Short Story Review: The Five Orange Pips by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Five Orange Pips is the fifth short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary (from Goodreads)

A tale of mystery, scandal and murder that may have been committed by the Ku Klux Klan in London. Who else but Sherlock Holmes can solve these series of deaths?

Favourite Quote

“There is nothing more to be said or to be done tonight, so hand me over my violin and let us try to forget for half an hour the miserable weather and the still more miserable ways of our fellowmen.”

Review

I’ve been looking back over my reviews of the short stories from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes so far, and I believe that I am rating them more harshly than I tend to usually rate what I read.  I wonder if that is because I have greater expectations of Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, and what I do enjoy I really love, creating a starker contrast?  Just a thought…

This is another middle-of-the-road story from the collection.  The mystery was interesting and complex, but the ending was a little flat as there is no satisfactory conclusion to the story.  But perhaps that makes this instalment appear closer to real life which is hardly ever so neatly wrapped and tidied come the end.  It might also serve as a reminder that although Sherlock Holmes is a genius, he is still only human.

Also, I must say that I thought it was rather strange of Sherlock to explain to Mr Openshaw (the man that came to Baker Street with the case) just how much mortal danger he was in and then simply allow him to walk off into the night, alone and unprotected.

Rating

3.5 / 5

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Book Review: The Devil’s Priest by Kate Ellis

Summary (from back of book)

In 1539 King Henry VII is completing his ruthless destruction of England’s monasteries and the ripples of this seismic change are felt even in the small northern port of Liverpool.  A pregnant novice nun, Agnes Moore, ejected from her convent and staying with resentful relatives, claims to have been attacked in the ancient chapel of St Mary del Quay on Liverpool’s waterfront by Satan himself.  Her former abbess, Lady Katheryn Bulkeley, comes to her aid but Agnes refuses to identify her lover.

When a young priest is found dead in the River Mersey, his right hand hacked off, Katheryn realises that Liverpool harbours some disturbing secrets.  Then Agnes is brutally murdered after which corpses are subsequently found mutilated in the churchyard.  What is the link with Agnes’ death?

Katheryn slowly uncovers the secrets of Liverpool’s dark side as she seeks Agnes’ killer amongst the town’s highest and lowest citizens.  As she draws closer to the truth, she faces the most urgent question of all, Why has such evil come to Liverpool and who is The Devil’s Priest?

Favourite Quote

It was difficult to calculate his age, but it must have taken many years to cultivate the characteristic stoutness of an ardent ale drinker.

Review

This is the first book I’ve read by Kate Ellis and I enjoyed it.  I liked the author’s style of writing and I am looking forward to reading some of her other books.

The Devil’s Priest is an interesting tale, full of interesting characters and with plenty of twists and turns.  Lady Katheryn Bulkeley was a real former abbess living at the time the story was set.  Her backstory combined with this fictional mystery makes for entertaining reading and a gripping yarn.  The supporting cast of characters were also good: Valentine, the apothecary; Bartholomew, the ferryman; and Jane, Katheryn’s young maid who enjoys a good gossip.

The Liverpool in the book is pretty unrecognisable compared to the great port city of today, so it was interesting to learn about how it would have looked nearly five hundred years ago.  Before reading this, I didn’t know that the famous “ferry across the Mersey” was run by the monks of Birkenhead Priory up until the dissolution of the monasteries.

I sincerely wish that this hadn’t been a standalone book – it would have made the perfect historical mystery series.  So, I am going to deduct half a star from my rating because of my disappointment.  Only joking – that would be mean and this book fully deserves it four stars.

Rating

Bookish Reflections – August and September 2017

A monthly round up of all things bookish at Sammi Loves Books…It’s my attempt at becoming more accountable in my reading and reviewing habits…


In a nutshell

I fell behind once again when it came to reviewing the books I had read for historical fiction month.  It’s been a real problem this year; I’m just enjoying reading so much that I am loathe to pause and write the review before pressing on with the next read.  So much of September was spent catching up with reviews…

Books I’ve reviewed

Favourite read of the month

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel / The Iron Hand of Mars by Lindsey Davis

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

None this month.  I’ve been good again! 🙂

Books I’ve downloaded

  • 5 Secrets of Story Structure by KM Weiland
  • 66 Metres by J. F. Kirwan
  • The Watchmaker’s Daughter by C.J Archer

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Love Letters to Gaia – poems and letters inspired by the earth

August / September “Read and Review” Goals

I reached most of the goals I set out for Historical Fiction Month.  The only one I missed was the planned re-read and review of Karen Maitland’s The Owl Killers.  As for September’s goals, I didn’t actually make any.

