We are Rebuilding this Blog!

We are Rebuilding this Blog!
CHECK IT OUT

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Balance of January 2015

During the month of January 2015, I reviewed the following:

Books:
- "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Rise of the Dragons" by Morgan Rice. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Forgotten Knight" by Christopher Vale. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Red Circle" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Resist" by Anne-Rae Vasquez. Read my review.
- "His Last Bow" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Tea Time with Mrs. Grammar Person" by Barbara Venkataraman, Read my review.
- "The Adventure of The Dying Detective" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book "The Adventure of The Dying Detective" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Dying Detective", in some editions simply titled "The Dying Detective", is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Together with seven other stories, it is collected as His Last Bow.

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 re-interred 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 honors 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, Dr. Watson is called to 221B Baker Street to tend Holmes, who is apparently dying of a rare Asian disease contracted while he was on a case at Rotherhithe. Watson is shocked, having heard nothing about his friend’s illness. Mrs. Hudson says that he has neither eaten nor drunk anything in three days.
Upon arriving, Watson finds Holmes in his bed looking very ill and gaunt indeed, and Holmes proceeds to make several odd demands of Watson. He is not to come near Holmes, for the illness is highly contagious. He will seek no help save from the man whom Holmes names. He will wait until six o’clock before Holmes names him. When Watson objects and tries to leave for help, Holmes musters enough strength to leap out of bed, and lock the door, taking the key. So, Watson is forced to wait. Holmes seems delirious at times.
Watson examines several objects in Holmes’s room while he waits. Holmes has a fit when Watson touches one item, a little black and white ivory box with a sliding lid. Holmes orders him to put it down, explaining that he does not like his things touched.
At six o’clock, Holmes tells Watson to turn the gaslight on, but only half-full. He then tells him to fetch Mr. Culverton Smith of 13 Lower Burke Street. Oddly, he also tells Watson to be sure that he and Smith return to Baker Street separately. Smith is not a doctor, but is supposedly an expert on the illness that ails Holmes. Also, Holmes explains that Smith does not particularly like him, for Holmes once cast the suspicion for Smith's nephew’s murder on him.
Outside Holmes’s door, Watson meets Inspector Morton. Upon hearing of Holmes’s illness, the inspector’s expression somewhat suggests exultation to Watson.
Watson goes to the address, and at first Smith refuses to see him. Watson forces his way in and once he makes it clear to an angry Culverton Smith that Sherlock Holmes is dying and wants to see him, his attitude changes drastically. He seems quite concerned, although for a moment, it seems to Watson that he is pleased. Smith agrees to come, and so Watson excuses himself by saying that he has another appointment. He arrives back at Baker Street before Smith gets there.
Holmes is pleased to hear that Smith is coming, and orders Watson to hide behind a decorative screen next to the bed. He does so, and presently, Culverton Smith arrives. His bedside manner seems more taunting than soothing.
Believing that they are alone, Smith is quite frank, and it soon emerges, to the hiding Watson’s horror, that Holmes has been sickened by the same illness that killed Smith’s nephew Victor. Believing that Holmes is at death’s door and will never get to repeat what he hears, Smith is also frank enough to admit that he murdered his nephew with this disease, which he had been studying. He sees the little ivory box, which Smith sent by post, and which contains a sharp spring infected with the illness. He pockets it, removing the evidence of his crime. He then resolves to stay there and watch Holmes die.
Holmes asks him to turn the gas up full, which he does. He also asks for a match and a cigarette. No sooner have these requests been fulfilled than Inspector Morton comes in — the gaslight was the signal to move in, it turns out. Holmes tells him to arrest Culverton Smith for his nephew’s murder. Smith, still as arrogant as ever, points out that his word is as good as Holmes’s in court, but then, of course, Watson emerges from behind the screen to present himself as a witness to the conversation.
Holmes is not really dying, of course. This has all been a ruse to get Culverton Smith to confess to his nephew’s murder. Holmes was not infected by the little box; he has enough enemies to know that he must always examine his mail carefully before he opens it. Starving himself for three days, and a little Vaseline, belladonna, rouge, and beeswax made him a convincing malingerer and the claim of the "disease's" infectious nature was to keep Watson from examining him and discovering the ruse.
Another excellent plot, I recommend this book to the permanent library of any reader that appreciates a well written mystery story, mainly featuring Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Book "Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person" by Barbara Venkataraman

About the Book: Fear not, Gentle Writer, Mrs. Grammar Person is here and she has the answers to all of the questions you never thought to ask. As a dedicated and serious grammarian, she will do what it takes to be entertaining and enlightening, but never vulgar or coarse. Heavens, no! Where are her smelling salts? Warm and witty, Mrs. G.P. makes grammar interesting with rhyming, wishful thinking, story-telling and a champagne toast. You are cordially invited to join her for a spot of tea!

About the Author: Award-winning author, Barbara Venkataraman is an attorney and mediator specializing in family law and debt collection.
She is the author of "Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person"; "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 "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 masterpiece of this author, a brilliant storyteller. In this short essay, Mrs. Barbara tells in a very light and humorous way the subject of grammar, in a perspective that teaches without being obnoxious. Being a professor myself, I have to tell that this is a very important subject, as I have many students in my classes that clearly leave high school without knowing how to properly write using plain English language. The atrocities they commit are painful to read. In this essay, we are presented to Mrs Grammar (and later, to Mr. Syntax). As is her characteristic, the author's writing flows smoothly and with elegance. It might take a couple of hours for you to read the entire book, and I will assure you that it will be two hours very well spent and you will find yourself learning something new and having a lot of fun while doing that. 
I recommend this book to all readers that want to improve their grammar while having fun reading the book. They will not be disappointed.

