Book Review: Murder in Keswick by William Todd

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Author: William Todd

Narrator: Ben Werling

Length: 2 hours 38 muntes

Publisher: William Todd

Released: Oct. 16, 2018

Genre: Mystery

While on a well-deserved holiday in the Lake District to get away from the toils and troubles of London, Holmes and Watson find no respite. As soon as they exit the train, they hear news of a grisly murder making its way around the murmuring commuters. A local aristocrat, Mr. Darcy, has been found missing his head!

And that very night, the wealthy widow finds a stranger in her home who, upon seeing her, abandons his plans and quickly leaves. She believes the intruder to be the murderer of her husband who is now after a large sum of cash she keeps in the house safe.

Unsure if the would-be thief is the murderer or an opportunistic burglar, Holmes devises a plan to catch the burglar, all the while investigating the murder of Mr. Darcy. Follow Holmes, Watson, and the local constable Mr. Wickham as they untangle the mystery surrounding a Murder in Keswick.

I have been writing online since the early 2000’s, primarily writing horror stories in the style of Poe and Lovecraft. I was the 2nd most popular author on the website storiesbyemail.com for two years before moving on. I had my first book, a Victorian era horror compilation called Bumps in the Night, published by Mystic Moon Press just a week before they closed their website and never saw my hard work pay off. Afterwards I took publishing into my own hands, became an Indie author and haven’t looked back. My first self-published book was Dead of Night, another compilation of Victorian horror stories, published September 2016 by Createspace and on Kindle by KDP. After its publication I left my comfort zone for mystery and wrote a short story about Sherlock Holmes in the Conan Doyle style. I loved it so much I then did a longer story A Reflection of Evil, both published in 2017 through Createspace and KDP. I have just release Beyond the Gossamer Veil, another compilation of both Victorian and modern supernatural/horror stories and am in the beginning stages of my third Sherlock Holmes installment.

Goodreads

Narrator Bio

Ben is an award winning actor and voice over professional, who has performed all across the United States. From Shakespeare to Neil Simon, he has displayed a versatility and diversity in the characters and dialects he has portrayed. Ben received the Joseph Jefferson Award for Leading Actor as abusive talk show host Barry Champlain in Eric Bogosian’s TALK RADIO, and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor as Prosecutor Villeforte in Alexander Dumas’ THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, also in Chicago. He has worked with an extensive list of theaters in Chicago over the last three decades: Steppenwolf, Bailiwick, Famous Door, Next, A Red Orchid, Raven Theater, First Folio, Writer’s Theater, Buffalo Theater Ensemble, as well as Utah Shakespeare Festival, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Repertory, Madison Repertory, and Allenberry Playhouse in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania. He is an Ensemble member of Shattered Globe Theater in Chicago. For almost a decade he was the voice of the Adler Planetarium, hosting live shows and pointing out the stars, planets and constellations on the big dome. Ben has an eponymous weekly vlog on YouTube, that he films, produces, edits and narrates. He lives in Chicago with his wife Amy, two dogs and three cats.

Not everyone who wishes to add to the the Sherlock Homes pastiche can do so all that well but Mr. Todd pretty much nails it with Murder in Keswick. In fact, I think it might, in time, earn a place in the extracanonical body of work. Rather than the adventures of descendants of Holmes and Watson which have become so popular—and of which I’m very fond—this takes us back to the great detective himself and his companion.

The pair have set off for a vacation in the Lake District and Holmes is already bored without a worthy puzzle to solve so, when they step off the train in Keswick to hear talk about a headless body that’s been found, he can’t be happier. Who IS happier is the local constable, Mr. Wickham, who can’t believe he’ll be able to work with the famous detective.

Mr. Darcy, the victim, is naturally not happy without his head and the trio are soon hot on the trail of clues which, of course, only Holmes takes in but there are two women at the heart of the case, both very strongwilled and appealing. Could one of them be the killer? With a nifty twist near the end, all comes together…after Holmes shares his perspective, of course.

