Greetings from The Raven!

Jan. 15, 2018

Dead Man’s Blues by Ray Celestin

The gangs of Chicago…

My thanks to my contacts at Pegasus Books, Iris Blasi, Katie McGuire, and Maia Larson, for my review copy of this book. You ladies rock!

Chicago, 1928. Deep in the heart of Prohibition, gangs rule the Windy City. Al Capone and the Outfit battle with Bugs Moran and the North Side Gang. There is much corruption in the city, and Governor Small has been selling pardons to gang members and taking bribes to overlook various crooked schemes.

Now a society girl named Gwendolyn van Haren has gone missing. Her mother has hired Pinkerton Agents Ida Davis and Michael Talbot to find her. There is a mass poisoning of a party of City leaders with tainted champagne. Al Capone has hired fixer Dante “the Gent” Sanfelippo to find out who arranged this hit against his orders. A Capone man was found dead in an alley, and his black girlfriend was found dead in a sewage canal. An investigative photographer for the Tribune, Jacob Russo, has been following the case.

Ray Celestin has done an excellent job of combining real characters such as Al Capone, Bugs Moran, Louis Armstrong and others with his fictional characters. The fictional characters jump off the page, seeming as real as the characters from the real world.

The book is a period piece, meaning that it is historically correct. Therefore the prejudices against people of color in the nook are only what was factual. Celestin has no prejudice himself. Ida Davis is a young black woman, and her partner Michael Talbot is married to a black woman. They have children. And they are the heroes of this story! They are presented as well rounded characters, fighting to find their client’s daughter even as higher-ups work to get them relieved of duty!

The story is punched up a bit with historical events like Babe Ruth hitting another homer and the boxing bout between Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey. It is noted by the author that these events occur approximately eight months before the Valentine’s Day Massacre, fixing it precisely in time.

I have seldom read historical fiction that unfolds as perfectly as this book. In my opinion, you cannot be bored with this book. It grabs your attention and ropes the reader in like a cowboy with a steer! And like Maxwell House Coffee, it is good to the last drop!

I give the book five stars plus! I would love to see more from this author!

Quoth the Raven…

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Jan. 2, 2018

White Mountain: A Cultural Adventure through the Himalayas by Robert Twigger

My thanks to my contacts at Pegasus Books, Iris Blasi, Katie McGuire, and Maia Larson, for my review copy of this book. You ladies rock!

The mountains of the Himalayas are steeped in mystery and legends. This is the home of fabled Tibet, the jumping off point for many colorful stories that deal with the power of the mind. It is the land of the highest mountains on Earth, mountains still dotted with the remains of those who died trying to conqueror the “Roof of the World.” There are the legends of the Yeti. It is home to many religions, customs, and scenery which is seen nowhere else.

This volume celebrates how these mountains seem to cast a spell over people who come from worldwide to take chances on climbing Everest, K2, Nanga Parbat, Annapurna, and others. Part personal experience, part guidebook and part history, the book should appeal to those wanting to scout the area before taking an expedition to the Himalayas. The history will appeal to those who wonder how life in the rarefied air of these mountains. The personal portion of the book shows the author’s experiences, which may whet an explorer’s appetite.

For myself, I think I expected to get something from this book which I failed to find. It is not the fault of the author, so the book will not get that big of a ding from me.

I give the book three stars…

Quoth the Raven…

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Jan. 2, 2018

Dark Dawn over Steep House: The Gower Street Detective: Book 5 by MRC Kasasian

My thanks to my contacts at Pegasus Books, Iris Blasi, Katie McGuire, and Maia Larson, for my review copy of this book. You ladies rock!

Possible spoilers are ahead, although I will not give away any real secrets.

March meets some new friends, including wealthy Lucy Bocking and her companion Freda “Freddy” Wilde. Freddy was trapped in a fire when she and Lucy were children. She wears a veil to cover her destroyed features.

Lucy is assaulted and raped in an opium den which she visited on a lark with Freddy. Another woman who was assaulted in the same way, Albertoria Wright, has apparently committed suicide. A third, Geraldine Hockaday, has been left in a state of fear and depression. Her brother Peter is actively seeking her attacker…

Lucy has come to Gower Street to hire Grice to find her attacker. Albertoria’s parents come seeking their daughter whom they do not know is dead. March plots to set traps for the rapist, using the opium den as a meeting place and her as the bait. Other friends of March, Lucy, and Freddy are also determined to get this rapist.

Mr. Kasasian is a great teller of tales! The story weaves back and forth in such a manner that every time the reader begins to suspect he is weaving a sweater, it may turn out just to be a scarf! That is the mark of a truly wonderful mystery—keep the reader guessing until the source of the magic is finally revealed.

I must have decided at least four times that I knew where the story was going only to find that I was mistaken. I have enjoyed all five books in the Gower Street Detective series and I sincerely hope there are more on the way!

I give the book five stars without hesitation! An excellent read!

Quoth the Raven…

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Dec. 15, 2017

The Disappearance of Emile Zola by Michael Rosen

 

My thanks to my contacts at Pegasus Books, Iris Blasi, Katie McGuire, and Maia Larson, for my advance reading copy of this book. You ladies rock!

In 1894 French Intelligence was made aware of an unnamed French Officer who was sending state secrets to German Intelligence. The investigation into the case was prejudiced from the start. Captain Alfred Dreyfus was accused, court-martialed, convicted, and sent to Devil’s Island in French Guiana on flimsy evidence. The deciding factor in the alleged treason charges brought against Dreyfus seemed to be that he was Jewish.