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book "His Last Bow" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


About the Book: "His Last Bow", published in September 1917, is one of 56 short stories about Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was first published in Strand Magazine, and, amongst six other stories, was collected in an anthology titled His Last Bow, also called Reminiscensces of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. The narration is in the third person, not, as usual, by Dr. Watson, and it is a spy story, rather than a murder mystery. Due to its portrayal of British and German spies, its publication during the First World War and its patriotic themes, the story has been interpreted as a propaganda tool intended to boost morale for British readers.

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 re-interred 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 honors 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, we are on the eve of the First World War, and Von Bork, a German agent, is getting ready to leave England with his vast collection of intelligence, gathered over a four-year period. His wife and household have already left Harwich for Flushing in the Netherlands, leaving only him and his elderly housekeeper. Von Bork's diplomat friend, Baron von Herling, is impressed by his collection of vital British military secrets, and tells Von Bork that he will be received in Berlin as a hero. Von Bork indicates that he is waiting for one last transaction with his Irish-American informant, Altamont, who will arrive shortly with a rich treasure: naval signals.
Von Herling leaves. Von Bork then hears another car arriving. It is Altamont. By this time, the old housekeeper has turned her light off and retired. Altamont shows him a package.
Altamont proceeds to disparage Von Bork's safe, but Von Bork proudly says that nothing can cut through the metal, and that it has a double combination lock. He even tells Altamont the combination: "August 1914". Altamont then insinuates that German agents get rid of their informants when they are finished with them, naming several who have ended up in prison. Altamont's mistrust of Von Bork is evident in his refusal to hand over the package before he gets his check. Von Bork, for his part, wants to examine the document before handing over the check.
Altamont hands him the package. Upon opening it, he finds it to be a book called Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, hardly what he expected. Even less expected is the chloroform-soaked rag that is held in his face by Altamont a moment later. Altamont, it turns out, is none other than Sherlock Holmes, and the chauffeur who brought him is Dr. Watson. Now much older than in their heyday, they have nonetheless not only caught several spies (Holmes is actually responsible for the imprisoned agents of whom he spoke) in their return from retirement, but fed the Germans some thoroughly untrustworthy intelligence. Holmes has been on this case for two years, and it has taken him to Chicago, Buffalo, and Ireland, where he learnt to play the part of a bitter Irish-American, even gaining the credentials of a member of a secret society. He then identified the security leak through which British secrets were reaching the Germans.
The housekeeper was part of the plot too. The light that she switched off was the signal to Holmes and Watson that the coast was clear.
They drive Von Bork and all of the evidence to Scotland Yard.
At the end, it is revealed that Holmes has retired from active detective work. He spends his days beekeeping in the countryside and writing his definitive work on investigation.
The story is the last chronological installment of the series, though yet another collection (The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes), set before the story, was published four years later. In reference to the impending World War I, Holmes concludes,
"There's an east wind coming, Watson."
"I think not, Holmes. It is very warm."
"Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age. There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared."
The patriotic sentiment of the above passage has been widely quoted, and was later used in the final scene of the Basil Rathbone film Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942), set in World War II, implied to have been a fictitious quote of Winston Churchill.
Another excellent plot, I recommend this book to the permanent library of any reader that appreciates a well written mystery story, mainly featuring Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

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

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book "Resist" by Anne-Rae Vasquez

About the Book: In a fight to save human kind from obliteration, Harry and Cristal continue to battle against the dark forces. However, the supposed angel forces have given up on mankind leaving Harry and Cristal in a terrifying dilemma. If the end is now, can online gamers save the world? Harry Doubt thinks so.

About the Author:Anne-Rae Vasquez's upcoming book Reveal book 3 of the Among Us Trilogy is scheduled to be released in the Fall of 2015. Her latest novels, RESIST, book 2 of the Among Us Trilogy and Imminent-a Truth Seeker Conspiracy Thriller were released in November 2014. Doubt, Book 1 of the Among Us Trilogy was a Gold winner in the Readers' Favorite Book Awards 2014. Doubt was launched at the Raindance Book Festival in 2013. The Among Us Trilogy questions what is beyond the reality of this world and ties in different supernatural religious beliefs of God, Heaven, Purgatory and Hell, angels and demons apocalypse, spirituality and fantasy by mixing themes from shows like Fringe and Supernatural to create an end of the world religious paranormal mystery thriller.
Her previous novel Almost a Turkish Soap Opera was adapted into a screenplay and later produced into an award winning feature film and web series and was her directorial debut. Her other works include: Gathering Dust - a collection of poems, Salha's Secrets to Middle Eastern Cooking Cookbook published by AR Publishing Inc. and Teach Yourself Great Web Design in a Week, published by Sams.net (a division of Macmillan Publishing).
In her parallel life, she hosts/produces Fiction Frenzy TV, a weekly VLog channel featuring indie artists, authors, filmmakers and musicians. In addition to this, she freelances as a journalist for Digital Journal and manages a production department.
Almost a Turkish Soap Opera was produced by Joseph Khalil, Sababa Emporium Film Productions.
-----
Almost a Turkish Soap Opera is an award winning feature film, and web series adapted from the novel that captures the turmoil of two young modern Turkish men trying to make a home in the West but finding their lives have turned into a Turkish soap opera. Almost a Turkish Soap Opera, an independent film by Sababa Emporium Productions and AR Films screened and won awards at film festivals and was released on DVD in Dec 2012. It is available to view on Amazon Prime Video. The film reflects on how Turkish soap operas have become very popular in the Middle East and now in Europe and how the West has influenced the Middle Eastern culture. For details go to www.almostaturkishsoapopera.com

