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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Balance of August 2014

During the month of August, I reviewed the following:

Books:
- "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Case of the Killer Divorce" by Barbara Venkataraman. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Gameland - Episode 4 - Sunder the Hollow Ones" by Saul W.Tanpepper. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Gameland - Episode 5 - Prometheus Wept" by Saul W.Tanpepper. Read my review.
- "Silver Blaze" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Book "Silver Blaze" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle




About the Book: "Silver Blaze", one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 12 in the cycle collected as The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle ranked "Silver Blaze" 13th in a list of his 19 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: In my opinion, one of the best short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes. The plot is simple, yet superb: Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. Watson travel by train to Dartmoor, summoned to investigate a crime that has convulsed the newspapers: the disappearance of the great race horse Silver Blaze and the murder of the horse's trainer, John Straker. Inspector Gregory has already arrested a man in connection with John Straker's murder by the time Holmes and Watson arrive at King's Pyland, the Dartmoor stable owned by Colonel Ross, from which Silver Blaze is missing. The suspect is Fitzroy Simpson, a London bookmaker who has come to Dartmoor (and specifically to King's Pyland) to gather information relating to his professional activities (which include wagers placed on favourites for the Wessex Cup, the race in which Silver Blaze is to run). However, to Holmes, from the outset, there seem to be a number of facts that do not fit the inspector's case against Simpson, damning as it looks. It seems odd, for instance, that he would lead the horse out on to the moor simply to injure or kill him. That could be done right in his stall. He could not have stolen the animal. What good would such a famous thoroughbred be to him? Why has an exhaustive search of the neighbourhood not turned up Silver Blaze? What has Simpson done with him?
Sherlock Holmes soon tracks down Silver Blaze, literally: his tracks (along with a man's) are clearly visible in the soil, albeit intermittently. Holmes also deduces why the police could not find the horse, despite having looked right at him. Holmes ensures Silver Blaze's safety, and turns his mind to other aspects of the case.
John Straker, Silver Blaze's late trainer, has been killed by a blow to the skull, presumably administered by Simpson with his "Penang lawyer", a clublike walking stick. Simpson's cravat is also found in Straker's hand, and the latter's coat is found draped over a furze bush. A knife is found at the crime scene—a peculiarly delicate-looking one, with a small blade. Dr. Watson, from his medical experience, identifies it as a cataract knife (used for the most delicate surgery). It is marked Weiss & Co., London. Useful as it is for that purpose, it would be unsuitable as a weapon; in addition, Straker also seems to have stabbed himself in the hip with it.
One of the stable lads, Ned Hunter, was on guard duty the night of the crime, but he proves to have been drugged with powdered opium placed in his supper. No one else who ate the curried mutton made at the Strakers' house that evening suffered any ill effects, but Hunter was in a profound stupor well into the next day.[3] Straker's pockets contained two interesting items: a tallow candle and a milliner's bill for (among other things) a 22-guinea dress, made out to one William Derbyshire. There is the curious incident with the dog, and a problem with the sheep kept at the stable: a shepherd tells Holmes that three of his animals have recently become suddenly lame.
Holmes's powers unravel the mystery, and lay bare what villainies there are to be exposed. He visits the milliner's shop in London and determines, using Straker's photograph, that Straker posed as Derbyshire. This establishes his motive: he had a mistress with expensive tastes, and tried to influence the race's outcome to earn himself a large sum of money.
The curried mutton was a clue, also; only such a spicy dish could have masked the taste of powdered opium, and it was impossible for Simpson to arrange a highly seasoned meal that evening for his purposes. Therefore, someone in the household must have conceived the idea—namely, Straker himself.
The "curious incident of the dog in the night-time" is easily explained: the dog made no noise, because no stranger was there. As Holmes explains: “I had grasped the significance of the silence of the dog, for one true inference invariably suggests others....Obviously the midnight visitor was someone whom the dog knew well. It was Straker who removed Silver Blaze from his stall and led him out on to the moor." Straker's purpose in doing this was to use the cataract knife to inflict a slight injury upon one of the horse's legs. He had thought to use Simpson's cravat (which the latter dropped when he was expelled from King's Pyland) as a sling to hold the horse's leg to cut it. But instead, Straker was killed when the horse, sensing that something was wrong, panicked and kicked the trainer in the head. The lame sheep had been used by Straker for practice.
Colonel Ross's main concern, of course, is getting his horse back safely. Holmes chooses not to tell Ross where his horse has been (although he has known all along) until after the Wessex Cup, which is won by Silver Blaze. At first the Colonel does not recognize his own horse, since the animal's distinguishing white markings have been covered with dye. The horse had been looked after by one of the Colonel's neighbours, Silas Brown, who had found him wandering the moor and hidden him in his barn. Holmes then explains the details of the case step-by-step to the satisfaction of the Colonel, Watson, and Inspector Gregory.
Gregory is one of the more competent police detectives Holmes works with in the course of his career. He conducts a thorough investigation of the crime before Holmes's arrival, and gathers all the evidence Holmes needs to solve the case. Holmes notes that Gregory is "an extremely good officer," and observes that the only quality he lacks is imagination—the ability to imagine what might have happened on a given occasion, and act on this intuition.
I recommend this book to the permanent library of any reader who appreciates a well written mystery.