What I’m reading and reviewing in October

  • The Devil’s Priest by Kate Ellis (read, almost finished reviewing)
  • The Five Orange Pips by Arthur Conan Doyle (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C.Beaton (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • The Man with the Twisted Lip by Arthur Conan Doyle (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • Poison Study by Maria V Snyder (reading)

Goodreads Reading Challenge

My goal is 57.  I’ve read 38.  67% complete.  Currently 4 books behind schedule.

Other reads (books not on Goodreads)*: 2

Total books read so far this year: 40


* “Other reads” means books that are not listed on Goodreads, but ones that are still of novel / novella length.  I’m not counting anthologies, single (very) short stories, magazines / ezines, but I will count short story or poetry collections if they are not too short.  Short stories that are listed on Goodreads are being counted as part of the reading challenge total.

Short Story Review: The Boscome Valley Mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Boscombe Valley Mystery is the fourth short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Lestrade summons Holmes to a community in Herefordshire, where a local land owner has been murdered outdoors. The deceased’s estranged son is strongly implicated. Holmes quickly determines that a mysterious third man may be responsible for the crime, unraveling a thread involving a secret criminal past, thwarted love, and blackmail.

Favourite Quote

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.

Review

I enjoyed this Sherlock Holmes mystery more than the last one.  Again, I worked out the identity of the real criminal though not the reason behind it.

What I really liked about this story was the search and analysis of the crime scene by Sherlock Holmes.

In these last few short stories we have begun to see the softer, more compassionate side to Sherlock Holmes, when often he is presented as being cold, aloof and overly analytical.  And this reminds me of another quote that stood out:

“God help us!” said Holmes after a long silence.  “Why does fate play such tricks with poor, helpless worms? I never hear of such a case of this that I do not think of Baxter’s words, and say, “There, but for the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes.”

I’m looking forward to reading the next mystery in the series, The Five Orange Pips.

Rating

3.5 / 5

 

Book Review: The Eye of Ra by Michael Asher

Summary (from inside book sleeve)

Unknown to the world at large, the opening of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1923 revealed a secret of crucial importance – a secret that over the next years would bring about the mysterious deaths of more than twenty people.

But the story didn’t end there.  Omar James Ross, a maverick Egyptologist, is drawn back to Cairo by the disappearance of his friends and colleague, Julian Cranwell.  His body is found by the Great Pyramids, and Ross becomes embroiled in a conspiracy that leads directly back to Tutankhamen’s tomb and is linked in some way to the legendary lost oasis of Zerzura.

Cranwell’s body vanishes from the morgue, and every contact, every informant dies or disappears.  Ross, threatened, harassed, almost friendless, takes refuge among his mother’s people, the Bedouin nomads of the Western Desert.  It is in the company of an intrepid band of these tribesmen that Ross solves the mystery of the Eye of Ra, and comes face to face with the most earth-shattering discovery.

Rich in Egyptian mythology and history, Bedouin folklore, sinister secret organisations and deep conspiracies spanning millennia, The Eye of Ra is a highly atmospheric thriller combining fascinating characters and chilling mysteries.

Favourite Quote

‘What’s it like?’

‘Well, it’s not two palms and a pond – that’s how most people think of an oasis.  It’s fifty miles long with scores of villages, millions of palms, lakes, thousands of feddans of farmland, scrubland and acacia forest.  It’s like a big green island in a sea of nothingness.”

Review

I enjoyed this book a lot.  The story was fascinating and cleverly written, and the characters engaging.  Full of twists and turns, I didn’t know what was going to happen next most of the time, though there were some instances where they were anticipated.  That didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it, however.

My favourite character was Doc Barrington, though Omar James Ross was interesting; being part English and part Hawazim, he had spent most of his life up until that point feeling like he didn’t fit in anywhere.  I found the mythology and history engrossing, and the descriptions of the Bedouin, their folklore and way of life, thoroughly fascinating.

