Book Reviews: Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu by Vasudev Murthy and Shakespeare No More by Tony Hays

sherlock-holmes-the-missing-years-timbuktuSherlock Holmes
The Missing Years: Timbuktu
Vasudev Murthy
Poisoned Pen Press, January 2016
ISBN 978-1-4642-0452-4
Hardcover

A fine pastiche that will take its place in the ever-growing libraries of Holmesians around the world. In the persona of Dr. John Watson, the author has crafted an intriguing tale of world journeys, strange and strangely twisted criminal characters and adventures at every turn.

For the most part the author has immersed himself into the very English character of the long-time companion and associate of the iconoclastic Sherlock Holmes. A man whose brilliance and observational talents are second to none, is accurately portrayed in print as a man often given to boorishness and impatience. Here we see him in a somewhat softer portrayal as he entices Dr. Watson to follow him first to the Continent and thence to the central wilds of Africa. It is of course, not yet the Twentieth Century and Holmes is in pursuit of the missing half of a treasure map written in an ancient text, long since lost to the turn of the world.

The adventures and the characters are many and worth pursuing and if we are occasionally jolted forward into the Twenty-first Century, by a peculiar grammatical construction, that only enhances the enjoyment readers will discover. A very worthwhile reading experience, indeed.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, April 2016.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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shakespeare-no-moreShakespeare No More
A Jacobean Mystery
Tony Hays
Perseverance Press
ISBN: 978-1-56474-566-8
Trade Paperback

This novel, set during Jacobean times in England, is a worth addition to the growing Shakespearean canon. The narrative purports to be chronicled by a constable in Stratford on Avon in the years following Shakespeare’s retirement from the stage. Shakespeare has returned to the family home and promptly begins to sow discontent and turmoil. It isn’t much talked about but the actor and playwright, though a family man, had a roving eye and didn’t much mind if the woman he pursued was married to someone else. One of the women he pursued is the wife of our narrator, Simon Saddler, wool merchant and town Constable.

When the novel opens, Shakespeare lies dying and he calls Saddler to his side to accuse another or poisoning him. After his death, Constable Saddler, in spite of his distress over his wife’s infidelity, Simon determines to investigate the allegation. This turns out to be a dangerous decision. Political maneuvering in these times was often deadly and the King’s supporters were not reticent about using assassination as a tool.

Readers familiar with this period of English history will recognize some of the characters and scenes deftly built into the story. The novel is well-paced, drawing on a variety of sources to weave this speculative and very enjoyable tale into a carefully grounded narrative. The inclusion of a cast of characters and a good “Author’s Note,” at the end all adds to a positive experience for any reader.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, April 2016.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Reviews: The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter and Redemption by Kate Flora

The Twenty-Year DeathThe Twenty-Year Death
Ariel S. Winter
Hard Case Crime, August 2012
ISBN 978-0-85768-581-0
Hardcover

It’s a three in one deal and when I see something like that I can’t pass it up. Yep, three books in one giant-sized novel. Three murder mysteries that bring back the genre of early hard-boiled detectives, of desperate people taking desperate measures to save themselves or their loved ones. Winter has written a novel worthy enough to be included as part of the Hard Case Crime series.

The Twenty-Year Death is actually three separate murder mysteries tied together by two characters. The first story, “Malvineau Prison”, is set in 1931. Chief Inspector Pelleter is only visiting the small French town of Verargent to speak to a prisoner concerning violence against other inmates. However, when a corpse is found within the town limits, Pelleter is drawn into a complex murder mystery involving not only the prison, but Shem Rosenkrantz, a famous American writer and his wife Clothilde.

Jump ahead ten years to Hollywood and “The Falling Star”. Clothilde-now Chloe Rose-is an actress who is paranoid thinking someone is following her. Her husband, Shem, who is writing not only for the movies, but for a smut producer, has become an alcoholic. The movie studio’s head of security hires private detective Dennis Foster to discover if Chloe’s fears are justified. What he discovers is the dead body of Chloe’s costar and very important people willing to go to great lengths to keep secrets buried.

Move to 1951 and “Police At The Funeral”. Shem Rozencrantz, has-been writer, is struggling to recover from his alcoholism and hoping for an inheritance from his first wife to keep Clothilde safe in her asylum. When he gets into an argument with his son, the young man ends up dead. Shem is hounded by the police after he and his girlfriend try to cover up the accidental death.

At first I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with this massive tome. Three stories that could just as well have been three separate novels instead of grouped together under one cover. Winter writes each with a different tone and voice. The first ends up being a straight mystery while the second is in the vein of the first person hard-boiled private eye looking at a world gone dirty. The third reminds me of the fifties and sixties short novelettes of one man with his back against the wall, trying to save himself from a circumstance gone out of his control. I ended up enjoying each story even though it took me awhile to finish the entire novel. This is something different but definitely worth reading.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, August 2012.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.

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RedemptionRedemption
Kate Flora
Five Star, February 2012
ISBN 9781594153792
Hardcover

A homicide detective’s life is never pretty or easy. There are always pressures from home and family and bean counters at work. There are even pressures within the ranks from other colleagues’ lives. Thus is the story of Joe Burgess of the Portland, Maine PD. A solid murder mystery with plenty of character driven action to keep you turning the pages.

Burgess just wants to spend time with his girlfriend and two kids they are thinking of fostering. However, his job keeps getting in the way. A weekend with the kids is interrupted by the murder of Burgess’ long time friend and war buddy Reggie Libby. Libby, never quite the same after the war, turned to alcohol and the street. So who would kill him? Suspects abound. His son, a shyster realtor, his ex-wife. Burgess’s struggles to find evidence in the case are another obstacle. A superior is urging him to cut out the extra manpower for what looks like an accidental drowning of a wino. Nobody seems to know Reggie’s mysterious new employment. Burgess’s friends on the street are too addled-minded to be of but scant assistance. Reggie’s son, Joey is nowhere to be found and the ex wife is a witch. The situation grows more tense as the days pass and the clues start to add up.

One of the things about homicide mysteries that keep them interesting are the subplots. Redemption has a couple of good ones, even though the latter is brought in late in the story. The story isn’t just focused on Burgess and the murder or his friend. His colleague has an ongoing problem with a woman and just doesn’t quite know how to handle the situation. Flora does a nice job of keeping me interested in the main plot, but also allowed me a breather by bringing in other action to enjoy.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, September 2012.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.