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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book ""Gameland - Episode 5 - Prometheus Wept" by Saul W.Tanpepper

About the Book: After one member of their group is infected, Jessie makes a decision to hand over another to a mysterious group of Undead sympathizers in exchange for a promised antidote. But will she be able to collect the medicine and return before it's too late? Will the medicine work? And will she be able to get them all back home again?

About the Author: Saul writes in several speculative fiction genres, including horror, cyberpunk, biopunk, and straight science fiction. A former Army medic and trauma specialist, he earned a PhD in molecular biology and genetics; his works are heavily informed by these past experiences.
Saul spent his formative years in a century-old house overlooking the Erie Canal in Upstate New York. He shared an attic room with all manner of creatures, not all, he is convinced, flesh and blood.
After several years spent overseas and working his way to executive positions in biotech, he returned to his true passion of storytelling.
He now writes full time from his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. He continues to be haunted by a variety of creatures, including a wife, kids, three dogs, three cats, twenty chickens, a wayward rooster, and one very grumpy possum. They are all flesh and blood.
Except for the possum, which he's sure is the reincarnated spirit of Jack Torrance.
Visit him at tanpepperwrites.com
Subscribe to be notified of new releases and exclusive deals at tinyletter.com/SWTanpepper

My Review: This is a very well written book with a very intense story-line.  It is the sequel of "Sunder the Hollow Ones", episode four of this series. This is supposed to be the fifth of an eight series book, so it does not stand by itself as a story. It starts where episode four ended and finishes with a hook to the next episode. The plot is interesting and will keep you reading on the edge of your chair for most of the book. The characters are well developed and the scenario is so richly described that you feel you are inside the story. In episode one we saw a group of game hackers deciding to break into Long Island's Gameland, a place where nobody lives, because of an outbreak that happened twelve years before. All population that survived the outbreak were evacuated. Now the only entities that inhabit that wasteland are the zombies. Their adventure starts with a poorly planed trip idea and tension escalates during preparation for the trip and execution of the trip. They soon figure out that it is easier to enter than to leave the Island... In episode two, after trying to leave the Island, Jake is trapped and left behind, so Jessie wants to return to rescue him. Kelly anticipates her move and goes alone for the rescue. Then the whole group unite again, trying to bring them home. It fails badly and the whole group is back in the Island and facing some more mysteries. In episode three, Steven is an employee from Arc, doing some experiments on our group with new drugs to create an improved version of zombie. But before all were injected, they manage to escape from La Guardia Airport and go in the direction of Gameland. When arriving there (after lots of incidents and twists in the story), they find out some answers to questions they had from Steven and they were not happy about what they discover. In episode four, the group is in the heart of Gameland, trying to break the failsafe mechanism that could allow them to go back home. One of the members of the group is bitten and infected. More revelations happen. In this fifth episode, Jessie goes in search of a treatment to contain the disease, but she needs to return before it is too late. Other characters are introduced into the story, some that were left behind when the outbreak happened. And an intense end leave us in suspense, waiting for the sixth episode.   
This book was written by Saul W.Tanpepper in August 2012. I recommend this book to the permanent library of all thriller lovers, young adults or not. But be aware that you should read the previous episodes before reading this one, so you can understand what is going on and the interaction among the characters. If you enjoyed the first four, you will love this fifth book in this series.

