Greetings from The Raven!

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…

Buy It Here>

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…

Buy It Here>

 

Dec. 9, 2017

Carnacki: The Lost Cases edited by Sam Gafford

New tales of the Ghost-Finder!

Thomas Carnacki, the Ghost Finder, was the creation of William Hope Hodgson. The original stories were published in 1913! The version most people are familiar with was published in 1947, and include three stories that were not in the original book.

The stories are written to a specific formula. Carnacki invites four friends to his home at 472 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea. These men are only known by their last names: Arkright, Jessop, Taylor, and Dodgson (obviously Hodgson in disguise!) who writes up the stories. They have a meal during which the guests must not ask questions. After eating, they retire to what Dodgson calls “their usual chairs and nooks” while Carnacki settles into his great chair and begins to recount an adventure.

Carnacki works cases of the outré. Sometimes the strange cases are actual haunting or supernatural occurrences. Sometimes they are from some human agency counterfeiting the haunting. Carnacki is prepared for both. His wards and electric pentacle, the various manuscripts such as the  "Sigsand Manuscript" and the "Saaamaaa Ritual" that has an unknown last line that saves Carnacki in “The Whistling Room.”

I will give a SPOILER alert but try not to give too much away.

These are the new stories:

•         In “The Darkness” by AF Kidd, a suffocating silence and deep darkness are causing trouble for one of Carnacki’s clients…

•         In “The Silent Garden” by Jason C Eckhardt, Carnacki takes a case for a man whose maiden aunt has a garden where no sound can be heard and birds will not fly over…

•         In “The Shadow Suns” by John Howard, Carnacki is called to a rural retreat with spooky problems and strange woven straw plates suspended in the front windows…

•         “The Steeple Monster Case” by Charles R Rutledge finds Carnacki facing something in the bell tower of a church… This one breaks the story format, but the tale redeems itself!

•         In “The Moving Fur Case” by Paul R McNamee, Carnacki goes to Wales to examine a haunt that revolves around howling noises and an old grey animal pelt…

•         “The Delphic Bee” by Josh Reynolds brings Carnacki face to face with haunted beehives… This one is worst in book—it breaks the story format and the creepy events ring a bit hollow…

•         In “A Hideous Communication” by James Gracey, Carnacki deals with an apparent ghost in a graveyard and a grieving father…

•         “The Dark Trade” by John Linwood Grant is about a horrible room that smells of the sea and unwashed human bodies…  This one takes Best in Book! Encore!

•         In “The Grunting Man” by William Meikle, the landlady of a small inn or guesthouse is having problems with her best room…

•         “The Dark Light” by Robert M Price deals with a blind man who disappears…

•         “The Yellow Finger Experiments” by James Bojaciuk, is perhaps the strangest tale in the book…

•         “The Grey Dog” by John Linwood Grant is a first-person Carnacki story, but not as told to his four friends…

I am glad to see Carnacki the Ghost Finder in these new cases! I give the book four out of five stars…

Quoth the Raven…

Buy It Here>

 

 

Dec. 8, 2017

The Papers of Solar Pons by David Marcum

New stories of the Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street…

I would like to thank author David Marcum and publisher Derrick Belanger of Belanger Books for my copy of this book! You guys are awesome!

August Derleth came up with the original stories about new sleuth Solar Pons and his companion and Boswell, Dr. Lyndon Parker in 1928. He had contacted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when Doyle killed Sherlock Holmes, and after a terse reply decided to write tales as pastiches of Holmes stories. These would touch on the so-called “lost adventures” Watson mentions in passing in the canon, and others that were purely Derleth adventures. Pons had his “Inspector Lestrade” in the person of Inspector Jamison. Pons’ older brother Bancroft takes Mycroft’s place at Whitehall. Pons even had his own Moriarty figure in the character of Baron Ennsefred Koll.

It would be 1945 before the first Solar Pons volume was published. When August Derleth died, Basil Cooper continued the tales of Solar Pons. Now David Marcum has written a dozen new tales. They are very much in the same vein as the originals, and are masterpieces of detective fiction. Marcum might well have written the original stories, as he is so close to the voice of August Derleth to be virtually indistinguishable. The final tale, number 13, is a Doctor Watson and Sherlock Holmes story showing the relationship of the Holmes canon to the Pons canon. Whatever you do, don’t miss it!

