Greetings from The Raven!

Jun. 22, 2018

The Minister and the Choir Singer The Hall/Mills Murder Case by William M Kunstler

Before the Lindberg kidnapping, the Hall/Mills murder mystery shocked New Jersey. Two bodies were discovered Somerset County. Lying under a crabapple tree were the bodies of a man and a woman. They had been posed with the woman’s head on the man’s right arm, and her hand on the man’s right knee.

The man’s face was covered by his hat and a scarf was over the woman’s neck. Bits of paper scattered around and between the bodies proved to be love letters written by the pair. A business style card was propped against the man’s foot. It was the card of New Brunswick pastor Reverend Edward Wheeler Hall of the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist.

The male body was identified as the minister. He had been shot in the head. The lady’s body was identified as Mrs. Eleanor Reinhardt Mills, a choir singer at St. Johns. She had been shot three times in the head and her throat slashed ear to ear. A latter postmortem would reveal that her larynx and tongue were missing. They had been dead around 36 hours, and maggots were in the woman’s neck wound.

The two had been carrying on a not-so-secret affair for some time. Due to the love letters and the certainty of the affair, the minister’s widow, Frances Noel Stevens was suspected of the murders, along with her brothers Henry Hewgill Stevens and William "Willie" Carpender Stevens. The trial was a bit of a circus.

Much of the evidence was given by Mrs. James Gibson, known as “The Pig Lady.” She was dying from cancer and had to be brought into the court in her hospital bed.

The author kind of skirts the idea that the widow and her brothers were well to do and Mrs. Gibson lived in a converted barn. Her story would vary, but the central point, her identification of the suspects never wavered. The lawyers certainly took advantage of wealth and power in suggesting that Mrs. Gibson was not to be believed over her betters.

One point I’d like to make is that the worst of the damage was to Mrs. Mills. Removal of the larynx and tongue, both used in music, seem to point towards revenge on Mrs. Mills. Why wasn’t her husband brought to trial? He had as much motive as the widow Hall, and this was a very personal crime.

I totally discount the author’s idea that perhaps the Ku Klux Klan murdered the pair. They very much were active and murder was not unusual for the outlaw group. Yet the personal attack on Mrs. Mills throat and tongue isn’t something the Klan might do. They would have also been sure they got the credit.

An interesting case from the past, I give the book five stars! One thing this book is not is boring!

Quoth the Raven…

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Jun. 22, 2018

An American Quilt by Rachel May

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!

Slavery is the indelible stain on American history, especially in the South. But slavery did not begin in America, nor did it end when slavery was abolished. Slavery has a long dark history and spans the globe. There are still slaves in the world today.

Along with the enslavement of the Negro race came prejudice and mistrust. Those seeds were sown in hatred, and they bring forth violence and unrest still today.

In this book, a strange quilt is discovered that seems to tell a tale of escape from slavery. The author leads the reader through the world of slaves and slavery through the story of this quilt.

People tend to forget that slavery was an American thing, not just a Southern thing. People worked as slaves in the Northern factories, their hire being paid to their masters. House slaves were not much better than the ones toiling on the plantations, and some were perhaps worse.

In giving descriptions of the woes suffered by individuals trapped in the claws of slavery, the author pulls no punches. Slavery isn’t something that can be polished or painted with glorious colors. It is a blight upon humanity and the only way to expose it is simply show it for what it is.

I give the author kudos for the bravery to write this account. There will no doubt be readers who may wish the story was different, but the truth is often raw and naked.

Of course, there is a dash of light in the darkness as the various members of the quilting family gain their freedom. It serves to show that things can change, even if it takes a long, long time.

I give the book a solid four stars…

Quoth the Raven…

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Jun. 22, 2018

Sherlock Holmes and the Ghoul of Glastonbury by Allan Mitchell

My thanks go out to Steve and Timi at MX Publishing for my copy of this book!

This must be the seventh or eighth time I’ve tried to read this book. It has been my experience that it is likes swimming against the current in a river of molasses. I got somewhere beyond page 145 before just giving up.

I’m not sure if it is the long drawn out descriptions or the uninteresting characters. I agree with the guy who said Mitchell might be better off with short stories. Maybe, and then maybe he only needs to tighten the prose a bit. Well, a lot actually. I have read Mitchell’s poetry novels all the way out loud as poetry should be read, but I only know that I cannot try this one again.

I can only grant two stars. The premise is there, but the author completely overshot his target.

Quoth the Raven…

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Jun. 22, 2018

The Abbot’s Tale by Conn Iggulden

My thanks to Katie McGuire, Iris Blasi, and the gang at Pegasus Books for my hardcover copy of this book!

Father Dunstan of Glastonbury is a very real historical character. His life and career in the 900’s show his growth from a student in the Abbey at Glastonbury to becoming an advisor to kings and eventually Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dunstan was for a couple centuries the most renowned Saint in the British Isles. Many of the events in this book are like casual snapshots of a star player. Dunstan is legendary, and this book does a lot to show the human side of a man with great dreams and ambition.

To be honest, I had never heard of Dunstan’s life before reading this book. I some tales of Robin Hood the name of Saint Dunstan was uttered often. This book intrigued me because of church history. It takes a look at how much influence the Church had in politics and daily life.

To build his dream abbey, Dunstan needed large sums of money. The abbey was given rule over various lands. The villagers and outlying farms belonged to the church. In the book, there are often disagreements among the nobles when choice land is given to Dunstan and the Abbey. Dunstan was at times very popular and at times so outcast that he had to flee the country.

The childhood growth of Dustan and his attempted destruction by the brothers of the Abbey was a riveting adventure. I didn’t recognize some of the kings from history, but I recognized the final royal in the book, Ethelred (known in history as “the Unready.”)

 I believe this book will be beneficial to both history buffs and those who like action in their tales. I give the book five stars! I really learned from this volume.

Quoth the Raven…t

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Jun. 17, 2018

The Rediscovered Cases of Sherlock Holmes Volume Four The Phantom Killer by Arthur Hall

My thanks go out to Steve and Time at MX Books for the many books including this one.

Some people write versions of Sherlock Holmes that stray a long ways from the way his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle pictured him. It is a little bit like calling God and wanting to remake man in some differing form. Thankfully, Arthur Hall remains very faithful to the canon! The Holmes that appear in his novels and short stories has habits and mannerisms that need to be part of any pastiche.

One note, this story is only 92 pages. Perhaps bundling it with volume three might be something to think about. It is quality writing that makes a book or short story worth reading, however! Wading through 300 plus pages of a book that has, to paraphrase Patrick F MacManus “ say whether the toast was burnt, on which side it was burnt, and the degree of the burns” is hard! A well-written one is good no matter the length.

A lady with reservations about her own conduct, a persistent silver-tongued stalker, and a fiancé arrested for murder is quite an intro for this tale! Once more Hall gives the reader believable bad guys, solid motives and methods, and understandable reasoning to solve the vague clues in the story.

Often Holmes must deal with the dregs of society or haughty nobility who present themselves as if announced by angels. What would happen if the one were to hide behind the other?

I really liked this book and I will grant it five stars!

Quoth the Raven…

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