Monday, September 15, 2014

Book "The Crooked Man" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Crooked Man", one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 12 stories in the cycle collected as The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle ranked "The Adventure of the Crooked Man" fifteenth in a list of his nineteen favourite Sherlock Holmes stories.

About the Author: Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 at 11 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland. From 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including a period working in the town of Aston (now a district of Birmingham) and in Sheffield, as well as in Shropshire at Ruyton-XI-Towns. While studying, Doyle began writing short stories. His earliest extant fiction, "The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe", was unsuccessfully submitted to Blackwood's Magazine. His first published piece "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley", a story set in South Africa, was printed in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal on 6 September 1879. On 20 September 1879, he published his first non-fiction article, "Gelsemium as a Poison" in the British Medical Journal. In 1882 he joined former classmate George Turnavine Budd as his partner at a medical practice in Plymouth, but their relationship proved difficult, and Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice. Arriving in Portsmouth in June of that year with less than £10 (£900 today) to his name, he set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea. The practice was initially not very successful. While waiting for patients, Doyle again began writing stories and composed his first novels, The Mystery of Cloomber, not published until 1888, and the unfinished Narrative of John Smith, which would go unpublished until 2011. He amassed a portfolio of short stories including "The Captain of the Pole-Star" and "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", both inspired by Doyle's time at sea, the latter of which popularized the mystery of the Mary Celeste and added fictional details such as the perfect condition of the ship (which had actually taken on water by the time it was discovered) and its boats remaining on board (the one boat was in fact missing) that have come to dominate popular accounts of the incident. Doyle struggled to find a publisher for his work. His first significant piece, A Study in Scarlet, was taken by Ward Lock Co. on 20 November 1886, giving Doyle £25 for all rights to the story. The piece appeared later that year in the Beeton's Christmas Annual and received good reviews in The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald. The story featured the first appearance of Watson and Sherlock Holmes, partially modeled after his former university teacher Joseph Bell. Doyle wrote to him, "It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes ... Round the center of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man." Robert Louis Stevenson was able, even in faraway Samoa, to recognize the strong similarity between Joseph Bell and Sherlock Holmes: "My compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. ... Can this be my old friend Joe Bell?" Other authors sometimes suggest additional influences—for instance, the famous Edgar Allan Poe character C. Auguste Dupin. A sequel to A Study in Scarlet was commissioned and The Sign of the Four appeared in Lippincott's Magazine in February 1890, under agreement with the Ward Lock company. Doyle felt grievously exploited by Ward Lock as an author new to the publishing world and he left them. Short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were published in the Strand Magazine. Doyle first began to write for the 'Strand' from his home at 2 Upper Wimpole Street, now marked by a memorial plaque. In this period, however, Holmes was not his sole subject and in 1893, he collaborated with J.M. Barrie on the libretto of Jane Annie. Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham Manor, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He died of a heart attack at the age of 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful." At the time of his death, there was some controversy concerning his burial place, as he was avowedly not a Christian, considering himself a Spiritualist. He was first buried on 11 July 1930 in Windlesham rose garden. He was later reinterred together with his wife in Minstead churchyard in the New Forest, Hampshire. Carved wooden tablets to his memory and to the memory of his wife are held privately and are inaccessible to the public. That inscription reads, "Blade straight / Steel true / Arthur Conan Doyle / Born May 22nd 1859 / Passed On 7th July 1930." The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard reads, in part: "Steel true/Blade straight/Arthur Conan Doyle/Knight/Patriot, Physician, and man of letters". Undershaw, the home near Hindhead, Haslemere, south of London, that Doyle had built and lived in between October 1897 and September 1907, was a hotel and restaurant from 1924 until 2004. It was then bought by a developer and stood empty while conservationists and Doyle fans fought to preserve it. In 2012 the High Court ruled that the redevelopment permission be quashed because proper procedure had not been followed. A statue honours Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where he lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, close to the house where Doyle was born.

