Greetings from The Raven!

Jun. 21, 2017

Sherlock Holmes: The Labyrinth of Death by James Lovegrove

Hannah Woolfson has disappeared. Her father, Sir Osbert Woolfson has come to 221B to hire Holmes to find his missing daughter. It is discovered that she was in close contact with Miss Sophia Tompkins. Miss Tompkins had become involved with a sort of cult involving education and fitness training after the example of ancient Greece.

Upon tracing Miss Tompkins, Holmes discovers Miss Woolfson as a member of the cult of Elysians, under the false name of Shirley Holbrook. The cult is led by Sir Philip Buchanan and is located at his estate of Charfrome Old Place. Miss Tompkins is nowhere to be found.

The Elysians train in classical Greek writing, theology, and rituals. There is a huge ceremony that takes place on the full moon. The Delphic Ceremony involves animal sacrifice, apparent passion by the Gods, and the revelation of the two people who will graduate.

The graduates are chosen by a seemingly possessed Sir Philip but are actually chosen in advance by the “elders” which include the ancient scholar Dr. Archibald Pentecost and a young rake named Edwin Fairbrother. Upon graduation, there is one more hurdle. Sir Philip is very much in love with ancient Greece and his favorite Greek hero is Daedalus, who built the Labyrinth of the Minotaur for King Minos. The Labyrinth lies underground beneath Charfrome Old Place…

In this tale, we see more of Watson as a person because Holmes has ordered it to be so. Watson has a new love interest in Miss Hannah and is furious with Holmes for allowing her to continue undercover work inside the cult. Watson is angry, but Sir Osbert is apoplectic! He even threatens Holmes in no uncertain terms to no avail. Holmes will not tell Sir Osbert where his daughter is…

This is a tremendous story! We have the Elysian Cult, the ex-military Guards, the possibly mad Sir Philip, the creepy but friendly Dr. Pentecost, the woman chasing Edwin Fairbrother, and the secrets of surviving the deadly labyrinth… This is a perfect storm of quality Holmes story-telling! I thought the challenges of the Labyrinth were excellently plotted, along with the clues and methods of solving the Labyrinth. The villains are cunning, the girl is tough, and Holmes and Watson must strive to survive against all odds! My hat is off to you, Mr. Lovegrove!

I give the book five stars plus!

Quoth the Raven…

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Jun. 21, 2017

Sherlock Holmes: Hitler’s Messenger of Death by Petr Macek

Maybe I should put a SPOILER WARNING here…

My thanks go out to Steve and Timi at MX Publishing for my copy of this book. Sherlock Holmes is forever!

The book opens with an attempt on the Queen’s life. Present at the time are Holmes, Watson, Fredrick Fawcett, a political secretary; Sir Henry Ponsonby, private secretary to the Queen; and the Queen’s Indian aide, Abdul Karim. The attempt is a failure, yet the assassin unfortunately escapes…

 During 1937, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are living in Holmes’ cottage on the Suffolk Downs. They are now in their eighties and remain strong and healthy; while Mycroft, Lestrade, and others have passed on. Watson attributes their longevity to potions forced on them when they tangled with a certain Oriental Doctor…

Holmes recently had a protégé, a young man named Richard Green. Green had been attending college. He has been away for a time when he suddenly commits suicide. It is revealed that Green actually worked for a secret government agency. As Holmes traces the reasons why Green would commit suicide, he comes upon Green’s pass to the project. Reporting to Mycroft’s successor, who goes by “M,” Holmes and Watson receive passes of their own and clearance to investigate.

A quantity of weaponized Anthrax has been stolen from the facility by Green. Disgusted that the Government would weaponized the spores; Holmes soon finds out the situation is much worse. Green had a girlfriend and she is a Nazi agent…

The story winds through a series of deadly encounters with Nazi agents. Holmes and Watson, accompanied by an agent of M known only as “James,” are captured and nearly killed several times over. Burning houses, speeding trains, auto chases and more bring our heroes and the Nazis closer and closer to a showdown.

The final face-off takes place aboard the doomed Hindenburg on its flight to the United States. The final reveal is a welcome surprise. Good show, Petr Macek!

I give the book five stars! It rocks!

