Greetings from The Raven!

Aug. 9, 2019

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes The Instrument of Death by David Stuart Davies

Gustav Caligari was a young man beset by his demons. Unable to attend classes, he is tutored by a man named Hans Bruner. Bruner introduces him to the idea of black magic. Later, he studies to become a Doctor, purely for the money he will need to carry on with his real passion, murder!

Doctor Caligari flees from Prague, where he is suspected in the death of a young woman. He sets up shop in London. From this point the story progresses much like the movie, but with a different drugged/hypnotized accomplice.

A girl is killed in London, and Holmes becomes involved.

The story is certainly well-written, with great depth of characters and plot. The constant battle between Holmes and Caligari rages throughout, and Caligari is a devious villain whose wits nearly match the Great Detective. And Caligari knows exactly how to harm Holmes the worst!

I give the book five stars!

Quoth the Raven…

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Aug. 9, 2019

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes The Devil and the Four by Sam Siciliano

Holmes is consulted by wealthy John Hardy. His wife, Marguerite, has received a letter that has frightened her out of her mind. Written in her native French, it promises doom. It states, “Four for the Devil.” It then mentions four people and promises that she will be number three!

Frightened, she has fled London for Paris, stating she wants to hire a certain Mrs. Rose Grace, a consulting detective! The husband states that his wife’s past is a mystery to him, but they have a happy thirteen-year marriage.

Meanwhile, the first name on the list is found dead under suspicious circumstances…

Thus begins a fast-paced story of secrets, murder, theft and… Satanism!

In Siciliano’s world of 221B, Holmes is still the logical detective, but he has a relationship of a sort with a woman named Violet Wheelwright from one of his cases. No problem with that, even ACD had shown he had feelings for Irene Adler. In these adventures, Holmes is seconded by his cousin, Doctor Henry Vernier instead of Watson. No problem, a lot of tales out there are told by someone other than Watson.

I have but one problem with all of Siciliano’s Holmes stories. Watson is largely written out of the adventures and is treated like a bumbling buffoon. Dr. Vernier and Holmes go out of their way to let clients know that Watson will not be on the case. To have Watson out of the case is one thing; to have him and his adventures dismissed as the lies of an incompetent is blasphemous.

Setting aside the treatment of Watson, the story itself is beautifully written.  It’s a great mystery and the logic followed in bringing it to a successful conclusion are superb! The interaction of the characters and the pacing make this story hard to put down! I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I give this book four stars. The one-star ding is for the shameful treatment of Watson.

Quoth the Raven…

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Aug. 9, 2019

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Improbable Prisoner by Stuart Douglas

Watson has been on call and is walking home to Baker Street when he is approached by a young woman. Stating that her grandmother needs a doctor, she leads him to a room where an elderly lady lies murdered! Watson discovers he is locked in and calls for help from the window. But when the police break in the key is discovered in the lock—on the inside!

The story is terrific, a constant battle, with Holmes trying to prove Watson innocent and bellicose Inspector Potter determined to put him in prison and keep him there! The evidence is expertly planted, the young woman is nowhere to be found, and the dead woman is kin to Major Sir Campbell McLachlan, member of Parliament! The Major is also involved in cleaning up the gangs of London, and a firm supporter of Inspector Potter.

Even with Mycroft Holmes pulling strings, Watson is placed in prison awaiting trial…

I really like this one! I give the book five stars!

Quoth the Raven…

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Aug. 6, 2019

The Spider Double Novels #22 Overlord of the Damned and Dictator’s Death Merchants by Grant Stockbridge

The Spider is Richard Wentworth, a wealthy criminologist. Backed up by his manservant Ram Singh, his old war pal Jackson, and his fiancé Nita van Slone, Wentworth takes on crime at the street level.

The Spider has no scruples about killing. The criminals who cross the Spider die and their foreheads are marked with a scarlet spider.

The Spider is wanted by the police, and his friend Commissioner Kirkpatrick suspects Wentworth. Hardly surprising, as everyone seems to know the Spider’s secret.

Proving it is another thing entirely…

Overlord of the Damned is the 25th published novel, originally published in October 1935. Another Novell Page masterpiece!

The Boss, unimaginative title there, uses minions with guns that spurt acid and contaminated tobacco that drives people out of their minds in a horrible fashion. The goal is a common one, to rule all of the crime, nationwide.

Kirkpatrick, now governor, is working hand in glove with—The Boss! Wentworth comes close to gunning him down out of justice, as Kirkpatrick is brazen about his involvement.

It is a solid story!

Dictator’s Death Merchants is the 82nd published novel, originally published in July 1940. The author is Emile C. Tepperman, perhaps better known for the thirteen novels of the “Purple War Saga” starring Operator 5.

A criminal comes to New York that the Spider has a history with: El Crocodilo. It has been seven years since their last battle, which sadly was never written. Obviously, the Spider never discovered the identity of this criminal, as the reveal is a surprise to him as well. Perhaps a modern author could do this?

Crocodilo’s target is banks and financial institutions. He seems to know to the minute any plans for increased funds, stored bullion, or routes taken by armored vans. With his knowledge given in advance, he is raking in big cash!

The story ranges from good to fair. Let’s just say you can tell that it isn’t a Page novel.

I give the first story four stars, the second three stars. Overall, three- and one-half stars.

Quoth the Raven…

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Aug. 6, 2019

The Spider Double Novels #4 Dragon Lord of the Underworld and Satan’s Switchboard by Grant Stockbridge

The Spider is Richard Wentworth, a wealthy criminologist. Backed up by his manservant Ram Singh, his old war pal Jackson, and his fiancé Nita van Slone, Wentworth takes on crime at the street level.

The Spider has no scruples about killing. The criminals who cross the Spider die and their foreheads are marked with a scarlet spider.

The Spider is wanted by the police, and his friend Commissioner Kirkpatrick suspects Wentworth. Hardly surprising, as everyone seems to know the Spider’s secret.

Proving it is another thing altogether…

Dragon Lord of the Underworld is the 22nd published novel, originally published in July 1945. The author is the great Norvell Page.

This novel is one of the “yellow peril” stories common in the pulps. There was a decided prejudice against Orientals, which is why Chinatown exist in the cities. Then also, the United States had recently gone to war with Japan. It hasn’t aged well.

The criminal lord is named Ssu Hsi Tze, roughly “Emperor of Vermin” (or so we are told.) He plans to unite all criminals in an effort to loot cities and fund a coup in his own country. The shadow of Fu Manchu looms over the story, as the Spider deals with underground lairs laced with death traps, various venomous creatures, and the infamous “hatchet men.”

Professor Brownlee is killed in this story trying to find the secrets of a powder the Chinese use to keep themselves safe from their own poisonous critters. Warnings appear in flaming blue letters on the side of the Empire State building! It isn’t a bad story, other than the “yellow peril” business…

Satan’s Switchboard is the 51st published novel originally published in December 1937. The author is Wayne Rodgers

Across the city men and women die with the lower half of their faces destroyed by a powerful acid. The Silencer makes demands accompanied by a crude drawing of someone with a hand over their mouth. People commit suicide, their secrets exposed by the Silencer’s minions. Someone is tapping phones, but where?

Strangely garbed men lurk in the tunnels under the streets, working in pitch darkness. No secret is safe. To the Silencer, life is cheap, and his acid-soaked glove burns the life from his victims.

It is a delightful story, different from Page’s “blood and guts” style.

I give both stories and the book as a whole four stars.

Quote the Raven…

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