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches", one of the 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is the last of the twelve collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It was first published in Strand Magazine in June 1892.

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 is another superb short story with our main character, detective Sherlock Holmes. The plot is interesting: Violet Hunter visits Holmes, asking whether she should accept a job as governess; a job with very strange conditions. She is enticed by the phenomenal salary which, as originally offered, is £100 a year, later increased to £120 when Miss Hunter balks at having to cut her long hair short (her previous position paid £48 a year). This is only one of many peculiar provisos to which she must agree. The employer, Jephro Rucastle, seems pleasant enough, yet Miss Hunter obviously has her suspicions.
She announces to Holmes, after the raised salary offer, that she will take the job, and Holmes suggests that if he is needed, a telegram will bring him to Hampshire, where Mr Rucastle's country estate, the Copper Beeches, is situated.
After a fortnight, Holmes receives such a message, beseeching him to come and see her in Winchester. Miss Hunter tells them one of the most singular stories that they have ever heard. Mr. Rucastle would sometimes have Miss Hunter wear a particular electric blue dress and sit in the front room reading, with her back to the front window. She began to suspect that she was not supposed to see something outside the window, and a small mirror shard hidden in her handkerchief showed her that she was right: there was a man standing there on the road looking towards the house.
At another such session, Mr Rucastle told a series of funny stories that made Miss Hunter laugh until she was quite weary. The one astonishing thing about this was that Mr. Rucastle not only did not laugh, but did not even smile.
There were other unsavoury things about the household. The six-year-old child that she was supposed to look after was astonishingly cruel to small animals. The servants, Mr. and Mrs. Toller, were quite a sour pair. A great mastiff was kept on the property, and always kept hungry. It was let out to prowl the grounds at night and Miss Hunter was warned not to cross the threshold after dark. Also, Toller, who was quite often drunk, was the only one who had any control over the dog.
There was also the odd discovery by Miss Hunter of what appeared to be her own tresses in a locked drawer. Upon checking her own luggage, however, they turned out to be another woman's, but identical in every way to Miss Hunter's, even to the unusual colour.
However, the most disturbing thing of all about the household was the mystery wing. Miss Hunter had observed that there was a part of the house that did not seem to be used. The windows were either dirty or shuttered, and once she saw Mr Rucastle coming out of the door leading into the wing looking most perturbed. Later, he explained that he used the rooms as a photographic darkroom, but Miss Hunter was not convinced.
When he is drunk, Toller leaves the keys in the door to the mystery wing. Miss Hunter sneaks in. She finds the place spooky and when she spots a shadow moving on the other side of a locked door, she panics and runs out, into Mr Rucastle's waiting arms. Mr. Rucastle does not reproach her, instead he pretends to comfort her.
However, he overdoes his act and alerts her suspicions, causing her to claim that she saw nothing. In an instant, his expression changes from comfort to rage.
With the aid of the great detective, it is discovered that someone has been kept a prisoner in the forbidden wing. The purpose of hiring Miss Hunter becomes clear: her presence is to convince the man watching from the road that Rucastle's daughter Alice, previously unknown to Miss Hunter, and whom she resembles, is no longer interested in seeing him.
Watson rescuing Rucastle from his mastiff Holmes, Watson and Miss Hunter find Miss Rucastle's secret room empty; Rucastle arrives and thinks the trio has helped his daughter escape and goes to fetch the mastiff to set upon the trespassers. Unfortunately for Rucastle, the dog has been accidentally starved for longer than usual and attacks him instead. Watson shoots the dog with his revolver. Later, Mrs. Toller confirms Holmes' theory about Rucastle's daughter and reveals that when Alice came of age she was to receive an annuity from her late mother's will; Rucastle tried to force his daughter to sign control of the inheritance over to him which only resulted in Alice becoming ill with brain fever; hence, the cut hair. Rucastle then tried to keep Alice away from her fiancé by locking her up in the mystery wing and hiring Miss Hunter to unknowingly impersonate Alice. Rucastle's daughter escapes with her fiancé, and they marry soon after. Watson notes, at the end of the story, that Holmes appears to have been drawn to Miss Hunter. However, to his disappointment, Holmes does not show any interest in Miss Hunter after the mystery has been solved, which was the real force behind his feelings. Rucastle survives as an invalid, kept alive solely by his second wife. Miss Hunter later becomes principal of a girls' school, where, according to Watson, she meets with "considerable success".
I recommend this short story to all readers that appreciate a well written mystery story, mainly when it involves Sherlock Holmes clever solutions!

