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To Say Nothing of the Dog

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Light-hearted fun, if a little impenetrable in places, let's be clear: this is no Three Men In a Boat, but enjoyable nonetheless. L.P Hartley wrote that the past is a foreign country and therein lies the nub of this novel. This is a travelogue, a classic fish out of water story, an Englishman in, er, England if you like.Willis clearly knows her history and to get the best out of this novel the reader will too. There are also plenty of clever literary allusions which may pass some readers by - bone up on your Victorian fiction!One negative point: the book needed an English editor. Although delightfully idiomatic generally, there are a few clangers - no Victorian Englishman (or woman) would have uttered the horrendously mangled past participle 'gotten'!Worth a read but Jerome needn't worry too much.
The Whitechapel Horrors

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I very much enjoyed this tale of Holmes' encounter with perhaps the most famous murderer of all time. Unusually the novel is written in the third person rather than the traditional first person. Whilst initially disconcerting, the pace of the story soon takes over. Hanna as done an admirable job of fitting a fictional story around non-fictional events and does so in a plausible way.Unfortunately Hanna (or his publishers) have made the capital mistake of failing to employ an English editor. There are more than a few instances in the text of 'Americanisms' in characters speech that just don't ring true for Victorian period London. 'Gotten' for one, 'garbage strewn' for another. The text would really benefit from a general tidy-up in this regard.Still, that aside, the story is exciting and pacy, the atmosphere of the poverty stricken and dangerous East End is drawn in a convincing way and the climax is fitting to the subject matter. Recommended for any Holmes fan, or anyone who enjoys a good period detective novel.
The Tangled Skein

by and

A pastiche of course, but for me a good one. If you can stomach the basic Holmes vs Dracula premise then there is no reason not to enjoy this tale. This is a sequel of sorts to Hound of the Baskervilles with the inevitable return to Dartmoor and added 'undead'. Stuart Davies has an impeccable pedigree as a 'Sherlockian' (or 'Holmesian' if you prefer) and his knowledge of and passion for the the world's greatest detective shines through. Apart from one badly misjudged scene with a possessed owl (yes, really) the plot races along at a cracking pace, mixing adventure and detective in just the right proportions to bring to mind ACD's own canon.More a short story then a novel, a couple of hours will see this finished and, in my opinion, that's 120 minutes well spent.
Flashman at the Charge (The Flashman Papers, Book 7)

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Along with the Great Game, this is my favourite of all the Flashman novels. Historically accurate (ish) and highly entertaining, this is Fraser at the top of his game.
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution: Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D.

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A pastiche but not a parody. Meyer certainly knows his Holmes and he writes like ACD too. Unlike many other non-canon stories, Meyer's Holmes is suitably focused on detection rather than action (although perhaps not the end) and it is interesting to see Holmes' weaknesses explored. Recommended.
Bulldog Drummond

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Sapper obviously read John Buchan as Drummond owes more than a little to Buchan's Dick Hannay - he's fiercely brave, patriotic and the epitome of the Edwardian English gentlemen - but there is a Wodehousian flavour to him as well. The dialog is peppered with witticisms and I actually chuckled several times despite the sombre subject matter.One should not be surprised when reading this kind of novel; it's of it's time - a product of the troubled, class ridden society that had just emerged from the devastation of the First World War. Anti-German sentiment is hardly surprising and, given the plot, it would be a hard tale to tell without it.Overall a good escapist read, thoroughly entertaining and in the great spirit of Buchan, Childers et al.
The Kept

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A pastiche of course, but a totally intentional one. If you're looking for action and high adventure then this is probably not for you. If, however, you enjoy characterisation and descriptive prose, sentences constructed in the highest of high Victorian then read on. Both the descriptions of the bleak fens and the poverty of the London slums are brought evocatively to life. There are echoes of Dickens and Thackery and (strangely uncredited) Wilkie Collins. As a Patrick O'Brien devotee I was constantly reminded of his work - perhaps more because both authors are so thoroughly imbued in the period (although Aubrey and Maturin are a good 50 years earlier of course), rather than any direct comparison between the two. Cleverly the author writes from a variety of view points - first person narrative, excerpts from letters, newspaper clippings and the like. I think it is fair to say that no two chapters are alike.The plot is almost incidental to the story but includes all the best Victorian themes - murder, kidnapping and theft. If you accept this novel for what it is then you will enjoy it greatly.
Sherlock Holmes and the King's Evil

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Not my favourite of the many non-canon Holmes but not the worst either. A collection of slightly contrived stories, some of which are a bit underwhelming. One story casts some light on what Holmes and Watson may have been up to during the Great War but I would prefer to think that their war was a bit more exciting!Thomas writes well but is hardly convincing as Conan-Doyle. A bit of a wasted opportunity.
Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of World War II

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Another great second world war tale from Ben Macintyre, all the more enjoyable because it's true. Macintyre has a real gift for writing history, characters spring to life and what could be dry and dull is witty and informative. I will be interested to see which topic he tackles next - here's hoping it's another second world war story.Thoroughly recommended.
The Pirate Wars

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A fascinating study of piracy through the ages. All the household names are here - Blackbeard, Henry Morgan, Captain Kidd etc and the reality is seperated from the myth. This is a well researched, thorough and deeply interesting work which provides excitement and historical fact in equal measure. Highly recommended!
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