Short Story Review: The Adventures of the Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of The Engineer’s Thumb is the ninth story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Summary

An injured man finds his way to Dr Watson’s surgery.  His thumb has been cut off.  Dr Watson, as he is treating him, asks how the rather strange injury came about.  When the man, Mr Hatherley, replies, he suggests they go and speak to Sherlock Holmes.  They soon learn that Mr Hatherley was engaged by a strange man to go and fix a hydraulic stamping machine somewhere in the middle of the English countryside.  He is to be paid well for his efforts, but things are not quite right.  Why is the commission top secret?  And why does a woman try to persuade him to leave as soon as he arrives?  Sherlock Holmes after hearing the bizarre story, naturally takes the case to find out these answers and more.

Favourite Quote

Sherlock Holmes was, as I expected, lounging about his sitting-room in his dressing-gown, reading the agony column of The Times and smoking his before-breakfast pipe, which was composed of all the plugs and dottles left from his smokes of the day before, all carefully dried and collected on the corner of the mantelpiece.

Review

Another riveting Sherlock Holmes mystery.  This is another one that I couldn’t quite crack, though there are plenty of clues along the way.

There is a lot more drama in this story that the other ones I have so far read, in my opinion.  And reading of the close call Mr Hatherley has whilst he is at the isolated house raises the tension a lot.  It’s also a little more gory than the other short stories thanks to the passage where Dr Watson is treating the damaged hand of Mr Hatherley.

A great story, and a interesting read.

Rating

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Book Review: Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener by M. C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener is the third book in the Agatha Raisin series by M. C. Beaton.

Summary (from back of book)

Agatha is taken aback when she finds a new woman ensconced in the affections of her attractive bachelor neighbour, James Lacey.  The beautiful Mary Fortune is superior in every way, especially when it comes to gardening – and with Carsely Garden Open Day looming, Agatha feels this deficiency acutely.

So when Mary is discovered murdered, buried upside down in a plant pot, Agatha seizes the moment and immediately starts yanking up village secrets by their roots and digging the dirt on the hapless victim.  But is this wise?  For Agatha has an awkward secret too…

Favourite Quote

Despite the fact that she was still married, although she had not seen her husband for years, did not want to, and had practically forgotten his existence, she felt exactly like the spinster of the village, cats and all.

Review

I love these stories; they are addictive cosy little mysteries which means that they are quick to read, and easy to become engrossed in.  I do find it impossible to put these books down once I start, and once I finish them I want to pick the next in the series up right away.

The residents of Carsely are fantastic and familiar, which makes these stories a joy to read.  With each instalment in the series we learn something new about them.  Agatha is back to her old self from the first book in this story with her competitive streak doing its best to get her into trouble. Bill Wong, James Lacey and Roy Silver are a great supporting cast for Agatha’s adventures.

The murder in The Potted Gardener is certainly imaginative.  I wonder how the author came up with the idea!

I can’t recommended this series highly enough to those who enjoy a humorous, slightly outlandish cosy mystery set in a picture perfect English village.

Rating

Short Story Review: The Adventure of The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of The Speckled Band in the eighth short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary

Helen Stoner goes to visit Sherlock Holmes as she fears her life is in danger.  She believes her stepfather, Dr Roylott might try to kill her, as her sister died in strange circumstances two years previously, shortly before she was to be married.  Now Helen is to be married, she is scared of suffering the same fate. Since her sister’s death, her final words, spoken in terror, have haunted Helen, “The speckled band!”  But she has not been able to work out what they mean.  The question is, can Sherlock Holmes, before Dr Roylott is able to do away with his remaining step-daughter?

Favourite Quote

I had no keener pleasure than in following Holmes in his professional investigations, and in admiring the rapid deductions, as swift as intuitions, and yet always founded on a logical basis with which he unravelled the problems which were submitted to him.

Review

This was a great little mystery and so very imaginative.  There are so many clues and red herrings littered throughout the story that you find it difficult to pinpoint the truth of the matter, until of course, everything falls neatly into place.

The Adventure of The Speckled Band is one of my favourite Sherlock Holmes mysteries.  It has everything a late Victorian story should; exotic wild animals that are free to roam, a suspect band of gypsies who keep company with the guilty party, and a damsel in distress at the mercy of her strange and greedy stepfather.  Fabulous stuff!  It kept me guessing until the very end.

Rating

4.5 / 5

Book Review: Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet is the second book in the Agatha Raisin series of books by M.C. Beaton.

Summary (from back of book)

Retired PR boss Agatha Raisin is enjoying life in her pretty Cotswold village of Carsely.  It even seems likely that the attractive new vet, Paul Bladen, has taken a shine to her.  But before romance can blossom, Paul is killed in an accident with Lord Pendlebury’s horse.  Only the circumstances are rather suspicious.  So Agatha decides she must once more play amateur investigator…And this cloud has a silver lining – she can persuade her usually stand-offish neighbour, James Lacey, to become her partner in the quest.  As usual, Agatha is quite prepared to rush in, heedless of the lurking menace to both James and herself.

Favourite Quote

‘I am not sweet sixteen,’ said Agatha huffily.

‘Exactly.’

That ‘exactly’ seemed to Agatha to be saying, ‘You are a middle-aged woman easily flattered by the attentions of a younger man.’

Review

These books are so enjoyable, so readable and so funny.

