Posts Tagged ‘sherlock holmes’

27th September
2010
written by Steph

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m not the biggest fan of the short story. I really prefer sustained narratives rather than tiny little bursts of story, and I often find it hard to shift gears from one story to the next. Also, I tend to find that there’s this trend with short stories where the stories just seem to end, often times abruptly, and I’m left wondering what the point of the whole exercise was. When I recently discussed Scarlett Thomas’s Our Tragic Universe, I mused about the notion of the “storyless story” and allowed that it’s something I don’t necessarily mind in my novels. However, I think that I’m anti storyless short stories! With this in mind, the Sherlock Holmes short stories are exactly the kind of story I would like. They’re mini mysteries, each with an obvious beginning, middle, and end, and they’re all sufficiently straightforward that I can just sit back, relax and enjoy. As much as I like giving my mind a workout when I’m reading, sometimes it’s nice to just romp about with a cocaine-addicted, sneering detective and have an adventure or two. (more…)
3rd September
2010
written by Steph

Well, I might as well just call this review "A Love Letter to Mary", because I continue to simply adore Laurie King’s Mary Russell series! Have you started them yet? If not, you are missing out, my friends. This is now my go-to series when I’m looking for a fun, comfort read that is guaranteed to soothe me of any worries (reading or otherwise), and one that I indulge in without any kind of guilt. These books are simply a pleasure, and I want everyone to know it. A Letter of Mary picks up a few months after the events of the second book in the series (which I talked about here). Life has become somewhat dull and uninspiring on the work front for Mary and Holmes, so it doesn't take much prompting of consideration for her to accept the request of one Dorothy Ruskin, feisty lady archeologist on leave from Jerusalem, to meet and discuss some matters of a rather sensitive nature. During their meeting, Ruskin gives Russell a remarkably well-preserved piece of papyrus in an exceedingly ornate, jeweled box, the content of which would prove rather earth-shattering if the scroll were ever authenticated. Not soon after leaving their company, Ruskin is struck dead in what appears to be an accidental hit and run, but the signs of which soon seem to point unerringly towards murder. It’s up to Mary and Holmes to determine who – and why – Ruskin was murdered, while Mary also struggles with the decision of what to do with the letter she has been entrusted with. (more…)
22nd July
2010
written by Steph

Please do not let the ugly cover put you off... there is a newer, far cuter cover now available!

After finishing the first Mary Russell novel, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, I immediately put a hold on the second book in the series at my local library (though not before heading to the used bookstore to see if I could pick up a copy of my very own… no such luck, though I don’t blame readers for clutching these books closely to their chests and never letting them out of their sight!). I was jonesing pretty badly for Holmes and Russell’s next adventure, so when I finally had the opportunity to lay my own grubby paws on book two in the series, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, careful and measured reading wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. No, I pretty much tore through this book in a single day, and you know what? I don’t regret it one bit! (Also, I’ve now procured the remaining books in the series, so I can read them at my leisure whenever the desire strikes!) In A Monstrous Regiment of Women, Mary is all grown up and on the cusp of finally receiving her rather sizeable family inheritance. Now a woman, no longer a girl, things have become rather strained between herself and Holmes, as neither can deny the sexuality of the other any longer (though certainly they try). Confused and conflicted by this change in their relationship, Mary pulls away from Holmes, throwing herself into her studies as well as a rekindling a relationship with her old school chum, Veronica Beaconsfield, a friendship which opens Mary’s eyes up to an intoxicating new world. Veronica takes Mary along to a meeting of The New Temple of God, led by the charismatic and compelling Margery Childe, a woman who champions women’s issues in all shapes and forms, and who Mary believes may be mystic. As Mary is slowly drawn into Childe’s inner circle, she discovers that something is horribly amiss: Childe’s most wealthy patronesses have the unfortunate habit of dying in rather gruesome ways… conveniently leaving behind the bulk of their fortunes to The New Temple of God. Still needing her space from Holmes, Mary takes on her very first case of her own, determined to discover what shady dealings are underfoot, but little does she realize in so doing, she puts her own life (and fortune) at stake… (more…)
24th June
2010
written by Steph

One thing that I love about the book blogging world is that it helps me discover so many books that I never would have stumbled across on my own. Laurie R King’s Mary Russell series is definitely an example of this. Prior to blogging I had never heard of these books, even though: a) I love cozy British mysteries that set during the turn of the 20th century (an extremely specific niche, I realize!); and b) the series has been around since the mid-90s, so I had plenty of time to find it on my own. For those who are unfamiliar with the idea behind the series, the premise is that Sherlock Holmes (yes, I do mean THE Sherlock Holmes) has retired to the English countryside where fifteen-year old Mary stumbles upon him (quite literally) while out for a morning walk (with Virgil on hand). Holmes soon realizes that Mary has a rather uncommon mind, one that is nearly as observant and shrewd as his own, and the two soon strike up a friendship. Holmes takes Mary under his wing, tutoring her in the art of detection and setting small tests for her to solve in order to keep her mind sharp. Together they tackle and solve a few innocuous mysteries at hand, but soon the stakes are raised when Holmes is called to consult on a prominent kidnapping case. Even that, however, is but a rudimentary primer for the next conundrum they face… one where their very lives hinge upon them discovering the culprit who lurks in the shadows and is clearly out for blood. (more…)
19th June
2009
written by Steph
Indubitable!

