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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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: The Broker by John Grisham

Summary (from Goodreads)

In his final hours in the Oval Office the outgoing President grants a controversial last-minute pardon to Joel Backman, a notorious Washington power broker who has spent the last six years hidden away in a federal prison. What no one knows is that the President issues the pardon only after receiving enormous pressure from the CIA. It seems that Backman, in his power broker heyday, may have obtained secrets that would compromise the world’s most sophisticated satellite surveillance system.

Backman is quietly smuggled out of the country in a military cargo plan, given a new name, a new identity, and a new home in Italy. Eventually, after he has settled into his new life, the CIA will leak his whereabouts to the Israelis, the Russians, the Chinese and the Saudis. Then the CIA will do what it does best: sit back and watch. The question is not whether Backman will survive – there’s no chance of that. The question the CIA needs answered is: who will kill him?

Favourite Quote

“I’ve been locked in a small cell about the size of this apartment for six years.  You can’t expect me to stay here.  There’s a vibrant city out there.  Let’s go explore it.”

Review

This was a gripping read; I could not put this book down.  The characters were interesting and the storyline hooked me from the first page.  Although Joel Backman was not a particularly nice man, you can’t help but feel sorry for him.  To have so many people want to kill you…well, the danger he was in was palpable.  And, as the story unfolded, I found myself rooting for him, the person he was long forgotten for the man he had become.

I liked how Joel Backman’s transformation into Marco Lazzeri was depicted in the book.  Another clever turn was including Marco’s language lessons in the narrative so not only does he have to be immersed in the language and culture of his new home, but the reader is too.  And, it’s been years since I have spoken Italian, so this served as a bit of a test to see how much I could remember before checking it over with the translations that immediately followed.

The book is well researched and the settings, especially the main attractions of the towns Marco is confined to, are described in detail.  It was an easy read, one I could easily get lost in.

All-in-all, a thoroughly entertaining thriller that I struggled to put down.

Rating

Book Review: Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M. C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death is the first book in the Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton.

Summary (from back of book)

High-flying public relations supremo Agatha Raisin has decided to take early retirement.  She’s off to make anew life in a picture-perfect Cotswold village.  To make friends, she enters the local quiche-making competition – and to make quite sure of first prize she secretly pays a visit to a London deli.

Alas, the competition judge succumbs after tasting her perfect quiche, and Agatha is revealed as a cheat and potential poisoner.  definitely not the best start.  So Agatha must turn amateur sleuth – she’s absolutely got to track down the real killer!

Favourite Quote

Prettiness did not necessarily invite pretty people.

*

A faint idea was stirring somewhere in her brain that Agatha Raisin was not a very lovable person.

Review

Having read and really enjoyed the Hamish Macbeth series from the same author, I wondered whether this series could live up to the other one in my eyes.  I needn’t have feared – it turns out I love Agatha Raisin just as much as Hamish Macbeth.  Although some of her thoughts and actions are questionable, it wasn’t hard to warm to her.

As a character she is extremely well-written because she is flawed and can be mean but you like her any way.  At first she doesn’t come across as likeable, but the further you read and the more you get to know her, the more likeable she becomes.  The other characters are just as entertaining, my other favourites being Bill Wong and James Lacey.

The setting is wonderful, the pace of the story quick, the humour good, and the story engaging.  All-in-all, a charming, quick read.

This is one of my favourite reads of the year and I am glad that I finally discovered Agatha Raisin for myself.  Having read the first book in the series, I very quickly found myself devouring books two and three!  I was hooked from the first page, and can’t wait to read more.

If you enjoy cosy mysteries that make you laugh, I recommend you have a read of this series, and this first book is a great place to start.

Rating

Short Story Review: The Text by Claire Douglas

Summary (from Goodreads)

A single text changed her life. Did it end his?

Emily Latimer is furious. Her boss Andrew is being so unreasonable, as always. She fires off a text to her boyfriend, only in her haste she sends it to her whole office group.

In it she says Andrew’s being difficult about letting her have time off work. That she is angry. That she hopes he dies. The next day her face burns in the office. No one believes her when she says it was a typo, she meant to say does. She hopes he does.

It’s a nightmare. But it gets worse – Andrew doesn’t turn up for work. And then the police come knocking. Because Andrew Burton has been murdered . .

Favourite Quote

It’s warm and cosy in here with Radio One playing quietly in the background and the rain drumming on the roof and bonnet like an amateur pianist plonking out a tune.

Review

This was a quick, engaging read. I think I got through it in about half an hour, but for the whole of that time I found it gripping.  Although short, there are plenty of twists to keep you reading.

The characters quickly came to life as soon as I started reading.  I really felt for Emily.  Two small slip ups – a typo in a text and sending the text to the wrong people – and everything unravels for her.

It lost as star because I thought it ended a little abruptly, making the closing pages feel rushed.  However, I thought it was a good read with a believable story line. I will definitely be reading more from this author.

I downloaded The Text for free from iBooks.

Rating

Book Review: Blood of Angels by Michael Marshall


Blood of Angels
is the third book in the Straw Men trilogy by Michael Marshall

Summary (from back of book)

Notorious serial killer the Upright Man has escaped from a supermax prison.  The FBI have no idea how it happened, or where to start looking.  Ex-CIA agent Ward Hopkins suspects the Straw Men, a shadowy conspiracy of killers with a macabre agenda.

But apart from Ward’s girlfriend Nina, a discredited federal agent, the only person who believes the Straw Men even exist is John Zandt, a homicide detective obsessed with tracking down his daughter’s killers – and who is now wanted for murder himself.

The terrifying thing is that Ward’s right – his brother was broken out for a reason.  The Straw Men are planning something big.

And now only Ward, Nina and Zandt stand between them and a spectacular act of carnage…

Favourite Quote

It had been like being held in a giant’s warm hand for a spell.  We could feel that hand lowering, preparing to put us back down.

Review

First off, I didn’t realise this was the third book in this storyline until I had already started reading. Having already enjoyed what I had read, I decided to continue on instead of going back to start at the beginning of the trilogy.  This clearly shows that Blood of Angels works well enough (rather than perfectly well) as a standalone read.  However, had I not already started the third book, I would have preferred to start at the beginning.

There are a lot of characters in this story and a number of story threads which are cleverly woven together.  The beginning did feel a little slow, but the pace did pick up.  The author does a good job of trying to include all the pertinent information from the first and second book in the narrative.

The conspiracy theory aspect of the storyline wasn’t overplayed.  Instead the thriller aspect of the story was the main focus point, and this involved quite a bit of action.  The characters were detailed and engaging, as was the plot itself.  At certain points in the book I couldn’t help but wonder how the separate storylines were going to come together, but when they do, it’s cleverly written.

I would happily read more from this author as I found this book quite gripping once I got into the story…

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