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet", one of the 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is the eleventh of the twelve stories collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The story was first published in Strand Magazine in May 1892.

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: Nice short story. If you are used to Mr. Doyle style, you can almost infer the solution to this one, with some imagination... The plot is interesting: A banker, Mr. Alexander Holder of Streatham, makes a loan of £50,000 to a socially prominent client, who leaves the Beryl Coronet — one of the most valuable public possessions in existence — as collateral. Holder feels that he must not leave this rare and precious piece of jewellery in his personal safe at the bank, and so he takes it home with him to lock it up there. He is awakened in the night by a noise, enters his dressing room, and is horrified to see his son Arthur with the coronet in his hands, apparently trying to bend it. Holder's niece Mary comes at the sound of all the shouting and, seeing the damaged coronet, faints dead away. Three beryls are missing from it. In a panic, Mr. Holder travels to see Holmes, who agrees to take the case.
The case against Arthur seems rather damning, yet Holmes is not convinced of his guilt. Why has Arthur clammed up? Why is he refusing to give a statement of any kind? How could Arthur have broken the coronet (even Holmes, who has exceptionally strong hands, can't do it) and without making any noise? Could any other people in the household be involved, such as the servants, or Mary? Could some visitor, such as the maid's wooden-legged boyfriend, or Arthur's rakish friend Sir George Burnwell, have something to do with what happened to the coronet? The failure to resolve the case will result in Mr. Holder's dishonour, and a national scandal.
Holmes sets about not only reviewing the details that he learns from Holder, but also by examining the footprints in the snow outside. Eventually, Holmes solves the mystery, and Holder is flabbergasted to find that his niece was in league with a notorious criminal (Sir George Burnwell), although apparently she is unaware of his character. The two of them escape justice; however, Holmes is convinced that they will receive their punishment in due time. Arthur's motive in allowing his father to think he was the thief was because he was in love with his cousin Mary and saw her passing the coronet to a confederate outside the window. (The Coronet was broken when Arthur was struggling to wrench it from Burnwell's grasp).
I recommend this short story to all readers that appreciate a well written mystery story, mainly when it involves Sherlock Holmes clever solutions!

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book "Gameland - Episode 4 - Sunder the Hollow Ones" by Saul W.Tanpepper

About the Book: 6 Hackers, 1 Game... and 10,000 Undead.
Everyone loves Survivalist, a live-action, virtual reality show based on Arc Entertainment's The Game, where cybernetically controlled zombies do battle in a video arcade in the middle of a Long Island wasteland. It's to die for.
If you're rich enough, you can buy your way in. If you're desperate enough, you can volunteer to become one of the Undead Players. Jessie Daniels and her gang of computer hackers plan to break their way in.
Welcome to GAMELAND. Access Restricted.

