1. Welcome to BookAndReader!

    We LOVE books and hope you'll join us in sharing your favorites and experiences along with your love of reading with our community. Registering for our site is free and easy, just CLICK HERE!

    Already a member and forgot your password? Click here.

Readingomnivore Reviews

Discussion in 'Book Reviews' started by readingomnivore, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    THE WRONG MAN is the fourth book in P. F. Ford's police procedural series featuring Detective Sergeant Dave Slater of the Tinton, Hampshire, CID. It was published in digital format in 2015.

    When her neighbor finds Diana Woods stabbed to death in her kitchen, Detective Sergeants Dave Slater and Norman Norman* have no physical evidence from the scene; her neighbors report she'd been an angel of helpfulness and accuse her ex-husband of killing her. When his story sounds suspicious and a white van like this is reported near the scene at the relevant time, Ian Woods becomes the chief suspect. Norman is convinced, but Slater and PC Jane Jolly have reservations, which prove justified when Woods is eventually alibied. In the meantime, their investigation reveals Diana had been a serial adulterer who specialized in Ian's friends and her own friends' husbands, as well as her boss Bruce Rossiter, infamous at their place of work for sexual harassment of every female employee. When his wife denies his alibi and Diana's cell phone turns up in his night stand, Rossiter becomes the person of interest. But is the evidence that's turning up against him too good to be true?

    I enjoy several things about THE WRONG MAN. I like Ford's slightly retro writing style, reminiscent of the 1950-1960s era. Setting is distinct without being obtrusive. Copy editing is good. Ford is admirably economical in the number of characters, creating appealing protagonists. The professional relationship between Slater, Norman, and Jolly is based on respect, trust, and effective teamwork. Norman and Slater are friends as well as colleagues. They carry believable emotional baggage in both professional and private lives.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    Problems with the plot in THE WRONG MAN include the involvement of Norman and Slater's boss, Detective Chief Inspector Bob Murray. Ford springs this plot twist without foreshadowing or subsequent explanation. The complexity of the murder scheme is improbable. How it came about is not given. Failure to corroborate an alibi seems more plot device than likely to happen in real life. Together, these produce an artificial feel to the story. (B)


    *not a typo
     
  2. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    MISTAKEN is Jessie Lewis's adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    I occasionally come across a book that makes me wonder if I'm reading the same text that other reviewers raved over. MISTAKEN is such a one. I'm giving up halfway through because it feels like I've been wading through a swamp for a month and the muck is just getting deeper.

    ~~~SPOILERS~~~

    The plot attempts much so much that I'm not even certain Darcy and Elizabeth's relationship is the main story line. Lewis adds physical attack on Elizabeth Bennet not once but twice, with Darcy thinking she's dead. Bingley returns to Netherfield to transfer his wandering affections to Elizabeth, though he manages to be compromised and forced to marry Jane. A maid at Netherfield looks just like Elizabeth; thought by the other servants to be a natural daughter of Mr. Bennet, Amelia attracts Bingley. Wickham, captured after his knocking Elizabeth unconscious, is in jail. Wrenshawe, who publicly accuses Darcy of fraud, hovers, as does Greyson, who manhandles Elizabeth after accusing her of having led him on. Lady Catherine pledges perpetual enmity to Elizabeth and pursues Colonel Fitzwilliam to marry Anne. Lady Philippa Fitzwilliam manipulates Jane to undermine Elizabeth in London. Bingley's servants are disloyal, and his cousin in Nova Scotia entices him with sham investments. The only resolution so far is the marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy.

    The action is almost day-to-day retelling of the same events from the point of view of every major character, which quickly becomes tedious. Internal conflict dominates; potentially interesting external conflicts are minimized. Letters convey most of the exposition, with delay in their being sent, received, or read used presumably to add suspense. Use of flashbacks makes for confusion about who knew what, and when. A picnic with flirtation over archery is reminiscent of the garden party at Netherfield in the 1940 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I don't need to know that Jane starts her period on her wedding day or that Lady Catherine instructs Charlotte Collins on birth control.

    I object most to the characterization. Lewis originates an inordinate number of characters, minimally developed and mostly tangential to the Darcy-Elizabeth story. She fails to make best use of her most interesting creation, Mrs Tabitha Sinclair, Lord Matlock's cantankerous 87-year-old mother-in-law who despises Lady Catherine and her pretensions.

    Lewis makes canonical figures new and strange. The men drink heavily and, in their cups, denigrate women collectively and individually by name. Bingley is distastefully weak and fickle. Darcy's change in attitude comes from Bingley's assessment of his character more than from Elizabeth's reproof. More like Austen's Lydia, Elizabeth's supposedly unconscious flirtatious vivacity makes her the center of male attention. She is ignorant of Bingley's infatuation and Jane's resentment. Both she and Darcy are incredibly naive about the reactions to their marriage. The worst is the change in Jane. Passive to the point of emotional immobility, she pouts, jealous of Elizabeth's popularity and critical of her to casual acquaintances. Her instantaneous intimacy with Lady Philippa shows her trusting to the point of simple-mindedness, clearly having learned nothing about hypocrisy from Caroline Bingley and Mrs. Hurst. She and Bingley deserve each other.

    No grade because not finished. MISTAKEN is a mistake.
     
  3. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    THE BALLAD OF SEAN AND WILKO is the fourth book in Paul Charles's police procedural series centering on Detective Inspector Christy Kennedy of the Camden Town CID. It was published in 2000.