Agatha Raisin makes a wonderful main character. The shortcomings in her personality (namely her rude and abrasive attitude) are mechanisms to counter her vulnerabilities; protective measures she has needed in the past to prevent her from getting hurt, and that is quite cleverly demonstrated within the narrative.

As Agatha’s antics unfold, I do find myself cringing, and desperately willing her to change her mind, or do something else that will spare her from the next embarrassing moment she is creating for herself.

The mystery around the death of the vet is a good one; there are many suspects to choose from because he is such a horrid character.  Bill Wong is wonderful as Agatha’s police connection, and James Lacey as the focus of her romantic interest is entertaining to be behold as he does his best to avoid her one minute and then wants to sleuth with her the next.

This is turning out to be one of my favourite cosy mystery series. Great fun!

Rating

 

Short Story Review: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle is the seventh short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary

Christmas has just passed when Dr Watson goes to Baker Street to see Sherlock Holmes.  On his arrival he finds his friend thinking over a battered hat brought to him by a commissionaire named Peterson.  It came into his possession when Peterson witnessed a scuffle in the street; the victim dropped both his hat and his Christmas goose.  He has brought them to Sherlock Holmes so that they might be returned to their owner as Peterson has no clue as to work out his identity for the man fled after the attack.

However, Holmes thinks it unlikely that the owner will be found, and sends Peterson home to cook the goose, but the man returns and produces the blue carbuncle, claiming that it was found inside the bird.  Naturally, Holmes realises that there is a larger mystery here and sets off to discover what it is.

Favourite Quote

“One of those little incidents which will happen when you have four million human beings all jostling each other within the space of a few square miles.  Amid the action and reaction of so dense a swarm of humanity, every possible combination of events may be expected to take place, and many a little problem will be presented which may be striking and bizarre without being criminal.” 

Review

This was an intriguing and engaging short story, and in terms of enjoyment, sits around the middle of the stories I’ve read so far from The Adventures of the Sherlock Holmes.  It just so happened that I reached this story in the collection in time for my Festive Reads Fortnight reading challenge, which was a stroke of luck.

Sherlock’s analysis of the hat is interesting.  Here we hear him discussing such things as phrenology and how much the hat owner’s wife loves her husband.

This is a great Christmas read with a good message.  It’s nice to see that Sherlock Holmes, who often appears cold and aloof, can be compassionate and merciful.

Rating

3.5 / 5

 

Short Story Review: The Man with the Twisted Lip by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Man with the Twisted Lip is the sixth short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Holmes discovers Dr. Watson in the black shadows of a smoke-filled opium den in the basement of the very house where Holmes is investigating his latest murder case! But of course the good doctor is only there to hunt down the drug-addicted husband of his wife’s dear, but distraught, friend. Sound confusing? For all but The Great Detective, it probably is. And we haven’t even talked about the murder yet!

Favourite Quote

“…but it is better to learn wisdom late than never to learn it at all.”

Review

The Man with the Twisted Lip was an engaging little puzzle, though perhaps the most interesting part of it was the insight into opium use and drug dens during the Victorian period.

This instalment felt more of a meandering mystery than the other stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes so far.  We start in one place, with one mystery and end up somewhere else entirely, but it is entertaining to read how the story moves along.  An entertaining opening with a great twist at the end.

And, I solved the mystery before the reveal, which I am always pleased about.  Out of the six short stories I have read from this collection to date, this one ranks in the top half of the ratings table.

Rating

3.5 / 5

Book Review: Death at a Drop-In by Elizabeth Spann Craig

Death at A Drop-In is the fifth book in the Myrtle Clover Mysteries by Elizabeth Spann Craig.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Cosette Whitlow is a society matron…if tiny Bradley, North Carolina, has one. She kindly volunteers for all the town’s charities, but isn’t nearly as kind to her own family, neighbors, and friends. In fact, Cosette is emphatically disliked by much of the town—including octogenarian Myrtle Clover. And Myrtle knows that dislike in Bradley can quickly turn deadly.

No one seems surprised when Cosette’s body is discovered during a party she’s hosting—she was struck on the head with a croquet mallet. Wanting to restore order to the small town, Myrtle resolves to track down the killer—before the killer strikes again.

Favourite Quotes

Two knitting related quotes – I couldn’t chose between them 🙂

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“Knitting makes me feel old.  It made me feel old when I was twenty and doing it.”

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“Well, I like to snoop more than I like to knit, that’s for sure.”

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Review

I wanted something light and fun and easy to dip in and out of while participating in NaNoWriMo (and yay! I finished the challenge on the 24th November!  Woohoo!), and this fit the bill perfectly.  I love Myrtle.  She’s great and has a wonderful attitude to life.  And, just like Miss Marple, people assume her to be old and doddering rather than sharp and alert – more fool them!

As the for other characters around her – Miles, Red, Erma, Wanda – they are also entertaining.  The story line is easy to follow and allows you to easily immerse yourself in what’s going on.  This quick read is well-paced and there is enough humour to put a smile on the face of the reader.

Although this book is number five in the series it reads just as well as a stand alone novel (the only other Myrtle Clover Mystery I have read is A Body in the Backyard which is the fourth book in the series).

This character / series / author has been one of my great bookish finds of 2017, and I’m looking forward to reading more. If you enjoy cosy mysteries, I recommend you take at look the Myrtle Clover Mysteries.  They’re just so much fun.

Rating