British detective fiction

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Published March 13, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb all about?:

A young man comes to see Dr Watson in his surgery with a bloody cloth wrapped around his missing thumb. However, this was no accident. Why exactly would someone want to remove someone else’s thumb? It is for Holmes and Watson to find out.

What did I think?:

This is one of the very few mysterious cases that Dr Watson happens upon himself and brings to his partner, Sherlock Holmes, he of the incredible deducing capabilities and brilliant nose for figuring out clues. It is when Watson has left Baker Street, is married and has opened his own practice. One morning a young man comes to see him missing a thumb that he swears was taken “by murderous intent,” and has quite the story to tell Holmes and Watson as the good doctor rushes him to Baker Street.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, as usual for anyone who hasn’t read it yet but I’ll give you a quick overview. Our missing thumb man is Victor Hatherley, hydraulic engineer who set up his own business but work has been slow of late until a strange, sinister looking man by the name of Colonel Lysander Stark offers him twice what he has made in the past two years simply to look at a piece of machinery that he owns, fix it up and stay the night. For some strange reason, Victor must visit the property at midnight to see the equipment, must stay overnight as there is no way he could return home at that time of night and must keep everything about this job completely top secret before, during and after the work is completed. This is stressed to be of the utmost importance by the peculiar Colonel Stark.

Of course, in complex cases such as these brought to Watson and Holmes things are never what they seem and it turns out this piece of equipment has a use far beyond what Stark has told the engineer it is used for. When Victor discovers what its true purpose is, he becomes in very real danger of losing his life but manages to escape leaving just his thumb behind.

There are not so many breadcrumbs of clues in this adventure as compared to other Holmes and Watson stories I’ve read in this collection but in no way did this affect the excitement of the plot and brilliance of the writing. Colonel Stark made a wonderful villain of the piece and it all got terribly tense and frightening, especially close to the end. It’s also one of those stories where the criminals may not necessarily get their comeuppance which used to irk me slightly at the beginning of this collection but I don’t mind so much anymore as occasionally it’s quite interesting to end the story in this way with the “baddies still on the loose” so as to speak!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Erase Me: Positron, Episode Three – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

 

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Short Stories Challenge – The Adventure Of The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Published July 29, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Adventure Of The Speckled Band all about?:

Sherlock Holmes and his trusty sidekick Dr Watson come to the aid of another damsel in distress whose beloved sister has died in rather suspicious circumstances.

What did I think?:

I’m really enjoying making my way through the entire Sherlock Holmes collection of stories and this latest offering, The Adventure Of The Speckled Band just re-iterated to me what an absolute genius Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was as an author. The lady desperate for assistance is Helen Stoner, a member of the well-known Roylott family of Surrey who have a grand estate but have fallen on harder times due to a number of gamblers and wasters in the family that have frittered away most of the fortune. When Helen’s mother passes away she leaves a considerable sum to her husband (Helen’s stepfather) on the provision that part of it should be paid to Helen and her sister Julia when they married.

The stepfather, Dr Grimesby Roylott is bit of a strange character to be honest. He meets and marries the girls mother when in India but has amassed a bit of a reputation as someone with a violent temper, narrowly escaping a prison sentence for beating his butler to death. He takes the girls back to the ancestral home in Surrey where, for a while, things run fairly smoothly… well, apart from the pet cheetah and baboon that he insists should be brought over from India for his amusement which leads the girls to lock themselves in their rooms each night for fear of the wild creatures. Then Julia becomes engaged to be married, not long after which a terrible tragedy occurs.

Julia had confided in her sister that she was beginning to feel quite afraid at night – she kept hearing a low whistle, from which direction she was not sure. Their stepfather has invited a band of gypsies to camp on their estate and she isn’t sure if the sound is coming from there but their rooms are both secure and there is no way entry can be forced. So, one night Helen hears an awful scream and a metallic “clang” sound from her sisters room and when she runs to her aid, Julia is petrified, shouts something about a “speckled band,” and promptly collapses, never regaining consciousness. When Holmes probes a bit further, he is certain that no-one has been inside Julia’s room and there are no obvious signs of injury to the body so what exactly killed her? Worse still, Helen has now been moved to her sister’s room and has heard the same low whistle that Julia described in the days before her death.

This was one of the more sinister of the Holmes stories that I have experienced and as a result, I absolutely loved it. There are quite obvious clues as to the perpetrator of the crime and the reasons behind it but the beauty of this little mystery lies in just how Julia met her untimely death. My heart was in my mouth most of the time, especially as Holmes and Watson take their investigation to the estate and sit in the foreboding room themselves, getting all the answers to their questions and much more besides. And, as always with Arthur Conan Doyle, I couldn’t have seen this conclusion coming! What is the mysterious speckled band? Read it for yourself!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Choke Collar: Positron, Episode Two by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge – The Adventure Of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Published December 8, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Adventure Of The Blue Carbuncle all about?:

It is Christmas and the disappearance of a precious jewel, along with a rise in the popularity of geese (or one particular goose!) leads to a curious case for Holmes and Watson.