My Review: Another amazing plot and "elementary" deduction featuring Sherlock Holmes! Holmes calls on Watson late one evening to tell him about a case that he has been working on, and also to invite him to be a witness to the final stage of the investigation. Colonel James Barclay, of The Royal Mallows based at Aldershot Camp, is dead, apparently by violence, and his wife Nancy is the prime suspect.
The Colonel’s brother officers are quite perplexed at the Colonel’s fate. Most of them have always believed that he and Nancy were a happy couple. They have observed over the years, however, that the Colonel seemed rather more attached to his wife than she to him. It also hasn’t escaped their notice that the Colonel sometimes had bouts of deep depression and moodiness for no apparent reason.
As a married officer, the Colonel and his wife lived in a villa outside the camp at Aldershot, and one evening, Nancy went out in the evening with her next-door neighbour Miss Morrison on an errand connected with her church, coming back not long afterwards. She went into the seldom-used morning room and asked the maid to fetch her some tea, which was unusual for Nancy. Hearing that his wife had returned, the Colonel joined her in the morning room. The coachman saw him enter, and that was the last time that he was seen alive.
The morning room’s blinds were up, and the glass door leading out onto the lawn was open. When the maid brought the tea, she heard an argument in progress between Nancy and her husband. She heard Nancy say the name “David”. She fetched the other maid and the coachman who came and listened. Nancy was very angry and shouting about what a coward her husband was. His words were softer and less distinct. Suddenly, the Colonel cried out, there was a crash, and Nancy screamed.
Realizing that something awful had just happened, the coachman tried to force the locked door, but could not. He remembered the outside glass door, and went outside to get into the room through that. He found that Nancy had fainted, and the Colonel was lying dead in a pool of his own blood. The coachman summoned the police and medical help. He also found, to his surprise, that the key was not in the locked door on the inside, either. Later, a thorough search failed to turn it up.
A peculiar clublike weapon was also found in the morning room. Although the staff has seen the Colonel’s weapon collection, they do not recognize this weapon.
Holmes believes that the case is not what it at first appears to be. Although the staff are quite sure that they only heard the Colonel’s and his wife’s voices, Holmes is convinced that a third person came into the room at the time of the Colonel’s death, and rather oddly, made off with the key. This Holmes deduces from footmarks found in the road, on the lawn, and in the morning room. Odder still, the mystery man seems to have brought an animal with him. Judging from the footmarks, it is long like a weasel or a stoat, with short stumpy legs, but bigger than either of those animals. It left claw marks on the curtain, too, leading Holmes to deduce that it was a carnivore, for there was a bird cage near the curtain.
Holmes is sure that Miss Morrison holds the key to the mystery, and he is right. She claimed to know nothing of the reason for the argument between her neighbours, but once told by Holmes that Nancy could easily face a murder charge, she feels that she can betray her promise to her and tells all.
On their short outing, the two women met a bent, deformed old man carrying a wooden box. He looked up at Nancy and recognized her, and she him. They were acquaintances from about thirty years earlier. Nancy asked Miss Morrison to walk on ahead as there was apparently a private matter to discuss with this man. She came back very angry, and made her friend swear not to say anything about the incident.
This breaks the case wide open for Holmes. He knows that there cannot be many men of this description in the area. Holmes soon identifies him as Henry Wood, and goes with Watson to visit him the next day in his room in the very same street where the two women met him. Wood explains all. He had been a corporal in the same regiment as the Colonel, who was still a sergeant at that time, at the time of the Indian Mutiny. He and Barclay were both vying for Nancy’s hand. Henry was not deformed, and much better looking in those days. The regiment was confined to its cantonment by the turmoil in India, and water had run out, among other problems. A volunteer was asked for, to go out and summon help, and it was Henry. Sergeant James Barclay — later the Colonel — instructed Henry on the safest route. It took him straight into an ambush, and he gathered from what little he knew of the local language that Barclay had betrayed him to the enemy by planning the whole business, simply to remove him from contention for Nancy's affection. He was tortured repeatedly, which is how he became deformed, spent years as a slave, or wandering, learnt how to be a conjurer, and when he was getting old, he longed to come back to England. He sought out soldiers because he was familiar with the milieu; likewise Doyle's account hints that another reason that Wood came back is that he has not long to live: his yellow eyes hint at Jaundice or Hepatitis B virus and his need for a fire in the summertime also hint at malaria.
Then, quite by chance, he met Nancy that evening. Unknown to her, however, he followed her home and witnessed the argument, for the blinds were up and the glass door open. He climbed over the low wall and entered the room. An apoplectic fit caused by the sight of him killed the Colonel instantly, and Mrs. Barclay fainted. His guilty secret was at last laid bare. His first thought then was to open the inside door and summon help, and he took the key from the now-unconscious Mrs. Barclay to do so, but realizing that the situation looked very bad for him, he chose instead to flee, stopping long enough to retrieve his mongoose, used in his conjuring acts, which had escaped from the wooden box. However, he did drop his stick, the odd weapon that was later found, and he inadvertently carried off the key with him.
An inquest has already exonerated Nancy, having found the cause of the Colonel’s death — apoplexy (Wood claimed the Colonel was dead before he hit his head, and the professionals have apparently come to the same conclusion).
As for “David”, this was apparently a reproach in which Nancy likens her husband to the Biblical king, who has Bathsheba's husband Uriah transferred to a zone with heavy fighting so that he will be killed, leaving David free to marry Uriah's wife. The King was severely reprimanded for this sin by the prophet Nathan and suffered a Divine retribution, though unlike with the colonel it involved the death of David's baby son and not of himself.
I recommend this book to any reader who enjoys mystery, mainly those featuring Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. Watson.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Book "The Reigate Puzzle" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Reigate Puzzle", also known as "The Adventure of the Reigate Squires", was one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventure of the Reigate Puzzle was first published in 1893. It is one of 12 stories in the cycle collected as The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle ranked "The Adventure of the Reigate Puzzle" twelfth in his list of his twelve favorite Holmes stories.