Quoth the Raven…

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Jun. 21, 2017

Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert by Patricia Cornwell

Patricia Cornwell has said in this book that it is a rewrite of her previous book Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper—Case Closed. This doesn’t mean that she has backed off of her certainty of Sickert as Jack the Ripper at all. She is still using some of the best forensic investigations to endeavor to prove her point. She is still doing her best to uncover evidence that could put this mystery to bed once and for all.

But in this volume, she explores the reasons that this may prove impossible. Evidence has been misplaced or discarded. DNA evidence has degraded, making a match difficult. Then there is the fact that Sickert was cremated after his demise. There is simply no way to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

She has managed to connect letters written by Sickert to letters signed Jack the Ripper. Watermarks are very solid evidence that the papers match and were from the same bundle. This would only prove that Sickert wrote some of the Ripper letters. Was this his way of giving the middle finger to the police, or was he just having a laugh at their expense?

I was pleased to note the evidence that could tie the Ripper to more murders. The official report was five victims, ending with the gruesome dissection of Mary Kelly. Why was this so adamantly insisted upon by Scotland Yard, the Crown and the British Government? Murders in the same style—cut throat and mutilation—took place for several years afterwards. Even during the time of the canonical five there were more murders that were amazingly similar.

I believe the order came to close the file because Jack the Ripper had made a mockery of Scotland Yard and Her Majesty’s Government. Rather than admit failure to arrest and execute the Ripper, a select few persons who were either dead or sagely locked up were put forth as prime suspects. Any further murders regardless of MO, were deemed to be someone else at work.

I really enjoyed the experience of delving into the case and weighing evidence. Was Sickert Jack the Ripper? I will only say this. He said he only painted or sketched what he saw. He had some very disturbing art…

I give the book five stars!

Quoth the Raven…


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Jun. 17, 2017

City of Masks by SD Sykes

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!

I really need to silence critics with a SPOILER WARNING even if I don’t think I create many spoilers…

Following the death of de Lacy’s wife in childbirth, he flees from Somershill Manor. Unable to cope with his loss and blaming his son Hugh, Oswald goes on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. However; the war between Venice and Hungary has trapped the little band of pilgrims in Venice.

Oswald, his mother, and two pilgrims who are brother and sister are staying with a wealthy Englishman named John Bearpark. Maybe “staying” is the wrong word since Bearpark is charging them for their rooms!

Oswald has become friends with Bearpark’s grandson Enrico and some of his cronies, in particular; a man named Vittore. They take Oswald out to the bars, the gambling dens, and to an island of prostitutes. Oswald draws the line at visiting the bordello, but falls prey to the gambling, running up a huge forty ducat debt!

Then Enrico is discovered murdered, and John Bearpark hires Oswald to solve the murder. Oswald doesn’t want involvement with the investigation as he hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the powers that be in Venice. But John Bearpark will pay and he needs the money. If he doesn’t pay his gambling debt, he will be the next victim found dead in Venice!

Sykes’ prose is as beautiful as ever! The knack of combining a murder mystery with romance and historical places shines in this latest novel. The final reveal is hinted at, and I guessed part of it, but still managed to surprise me! I love it!

I look forward to more books in this exciting series! I give the book five stars plus!

Quoth the Raven…

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Jun. 17, 2017

Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Murders by Mark Sohn

My thanks go out to Steve and Timi at MX Publishing for my copy of this novel. Your business continues to set the standard for Sherlock Holmes fiction!

A spoiler warning is not needed but will help a few readers, no doubt…

It is the Autumn of Terror, London, 1888. Holmes becomes aware of the Jack the Ripper crimes with the investigation into the murder of Martha Tabrum. A person with power is pulling the strings that allow Holmes to be privy to the details of each murder, even examining the bodies.

Holmes may have the written permission that Scotland Yard cannot ignore, but Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren is reluctant to discuss the case. Inspector Fredrick Abberline, who became famous for his work on the case, is a little more direct. He has Holmes and Watson arrested and held overnight just to prove that he can!

I must say that the suspect in the case puts forth a theory that is refreshing and new! I won’t spoil the surprise, but the case has never been viewed from this particular vantage point. There have been similar threads of thinking, but never as stated in this novel.

The pace drags at times which is the only complaint I have. Mark Sohn has found a new approach and he presents it well. I think he should be given kudos for originality at least! It even makes sense and covers some of the major problems in the case: The many differing descriptions, the difficulty of getting from Dutfield's Yard to Miter Square so quickly, and why the murders stopped so abruptly.

I give the book four stars, as it does drag a bit…

Quoth the Raven…

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