    The Circles, a major Brit band from the 1970s, celebrates the return of former lead singer and cofounder Wilko Robertson with a gig at Dingwalls Dancehall. Sean Green, the cofounder who parleyed the band's early successes into a gold mine after Wilko's split, readies the reunited band for another attempt at the American market. Tour manager Kevin Paul finds Wilko had been stabbed to death during a break. The trouble is, the only door to the room had been locked on the inside. As DI Christy Kennedy and his team investigate, long-ago and current financial and sexual secrets emerge, culminating in a second locked-room murder, this time of Kevin Paul. Kennedy must discover not only the killer and motive, but also how the murders were committed.

    I like the characterization in the Christy Kennedy series. Kennedy is a complex individual with baggage. Charles is adept at providing enough personal story to keep him real without letting it dominate the action; his use of limited third person point of view reveals Kennedy intimately. Kennedy's evolving relationship with lover anne rea* seems natural, not contrived. The detectives, distinctly personalized individuals, make up a believable community. Charles creates the sense that their lives continue between the cases recorded in his books, one of myl measures of a successful series. Other characters, especially Kevin Paul and Sean Green, are well-drawn.

    Brief vignettes emphasize the setting: "As Kennedy walked along Parkway towards North Bridge House, he reflected on how different a place the district was on the weekends. Parkway was the link between the pastoral and peaceful Regents Park and the vibrant Camden Town with its colourful shops and bizarre emporia. Even Dickens would have had trouble coming up with a cast of characters like the citizens of Camden Town." (102

    An experienced reader of John Dickson Carr may discern the killer's identity and method before Kennedy, since Charles plays fair with foreshadowing. Music industry dealings buttress the plot's verisimilitude. The death of Nurse Sinead Sullivan, which is not resolved satisfactorily, is tangential to the main story line, possibly setting up a sequel. (A-)

    *not a typo
     
  4. Rose Servitova

    Rose Servitova New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2017
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    I just discovered your lovely review of The Longbourn Letters and want to say - thanks so much, I'm really touched and I'm delighted you enjoyed it so much. Enjoy your weekend. Best, Rose
     
  5. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    COURAGE REQUIRES is the second and final book in Melanie Rachel's Courage series of sequels to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    Most of the story in COURAGE REQUIRES is slice of daily life activities in the autumn and holidays following the action of COURAGE RISES. Their wicked uncle fled to the Continent, Sophia and Evelyn Hawke live in the dower cottage at Darlington while the manor house is rebuilt. They accept the Darcys' invitation to Pemberley for Christmas and a visit with the Fitzwilliam family. Colonel Richard Fiitzwilliam plans to marry Sophia, but his father Lord Matlock demands a Society marriage to bolster his power base in the House of Lords. Reared in isolation by their uncle and alienated from Sophia, Evelyn has few social graces and gives cause for her sister's slander. It is not until Sophia is dangerously ill with pneumonia that all the conflicts are exposed and resolved.

    Though opposed by Lord Matlock, there is little doubt that Sophia and the Colonel will marry. As they point out, both are of age and do not require his consent. Their angst is minimal. Remaining action includes Elizabeth's pregnancy with persistent, debilitating morning sickness; Sophia's rescue of Pembroke Fitzwilliam (Lord Matlock's grandson) and Georgiana after they fall through the ice on the lake, and Sophia's subsequent illness; the effect of Evelyn's remarks; and Elizabeth's delivery. The epilogue carries through the Darcys' grown children.

    Attitudes are much more modern than Regency. None of the new characters, including Sophia and Evelyn Hawke and Lord and Lady Matlock, are particularly believable. It's hard to accept Sophia as having served in combat for three years and being wounded without being detected. It's difficult to believe that a woman as intelligent and well-educated as Evelyn sees herself is so indiscreet with servants; her interest in medicine and the concoction of medicaments seems a plot device to provide her a husband.

    Most bothersome of the anachronisms is Elizabeth's comment about gossip and slander, cited to Proverbs and punctuated as a direct quotation. It appears a paraphrase of Proverbs 10:18-19 or Proverbs 11:12-13, but it is definitely not from the King James Version of the Bible, which is the translation Elizabeth would have known.

    COURAGE REQUIRES is not memorable. (C)
     
  6. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    CAROLINE'S CENSURE is the third and presumably final installment of Zoe Burton's Darcy Marriage variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    CAROLINE'S CENSURE opens where LADY CATHERINE IMPEDES ends, with Caroline Bingley arriving unannounced, berating her brother Charles for wasting their father's money on a hovel like Netherfield. With Fitzwilliam Darcy married to Elizabeth Bennet and herself engaged to wealthy Yorkshire landowner Albert Meade, she knows Darcy is lost to her forever. Now determined to make the newlyweds as miserable as she, Caroline schemes to undermine Elizabeth's trust in Darcy's commitment and to cause her pain through hurting Jane. She behaves abominably, snoops for information to smear the Bennets, and even arranges for Darcy to be found in the arms of another woman. Bingley condemns her behavior and marries her off the day after Meade arrives from Yorkshire. Mrs. Bennet rages furiously against Elizabeth, precipitating her unmarried daughters' exodus from Longbourn to refuge at Netherfield. Jane and Bingley's wedding facilitates a tentative reconciliation of the Bennet family.