About the Author: Saul writes in several speculative fiction genres, including horror, cyberpunk, biopunk, and straight science fiction. A former Army medic and trauma specialist, he earned a PhD in molecular biology and genetics; his works are heavily informed by these past experiences.
Saul spent his formative years in a century-old house overlooking the Erie Canal in Upstate New York. He shared an attic room with all manner of creatures, not all, he is convinced, flesh and blood.
After several years spent overseas and working his way to executive positions in biotech, he returned to his true passion of storytelling.
He now writes full time from his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. He continues to be haunted by a variety of creatures, including a wife, kids, three dogs, three cats, twenty chickens, a wayward rooster, and one very grumpy possum. They are all flesh and blood.
Except for the possum, which he's sure is the reincarnated spirit of Jack Torrance.
Visit him at tanpepperwrites.com
Subscribe to be notified of new releases and exclusive deals at tinyletter.com/SWTanpepper

My Review: This is a very well written book with a very intense story-line.  It is the sequel of "Deadman's Switch", episode three of this series. This is supposed to be the fourth of an eight series book, so it does not stand by itself as a story. It starts where episode three ended and finishes with a hook to the next episode. The plot is interesting and will keep you reading on the edge of your chair for most of the book. The characters are well developed and the scenario is so richly described that you feel you are inside the story. In episode one we saw a group of game hackers deciding to break into Long Island's Gameland, a place where nobody lives, because of an outbreak that happened twelve years before. All population that survived the outbreak were evacuated. Now the only entities that inhabit that wasteland are the zombies. Their adventure starts with a poorly planed trip idea and tension escalates during preparation for the trip and execution of the trip. They soon figure out that it is easier to enter than to leave the Island... In episode two, after trying to leave the Island, Jake is trapped and left behind, so Jessie wants to return to rescue him. Kelly anticipates her move and goes alone for the rescue. Then the whole group unite again, trying to bring them home. It fails badly and the whole original group plus a new member (added by accident) are back in the Island and facing some more mysteries. In episode three, Steven is an employee from Arc, doing some experiments on our group with new drugs to create an improved version of zombie. But before they were injected, they manage to escape from La Guardia Airport and go in the direction of Gameland. When arriving there (after lots of incidents and twists in the story), they find out some answers to questions they had from Steven and they were not happy about what they discover. In this episode four, the group is in the heart of Gameland, trying to break the failsafe mechanism that could allow them to go back home. One of the members of the group is bitten and infected. More revelations happen. 
This book was written by Saul W.Tanpepper in July 2012. I recommend this book to the permanent library of all thriller lovers, young adults or not. But be aware that you should read the previous episodes before reading this one, so you can understand what is going on and the interaction among the characters. If you enjoyed the first three, you will love this fourth book in this series.

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

Monday, August 11, 2014

Book "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor", one of the 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is the tenth of the twelve stories collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The story was first published in Strand Magazine in April 1892.

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 fascinating adventure from Sherlock Holmes short story series, this one with a very interesting plot: The story entails the disappearance of Hatty, Lord St. Simon's bride on the day of their marriage. She participates in the wedding, but disappears from the reception.
The events of the wedding day are most perplexing to Lord St. Simon as it seemed to him that his bride, Miss Hatty Doran of San Francisco, was full of enthusiasm about their impending marriage. St. Simon tells Holmes that he noticed a change in the young lady's mood just after the wedding ceremony. She was uncharacteristically sharp with him. The only thing out of the ordinary at the church where the wedding took place was Hatty's little accident: she dropped her wedding bouquet and a gentleman in the front pew picked it up and handed it back to her.
After the bridal party entered Hatty's father's house for the wedding breakfast, a former companion of St. Simon, the dancer Flora Millar, caused a disturbance at the door and was ejected. Hatty was seen talking to her maid upon arrival at the house; ten minutes into the wedding breakfast, Hatty claimed "a sudden indisposition" and retired to her room. A short time later, it was discovered that she had left the house.
There are many questions that Holmes must sift through. Who was that woman trying to get in to the wedding breakfast? Who was that man in the front pew? Who was that man seen going into Hyde Park with Hatty? Why were Hatty's wedding dress and ring found washed up on the shore of the Serpentine? What had become of her?
For Holmes it proves rather an elementary case, for he has dealt with similar cases and this one is not so complex to unravel, despite the confusion it causes Dr. Watson and Inspector Lestrade. Holmes finds Hatty and the strange man from the front pew, and the dénouement takes the form of Holmes having Hatty explain herself to Lord Robert. Hatty and the mystery man, Francis H. Moulton, were husband and wife. They parted on the day of their wedding so that he could try to amass a fortune by prospecting. He was reported killed in an Apache raid on a mining camp where he was working. Hatty had given him up for dead, met Lord Robert, and decided to marry him, even though her heart still belonged to Frank. Frank had only been taken prisoner by the Apache raiders, and he escaped and tracked Hatty to London. He arrived at the church in time for the ceremony and she recognized him instantly. Rather than have her make a scene at the church, he gestured her to be silent, and wrote a note which he slipped to her as he returned her bouquet. She had wanted to abscond without ever telling anybody, but Holmes had tracked them down and convinced them that it would be better to have the full truth. Lord Robert is unmoved by Hatty's apologies and feels that he has been very ill used.
I recommend this book to the permanent library of all readers that enjoy a very well written mystery short story.