Ben Werling is a credible narrator who took me back to oldstyle Sherlock Holmes narrators, the best kind. He doesn’t differentiate voices all that well, especially females, but I actually don’t mind that. When I listen to a Sherlock Holmes story, I always hear Dr. Watson’s voice telling the story and I expect to hear him, not other characters. The only thing I didn’t care for in the production is the various background noises meant to enhance the settings; my hearing isn’t the greatest and I was distracted trying to figure out what I was hearing. I wouldn’t want them to be louder, just not there at all.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2018.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by William Todd. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Q&A with Author William Todd
  • Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
    • I never used to even think about how a book would sound as an audiobook…until I finally had one done. Now, I do. The story is most important, whether read or heard. I a bad story is a bad story. But I am more cognizant now when I write with how a phrase might sound read aloud. I think my audiobooks now are much easier on the ear then my first ones because of that. And my narrator, Ben Werling, I’ve used on every story. He’s great and has a wide vocal range. He makes turning a book into audio so much easier on me. I think we’re a good team. I basically give him my manuscript with some simple directions as to accents, maybe weird words that might pop up, since I write typically late Victorian era material, and he does the rest. He does a chapter at a time and sends them to me to okay. We rarely have to redo anything. I am truly lucky because the process, at least for me, is very simple with Ben at the helm.
  • Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
    • Because audiobooks are so prevalent and getting more and more popular by the day, I think you have to be conscious of it becoming an audiobook while writing, especially if you plan on using that format. And I think an author is selling himself short if he doesn’t at least consider putting his creations on audiobook. It is another channel to garner readers and followers…and revenue.
  • How did you select your narrator?
    • I put up three pages of my book for narrators to “audition”. I listen to each audition and pick the best one. But because Ben and I have such a good working relationship, ultimately, he gets my jobs. It is not only because he is such a good narrator. I write Sherlock Holmes and gothic horror. At least for the Holmes stories, I prefer having the same Holmes and Watson in each of my stories. Ben has been hands down the best Holmes and Watson I have found so why would I switch? I don’t think my readers would like that, and I know they would hear the difference.
  • Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
    • I am. Until I land on the best-sellers list or get a movie deal, I have a job to pay bills and raise my family. I drive 45 minutes one way. Sometimes, that hour and a half is the only time I have to myself, and the perfect way to spend that time is listening to audiobooks. There are just times in this hustle and bustle life where cracking open a paperback is not possible. But your ears are always available to listen.
  • Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
    • I might have to say all of it, but there’s a reason. Well, okay I’ll narrow it down to the final scenes of the book during a storm. But the reason I say all of it is because Ben employs subtle sound effects in the background much like the old radio stories. There is one part of the story where there is a storm, and the thunder and lightning in the background of the narrations lends itself perfectly to the feel of the scene.
  • If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?
    • Oh absolutely. I would love to go back to say anytime between 1880 – 1915. The late Victorian era/ Gilded Age fascinates me. It was a time of extreme change, and those changes caused fear. I play off those fears in my horror stories, and Sherlock Holmes was the penultimate player in those times.
  • What gets you out of a writing slump? What about a reading slump?
    • For both it is the same–just do it. It is very easy for life to get in the way of writing. And it’s also very easy to fall out of the habit of writing. Mowing, cleaning, doing things with family, work, prepare for holidays, just plain being lazy (guilty as charged), etc. You have to make the time. This just happened to me where I wrote nothing for over two weeks, and I have deadline to have a Holmes story written by the end of the year for a publication next year. I had been under the weather and busy with life on top of that. There were times where I could have written but didn’t. The good habit of writing almost daily had been broken. But for me, all it took was forcing myself to sit at the lap top and writing a few sentences. Those few sentences ended at ten pages. Same with reading. Even if you have to force yourself, do it. If you love to read and love to write, just the mere act will set you right again. At least it does for me.
  • Have any of your characters ever appeared in your dreams?
    • That is where I usually get impetus for my stories, so yeah. Many characters I’ve come up with have appeared in my dreams. The trick is finding the story in which they will appear, especially when I might be working on more than one story at a time.
  • Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?
    • Be picky in who you choose. The narrator is 50 percent of the audiobook, the other 50 percent being the story itself. I have heard many good stories butchered by bad narration.
  • What’s next for you?
    • I was approached by the editor of the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes stories and asked if I would contribute a story to Volume XIII due out next summer, so I am honored to be one of the authors selected to add to that volume. It will be the first time that I am published with a traditional publisher but hopefully not my last.
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Dream Cast