What did I think?:

I’m really enjoying the stories in this collection, especially trying to figure out what exactly is going on before Holmes and Watson (which I never manage to of course). I have found that each story has elicited a different response from me and I’ve actually learned a lot along the way which I had never realised about the classic detective and his trusty and often befuddled side-kick. For example, sometimes no actual crime has been committed and the story veers into the “cosy little mystery” genre with Holmes and Watson solving a puzzle rather than catching a bad guy. I mention this because The Adventure Of The Blue Carbuncle has within it another new realisation for me, that is – sometimes the perp may not always be brought to justice.

The story is set in the festive season quite appropriately for when I am writing this review and, as often happens, Watson comes across Holmes in his infamous rooms in Baker Street in quiet reflection mode. Holmes has been brought a battered old hat earlier that day by Commissionaire Peterson who tells a rather strange story. The hat and a goose had been dropped by a man in a brawl with some rather nasty characters who had meant to rob him. Holmes is attempting to work out what sort of man owned such a hat, and doing rather well much to Watson’s amazement, predicting such intricate details even down to what kind of products the man used on his hair!

The tale ramps up another notch when the excited Peterson rushes into his rooms after finding something rather curious in the goose that his wife had been preparing for dinner. It is the almost priceless Blue Carbuncle, a jewel previously owned by the Countess of Morcar but had disappeared from her room where she was staying. The police already have a man in custody for the crime, a plumber who carrying out some work in the room when the jewel was assumed to have gone missing. Of course, Holmes believes the man is innocent of the charge and after some digging around is able to unmask the true thief. Sherlock must have a soft heart under that often implacable exterior though as it looks like he might let this one get away. It is Christmas, after all!

This was a really nice little story and came round in perfect timing for the holiday season. At first, I did think it was going to be a bit more of the same old thing i.e. Holmes has a clue, manages to deduce crazy things from the look, smell, taste etc of an object, Watson is befuddled, Holmes provides the explanation, Watson is amazed! I do enjoy this part of course, and his deductions this time were incredibly clever but it can get a little formulaic from story to story. This time, I was delighted to find the cosy little mystery combined with a jewel robbery and then implantation of the said jewel into a goose of all creatures! It was also interesting to see the tender side of Sherlock as he reasons that the jewel will return to its rightful owner and the thief would be unlikely to offend again. Lovely little tale if you fancy reading some detective fiction based in the festive period.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Vuotjärvi by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

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Domestic geese have been used for centuries as watch animals and guards, and are among the most aggressive of all poultry – just a random fact for you!

Image and info from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_goose

Talking About I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh with Chrissi Reads

Published August 17, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world is shattered. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape her past, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of the cruel November night that changed her life for ever.

DI Ray Stevens is tasked with seeking justice for a mother who is living every parent’s worst nightmare. Determined to get to the bottom of the case, it begins to consume him as he puts both his professional and personal life on the line.

As Ray and his team seek to uncover the truth, Jenna, slowly, begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: The author Clare Mackintosh is an ex policewoman. Do you think this is evident in the story telling?
BETH: The author has an immediate advantage over all other authors working in the crime genre because of her previous profession! She’s someone that has seen things first hand and is aware of all the necessary protocols and procedures. If I hadn’t known she was in the police I would say she is an author that has done her research very well and I’m sure she still had to do a bit of research to write this fantastic story.
BETH: What kind of effect did this book have on your emotions?
CHRISSI: I have to admit, it was a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions. I think I went through so many emotions throughout the course of this story. I had a bit of everything, from heartbreak, to confusion, to doubt, to anger and to hope. There really a journey (sorry, that’s cheesy!) throughout this story and I was completely invested in the story. I felt a real connection to the characters, and that’s why I experienced such strong emotions!
CHRISSI: Without spoilers, discuss what you think the future holds for Jenna.
BETH: This is going to be so hard! Okay, Jenna has been through the mill in this novel and has suffered more than any person should have to. However, I think her strength shines through in the way she manages to pick herself up and get on with her life as much as she can. She also has the support of a good man beside her and her family and friends so I have high hopes that Jenna is going to be okay. Maybe a bit of therapy would be good though?!
BETH: There are two stories going on in this novel – the story of Jenna and the one of Kate and Ray. How do you think the author dealt with this?
CHRISSI: If I’m being completely honest, I felt like Kate and Ray’s story sort of fell flat for me. I think it was an interesting element to the story, but at the same time I don’t think it really added much (but some relief from the confusion of Jenna’s life and back story). I feel like Kate and Ray’s story could have been fleshed out a little more, just to add some more depth to it, but that’s purely my opinion. Perhaps it was intentional to not have them as a focus but more of a support in the story. Hmm. Definitely interesting to think about.
CHRISSI: Did you predict at any point where the story might be going?
BETH: No way. At no time! The twists and turns in this story absolutely floored me and I love being surprised by a novel, even when I think I’ve got it all sorted in my head. It often seemed to change genres as well from contemporary to psychological to thriller which proves just how versatile a writer Clare Mackintosh is.
BETH: Discuss the relationship between Ray and Kate
CHRISSI: I kind of touched on this in your last question, but I didn’t think their relationship was as fully fleshed out as it could have been. I mean, it was believable that’s for sure, but I didn’t think it had much depth to it. This could be intentional of course. I could completely understand how they would find a connection with one another, but I’m really not sure what Kate meant to Ray. Was it a longing for his old life/his single days? Did she remind him of his wife before their lives changed with having children? It could have been all of the above, but I was never really fully clear of how he felt about his wife and how his feelings for Kate compared.
CHRISSI: How do you think this book stands up to others in its genre?
BETH: It doesn’t stand up. It stands out! As a debut novel, this is a fantastic piece of writing that keeps you guessing and constantly amazes you. I’m really excited now to see what Clare Mackintosh is going to do next, she’s definitely one to watch. No pressure or anything Clare!
BETH: Would you read another book by this author?
CHRISSI: Oh yes. I said to you as I was reading this book that I thought I had predicted what was going to happen. I totally hadn’t and I love that. Clare Mackintosh is one to watch out for!
Would WE recommend it?:
CHRISSI: Without a doubt!
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):
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BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):
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Short Stories Challenge – The Man With The Twisted Lip by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Published August 14, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Man With The Twisted Lip all about?:

Holmes and Watson investigate the disappearance of a gentleman called Neville St. Clair who was last seen by his wife in the most mysterious of circumstances yelling from a window of a house notorious for being an opium den.

What did I think?:

Arthur Conan Doyle has created yet another intriguing detective story in The Man With The Twisted Lip. Once again I found myself hopelessly sympathising with Holmes’ sidekick, Dr Watson as I was pulled into a world where I didn’t have the faintest clue what was going on, that is, until Sherlock explains the case so succinctly that I wondered why I didn’t pick up the clues in the trail of breadcrumbs that was left by the author in the first place. In this tale, Dr Watson proves that chivalry isn’t dead by visiting an opium den to retrieve the husband of a female friend who hasn’t been seen for a few days. What he doesn’t expect is to also find his friend Sherlock there – in fact, he almost misses him completely so great is Sherlock’s disguise.

Even though Holmes admits his fondness for “cocaine injections,” he soothes Watson’s worries and explains that he is working on a case not partaking in some opium fuelled orgy. Before long they are taking a cab to meet a woman desperate for their help after she last saw her husband in the same building but by the time she reaches the top room where she saw him he has vanished. The police working the case are also mystified especially as some of his clothes are found in the same room, there are some bloodstains on the window ledge where he was seen by his wife and a coat belonging to him was washed up on the edge of the river weighted down with coins.

I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who has not read it but I have to say that I really didn’t see this twist coming! It was pure brilliance, stands out as one of my favourites in the collection and is one of those stories that makes you shake your head in disbelief wondering how on earth a tale like this was imagined as the plot is so intricate. Holmes as always is a fantastic character with so much depth although I feel slightly cynical over the fact that he managed to disguise himself so well that one of his closest friends would not recognise him. Suspending my disbelief however I just let myself go with the flow and enjoy the writing. For in the end I don’t think anyone could deny that Arthur Conan Doyle knows how to spin a yarn and hook his reader. I’ve come to discover while reading this collection that it doesn’t really matter if justice is not served or indeed if no crime has been committed in the first place. Instead, you can just sit back (with a nice cup of tea/your own favourite tipple) relax and enjoy a master of British detective fiction.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Nightlong River by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

A Study in Scarlet – Arthur Conan Doyle

Published April 19, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

“A Study in Scarlet” is the first published story of one of the most famous literary detectives of all time, Sherlock Holmes. Here Dr. Watson, who has just returned from a war in Afghanistan, meets Sherlock Holmes for the first time when they become flat-mates at the famous 221 B Baker Street. In “A Study in Scarlet” Sherlock Holmes investigates a murder at Lauriston Gardens as Dr. Watson tags along with Holmes while narratively detailing his amazing deductive abilities.

What did I think?:

I’ve read a couple of Sherlock Holmes stories previously, most notably “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” which seems to stick in my memory, probably because I first listened to the audio version at school which was accompanied by a comic strip which you could follow. I’ve also read the new Sherlock Holmes novel “The House of Silk,” by Anthony Horowitz which I loved and highly recommend. “A Study in Scarlet” was the very first Holmes novel, where he meets Dr Watson and solves an enigmatic mystery involving a man who has been murdered with no visible signs of violence except for bloodstains which are not the victims own and a sinister word “RACHE” written in blood on one of the walls of the property.

I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed this story, especially as it is a story in two parts, with the second part reading almost like a completely different novel. Actually, I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much – it felt so original and fresh, and I loved how the two parts of the story are knitted together in the end. I ended up with a completely different view of the proceedings than I did at the outset. I just feel that this story has everything you could possibly want in a narrative: suspense, drama, murder, confusion, puzzles, a bit of a love story, shocks, and some random Mormon activity! What’s not to like?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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