About the Author: Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 at 11 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland. From 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including a period working in the town of Aston (now a district of Birmingham) and in Sheffield, as well as in Shropshire at Ruyton-XI-Towns. While studying, Doyle began writing short stories. His earliest extant fiction, "The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe", was unsuccessfully submitted to Blackwood's Magazine. His first published piece "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley", a story set in South Africa, was printed in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal on 6 September 1879. On 20 September 1879, he published his first non-fiction article, "Gelsemium as a Poison" in the British Medical Journal. In 1882 he joined former classmate George Turnavine Budd as his partner at a medical practice in Plymouth, but their relationship proved difficult, and Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice. Arriving in Portsmouth in June of that year with less than £10 (£900 today) to his name, he set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea. The practice was initially not very successful. While waiting for patients, Doyle again began writing stories and composed his first novels, The Mystery of Cloomber, not published until 1888, and the unfinished Narrative of John Smith, which would go unpublished until 2011. He amassed a portfolio of short stories including "The Captain of the Pole-Star" and "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", both inspired by Doyle's time at sea, the latter of which popularized the mystery of the Mary Celeste and added fictional details such as the perfect condition of the ship (which had actually taken on water by the time it was discovered) and its boats remaining on board (the one boat was in fact missing) that have come to dominate popular accounts of the incident. Doyle struggled to find a publisher for his work. His first significant piece, A Study in Scarlet, was taken by Ward Lock Co. on 20 November 1886, giving Doyle £25 for all rights to the story. The piece appeared later that year in the Beeton's Christmas Annual and received good reviews in The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald. The story featured the first appearance of Watson and Sherlock Holmes, partially modeled after his former university teacher Joseph Bell. Doyle wrote to him, "It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes ... Round the center of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man." Robert Louis Stevenson was able, even in faraway Samoa, to recognize the strong similarity between Joseph Bell and Sherlock Holmes: "My compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. ... Can this be my old friend Joe Bell?" Other authors sometimes suggest additional influences—for instance, the famous Edgar Allan Poe character C. Auguste Dupin. A sequel to A Study in Scarlet was commissioned and The Sign of the Four appeared in Lippincott's Magazine in February 1890, under agreement with the Ward Lock company. Doyle felt grievously exploited by Ward Lock as an author new to the publishing world and he left them. Short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were published in the Strand Magazine. Doyle first began to write for the 'Strand' from his home at 2 Upper Wimpole Street, now marked by a memorial plaque. In this period, however, Holmes was not his sole subject and in 1893, he collaborated with J.M. Barrie on the libretto of Jane Annie. Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham Manor, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He died of a heart attack at the age of 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful." At the time of his death, there was some controversy concerning his burial place, as he was avowedly not a Christian, considering himself a Spiritualist. He was first buried on 11 July 1930 in Windlesham rose garden. He was later reinterred together with his wife in Minstead churchyard in the New Forest, Hampshire. Carved wooden tablets to his memory and to the memory of his wife are held privately and are inaccessible to the public. That inscription reads, "Blade straight / Steel true / Arthur Conan Doyle / Born May 22nd 1859 / Passed On 7th July 1930." The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard reads, in part: "Steel true/Blade straight/Arthur Conan Doyle/Knight/Patriot, Physician, and man of letters". Undershaw, the home near Hindhead, Haslemere, south of London, that Doyle had built and lived in between October 1897 and September 1907, was a hotel and restaurant from 1924 until 2004. It was then bought by a developer and stood empty while conservationists and Doyle fans fought to preserve it. In 2012 the High Court ruled that the redevelopment permission be quashed because proper procedure had not been followed. A statue honours Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where he lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, close to the house where Doyle was born.