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

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Book "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: one of the 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is the ninth of the twelve stories collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The story was first published in Strand Magazine in March 1892.

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 superb short story from Sir Doyle. Plot is quite interesting:
In his narration, Dr. Watson notes that this is one of only two cases which he personally brought to the attention of Sherlock Holmes.
The story, set in 1889, mainly consists of a young London consultant hydraulic engineer, Mr. Victor Hatherley, recounting strange happenings of the night before, first to Dr. Watson, who dresses the stump where Mr. Hatherley's thumb has been cut off, and then to Sherlock Holmes himself.
Hatherley had been visited in his office by a man who identified himself as Colonel Lysander Stark. He offered Hatherley a commission at a country house, to examine a hydraulic press used, as Stark explains, to compress fuller's earth into bricks. Stark warned Hatherley to keep the job confidential, offering him 50 guineas (£52 10s, an enormous sum at the time, worth over £4000 today[1]). Hatherley felt compelled to take this work, despite his misgivings, as his business was newly established and he had very little work.
Upon arriving late at night at the appointed train station, Hatherley is met by Colonel Stark and is driven a considerable distance in a carriage with frosted glass windows to the house where he is to examine the machine. (A minor detail is that the house was actually quite near the station; Holmes realizes that the carriage drove "six [miles] out and six back" to disguise the house's location from Hatherley.) Hatherley is still under the spell of the 50 guineas and does not become afraid even when a woman at the house warns him to flee. He is presently shown the press and makes his recommendations as to needed repairs. Then, he rashly decides to inspect the press more closely. His discovery that its floor is covered by a "crust of metallic deposit" confirms his suspicion that the machine is not used for pressing fuller's earth. Hatherley narrowly escapes getting crushed to death when Stark turns the machine on him, but he escapes the press with the aid of the woman. Pursued by the murderous Stark, Hatherley is forced to jump from a second story window, in the process getting his thumb severed by Stark's cleaver. Hatherley survives the fall but passes out in the rose-bushes, coming to hours later by a hedge near the rail station.
Holmes then makes sense of the happenings, recognizing Stark and his allies as counterfeiters, but he, Watson, and the police arrive too late: the house is on fire, and the perpetrators have fled. Ironically, the press was destroyed when Hatherley's lamp was crushed inside it, setting the machine on fire and ruining the criminals' operation, although they escaped with several "bulky boxes" presumably containing counterfeit coins.
This case is one of the few where Holmes fails to bring the villains to justice. (Others include The Five Orange Pips, The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter and The Hound of the Baskervilles, though in all these cases Providence exacts vengeance on the villains.)
I recommend this book to all readers that love a well written mystery and of course to those who appreciate Sherlock Holmes adventures.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Book "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle", one of the 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is the seventh story of twelve in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The story was first published in Strand Magazine in January 1892.