Emile Zola, a French novelist, playwright, and journalist then published an 1898 article in the Paris daily L'Aurore titled J’Accuse in defense of Dreyfus. The article pointed out what Zola perceived to be corruption and anti-Semitism on the part of the government and military. His championing of Dreyfus was not easy for him and would cost him dearly.

In this book author Michael Rosen does an excellent job of bringing out the drama of this advent. He describes Zola’s flight to London and the pressure that Zola’s actions brought upon him. At times discouragement and even a stark loss of hope plagued Zola. The author paints a picture of Zola that allows the reader to sympathize with both Zola and Dreyfus. Zola continued to write and publish during his exile. They are very demonstrative of his continued protest against corruption in politics and the military.

This book makes it clear that Zola’s bravery in drawing attention to the plight of a loyal Captain Dreyfus sowed the seeds of Dreyfus’ release. In the end, the actions of Zola and other writers caused the complete exoneration and reinstatement of Dreyfus into the Military with a rank increase to Major.

The book is well written, painstakingly researched and very informative but I cannot help but feel that it is perhaps better suited to use as research material. Was I charged with writing a paper of any sort about the Dreyfus Affair, this book would become invaluable. When it comes to being a book to read and enjoy, not so much.

I will give the book three stars, basing the score more on the book’s merit and less on my own enjoyment of the volume…

Quoth the Raven…

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Dec. 10, 2017

In the Shadows of Agatha Christie edited by Leslie S Klinger

My thanks to my contacts at Pegasus Books, Iris Blasi, Katie McGuire, Maia Larson, and new, to me anyway, Bowen Dunnan—for my advance reading copy of this book. Thanks so much!

Agatha Christie has the honor of being the best selling detective fiction author. Her characters of Hercule Poirot and   Miss Jane Marple are known the world over. Her works are translated into many languages and have spawned movies and television shows.

This is the story of some women authors of detective fiction that perhaps never had the success Christie accomplished, but were excellent writers with solid characters. This volume is dedicated to sharing their detectives and villains with a modern audience.

The characters are not all strangers to me, but that is partially due to my reading habits. More stories about many of these characters can be found in the two Rivals of Sherlock Holmes novels.

Baroness Orczy’s The Old Man in the Corner plays constantly with a piece of string while relating his tales to the Lady Journalist. Elisabeth Corbett’s Dora Bell is an undercover investigator. LT Meade and Robert Eustace combine to bring us Madame Sara, a lady criminal also known as The Sorceress of the Strand. There is CL  Pirkis’ Loveday Brooke, Augusta Groner’s Detective Joseph Muller, Anna Katerine Green’s Violet Strange and many more.

The tales in this book are told from many viewpoints and I would recommend most of them without a second thought! There’s a particularly hilarious tale of “The Society of Infallible Detectives” by Carolyn Wells that is sure to delight any mystery reader.

Best in Book this time is a tie between The Blood Cross by LT Meade and Robert Eustace and The Regent’s Park Murder by Baroness Orczy. The story I enjoyed the least is The Winning Sequence by ME Braddon—it is a ghost tale with an explanatory mystery that fails on both.

I hope to see more volumes of lesser-known sleuths from past years! I am more than happy to give this book five stars!

Now with a slight SPOILER warning, here are the stories—

  • The Advocate’s Wedding by Catherine Crowe is the story of a fledgling lawyer and an ethics decision…
  • The Squire’s Story by Elisabeth Cleghorn Gaskill deals with a mysterious Mr. Higgins with a secret past…
  • Traces of Crime by Mary Fortune is a case of assault and murder in an Australian gold digging camp…
  • Mr. Furbush by Harriet Prescott Spofford deals with solving the murder of a local heiress…
  • Mrs. Todhetley’s Earrings by Ellen Wood is about a lost earring, a viable suspect, and a mysterious detective…
  • Catching a Burglar by Elisabeth Corbett is an adventure of lady detective Dora Bell going undercover as a ladies maid…
  • The Ghost of Fountain Lane by CL Pirkis is an adventure of lady detective Loveday Brooke, who has two cases—one she wants to investigate and one she is ordered to investigate…
  • The Statement of Jared Johnson by Geraldine Bonner is a locked room mystery…
  • Point in Morals by Ellen Glasgow has a group of people arguing the sanctity of life…
  • The Blood Red Cross by LT Meade and Robert Eustace is an adventure with villainess Madame Sara, the Sorceress of the Strand Tie for Best in Book!
  • The Regent’s Park Murder by Baroness Orczy is a tale of The Old Man in the Corner… Tie for Best in Book!
  • The Case of the Registered Letter by Augusta Groner is a tale of Detective Joseph Muller, hired to try to clear a man
  • The Winning Sequence by ME Braddon is a ghost story with a mystery to explain it and it fails both ways. Worst in Book…
  • The Missing Page 13 by Anna Katherine Green is a story of lady detective Violet Strange and a missing page that couldn’t have left the room but can’t be found…
  • The Adventure of the Clothesline by Carolyn Wells is the hilarious story of the Society of Infallible Detectives many of whom the reader will instantly recognize… Funny!
  • Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell deals with a woman accused of murder and the author’s character Mrs. Martha Hale…

Quoth the Raven…

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