The Peerless Peer

29 Jul

In “The Peerless Peer” by Philip Jose Farmer, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are sent to Africa in WWI on a mission for Mycroft Holmes to aid against the war against Germany. On the way they meet up with the villain from “His Last Bow” – Baron Von Bork, and assorted characters from popular culture & literature, including Lord Greystoke aka Tarzan, the ‘peerless peer’ of the book’s title.

The problem with the “Peerless Peer” for me was that it was impossible to tell whether I was reading pastiche or parody. I felt Holmes and Watson were caricatures, rather than interpretations of the the characters. Both felt horribly wrong to me.

The book was originally published in 1974, and reprinted in 2011 by Titan Books as part of their “Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” series. I rather feel this is one adventure that really didn’t need to be retold. I am sure people will disagree with me, and that is fine. Someone else reading the book may love it, and I really hope they do. It is just that for me, this book did not work.

I’m afraid I was deeply disappointed with this book.

The Silver Locomotive Mystery

16 Jul

In “The Silver Locomotive Mystery” by Edward Marston, Inspector Robert Colbeck and Sgt Victor Leeming are called to Cardiff to investigate the murders of a young silversmith and the theft of a silver coffeepot in the shape of a locomotive that he was taking to hand over to a customer.

Edward Marston is a dab hand at historical crime fiction over a wide variety of eras. The Railway Detective series set in the mid 19th century is every bit as good as his other series. The research is impecable.

Marston evokes the time and place beautifully. His characters are well-rounded and interesting. Marston’s descriptions of people are both sharp and acidic at times. Of one character he says “He’s the kind of man who swallows nails and shits screws”.

The plot is exciting an gripping, with enough twists and turns to take your breath away.

Highly recommended.

Dodger

4 Jul

“Dodger” by James Benmore takes us into the adult life of Charles Dickens’s immortal character.

Jack Dawkins aka The Artful Dodger is back in London after having been transported to Australia for seven years. With a pardon signed by a dodgy, and more than a little insane, aristocrat, Dodger is a man with a mission: find the Jackapoor stone and return it to the aristocrat…otherwise Dodger is going to end up dead.

The story is a delicious romp through 19th century London. Murder, mayhem, and a reunion of sorts with Fagin’s other “boys”.

It was nice to see the inclusion of an Australian aboriginal character. Warrigal, known as Peter Cole, to the English, is a nicely balanced, very human character. So much so, that I really want to see this character get his own book. I really want to learn more about Warrigal.

The plot is fast paced and with enough twists and turns to make you stop and go Whoah!

I think Charles Dickens would be very proud to see Jack Dawkins all grown up.

Fabulous book. Highly recommended. I can’t wait to bet my hands on the other books in the series

The Curious Cases of Sherlock Holmes Volume One

20 Jun

Stephen Herczeg is a prolific author of Sherlock Holmes short stories. “The Curious Cases of Sherlock Holmes Volume One” brings together eight of his excellent stories that have been previously published in anthologies by both MX Publishing and Belanger Books.

Embellished with interesting forwards by editors David Marcum and Derrick Belanger, this stories in the volume are all entertaining and interesting reads.

I had favourites. Of course I did. ‘The Curious Case of the Sleeper’ was charming, while ‘The Adventure of the Modern Guy Fawkes’ was pure Conan-Doyle. My absolute favourite, however, was ‘The Adventure of the Sugar Merchant’: the ending of which had the hair on the back of my neck standing on end.

I sat down last night and read every story, which tells you all you need to know about the readability of the book. Rare is the book that I pick up and do not put down until the last word has been read.

Highly recommended.

“The Curious Cases of Sherlock Holmes Volume One” is published by MX Publishing and available directly from them: https://mxpublishing.com/products/the-curious-cases-of-sherlock-holmes-volume-one?_pos=3&_sid=44f3a8efa&_ss=r

The Detective Wore Silk Drawers

14 Jun

The discovery of a headless corpse washed up on the banks of the Thames near Blackfriars, drags Cribb from his pint at the pub and into a case involving the brutal and illegal world of bare-knuckle prize fighting, in this, the second of the Sergeant Cribb books by Peter Lovesey.

With his trusty assistant Thackeray and a well-bred young copper, Cribb dives into a case that, if he’s not careful will have them all knocked out for the count.

“The Detective Wore Silk Drawers” is fast paced and exciting. The characters are well-rounded and believable.

As well as a fine detective story, you get a gritty look at the less than glamorous world of boxing at a time when the hard and dirty fighting with bare fists was banned, and boxing with “mittens” and the Queensbury Rules had become the norm.