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: A very entertaining mystery short story from the Sherlock Holmes short stories collection. The plot is quite simple and intelligent: Watson visits his friend Holmes at Christmas time and finds him contemplating a battered old hat, brought to him by the commissionaire Peterson after the hat and a Christmas goose had been dropped by a man in a scuffle with some street ruffians. Peterson takes the goose home to eat, but later returns to Holmes with a blue carbuncle his wife had found in the bird's crop (throat). Holmes makes some interesting deductions concerning the owner of the hat from simple observations of its condition, conclusions amply confirmed when an advertisement for the owner produces the man himself: Henry Baker.
Holmes cannot resist such an intriguing mystery, and he and Watson set out across the city to determine exactly how the jewel, stolen from the Countess of Morcar during her stay at a hotel, wound up in a goose's crop. The man who dropped the goose, Mr. Henry Baker, comes to reclaim his hat in response to Holmes' advertisement. Holmes drops hints about how he saved the "innards" of the goose, but Baker fails to respond to them, simply saying that he is afraid goose remains are not much use. He does, however, give Holmes valuable information, eventually leading him to the conclusive stage of his investigation, at Covent Garden. Holmes offers a fresh goose to Henry Baker, who responds with gladness and departs, whereupon Holmes tells Watson that Baker is eliminated from the suspect list as he obviously knows nothing about the carbuncle. At Covent Garden, a salesman named Breckinridge gets angry with Holmes, complaining about all the people who have pestered him about geese sold recently to the landlord of the Alpha Inn. Clearly, someone else knows that the carbuncle was in a goose and is looking for the bird. 
Holmes expects that he will have to visit the goose supplier in Brixton, but it proves unnecessary: the other "pesterer" that the salesman mentioned shows up right then, a cringing little man named James Ryder whom Holmes prevails upon to tell the whole sordid story, by first mentioning that Ryder is probably looking for a goose with a black bar on its tail, a remarkable bird that "[laid] an egg after it was dead". Of course, Holmes has already deduced most of it.
Ryder, believing he was being pursued for the theft, fed the carbuncle to a goose being bred by his sister Maggie Oakshott. He was to have had that goose as a gift, but lost track of which one it was.
When Ryder cut open the goose and found no gem, he went back to his sister, who had provided the Alpha Inn geese, and asked if there was more than one goose with a black bar on its tail. She said there were two, but he was too late: she had sold it to Breckinridge at Covent Garden. Breckinridge had already sold the geese to the Alpha Inn, and the other goose with a black bar on its tail had found its way to Henry Baker as his Christmas fowl. Ryder and his accomplice — the countess's maid, Catherine Cusack — contrived to frame John Horner, a plumber who worked at the same hotel as Ryder and had previously been imprisoned for robbery, for the crime.
Holmes, however, does not take the standard action against the man, it being Christmas, concluding that arresting the clearly anguished Ryder will only make him into a more hardened criminal later. Ryder flees to the continent and Horner will be freed as the case against him will collapse without Ryder's perjured testimony. Holmes remarks that he is not retained by the police to remedy their deficiencies.
I recommend this book to all readers that love a good mystery story, mainly those who enjoy Sherlock Holmes mystery stories.

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


Monday, August 4, 2014

Book "The Case of the Killer Divorce" by Barbara Venkataraman

About the Book: Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, has returned to her family law practice after a hiatus due to the death of her mother. It's business as usual until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation, and Jamie's client becomes the prime suspect. When she can't untangle truth from lies, Jamie enlists the help of Duke Broussard, her favorite private investigator, to try to clear her client's name. And she’s hoping that, in his spare time, he can help her find her long-lost father.

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: Another masterpiece from this talented author! In this book, we find Jamie Quinn back at family law practice. One of her cases is a divorce that turns into an homicide investigation and her client is the prime suspect. Too much for a family lawyer... Again she needs to use the help of her best friend Grace (a criminal lawyer) and her favorite private investigator Duke. While this investigation is taking place, Jamie is also trying to find her father. She always believed her father was dead and her mother never gave her much information about him. But after her mother's death, aunt Peg gave her a letter from her mother explaining the story about her father and she asked Duke to try to help her find if he was still alive.
Excellent story, excellent plot and a very entertaining story that will keep you hooked until you turn the last page! It took me around five hours to read the whole book.
I received this book from the author for reviewing and I was not requested to write a positive review. Opinion expressed here is my own.

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

Friday, August 1, 2014

Book "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" is one of the 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories written by Scottish author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is the eighth of the twelve stories collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It is one of four Sherlock Holmes stories that can be classified as a locked room mystery. The story was first published in Strand Magazine in February 1892, with illustrations by Sidney Paget. It was published under the different title "The Spotted Band" in New York World in August 1905. Doyle later revealed that he thought this was his best Holmes story.