The book is full of rich descriptions of places, and the author’s understanding and knowledge of the desert and the people who live there shines through.  I liked the front cover too – anything with hieroglyphs on it immediately catches my attention.

I wouldn’t describe it as a page turner, more a slow burner, even though there is a lot of action in it, but it held my attention throughout without fail (hence the four stars rather than five).  I thought I wouldn’t get on with the sci-fi aspects of the plot, but the author did a great job of telling the story so that it didn’t bother me so much; yes, it was a little far-fetched, but fun nonetheless.

The Eye of Ra is full of secrets and mysteries, mythology and action, and has a rather unique  answer to the curse of the pharaohs.  If you enjoy historical fiction and sci-fi, and possess an interest in Ancient Egypt, I think you will enjoy this book.

Rating

Short Story Review: A Case of Identity by Arthur Conan Doyle

A Case of Identity is the third short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Miss Mary Sutherland, angry and beside herself with feelings of loss, asks Sherlock Holmes to solve the sudden, mysterious disappearance of a shy and attentive man she has grown to love upon the very day they were to be married.

Favourite Quote

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.”

Review

Great storytelling, even if this story was a little predictable – or should I say easier to solve, than some of the other Sherlock Holmes mysteries?  The scheme involved wasn’t very nice at all and I found myself feeling sorry for Mary Sutherland one moment and wondering how she could have fallen for it the next.  So, a bit of a mixed bag, this one.

One of the high points of the story though was the conversation between Holmes and Watson where Sherlock, in the role of “master consulting detective” informs Watson his “pupil”, that he is getting better at the craft of the consulting detective.  He congratulates him with, “‘Pon my word, Watson, you are coming along wonderfully.  You have done very well indeed”, before he goes on to say, even if he failed to notice everything that was important about the case.  Smashing stuff!

Also, on a side note, I do enjoy coming across some of the more unusual names of the period.  In the last story, The Red-headed League, there was a “Jabez”.  In A Case of Identity, there is a “Hosmer”.

Rating

I’ve been readin The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle via Wattpad

Book Review: The Traitor’s Mark by D.K. Wilson

The Traitor’s Mark is the second book in the Thomas Treviot series by D.K. Wilson.

Summary (from Goodreads)

The Real Crime: Hans Holbein, King Henry VIII’s portrait painter, died in the autumn of 1543. A century later a chronicler reported that the artist had succumbed to plague, yet there is no contemporary evidence to support this. Suspicions have been raised over the centuries, but the mystery of what actually happened remains unsolved to this day.

Our Story: Young London goldsmith Thomas Treviot is awaiting a design for a very important jewelry commission from Hans Holbein. When the design fails to turn up, Thomas sends a servant to track Holbein down, only to discover that the painter has disappeared. In his hunt for Holbein and the lost design, Thomas is led into a morass of dangerous political intrigue, Spanish spies and courtiers that is more treacherous than he could ever have anticipated…

Favourite Quote

‘Dear God, the games these kings and great men play, using us for their cards and counters.’

Review

I find this series so interesting.  The idea of presenting a possible solution to a mystery or a crime approaching 500 years old is fascinating.  Having read the first book in the series, The First Horseman and the third, The Devil’s Chalice, I knew I would enjoy this one too.  And I did.

I like Thomas Treviot – he is a likeable main character.  He has enough status to get him the contact he needs with some of the greatest personalities in the land, but he is also happy – happier even – amongst those of lower-standing, meaning that he can move fairly easily between social groups.  Ned – a former monk who after the dissolution puts his knowledge of medicines to use as an apothecary – is also a great character.  Though I think my favourite is Lizzie: she’s strong, intelligent, sensible and compassionate.

The Traitor’s Mark is a enjoyable mystery that will take you on a journey through Tudor London and the surrounding counties, which come to life with ease.  The historical detail that is woven through the story is rich in depth though not heavy enough to weigh it down and slow its unfolding.  There’s plenty of action and drama, and twists and turns to keep the story moving at a good pace.  The political and religious turmoil of the times is clearly depicted and the story shows just how easy it was to get caught up in things, whether you wanted to be involved in them or not – a scary thought.

I really hope that there will be more books in this series, because all three of them have been excellent reads.  I can’t recommend them high enough.

Rating