The Whole Art of Detection by Lindsay Faye

Chupa sitting proud.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: HighBridge (2017)

Length: 11 hours 15 minutes

Author’s Page

This collection of Holmes & Watson stories is charming, entertaining, and fulfills my need for stories of this great literary duo. The book is divided into 4 parts. Before Baker Street has stories of the time before the two met each other but they are told in a style that shows the two men know each other now and are sharing these past adventures.

In The Early Years part, Watson and Holmes have their first cases together, still working out their professional relationship and building a friendship.

The Return shows us Watson’s anger and distress at over losing both Holmes to Reichenbach Falls and his beloved wife Mary to illness, yet to find out that Holmes was still alive is well done. I don’t believe I have ever seen Watson so hurt and angry, and rightly so!

Finally in The Later Years, these stories feel like the traditional Doyle stories where Watson and Holmes work well together, have a solid friendship, and can still irritate one another from time to time.

feel like the traditional Doyle stories where our heroes are master sleuths and get along well with each other’s peculiar quirks.

The Case of Colonel Warburton’s MadnessWatson is attempting to entertain Holmes with a tale of his past before he met him. Set in the Wild West, Watson describes some strange goings on with Colonel Warburton and how this upsets his doting daughter. I really enjoyed this tale as I would like to see some alternate history where Watson and Holmes spend years in the desert Southwest solving cases. 5/5

The Adventure of the Magical MenagerieHolmes really does have a heart and it shows in this one. We can also see why he keeps it tucked away most times. Definitely an interesting way to hide your illegally gotten goods! It wasn’t my favorite but it was still good. 4/5

The Adventure of the Vintner’s CodexThis story really felt like a match for the original Doyle collection. Holmes can be a complete irritation to Watson and his way of ‘apologizing’ is to tell Watson a tale of stolen music. Parts were charming and heartfelt and a few times I chuckled. 4/5

The Adventure of the Honest WifeI really enjoyed this one! Sure, Holmes sometimes goes on about the ‘weaker sex’ and yet he often tries to set aside his harsher self to help a lady out.. unless he thinks her faithless. Watson notes how Holmes has an aversion for the female gender entirely. There were some great twists in this one. 5/5

The Adventure of the Beggar’s FeastThis was also a favorite story of the batch. I have often wondered what it would be like if Holmes was a father figure for someone and this story helps to answer that. I love that he was a bit flustered when Watson figures out what he was doing. I can even picture Holmes blushing. 5/5

Memoranda Upon the Gaskell Blackmailing DilemmaThis is one of the tales told from Holmes’s point of view and I get such a chuckle out of his straight forward, honest, and yet often acerbic observations of people and their activities. While Watson is off dealing with the hounds on the moors of Baskerville, Holmes has to sort out a blackmailer. There were some surprises to this one. 5/5

The Lowther Park MysteryOK, this one was just cute. It was fun but went by really fast. He’s been maneuvered into attending a social dinner party that’s brimming with important people. Watson gently teases him over his distaste of socializing. Engineering a charade, he uses that distraction to foil the plans of some nefarious people. This story also introduces Holmes’s brother Mycroft. The plot was a bit light on details. 4/5

An Empty HouseLestrade makes an appearance in this sad tale. It’s from Watson’s journal during the time shortly after his wife passed away. It’s a weighty piece, probably being the saddest story in the bunch. 4/5

The Adventure of the Memento MoriThis story showed the depths of the friendship between Watson and Holmes and also how hurt Watson was over Holmes’s presumed death. There’s acknowledgement, regret, and acceptance. Of course, there’s this deliciously creepy mystery going on as well. 5/5

Notes Regarding the Disappearance of Mr. James PhillimoreThis was a quick and fun tale. I guessed early on what was going on but it was interesting to see Watson put it all together. I do believe that Holmes had guessed the truth of the matter early on but was letting Watson gather up evidence to support his supposition. 4/5

The Adventure of the Willow BasketIt’s interesting to see Holmes’s rationale for handing off credit for solving various mysteries to Lestrade. Not that Lestrade is stupid but sometimes he portrayed as heavy-handed or a bit bumbling. I liked Faye’s take on his character in this story. Leeches. Gotta watch out for those leeches! 4/5