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 magnificent story with a very elaborated plot: Holmes' client is Helen Stoner, a 32 year old spinster who lives with her stepfather: Dr. Grimesby Roylott of Stoke Moran. Dr Roylott is the last survivor of what was a wealthy but dissolute and violent tempered aristocratic Anglo-Saxon family of Surrey. After returning from India where he had a large medical practice and had served a jail sentence for killing his native Butler in a fit of rage, Roylott—a widower—settles with his two stepdaughters in the broken-down ancestral manor-all that is left of estates that had extended into Berkshire and Hampshire. The doctor becomes notorious for terrorizing the local village because of his quarrelsome personality and violent temper. Dr. Roylott has required Miss Stoner, who is engaged to be married, to move into a particular bedroom of his heavily mortgaged ancestral home in Stoke Moran. This room was the one in which two years before, Helen's twin sister Julia had died under mysterious and dramatic circumstances—uttering the last words "The band! The speckled band!"—just prior to her wedding. Helen is reluctant to sleep in the room because a number of things about the bedroom are mysterious and disturbing. Late at night, Helen hears low whistling sounds followed by a metallic clang. There is a strange bell cord over the bed but it does not appear to work any bell. The rope goes to a ventilator—an opening high in the wall of the room, close to the ceiling—which provides air circulation between Helen's room and an adjacent room of Dr Roylott in the crumbling mansion. In addition, Helen's bed is clamped to the floor; this piece of furniture can never be moved from its position. Stoner surmises that Julia might have been murdered by the gypsies who wear speckled handkerchiefs around their necks, in order to bring in a bit of cash. Dr. Roylott has rented spare rooms in Stoke Moran near them. A cheetah and a baboon also have the run of the property, for Dr. Roylott keeps exotic pets from India.
After Helen leaves, Dr. Roylott comes to visit Holmes, having traced his stepdaughter. He demands to know what Helen has said to Holmes, but Holmes refuses to say. Dr. Roylott bends an iron fireplace poker into a curve in an attempt to intimidate Holmes, but Holmes is unaffected as he attempts to make small talk during the encounter. After Roylott leaves, Holmes straightens the poker out again. Holmes research of the late wife's will finds that she had arranged for Roylott to receive an annuity which had been £ 1,100 GBP but now totals £ 750 GBP, with the provision that the daughters can each claim 1/3 of the annuity (£ 250 GBP) upon marriage. If both or even one daughter were to marry and claim the annuity due her, this would seriously pauperize Roylott financially-thus the doctor has motive for neither daughter to marry.
Having arranged for Helen to spend the night in another bedroom, Holmes and Watson sneak into her bedroom without Dr. Roylott's knowledge. Holmes says that he has already deduced the solution to the mystery, and the test of his theory turns out to be successful. They hear the whistle, and Holmes also sees what the bell cord is really for, although Watson does not. Julia's last words about a "speckled band" were in fact describing "a swamp adder, the deadliest snake in India". The adjacent room was occupied by Dr. Roylott and a safe containing the venomous snake, and the ventilator and bell cord were bridges for the snake to land on the bed. After the swamp adder bit Julia, he called off the snake with the whistling, which made the snake climb up through the bell cord, disappearing from the scene.
Now the swamp adder is sent again through the ventilator by Dr. Roylott to kill Julia's sister Helen. Holmes attacks the snake with a walking stick, sending it through the hole in the wall back toward its home in the physician's room. A shriek is heard, and the annoyed reptile is soon found to have injected its venom into the murderous physician. When Holmes and Watson enter the death scene, the swamp adder has wound its body around the head of its victim in triumph. Holmes replaces the reptile into the safe. A coroner's jury finds that Dr. Roylott came to his death due to indiscreet handling of a dangerous pet. Holmes grimly notes that he is indirectly responsible for Dr. Roylott's death, but that he is unlikely to feel much guilt over the chain of events that led to his departure from this world.
I recommend this book to any reader that is a lover of a good mystery and a Sherlock Holmes story.

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