Greetings from The Raven!

Jun. 10, 2020

Assistance Unlimited, the next generation!

Lazarus Gray is now 59, still active, but not as involved in the daily affairs of Assistance Unlimited as he used to be. These are the adventures of Emily Grace, daughter of Samantha Grace, one of the original members of Lazarus Gray’s organization. Emily is getting a new partner, Benjamin Falk. Falk was on President Kennedy’s team in Dallas and blames himself for the assassination. But Gray referred to here as “the old man” sees something in Falk.

There are two interconnected stories in this volume.

Book One: The Rise of Helios

Marvin Levin and his crew of clones endeavor to reestablish the Fourth Reich. To accomplish the madman’s goal they seek supernatural objects either under lock and key in Assistance Unlimited headquarters or being actively pursued by them. But Levin has a rival… or is it more than one…

Book Two: Roll the Bones

Otto Darling, the current leader of SIGIL (Supreme International Group for Illicit Liaisons) is after the Chalice of Madness. Allying himself with Helios from Book One, he seeks knowledge that drinking from the chalice is said to bring. Or was that insanity and chaos?

I found the book exciting. The only complaint I have is that according to information at the end of this book, it is slightly out of sequence. Things that take place here are direct results of events in Lazarus Gray volume 8 which I am reliably informed will be out later this year.

That said, it does not really affect the story all that much since the focus is on the characters. The exact events of Emily’s birth and parentage being forthcoming does not stop the reader from enjoying what a kickass character she is. The character is 100% pure smashmouth pulp hero and the action never stops. There are over-the-top villains, world-shaking weapons, Nazis, the supernatural—what’s not to love? Encore! I say!

I give the book a resounding five stars plus!

Quoth the Raven…

 

 

Jun. 8, 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 XVI of this amazing series contains seventeen 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 usual introductory essays, the book proper begins with a poem by Christopher James. Nice visual!

  • Charles Veley and Anna Elliott begin the volume with “The Spectre of Scarborough Castle.” The Commissioner of Police for Scarborough comes to Holmes. A specter has been haunting the castle in Scarborough and a man has been found dead with his skull crushed! This story is solid. Excellent.
  • Stephen Philip Jones is next with “The Story for which the World Is Not Yet Prepared.” I always shudder when I see that title on a story or novel. To date, I have read over a dozen and liked exactly two. This is not one of them. A unique rat, I will give credit there.
  • Arthur Hall is next with” The Adventure of the Returning Spirit.” Watson, still heartbroken from the loss of Mary, is being haunted by her ghost! A beautifully written little mystery!
  • Michael Mallory is next with “The Adventure of the Bewitched Tenant.” A man consults Holmes when his tenant stops paying rent over a spirit board consultation.  It starts slow but it does grow on you.
  • Will Murray is up next with “The Misadventure of the Bonny Boy.” Holmes is summoned to Manchester by post to help a man recover his son. Wow! Riveting story, Will! Love it!
  • Paul D Gilbert is next with “The Adventure of the Danse Macabre.” Holmes takes a case for Lady Roberta Wakeham, a mystery contained within a poem. I enjoyed both the poem and the mystery; a most satisfying read!
  • S. Subramanian is next with The Strange Persecution of John Vincent Harden.” One of the mysteries mentioned in passing in the Holmes canon, Harden was known as the Tobacco King. Now Harden has been showing signs of paranoia. Not bad. Guest-starring Father Brown.
  • Roger Riccard is next with “The Dead Quiet Library.” Stanley Hopkins brings Holmes the case of murder in the library on St. Chad’s College campus on Chadwell Heath. The story is superb. The backstory is intriguing, the solving of the crime is clever, and just a solid read all around. Best in the book for me.
  • Stephen Herczeg is next with “The Adventure of the Sugar Merchant.” The story of a most unusual arson death. Intriguing! Fascinating! Bizarre! Great!
  • Tracy J Revels is next with “The Adventure of the Undertaker’s Fetch.” A rather unusually complexioned undertaker comes to Holmes complaining that he is being stalked by a doppelgänger, otherwise known as a “death fetch.” I like this one, Tracy. Well done.
  • Hugh Aston is next with “The Holloway Ghosts.” The story is presented as an audio play, which I do find a chore to read.  A man is found garroted in an unoccupied, locked house with recent ghostly manifestations. Not your best work, Hugh.
  • Chris Chan is next with “The Diogenes Club Poltergeist.” Mycroft is upset that members of the Diogenes Club are contacting Holmes over a supposed poltergeist in the club. Amusing.
  • Bert Coules is next with “The Madness of Colonel Warburton.” This is another of the cases mentioned in passing in the canon. And another radio play. I love to hear them performed but reading them is something else entirely. A remarkably interesting take on this mystery. I like it.
  • Jane Rubino is next with “The Return of the Nobel Bachelor.” Lord St. Simon calls on Holmes for help, ten years after the events of NOBE. An excellent story.
  • David Marcum is up next with “The Reappearance of Mr. James Phillimore.” A follow-up of sorts to the story of the man who vanished going back into the house for his umbrella. The lady who now owns the house is complaining of a haunting. Good one, David.
  • Geri Schear is next with “The Miracle Worker.” Holmes is visited by Lady Beatrice who relates a story that piques Holmes’ interests. It is an unusual story, told from Holmes’ viewpoint. It is a toss-up with me.
  • Dick Gillman closes out the volume with “The Hand of Mesmer.” A friend of Stamford at Bart’s is worried that a client is being conned by a mesmerizer. It is fair.