    Burton adds only two important characters, neither of whom is believable. Albert Meade marries Caroline for love though he's aware that he's her last (only) choice. He's convinced that, when she feels secure in his love, she will change her attitudes and behavior. Imogene Millicent Moody is Caroline's tool to split the Darcys, more plot device than character.

    ~~~SPOILERS~~~

    The continuing characters are faithful to those in the first two installments but not to Austen's originals. Darcy and Elizabeth are Caroline and Mrs. Bennet's mostly passive targets. Caroline's actions are more outrageous. Bingley demonstrates strength and fortitude to end her scheming. Before being asked, Jane Bennet tells Bingley she wants to marry him but gives him an ultimatum to deal with Caroline. Mrs. Bennet's isolation produces a degree of self-knowledge that leads to calmer behavior. Charlotte cures Mr. Collins's abusive tendency when the first time he slaps her, she slaps back; the second time, she coldcocks him with an iron skillet and instills a healthy degree of fear.

    The epilogue / denouement implies that CAROLINE'S CENSURE ends the Darcy Marriage series. However, several story lines are only partially resolved. Is it likely that Caroline, so obsessive about Darcy for so many years and so bitter about Elizabeth, simply gives up her schemes against them? Confined with an attendant specially trained to deal with her outbursts, Anne de Bourgh is medicated with a "calming" tea, but she still has violent episodes. Is she no longer a danger to Elizabeth? Mrs. Bennet acknowledges her failure to bond with her second daughter and offers a halfhearted apology for her treatment, while assuring Elizabeth that she's still not loved. How long before Mrs. Bennet's "nerves" reassert themselves?

    CAROLINE'S CENSURE is average at best (C), and the series as a whole requires too much suspension of disbelief to be credible. (D)
     
  7. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    Jill E. Armitage's ARBELLA STUART: THE UNCROWNED QUEEN was published n 2017. Its title implies a biography of the ill-fated heir to the English throne, but it deals more with Elizabethan Succession politics than with specific details of Arbella's life.

    ARBELLA STUART centers on her formidable grandmothers Margaret "Meg" Douglas, Countess of Lennox, granddaughter of Henry VII and half-sister of James V of Scotland, and Elizabeth "Bess" Hardwick, whose four husbands each represented an advance in English social order and wealth: Robert Barlow, Sir William Cavendish (whose descendants eventually became the Dukes of Devonshire), Sir William St. Loe, and George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. For most of her long life, Bess was the richest woman in England after Queen Elizabeth I. Between them, the women planned the marriage of Meg Lennox's younger son Charles Stuart (elder son Henry, Lord Darnley, husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, murdered after begetting James VI of Scotland) to Bess's daughter Elizabeth Cavendish. Elizabeth I was expected to name Charles Stuart, based on his direct descent from Henry VII's oldest daughter Margaret Tudor and on Henry VIII's naming of successors in his will, heir to the throne. A dynastic union combining the Stuart genealogy with the wealth and power of the Cavendish and Talbot families, it was designed to produce an indisputable heir to the Virgin Queen. Unfortunately, the marriage produced only Arbella Stuart, born a few months before her father's death in 1576. Her claim to the throne equalled that of James VI, with the added advantage that she had been born in England. But she was female, and England wanted a king.

    Arbella Stuart never comes into clear focus as a person in her own right because the circumstances of gender, family dynamics, and Succession issues kept her dependent and generally isolated. Reared under the control of her mother Elizabeth (died 1582) and her grandmother Bess (died 13 February 1608), Arbella was Protestant, educated far beyond the norm for an aristocratic woman, accomplished, beautiful--a pawn for her entire life. Her mother and grandmother used her to fight for the Lennox title and estates. As she became too old for her own marriage to be a a foreign policy tool, Elizabeth I substituted Arbella, the implied future queen of England, though she never named Arbella as such. Bess rarely stopped jockeying for Arbella's confirmation; James VI and Sir Robert Cecil never stopped maneuvering to prevent it. James used her relative poverty (she was estranged from Bess, unsupported and cut from her will, for years) and his required consent for Arbella's marriage to control her life. Her marriage of desperation to William Seymour, grandson of Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, in 1610 served only to worsen her situation. She died in the Tower of London 25 September 1615, forty years old, and was buried in the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots at Westminster Abbey, without ceremony.

    ARBELLA STUART requires a good frame of reference for personalities of the Tudor and early Jacobean periods in England. Names and generations are easily confused since there is no cast of characters, though Armitage helps to distinguishes nobles by using titles as well as names (e.g., Thomas Howard, 4th Duke or Norfolk). Interest in the ramifications of the Elizabethan Succession is an absolute necessity. Even with both background and interest, reading is dense. Appendices add detailed information on tangential topics, such as the lives of Bess's other children, porphyria (many of the Stuart descendants of Margaret Tudor suffered from the disease in varying degrees), Arbella portraiture, and places associated with her. Maps showing locations of those buildings might better serve the reader, as would detailed family trees and a timeline. Most of the end notes (13 pages) cite primary materials, but the bibliography lists only secondary printed sources. The index is scanty. ARBELLA STUART definitely appeals only to a specialized taste. (B-)
     
  8. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    UNRAVELLING MR. DARCY is one of Leenie Brown's novella variants in the A Dash of Darcy series, based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    UNRAVELLING MR. DARCY opens as Fitzwilliam Darcy leaves the parsonage at Hunsford after Elizabeth Bennet's scathing refusal of his proposal of marriage; however, she calls him back to apologize for her rudeness. They talk, he offers his explanations, and Elizabeth realizes her mistaken impression of Darcy's character. She agrees for him to call on her during her stay with the Gardiners in London. Despite the vocal opposition of Genevieve, Lady Matlock, they are soon engaged, while Anne de Bourgh runs away to pursue her own agenda.