My Review: This short story is simply brilliant! Watson takes Holmes to a friend's estate near Reigate in Surrey to rest after a rather strenuous case in France. Holmes finds that his services are needed here, but he also finds that his recent illness serves him well. His host is Colonel Hayter.
There has recently been a burglary at the nearby Acton estate in which the thieves stole a motley assortment of things, even a ball of twine, but nothing terribly valuable. Then one morning, the Colonel's butler tells news of a murder at another nearby estate, the Cunninghams'. The victim is William Kirwan, the coachman. Inspector Forrester has taken charge of the investigation, and there is one physical clue: a torn piece of paper found in William's hand with a few words written on it. Holmes takes an instant interest in this, seeing something that Forrester has missed: it is quite clear to Holmes that the fragment of a note was written by two men, each writing alternate words. One man is young, and the other rather older. Moreover, they are related. Holmes, an expert at studying handwriting, does not voice this or any other observation or conclusion until the end of the story. He also observes that one line says "quarter to twelve", coincidentally the time of William's murder.
One of the first facts to emerge is that there is a longstanding legal dispute between the Actons and the Cunninghams involving ownership of about half of the estate currently in the Cunninghams' hands.
Holmes spends quite a bit of time investigating and interviewing the two Cunningham men, young Alec and his ageing father. Alec tells Holmes that he saw the burglar struggling with William when a shot went off and William fell dead. The burglar ran off through a hedge to the road. The elder Cunningham claims that he was in his room smoking at the time, and Alec says that he had also still been up. Holmes knows that they are lying. No burglar with any sense would break into a house when he could see by the lit lamps that someone was still afoot. Also, William's body has no powder burns on it; so he was not shot at point-blank range as the Cunninghams claim. The escape route also does not bear their story out: there is a boggy ditch next to the road that the fleeing murderer would have had to cross, yet there are no signs of any footprints in it.
Holmes knows that it would be useful to get hold of the rest of that note found in William's hand. He believes that the murderer snatched it away from William and thrust it into his pocket, never realizing that a scrap of it was still in the murdered coachman's hand. Unfortunately, neither the police nor Holmes can get any information from William's mother, for she is quite old, deaf, and somewhat simple-minded.
Holmes puts his recent illness to use and fakes a fit just as Forrester is about to mention the one clue to the Cunninghams. He suspects that the Cunninghams know where the rest of the note is, and does not wish them to destroy it. Holmes also cunningly gets the elder Cunningham to write the word "twelve", which appears on the scrap of paper recovered from the murder scene, by deliberately making a mistake in an advertisement that Holmes tells Cunningham to publish, and asking him to correct it.
Holmes then insists on searching the Cunninghams' rooms despite their protests that the burglar, whom Holmes has by now dismissed as a fabrication, could not have gone there. He sees Alec's room and then his father's, where he deliberately knocks a small table over, sending some oranges and a water carafe to the floor. The others have not been looking his way at the time, and Holmes implies that the cause is Watson's clumsiness. Watson plays along and starts grovelling about to gather up scattered oranges.
Everyone then notices that Holmes has left the room. Moments later, there are cries of "murder" and "help". Watson recognizes his friend's voice. He and Forrester rush to Alec's room where they find Alec trying to throttle Holmes and his father apparently twisting Holmes's wrist. The Cunninghams are quickly restrained, and Holmes tells Forrester to arrest the two for murdering William Kirwan. At first, Forrester thinks Holmes must be mad, but Holmes draws his attention to the looks on their faces – very guilty. After a revolver is knocked out of Alec's hand, the two are arrested. The gun, of course, is the one used to murder William, and it is seized.
Holmes has found the rest of the note, still in Alec's dressing gown pocket. It runs thus:

"If you will only come round at quarter to twelve
to the east gate you will learn what
will very much surprise you and maybe [sic]
be of the greatest service to you and also
to Annie Morrison. But say nothing to anyone
upon the matter."