This volume had more stories that I liked than ones I felt were meh or poorly written, and I will give this volume five stars!

Quoth the Raven…

 

Jun. 4, 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 XVI of this amazing series contains sixteen 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 usual introductory essays, the book proper begins with a poem by Josh Pachter, using data from The Hound of the Baskervilles.

  • Derrick Belanger opens the book with “The Wylington Lake Monster.” Watson is asked by a friend to visit at Wylington Lake where he runs steamer tours. Then one of his neighbors is killed by a water creature called an “eachy.” You have a real winner here, Derrick! Excellent!
  • Mark Sonn is next, with “The Juju Men of Richmond.” Watson is consulted on a man who is apparently dead—yet he has a pulse and is breathing! The story is a complex mystery and I am not sure the ending is as good as the beginning. It starts off with a very clever trick, but the ending is rather dull.
  • Tracy Revels is up next with “The Adventure of the Headless Lady.” A woman seeks help to prevent a woman from murdering her husband, but the woman in question has been dead 600 years! A stirring accomplishment. Well done!
  • Kevin Thornton is next with “Angelus Domini Nuntiavit (The Angel of the Lord Declared.) A nun comes to Holmes concerned about her brother who seems under the spell of a lady companion. It grows on you.
  • Andrew Bryant is next with “The Blue Lady of Dunraven.” The Blue Lady seems to be the legendary ghost of Dunraven Castle. Not bad at all.
  • Josh Anderson and David Friend are next with “The Adventure of the Ghoulish Grenadier.” A man is haunted by his dead brother! It unfortunately is a bit predictable, but still good.
  • Brenda Seabrooke is up next with “The Curse of Barcombe Beach.” Two men in a row fall down a flight of stairs to their death and a third barely avoids it. An interesting investigation!
  • David Marcum is next with “The Affair of the Regressive Man.” A man living backwards in time? This is not your usual good work, David. Something about it does not work as a Holmes story sticking to canon.
  • IA Watson is next with “The Adventure of the Giant’s Wife.” Holmes is consulted on a suspected murder connected to the excavation of an ancient English barrow. I always love IA Watson’s research and footnotes.
  • Arthur Hall is up next with “The Adventure of Miss Anna Truegrace.” Watson brings Holmes a client who is a self-proclaimed “visionary” what would today be called a psychic. She says she has had visions of being murdered by her brother. So with Holmes’ views on the supernatural, what keeps him on this case? Not bad at all.
  • Tim Gambrell is next with “The Haunting of Bottomly’s Grandmother.” Constable Bottomly’s grandmother, something of a disreputable woman, has died and is now haunting her creditors! I do not think you will see this one coming! Terrific! Best in book as far as I am concerned!
  • Shane Simmons is up next with “The Adventure of the Intrusive Spirit.” A case about the ghost of a five-year-old girl, written by Wiggins, not Watson. The story is surprisingly good for one where Watson is not the author.
  • Bob Bishop is next with “The Paddington Poltergeist.” A friend of Mary Watson is haunted by a poltergeist. It is so-so.
  • Mark Mower is next with “The Spectral Pterosaur.” An Inspector Maddocks brings the case to 221B, where he dies. The story is iffy, but the mystery of the Inspector’s death is solid.
  • Kevin Jones is up next with “The Weird of Caxton.” The story deals with a family curse concerning a wolf. A little predictable, I thought.
  • Jayantika Ganguly ends the volume with “The Adventure of the Obsessive Ghost.” An old army friend of Watson’s, Captain Morgan, asks for help with a haunted estate in Scotland. It is OK.

I find it awesome that this series has reached sixteen 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 did not really like. But I cannot see giving these volumes anything less than four stars out of five.

 

Quoth 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…