My Review: If you liked the first book of this trilogy, you will love the sequel. This is a very well written book, directed to the young adult audience, but any reader that is looking for spending some hours entertained will enjoy very much this reading. Harry and Cristal continue their adventures, in search for Harry's mother and Cristal's father. In this episode, Cristal opens a portal to the purgatory and Harry goes in, finding there (for his surprise) Gabriel. Gabriel conducts Harry to Bina (his mother) and Carlos (Cristal's father) that are now attached by a strong and strange force. Harry has to leave, but he cannot bring Brina and Carlos back with him. His visit to the purgatory triggers a lot of consequences, and all action starts to flow in a fast pace. Karim and Raffe continue to amaze us and let us without an answer on which side they are playing for.
The mix of science, religion, angels, demons, heroes and villains is just perfect.
This sequel only make us want to read the third episode  of this trilogy as soon as it becomes available. I would advice the reader to read the first episode before reading this one, so he can understand better the relation among the characters.
This book was written by Anne-Rae Vasquez and I received a copy for reviewing from the author. I was not requested to write a positive review. Opinion expressed here is my own.

If you read this review, feel free to leave your comments!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax" is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is one of the eight stories in the cycle collected as His Last Bow, and one of the few stories in which for much of the plot Watson must act alone and try his best with Holmes left in the background.

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 re-interred 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 honors 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 sends Dr. Watson to Lausanne to investigate Lady Frances Carfax’s disappearance. Holmes is too busy in London. Lady Frances is a lone, unwed woman denied a rich inheritance on account of her sex. She does, however, carry valuable jewels with her. It is also her habit to write to her old governess, Miss Dobney, every other week, but for the past five weeks, there has not been a word from her. She has left the Hôtel National for parts unknown. Her last two bank transactions were checks, one to pay her hotel bill, and another for £50 to her maid, Miss Marie Devine.
In Switzerland, Watson finds out that Lady Frances stayed at the Hôtel International for several weeks, but then suddenly left in a hurry one day. Only one witness could suggest an explanation, one involving a big, bearded man who kept hounding her. It also emerges that Lady Frances’s maid has left her employ, although it is not known why.
Watson finds out where Lady Frances went, and inquires at the Englischer Hof in Baden, Germany. She stayed there for a fortnight and met a couple named Schlessinger, a missionary from South America, and an invalid. Lady Frances left with them three weeks ago for London, and nothing has been heard of her since. Watson also finds out that the big bearded man, the “savage”, came about a week ago looking for her. Watson telegraphs Holmes about his progress, and oddly, Holmes wires back asking for a description of Dr. Schlessinger’s left ear. Watson believes this to be Holmes’s attempt at humor. Holmes is actually in earnest.
Watson visits Marie Devine, the former maid, in Montpellier, France, and it turns out that her upcoming wedding was why she left Lady Frances’s employ. The £50 was a wedding present. She, too, believes that the bearded man was the reason that her former mistress left Lausanne. He was quite a rough man. During this interview, Marie sees the very man in question in the street. Watson rushes out and demands to know who he is and what he has done with Lady Frances. A fight ensues and Watson is nearly strangled. A French workman breaks the fight up with his cudgel and the bearded man withdraws. It then turns out that the workman is a disguised Holmes, who suggests that Watson accompany him back to London, and wryly observes that there is no blunder which Watson has failed to commit in this investigation.
Before leaving, however, Holmes interviews someone. It is the bearded man, Philip Green, an old suitor of Lady Frances’s. Yes, he is seeking Lady Frances, but he still wants to win her heart. As a younger man, he was not rich. Now that he has made his fortune in South Africa, he hopes she will see him differently, but he is still rather churlish and clearly Lady Frances is unwilling. Holmes recommends that he go back to London.
Once Holmes and Watson are back at 221B Baker Street, Holmes reads a telegram from Baden about Dr. Schlessinger’s left ear — “jagged or torn”. This confirms Holmes’s suspicion that Dr. Schlessinger is in fact Henry Peters, a vicious rascal from Australia (his earlobe was chewed away in a bar brawl). His wife’s real name is Fraser. He beguiles young women by playing to their religious beliefs, as Schlessinger did with Lady Frances. This suggested his true identity to Holmes. Holmes believes that Lady Frances is in London, and quite possibly dead, or if not, confined in some way.
The search seems hopeless. The police follow known associates, Holmes places advertisements hoping to learn something, but nothing happens. Then, a pawnshop reports that someone matching Schlessinger’s description has pawned a pendant very much like one owned by Lady Frances. He gave a false address, but this gives Holmes what he needs. He has Philip Green wait in the pawnshop, knowing that Henry Peters will want to pawn more jewellery. It takes a few days, but he is not disappointed. His wife shows up this time to pawn a matching pendant, and Green follows her, first to an undertaker’s, where he finds Peters’s wife discussing an “out of the ordinary” order, and later to an address in Brixton. He watches the house and sees some men deliver a coffin.
Holmes writes Green a note and sends him to the police to fetch a warrant. Meanwhile, Holmes and Watson go first to the undertaker’s to ask about the funeral — it is at eight o’clock the next morning — and then to Brixton where they demand to see Dr. Schlessinger, or whatever he may call himself. Once inside, in the absence of a warrant, Holmes is obliged to resort to force to search Peters’s house. He finds the coffin, and deep inside it is a small, emaciated, very old, dead woman. It is certainly not Lady Frances. Peters explains that it is his wife’s old nurse. The police come and tell Holmes and Watson that they must leave. Peters gloats over Holmes’s obvious humiliation.
The day ends in apparent failure. Nothing suspicious can be found about the household, no warrant arrives, and Holmes and Watson go back to Baker Street. Holmes does not sleep that night, preferring to go over the case in his mind.
Finally, early the next morning, Holmes realises what is going on. He and Watson rush to Brixton and make sure that the coffin is not removed from the house to go for burial. They unscrew the coffin lid and find Lady Frances inside, chloroformed. The Peterses, while dishonest enough to kidnap someone to steal her jewels, were too squeamish to commit murder. Watson manages to revive her, and the Peterses are found to have fled. It was the remark heard by Green at the undertaker’s that helped Holmes deduce the truth. The woman there had been talking about an unusual coffin, and Holmes then also remembered that it was a big coffin for a very small woman, the idea being to obtain the necessary legal documents for the old woman, and then “legitimise” the burial of a coffin containing two bodies.
Another excellent plot, I recommend this book to the permanent library of any reader that appreciates a well written mystery story, mainly featuring Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book "The Adventure of the Red Circle" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Red Circle" is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Arthur Conan Doyle. It is included in the anthology His Last Bow.

