Category Archives: General Posts

Sherlock Holmes and the Eye of Heka

Sherlock Holmes and the Eye of HekaDavid Marcum’s prose in Sherlock Holmes and the Eye of Heka recollects the spare but effective prose of Arthur Conan Doyle. Lovers of the original canon are in for a real treat.

Dr. Watson inhabits a larger share of this adventure than in Doyle’s canon and in some modern pastiches. Watson’s marriage to a woman named Constance in this adventure precedes his marriage to Mary Marston. Watson’s marriage to Marston is indicated as Watson’s first marriage in Doyle’s writings about Holmes. Plus, new information is revealed about Watson’s interest in, and relationship with, women. Watson exhibits a range of emotions throughout this adventure, including irritation towards a woman who flirts with him shortly after the death of Constance.

In this exploit, Holmes and Watson team up with men they once thought were adversaries. The goal: to find a foot-tall statue depicting Heka, a minor African deity. This adventure involves some old friends from the ACD canon. Namely, Inspectors Gregson and Lestrade, who team up to help. The Baker Street Irregulars, Holmes’ loosely knit group of street urchins, help out in the background.

Holmes visits the various homes of the main suspects in pursuit of clues. He also requests help from several confederates and sits back like a skilled spymaster in the middle of the web he’s spun. Eventually, Holmes’ trap ensnares the guilty. But not before death comes to some of Holmes’ compatriots.

I very much enjoyed Sherlock Holmes and the Eye of Heka penned by David Marcum. Most notable is the treatment of Watson as a well-rounded character. Marcum’s other numerous writings about Holmes and Watson now inhabit a permanent place on my to-be-read list.

I received a free copy of this book from www.reedsy.com/discovery in exchange for an honest review.

Dress Whites – Not What You Think

Dress WhitesI received Dress Whites by Richard Gilmore Loftus in the mail from the bookstore last Thursday morning. I finished it on Friday (Oct. 22, 2021). Read it in two days. Usually, I take my time reading poetry collections. But I couldn’t put this one down. Have several new favorite poems from this collection.

From “Jazz” to “Sparrow” to “Come Hither” to “Among the Sonnets,” Loftus’s imagery will surprise and captivate you as it did me. Crisp and elegant, his phrases and poems satisfy and enchant. Loftus effectively emphasizes the connection between nature and personal growth and outlook. Water functions as an ongoing symbol throughout the collection. From the mystery of a “dark river / gurgling through the night” in the “History of Religion” to “the wet in the wind touches her cheek” as a wife waits for her fisherman husband to come home in “Shetland Islands.”

I’ve already read some of the poems more than once or twice. Everything captivates, from the cover art to the last poem, “An Old Orange Boat.” For a debut poetry collection, this is a moving, emotional, superlative offering.

Richard Gilmore Loftus’s poetry is new to me. But, based on this collection, I’ll pick up his other books of poetry. And look forward to being entertained and enlightened by them as well as this assortment of poems did.

For a review of another poetry collection that I’ve enjoyed, check here.

Dress Whites
Richard Gilmore Loftus
© 2018
Self-published

Sherlock Holmes’ Cat

Sherlock Holmes' CatPatricia Srigley has imbued the narrator of The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Cat with ironic humor. This imparts a lively outlook to what amounts to a collection of linked stories. Cat Watson, as the small black cat gets dubbed, shares the narration with Sherlock. So, certain aspects of the stories are discussed from both viewpoints.

Sherlock and Cat Watson go from adventure to adventure. Dr. John Watson is not much involved with these adventures. He’s newly married and taken a rambunctious dog as a pet.

Although the stories/chapters, “The Mystery of the Missing and Presumed Stolen Bicycle” and “The Case of the Wacky Widow,” for example, are not up to par with the Arthur Conan Doyle canon, all are entertaining. However, some of Sherlock’s actions are uncharacteristic for Doyle’s detective. For example, in “Doctor Watson’s Second Case,” “Sherlock rolled his eyes extravagantly.” Needless to say, this mannerism would be abnormal for Holmes. It is well known that Holmes does not particularly like women. But he is especially haughty and standoffish with Mary Watson. Same with Srigley’s portrayal of Mrs. Hudson, who inquires, “Yes, Sherlock dearest?” in the same chapter. She also makes unnecessary nonsense talk to Holmes’ cats (he ends up with two). Plus, Dr. Watson is satirized as a fool, always coming to Holmes with minor, inconsequential problems. And looking bedraggled with a thin, but large, droopy mustache.

These stories are for those who enjoy lighthearted humor and also Sherlock Holmes.

(For another mystery with a black cat as narrator, see my review of Clea Simon’s The Ninth Life.)

I received a free copy of The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Cat. I gave an honest opinion of this book.

 

Wrecking Storm – Civil War

Wrecking StormMichael Ward has done it, again, with his second Thomas Tallant adventure. The Wrecking Storm takes us back to mid-17th century England. This was a period of political unrest, disagreements about religious freedom between Puritans and Catholics, and civil war.