An interesting and absorbing read, as well as being a first-class crime thriller. Highly recommended.

Shadowblood

2 Jun

“Shadowblood” written by Tracy Revels ad published by MX Publishing, is the sequel to “Shadowfall” in which we learned that Holmes is half fae, Watson loses his soul, and then his memories.

In the opening to “Shadowblood” we learn that the events of “Shadowfall” have made Watson extremely ill. The story starts with his convalesence in the country with an old army buddy. But things don’t stay sane for long. The arrival of a nasty neighbour demanding that Holmes be sent for sets of a trail of events that lead Holmes and Watson across Europe and to America in search of a horrific murderer, and also a legend.

Tracy Revels has given as a book just as exciting as her first one. I quite literally read this one in one sitting. Ms Revels writes with warmth and humour, but there is no denying the chills her story generates as well.

As well as her superb Holmes and Watson, Ms Revels sprinkles the book with interesting characters, many of them historical.

If you like your Sherlock Holmes spiced with the supernatural and seasoned with chills, you will love this book.

Highly recommended.

“Shadowblood” is available directly from MX Publishing: https://mxpublishing.com/products/shadowblood-a-novel-of-sherlock-holmes?_pos=5&_sid=8362b7cd4&_ss=r

Houdini and Conan Doyle

25 May

On the surface you really cannot imagine Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle having much in common.

In “Houdini and Conan Doyle” Christopher Sandford digs deep to show just how alike the two men actually were. Right down to their stubborn refusal to see things from anyone else’s point of view. Which ultimately lead to them going from friends to rivals, one would almost be prepared to say, enemies, over Conan Doyle’s belief in spiritualism and Houdini’s disbelief in same.

The book tracks the ups and downs of both men’s lives, and those of their families. Speaking of which, I have come away for the book wanting to know more about Houdini’s wife, Bess. A truly amazing woman on a lot of levels.

This book holds great appeal to anyone interested in the history of spiritualism and stage magic, as well as the lives of two extraordinary men.

Highly recommended.

The Holmes Sutra

15 May

The Macquarie dictionary defines the word “sutra” as a body of rules and teachings. “The Holmes Sutra” by Jayantika Ganguly lives up to that definition.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part is the Mantras (described by Macquarie as a word, phrase or verse repeated as an aid to meditation) and the the second part is the Holmes Mania Quotient Test.

The Mantras are interesting, being derived, not just from the canon, but from various literary and media adaptations and portrayals of the characters. My favourite is #16: Learn from the Master, S.O.D. everything, ie See, Observe and Deduce.

The Holmes Mania Quotient test is a bit of fun for the real Holmes fanatic.

The book also has a comprehensive bibilography which is a n excellent resource for those wanting to read more Holmes.

Highly recommended to all Sherlock Holmes fans.

The book is published by MX Publishing and available directly from them: https://mxpublishing.com/products/the-holmes-sutra?_pos=1&_sid=d749b75ae&_ss=r

Please check out my books when you visit the MX Publishing website.

The Holmes-Dracula File

8 May

Criminals are threatening to set loose thousands of plague carrying rats and a there is a killer who leaves a trail of bloodless corpses in his wake. Who is the killer and what, if any, is the connection?

In “The Holmes-Dracula File” by Fred Saberhagen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle meets Bram Stoker in a truly delightful mash-up.

Holmes and Watson are kept as much in traditional character as possible, given the subject matter.

The story is fast paced and exciting, keeping the reader breathless from page to page. A truly ripping yarn and one in which Holmes and Dracula have much more in common than you would think.

The book was first published in 1978 so physical copies may be hard to obtain. Though the book is still available on Kindle format.

Recommended.

Arsene Lupin, Gentleman Thief

2 May

The recent Netflix Arsene Lupin inspired series prompted a reissue by Orion of the book “Arsene Lupin, Gentleman Thieft” by Maurice LeBlanc with a media tie-in cover. Seeing at a local bookshop I thought I would give it a go.

The stories are interesting, but the characters really didn’t grab me. This is not the fault of Maurice Leblanc, I just could not raise any enthusiasm for the stories. The stories are well written, but just didn’t engage me. I had the same problem with Raffles, so I suspect that the villanous side of the fence isn’t for me.

The colour photographs from the television series that sit somewhat incongruously in the middle of the book don’t help by adding a jarring and somewhat confusing note.

One thing of interest is the fact that Sherlock Holmes who Leblanc had to rename Herlock Sholmes to advoid the wrath of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, has had his name restored to Sherlock Holmes in this edition.

I am sure many will love the book, but, alas, it’s not for me.

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