Detective fiction

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe from the collection The Best Short Stories Of Edgar Allan Poe

Published May 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Gold-Bug all about?:

Believing William Legrand to have gone insane following an insect bite, his friend initially decries his quest for gold as the ramblings of a madman. Yet when Legrand’s conviction fails to waiver, they set off on a bizarre journey, accompanied by Jupiter, Legrand’s loyal and equally skeptical servant. What follows is a strange tale of coded messages, hidden treasure, and uncanny prophecy that will both enthrall and baffle even the most perceptive readers.Part horror story, part detective fiction, The Gold Bug is an ingenious tale bearing all the hallmarks of Poe’s extraordinary narrative skill.

What did I think?:

Welcome to the first story in a new collection in my Short Stories Challenge after I completed a previous collection. I’ve always been curious about the work of Edgar Allan Poe, especially after reading his story The Tell Tale Heart many years ago and loving it. It actually forms part of this collection so I will be reviewing it once I’ve read it again and am excited to discover what I think of it as an adult. Unfortunately, The Gold-Bug was a slightly disappointing story for me and I sincerely hope that doesn’t set the tone for the rest of the collection. There were some good bits sure, but at times it felt quite long-winded and unnecessary, which I’ll get into a bit later.

We are told the story from the point of view of an unnamed however seemingly reliable narrator who is quite concerned about a reclusive friend of his, Will Legrand. When he goes to visit him, Will has become obsessed with a golden bug that he and his black servant, Jupiter found when out one day. Our narrator seems to think he has gone quite mad, especially when Jupiter confirms his suspicions and says he is quite worried for his master. Well, as it turns out, Will has found a bit of parchment from a previous shipwreck that leads him to the location of some buried treasure on the island. However, he must crack the code before he can hope to find where the treasure lies.

Okay so at first I have to admit I was intrigued. Yet I thought a lot more would be made of the gold-bug than what actually happened which was slightly disappointing. That wasn’t what irked me about this book however. The first was the outrageous racist attitude towards Jupiter and the way he was written as a character. The language he uses is awful, the way he is presented is shameful and the way he is treated is deplorable! Yes, I know, this story was written an age ago when attitudes were different (unfortunately) but I can’t help the way I feel about that sort of thing and sadly, it will affect my enjoyment of a story.

Secondly, I was expecting a bit more out of the ending. Edgar Allan Poe’s character Legrand, rabbits on for far too many pages about how he manages to crack the code on the parchment and while some people may find it interesting, I just found it dull and had to force myself to finish. What would have made it interesting is how the men chose to divide the treasure amongst themselves (if that did indeed happen – maybe something could have gone horrifically wrong, maybe someone could have been murdered?). I believe that would have made a more interesting story and a better ending as a result. This story is a great piece of detective fiction if that’s what you were expecting but as it was classed as part “horror” story I have to admit to wanting a bit more.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Gallowberries by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

 

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)

The NightShade Forensic Files: Under Dark Skies by A.J. Scudiere

Published October 8, 2015 by bibliobeth

23568050What’s it all about?:

In NightShade nothing is as it seems . . .

Eleri Eames didn’t think she’d ever be allowed to work for the FBI again, so the special FBI division of NightShade seems like an amazing opportunity. But all too soon, her chance to start over starts to disturb her.

When the FBI offers Donovan a chance to leave his job as a medical examiner and try his hand at something new, he takes a chance on the NightShade division. Somehow, he has to try to escape from his shadows, but can he trust Eleri with the truth?

Thrown together on their first case, Eleri and Donovan must deal with a charismatic cult leader and his true-believers. The cult is mixed up with several decade-old kidnapping cases and the missing daughter of a prominent FBI Agent. As Eleri and Donovan dig deeper, they discover that NightShade’s mysteries aren’t coincidence.