    Characters are much more modern than Regency, except for Lady Matlock. The daughter of a wealthy businessman, her marriage resulting from a compromise situation (it's not clear who compromised whom), her condemning the Bennets' connection to Trade is arrant hypocrisy, as her mother-in-law Lady Margaret, Dowager Countess of Matlock, points out. Lady Margaret has much undeveloped potential. Elizabeth is so modern that she tells Darcy her rejection was caused by menstrual pain. WAY too much information! Angst is minimal. So is suspense. The action is so slight that I don't see the point of UNRAVELLING MR. DARCY. (D)
     
  9. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    SILENT AS THE GRAVE is the third book in Paul Gitsham's police procedural / thriller series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Warren Jones. It was published in digital format in 2015.

    SILENT AS THE GRAVE opens in May 1988 with Warren's discovering his father, Coventry Detective Sergeant Niall MacNamara, a suicide who used carbon monoxide from running his car engine inside the garden shed. He'd been accused that day of stealing money confiscated in a drug raid, money later found in his locker. Warren changed legally to his mother's maiden name Jones when he entered the police and has made a good career for himself. As senior investigator for the Middlebury CID in charge of investigating the murder of retired gardener Reggie Williamson, he is contacted by former DCI Gary Sheehy, whom he'd replaced when Sheehy was removed from duty for corruption. Sheehy offers information on the Williamson murder in exchange for Jones's help to clear his name. Sheehy ties Williamson to theft of the murder weapon used in the 1988 conviction of criminal boss Vinnie Delmarno, recently released from prison on probation after serving 22 years of a life sentence; Sheehy and MacNamara planted the gun to bring the guilty Delmarno down, and Delmarno is intent on revenge. Sheehy's stories reopen MacNamara's suicide and recent deaths of individuals involved in Delmano's conviction. They indicate a 22-year police coverup still in place. So what did happen, and whom can Warren trust now?

    This grossly oversimplifies the plot of SILENT AS THE GRAVE, which is convoluted beyond believability and padded with gratuitous violence. About two-thirds is police procedural seen mostly through Warren's eyes, though the identity of the criminals (except for the leader of the police coverup) is readily apparent. Then Gitsham cuts away to follow several of the criminals, changing the whole tone of the narrative, before returning to focus on Warren. A restricted cast of policemen of sufficient rank to authorize the 1988 raid and fit up makes it easy for an experienced reader to identify him. The resolution is unsatisfying. I can say do more without doing a spoiler.

    The plot requires that Warren Jones be more of a lone-wolf investigator than is usual in modern police procedurals. His only new characterization involves the impact of his father's disgrace and death. Gitsham includes many more characters than necessary, with the number of conspirators so large that the coverup unlikely to have remained unsuspected. Many are minimally developed.

    SILENT AS THE GRAVE is average at best. (C)
     
  10. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    CLEVER COMPROMISES is one of April Floyd's novella variants of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    Reverend William Collins comes to Longbourn under instructions from his esteemed patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh to marry one of his Bennet cousins. The eldest daughter Jane is engaged to Charles Bingley, the tenant at nearby Netherfield Park; the youngest sisters Lydia and Kitty are each too young and too silly for a parson's wife. Collins quickly concludes Elizabeth is too lively and impertinent for Lady Catherine to accept, but Mary is serious, a Bible student, an accomplished pianist who, best of all, wants to marry him. However, when he perceives Fitzwilliam Darcy's love for Elizabeth, thinking Darcy engaged to his cousin Anne de Bourgh, he determines it his duty to Lady Catherine to marry Elizabeth and save Darcy. When Elizabeth refuses his proposal and his attempt to compromise her at Jane and Bingley's engagement ball fails, he runs to advise Lady Catherine of Darcy's peril, initiating a series of misadventures as he scrambles to retain Lady Catherine and Anne de Bourgh's favor and the living at Hunsford.

    The only real suspense in CLEVER COMPROMISES is whether Mr. Bennet will eventually consent to Mary's marrying her inept cousin. Collins is too bumbling and presumptuous to be considered a serious suitor for Elizabeth. Elizabeth has forgiven Darcy's inappropriate comments at the Meryton assembly and become acquainted with him while she tended Jane at Netherfield, so there are no negative feelings for her to overcome. Darcy warns her and her father about George Wickham when the militia lieutenant arrives in Meryton, so she is eager to accept Darcy's proposal when it comes. Their angst is minimal. Lady Catherine and Anne both rage and damage property at Netherfield when they discover Darcy will under no circumstances marry Anne. Lydia and Mrs. Bennet are true to the originals.

    The title CLEVER COMPROMISE originates in the numerous attempts to force or to prevent marriages through compromising a member of the unacceptable pair. Marriage based on compromises represents one of the few Regency attitudes in what is otherwise modern. It's a comfortable read but nothing out of the ordinary. (B)
     
  11. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    Craig Janacek's TREASURE TROVE INDEED! is an anthology of four stories based on the Sherlock Holmes series originated by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was published in digital format in 2016. As the title indicates, all involve a unique artifact that Holmes must explain and/or recover. They share two other elements. Each incorporates allusions to a literary work with bearing on the subject or events of the story. Each treasure involves a major legendary or mythical figure.

