Greetings from The Raven!

May. 23, 2020

The tales continue…

My thanks go out to Steve and Timi at MX Publishing for my copy of this book. Long may Sherlock Holmes and Undershaw House live and prosper!

Volume XV of this amazing series contains twenty-two short works of Sherlock Holmes fiction by some of the best writers it has ever been my pleasure to come to know. Hopefully, the few words I say about each story will whet the reader's appetite without spoiling the story. So onward to this selection of tantalizing tales!

After the many introductory articles, the book proper begins with two poems by Christopher James. I like the line about not leaving tobacco in my slippers!

  • Mark Mower starts us off with his short story “The Whitechapel Butcher.” A man discovers he is writing threats to a lodger in his home and has even woke up in the lodger’s room holding a knife! Not bad at all!
  • Thomas Fortenberry follows with “The Incomparable Miss Incognita.” A strange woman comes to Holmes about another who has been stabbed to death in the street. I think I know where the author is going here, but it is delightfully unclear!
  • Robert Perret is next, with “The Adventure of the Twofold Purpose.” Gregson brings Holmes the case of a body in a fairy circle. This one was remarkably interesting.
  • Tracy J Revels is next in line with “The Adventure of the Green Gifts.” A client wants to know who is sending gifts to his wife. I like it!
  • Robert Stapleton is next with “The Turk’s Head.” Holmes and Watson return to the Cornish coast in hopes of proving a man innocent of murder. Nice.
  • Peter Coe Verbica is next with “A Ghost in the Mirror.” Holmes is asked to investigate the murder of a farmer. I am not sure I like this one.
  • Maurice Barkley is next with “The Mysterious Mr. Rim.” Watson is introduced to a most unusual agent of Mycroft Holmes. I usually do not like stories that involve Mycroft, but this one is excellent.
  • Edwin A Enstrom is next with “The Adventure of the Fatal Jewel Box.” A man is killed by a gimmicked jewel box. The mystery here is clever and totally unexpected. Bravo!
  • William Todd is next with “Mass Murder.” Four men and a woman are poisoned at mass and the priest is accused of murder. It is ok.
  • Roger Riccard is next with “The Notable Musician.” Holmes is asked to look for John Philip Sousa’s missing crate of music instruments. I did not like it.
  • Next is Kevin I Jones with “The Devil’s Painting.” When a person dies of heart failure while restoring a painting, it sets off one of Holmes’ most unusual cases. Best in the book in my opinion.
  • Arthur Hall is next with “The Adventure of the Silent Sister.” A man’s inquiries into his sister’s changed habits lead Holmes to a strange crime. Not bad.
  • Next is Jack Grochot with “A Skeleton’s Sorry Story.” Holmes recounts the tale of how someone he captured avoided the hangman due to a sympathetic judge. It is so-s0.
  • David Marcum himself is next with “An Actor and a Rare One.” Back to Baskerville Hall, where so-called spirit writing is appearing on the walls. David, this one is a miss. I do like the Belgian Monsieur P mention!
  • Dick Gillman is next with “The Silver Bullet.” A woman is killed by a single shot—that leaves an entrance hole you could put your fist in and an exit hole the size of a dinner plate! It has an excellent mystery and the secondary story is equally interesting. Bravo!
  • Will Murry is next with “The Adventure of the Throne of Gilt.” Watson is threatened by someone calling themselves “Mr. Thursday.” Pulp writer Murry manages to bring an air of the fantastic plots of pulp villains into a Holmes story with astounding results! Up there with the other as best in the book.
  • Dick Gillman is next with “The Boy Who Would Be King.” A child is killed at school, possibly being mistaken for a foreign Archduke. This one goes into rather delicate matters. I find the ending a little unsatisfying.
  • Tim Symonds is next with “The Seventeenth Monk.” Holmes and Watson go to Crete on a case for Mycroft. Sorry, Tim, I do not really like this one.
  • Mike Hogan is next with “Alas, Poor Will.” Someone is trying to steal the skull of William Shakespeare. This one is just plain weird.
  • Leslie Charteris and Denis Green are next with the radio-play“The Case of the Haunted Chateau.” Interesting to see the creator of the Saint wrote this.
  • Nick Cardillo is next with “The Adventure of the Weeping Stone.” An excavation project on the beach below Holmes’ Sussex cottage is the scene of an unusual death and a stone that weeps blood. Interesting.
  • Darryl Webber ends the volume with “The Adventure of the Three Telegrams” A continuation of the Von Bork affair. It is Ok.

