ust released in November 2016, it's a little outside my usual vintage fare for this meme but in The Jekyll Revelation Robert Masello revisits one of tust released in November 2016, it's a little outside my usual vintage fare for this meme but in The Jekyll Revelation Robert Masello revisits one of the big draws in historical mystery fiction: the identity of Jack the Ripper. Just when you think every possible solution has been given for who the Victorian killer was along comes Masello with his fictional take on certain aspects of Robert Louis Stevenson's life. It's interesting to note that the true to life, the Ripper murders began just at the time that Stevenson's story about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde opened as a play in London.
Massello's story straddles two time periods--modern day California and Victorian London. An environmental scientist Rafael Salazar is on patrol looking to track tagged coyotes when he discovers an antique steamer trunk. It's primarily full of old clothes (an opera cape and other Victorian finery), but nestled among the clothes is a journal, written by Robert Louis Stevenson. As he deciphers the Victorian script, the secret origin of Stevenson's famous story of Jekyll and Hyde is revealed...as well as an explanation behind the brutal murders which had been laid at the feet of Jack the Ripper. The story of Jack doesn't stop there, however. There's another item in the trunk and it falls into the wrong hands, unleashing a terrible force in Rafe's modern world.
The story is a bit fantastic--requiring a definite suspension of disbelief to buy the basic premise behind the Jekyll/Hyde story as well as the solution to the Ripper's identity. But there is a mystery to be solved and one isn't quite sure about who the Ripper is until the very end. It certainly makes for a unique solution to the question of Jack's identity. The historical portion of the novel is very strong and it sweeps you right into the Victorian time period. I much preferred reading Stevenson's journal entries to the modern day story framing the journal. Honestly, I think it would have been a much stronger book without the connection to the 21st century--or at the very least if Rafe had discovered the trunk and then settled down to read the journal, allowing the story to unfold for the reader without the constant interruptions from current events. It lost some of the historical flavor each time we returned to 2016.
Amelia Peabody is a force of nature--a Victorian spinster armed with a more than sufficient independent income to complement her unshakable self-confiAmelia Peabody is a force of nature--a Victorian spinster armed with a more than sufficient independent income to complement her unshakable self-confidence and independent nature. Her late father (from whence comes the income) was a scholar and antiquarian who sparked an interest in Egypt in his only daughter and companion of his waning years. Amelia's brothers pretty much abandoned them, so it was only natural for Father Peabody to leave his surprisingly large estate to her. After suffering foolish suitors (with the gleam of golden riches in their eyes) less than gladly, she decides to venture to the land of the Pharaohs on her own--well, on her own with a maid and a companion. When her companion falls ill and must be shuttled back to England in the company of a handy clergyman and his wife, Amelia most fortuitously manages to rescue young Evelyn Barton-Forbes who has been seduce by an Italian rogue who abandoned her on the streets of Rome as soon as he found out her wealthy grandfather had disowned and disinherited her when she allowed herself to be "ruined."
Of course, Amelia is not put off at all by Evelyn's past--in fact her most pressing question is fairly naughty for a Victorian lady: "Tell me, Evelyn--what is it like? Is it pleasant?" Yes, our Victorian-age heroine wants to know about s-e-x. After sorting all this out*, Amelia takes Evelyn on a s companion and they head off up the Nile to visit various archaeological wonders. They make every effort to elude Alberto--the Italian lover who has mysteriously reappeared, swearing undying love and wanting her back--as well as her cousin Lord Ellesmere (who has gained the title upon their grandfather's death) who also wants to marry Evelyn.
When they reach an archaeological site at El-Armanah, they find the Emerson brothers--grumpy but dashing Radcliffe and amiable Walter--whom they had briefly met in Alexandria. Amelia becomes entranced with the dig and Evelyn and Walter become entranced with each other--but their digging expedition is interrupted by the nightly ramblings of mummy, the refusal of the locals to work on the site because of said mummy's cures, suspicious accidents, a botched kidnapping, and the disappearance of Amelia's faithful Egyptian servant. And the appearance of Lord Ellesmere only serves to confuse the issue more. Radcliffe and Amelia become convinced that there is a plot afoot to harm Evelyn. It will take all their ingenuity to outwit the villain or villains behind the mummy's curse.