    Characters are reasonably faithful to Conan Doyle's originals, with these new stories explained as those suppressed, for whatever reason, and stored away securely by Watson in various locations. Watson narrates all four stories though he is not involved in the first, merely recounting the tale as told by Holmes. There's little sense of immediate action in any of the stories, and Holmes is more enigmatic than usual as events lead up to his ultimate revelation.

    Holmes's first story "The Lost Legion" is recounted near the end of 1894, prompted by Watson's reading of H. Rider Haggard's newest book, The People of the Mist, a fantasy in the lost-race, subterranean world tradition. Some twenty years before he met Watson, Holmes recuperated from a serious illness in Derbyshire, where he found evidence and local belief in the existence of a long lost Roman legion in an ancient mine known as Shivering Cave. The artifact Holmes recovered is a cup made of Blue John. Blue John is a form of fluorite banded in purplish-blue or yellow, that makes water look blue; cups formed from it were almost priceless because they were thought to reveal the presence of poison. The importance of the bear, Roman-led Britons' resistance to invading Saxons, and Uther (son of Constantine III, last of the Roman rulers of Britain) as one of its leaders all allude to the legend of Arthur. ( C)

    "The Adventure of the Pirate's Code" comes from Watson's journal of 1888; the case occurred too soon after "The Sign of the Four" and was too similar in content for publication. It begins with Holmes's search for a missing teenager that morphs into a treasure hunt involving the historic privateers whose stories Robert Louis Stevenson recounted in Treasure Island. The sought-for artifact is an Alberti cipher disk necessary to decode the treasure map young Jim Eggleson found. The legendary figure is Edward Teach (aka "Blackbeard"), thought to have buried treasure near Bristol, his birthplace. My caveat about "The Adventure of the Pirate's Code" is how a 14-year-old boy in Bristol, England, would not only know about the Alberti cipher wheel, know how to use it, but know where to find one. (B)

    "The Adventure of the Queen's Pendant" grows from accounts of fabulous archaeological discoveries during the nineteenth century in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt with specific reference to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's own story, "The Jew's Breastplate," published in Tales of Terror and Mystery in 1922. Hugh Cavendish, lecturer at University College and newly appointed curator at the Gower Street Museum, approaches Holmes with an anonymous letter warning that night security for the museum is inadequate. Two efforts to steal semiprecious stones from a jeweled pendant associated with Ninpur, mother of epic hero Gilgamesh, a mortal woman who became a Sumerian goddess, lead Holmes to an unusual conclusion. The discrepancy here is Holmes's using a brochure off the museum's reception desk to identify the handwriting on the anonymous letter. Wouldn't a pamphlet be printed? The denouement does not satisfy. (C)

    The final story "The Adventure of the Silent Drum" occurs in 1903, when Mycroft sends Holmes and Watson to Plymouth on a matter of national security. The story grows from the poem "Drake's Drum," written in 1897 by Henry Newbolt, published in Admirals All, and set to music by Charles Villiers Sanford in 1902. The missing artifact is the drum belonging to legendary scourge of the Spanish, Sir Francis Drake, sent home to Plymouth after his death at sea. Believed to sound at times of national crisis (including Dunkirk, according to Janacek) and, if beaten, to summon Drake to England's defense, its recovery is essential to maintain English morale. The Cistercians, original builders of Buckland Abbey, and their offshoot the Knights Templar are key to the plot. However, to have the chief villain a descendant of Drake's rival Sir Richard Grenville (cousin to Walter Raleigh and Sir Humphrey Davy) is a bit much. (B+)

    TREASURE TROVE INDEED! as a whole (B-)
     
  12. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    "Darcy's Tempest" is Jennifer Kay's short story variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It is available in digital format, but I found no publication date.

    Following his disastrous proposal to Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford, Fitzwilliam Darcy has done his best to forget her. He does return to Netherfield with Charles Bingley after confessing his unwarranted interference in the younger man's courtship of Jane Bennet but without hope. When he loses his way, drunk, as a major storm comes on and he meets Elizabeth, flooding forces them to spend the night in an isolated hunting cabin. Able to speak privately, Darcy and Elizabeth soon reconcile their differences, and Elizabeth accepts immediate marriage. Lady Catherine de Bourgh's descent on Longbourn delays but does not prevent their double wedding with Jane and Bingley.

    Kay uses cut and paste from Austen for much of the dialogue in "Darcy's Tempest." She shows little of Elizabeth's thought processes as she decides to accept Darcy. There's no suspense despite Lady Catherine's interference. Darcy is relieved when he meets them, to discover the Gardiners gentile, though I believe Kay means genteel.

    Minimal modification of Austen's plot leaves me in doubt of the purpose of "Darcy's Tempest." (D)
     
  13. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    A BENEFICIAL, IF UNWILLING, COMPROMISE is Bronwen Chisholm's 2017 variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It is available in digital format.