The elder Cunningham's confidence is broken after his arrest and he tells all. It seems that William followed his two employers the night they broke into the Acton estate (Holmes has already deduced that it was they, in pursuit of documents supporting Mr. Acton's legal claim, which they did not find). William then proceeded to blackmail his employers – not realizing that it was dangerous to do such a thing to Alec – and they thought to use the recent burglary scare as a plausible way of getting rid of him. With a bit more attention paid to detail, they might very well have evaded all suspicion.

This is one of the rare stories that show a glimpse of Watson's dedication and his life before he met Holmes, as well as Holmes' trust in Watson. Colonel Hayter is a former patient Watson treated in Afghanistan and has offered his house to Watson and Holmes. Watson admits in convincing Holmes, "A little diplomacy was needed," for Holmes resists anything that sounds like coddling or sentimentalism. Watson also glosses over the facts of Holmes' illness from overwork, implying redundancy for all of Europe was "ringing with his name."
Holmes' health has collapsed after straining himself to the limit, and his success in the case means nothing to him in the face of his depression. With his superhuman physical and mental achievement, he has a correspondingly drastic fit of nervous prostration and needs Watson's assistance. Holmes clearly has no problem with asking Watson for help when he needs it, for he sends a wire and Watson is at his side twenty-four hours later. At the onset of the mystery, Watson warns Holmes to rest, not to get started on a new problem. However, Watson knows and has revealed in other writings that inactivity is anathema to Holmes, and his caution comes off as weak. Holmes takes it all with humor, but the reader does not doubt his mind is eagerly upon the trail of the crime. At the conclusion, he tells Watson: "I think our quiet rest in the country has been a distinct success, and I shall certainly return much invigorated, to Baker Street to-morrow."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book "A Vow of Glory" by Morgan Rice

About the Book: In A VOW OF GLORY, Thor embarks with his Legion friends on an epic quest into the vast wilds of the Empire to try to find the ancient Destiny Sword and save the Ring. Thor’s friendships deepen, as they journey to new places, face unexpected monsters and fight side by side in unimaginable battle. They encounter exotic lands, creatures and peoples beyond which they could have ever imagined, each step of their journey fraught with increasing danger. They will have to summon all their skills if they are to survive as they follow the trail of the thieves, deeper and deeper into the Empire. Their quest will bring them all the way into the heart of the Underworld, one of the seven realms of hell, where the undead rule and fields are lined with bones. As Thor must summon his powers, more than ever, he struggles to understand the nature of who he is.
Back in the Ring, Gwendolyn must lead half of King’s Court to the Western stronghold of Silesia, an ancient city perched on the edge of the Canyon that has stood for one thousand years. Silesia’s fortifications have allowed it to survive every attack throughout every century—but it has never been faced with an assault by a leader like Andronicus, by an army like his million men. Gwendolyn learns what it means to be queen as she takes on a leadership role, Srog, Kolk, Brom, Steffen, Kendrick and Godfrey by her side, preparing to defend the city for the massive war to come.
Meanwhile, Gareth is descending deeper into madness, trying to fend off a coup that would have him assassinated in King’s Court, while Erec fights for his life to save his love, Alistair and the Duke’s city of Savaria as the downed shield enables the wild creatures to invade. And Godfrey, wallowing in drink, will have to decide if he is ready to cast off his past and become the man his family expects him to be.
As they all fight for their lives and as things seem as if they can’t get any worse, the story ends with two shocking twists.
Will Gwendolyn survive the assault? Will Thor survive the Empire? Will the Destiny Sword be found?
With its sophisticated world-building and characterization, A VOW OF GLORY is an epic tale of friends and lovers, of rivals and suitors, of knights and dragons, of intrigues and political machinations, of coming of age, of broken hearts, of deception, ambition and betrayal. It is a tale of honor and courage, of fate and destiny, of sorcery. It is a fantasy that brings us into a world we will never forget, and which will appeal to all ages and genders. It is 75,000 words.