The Wrecking Storm continues the focus on the Tallant family begun in The Rags of Time. The Tallants are well-to-do merchants in the spice trade. The family is slowly drawn into the unrest incited in part by the Puritans engulfs the Tallants. A confrontation with an angry mob occurs at their business’s warehouse. And their home on the outskirts of London is attacked and a friend’s son is killed. Tensions throughout London and the country tighten. All events destined to lead to “the wrecking storm…a vicious, painful civil war, with no escape.”

Puritans sought to cleanse the Church of England of any remaining Roman Catholic practices. Later, the group played a significant role in the Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell. Ward does an excellent job of portraying the tensions of this period as the Tallants have both Protestant and Catholic friends. The research he did into this particular time period is evident and informs, but does not overwhelm, the story.

Again, as with The Rags of Time, Ward’s pacing of the novel is quick but steady. His characters are attractive and engagingly differentiated. Especially the relationships Thomas has with his father, Elizabeth Seymour, and Barty.

This book, like The Rags of Time, is a must-read if you like historical fiction with a bit of mystery thrown in.

For my review of The Rags of Time, Ward’s first Thomas Tallent adventure, visit here.

I received a free copy of this book. I gave an honest opinion of this book.

Holmes – Mummies – and Mystery

Sherlock Holmes, Mummies and MysteryMX Publishing has issued another winner in the ongoing saga of Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes and the Egyptian Tomb Mystery by Joanna M. Rieke entertains. This case of Holmes, mummies and mystery moves quickly along.

Holmes and Watson have a friendlier relationship in this case than in some cases in the original Conan Doyle canon. The regard they have for each other because of their long association is evident. Holmes even hugs Watson at one point, showing more emotion than is usually apparent from Holmes. Also, Holmes drags Watson to safety after Watson suffers a concussion.

This case has the famous duo in trouble caused by Colonel Moran and Professor Moriarty.  Important plans about the Suez Canal are stolen. Holmes and Watson trace them to an Egyptology exhibit at the British Museum. While investigating the death of a night watchman in connection to the case, the duo go to the basement. A fire set by Colonel Moran imperils Holmes and Watson.

Of course, there are many twists and turns in the detection and discernment of clues by Holmes with Watson’s help. The pacing is steady, but sluggish in spots. Rieke deftly draws Holmes and Watson. Their friendship and comradery are unmistakable.

Rieke has written other works based on the Holmes and Watson saga. I will read others in the future.

I received a free copy of Sherlock Holmes and the Egyptian Tomb Mystery but was free to give my honest opinion.

Black Cat Mysteries and Mean Streets

Black Cats and Mysteries - The Ninth LifeThe Ninth Life by Clea Simon is not the first book I’ve read in which the narrator is nonhuman. (Think the Chet and Bernie mystery series by Spencer Quinn, for one.) Black cat mysteries have joined the group.

Blackie, a cat, is the first-rate narrator in this story of urban survival and friendship. Street smart, tough, aging, Blackie exhibits a no-nonsense outlook. Simon gives Blackie the voice of a full-fledged human private investigator. As Blackie says, or thinks, to himself, too bad he can’t talk. He has a soft spot for Carrie (nicknamed Care). She’s the street teen who saves Blackie from drowning in a drainage ditch.

Care and Blackie work on solving the mystery of who killed Care’s mentor – a nameless private investigator alluded to as “the old man” throughout the book. They interact with low-life businessmen, drug dealers, and gangs of thugs. Care’s younger, some-time friend, Thomas (known as Tick) wants to stay friendly with Care but is drawn back into the gang life from which Care is trying to escape. Throughout the book, Blackie does not totally trust Tick. Tick wants the drugs and other things he thinks he can get from Care’s former associates.

Much as I enjoyed Blackie’s narration, he sometimes seems overly knowledgeable about everything. The book’s ending also left me feeling let down – it sort of fizzled. But, on the whole, black cat mysteries, especially by Clea Simon, may be my new enjoyment.

The Ninth Life
by Clea Simon
© 2015
Severn House Publishers Ltd.

Golden Age Detective Stories

Tuesday Club Murders - Golden Age Mystery StoriesAs you may be aware, I enjoy reading short-story-length mysteries. Thus, I subscribe to a number of magazines that feature short stories. (See my previous post, here.) Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery MagazineMystery Scene and Strand don’t seem to quell the hunger pangs for ever more stories. So, I search for anthologies and linked short stories in novel length format. Thus, I espied The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie and Golden Age Detective Stories, edited by Otto Penzler.

The Christie book includes a series of linked stories, all involving Miss Marple. Each member of the Tuesday Club takes a turn describing mysterious circumstances or a problem of which they have knowledge without disclosing the outcome. The rest of the group attempts to discern the ending to the problem. Naturally, Miss Marple is miles ahead of the pack. One or two of the stories dragged, but most were pleasant and interesting.

Golden Age Detective StoriesFor some time, I had wanted to read some of the Golden Age of Mystery writers other than Agatha Christie. Well, I got that chance with Golden Age Detective Stories. Charlotte Armstrong, Anthony Boucher, Mignon Eberhard and Erle Stanley Gardner are among the stellar authors presented. I had seen the dramatization of Gardner’s story (“The Case of the Crimson Kiss”) as part of the 1960s Perry Mason series starring Raymond Burr. Truth be told, I enjoyed the TV dramatization more than the original story.