The Adventure of the Lightless MaidenThe Victorian age was in love with the supernatural and it’s quite fun to see what Holmes and Watson make out of a case that apparently involves a ghost. I enjoyed the technical aspects to it. Photography was really coming into it’s own at this time as well. 4/5

The Adventure of the Thames TunnelFor some reason, this one didn’t really stand out to me yet I don’t know why. Usually I enjoy tales that feature a shadowy organized criminal element, such as the Iron Hand in this story. There’s a jewel thief dead in the Thames Tunnel and our hero duo has only questions to get them started on the mystery. There’s revenge at the heart of the matter. It was fun but not one that stood out for me.  3/5

The Adventure of the Mad BaritoneThis was an unexpected one. It was a bit twisted and I totally agreed with Holmes’s anger over how the homeless opera singer was treated and a distressed woman was tricked and cheated. Holmes and Watson were very decent in how they revealed the truth to the woman and also assisting the singer. 5/5

Notes Upon the Diadem Club Affair Here we have the second story told from Holmes’s point of view, which I really enjoyed. In fact, I wish we had more stories from his point of view. Watson is always so polite and usually kind, so I enjoy these tales that shine a harsher light on all the participants. The mystery was OK but the story was pure fun. 5/5

This is a pretty good collection of Holmes & Watson stories. While there is no one central female character of note (though Mrs. Hudson puts in a few appearances), the female characters come from a variety of backgrounds and with varying degrees of intelligence. Even when I felt this or that character was rather gullible, they were still very human. The ladies weren’t merely filler or someone to be saved or assisted. Often they added to the mystery.

It was really great to see Watson’s medical expertise come into play more than once. Some authors give this skill set a mere nod or simply pass it on by. Not so here, thankfully! Watson worked hard for his medical knowledge. It should be put to use.

All together, I enjoyed this collection of stories more than I expected. This anthology provides depth to the beloved duo.

I received a free copy of this book through LibraryThing.

The Narration: Simon Vance is absolutely lovely to listen to. I loved his clipped voice for Holmes and his warm, caring voice for Watson. He had a variety of accents and his female voices were mostly believable. He kept all the characters distinct and did a great job portraying the emotions of Watson and Holmes.

What I Liked: The stories cover the many years of their friendship and then some; a dabble of the paranormal; Sherlock’s secret heart where it concerns wronged women and homeless kids; Watson’s anger and sadness over losing his wife and Holmes; healing the rift between the two; helping Lestrade build his career; the stories from Holmes’s point of view.

What I Disliked: I would have enjoyed a few more stories from Holmes’s point of view.

What Others Think: 

The John H Watson Society

Reading Reality

Book Page

Criminal Element

The Baker Street Babes

Rhapsody in Books

Historical Novel Society

Booker Worm

20 Something Reads

The Auctioneer by Simon de Pury and William Stadiem

PuryStadiemTheAuctioneerChupaWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Ralph Lister

Publisher: HighBridge (2016)

Length: 9 hours 28 minutes

de Pury’s Page   Stadiem’s Page

This autobiography takes the reader into the world of the rich and famous, of high-priced art, and into Simon de Pury’s private life. Art attracts an eclectic crowd; therefore, de Pury has plenty of tales of famous folk from several walks of life.

The book starts off with a lot of name dropping. It tapers off a bit in the second disc and a story eventually arises. However, the name dropping, usually with little to no context, continues throughout the book. I don’t follow the tabloids. I don’t read up on celebrities. So much of this book was lost to me. I recognized perhaps a tenth of the names mentioned in this book. This alone made the book rather boring for me. Sometimes it read like a catalog list of famous people the author knows, just one name after another after another after another.

Eventually, we get some interesting stories about people in de Pury’s life. For instance, he was dating a super model for several months and she was known as a portrait artist as well, specializing in nude portraits of herself. Yep. You read that right. The whole segment was rather amusing. Later in the book, we learn that she is not alone at all in her need to paint her own nude portrait. I was quite surprised that it wasn’t that uncommon.