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 re-interred 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 honors 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, Mrs. Warren, a landlady, comes to 221B Baker Street with some questions about her lodger. A youngish, heavily bearded man, who spoke good but accented English came to her and offered double her usual rent on the condition that he get the room on his own terms. He went out the first night that he was there, and came back after midnight when the rest of the household had gone to bed. Since then, neither Mrs. Warren, her husband, nor their servant girl have seen him. The lodger insisted on having the Daily Gazette every morning, and sometimes requested other things. All requests were printed on a slip of paper left on a chair outside the room where meals were also left.
Mrs. Warren has brought some spent matches and a cigarette end from her lodger, hoping that Holmes can read something from them. It is clear that the cigarette has been smoked without a holder, which is quite unusual for a man with whiskers. He also eats very little, and never receives visitors or messages.
After the landlady leaves, Holmes remarks to Dr. Watson that it seems likely that the person in Mrs. Warren’s house is not the bearded man who made the arrangements. The evidence lies not only in the cigarette, but in the fact that the lodger’s knowledge of English is not as good as the bearded man’s (he wrote MATCH as one of his requests, for instance, not MATCHES). His “return” on the first night was very late so that no-one would see him and he has taken great pains to ensure no-one has seen him since.
Holmes suspects that messages are being sent to the lodger, perhaps in the Daily Gazette’s agony column. He finds them: “Will find some sure means of communication. Meanwhile, this column. G.” (posted only two days after the lodger’s arrival), “Am making successful arrangements. Patience and prudence. The clouds will pass. G.” (three days later), and “The path is clearing. If I find chance signal message remember code agreed–one A, two B, and so on. You will hear soon. G.” (yesterday). Holmes needs only wait one day for a very useful message: “High red house with white stone facings. Third floor. Second window left. After dusk. G.” Holmes decides that it is time to reconnoitre Mrs. Warren’s neighbourhood.
Just then, Mrs. Warren arrives complaining that her husband was kidnapped that morning and taken by cab to Hampstead Heath where he was unceremoniously cast onto the roadway. He never got a clear look at his kidnappers or their cab. Holmes realizes that the ruffians mistook Mr. Warren for the lodger, and dumped him after they realized their mistake.
Holmes and Watson go to Mrs. Warren’s house just before lunchtime, hoping to catch a glimpse of the lodger as he takes his lunch from the chair. Before going in, Holmes observes that the lodger’s window commands a good view down Howe Street, and at the other end is a house matching the one mentioned in the agony column.
In Mrs. Warren’s house, Holmes and Watson hide in a boxroom. By using a mirror they see the lodger retrieve the lunch tray from the hall, discovering that the lodger is a comely-featured young woman with a dark complexion. They realize that she has been carefully printing (rather than writing in common handwriting) her requests to hide her gender. It is equally clear that she and her bearded confederate, likely a lover or husband, are in some kind of danger and seeking refuge. From the lodger’s horror at suspecting a trick at lunchtime, and the exceptional precautions that have been taken to ensure secrecy, it must be a matter of life and death.
That evening, Holmes and Watson are on hand to see the lodger’s confederate’s lantern-signals, sent by a waving candle. The first message says “Attenta, attenta, attenta!” (Beware, beware, beware!). It becomes clear that they are Italian, and from the “-a” ending that the message is meant for a woman. The signaller then flashes “Pericolo” (“Danger”) and then “Peri-”.
Realizing that the signaller has been interrupted, Holmes and Watson rush to the house and are surprised to meet Inspector Gregson and a Pinkerton detective from the United States named Leverton (described by Holmes as "the hero of the Long Island cave mystery"). They are lying in wait for Giuseppe Gorgiano, a vicious killer of whose infamy Holmes is well aware. The house has only one door and they know that he is inside. Gregson and Leverton have been unaware of the signalled messages. Gregson says that three men have come out of the house, but none was Gorgiano, who is a giant. One, however, matched the description of the man who made the arrangements at Mrs. Warren’s.
Going into the house and to the room where the signalling came from, Holmes, Watson, Gregson, and Leverton discover a grisly scene. The giant Gorgiano has been killed, apparently in a fight. The bearded man is undoubtedly the killer. The lady's arriving at the door shortly afterward is a surprise to everyone but Holmes, who had impersonated the lady's confederate by re-lighting the same candle that her confederate had used, and signalling in Italian for her to come.
Her name is Emilia Lucca, and her confederate is Gennaro, her husband. The men are rather taken aback by her obvious joy at this ghastly sight. She confirms that the Luccas were seeking refuge from the dangerous Giuseppe Gorgiano, who was out to kill Gennaro for betraying the Red Circle, a secret criminal organization that he had got himself involved in as a younger man, when he'd been deeply embittered over worldly injustices. Gennaro had never actually participated in any of the society's crimes, however, and eventually decided to leave the organization in spite of the threatened consequences. He and his wife fled Italy and went to New York to escape the Red Circle, but Gorgiano, another member, discovered Gennaro there, and contrived to oblige him to murder a good friend, a man who had gotten Gennaro started in legitimate business in the USA.
Gennaro had no intention of doing such a thing, and even warned his friend of the Red Circle’s orders. The police were also informed. The Luccas then fled to England where Gorgiano tracked Gennaro down, intending to kill Gennaro and abduct the lovely Emilia, to whom he had developed a lustful attraction. Gorgiano died in the ensuing fight, however.
Gregson feels compelled to take Emilia down to the police station, and the same fate probably awaits Gennaro, but as it is obvious that their actions had been purely in self-defense, it seems likely that there will be no charges.
Excellent plot, I recommend this story to the permanent library of all readers that appreciate a well written mystery tale, mainly featuring Mr. Sherlock Holmes. They will not be disappointed.

