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

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

 

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 Iron Hand of Mars by Lindsey Davis

The Iron Hand of Mars is the fourth book in the Falco series by Lindsey Davis.

Summary (from back of book)

AD 71: Germania Libera: dark dripping forests, inhabited by bloodthirsty barbarians and legendary wild beasts, a furious prophetess who terrorises Rome, and the ghostly spirits of slaughtered Roman legionaries.

Enter Marcus Didius Falco, an Imperial agent on a special mission: to find the absconding commander of a legion whose loyalty is suspect.  Easier said than done, thinks Marcus, as he makes his uneasy way down the Rhenus, trying to forget that back in sunny Rome his girlfriend Helena Justina is being hotly pursued by Titus Caesar.  His mood is not improved when he discovers that his only allies are a woefully inadequate bunch of recruits, their embittered centurion, a rogue dog, and its innocent young master; just the right kind of support for an agent unwillingly trying to tame the Celtic hordes.

Favourite Quote

“Are foreign priestesses virgins, sir?”

“I believe it’s not obligatory.”  Only Rome equated chastity with holiness; and even Rome installed ten vestals at a time, in order to give latitude for mistakes.

Review

I have read this series from beginning to end a number of times, and my enjoyment of it only grows with each reading.  The witty style of the author combined with the historical detail and interesting mysteries is a winning formula, and as such this series is one of my absolute favourites.

The Iron Hand of Mars is quite different to the books that came before it in the series, whose focus tended to be more political rather than military.  However, this book is as much of a success as the others.  The story of Varus and the lost legions in the Teutoburg Forest is fascinating if haunting, and as “Rome’s greatest defeat” as it is often referred to, it is largely responsible for stopping the spread of Roman expansion into the northern reaches of Europe. And this is the back drop, many years after the event, to the story and Falco’s mission.

The story is cleverly-crafted and as Falco goes about the Emperor’s business, he finds himself in more danger than he has so far working for the Palatine.  Due to the nature of his task and the events of the past, the tone is darker and you can feel the oppressiveness of the Tuetoburg Forest as Falco travels through it.

The characters in this book are entertaining and varied:  Xanthus, a former imperial barber who wants to the see the world; Helvetius, a despairing centurion in command of untrainable new recruits; Veleda, the priestess – prophetess of the Bructeri who lives in a tower; Justinus, the younger of Helena’s brothers, stationed with the First Legion…However, it is always Helena and Falco who star in the story; they are both endearing, strong-willed, personable and funny, and you can’t help but root for them all the way.

The descriptions of the empire beyond Rome and into the more wild provinces vividly come to life as we follow Falco’s progress.  From boat trips down the Rhenus to Samian-ware ceramic factories in Lugdunum and everything else in between, we are given are unforgettable tour of this part of the empire as it was in the first century.

Action, adventure, comedy and even romance, this is historical crime fiction at its best (in my opinion, of course).  So, if you are looking for an entertaining read set in the ancient world to immerse yourself in, I would highly recommend you give this book a read.

Rating

Book Review: Ruso and the Root of all Evils by R.S. Downie

Ruso and the Root of all Evils is the third book in this Roman mystery series by R.S.Downie.

Summary (from Goodreads)

At long last, Gaius Petreius Ruso and his companion, Tilla, are headed home—to Gaul. Having received a note consisting only of the words “COME HOME!” Ruso has (reluctantly, of course) pulled up stakes and brought Tilla to meet his family.

But the reception there is not what Ruso has hoped for: no one will admit to sending for him, and his brother Lucius is hoping he’ll leave. With Tilla getting icy greetings from his relatives, Lucius’s brother-in-law mysteriously drowned at sea, and the whole Ruso family teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, it’s hard to imagine an unhappier reunion. That is, until Severus, the family’s chief creditor, winds up dead, and the real trouble begins…

Engrossing, intricate, and—as always—wonderfully comic, Ruth Downie’s latest is a brilliant new instalment in this irresistible series. This is everything we’ve come to expect from our charming, luckless hero.

Favourite Quote

“Anyway,” continued Cass, “I can’t pray to Christos.  You’ll have to do it.  You’re not married.”

“Does that matter?”

“Christos’ followers are supposed to obey their husbands.”

Review

This book was enjoyable to read and well-written, full of engaging characters and entertaining storylines.  My favourite character has to be Tilla.  She is simply fantastic: brave, unrepentant, compassionate, and independent. And poor Ruso – he has so much to put up with, and things just keep getting worse for him.

I guessed the culprit but not the ending.  Indeed, towards the latter part of the book, I was driven to keep reading by a need to find out just how the story would conclude.

I liked the author’s style of writing; fairly short chapters that mostly end with a new twist or turn in the plot.  This gave the story a good pace and instilled in me an insatiable desire to read just one more chapter, then another, then another…more or less until I finished the book.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy their historical fiction set in the ancient Roman world, and, if you love Lindsey Davis’ Falco series, I think you will love this one too.

Rating

Book Review: The Case of the Bygone Brother by Diane Burton

The Case of the Bygone Brother is the first book in the Alex O’Hara series by Diane Burton

Summary (from Goodreads)

After taking over O’Hara Palzetti, Confidential Investigations from her dad and his partner, Alex O’Hara’s bottom line has taken a plunge. So when a femme fatale offers her the case of a lifetime along with a huge advance, Alex sees her finances on a definite upswing. But someone doesn’t want her to find the long-lost brother. Complicating matters is the return of Alex’s old heartthrob, Nick Palzetti. Is he really there just to see her or does he have an ulterior motive? The Lake Michigan resort town of Fair Haven is abuzz with the news that O’Hara Palzetti are together again.

Favourite Quote

While my cheeks burned at the memory of that unwanted kiss, I silently cursed my fair Irish complexion.  Genetics betrayed me every time.  “Knuckle-dragger is right,” I said.  “I guess you didn’t stay long enough to see me deck him.”

Review

This is an entertaining little read; romance, suspense, humour, danger…it has everything an interesting cosy mystery needs.

I liked both Alex O’Hara and Nick Palzetti.  She’s determined to make it on her own and is a right little miss independent, while he just wants to protect her and keep her safe.  So, of course, this creates a great deal of tension between the main characters.

The pace felt a little off (too fast) towards the end but throughout the rest of the book, the story moved along at a good pace.  There were enough plot twists and turns to keep me wondering what was going to happen next.  Fair Haven was the perfect setting for this story, with it’s small shops and people who know everyone else (and everyone else’s business).  There were a number of references, especially close to the beginning that were reminiscent of old-school detective novels, which I found charming.

The second book in the series is The Case of the Fabulous Fiance, which sounds just as entertaining as the first.

Rating

I read The Case of the Bygone Brother by Diane Burton via Wattpad