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

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

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 Kit Bag by Algernon Blackwood

Summary (from Goodreads)

“The Kit-Bag” is a short ghost story by the British author Algernon Blackwood. It was first published in the December 1908 issue of Pall Mall Magazine.

The action takes place in London shortly before Christmas. The story’s protagonist is a young man named Johnson who works for an eminent lawyer named Arthur Wilbraham. Arthur Wilbraham has been defending a man named John Turk, who was accused of murdering a woman and cutting her body up into small pieces. Johnson is obliged to be in court for every day of the trial, which he finds highly unpleasant. When the trial is over, Johnson is glad that he will not have to see John Turk’s face again and is looking forward to going away on a Christmas vacation to the Alps. He asks Arthur Wilbraham to lend him a kit-bag to take with him on vacation. After the requested kit-bag arrives, Johnson passes a fright filled night.

Favourite Quote

“I’m glad it’s over because I’ve seen the last of that man’s dreadful face.  It positively haunted me.  That white skin, with the black hair brushed low over the forehead, is a thing I shall never forget…”

Review

Amazing.  Simply amazing.  A fantastic read, perfect for the Christmas Eve tradition of reading ghost stories, which is when I read it by candlelight.

The Kit Bag is a classic ghost story, and one of my favourites.  It is atmospheric and chilling.  The author really knows how to build the tension throughout the story.  It’s a short, quick read, so to say any more about it will probably lead to spoilers.

For the writers out there who want to learn how to write a good ghost story that will stay with your readers long after they have finished it, take a look at The Kit Bag.

This is my favourite read of 2017’s Festive Reads Fortnight, and I don’t doubt that I shall return to it again and again.

Rating

Short Story Review: Six Geese A-Laying by Sophie Kinsella

Summary (from Goodreads)

In Six Geese a-Laying, Christmas is approaching, and Ginny is looking forward to the birth of her first baby. It’s a pity her partner Dan is so useless, and she has to keep reminding him where he’s going wrong. Luckily she’s enrolled into the most exclusive antenatal class going – all the highest achieving, smartest mothers-to-be aspire to be taught by the legendary Petal Harmon. Like the other five women in the class, Ginny already knows exactly what she wants, and how she’s going to handle motherhood. But when they turn up for the final class it isn’t quite what they expect. As Ginny discovers what parenthood is really going to be like, she begins to realize the things that really matter…

Favourite Quote

We’re not smug, obviously not. But the fact that we were all selected gives us…I don’t know.  A little glow.  We must have some special quality that others don’t.

Review

I have never read anything by Sophie Kinsella before, because chick-lit isn’t a genre that often interests me.  However, when I saw this short story ebook listed under the free books on the iBook store, the title was enough to persuade me to give it a try.  Anything that references The Twelve Days of Christmas must be a perfect reading choice for my Festive Reads Fortnight reading challenge.

And I enjoyed it, though I didn’t like most of the characters – but then, you’re not meant to.  It’s a very short, very quick read, and though it is set around Christmas, Christmas does not feature in it very much so I wouldn’t describe it as a Christmas story per se. However, it is clearly inspired by Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which I thought was cleverly done for a modern, chick-lit audience.

Rating

I read Six Geese A-Laying by Sophie Kinsella for free via iBooks.

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