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

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

 

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

Short Story Review: The New Catacomb by Arthur Conan Doyle

Summary

Two archaeologists are in Rome where one of them, Burger, has discovered a new catacomb.  Naturally, he wants to keep it a secret until he’s been able to study it and write his own report on his findings before the word spreads.  However, his friend, Kennedy, wishes to hear of the discovery, and so they come to an agreement: Burger will share with him what he’s found, if Kennedy will honestly answer any question put to him.  But where will such a bargain lead?

Favourite Quote

“You know we look upon a man who kisses and tells as the greatest coward and villain possible.”

Review

This was my Halloween Read for 2017.  I hadn’t heard of it before seeing a social media post recommending it as a good Halloween read.  So, of course, I thought I would give it a try.

The New Catacomb fell short of the mark as a spooky Halloween read.  Yes, it was atmospheric but I could guess what was going on long before the reveal.  That being said, the characters were well-crafted, the story was interesting and imaginative.  It was definitely worth a read.

I think I would have enjoyed this short story more if I hadn’t read it as a Halloween Read, so I can imagine that I will return to re-read it at a later date.

Rating

Book Review: Poison Study by Maria V Snyder

Poison Study is the first book in the Poison Study trilogy by Maria V Snyder.

Summary (from Goodreads)

CHOOSE: A QUICK DEATH OR SLOW POISON…

On the eve of her execution for murder, Yelena is reprieved, but her relief is short-lived. She is to be the Commander of Ixia’s food taster. Can Yelena learn all she needs to know about poisons before an assassin succeeds?

Her troubles have only just begun, however… Valek, her captor, has a uniquely cruel method to stop her escaping; General Brazell, father of the man she killed, still wants her dead; and someone is plotting against the Commander.

Resourceful and wily, Yelena gains friends, survival skills – and more than a few enemies. In a desperate race against time, the Commander’s life, the future of Ixia and the secrets of her own past will be in her hands…

Favourite Quote

“Trusting is hard. Knowing who to trust, even harder.”

Review

When I first picked up this book, I found it extremely difficult to get into so put it back down pretty quickly.  And there it stayed for months.  And yet, the second time I tried to read it, I found it engaging and addictive.  I guess I wasn’t in the right mood to read it that first time, which was a shame because there is so much to like about it.

The storyline was engaging and the world building detailed.  Ixia is an interesting and sometimes scary place.

I liked Yelena; it’s hard not to empathise with her after all she’s been through and what she must face every day as the Commander’s food taster.  And yet she grows and becomes stronger.  I also like Varek.  There is so much more to his character than you realise when we first meet him as the cold, calculated man offering Yelena the choice of being executed for murder or becoming a student and taster of poisons.  The other supporting characters were also good: Rand, Ari, Janco, Dilana, especially.

This is one of the better YA books that I have come across and I can’t wait to read the second book in the trilogy, Magic Study.

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