of research were being crammed down my throat. By the time the book was finished, I felt like I knew De Quincey--and his daughter and Lord Palmerston and rest of the characters--personally and had walked along side the De Quinceys and the two policemen that come to their aid as they search London for the madman who kills while targeting the "Opium Eater."
I was also interested in the way Morrell used many of the hallmarks of 19th century novels and sensation fiction--from the omniscient third-person narrator to the first person journal entries of Emily De Quincey. Not only does he evoke the time and place historically, but he makes readers believe they are reading a 19th century account of the events. A very impressive bit of authorial legerdemain.
I am not usually one for thrillers that focus on grisly serial killings--but when I do read them, I much prefer them to take place on a stage far removed from the present day. The murders described in Murder as a Fine Art are quite horrific, but Morrell does an excellent job of focusing on the motivation for the crimes rather than the sensational details of the deaths. It was fascinating to see De Quincey thinking about the subconscious mind long before Freud and the killer's motivations were quite believable. I was hooked from the moment I picked the book up and put it down only when such mundane matters as sleep and work demanded it. So far, the best new book of 2013.
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