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Book Reviews – The Other Side of the Fence

27 Apr

I started this blog quite a few years ago, sharing mostly musings on odd subjects and reviews of theatre, television, movies, and, of course, books.

At the time I never thought that I would end up being a published author. To be honest, I still have to pinch myself sometimes because I think I’m asleep dreaming all this.

Now that I am an author I am realizing just how valuable book reviews are to the author. Yes, a review is just one person’s opinion, but they can help us make our books better.

Book reviews help me get a feel for what my readers want. To get the balance between dialogue and action right. To set the scene properly. To make sure that my stories make the person feel like they are in Victorian England. One of the best pieces of feedback I received was being told that the reader felt like they were actually there, racing around London with Holmes and Watson.

Another lovely person told me that they ship my version of Lestrade with one of my original characters. Dorothy. I went around for days with a huge grin on my face. To me this means that my characters felt real enough for someone to become emotionally invested in them. As a writer I want people to become emotionally invested in my characters. Hell, I’m emotionally invested in them. I have to be, or else they fall flat and become nothing more than the written equivalent of paper dolls.

So if you read a book and enjoy it, why not review it? It doesn’t have to be much. A rating on GoodReads or Amazon, even a few words in a Twitter post with a link to the book. It all helps.

The Angel of Darkness

20 Apr

“The Angel of Darkness” is the sequel to “The Alienist”, but instead of the narrator being John Moore, it is young Stevie, the youth that Dr Laszlo Kreizler took from the streets.

As per “The Alienist” there are dreadful crimes and death and mayhem in New York City in 1897. In this case a headless corpse in the Hudson and the kidnapping of the child of a Spanish diplomat. As the USA is on the brink of war with Spain this adds a sense of desperate urgency to the proceedings.

The main characters from the first book are present. Sara Howard is given the best line of the lot towards the end of the book. Speaking of which: Be warned that at over 800 pages this book is not for the fainthearted.

A well researched and entertaining book.

MX Publishing – Forthcoming Books

13 Apr

My third book, “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the London Dock Deaths” was published in February this year by MX Publishing. Of course, I am not alone, MX Publishing releases a number of exciting books each year.

MX Publishing has their list of new books for 2021 (and also their 2020 releases) on their website. They also include books by their subsidiary imprint, Orange Pip Books.

On scanning the list I have found many books I am truly looking forward to reading.

“Spiral Mind” (Orange Pip Books) – Janina Arndt

“Sherlock Holmes and the Secret of the Three Monks” – Johanna Reike

“Tales of Scotland Yard: Lestrade” (Orange Pip Books) – Bianca Jenkins

Those are only a few. I attach a link to the list for your perusal.

One of the things I love about MX Publishing is their willingness to publish female authors and to publish Sherlock Holmes stories that are a bit too ‘out there’ for Holmesian traditionalists. There are plenty of traditional Holmes stories too, but it is MX Publishing’s willingness to step out of the comfort zone that makes them so good.

Check out the list and maybe tryout a new author or two.

Sherlock Holmes of Baking Street

6 Apr

During lockdown last year, the wonderful Margie Deck had the idea of an anthology based on the play of words between Baker Street and Baking. Enter Nancy Holder and with the support of Belanger Books the idea became a reality.

“Sherlock Holmes of Baking Street” is not a cookbook. It is a book the theme of Sherlock Holmes and baking. It is a skillful mix of essays, fiction, and an interview. Included in the mix is a new short story from me: “Best Served Cold” which is not for those with a delicate stomach!

The anthology is now on Kickstarter, with some great packages for supporters. Why not pop over and check out the delicious menu of writers and snag yourself a great deal at the same time.

The Ghost Club

4 Apr

Welcome to the Ghost Club – where Arthur Conan Doyle, along with Bram Stoker, Henry James and their guests, invite you to a feast of Victorian tales of the uncanny and macabre.

“The Ghost Club” is written by noted horror writer William Meikle. Each story purports to be written by a prominent Victorian writer. All fourteen stories are seriously weird, always creepy, and, at times downright terrifying. Each one is a great read, but, of course, I have my favourites.

“The High Bungalow” (Rudyard Kipling) – a terrifying tale of ghosts and Freemasonry in the hills of the Punjab.

“The Immortal Memory” (Leo Tolstoy) – death and poetry at the court of Catherine the Great.

“The House of the Dead” (Bram Stoker) – this tale of death and spirits seriously made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.

“Farside” (Herbert George Wells) – a tale of spirits and technology that left me more than a little unsettled.