Author William Todd’s Picks For Murder in Keswick
  • Holmes: Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Watson: Martin Freeman
  • Constable Wickham: Rupert Grint (AKA Ron Weasley of Harry Potter)
  • Mrs. Darcy: Catherine Bell (Hallmark’s The Good Witch)
  • Morwenna McGlinn: Emilia Clark (GOT)
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Giveaway

Prize: $20 PayPal Cash

Murder in Keswick Giveaway: $20 PayPal Cash

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Jorie Loves A Story

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Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm

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Jazzy Book Reviews

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Dec. 10th:

The Book Addict’s Reviews

Buried Under Books

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Book Reviews: Perfect Sins by Jo Bannister and A Song of Shadows by John Connolly

Perfect SinsPerfect Sins
Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best #2
Jo Bannister
Minotaur Books, December 2014
ISBN 978-1-250-05420-3
Hardcover

In the first book of this new series by Jo Bannister, the highly recommended Deadly Virtues, the reader met Gabriel Ash, in his mid-20’s, “an intelligent, astute man who had once been highly regarded in national security circles,” a well-educated insurance investigator and later a Government analyst before the traumatic events of 4 years ago when his wife and two young boys had been taken by persons unknown, their present whereabouts a complete mystery.

The follow-up book takes place two months later, and reunites Gabriel with Hazel Best, a 26-year-old rookie cop, now on probation after the events which took place in that earlier novel, during which she had saved his life more than once.  As the book opens, Gabriel is accompanying Hazel to visit her father, the gatekeeper at Byrfield estate, the lord of the manor being Lord Pete (“Peregrine”) Byrfield.   Also present is David Sperrin, Hazel’s old friend and an archaeologist who lives with his mother on neighboring property, who shortly embarks on an excavation on Byrfield land resulting in the discovery of what is determined to be the body of a ten-year-old child in a makeshift grave, apparently dead for over 30 years.  DI Edwin Norris is the cop assigned to the ensuing investigation into the child’s murder, and the identity of the murderer.  In the process we learn a lot about British aristocracy, much of it fascinating.

Of course Gabriel’s family’s whereabouts, and the question of whether they are even alive, is always in the forefront of his mind.  Their disappearance during Gabriel’s investigation into African pirates’ hijacking of British arms shipments has him still continuing that investigation.

The writing is wonderful throughout, in particular the author’s descriptions:  “I don’t know what Guy would have grown up to be.  An entertainer, possibly.  Or a politician.  Something where the ability to tell barefaced lies is a major advantage.”  And a shopkeeper:  “an elderly woman with a froth of white hair and the apple cheeks of the terminally jovial.”  As in the earlier novel, all the characters are very well-drawn, especially Gabriel, Hazel, and DI Norris, and the relationship between Hazel and Gabriel seems to be evolving into something more intimate.  The suspense keeps building, right up until the very last page, which ends in a cliffhanger which makes me all the more anxious to read the next book in the series, Desperate Measures, due out in December, 2015 – can’t wait!

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, August 2015.

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A Song of ShadowsA Song of Shadows
A Charlie Parker Thriller #14
John Connolly
Emily Bestler Books/Atria, September 2015
ISBN: 978-1-5011-1828-9
Hardcover

This latest Charlie Parker novel has a more intriguing plot while combining many of the elements of earlier books in the series.  It begins with Charlie having survived a near fatal gunshot attack, leaving him extremely weak, renting a house on a small bay in Boreas, ME, in which to recuperate.  There is only one other home on the bay, occupied by a woman, Ruth Winter, and her daughter, Amanda.  In earlier decades, a large German population settled in the area, and after World War II an influx of supposed displaced persons arrived nearby.

When the body of a man washes ashore on the beach, questions are raised as to whether he is a suicide or the victim of foul play since he had traveled from Florida.  Then another fact emerges:  His friend and partner is found murdered in the Sunshine State, raising additional suspicion.  When Ruth Winter is murdered, there can be no question there is evil in the air, and Charlie, despite his debilitation, begins to act like a detective.