    On the day of the Netherfield ball, Mrs. Bennet snoops in her husband's mail and finds a letter that convinces her Mr. Bennet is dying. To provide security for herself and her daughters when Mr. Collins inherits Longbourn, she implements a desperate plan. Because Charles Bingley has been so dilatory in proposing, she orders Jane to compromise Fitzwilliam Darcy. He's richer than Bingley, and Jane, oldest and prettiest of the Bennet girls, deserves the best. She commands Elizabeth to compromise Bingley; he's second best but quite good enough for her least favorite daughter. She directs Mary to charm Mr. Collins. Mrs. Bennet is furious when Elizabeth, much to Darcy's delight, accidentally compromises him. He and Elizabeth resolve their differences, and both welcome the engagement; it passes smoothly after Darcy demonstrates that he will sever ties with anyone who disrespects Elizabeth. Jane, angry at Elizabeth's interference with the plan, vents at her and at Charles Bingley for failing to correct Caroline's rude behavior. Jane's mixed feelings about Bingley--she loves him but will not live with Caroline's sniping--and his worries over Jane's affections and the need to control his sister make up most of the rest of the action.

    I like some of the changes in A BENEFICIAL, IF UNWILLING, COMPROMISE. Jane finally develops a backbone and demands Bingley function as head of his family. Bingley accepts the responsibilities of manhood. Caroline Bingley's karma finally kicks in and Lord Matlock deals with Lady Catherine. Mr. Bennet establishes boundaries for his wife and two younger daughters. Wickham gets what he richly deserves.

    Chisholm tries to make Mrs. Bennet into a sympathetic character by blaming her poor parenting on her deceased mother-in-law and her husband. Her bad behavior is repeatedly excused with "she acted out of love," when selfishness and desire for attention seem Fanny Bennet's primary emotions. Giving Mr. Bennet a lucrative secret career minimizes the entail as the impetus for Mrs. Bennet's schemes. "Hear! Hear!" calls attention to or signifies agreement with a spoken comment. "Here! Here!" calls a dog.

    A BENEFICIAL, IF UNWILLING, COMPROMISE is acceptable but not outstanding. (C+)
     
  14. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    THE COMPANION is the latest in Jann Rowland's variants of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    Early in Elizabeth Bennet's visit to her friend Charlotte Lucas Collins, Anne de Bourgh's companion Mrs. Jenkinson dies from apoplexy. Lady Catherine finds no suitable replacement and presses Elizabeth to serve as her daughter's companion. Because she knows Lady Catherine's ability to make life miserable for Charlotte, Elizabeth agrees, but on her own terms. She acts out of pity for Anne's situation, refuses payment, continues her walks and leisure activities when not needed by Anne, to remain only until a permanent companion is found or until the end of her visit. Elizabeth quickly learns that Anne is most dissatisfied with her life as ruled by her mother but conforms to maintain peace. Encouraged by Elizabeth, Anne becomes more active physically and stronger emotionally to the point of defying her mother's strictures. Lady Catherine blames Elizabeth, confines Anne and Elizabeth to the house (they walk too much in the garden, straining Anne's delicate health) and confiscates Anne's phaeton (she's been out driving three times in one week); if Elizabeth exits Rosings for any reason, her reentry will be blocked physically. Anne summons cousins Fitzwilliam Darcy and Colonel Anthony Fitzwilliam who remove Ann and Elizabeth to Darcy House in London. The ensuing action reveals Anne's growth in social skills and self-confidence, Elizabeth and Darcy's evolving relationship, the Fitzwilliams' response to Elizabeth's support for Anne and her connections to Trade, Jane and Bingley's interrupted romance, and all four young women--Anne, Georgiana, Jane, and Elizabeth--negotiating the realities of Society.

    The story satisfies. Characters are close to Austen's originals. Elizabeth is a bit bluestocking and feminist, Collins somewhat less a fool, the Colonel a teasing gadfly to Darcy, but Lady Catherine and Caroline Bingley, who drive most of the action, are faithful. Rowland's Anne has hidden depths, developing into a strong woman able to free herself, a capable and skilled manipulator, and the catalyst for Lady Catherine to change her behavior. It is gratifying to see Lady Catherine deal with Lydia Bennet and Anne put Caroline Bingley in her place. I especially appreciate Rowland's economy in introducing characters.

    Jann Rowland writes some of the best Austen fan fiction, and THE COMPANION is worthy of its predecessors. (A)
     
  15. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    Ben Tarnoff's THE BOHEMIANS: MARK TWAIN AND THE SAN FRANCISCO WRITERS WHO REINVENTED AMERICAN LITERATURE is a history of literary life of San Francisco during the 1860s. It is available in e-book format, published in 2014.

    "The word [Bohemian] referred to a tribe of penniless artists seen around the seedier districts of Paris and New York. They drank to excess, contracted venereal diseases. They shivered to death in drafty garrets, toiling over masterpieces that would never be printed. But in Harte's hands, 'Bohemia' became more than just a byword for wild living. It came to represent a creative alternative to the mundane and the mercenary in American life, a way to overcome California's crude materialism and fulfill...[the] call to build Yosemites in the soul." (42)

    The four San Francisco Bohemians were Bret Harte, Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens), and poets Charles Warren Stoddard and Ina Coolbrith. Their assembly began with Bret Harte's 1960 move to San Francisco, where he went to work for the Golden Era, most popular of the city's literary weeklies. He soon emerged as the Era's prime contributor. By summer 1863, Joe Lawrence, editor of the Era. added Coolbrith and Stoddard, then hired Charles Henry Webb, former whaler and war correspondent, one of the New York Bohemians; Twain, recruited by Lawrence, arrived in September 1863. They formed a supportive cadre first at the Golden Era and later at the Overland Monthly which, under Webb, then Harte as editors, created the Eastern demand for the group's distinctive Western literature. Twain effectively departed in 1867 with Americans bound for Europe, recounted in The Innocents Abroad. Harte's success with "The Luck of Roaring Camp" and "Plain Language from Truthful James" drew him East in early 1871, effectively marking the end of the Bohemians as a coherent group, though Stoddard and Coolbrith stayed in supportive contact. Twain and Harte's relationship did not long survive their rivalry to be America's definitive Western voice.

