Tag Archives: Book Review

The Keys of Death

19 Jan

“The Keys of Death” is the third Sherlock Holmes novel from author Gretchen Altabef and published by MX Publishing.

A fun look at Holmes first case when he and Watson move into 221B Baker Street. The case? It’s the murder of Mrs. Hudson’s husband!

The story is mostly told in the form of the journal entries of Mrs. Hudson and Doctor Watson, supplemented with columns by Langdale Pike, and other bits and pieces.

I know a number of Sherlockians will not care for the style, but I found it an enjoyable change. Mrs. Hudson’s own voice rings out clearly. There is no mistaking Mrs. Hudson for John Watson or vice versa, as is often the case with multiple first person points of view.

All of the characters are well-rounded and interesting. Ms. Altabef’s Mrs. Hudson is a particular delight.

Richly detailed and well researched, “The Keys of Death” is a delight addition to the word of Sherlock Holmes pastiche.

Highly recommended.

You can purchase a copy directly from MX Publishing. And while you are there, please considering checking out my books for sale here.

Sherlock Holmes: The Labyrinth of Death

23 Nov

Written by James Lovegrove, “Sherlock Holmes: The Labyrinth of Death” is set in 1895 and tells the tale of two missing women and a quasi-religious sect obsessed with Ancient Greek myths and rituals.

There is just so much to like about this book. My first and major thought when reading any Sherlock Holmes pastiche is: “What is the relationship between Holmes and Watson like?” In this book, as in Mr. Lovegrove’s other books, the friendship is strong and well-balanced.

The story is absorbing, interesting, and, at times, ventures into Indiana Jones territory. In fact I could easily see this book being made into a Robert Downey Jr/Jude Law ‘Sherlock Holmes’ movie.

Two other things stood out to me. The use of the Dorset dialect is superb, giving a real sense of place to the story. The second one is the character of Hannah Woolfson. In Hannah, Mr. Lovegrove has created a really strong female character who plays a real role in the story. This is one woman who is not simply there as window dressing.

All in all, this book is an excellent read. I highly recommend it.

Fall from Grace

2 Oct

“Fall from Grace” is the second Inspector McLevy novel written by David Ashton. The novel centres around the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879. It’s a delightful mix of burglary and murder.

I love David Ashton’s characters. James McLevy is a braw Scotsman: delightfully argumentative. He has excellent foils in Constable Mulholland, Lieutenant Roach, and Jean Brash, the madam of the brothel “The Just Land”. All the characters are well-rounded and realistic.

Ashton’s research is impeccable. The facts of the Tay Bridge disaster balance out nicely against the story.

I have two quibbles. The first one is that the story was non-linear. I prefer to read stories that progress along a time line. I found the jumping backwards and forwards confusing. But that is just me and the way my brain works. My personal preference, really.

The other thing was of more concern. A lot of the book was typeset using italics. I have vision problems and the italics made the book very hard to read, especially in artificial light.

However I still recommend the book to anyone who enjoys Victorian period crime or Scottish crime fiction.

The Treasure of the Poison King

30 Aug

“The Treasure of the Poison King” is written by Paul D. Gilbert and published by MX Publishing.

Mithradates VI, the King of Pontus, in the first century BCE is known to history as “The Poison King” due to his habit of dosing himself with poisons to prevent anyone killing him in that way. He was also fabulously wealthy. After his defeat by the Roman legions led by Lucullus, his treasure was taken back to Rome, but one of the ships sank, never to be seen again…until a small group of Greek sponge divers found a mysterious ship wreck. Now, rumour has it that the treasure is coming to London. But what is no rumour is the death that it leaves in its wake.

Sherlock Holmes is on the case, and he must find the treasure before someone close to him becomes a victim.

Paul D. Gilbert never fails to deliver exciting stories. “The Treasure of the Poison King” is fast paced and exciting. It balances action, both physical and cerebral, with a good dose of history. All of it woven together to create a story that is sure to delight any Sherlock Holmes fan.

Highly recommended.

You can purchased the book directly from MX Publishing

The Murder of Christina Collins

14 Aug

This little booklet (60 pages) tells the story of the murder of Christina Collins in 1839. The poor lady was murdered by boatmen on the Trent and Mersey Canal. Not an unusual story in and of itself, but this crime was the inspiration for Colin Dexter’s award winning Inspector Morse novel “The Wench is Dead”.

This edition of the booklet was published by The Irregular Special Press in 2011 and includes an introduction by Colin Dexter.

John Godwin writes about the crime in rich detail.

The booklet’s 60 pages are densely packed with information, much of it compiled by gazetteer Antony J. Richards.

An interesting little read, though I found the use of CAPITALS FOR EMPHASIS more than a tad annoying.