So much for the background.  The central theme is the post-war arrivals and their link to a Nazi concentration camp.  The description of the government’s investigations to identify and deport Nazi war criminals is affecting.  And Charlie’s efforts to unravel the mystery of the deaths, whether they are related, and if so to what, are, of course, aided by his usual cohorts, Louis and Angel and FBI agent Ross, along with Rabbi Epstein.  Naturally a Charlie Parker novel without the presence of the Collector or introduction of the occult would not be in keeping with the series, so, naturally, both are present and play a major role in the unraveling of the plot, along with the presence of Charlie’s daughters, the living Sam and the deceased Jennifer.  All in all, this is John Connolly at his best, with a most serious story, and it is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, September 2015.

Book Review: Rose Gold by Walter Mosley

Rose GoldRose Gold
An Easy Rawlins Mystery #13
Walter Mosley
Doubleday, September 2014
ISBN: 978-0-385-53597-7
Hardcover

This newest novel from the prolific Walter Mosley (whose next novel, in the Leonid McGill series, And Sometimes I Wonder About You, is due out in May) brings the return of private detective Ezekiel Porterhouse (“Easy”) Rawlins.  The last novel in the series was nearly two years ago, the highly acclaimed Little Green, which in turn was preceded six years prior to that by Blonde Faith, which seemingly ended with Easy’s demise in a car accident when he’d lost control of a car he was driving on the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu.  This book takes place five months later.

The novel is set in post-war Los Angeles, an era of radical black nationalism, where “innocence was rarely a key factor for justice,” eerily also reflecting today’s recurring headlines of black men generally guilty of nothing more than walking/driving/whatever while black, shot by white police officers.  And I can’t think of another author today who can capture this quite like Mr. Mosley.

Now nearing 50, Easy, a black man with a sixth grade education, had moved from New Orleans to LA in the late forties, and in the opening pages is moving into a new home with his 12-year-old adopted daughter, Feather, and his adopted son, Jesus.  Among the usual cast of characters present is Easy’s “oldest and deadliest friend,” Raymond “Mouse” Alexander, computer expert Jackson Blue and his wife, Jewelle, and Melvin Suggs (a white man and the only LA cop Easy trusts, describing the LAPD as “morally bankrupt”).

Easy is approached by the special assistant to the Chief of Police who offers to pay handsomely if Easy will take on a missing person’s case, leaving Easy briefly speechless:  “No policeman had ever offered me money – – and I had been stopped, rousted, beaten, and caged by a thousand cops in my years on and near the street.”  A kidnapping is suspected, since the missing young woman, Rosemary Goldsmith (who Easy comes to think of as the titular Rose Gold), missing from her dorm at UC Santa Barbara for two weeks, is the daughter of a very wealthy weapons manufacturer and philanthropist.  But nothing in a Walter Mosley novel is as simple as it seems, and never more so than here.  The book combines Easy’s philosophizing with a quiet humor, has an intricate and somewhat convoluted plot, and houses a large (at times unwieldy) cast of characters.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, April 2015.

Book Review: Sticks & Stones by K. J. Larsen

Sticks & StonesSticks & Stones
A Cat DeLuca Mystery
K. J. Larsen
Poisoned Pen Press, February 2012
ISBN 978-1-59058-921-2
Hardcover
Also available in trade paperback

Chicago is crazy. Or it’s made crazy by the likes of Cat DeLuca and her quirky family and workmates. In this second book by Larsen, DeLuca is involved with murder, problematic cars and enough suspects to fill a stadium. Join the fun, but don’t get caught with your pants down or else you might be in Cat’s next picture.

All Cat DeLuca wants is to chase cheaters and avoid her crazy family. But when she and her assistant, Cleo, find Walter, Cleo’s louse of a husband, dead, and Cleo is suspected, Cat is on the case. She soon uncovers evidence that Walter was blackmailing a lot of people. So who killed him? The construction company owner? The fashion diva? Or is this murder related to a decade’s old death that could also have been murder? With a beagle and a gun toting assistant by her side, a hunky FBI boyfriend and equally hunky bodyguard on her side, Cat has nothing to worry about…except her mother’s constant worrying, a priest praying for her soul, a pesky cheater who won’t let himself be photographed in delecto flagrente…and a murderer on the loose.

This is a fun filled humorous book. You don’t necessarily have to read Larsen‘s first DeLuca tale, Liar, Liar, but you should and I will make plans to read it. Cat is a tough Chicago PI with lots of moxy, but she still worries about her weight, her age, and her family. Constant smiles and a few laughs will keep the pages turning. I want more Cat!

