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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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

Book Review: The Vault of Bones by Pip Vaughan-Hughes

The Vault of Bones is the second book in the Brother Petroc series by Pip Vaughan-Hughes.

Summary (from back of book)

In the darkness of 13th-century Europe, the most precious treasures of the Christian world lie in a small church in the great ruined city of Constantinople: the crown of thorns, the spear that pierced Jesus’ side, the shroud bearing the imprint of Christ.

On the other side of the globe, Petroc of Auneford has left his old monastic world for London alongside the enigmatic Captain de Montalhac, purveyor of fine relics and other exotic trinkets to anyone with sufficient money and desire.

For Petroc, the trip is soon blighted by tragedy, but grief is no guard against greed.  The great powers of Christendom are gathering.  All covet the power of the most precious relics – and Petroc finds himself right in the eye of the storm.

Favourite Quote

But before I laid down my head I put my head out of the small window and craned to look up at the great walls of the city.  A little moonlight glanced off the cut stones and sank into the gashes and wounds of siege and time.  They had not kept out the robbers, these walls, and perhaps it was their penance to be reduced to a home for ivy and pigeons.

Review

This was an interesting story, if a slow read.  The pace did hamper my enjoyment of the book.  If the book had been perhaps 100 pages shorter, I think I would have found it more gripping, and more of a thriller.  Every place the characters stop in is accompanied by a detailed travel guide to the place as it would have looked and sounded like in the thirteen century, which on the one hand adds detail to what is going on, but also slows it down considerably.

That being said, it did have an entertaining storyline and the cast of characters were engaging.  Petroc has led a colourful life of late, something his monastic life hadn’t prepared him for.  The crew of the Cormaran are a diverse bunch, and their captain, Michel de Montalhac as a dealer of the finest relics, is interesting and likeable.

I hadn’t read the first book in the Brother Petroc series before reading this instalment, and I wonder if it would have allowed me to enjoy it more.  And yet, there was enough in it to keep me reading to the last page, hence my rating.

I would consider reading book one, and the later books in the series.

Rating

2.5 / 5

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: A Dreadful Penance by Jason Vail

A Dreadful Penance is the third book in the Stephen Attebrook Mysteries by Jason vail

Summary (from back of book)

November 1262 is an unlikely season for war.  But war nonetheless is coming to the March, the wild borderland between England and Wales.  Not the war that most fear between the supporters of the King and the rebellious barons uniting around Simon de Montfort, but with Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, the Welsh warlord who styles himself Prince of Wales and who has united the fractious tribes of his land against the English.

The English are uncertain, however, where and when the blow will fall.  So, Sir Geoffrey Randall, coroner of Herefordshire, dispatches his deputy, the impoverished knight Stephen Attebrook, to the border town of Clun to make contact with a spy in order to learn Llewelyn’s plans.

At the same time, Randall directs Attebrook to investigate the murder of a monk found dead in his bed at the Augustine priory of St. George at Clun.

The assignment casts Attebrook into the middle of a desperate feud between the priory and the lord of Clun and reveals a forbidden love that can only result in suffering and death.

Favourite Quote

Although he could not help looking clownish – a little round man with his head wrapped in linen who could barely keep his place upon his mule – any fool was dangerous with a sword.

Review

This is the first book I have read in the Stephen Attebrook Mysteries and I loved it.  I have added the other books to my TBR list, but this novel works well as a standalone.  The author provides enough information on what has gone before to ensure the reader can, not only keep up with the storyline, but enjoy it also without feeling like they needed to have read the first two books before this one.

Stephen Attebrook is an interesting character.  I like his fairly abrasive personality and the antagonistic camaraderie he shared with Gilbert Wistwode,a clerk also in the employ of Sir Geoffrey Randall.

I thought the story was a little slow to get going at first, but a couple of chapters in and the pace and the drama suddenly picked up.  What followed was an entertaining, gripping read, that I struggled to put down.  The historical detail was fascinating, with sufficient depth to bring the time and place to life.  The only thing I didn’t like was that I felt the ending was too abrupt.

I am eager to read more of this series, and would recommend this books to anyone who has an interest in the Marches during the medieval period and to those who enjoy historical fiction in general.

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