Miss Amelia Peabody's debut in Crocodile on the Sandbanks (1975) by Elizabeth Peters is delightful. She springs forth in the first chapter, fully formed and, as mentioned above, a force of nature. A force that not even the irascible Radcliffe can resist for long. She is gruff but lovable and a character that I enjoyed very much. Peters writes a very witty and easy reading mystery. It is, admittedly, much more fun than it is mystifying--how Amelia as intelligent as she is could have been hoodwinked by that...oops, that would be telling...is a bit baffling. Maybe she was distracted by her verbal sparring with Radcliffe. Readers looking for an intricate puzzle to unravel should look elsewhere. But if you want interesting characters, a bit of Egyptian mystical mummy adventures, witty dialogue, and a great deal of fun then grab a copy and settle in for a fun read. ★★★★
*Oh...and Evelyn does answer Amelia's question: "Oh, Amelia, under the right circumstances, it is--in a word--perfectly splendid!"
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.
When he forgets to add the truffles to the Chicken Bayonnaise, master chef and sometime amateur detective Auguste Didier decides he really needs to taWhen he forgets to add the truffles to the Chicken Bayonnaise, master chef and sometime amateur detective Auguste Didier decides he really needs to take a holiday from cooking at Plum's Club for Gentlemen. He heads for home in Cannes--ready for sun, real provencale dishes, and, above all, no murders. For lately, it has seemed that murders follow him wherever he goes, from Stockbury Towers to the Galaxy Theatre restaurant to Plum's itself. Surely the threat of murder belongs in London and not in his delightful home town.
Back in London, Didier's friend, Inspector Egbert Rose, is immersed in a case--not of murder--but of daring jewel robberies. These are no ordinary thefts. The cat burglar has been running off with beautiful Faberge eggs with priceless rubies inside. Six missing eggs which belonged to former mistresses of Russia's Grand Duke Igor. The eggs were his parting gift to each lady when flame of love had gone out. Rose is having little luck tracking down the eggs. None of his contacts among the fences have heard a word about them. But then he does learn one thing...there is a seventh egg which has yet to be stolen and it just happens to belong to a woman in Cannes.
Rose isn't the only one headed to Cannes. The Grand Duke, the Duchess and their entourage are there, as well as all the ladies whose eggs have been stolen and their husbands and current amours. The gentlemen are all set to play a prestigious game of cricket with the Gentlemen (the English, under the captaincy of the Prince of Wales) being challenged by the Players (led by the Grand Duke and others from various European states. Some on the Players side are taking the game much too seriously. And someone will use the game as a cover to steal a jeweled dagger and use it to commit murder.
I remember liking the other Chef Didier book (Murder at Plum's) quite a lot. That was before blogging--so I don't have a real review to tell me exactly why, but I do recall enjoying the atmosphere of the murder at a gentleman's club...vaguely reminiscent of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Sayers. This outing, Didier's fourth encounter with murder, is far less satisfying. Primarily because it feels like Amy Myers had a bad case of ADD. She can't possibly focus on one character in the vast array of high society, cooks, and policeman for more than a couple pages. We bounce back and forth from Didier to Rose and their encounters with various people, as well as focusing now on the Grand Duke and now on the Prince of Wales and now on the famous ballerina and now.... Well, you get the idea. It's all too exhausting. I don't remember this being such a problem at Plum's. Perhaps it's the difference between Didier in London and Didier in Cannes.
Which, speaking of Didier, he's not quite on the top of his game here. Of course, he is mighty distracted between dallying with the ballerina and discovering that his one true love, a Russian princess who could never marry a mere cook...even if that cook is a Maître. Didier concocts solution after solution but he never does get it quite right. And I must say, I wasn't altogether satisfied with the final answer. It seemed a bit of a cop-out to me. The penultimate solution (which Rose allows Didier to believe is the right one) strikes me as a much more fitting one. The plot itself is a decent one and there are some humorous episodes sprinkled throughout that do give the book its redeeming qualities. However, overall, a less than stellar performance from our master chef at ★★ and 1/2. It hasn't put me off the series altogether, but if I do come across another entry I hope it is more in line with my memory of Plum's.
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.