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

Book Review: Party Doll by Steve Brewer

Party Doll
Steve Brewer
Steve Brewer, February 2012
Ebook available in multiple formats

Strippers and dirty politicians pretty much go together, correct? In Party Doll, author Steve Brewer not only brings them together, but adds in a private detective, a nosy reporter, and some fun for all. Albuquerque heats up with some expected fist fights and, of course, murder.

When Albuquerque private eye Bubba Mabry is hired by a strip club owner to find one of his dancers gone missing, there are not a lot of leads. His wife, star reporter, is working on a corruption scandal involving the state fairgrounds. Slowly, pieces start falling together and Mabry realizes the dancer’s disappearance may be connected to the scandal. Mabry finds himself involved with big bad bouncers, a United States Attorney, and federal marshals. As more people enter the picture, Mabry gets in deeper and must discover who is desperate enough to commit murder.

Okay, please forgive me and don’t call me a pig, but when the story started off in a strip club and the humor flowed like water, I was hooked. Party Doll is a light-hearted typical PI story but still enjoyable. It’s a fast read with memorable characters. Brewer even pokes a little fun at fiction writers in one scene. A thoroughly fun little story and I wouldn’t mind reading something else by Brewer if I ever had the chance.

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

Book Review: Lucky Bastard by S.G. Browne—And A Pair Of Winners!

Lucky Bastard
S. G. Browne
Gallery Books, April 2012
ISBN 9781451657197
Hardcover

If I may use an oft said line: Do you feel lucky? Well, do you? For Nick Monday, chances are, luck just isn’t with him on this particular day. In this fascinating book by S. G. Browne, you’ll learn about grades of luck, charms, and how bad luck, bad decisions, and actions can follow you for a long time.

Nick Monday, San Francisco private detective, is also a luck poacher. He has the ability to take other people’s luck, process it, and sell it. Unfortunately this day is not to be a lucky one for him. First he gets hired by a woman claiming to be the mayor’s daughter to retrieve her father’s luck. Then he is bullied by two federal agents to give a Mafia boss some bad luck. Then the Mafia King wants Nick under his employment. Oh, and let’s not forget about another enigmatic scooter riding woman with whom Nick would very much like to get acquainted. However, Nick soon discovers luck is a fickle thing and finds out his past has a way of catching up with him.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lucky Bastard. The humor was marvelous. The characters were just over-the-top enough to spur delightful mental images. The fast pace, the intricate plot, and the little factoids thrown in for good measure made me wish for more. I so hope Browne brings us another Nick Monday adventure soon.


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

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Congratulations to CharlieF, winner of A Valley to Die For,and to Jane Rafal,

winner of A Fair to Die For, both courtesy of the author, Radine Trees Nehring!


Book Review: The Cleveland Creep by Les Roberts

The Cleveland Creep
Les Roberts
Gray & Company Publishers, May 2011
ISBN 9781598510713
Hardcover

Cleveland’s favorite private investigator is back for another riveting case. Milan Jacovich explores the northeast Ohio metropolis and winds up gaining a new friend while losing a few others. Still, he keeps his sense of humor and salute to the city and its personages. Fans of this series should expect and receive another great mystery with a little bit of humor, a little bit of action, and a very good detective story.

Milan Jacovich, Cleveland private investigator, is hired by Savannah Dacey to find her lost son, Earl. Earl is twenty-eight and as Jacovich discovers into taking ‘upskirt’ videos of teens at local malls. The missing person case turns creepier when Jacovich starts speaking with individuals involved with the mob and those dealing in pornography. Also, he’s been persuaded by another PI friend to hire an assistant, a man with temper and fists to back it up. When a dead body turns up dead, Jacovich is hounded not only by the local police (with whom he’s no friend) and an FBI agent (with whom he doesn’t want to be a friend). Missing person to murder, with trouble adding up for Jacovich in every chapter.

This is a very well written book. In depth memorable characters, a little bit of dry wit to soften the edges of deviant subject matter, and sharp descriptions of people and places and Cleveland becomes a not so subtle character, affecting attitudes and action. You’ll drop to look at the city’s bottom feeders and become nostalgic for better times. Roberts comes through with another winner in the Jacovich series.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, December 2011.