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Book "The Forgotten Knight" by Christopher Vale

About the Book: Camelot's greatest warrior is the knight history has forgotten.
Following a fierce battle by King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table to defend the home of Princess Gwynevere, Merlin the Magician is deeply shaken by a terrifying premonition of the fall of Camelot. Guided by magic, Merlin travels to the distant Empire of China where he meets a boy who Merlin believes will one day rescue the Queen and save Camelot from destruction.

About the Author: Christopher Vale lives in Florida with his beautiful wife, three adorable children and two fluffy dogs. The idea for his first book series "Dracengard" began when he was in a playwriting class in college in 1995 and evolved over the decades to become what it is now. You can visit him on the web at ChristopherVale.net.

My Review: Author Christopher Vale has an easy and light writing style, very enjoyable of reading. In this particular book, he retells the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The new character that is introduced is a Chinese boy (Sheng), trained as a warrior, that is foreseen by Merlin as the savior of Camelot from destruction. 
This is a beautiful and touching story of loyalty, love, friendship and trust. The author is a magnificent story teller and his descriptions of the battle scenes, the overall environment and all the characters he brings to life is superb. You will love and cheer for our new hero, in his journey to overcome his troubled relationship with his father and all his guilty feelings for not being able to save him and mainly for not being able to save the love of his life.
I recommend this book to the permanent library of all readers who enjoy a very well written fantasy book. They will not be disappointed.

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

Friday, January 16, 2015

Book "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is one of eight stories in the cycle collected as His Last Bow. Doyle ranked "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" ninth 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 re-interred 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 honors 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 and Dr. Watson find themselves in Cornwall one spring for the former’s health, but the holiday ends with a bizarre event. Mr. Mortimer Tregennis, a local gentleman, and Mr. Roundhay, the local vicar, come to Holmes to report that Tregennis’s two brothers have gone insane, and his sister has died. Tregennis had gone to visit them in their village (Tredannick Wollas), played whist with them, and then left. When he came back in the morning, he found them still sitting in their places at the table, the brothers, George and Owen, laughing and singing, and the sister, Brenda, dead. The housekeeper had discovered them in this state, and fainted. The vicar has not been to see them yet. Tregennis says that he remembers one brother looking through the window, and then he himself turned to see some "movement" outside. He declares that the horrific event is the work of the devil. Mortimer Tregennis was once estranged from his siblings by the matter of dividing the proceeds from the sale of the family business, but he insists that all was forgiven, although he still lives apart from them. The doctor who was summoned, reckoned that she had been dead for six hours. He also collapsed into a chair for a while after arriving.
Holmes goes to the house in question and, apparently carelessly, kicks over a watering pot, soaking everyone’s feet. The housekeeper tells Holmes that she heard nothing in the night, and that the family had been particularly happy and prosperous lately. Holmes observes the remains of a fire in the fireplace. Tregennis explains that it was a cold, damp night.
Afterwards, Holmes lays the case out to Watson thus:

  • Quite obviously, there is no point in attributing the tragedy to the Devil; therefore, what took place can only be the work of a person.
  • Whatever happened to those people happened right after Tregennis left, for they had not moved and everything was in the same place;
  • Mortimer Tregennis went swiftly back to the vicarage where he lives (a footprint sample was obtained in the watering pot “accident”);
  • The only suggestion of an explanation — the "movement" — comes from Mortimer Tregennis;
  • Given the weather, anyone appearing at the window and doing something horrifying enough to instantly kill someone would have had to come right up to the window thus trampling the flowerbed, which is still intact;
  • What on earth could this person at the window have done to cause such horror?
None of this seems to make for an elementary case, but soon, new questions are raised.
Dr. Leon Sterndale, the famous hunter and explorer, aborts his sailing from Plymouth after the vicar wired him (as the Tregennises are Sterndale cousins) with the tragic news. He asks Holmes what his suspicions are, and is displeased when Holmes will not voice them. After Stermdale leaves, Holmes follows him discreetly.
The morning after Holmes comes back to his room, apparently none the wiser for following Sterndale, the vicar arrives in a panic with the news that Mortimer Tregennis has now died in the same way as his sister. The two men, along with Watson, rush to Mortimer’s room, and find it foul and stuffy, even though the window has been opened. A lamp is burning on the table beside the dead man. Holmes rushes about, examining many things. The upstairs window seems especially interesting. He also scrapes some ashes out of the lamp, and puts them in an envelope.
Holmes deduces how the victims died or went mad and why people present when the death rooms were first opened fainted or felt unwell in each case. He tests his hypothesis by buying a lamp like the one in Tregennis’s room, lighting it, and putting some of the collected "ashes" on the smoke guard. The smoke from this powder is so potent a poison that Holmes is immediately struck down. Watson is able to resist and drags Holmes out of the room just in time.
It is clear to Holmes that Mortimer Tregennis poisoned his siblings, but who killed Mortimer?
It is Dr. Sterndale, who left physical evidence at the vicarage clearly implicating himself. Holmes confronts Sterndale, who explains that he loved Brenda for years (but had been unable to marry her because of the current marriage laws which prevented him from divorcing his wife even though she abandoned him years ago) and killed Mortimer in revenge for the cruel murder.
The poison is called Radix pedis diaboli (“Devil’s-foot root” in Latin), Sterndale collected from Africa as a curiosity. The toxic contents of the plant root are vaporized by heat and diffuse into the local atmosphere. He once explained to Mortimer what it was and what it was capable of, who then stole some to murder his siblings by throwing it on the fire just before he left. Mortimer thought Sterndale would be at sea before news reached Plymouth, but Sterndale recognized the poison’s effects from the vicar’s description of the tragedy and deduced right away what had happened.
Holmes’s sympathies in this matter lie with Sterndale, and he tells him to go back to his work in Africa.
I recommend this book to the permanent library of all readers that enjoy a well written mystery story. They will not be disappointed!

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

Friday, January 9, 2015

Book "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is one of eight stories in the cycle collected as His Last Bow, and is the second and final appearance of Mycroft Holmes. Doyle ranked "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" fourteenth 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 re-interred 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 honors 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 book, the monotony of thick smog-shrouded London is broken by a sudden visit from Holmes’s brother Mycroft. He has come about some missing, secret submarine plans. Seven of the ten pages — three are still missing — were found with Arthur Cadogan West’s body. He was a young clerk in a government office at Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, whose body was found next to the Underground tracks near the Aldgate tube station, his head crushed. He had little money with him (although there appears to have been no robbery), theater tickets, and curiously, no Underground ticket. The three missing pages by themselves could enable one of Britain’s enemies to build a Bruce-Partington submarine.
It seems clear that Cadogan West fell from a train and that he stole the plans meaning to sell them, but the mystery is truly complex:
How did Cadogan West meet his end?
If he was thrown off a train, what was he doing at Aldgate, well past the stop where he presumably would have gone?
If he had made an appointment with a foreign agent to sell the plans, would he not have kept his evening free instead of buying theater tickets for himself and his fiancée?
How did he get into the Underground without a ticket, or did someone take it?
Why can no evidence of violence be found in any Underground coach?
How is it that Cadogan’s head was crushed and yet there was very little bleeding by the track where he was found?
Inspector Lestrade tells Holmes that a passenger has seen fit to report hearing a thud at about the location in question, as though a body had fallen on the track. He could not see anything, however, owing to the thick fog.
After an examination of the track near Aldgate, Holmes reaches an astonishing and unusual conclusion: Cadogan West had been killed elsewhere, was deposited on the roof of an Underground train, and fell off when the jarring action of going over the points at Aldgate shook the coach.
Holmes decides to visit Sir James Walter, who was in charge of the papers. He has, however, died, apparently of a broken heart from the loss of his honor when the papers were stolen, according to his brother Colonel Valentine.
Cadogan West’s fiancée is a bit more informative. There was something on his mind for the last week or so of his life. He commented to her on how easily a traitor could get hold of “the secret” and how much a foreign agent would pay for it. Then, on the night in question, as the two of them were walking to the theater, near his office, he dashed off, never to be seen again.
Holmes next goes to the office from which the plans were stolen. Sidney Johnson, the senior clerk, tells Holmes that as always, he was the last man out of the office that night, and that he had put the papers in the safe himself. Anyone coming in afterwards to steal them would have needed three keys (for the building, the office, and the safe), but no duplicates were found on Cadogan West’s body, and only the late Sir James had all three keys. Johnson also mentions that one of the seven recovered pages might also be indispensable to a foreign agent. This will prove important later. Holmes also discovers that it is possible to see what is happening inside the office from outside even when the iron shutters are closed.
After leaving, Holmes finds that the clerk at the nearby Underground station remembers seeing Cadogan West on the evening in question. He was most shaken by something, and took a train to London Bridge.
Acting on information from Mycroft, and on what he has learnt thus far, Holmes identifies a person of interest, Hugo Oberstein, a known agent who left town shortly after Cadogan West’s murder. Some small reconnaissance shows Holmes that Oberstein’s house backs onto an above-ground Underground line, and that, owing to traffic at a nearby junction, trains often stop right under his windows. It seems clear now that Cadogan West’s body was laid on the train roof — the evidence shows that he was not dropped from a height — just there. The only remaining questions are about who killed him and why.
Holmes and Dr. Watson break into Oberstein’s empty house and examine the windows, finding that the grime has been smudged, and there is a bloodstain. An Underground train stops right under the window. It would be easy to lift a dead man onto a train roof, as was apparently done. Some messages from the Daily Telegraph agony column, all seeming to allude to a business deal, are also found, posted by “Pierrot”, and this gives Holmes an idea. He posts a similarly cryptic message in the Times demanding a meeting, signing it Pierrot, in the hopes that the thief — assuming it is not Cadogan West — might show up at Oberstein’s house.
It works. Colonel Valentine shows up and is stunned to find Holmes, Watson, Lestrade, and Mycroft all waiting for him. He confesses to the theft of the plans, but swears that it was Oberstein who killed Cadogan West. Cadogan had followed the Colonel to Oberstein’s and then, injudiciously, intervened. Oberstein beat his head in. Oberstein then decided, over the Colonel’s objections, that he had to keep three of the papers, because they could not be copied in a short time. He then got the idea of putting the other seven in Cadogan West’s pockets and then putting him on a train roof outside his window, reasoning that he would be blamed for the theft when his body was found, when actually, he had only seen the theft in progress and followed the thief.
Colonel Valentine Walter had been deep in debt and had acted out of a need for money. He redeems himself somewhat by agreeing to write to Oberstein, whose address on the Continent he knows, inviting him to come back to England for the fourth, vital page. This ruse also works, and Oberstein is sentenced to 15 years in prison, while the missing pages of the Bruce-Partington plans are recovered from his trunk. Colonel Valentine dies in prison, not long after starting his sentence. Holmes is given an emerald tie pin by Queen Victoria (she is not actually identified by name, but there is little doubt considering the dropped hints and given that the story is set in the year 1895, while she still reigned) for his efforts.
Excellent plot, I recommend this book to all readers that enjoy a well written mystery book, mainly featuring Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. Watson.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Book "Rise of the Dragons" by Morgan Rice