I find it absolutely awesome that this series has reached fifteen volumes with more in sight and no plans to stop! The stories in this volume ran the gambit from excellent to so-so to the ones I didn’t really like. But I cannot see giving these volumes anything less than four stars out of five.

Quoth the Raven…

May. 4, 2020

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 the Spider’s identity is pulpdom’s worst kept secret. Almost every issue has the bad guys using Nita against the Spider, well aware that Wentworth and the Spider are the same person.

Proving it is another thing altogether…

The Devil’s Paymaster

Silver coins that cause death are being given out. The coins have been given a radioactive charge and it takes only a short time before it causes serious injury or death. A ghost stalks the night glowing with an eerie blue haze, the ghost of a drowned man, still damp from the river.

The Benevolent Order of Death

To be fair, that isn’t the group’s name. They are the Benevolent Order of Americans or Right Men. They are followers of a man named Barnum Wright, who is a well-known rabble-rouser calling for the rights of Americans. But the Right men have ways of controlling men of power and many wealthy men suddenly die leaving their fortunes to daughters forcibly married to Right Men!

The two stories were published back to back and connected through Jackson and his wife Marianne Harcourt. Both are well written but the second one is better than the first. I give Paymaster four out of five stars and Order five out of five stars!

Quoth the Raven…

May. 4, 2020

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. In fact, the Spider’s secret identity is pulpdom’s worst kept secret. Almost every issue has the bad guys using Nita against the Spider, well aware that Wentworth and the Spider are the same person.

Proving it is another thing altogether…

 Returning to New York aboard The Plutonic, Wentworth and Nita first encounter the death madness. People are committing suicide with wild abandon as if they are being compelled to do so. Upon arrival in New York, The Spider discovers groups of people being lead in chants to Anubis and encouraged to die. They hang themselves, jump off bridges, shot themselves, cut their own throats.

The actual goal of the mastermind is not really clear, especially with the last great press for mass suicide. Cui bono? I’ll give it three out of five stars.

Excellent readability!

Quoth the Raven…

May. 4, 2020

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 the Spider’s identity is pulpdom’s worst kept secret. Almost every issue has the bad guys using Nita against the Spider, well aware that Wentworth and the Spider are the same person.

Proving it is another thing altogether…

An attack on a train in Kentucky is Wentworth’s introduction to the inhuman monsters the latest mastermind has released on the civilized world. Hulking Neanderthals, a primitive ancestor of modern man, they were powerful beyond belief and driven only by the most basic passions.

Somehow they are being controlled enough to keep them from attacking the very men who are using them as weapons of mass destruction. But released on a town they are nigh unstoppable and difficult to kill!

This story is fairly good. If you accept the premise of the survival of a tribe of Neanderthals, the rest doesn’t seem so farfetched. I give it four out of five stars.

I love the readability of these new editions. Excellent!

Quoth the Raven…

May. 4, 2020

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. In fact, the Spider’s secret identity is pulpdom’s worst kept secret. Almost every issue has the bad guys using Nita against the Spider, well aware that Wentworth and the Spider are the same person.

Proving it is another thing altogether…

Sensing trouble brewing, Wentworth send Ram Singh to the bank to withdraw funds for the coming battle. Ram Singh returns beaten and robbed. Worse, he has been tricked into withdrawing all of Wentworth’s money.

Turning to other sources, Wentworth discovers betrayal. His money is either gone or tied up in a way that he cannot access for some time. Without funds, Wentworth still intends to fight. Then he and Kirkpatrick are expertly framed for murder!

Thus comes the Man from the East, Tang-Akhmut the Living Pharaoh. While he sets up the rule in Manhattan, The Boss takes over crime charging everyone 50% of their take if they sign up—80% if they will not.

The beginning book of this quartet is the best. I give it five out of five stars!

Quoth the Raven…