    I have long been intrigued by networking among creative contemporaries--who knew whom, who influenced whose work, how and why. I enjoyed THE BOHEMIANS. Tarnoff cuts between Harte, Twain, Coolbrith, and Stoddard to detail their professional lives, their influences on each other's work, their cooperation and competition. Personal information on the writers is minimal. His writing style is accessible, minimizing confusion over names and identities.

    Tarnoff gives almost 50 pages of closely packed endnotes from both primary sources and secondary studies. He does not show note references in the text; neither they nor the index is interactive. Illustrations are well-chosen, though their small size in the Kindle format is irksome. For these reasons, I recommend a print edition. (A)
     
  16. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    WISH UPON A STAR is Ola Wegner's 2017 novella variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It is available in e-book format.

    Some six months after Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley's marriage, they leave Netherfield to escape Mrs. Bennet's constant presence. Jane invites sister Elizabeth to live with them at Greenway Hall, some twenty miles from Pemberley in Derbyshire. Elizabeth refuses at first but relents when Bingley urges her some months after the move. Jane is lonely, isolated by climate and her pregnancy, and left alone when Bingley must travel on business, so Elizabeth agrees to visit through Jane's confinement. Both Bingleys want Elizabeth nearby permanently, so they concoct a scheme to bring Elizabeth, who regrets having refused Darcy's proposal and never expects a second chance, and Darcy, who doesn't want his heart broken again, together.


    WISH UPON A STAR is dull--minimal angst, Darcy and Elizabeth both passive, slice of life plot without melodrama. The writing style is simplistic. Word choice is not always appropriate to the Regency period--"hard call" for a difficult decision, nappy (1920s anachronism). What is a "buzzing fireplace?" Wegner says Darcy brings two pairs (= 4) sleighs, but there's only two accounted for. I'm not surprised, but I don't need to be told, that Darcy becomes aroused when embracing Elizabeth.

    Reading some of the Austen original is better use of time than WISH UPON A STAR. (D)
     
  17. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    Jane Grix's BETWEEN DARCY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA is a novella variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It is available in digital format published in 2017.

    Hot and upset following her dance with Fitzwilliam Darcy and their disagreement over George Wickham, Elizabeth leaves the ballroom to cool off in the garden at Netherfield. There Wickham accosts and kisses her, tearing the bodice of her dress. Darcy breaks Wickham's arm in the fight to rescue her, and Elizabeth's reputation is ruined. To save her family from being ostracized, she must marry Darcy or Wickham, though Mr. Collins gallantly proposes to Elizabeth as he tries to obey Lady Catherine's edict to marry one of the Bennet sisters and to preserve Darcy for Anne de Burgh. Elizabeth pragmatically chooses Darcy as the least objectionable suitor, with marriage by special license in one week. Beset by doubts, her mother, and Lady Catherine's descent on Longbourn, Elizabeth flees to Mrs. Gardiner in Gracechurch Street for peace and good advice. While in London she sees Darcy at his most pleasant and relaxed, much reconciling her to their marriage. Then fate, in the form of George Wickham, intervenes to cast their wedding day in doubt.

    The plot of BETWEEN DARCY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA has two main elements: the compromise situation that produces the couple's engagement and marriage and an unforeshadowed action that occurs the night before their wedding. As written, this sketched plot twist disrupts the natural flow and makes the compromise story line feel padded. The episode should either be cut completely to leave a short story or be developed fully to produce a full-length novel.

    Characters are reasonably faithful to the originals. Darcy's epiphany and subsequent changes in his behavior seem too sudden to be realistic, as does Elizabeth's rapidly growing regard for Darcy. The entire time span of the action is less than two weeks. The text is mercifully free of editing problems. Two grades for BETWEEN DARCY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA: for potential (A), as written (C).
     
  18. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    THE CASE OF A BOY'S HONOUR is the first of Donald Thomas's novellas published in the Kindle anthology SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE GHOSTS OF BLY AND OTHER NEW ADVENTURES OF THE GREAT DETECTIVE. I do not find a date of publication.

    In May 1913 Mycroft Holmes brings Sir John Fisher, Admiral of the Fleet and creator of the modern Royal Navy before World War I, to tea with younger brother Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. John Watson. Sir John is anxious that Holmes get to the bottom of a looming scandal at St Vincent's Naval Academy near Ventnore on the Isle of Wight. St Vincent's is a licensed academy preparing twelve- to fourteen-year-old boys for entry to the Royal Naval academies at Osborne and Dartmouth; a brilliant hard worker, Engineering Cadet Patrick Riley is being held pending removal from the school for stealing a postal order, forging the recipient's name, and cashing it at the village post office. He denied the accusations before ceasing to talk to his interrogators, then reportedly attempted suicide, which is taken as confirmation of guilt and cowardice. With relations with Germany rapidly approaching crisis point, loss of confidence in the Royal Navy is a threat to national security, so Sir John asks Holmes to find the truth about Patrick Riley. Holmes and Watson travel to St Viincent's where they discover a brutal headmaster, vicious competition for the school's prized Nomination to the Royal Navy academies, social rank venerated and preserved at all costs, and rampant bullying. The stolen postal order is merely the tip of a corrupt iceberg.