“The Angry Ghost” (Oscar Wilde) – not a particularly frightening tale, but notable because William Meikle caught the flavour of Wilde’s style perfectly. It put me in mind of Wilde’s classic story “The Canterville Ghost”.

“The Scrimshaw Set” (Henry James) – this tale of the sea and death is chilling a macabre in equal measures.

“The Curious Affair on the Embankment” (Arthur Conan Doyle) – Inspector Lestrade deals with a missing persons case with a horrifying twist.

I cannot recommend this volume of stories highly enough. If you enjoy classic ghost stories you will love this book.

The Instrument of Death

31 Mar

A priceless ruby is stolen, but just as Holmes reveals the truth, the thief, a wealthy titled woman, is found dead. Strangled by a mysterious intruder. A deadly game of cat and mouse begins.

“The Instrument of Death” is another great book from renowned Sherlockian, David Stuart Davies. The book is an enjoyable read. David Stuart Davies has an excellent touch with the characters of Holmes and Watson, and his Lestrade is a little stuffy, but quite acceptable.

The book utilizes the character of Dr. Caligari from the the 1920’s German horror movie “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”. We know from the beginning who the killer is, and how it’s done, so this is less a whodunnit and more a thriller. There are sections of the book that are a little graphic, so if you are at all squeamish this book may not be for you.

As always, David Stuart Davies has a light touch with description: “He wore a pair of heavy dark spectacles on a curved beak of a nose that gave him the appearance of a weary owl.”

“The Instrument of Death” is a fast paced and exciting blend of murder and mesmerism. Highly recommended.

The Watson Letters Vol 1: Something Wicker This Way Comes

21 Mar

“The Watson Letters Vol 1: Something Wicker This Way Comes” by Colin Garrow is a quirky and hilarious romp.

The book comprises correspondence between Watson and Holmes (and others), Watson’s diary entries, and some delightful passages that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could have written. It’s not a narrative as such, but the tale it tells is one that reduced me to tears of helpless laughter on many occasions.

The book is loaded with more double entendres than a Carry On film. Not to mention people historical and fictional. The title is a play on the 1970s movie “The Wicker Man” and, yes, a similar scenario occurs in the book.

“Something Wicker This Way Comes” has a gorgeous weird steampunky vibe and is a truly delightful read. I will be adding the other volumes to my To Be Read list.

Highly recommended.

Savage Magic

14 Mar

In “Savage Magic”, by Lloyd Shepherd, Thames River Police Constable Charles Horton finds himself investigating a possible case of witchcraft in Surrey at the behest of Bow Street Magistrate Aaron Graham. At the same time Graham is investigating the dreadful murders of a group of men who call themselvess Sybarites and look to the late Sir Francis Dashwood of the Hellfire Club for inspiration. What is the link between these events and a private madhouse in Hackney? As the body count rises, Charles Horton and Aaron Graham are racing against time to find those responsible.

Set in 1814 in the last years of the Georgian period, Lloyd Shepherd manages to convey the decadence and almost brutal immorality with great flair and wit. You can see, hear, and almost smell the human maelstroms that are Wapping and Covent Garden.

The story is many faceted, with thrilling twists and turns, but never once loses momentum. The supernatural overtones of the story just add to the pace.

Highly recommended.

The Case of the Baffled Policeman

17 Feb

Ex-Inspector De Ath has someone trying to kill him. Does it relate to a case in his career that he solved with the assistance of a young Sherlock Holmes? Watson journeys to Torquay to find out.

“The Case of the Baffled Policeman” by Allen Sharp is very short. More a long short story than even a novella. Still, the story has pace and verve. Holmes and Watson are well written and the friendship between them is solid. It’s a fine story that fairly rips along.

“The Case of the Baffled Policeman” was published in 1989 by Cambridge University Press as part of their “In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes” series, so may be a little hard to get if you are interested. ABE have a couple of copies available:

A pleasant way to while away an hour. Highly recommended.

The Hackney Horror

11 Feb

Someone, or something, is stealing the best brains in Britain. Not the bodies. Just the brains. Holmes and Watson investigate and come face to face with appalling horror.

“The Hackney Horror” by William Meikle is a delicious horror story. I can’t give much detail without giving away the plot, but the story fairly rips along from one thrill to the next.

The friendship between Holmes and Watson is solid. And William Meikle gives us a great Lestrade; all sarcasm and snark.

If you like your Holmes a little strange, you will love “The Hackney Horror”.

Highly recommended.

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