Perhaps at the half way mark, the book reveals more about the author, taking us through his life from his school days, his college education, his first jobs and his first marriage, and on through to his divorce, dating, and then second wife. Bits and pieces of this I found interesting. He does spend some quality time talking about the first private collector he curated and collected for. He did a good job of portraying the man’s mood swings without making him sound like a jerk.

Still, I kept waiting to hear more about the art. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Various famous works and artists are mentioned throughout but little is discussed on the history of the pieces or on the lives of the artists. Really, this book is quite flashy and lacks depth all around.

I couldn’t tell if the author was doing some tongue in cheek with us readers or not. He talks about various people being humble or of a quiet nature and then tells a little story that shows the opposite aspect. Indeed, he does this with himself where he casually mentions that he just happens to be a baron, but that’s something he generally keeps in the closet instead of flashing it around. Ha! After a while, I just learned to laugh at these things.

Several times, de Pury talks about how hard life could be for those in his circle, including himself. However, I do believe we’re talking about the bottom two-tenths of the top 1% of the world’s financially gifted. I did find it hard to sympathize with these stories. Often, they only made the author sound like a wealthy elitist. On the other hand, it’s a rather interesting look into what the top 1% consider a travesty or a hardship.

Over all, the book was rather boring for me. So many of the people mentioned I didn’t recognize and the majority of them are come and gone from the story like a flash in a pan. The large amount of name dropping didn’t add substance to the book. I wanted more art and less flash and that never happened. I definitely felt the author was holding back from telling the reader his direct thoughts on the matter for the entirety of the book.

I received a copy at no cost from the publisher (via LibraryThing) in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Ralph Lister did a really good job with this book. He had a steady upper crust European voice for the entirety of the book. I really liked his expressive nature as I could just picture the author being excited or crushed or frustrated, depending on circumstances. Occasionally, he was required to do some accents and he did them well. 

What I Liked: The book did make me laugh several times; I liked the stories that stuck with one or two people for more than a chapter best; de Pury himself has had an interesting life; great narration.

What I Disliked: Way too much name dropping; not much about the art or artists; sometimes I wondered if he was poking fun at certain people (including himself) or not.

What Others Think:

Natalie Salvo’s Written Portfolio

Kirkus Reviews

The Infidel Stain by M. J. Carter

CarterTheInfidelStainClaudieWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Alex Wyndham

Publisher: HighBridge (2016)

Length: 11 hours 23 mins

Series: Book 2 Avery and Blake

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone novel.

Set in Victorian England, Captain William Avery has made his way to London (leaving a pregnant wife behind in the countryside) to meet up with his former colleague Jeremiah Blake, who he befriended in India. Both are tasked by the Viscount Allington to look into the gruesome murder of a printer of questionable materials. As they dig into the matter, they discover the police reluctant to investigate and the locals are even less likely to talk to them about the incident. However, as more bodies pile up, the clues do as well.

This was the book I needed that I didn’t know I needed. It’s like finding out that your tongue and tummy really do want a curry when prior to actually putting curry in your mouth, you didn’t know you wanted it. When I started this book, I was a bit intrigued, yes, but not particularly excited. Then as I dug into it, I realized that this was indeed something special.

First off, I really like the chemistry between Blake and Avery. Blake has a shady past that we learn a little bit about as the story unfolds while Avery comes from a well-to-do family and has orbited all the right groups to stay respectable. Blake can definitely relate to many of the characters we meet as they investigate the murder of the printer. However, Avery has to set aside so many of his preconceived notions in order to wrap his head around the facts. Despite their social differences, there’s a deep respect between the two men and that friendship is one of the key things that keeps them alive.

I was half expecting a kind of stuffy English murder mystery where we might get 1 gruesome scene and then then a lot of innuendos about the seedier side of life. Thankfully, the author gives us more than that. I really appreciated that she didn’t sanitize the 1841 London: there’s cess pits, prostitutes, corrupt police, and pornographic printed materials. This made the story more real for me.