About the Book: From #1 Bestselling author Morgan Rice comes a sweeping new epic fantasy series: RISE OF THE DRAGONS (KINGS AND SORCERERS—Book 1). Kyra, a 15 year old girl who dreams of following in her father’s footsteps and becoming a famed warrior, is a finer archer than all the others. As she grapples to understand her skills, her mysterious inner power, and what secret is being kept from her about her birth, she comes to realize that she is different than the others, and that hers is a special destiny.
But her people live under the thumb of oppressive noblemen, and when she comes of age and the local lord comes for her, her father weds her off to save her. Kyra, though, refuses, and she journeys out on her own, into the dangerous wood—where she encounters a wounded dragon and ignites a series of events that will change the course of the kingdom forever.
15 year old Alec, meanwhile, sacrifices for his brother, taking his place in the draft, and is carted off to The Flames, a wall of flames a hundred feet high that keeps back the army of Trolls to the north. On the other side of the kingdom, Merk, a mercenary striving to leave behind his dark past, quests through the wood to become a Watcher of the Towers and help guard the Sword of Fire, the magical source of the kingdom’s power. But the Trolls want the Sword, too—and they have other plans, preparing for a massive invasion that could destroy the kingdoms forever.
With its strong atmosphere and complex characters, RISE OF THE DRAGONS is a sweeping saga of knights and warriors, of kings and lords, of honor and valor, of magic, destiny, monsters and dragons. It is a story of love and broken hearts, of deception, of ambition and betrayal. It is fantasy at its finest, inviting us into a world that will live with us forever, one that will appeal to all ages and genders.

About the Author: Morgan Rice is the #1 bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of the epic fantasy series THE SORCERER'S RING, comprising 17 books; of the #1 bestselling series THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS, comprising 11 books (and counting); of the #1 bestselling series THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY, a post-apocalyptic thriller comprising two books (and counting); and of the new epic fantasy series KINGS AND SORCERERS. Morgan's books are available in audio and print editions, and translations are available in over 25 languages.
The first book in Morgan's new epic fantasy series, RISE OF THE DRAGONS (KINGS AND SORCERERS--BOOK 1) is now published!
TURNED (Book #1 in the Vampire Journals), ARENA ONE (Book #1 of the Survival Trilogy), and A QUEST OF HEROES (Book #1 in the Sorcerer's Ring) are each available as a free download on Amazon.
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! As always, if any of you are suffering from any hardship, email her at morgan@morganricebooks.com and she will be happy to send you a free book!

My Review: If you thought that there was no reason left for living after the end of the “Sorcerer’s Ring” series, you were completely wrong. Morgan Rice came up with what promises to be another brilliant series, where you can live the fantasies of trolls and dragons, and all the good ingredients that produce a very entertaining story, including valor, honor, courage, magic and faith in your destiny. The book “Rise of the Dragons” is the first book in the “Kings and Sorcerers” series. The easy and light writing style will hook you up from the very first page.
In this book we are introduced to our heroine Kyra, a 15 year old girl, who loves to fight like a warrior. She is trained by the best warriors that her father has in his castle. She is an excellent archer and her fighting skills are better than most of other men that work for her father. She has some mysterious power, but there is a secret about her birth that is kept from her. When an oppressive local lord comes for her, the only choice her father have is to wed her, but Kyra refuses and flees for a forest, where she finds a wounded dragon. She feels a strong connection with the dragon. Soldiers from the lord find both her and the wounded dragon and try to kill the dragon. In order to protect the dragon, she kills all of the lord’s soldiers, but a young boy escapes and notifies the lord. That triggers the beginning of a war.
In another parallel story, Alec is a young boy that volunteers to go in place of his lamed brother in the draft to go to protect The Flames, a place where there is a wall of flames preventing an army of Trolls to invade their land from the north.
In a third parallel story, Merk is a mercenary, hired to kill, but he is trying hard to change his lifestyle, seeking to become a Watcher of the Towers, people who guard the Sword of Fire, that keeps The Flames going on by magic.
I recommend this book to the permanent library of all readers that love to read a well written book, which will allow them to live a fantasy full of action. I can hardly wait to see how the story will develop from here and how our three heroes will have their fate entangled. The author managed again to produce a strong set of characters that make us cheer for them on every page we turn.