The Ellery Queen offering was a pleasure. Craig Rice (“Good-bye, Good-bye!”) is a new addition to my growing list of favorite authors. As are Frances and Richard Lockridge, creators of the Mr. and Mrs. North mystery series, as well as three or four other series. The Lockridges now sit atop a towering pinnacle of authors whose entire oeuvre I want to read.

 

 

Private Investigator in 1940s Los Angeles

private investigator in 1940s Los AngelesEzekiel “Easy” Rawlins makes a likeable protagonist. As Devil in a Blue Dress begins, he’s just been fired from a job at a defense plant. In order to pay the mortgage payment on his new little house, Easy works as a private investigator in 1940s Los Angeles for a strange, white gangster.

Rawlins’ search for a white, blonde-haired female last seen wearing a unique blue dress takes the reader all over the late-1940s Los Angeles area. He finds the female but allows her to slip through his fingers. Easy benefits to some degree from money stolen by the woman from the white business owner who’s looking for her. Rawlins later learns the woman’s true identity. This factors significantly into the story told to the police and to the white man paying to have her found. Several folks end up killed, including the gangster who had acted as go-between with Rawlins and the businessman.

Over the course of the story, I came to like Easy Rawlins very much. He’s mostly honest, smart and courageous, although the same can’t be said for some of his so-called friends. By the end of the novel, Rawlins has found himself self-employed. He invested some of the “found” money and some of his investigator’s fee into another house that he rents out. And he takes on cases as a private investigator.

Devil in a Blue Dress (written in 1990) handles race relations as a noticeable subplot. Similarities exist between when the plot takes place – the late 40s – and today. “The thought of paying my mortgage reminded me of my front yard and the shade of my fruit trees in the summer heat. I felt that I was just as good as any white man, but if I didn’t even own my front door then people would look at me like just another poor beggar, with his hand outstretched.”

WANTING MORE

Reading more of Walter Mosley‘s Easy Rawlins series will be no hardship. Mosley’s prose style draws you into the story and holds your attention. I look forward to seeing what he’s been up to since this series opener. Judging by the number of books (15, including Blood Grove, published in 2021), Easy Rawlins has gotten himself into quite a bit of mystery and tight spots.

Van Life – A Great Way to Go Vagabonding

Van Life - A Great Way to Go Vagabonding

Here’s a review of a book, Van Life: Your Home on the Road, by Foster Huntington, that is totally different from my norm of mysteries, memoirs and poetry.

I’ve been thinking for a while that once I’m able to do so, I’d like to live in a camper van. (I currently live with and care for an elderly relative.) At least for a while. I’ve always wanted to travel around the U.S. This seems like a convenient way to do that. I’ve had this desire even pre-pandemic – this is not just lockdown frustration talking.

Interesting concept for this book: photos of various style vans and interviews with some of the owners. The author focuses on 20- and 30-somethings who have spent a short time in a van following the surfing or snow. Including some more mature van owners in the mix might have widened the appeal of the book.

He also highlights various types of vans and the modifications made by the owners. Most were bought second- or third-hand and are by no means upscale camper vans. This isn’t about glamping. (You know—those huge campers on bus chasses that contain everything, including the kitchen sink!) I bought Van Life because, as I said, I’m interested in doing some basic camper living in the future rather than going totally upscale. (Who wants to clean a huge camper? You can stay home and do that…)

Someday this may be my style of life. I’d try to do it a tiny bit more upscale, though, than some of the illustrated vans. But, all told, a great book about an amazing lifestyle that’s not for everyone. Also, great pictures of the places visited by the van owners interviewed.

Here’s a fascinating article about Foster Huntington, author of Van Life: Your Home on the Road.

I have no affiliation with the author nor did I receive a copy of the book.

Van Life: Your Home on the Road
by Foster Huntington
© 2017
Hachette Book Group

 

Scribd – a book subscription service

I just subscribed to Scribd – a digital book subscription service – with a one-month free trial. Rather than slogging with several books to the beach or on vacation, I could just take my tablet. Theoretically…

Scribd encompasses books, audiobooks, magazines and podcasts. It also has other categories that I probably won’t use like sheet music as well as documents and photos uploaded by other users.

Also available are other services like Pandora Plus, which is free with the Scribd membership. (Since I already subscribe to Pandora Plus, I’m not sure this is helpful unless I really like the other parts of Scribd. I could then combine these subscriptions.)

At this point, I’m not sure I’ll continue the Scribd subscription once the free trial is ended. That depends on how much I use it – the $9.99 monthly price seems a bit steep for me right now. I already subscribe to print editions of the magazines I most want to read – plus I dislike reading magazines digitally. Also, although I am extremely interested in podcasts, I never seemed to find the time to listen. (Maybe I can change this habit…hmm.)

So, stay tuned…

Scribd – a book subscription service – provides access to an extensive array of books, audiobooks, etc. If you’re interested in actually purchasing audiobooks, though, try Chirp, which I reviewed here.