Greetings from The Raven!

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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Jun. 17, 2018

The Rediscovered Cases of Sherlock Holmes, Volume Three: The Secret Assassin by Arthur Hall

My thanks go out to Steve and Timi at MX Books for their continuing faith in me and the copy of this novel. Maybe someday I will come into money (I don’t know how!) and actually visit Underwood…

At 92 pages this story isn’t quite a novel yet it is a little more than a short story. I would have liked to see volume three and this volume in the same book. This has nothing at all to do with the review, however! In books and short stories, I have always favored quality writing over verbosity. Often flowery language and greatly extended description can make a story seem stuffy or even fake. It is not the case with Arthur Hall!

Hall paints a lively picture of the world of Sherlock Holmes. This book has the essentials of a good Holmes tale. It has a believable villain, a workable Modus Operandi, and a line of reasoning that makes complete sense!

Too often writers of Holmes fiction create bad guys that you can see coming from chapter one so that the reveal is expected. They will set their malefactor on a course of action that makes no sense whatsoever. And way too often trying to explain Holmes’ reasoning requires a suspension of belief.

But this series by Arthur Hall is cast in the same mold as Conan Doyle’s originals. Holmes is the efficient reasoner that allows the crime scene to talk to him. Watson is presented as a firm companion, and not as the comedic relief as many tend to make him. The villain is black-hearted and cunning, able to give Holmes a run for his money.

Holmes takes a case of a woman admitting to a crime. That’s the tidbit you get from me. From this humble beginning, a horrifying string of suspicion leads through dark, bloody shadows, with Holmes never taking his eyes off the prize. I thought the reveal was handled well, and the dangers faced by Holmes and Watson disserve kudos.

I think I will grant this book four stars. There were a few scenes that dragged just a bit.

Quoth the Raven…

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Jun. 17, 2018

Clockwork Futures by Brandy Schillace

A somewhat unblended mixture…

My thanks go out to the crew at Pegasus Books for my copy of this book. Live long and prosper!

The world of Steampunk explores a world that is sometimes extremely advanced, but uses fossil fuel, batteries, and clockwork to accomplish wonders. Imagine driving a car that burns coal, robots that require periodic winding to keep the clockwork ticking and ray-guns that operate from a battery pack.

Most Steampunk Literature is set in Victorian Europe or the American Wild West. This is a world where gasoline, alternating current, computers and electronic devices do not exist. Industries are powered either by steam or water wheels. Some famous people appear from time to time. I’ve noticed that when electric power is included, the work of Thomas Edison is usually used.  Edison favored DC batteries while rival Nikola Tesla, father of AC is ignored. Edison made life harsh for Tesla, but today AC current rules!

The inventions in Steampunk are fantastic! There are flying conveyances of all kinds, warships, cars, trucks, tanks, and robots for any occasion. Alchemy and vivisection are considered science, working with the known world in the 1880’s.

This book straddles the No Man’s Land between fiction and possible textbook. The data portions of the book are a fine intro to the aspects of a Steampunk society. The technology they do have, the way they dress, law enforcement, etc, are laid out with fair clarity. The fiction part shows how various authors take theory and create masterpieces.

I’m very torn on this one. I do not find it interesting enough to really like it, but I cannot say that it is boring, either. I will give it a neutral score, three stars…

Quoth the Raven…

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Jun. 16, 2018

Brother Bones: City of Lost Souls by Ron Fortier

The world of Ron Fortier’s Brother Bones is unabashedly smashmouth noir pulp! To emulate Luke Skywalker when C-3PO asked him what planet he was on: If there is a utopian city where even the poorer areas are well kept and lighted and crime is rather light and violent crime rare, Cape Noire is very far from it! Crime doesn’t just exist in this port town, it teems and thrives! Gunshots are commonplace, murder almost a daily occurrence, and gangs that peddle drugs, prostitution, gambling and vice of every color pretty much run the place.

It takes an unusual hero to deal with Cape Noire—and Brother Bones is that hero! He was once Tommy Bonello, one of a set of twin thugs that worked and murdered for then Mob-Boss Topper Wyld. On a paid rub-out, Tommy Bonella murdered a young girl forced into prostitution. She thanked him with her dying breath.

Tommy changed after that, living as a monk. Shot dead by his own twin, Tommy finds himself reincarnated in his brother’s dead body, his own having been cremated. He is guided by the spirit of the young girl. A candle in his room lights, she appears, and Brother Bones has a new target for the shiny, powerful automatics he uses with deadly force.

This latest book has short pieces that would likely make great extended stories and one long story that is painted with Captain Ron’s usual bold colors. Fans will be glad to know that old enemies and friends inhabit these pages. Foes like Alexis Wyld, daughter of the late Mob Boss Topper Wyld and Harry Beest, gang leader now in the body of a gorilla thanks to Professor Bugosi share page space with pulp villain Doctor Satan and his two weird henchmen. Friends like Bones’ driver Blackjack Bobby Crandall and his girlfriend Paula Wozcheski, now known as Sister Blood, a vampiress still back up the big guy in the white skull mask!

I think I will not give very many hints about the stories. But my dear Captain I loved the incident with the cigarette lighter and the rejuvenation cycle of our bone-chilling hero! Bravo and encore!

I give the book five stars plus! They keep getting better and better and this may be the best one yet!

Quoth the Raven…

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May. 31, 2018

Sister Fidelma: Night of the Lightbringer by Peter Tremayne

Peter Tremayne, aka Peter Berresford Ellis, is a mystery writer and a historian. His tales of Fidelma of Cashel, formerly Sister Fidelma of Kildare, are both delightful mysteries and insights into the church history of Ireland. The stories date back to the 600’s when a battle was being fought between the Irish Church and the Roman Church.

Tremayne presents the story of that battle. Tremayne states that the “New Religion” had come to the British Isles by the word of famous religious men such as Saint Patrick and Saint Columba. The churches they founded were later in disagreement with Rome over such doctrines as celibacy, the Virgin Mary, the dating of Easter, the church’s place with regard to the law, and even the tonsure favored by the brothers.

Where the Roman Church pushed celibacy, the Irish Church had joint houses where married couples raised their children in the faith. The Irish Church recognized the law of the land, but the Roman Church felt that the bishops, abbots, etc should rule in cases of criminal conduct. They push things like self-flogging, hair shirts, and other things to mortify the flesh. They held that the death penalty was justified, and carried out by church leaders.

The Irish Church fought these changes, often against abbeys and church leaders in their own locals. The Irish Church was eventually annexed by Roman Churches and married clergy outlawed and all religious houses separating men and women.

These stories take place within that battle. In the many churches and kingdoms of Ireland, murders seem to be not that uncommon. Fidelma is assisted by Brother Eadulf, a Saxon who met her during a church doctrine meeting, later her husband. In his home country, Eadulf had been what could be termed a law officer, and he has the same detective senses that Fidelma possesses. While she is his superior in deduction, he often displays insight that helps to solve the crime.

Fidelma is a dàlaigh, or lawyer of the Irish court. She ranks one level below the top and can serve as both lawyer and judge if necessary. She is also a princess, sister to King Colgù of Cashel, and by the time of this book has forsaken the religious life. Nevertheless, she is consulted when a man in a religious robe is discovered dead in the unlit Samhain bonfire. Another person has been asked to check with Fidelma on the theft of a book from the forbidden library in the Vatican. And with Fidelma, two mysteries often become one…

I give the book five stars, for both the mystery and the historical information! Please do not stop writing, Mr. Tremayne!

Quoth the Raven…

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