About the Author:Morgan is author of the #1 Bestselling and USA Today Bestselling series THE SORCERER'S RING, an epic fantasy series comprising fifteen books (and counting). The newest title, A DREAM OF MORTALS (#15) is now available!
Morgan Rice is also author of the #1 Bestselling series THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS, comprising eleven books (and counting). The newest title, FATED (#11) is now available!
Morgan is also author of the #1 Bestselling ARENA ONE and ARENA TWO, the first two books in THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY, a post-apocalyptic action thriller set in the future.
Morgan's books are available in audio and print editions, and translations of the books are available in German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portugese, Japanese, Chinese, Swedish, Dutch, Turkish, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, Thai, Indonesian and Romanian (with more languages forthcoming). Morgan loves to hear from you, so please feel free to visit www.morganricebooks.com to join the email list, receive a free book, receive free giveaways, download the free app, get the latest exclusive news, connect on Facebook and Twitter, and stay in touch!

My Review: This sequel is full of action and the characters continue to evolve. Thor and his companions go on a quest to recover the Destiny Sword in order to reestablish the shield on the Ring. In the meantime Andronicus takes advantage of the shield being down and is invading the Ring with his incredible army. A revelation is in progress about Erec's wife. Kendrick and other Silver members prove they value and their vow to serve a greater cause. At the end, you still want more and while we finish the book having that feeling, it is worth waiting for the next episode. And we are hanging there, with a grave danger over the head of Gwendolyn and Thor still deep into the Empire in search for the Sword.
I recommend this book to all readers who appreciate a well written novel full of adventure and fantasy.

If you read this review, feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book "The Musgrave Ritual" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book:"The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual" is a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle, featuring his fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. The story was originally published in Strand Magazine in 1893, and was collected later in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Unlike the majority of Holmes stories, the main narrator is not Doctor Watson, but Sherlock Holmes himself. With Watson providing an introduction, the story-within-a-story is a classic example of a frame tale. It is one of the earliest recorded cases investigated by Holmes, and establishes his problem solving skills.
"The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual" shares elements with two Edgar Allan Poe tales: "The Gold Bug" and "The Cask of Amontillado".
In 1927, Conan Doyle ranked the story at 11th place on his top 12 Holmes stories list. The story did better in a 1959 chart produced by the Baker Street Journal, ranking 6th out of 10.

