During the month of February 2015, I reviewed the following:
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Friday, February 27, 2015
About the Book: "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client" (1924), one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 12 stories in the cycle collected as The Case Book of 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novels, The Mystery of Cloomber, not published until 1888, and the unfinished Narrative of John Smith, which would go unpublished until 2011.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 story, Sir James Damery comes to see Holmes and Watson about his illustrious client's problem (the client's identity is never revealed to the reader, although Watson finds out at the end of the story). General de Merville's young daughter Violet has fallen in love with the roguish and sadistic Austrian Baron Adelbert Gruner, whom Damery and Holmes are convinced is a shameless philanderer and a murderer. The victim was his last wife, of whose murder he was acquitted owing to a legal technicality and a witness's untimely death. She met her end in the Splügen Pass. Holmes also finds out that the Baron has expensive tastes and is a collector and a recognized authority on Chinese pottery. Holmes's first step is to see Gruner, who is amused to see Holmes trying to "play a hand with no cards in it". The Baron will not be moved and claims that his charm is more potent than even a post-hypnotic suggestion in conditioning Violet's mind to reject anything bad that might be said about him. Gruner tells the story of Le Brun, a French agent who was crippled for life after being beaten by thugs after making similar inquiries into the Baron's personal business. Holmes gets some help with his mission in the form of Shinwell Johnson, a former criminal who now acts as an informer for Holmes in London's underworld. Johnson rakes up Miss Kitty Winter, the Baron's last mistress. She is bent on revenge and will do anything to help Holmes. Kitty tells Holmes that the Baron "collects women" and chronicles his conquests in a book. Holmes realizes that this book, written in Gruner's own hand, is the key to curing Violet of her devotion to the scoundrel. Kitty tells Holmes that this book is kept in the Baron's study. First, Holmes goes to see Violet, bringing Kitty with him, but Violet is proof against Holmes's words. Kitty then makes it clear that Violet might end up dead if she is foolish enough to marry Gruner. The meeting ends with Holmes narrowly averting a public scene involving the enraged Kitty. Next, Holmes is attacked by two men, and the newspapers imply that he is near death. Watson goes to 221B Baker Street only to discover that Holmes's injuries have been exaggerated to give the impression that he will be out of action for quite a while. Several days later, Holmes is sufficiently recovered to be out of bed. The Baron is planning a trip to the United States just before the wedding and will be leaving in three days. Holmes knows that Gruner will take his incriminating book with him, never daring to leave it behind in his study. Holmes orders Watson to learn everything that he can about Chinese pottery in the next 24 hours. The next day, Holmes presents Watson with a fake business card styling him as "Dr. Hill Barton" and an actual piece of Ming pottery, a saucer. He is to go to Baron Gruner's house, pose as a connoisseur of Chinese pottery, and try to sell the saucer. Watson does as Holmes tells him but cannot fool the Baron for very long. Gruner realizes who has sent him. As Watson faces his murderous captor, a noise from another room alerts the Baron and he rushes into his study just in time to see Holmes jump out of the window. The Baron rushes to the window and gets vitriol thrown in his face by Kitty Winter, who has been hiding outside. During Holmes visit he manages to steal the book. The Baron is now hideously disfigured, but Holmes says this will not put Violet off him. However, when Violet sees the book of conquests, written in her fiancé's handwriting, she realizes what a rogue he is. An announcement in The Morning Post says that the marriage between Baron Adelbert Gruner and Miss Violet de Merville is off. It also says vitriol-throwing charges are being pressed against Kitty Winter. Extenuating circumstances reduce her sentence to the lowest possible for such an offence.
Another good plot, I recommend this book to all readers that appreciate a well written mystery book.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
About the Book: In the #1 New York Times bestselling novel Wonder, readers were introduced to memorable English teacher Mr. Browne and his love of precepts. This companion book features conversations between Mr. Browne and Auggie, Julian, Summer, Jack Will, and others, giving readers a special peek at their lives after Wonder ends. Mr. Browne's essays and correspondence are rounded out by a precept for each day of the year—drawn from popular songs to children’s books to inscriptions on Egyptian tombstones to fortune cookies. His selections celebrate the goodness of human beings, the strength of people’s hearts, and the power of people’s wills. There’s something for everyone here, with words of wisdom from such noteworthy people as Anne Frank, Martin Luther King Jr., Confucius, Goethe, Sappho—and over 100 readers of Wonder who sent R. J. Palacio their own precepts.
About the Author: She lives in NYC with her husband, two sons, and two dogs. For many years, she was an art director and book jacket designer, designing covers for countless well-known and not so well-known writers in every genre of fiction and nonfiction. She always wanted to write, though. She kept waiting for the perfect time in her life to start writing, but after more than twenty years of designing book jackets for other people, she realized that the perfect time would never really present itself. It's never the perfect time to start writing a book. So she decided to just go for it. Wonder is her first novel. And no, she didn't design the cover, but she sure do love it
This is a very well written book, excellent idea e very inspirational. I recommend this book to the permanent library of any reader who wants to spend some quality time with a nice reading material. They will not be disappointed.