I received a copy of this book from the author and I was not requested to write a positive review. Opinion expressed here is my own.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge" is one of the fifty-six Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Arthur Conan Doyle. One of eight stories in the cycle collected as His Last Bow, it is a lengthy, two-part story consisting of "The Singular Experience of Mr. John Scott Eccles" and "The Tiger of San Pedro", which on original publication in The Strand bore the collective title of "A Reminiscence of Mr. Sherlock Holmes".

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 re-interred 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 honors 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 short story, Holmes is visited by a perturbed proper English gentleman, John Scott Eccles, who wishes to discuss something “grotesque”. No sooner has he arrived at 221B Baker Street than Inspector Gregson also shows up, along with Inspector Baynes of the Surrey Constabulary. They wish a statement from Eccles about the murder near Esher last night. A note in the dead man’s pocket indicates that Eccles said that he would be at the victim’s house that night.
Eccles is shocked to hear of Aloysius Garcia’s beating death. Yes, he spent the night at Wisteria Lodge, Garcia’s rented house, but when he woke up in the morning, he found that Garcia and his servants had all disappeared. He was alone in an empty house. He last remembers seeing Garcia at about one o’clock in the morning when he came to Eccles’s room to ask if he had rung.
Eccles met Garcia, a Spaniard, through an acquaintance, and seemed to form an unlikely friendship right away. Garcia invited Eccles to stay at his house for a few days, but when Eccles got there, he could tell that something was amiss. Garcia seemed distracted by something, and the whole mood of the visit seemed quite sombre. Indeed, Garcia’s mood became even darker once his servant handed him a note that evening.
Eccles left Wisteria Lodge and inquired about the place at the estate agent’s, and was surprised to find that the rent on the house had been paid in full. Odder still, no-one at the Spanish Embassy in London had heard of Garcia.
Inspector Baynes produces the note that Eccles saw Garcia receive. It reads “Our own colours, green and white. Green open, white shut. Main stair, first corridor, seventh right, green baize. Godspeed. D.”, in a woman’s handwriting. Could it have been a tryst? Could a jealous husband be behind Garcia’s death?
It emerges that Baynes has deduced that Garcia’s body had been lying out in the open since one o’clock, but Eccles says that this is impossible, as Garcia came to his room about then. Holmes theorizes that Garcia may have tampered with the clocks to get Eccles to bed earlier than he thought it was, and that the whole business of coming to his room and making a point of mentioning that it was one o’clock — when it was probably much earlier — was likely aimed at setting up an alibi, but for what?
All that Holmes can deduce is that the murderer lives near Wisteria Lodge, and in a big house.
Holmes and Dr. Watson go to Esher to see Wisteria Lodge with Inspector Baynes. The constable guarding the house reports a hair-raising experience. A brutish-looking man — the devil himself, thought the constable — looked in the window. The constable gave chase, but the intruder got away. Holmes establishes by the footmarks that the constable did not imagine this.
Inside the house, a number of odd items are to be seen. Something resembling a mummified baby, a bird torn to pieces, a pail of blood, and a platter full of charred bones. Holmes later links these to voodoo, providing an important clue.
Suddenly, however, five days after the murder, Holmes is astonished to read in the newspaper that Baynes has arrested someone, Garcia’s cook, the brutish fellow who had given the constable such a start. He provides little information, though — only grunts. Holmes is sure that the cook is not the murderer, and warns Baynes. Baynes, however, declines Holmes's assistance and advice.
Holmes spends the next day reconnoitering the local country houses, and finds one of interest, the Henderson household, whose master has obviously spent time in the tropics, and whose servant is a dark-skinned foreigner. Henderson’s two girls have an English governess named Burnet. Holmes also learns from a sacked gardener that Henderson is rich, and scared of something, although no-one can say what. Nor can anyone say where he came from. Henderson is also violent.
Holmes believes that the cryptic note came from this household, High Gable, and the writer could only be Miss Burnet, who has not been seen since the night of the murder. Holmes decides to go to High Gable, at night, to see whether he can “strike at the very heart of the mystery”. He does not get the chance.
Warner, the sacked gardener, comes in and announces that the Hendersons have fled by train, and tried to take Miss Burnet with them. He, however, wrestled her into a cab and brought her to the inn where Holmes and Watson are staying. She was obviously unwilling to go with Henderson for she had been drugged with opium.
“Henderson” has also been identified, by Inspector Baynes. He is Don Juan Murillo, the Tiger of San Pedro, a hated and feared overthrown dictator from Central America. Garcia, who was from San Pedro, not Spain, got himself killed in a revenge plot, it turns out. Miss Burnet was also part of the plot. Yes, she wrote the note, but Murillo’s secretary caught her doing it, Murillo confined her, and then awaited Garcia’s move, killing him. Miss Burnet’s real name is Mrs. Victor Durando. Her late husband was from San Pedro, its ambassador to Britain and a potential political rival to Murillo. Murillo had him recalled and shot so that he could not pose a threat to Murillo's position.
Out of the entire collection of Holmes stories by Doyle, this is the only story in which a police inspector (specifically, Inspector Baynes) is as competent as Holmes. Holmes has nothing but praise for Inspector Baynes, believing that he will rise high in his profession, for he has instinct and intuition. Inspector Lestrade rarely received this kind of appreciation from Holmes.
San Pedro is a fictitious country; its colors are green and white, explaining one part of the cryptic note.
Murillo and his companions give the police the slip in London, and resurface in Madrid under new aliases. However, they are both murdered, apparently by Nihilists and their killers are never caught.
Excellent plot, I recommend this book to any reader that appreciates a well written mystery short story. It will keep them entertained for a couple of hours.