About the Author: Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 at 11 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland. From 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including a period working in the town of Aston (now a district of Birmingham) and in Sheffield, as well as in Shropshire at Ruyton-XI-Towns. While studying, Doyle began writing short stories. His earliest extant fiction, "The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe", was unsuccessfully submitted to Blackwood's Magazine. His first published piece "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley", a story set in South Africa, was printed in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal on 6 September 1879. On 20 September 1879, he published his first non-fiction article, "Gelsemium as a Poison" in the British Medical Journal. In 1882 he joined former classmate George Turnavine Budd as his partner at a medical practice in Plymouth, but their relationship proved difficult, and Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice. Arriving in Portsmouth in June of that year with less than £10 (£900 today) to his name, he set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea. The practice was initially not very successful. While waiting for patients, Doyle again began writing stories and composed his first novels, The Mystery of Cloomber, not published until 1888, and the unfinished Narrative of John Smith, which would go unpublished until 2011. He amassed a portfolio of short stories including "The Captain of the Pole-Star" and "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", both inspired by Doyle's time at sea, the latter of which popularized the mystery of the Mary Celeste and added fictional details such as the perfect condition of the ship (which had actually taken on water by the time it was discovered) and its boats remaining on board (the one boat was in fact missing) that have come to dominate popular accounts of the incident. Doyle struggled to find a publisher for his work. His first significant piece, A Study in Scarlet, was taken by Ward Lock Co. on 20 November 1886, giving Doyle £25 for all rights to the story. The piece appeared later that year in the Beeton's Christmas Annual and received good reviews in The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald. The story featured the first appearance of Watson and Sherlock Holmes, partially modeled after his former university teacher Joseph Bell. Doyle wrote to him, "It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes ... Round the center of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man." Robert Louis Stevenson was able, even in faraway Samoa, to recognize the strong similarity between Joseph Bell and Sherlock Holmes: "My compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. ... Can this be my old friend Joe Bell?" Other authors sometimes suggest additional influences—for instance, the famous Edgar Allan Poe character C. Auguste Dupin. A sequel to A Study in Scarlet was commissioned and The Sign of the Four appeared in Lippincott's Magazine in February 1890, under agreement with the Ward Lock company. Doyle felt grievously exploited by Ward Lock as an author new to the publishing world and he left them. Short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were published in the Strand Magazine. Doyle first began to write for the 'Strand' from his home at 2 Upper Wimpole Street, now marked by a memorial plaque. In this period, however, Holmes was not his sole subject and in 1893, he collaborated with J.M. Barrie on the libretto of Jane Annie. Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham Manor, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He died of a heart attack at the age of 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful." At the time of his death, there was some controversy concerning his burial place, as he was avowedly not a Christian, considering himself a Spiritualist. He was first buried on 11 July 1930 in Windlesham rose garden. He was later reinterred together with his wife in Minstead churchyard in the New Forest, Hampshire. Carved wooden tablets to his memory and to the memory of his wife are held privately and are inaccessible to the public. That inscription reads, "Blade straight / Steel true / Arthur Conan Doyle / Born May 22nd 1859 / Passed On 7th July 1930." The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard reads, in part: "Steel true/Blade straight/Arthur Conan Doyle/Knight/Patriot, Physician, and man of letters". Undershaw, the home near Hindhead, Haslemere, south of London, that Doyle had built and lived in between October 1897 and September 1907, was a hotel and restaurant from 1924 until 2004. It was then bought by a developer and stood empty while conservationists and Doyle fans fought to preserve it. In 2012 the High Court ruled that the redevelopment permission be quashed because proper procedure had not been followed. A statue honours Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where he lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, close to the house where Doyle was born.

My Review:In this story, Holmes recounts to Watson the events arising after a visit from a university acquaintance, Reginald Musgrave. Musgrave visits Holmes after the disappearance of two of his domestic staff, Rachel Howells, a maid, and Richard Brunton, the longtime butler. The pair vanished after Musgrave had dismissed Brunton for secretly reading a family document, the Musgrave Ritual. The Ritual, which dates from the 17th century, is a riddle set in verse form. It reads:

'Whose was it?'
'His who is gone.'
'Who shall have it?'
'He who will come.'
('What was the month?'
'The sixth from the first.')
'Where was the sun?'
'Over the oak.'
'Where was the shadow?'
'Under the elm.'
'How was it stepped?'
'North by ten and by ten, east by five and by five, south by two and by two, west by one and by one, and so under.'
'What shall we give for it?'
'All that is ours.'
'Why should we give it?'
'For the sake of the trust.'