Their secrets will save them . . . or destroy them.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you very much to Jessica Henkle of MBM Book Publicity and Griffyn Ink for letting me read a copy of Under Dark Skies in exchange for an honest review. It is the beginning in a series for author A.J. Scudiere and the first opportunity that I’ve had to read her work. Of course I was instantly intrigued by the synopsis of the story which led me to believe it was gritty crime fiction with a slice of the supernatural thrown in for good measure. On this count I was not disappointed at all and in fact, was surprised about how much I genuinely enjoyed the novel. Well…the supernatural can be done in two ways – quite poorly with a hint of “cheese,” or very well where you actually believe supernatural powers can exist. Wait a minute, they do don’t they?!

The first of our main characters is Eleri Eames who has been pulled out of some “time off” and specially selected to head a team known as The Nightshade Division, a lesser known and mysterious branch of the FBI that keeps its secrets between as few people as possible. Her partner in crime is rookie agent and former medical examiner Donovan Heath who has just graduated from the FBI program and again, was head hunted to be part of this particular case. The case itself involves the members of a religious cult, The City Of God who are suspected to be involved in a multitude of kidnappings, some a decade old. The action is ramped up a notch however when a child of a fellow FBI agent is abducted and a murder occurs of which the cult are strongly suspected to be responsible.

Eleri and Donovan reach a milestone in the investigation when they are able to get hold of people that were part of the cult but managed to escape in some way. In this way, the team are able to analyse the movements of the cult much more easily and begin to collect the crucial evidence that they require in order to see the perps, and in particular the leader of the cult, brought to justice. However, they are not able to solve the puzzles presented to them without calling on some deep-seated and occasionally unknown abilities of their own which not only makes the Nightshade Division an exclusive club to belong to but a very perilous one as the investigation threatens to endanger their lives.

If you like a bit of supernatural and fantasy in your crime fiction, this is definitely the book for you. I have to admit to being a bit sceptical at the beginning and I did actually guess Donovan’s “secret,” but it did not hamper my enjoyment of the story one bit. The characterisation was terrific – I loved how we got to see both the gruff and soft sides of Donovan and Eleri just fascinated me from the start. I have a feeling there is a lot more we are going to find out about both her back story and her special abilities in the books to follow in the series. The plot was interesting and very readable and the action sequences at the very end had me hovering on the edge of my seat in excitement. I’m now eagerly anticipating the second book for The Nightshade Division to see what Eleri and Donovan get up to next.

Please visit bibliobeth tomorrow where I will be interviewing A.J. Scudiere and finding out the answer to the question we all want to know… does she dog ear her books?!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

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):

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

Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie

Published March 8, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Poirot, on vacation in Africa, meets the rich, beautiful Linnet Doyle and her new husband, Simon. As usual, all is not as it seems between the newlyweds, and when Linnet is found murdered, Poirot must sort through a boatload of suspects to find the killer before he (or she) strikes again.

What did I think?:

I have recently discovered a liking for Agatha Christie after being introduced to one of her amazing books “And Then There Were None,” by my book club. Death on the Nile is one of her more famous titles and after finishing it in lightning speed time, I can see why. The mystery revolves around a young woman called Linnet, one of the richest women in England with perhaps quite a few enemies, after she is found murdered on her Egyptian honeymoon.

And there are a great number of suspects that Poirot has to sift through to uncover the truth behind her grisly end – was it a crime of passion? Revenge? Or was the perp just after her cash? The reader is presented with various conundrums and many additional surprises are uncovered. I also enjoyed the fact that we got to know her cast of characters quite well before the murder occurs, and there is  a fair reaping ground for motive amongst them.

After recently experiencing Egypt for myself, I loved Christie’s descriptions of the country, culture and mannerisms – especially the over-enthusiastic and persuasive tourist guides. (It’s a real relic, honest!!)  This is a classic piece of detective fiction with a complicated but enjoyable plot that places Christie firmly on the throne and will continue to be appreciated in years to come.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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