Tag Archives: Book Review

The House At Baker Street

11 Apr

“The House at Baker Street” is the first novel for author Michelle Birkby.

When Sherlock Holmes turns away a potential client, Martha Hudson and Mary Watson step into the breech.

A marvellous story with action, adventure, much warmth between the characters, and real character depth.

Martha Hudson and Mary Watson miostly flit around the edges of the canon stories, the exception being Mary’s leading role in “The Sign of the Four”. This book fleshes out both women, making it obvious why Holmes remains at Baker Street, and just what Watson sees in Mary.

I do not have the room to keep all but the very best (in my opinion) books in my small Sherlock Holmes library. “The House at Baker Street” is the latest addition to that library and will be read many, many times in the future.

I cannot recommend this book too highly.

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Academia Obscura

28 Feb
I first came across “Academia Obscura” by Glen Wright via the Twitter account @AcademiaObscura. This is an account that points out the lighter, sometimes absurb, often downright freaking oddball, aspects of life as an academic.

Now I have several academic friends and I have listened to their tales of woe (and student ignorance) at length. Not to mention the fact that I aspired to the academic life myself, though due to circumstances, was unable to reach it. Hell, my English teacher and I already had the title of my first paper worked out! Watership Down: Rabbits and the Traditional Arthurian Quest Motif. The thing is, after reading this book, that putative paper sounds sane and sensible!

I frequently laughed aloud at the sheer ridiculousness of some of the papers mentioned in the book. The scary thing is that the majority were science papers! Though most of the laughs came from the comfortable style, and quirky comments and footnotes of author Glen Wright.

WARNING: This is one book where you MUST read the footnotes. You will miss too much if you don’t. Hell, the footnotes alone are worth the price of the book.

A must read for anyone who is an academic, knows an academic, aspires to be an academic, or has a twisted sense of humour.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll sit here and give some serious thought to actually writing that paper.

A Scandal in Battersea

18 Feb
“A Scandal in Battersea” by Mercedes Lackey is a direct sequel to “A Study in Sable”, in fact the villain of the piece is a character who was mentioned in passing in the first book.

Nan, Sarah, John & Mary Watson, and even Lord Alderscroft are indulging young Suki in all the trappings of Christmas. But along side the joy and the fun, something dark is brewing.

A magician finds a hand written book and deliberately sets forth to let an ancient horror loose in this world. The only clues are the mindless young women wandering the streets of London, and a young lass in a private insane asylum who is anything but insane.

As the darkness gathers, Sherlock Holmes must once again join forces with the others to battle something he could not even imagine ever existed.

Absolutely loved this book. My copy was a library one, so now I’m on the hunt for a copy for my collection.

A Whiff of Cyanide

11 Feb

‘A Whiff of Cyanide’ is the third in the Hampstead Murders series by Guy Fraser-Sampson.

Ann Durham is the head of the Crime Writer’s Association and has been for years. But now a challenge is being mounted, and she may be set to lose everything she has worked for.

So when Ann is poisoned with cyanide at the association’s dinner at their big convention in Hampstead, is it suicide…or murder?

The team from Hampstead nick have to find out.

As per the other books, this one is a lovely mix of crime and character stories. Those who have read the previous books will get a hell of a shock at what happens next in the Peter Collins/Karen Willis/Bob Metcalfe storyline. It packed a punch not unlike one from Mohammed Ali!

Sprinkled with the quirky observations and one-liners, ‘A Whiff of Cyanide’ is a delicious addition to the series.

I have the fourth book at home. I am hoarding it. Because once I’ve read it, they’re all gone!

Guy Fraser-Sampson is the finest addition to the UK’s crime writing fraternity in years.

Devil’s Wolf

5 Feb

Paul Doherty brings Sir Hugh Corbett out to play in the excelled “Devil’s Wolf”.

In 1296 Edward I sacked Berwick in a shameful display of cruelty and murder.

Years later, his son is on the throne of England, Scotland is as big a mess as ever, and Henry Percy has bought Alnwick castle with gods know what ideas in mind.

Sir Hugh Corbett is despatched north to visit Percy, locate the Lily Crown of Scotland, and negotiate a hostage transfer. His retinue is attacked by a coven known as the Black Chesters, someone tries to murder both him and his Master of Archers Ap Ythel, and there is the matter of the mysterious one-eyed bowman. Not to mention the fact that bloody handed murder seems to be raging unchecked.

I have never been as big a fan of Hugh Corbett as I have of Brother Athelstan, but this book is excellent. Full of red herrings and surprises.