Indubitable!

The Sign of Four is the second novella penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the illustrious and magnetic Sherlock Holmes.  Miss Mary Morstan seeks the council of Sherlock Holmes when she receives a mysterious note informing her that a grievous wrong has been conducted against her, and moreover, the letter writer can shed some light on the fate of her father who has been missing for over a decade.  The duo agree to accompany her to meet the mysterious author writer, but soon find themselves investigating a murder all the while trying to track down some missing treasure. In this novella, Conan Doyle reveals the darker side of Holmes’s character her, specifically his dabbling with his infamous “seven per cent solution”.   Other than that delightful little bit of character development (I know drugs are bad, but it’s such an integral part of the Holmes character it was cool to see it introduced), however, for me it did not have quite the same charms as A Study in Scarlet.  I found the mystery (yet another “locked door” mystery) less compelling and more obviously depending on background information that no reader has any chance of knowing until it is revealed.  Also, I didn’t feel the backstory was as artfully communicated as was done in A Study in Scarlet.  Holmes’s deductive skills are swift and keen, but I felt quite helpless while reading The Sign of Four, and it was all perhaps a little zany for my tastes.  Of course A Study in Scarlet was a bit out in left-field at times, but I suppose there were elements apart from the core mystery (such as the humor and wit in the writing) that I was able to enjoy independently.  Here I felt much of the spark and vim was missing to the storytelling, which is disappointing since three years elapsed between the publication of Scarlet and this.  Perhaps because of this I was more aware of certain unsavory mentalities that weren't so obvious (in my opinion) in the first book - at times Holmes/Watson can be quite racist and sexist.  A product of its time, I know, but still quite jarring to me.   It wasn’t a flop, just a bit of a letdown following such a vibrant debut.  Sophomore slump, I suppose. But I’m still carrying on in my attempt to read through the series, so next in line is the collection of stories The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  I know I read some of these when I was younger, but I’ll be damned if I can remember how any of them turn out (or what any of them were about!)! Rating: 3.5 out of 5
25th May
2009
written by Steph
Forget the scarlet, I give this one a green light!

Forget the scarlet, I give this one a green light!

Coming off of Michael Chabon’s underwhelming Sherlock Holmes homage, I had a yen to experience the real deal.  Back during my girlhood, I recall reading my way through an assortment of Sherlock Holmes stories, though for the life of me, the only one I can definitively recall reading is “The Five Orange Pips” (and of course, I have no idea what the story centers around other than the obvious, nor can I recall how it all sorts itself out).  My memory for plot is notoriously poor, so when I found the first of two volumes of the complete works of Sherlock Holmes at McKay’s I decided to pick it up so I could work my way through the Holmes back catalogue.  Having now read the first story (actually a novella) in the collection, I’m really glad I did! A Study in Scarlet was the first work published Conan Doyle, and it is the novel in which the inimitable Sherlock Holmes is first introduced.  The mystery is typical Holmesian fare – a body has been found in an abandoned house, the room splattered with blood, only there are no visible wounds to be found.  Baffled, the London police are getting nowhere so Holmes is turned loose on the case!  The novel is actually divided into two parts: in Part One, we become privy to the crime and follow Holmes (through Watson’s eyes) as he sniffs out his murderer ending with the arrest of the perp; in Part Two, there is a dramatic shift in perspective as we learn more about the murderer’s motivation and the events that lead to him carrying out his dastardly deed, as well as a final section in which Holmes reveals for the somewhat dimwitted Watson how we deduced all the relevant facts. (more…)
23rd May
2009
written by Steph
Here's a solution: skip this one!

Here's a solution: skip this one!

The hardest books (or novellas, as the case may be) to write about are the ones that I feel completely apathetic towards.  There’s nothing ostensibly wrong about them that I can nitpick to high heaven, but there’s also nothing glimmering and wonderful to get me all worked up about, so I wind up simply feeling like all I want to write about them is one word: Meh.  That’s how I feel about The Final Solution by Michael Chabon.  Unfortunately, “meh” doesn’t really make for an interesting entry, so I will try my darndest to say something about this wholly unremarkable slip of a book. The story revolves around a mute Jewish boy who flees to England to escape persecution in Germany.  His only companion is an African parrot named Bruno, who trills out a mysterious stream of numbers every so often.  Many people are pretty interested in Bruno and what these enigmatic numbers might be the key to, so to make a short story even shorter, one day a guest staying with the family harboring the mute Jewish boy is found clubbed to death and Bruno is nowhere to be found.  Although the murder holds little enticement for him, an aged detective with a penchant for tweed and beekeeping decides he will take up the case of locating Bruno and returning him to his young master. (more…)