Worth a look.

Murder on the Brighton Express

8 Aug

“Murder on the Brighton Express” is a novel in the Railway Detective series by Edward Marston.

Detective Inspector Robert Colbert aka The Railway Detective investigates the derailment of the London to Brighton Express in October 1854. Is it simply driver error, or something more sinister?

The resulting story is a deliciously tangled web of death and destruction.

Edward Marston is a renowned author of historical mysteries, of which there are probably more of the Railway Detective than any other. Which is good, because this series has rapidly become one of my favourites.

The characters are well rounded and feel very real.

“Murder on the Brighton Express” is both well written and well researched. The result is a read that simply rockets along. much like the Brighton Express.

Highly recommended for fans of railway stories, Victorian stories, and detective stories.

The Adventure of the Wordy Companion

20 Jul

“The Adventure of the Wordy Companion: An A-Z Guide to Sherlockian Phraseology” is written by Nicko Vaughan and published by MX Publishing.

As a person who loves both Sherlock Holmes and the intricacies of the English language, this book hit a number of spots.

Nicko Vaughan has waded through the Holmes canon selecting words and phrases that may not be a part of most people’s vocabularies these days, and set about providing an explanation for them.

Written with admirable conciseness and some considerable wit, the book is a must have for anyone new to the Holmes canon.

It is also a handy little reference guide for writers of Sherlock Holmes pastiche. Knowing what words Arthur Conan Doyle used helps give a feel of authenticity to pastiches. The book now has a permanent place in my reference library.

One thing I discovered as I browsed this excellent wee tome, is that most of the words are in my everyday vocabulary. I suppose this is what happens when you read Sherlock Holmes as a child. You end up with a somewhat archaic vocabulary as an adult.

This is a delightfully charming little book that I cannot recommend highly enough.

You can purchase your own copy directly from MX Publishing

Hell Ship

10 Jul

“Hell Ship”, written by Michael Veitch, is the true story of the “Ticonderoga” an American clipper ship that set sail from Liverpool in August 1852 bound for the city of Melbourne, in the fledgling colony of Victoria, Australia. When the ship arrived three months later it was a veritable plague ship – typhus had broken out onboard.

This is the story of that voyage, but is is also a story about people. Those that survived the voyage from hell, and those that did not. It is also a sort of love story: of Dr. James William Henry Veitch, assistant ship’s surgeon, and Annie Morrison, a woman from Scotland, who helped nurse the sick and dying. They became the great-great-grandparents of Michael Veitch.

The book is well researched and well written. The Ticonderoga’s ill-fated passage is carefully documented, from the arrival of its passengers at the embarkation centre in Liverpool, until it’s arrival in Australia, and beyond.

Powerful and moving, the book gives the reader a close look at what conditions were like for poor immigrants in the middle of the 19th century.

Highly recommended for anyone interesting in Australian history, maritime history, 19th century history, or true stories of the human condition.

The Tea House Detective: The Old Man in the Corner

18 Apr

“The Tea House Detective: The Old Man in the Corner” was written by Baroness Orcy. The stories in this volume were originally published in book form in 1908. The edition I read was published by Pushkin Vertigo in 2018.

One does not associate Baroness Orczy with crime fiction. To me, like with many others, her name resonates with historical fiction, her being the writer of the class “The Scarlet Pimpernel”.

The stories are all well written and the character of the Old Man in the Corner with his compulsive tieing of knots, was both interesting and odd. The female journalist listening to his stories was little more than a device to get the old man’s tales out; he could have been talking to the wall. Except in the last story, when the character, Miss Polly Burton really stands out.

All the stories are excellent, but the stand out one for me was the very first story, “The Fenchurch Street Mystery”.

A fascinating book. Recommended.

Sherlock Cat and the Missing Mousie

7 Apr

“Sherlock Cat and the Missing Mousie”, written by Heather Edwards, illustrated by Amanda Downs, and published by MX Publishing, is not my usual choice of reading material. When I saw the cover illustration on Kickstarter I was captivated and knew that it was one book that I just had to read and review.

It turned out to be an absolutely sweet little book. Spot the cat has decided that he will be Sherlock Holmes the cat detective with his long suffering friend Fluffy as John Watson.

Join the two cats, their humans , and assorted other creatures in a joyous Sherlockian romp.

The book is well written, and while clearly for children, there is much to enjoy for the adult as well. There are so many lovely little Sherlockian in-jokes.

The illustrations by Amanda Downs are charming. My only complaint is that there wasn’t enough of them.

This is the perfect book to introduce kids to the world of the Great Detective. In fact, it would be a great book to read with your children.

Highly recommended.

Sherlock Cat and the Missing Mousie is available for purchase from MX Publishing and other online book stores.

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