I like the way Paul Doherty grows his characters. Hugh Corbett is a different man in many ways from the one we met way back in “Satan in St Mary’s”. But the biggest change is in Ranulf atte Newgate. Corbett’s trusted right hand has come a long way from the terrified boy that Hugh saved from judicial hanging.

Great characters and a great plot. Paul Doherty never goes stale.

Highly recommended.

Miss Christie Regrets

30 Jan

The crime team from Hampstead nick are back with a second interesting adventure in Guy Fraser-Sampson’s “Miss Christie Regrets”.

There is a murder in Burgh House in Hampstead, and around the same time a body is found stuffed in a cabin trunk in a walled off room in a nearby block of flats. This body however, isn’t fresh, but from prior to WW2. There can be no connection between the two cases. Can there?

Of course there can!

And off goes a wonderful romp through one of my favourite parts of London.

The plot is deliciously intricate, with a gorgeous woven seam of Cold War paranoia wound in that would delight John le Carre. Letters from Dame Agatha Christie herself add a touch of old world glamour to the plot.

“Miss Christie Regrets” is an excellent read, and builds nicely onto the foundations that the first book, “Death in Profile” erected.

Guy Fraser-Sampson writes wonderful stories that manage to meld the Golden Age of detective fiction with modern world police procedurals. If you haven’t read the series, do yourself a favour and track the books down.

Superb.

Sleeping in the Ground

9 Jan

The unthinkable has hit Eastvale. Someone opens fire on a wedding party killing and injuring people. And, worse for Banks, Cabbot, Masterton et al, is that DS Winsome Jackman was a guest at the wedding!

Adding to Alan Banks’ woes is the fact that Jenny Fuller is back in town.

It becomes a race against the clock to find a deranged killer before the body count rises.

Peter Robinson adds a dose of whimsicallity to this book with a few off the cuff observations.

“Sleeping in the Ground” is possibly one of the best Alan Banks novels in years.

Rivers of London: Detective Stories

20 Dec

The most recent offering in Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London graphic novels series.

This one is four separate stories linked by the device of Peter Grant doing his final interview to ascertain whether he is suitable to be promoted to Detective Constable. The interviewer, Detective Inspector Chopra, has a little bit of trouble with the magical aspects of Peter’s job:

Chopra: I thought they were…
Peter: Exaggerating?
Chopra: Taking the piss.

We get to learn some interesting snippets from Peter’s past, get to see Lesley BEFORE she lost her face, and see Jaget Kumar, Kimberley Reynolds, Abigail Kamara, and Frank Caffey drawn for the first time. It’s interesting to me that they pretty much look like I had imagined them.

I am now eagerly awaiting the compendium version of the latest in the graphic novels series “Cry Fox”.

The Rivers of London series just keeps getting better and better.  The series is spread across novels, novellas, and graphic novels really giving something for everyone.

Mythos

18 Dec

At a time when other children had their mothers reading “Sleeping Beauty” and “Little Red Riding Hood” to them, my father was telling me the story of the abduction of Persephone with his own adornments (I particularly liked the squirrels wondering why she was picking flowers instead of nuts).

I bring this up so you understand that I was exposed to the Greek myths at a very young age. Once I was able to read, I got my hands on Bullfinch’s Mythology and Robert Graves rather interesting two volume offering.

Stephen Fry’s “Mythos” is a glorious retelling of the Greek myths.

Stephen Fry now sits, in my mind, with these giants of Greek mythology. His retelling of many of the stories, especially the origins of the gods, is simply delightful. His love for the subject just shines through, and he has a deft hand with gentle sarcastic observances and natty oneliners.

If I have to pick a favourite story it would have to be the birth of Hermes. And not just because Hermes has always been my favourite.

I now have a question for Stephen. When is he going to retell the Iliad?

The Mansions of Murder

29 Oct

Paul Doherty’s most recent Brother Athelstan is a classic locked room mystery. Something he does very well.

Athelstan and Sir Jack Cranston must work out who killed the priest of St Benet’s Queenshithe, and how it ties in with the legacy of a deceased parishoner of Athelstan’s.

After month’s of fretting about the death of a parishoner, because over the years I have developed a fondness for a number of the character’s, I shouldn’t have worried. The parishoner was a very minor one who was mostly mentioned in passing in earlier books.

“The Mansions of Murder” is a gripping thriller, which, unlike previous books, has very few humourous moments to lighten the atmosphere.

The scene with Pike and Watkins in the tavern with Jack Cranston and Athelstan has raised some interesting questions for the future.

Can’t quite bring myself to give it 5 stars, because it doesn’t reach my bench mark of “The Great Revolt” as being an extraordinary Athelstan novel.

 

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