So it is time to move on to the stories, without giving too much away. I intend no spoilers, but some people really appreciate the warning!

The book starts off with articles written about the Pons stories, beginning with August Derleth himself! The tales that follow are magnificent!

 

  • In “The Adventure of the Doctor’s Box,” someone has stolen Dr. Watson’s dispatch box. There is the danger that some of the unpublished cases could be dangerous in the wrong hands…
  • In “The Park Lane Solution,” Pons comes to the aid of a manservant accused of theft…
  • In “The Poe Problem,” Pons takes a case for a man who runs a society dedicated to the study of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, which he runs with a very picky attitude…
  • “The Singular Affair of the Blue Girl” deals with a family ghost, apparently stirred up by a quarrel between a man and his oldest son...
  • “The Plight of the American Driver” deals with Pons’ investigation into a case where an AT&T worker is accused of drunken driving…
  • In “The Adventure of the Blood Doctor,” Pons’ returns to a case that went unsolved when blood specialist Doctor Dickins is murdered with the murder weapon from that previous case…
  • In “The Additional Heirs,” Pons takes a case for a man who has inherited an estate when three women appear claiming a portion of the money with each having identical papers proving their identity…
  • “The Horror of St. Anne’s Row” deals with missing persons…
  • “The Adventure of the Failed Fellowship” might be the Pons version of “The Sign of the Four,” four men and a treasure!
  • In “The Adventure of the Obrisset Snuff Box,” a man dies soon after the box, made by a famous man named Obrisset is delivered to him…
  • “The Folio Matter,” begins with stolen papers that belong to two people fanatical about proving Shakespeare did NOT write his plays and moves on to a more sinister plot with far-reaching ramifications…
  • In “The Affair of the Distasteful Society,” an attempt is made to start a Sherlock Holmes appreciation society that has fatal results…
  • “The Adventure of the Other Brother” is the tie-in between the Holmes and Pons canons…

I truly enjoyed this volume of stories, and I wish David Marcum many more volumes to come! I give the book five stars plus!

Quoth the Raven…

Buy It Here>

 

Dec. 7, 2017

The Last of the Tsars by Robert Service

How the mighty have fallen…

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!

Nicholas Romanov, Tsar Nicholas II, was the last royal ruler of Russia. When he was crowned on November 1, 1894, he could not have foreseen the terrible end that was coming, or that the royal line would end with him.

This is the story of the man who lost everything. The reign of Nicholas II was unfortunately marred by a series of bad decisions and worse luck.  There was the Khodynka Tragedy, a human stampede after his coronation that caused the deaths of 1,389 people. He had a penchant for executing political rivals. He was blamed for the Russo-Japanese War, which led to his being nicknamed Nicholas the Bloody.

He instituted ant-semantic rules to try to force Jews into becoming Russian Orthodox, then the State Religion. On Sunday, January 22, 1905, people trying to bring a petition to Tsar Nicholas were fired upon by the Imperial Guard. This is remembered as “Bloody Sunday.”

Along with the Russian people, even the Nobles began to be dissatisfied with the Tsar’s rule. Losses on the battlefields, a food shortage, and the growing influence of Gregory Rasputin did not help the matter at all. The Tsar finally abdicated in 1917 following the Russian Revolution, and his family was placed under house arrest. Still fearing Nicholas and the Romanov dynasty, the Tsar, and his entire family was executed on July 16, 1918.

This is the story of the Romanov family. It is very detailed and features seemingly every character the author could squeeze in that was remotely connected to the case. The story was fascinating in places, and at other times it dragged like a broken muffler behind a car. It does succeed in establishing the human side of Tsar Nicholas, but some of the writing could have been omitted without harming the book in the least.

I personally had a hard time wading through this book. Historically, it is accurate and thus valuable as insight to these troubled times and the end of an era. I give the book three stars…

Quoth the Raven…

Buy It Here>