Musgrave caught Brunton in the library at two o'clock one morning. Not only had he unlocked a cabinet and taken out the document in question, but he also had what looked like a chart or map, which he promptly stuffed into a pocket upon seeing his employer watching him. Brunton besought Musgrave not to dishonour him by dismissing him, and asked for a month's time to invent some reason for leaving, making it seem as though he was leaving of his own accord. Musgrave granted him a week. The story later reveals that Brunton wanted the time for something else.
A few days later, Brunton disappeared, leaving behind most of his belongings. His bed had not been slept in. No sign could be found of him. The maid, Rachel Howells, who was also Brunton's former lover, had a hysterical fit when asked about Brunton's whereabouts, repeating over and over that he was gone. She was in such a state that another servant was posted to sit up with her at night. Eventually, however, the guarding servant nodded off one night, and the hysterical Rachel Howells escaped through a window. Her footprints led to the edge of the mere, and ended there. Musgrave had the mere dredged, but only a sack containing some rusty, mangled bits of metal, and some coloured stones or glass were found. Rachel Howells was never heard from again.
Holmes looked upon the case not as three mysteries, but as one. He considered the riddle of the ritual. It was a meaningless, absurd tradition to Musgrave, and apparently to all his ancestors going back more than two centuries, but Holmes — and Brunton, too, Holmes suspected — saw it as something very different. He quickly realized that it was a set of instructions for finding something. Ascertaining the height of the oak, which was still standing, and the position of the elm, which was now gone, Holmes performed a few calculations and paced out the route to whatever awaited him, with Musgrave now eagerly following him.
It was quite instructive to Holmes that Brunton had recently asked about the old elm tree's height as well, and that he was apparently quite intelligent.
The two men found themselves inside a doorway, momentarily disappointed, until they realized that there was the last instruction, "and so under". There was a cellar under where they were standing, as old as the house. Finding their way into it, they saw that the floor had been cleared to expose a stone slab with an iron ring on it. Holmes thought it wise to bring the police in at this point. He and a burly Sussex policeman manage to lift the slab off the little hole that it was covering, and inside, they found an empty, rotten chest, and Brunton, who had been dead for several days. There were no marks on him. He had likely suffocated.
Holmes then put everything together for his rather shocked client. Brunton had deduced the ritual's meaning, at least insofar as it led to something valuable. He had determined the elm tree's height by asking his master, had paced out the instructions — and Holmes had later even found a peg hole in the lawn made by Brunton — had found the hiding place in the old cellar, but then had found it impossible to lift the stone slab himself. So, he had been forced to draw someone else into his treasure hunt. He had unwisely chosen Rachel Howells, who hated him. The two of them could have lifted the slab up, but they would have needed to support it while Brunton climbed down to fetch the treasure. Did Rachel deliberately kick the support away, sealing Brunton in, thus murdering him? Or did the slab fall by itself and she was only guilty of not getting help to her unfaithful lover? It explained a great deal about her subsequent behaviour.
As to the relics found in the bag retrieved from the mere, Holmes examined them and found that the metal parts were gold and the stones were gems. He believed that it was no less than King Charles I's gold crown, being kept for his successor (who, as it turned out, was Charles II). The ritual had been a guide to retrieving this important symbol: Reginald confirms that one of his ancestors, Sir Ralph Musgrave, was a king's man. Holmes theorized that the original holder of the ritual had died before teaching his son about the ritual's significance. It had thus become nothing more than a quaint custom for more than 200 years.
Another masterpiece that you will enjoy reading and will keep you entertained for a couple of hours.
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Book "Peril in the Park" by Barbara Venkataraman

About the Book: There's big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn's boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can't figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late.

About the Author: Barbara Venkataraman is an attorney and mediator specializing in family law and debt collection.
She is the author of "The Fight for Magicallus," a children's fantasy; a humorous short story entitled, "If You'd Just Listened to Me in the First Place"; and two books of humorous essays: "I'm Not Talking about You, Of Course" and "A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities," which are part of the "Quirky Essays for Quirky People" series. Both books of humorous essays won the prestigious "Indie Book of the Day" award.
Her latest works are "Death by Didgeridoo," first in the Jamie Quinn series, "The Case of the Killer Divorce," the second Jamie Quinn mystery, and, just out, "Peril in the Park," the latest in the popular Jamie Quinn series. Coming soon, "Engaged in Danger"--the next Jamie Quinn mystery!

My Review: This is another fabulous novel by this talented author. As my daughters would say, Jamie Quinn rocks! This author is a natural storyteller. Her characters are so real that you will be cheering for our heroine from the first page. The emotions are so well described that you will also cry in moments of despair.
I lived five years in Broward County before moving to New Jersey. All I have to say is that Mrs. Barbara description of places and situations is so real that I feel like I can see all the places she so vividly describes. Just two weeks before finish reading this book I went to Catfish Dewey's, one of my favorite restaurants, and coincidentally that was the place Jamie took Duke for dinner. So the description of real places in her story made me enjoy even more the whole Jamie Quinn's series. In this particular episode, Jamie's boyfriend is having trouble with a park vandal and things start escalating until some decisions have to be made. Then he goes missing! Jamie keeps contact with her father. Grace appears briefly in the story and Duke, again, is one of my favorites! Excellent plot and another big hit for Mrs. Barbara.
I recommend this book to all those readers who appreciate a very well written novel with mystery, and it will definitely improve your mood. It will keep you entertained for hours!

If you read this review, feel free to leave a comment!