    Thomas is effective in channeling Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's characters and writing style. Plot structure is standard with Holmes's discovery of disparate clues which he integrates in a reveal-all conclusion. I particularly like Thomas's use of imagery to convey character: "Mycroft Holmes turned his large head slowly upon his sibling, the firm heavy features and the deep-set grey eyes rather suggesting a battleship's gun-platform bringing a target into its trajectory." Sherlock Holmes speaks "in a voice like thin ice breaking," his eyes "dark, glittering ice." Irony lightens the tone: "His voice was cool and detached with all the amiability of a crocodile."

    THE CASE OF A BOY'S HONOUR is well-done. (A)
     
  19. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    THE CASE OF THE GHOSTS OF BLY is the title novella in Donald Thomas's anthology SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE GHOSTS OF BLY AND OTHER NEW ADVENTURES OF THE GREAT DETECTIVE. It is available in e-book format, but I found no publication date.

    The Honourable Hereward Douglas approaches Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in spring 1898, bearing the journal of Violet Temple, friend and former governess to his younger sister. She, found insane but guilty of the murder of young charge Miles Mordaunt, is incarcerated at the Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Her journal confesses to Miles's death but also recounts her attempts to save him and sister Flora from the evil apparitions of former governess Maria Jessel and manservant Peter Quint. Douglas thinks Victoria innocent of the boy's death and completely sane. Holmes takes the case, to discover that the secrets of Bly House go much deeper than ghosts.

    THE CASE OF THE GHOSTS OF BLY reworks Henry James's 1898 novella THE TURN OF THE SCREW, down to the names of the main characters and events in the story line. The significant change is the addition of Holmes and the backstory explaining Miles Mordaunt's school career and his and Quint's deaths. This backstory lengthens into an anticlimax. Watson's experience at the lake at Bly House echoes the critical debate on whether the ghosts in James's original existed as more than figments of the governess's imagination. The length of THE CASE OF THE GHOSTS OF BLY allows for more development of character and setting than in many novellas, but the backstory, the seance elements, and the pursuit of the criminal are disparate elements not fully integrated with James's tale. (C)
     
  20. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,034
    Likes Received:
    81
    SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE GHOSTS OF BLY AND OTHER NEW ADVENTURES OF THE GREAT DETECTIVE is Donald Thomas's anthology of novellas based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous character. It is available in e-book format published in 2010.

    The first novella THE CASE OF A BOY'S HONOUR, reviewed separately, is a retelling of Terence Rattigan's 1946 play, The Winslow Boy. The play had, in turn, been based on a real case at the Royal Naval Academy at Osborne in 1908. The essential change is making Holmes instead of barrister Sir Edward Carson responsible for explicating the story. Grade dropped--unacceptable use of prior material.

    The second novella SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE GHOSTS OF BLY, also reviewed separately, is a detailed retelling of Henry James's 1898 novella THE TURN OF THE SCREW. The major change is to add back story to the ghosts. Grade dropped--unacceptable use of prior material.

    The third selection SHERLOCK HOLMES THE ACTOR is a biographical sketch of Holmes's brief (1879-early spring 1881) history as an actor in the company run by Welsh actor-manager Henry Caradoc Price. It sets up the final story.

    The third novella THE CASE OF THE MATINEE IDOL deals with the death of Sir Henry Caradoc Price on New Year's Eve after playing King Claudius in his version of William Shakespeare's Hamlet. He, dead of cyanide poisoning, is discovered in his dressing room some 45 minutes after leaving the stage where Barnaby Jenks as Hamlet had "forced" the king to drink the wine. The goblet does contain poisoned wine when checked by the police, but why is there such a time gap between Sir Caradoc's drinking it and his death?

    Characters are reasonably faithful to Doyle's originals, though Thomas introduces several not essential to the plot. The story is a variant on one used several times in Golden Age mysteries--an actor killed on stage during a performance, where the "murder weapon" prop turns into the real thing. Thomas updates the premise with modern issues of the cult of celebrity and sexual harassment. Because (n the words of my people) Sir Caradoc got what he had coming, Holmes does not disclose the identity of the killer to the police.

    Setting is more atmospheric than in many novellas: "Snow had fallen every day since Christmas, and by nine o'clock on that last evening of the year the view from our sitting-room had all the impressionistic charm of Camille Pissarro's Paris Streets. Lamp-lit shops were open late and warmly lit. Each window was illuminated like the stage of a little theatre. The smiling doll-faces and tinsel of Mr. Pollock's Toys, the warm patterns of Indian cloth in the Marylebone Linen Company, the solid rounds of Stilton and Cheshire cheese on Mr. McIver's marble slab, gave a cosiness to the chill of the year's last night." THE CASE OF THE MATINEE IDOL (B+).

    The first two novellas generate an ethical question for writers--when does adaptation cross the line into plagiarism? No grade for SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE GHOSTS OF BLY AND OTHER NEW ADVENTURES OF THE GREAT DETECTIVE.
     

Share This Page