Book Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Dust by James Lovegrove

Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Dust
James Lovegrove
Titan Books, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-7856-5361-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

It is 1884, and when a fellow landlady finds her lodger poisoned, Mrs Hudson turns to Sherlock Holmes.

The police suspect the landlady of murder, but Mrs Hudson insists that her friend is innocent. Upon investigating, the companions discover that the lodger, a civil servant recently returned from India, was living in almost complete seclusion, and that his last act was to scrawl a mysterious message on a scrap of paper. The riddles pile up as aged big game hunter Allan Quatermain is spotted at the scene of the crime when Holmes and Watson investigate. The famous man of mind and the legendary man of action will make an unlikely team in a case of corruption, revenge, and what can only be described as magic…

Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock Holmes’ landlady, asks for his help when a friend is suspected of killing her lodger and he and Dr. Watson are happy to jump in, having no idea what they’re about to get into. When the legendary Allan Quatermain, the Victorian version of our Indiana Jones, comes on the scene, everything becomes a great adventure.

The murdered man had, by his own telling, recently been in a civil servant position in Calcutta but Sherlock quickly determines that to be a lie and that he was, in fact, in Africa. Moreover, Sherlock questions the man’s very identity and, even more intriguing and disturbing, a stranger follows Holmes, Dr. Watson and Mrs. Hudson when they leave her friend’s house. That individual is soon revealed to be the aged Allan Quatermain, famous big game hunter in Africa, and he delivers a warning that delving into the mystery of the murdered man is very dangerous and should be dropped.

Naturally, that warning falls on deaf ears and Holmes and Watson are soon deeply involved in the case beginning with a fruitless trailing of Quatermain. Deducing that a journalist is somehow involved, the pair are off in pursuit of the truth behind the lodger’s murder.

The setting of this story really evoked the Sherlock Holmes era and environs plus it offered a strong sense of the reach and effect of the British Empire. James Lovegrove is an author with a special interest in Sherlock Holmes and he has developed a very credible pastiche with a variety of novels. He has a fine touch, an understanding of Holmes and of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s style and creative bent; I’m going to check out his other Sherlock Holmes offerings.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2018.

Book Review: Scorched Eggs by Laura Childs

Scorched EggsScorched Eggs
A Cackleberry Club Mystery #6
Laura Childs
Berkley Prime Crime, December 2014
ISBN 978-0-425-25559-9
Hardcover

A trio of likable characters—Suzanne, Toni,, and Petra– own the Cackleberry Club, a café in the small town of Kindred. While Suzanne is sitting in her red plastic chair getting her hair dyed Blond Bombshell No. 4, the county social services building next door goes up in flames. She watches, horrified, while the lifeless body of longtime county employee Hannah Venable is carried out. Sheriff Doogie lets it slip that the fire chief believes that the fire was intentionally set.

Suzanne and her friends investigate the crime. They can’t believe someone would have wanted Hannah dead, but realize that the arsonist must be someone they know. While they are investigating, they are committed to help with the wedding of Kit Kaslik, former exotic dancer and sometime Cackleberry employee who is marrying her fiancé Ricky Wilcox, due to be sent to Afghanistan.

Suspects are plentiful, and include Marty Wolfson, an angry man whose wife was rescued from the fire, Jack Venable, the husband of the victim, and Darrel Fuhrman, recently let go from the fire department. But at the wedding service of Kit and Ricky, the town is shocked by the arrest of the groom before he’s had a chance to say “I do.”

Childs includes all the elements that epitomize a cozy mystery—the small town setting, a cast of interesting characters, and a plot that can sustain interest throughout the book. Suzanne, a widow in her forties who has just started to date again, uses her skills and knowledge to help find the killer.

This is sixth in the Cackleberry Club mysteries. The author also writes the Tea Shop mysteries and the Scrapbooking mysteries.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, January 2016.

Book Reviews: The Homecoming by Carsten Stroud and Lowcountry Bribe by C. Hope Clark

The HomecomingThe Homecoming
Carsten Stroud
Alfred A. Knopf, July 2013
ISBN 978-0-307-70096-4
Hardcover

This was a very interesting book.  I hadn’t read Stroud’s first novel, Niceville, but the book blurb seemed unique.  So, I cracked it open and was sure glad I did.

The characters were strong and believable, the plot was quick, and the dialogue was witty.  I wasn’t sure I was in to the “other” world plot of the book, but I have to say, it didn’t take away from the superb writing.  I don’t think it was needed, but it was interesting and began to grow on me.

The two main characters, Nick and Kate, work well together and there was a hint of romance and love.  I thought the police procedural throughout the plot was sound and made complete sense.  So many people today write about how law enforcement does things and are completely wrong.  Stroud was spot on.  The book isn’t too gory and the concept was terrific.

The Homecoming was an excellent read.  I liked it so much I purchased Stroud’s first book.  I would recommend this book to readers interested in great suspense.

Reviewed by Chris Swinney, August 2013.
Author of Gray Ghost.

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????????????????????????????????????????Lowcountry Bribe
The Carolina Slade Mystery Series
C. Hope Clark
Bell Bridge Books, January 2012
ISBN 978-1-61194-090-9
Trade Paperback

I thought Lowcountry Bribe was a great read.  The book started out quickly and never quit.

The main character, Carolina, is a neat woman with a sense of humor and common sense.  Unfortunately, she finds herself in precarious positions.  I’m into suspense novels with a police procedural plot.  Lowcountry Bribe fits this bill perfectly.

The dialogue was entertaining and made sense.  The supporting characters were blended nicely into the story.  I think C. Hope Clark has something going with this Carolina Slade series. I would highly recommend this book.

Reviewed by Chris Swinney, August 2013.
Author of  Gray Ghost.