Then there’s some small references to advancements made in the time period. For example, the blue-coated ‘New Police’ are out in force. They’ve been established for at least a few years at this time, but not long enough for the locals to really appreciate them. Also, Avery is running around with one of the new fountain pens, so he doesn’t need an ink well to write down his thoughts. These little touches gave the book an educational feel to add to all the adventure and mystery.

There’s several side characters that were pretty interesting. For me, Mattie was the highlight. She works selling cheap vegetables and herbs out of her basket and running odd errands for the various shopkeepers along her road. She and her brother were orphaned when their parents died, though she did learn to read and write before then. She’s working hard to keep a place for the two of them, without becoming a prostitute. However, her brother has gotten into a bit of trouble and that comes into play later in the book. Captain Avery found her fascinating, mostly because he had such warring emotions concerning her life. It was very interesting to watch how her mere existence challenged so many of Avery’s notions of poor people and what their lives are like.

The mystery element was pretty entertaining as well. It looks a bit simple at first, but then gets more complicated. The various printers in the area are competitive. Then each has their private well-to-do customers who usually want some questionable reading materials. On top of that, there’s a large chunk of poor folks in London that are demanding the right to have a vote, specifically concerning certain grain taxes. Of course, our dear skeptical Blake wonders why Viscount Allington is interested in the case at all. Lots of strings for our investigating duo to pull.

Over all, I found this book gripping on several fronts. I really enjoyed Blake’s ability to blend in and Avery’s discomfort at being asked to do so as well. The side characters are lively and have their own agendas. The mystery was not nearly as straight forward as it seemed. I was thoroughly entertained by this one!

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the publisher (via LibraryThing) in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Alex Wyndham was a great pick for this book. He had this great voice for Blake that was a bit gravelly and usually held a note of skepticism. I also liked his polite gentleman voice for Captain Avery. His female voices were well done as well, sounding feminine. He had a variety of English accents to help us all keep the characters straight. 

What I Liked: The setting; the mystery is not so straight forward; our main characters sometimes have opposing views but they also have a deep respect for each other; the side characters were always interesting; the author tossed in a few new-at-the-time inventions; the book occasionally had a gritty feel to it where appropriate; the ending was satisfying.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was totally entertaining!

What Others Think:

Historical Novel Society

PamReader

The Exile Bibliophile

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The Book Bag

The Cellar by Minette Walters

WaltersTheCellarTofuHeldigWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Justine Eyre

Publisher: HighBridge Company (2016)

Length: 4 hours 25 minutes

Author’s Page

 

The Songoli’s youngest son Abiola has failed to come home from school and Scotland Yard is investigating. That means that 14 year old Muna is treated like one of the family for the time being, instead of the slave she has been all these years. She now has her own bed room (instead of a mattress in the cellar), her own clothes (instead of a cast off tunic), and ribbons in her hair. The Songolis still treat her atrociously in private, but Muna is more clever than they know, and bright enough to be careful about revealing her smarts.

This novella is pretty dark, containing a few twists, and definitely has a gripping tenseness to it. All the characters are flawed individuals and there are a few moments when some positive attributes of one or another character show through. Muna’s mother died when she was toddler and she spent some time at an orphanage before Yetunde Songoli, posing as her aunt, adopted her. Once Muna was brought home, she was made a servant for the family, doing the bulk of the cleaning and perhaps some of the cooking.

Minette Walters paints a bleak life for Muna. She’s beaten regularly by Yetunde and her two sons and Abuka (Yetunde’s husband) regularly rapes her. Life sucks for her. Muna is told daily that she’s stupid and once the police get involved in Abiola’s disappearance, they are told that Muna has brain damage. While the Songolis use their native language (Hausa) at home, Muna has been quietly learning English by listening to the TV programs the Songolis watch at night. She quickly grasps that the Songolis are in a precarious position.

While I really enjoyed the tension of the story, there were several small questions that went unanswered. For instance,  Muna doesn’t know her numbers and yet it’s unclear how much of the cooking she does. If you do cooking with modern ovens and microwaves, then understanding numbers (to some extent) is part of that. Also, it’s never really clear why Yetunde decided the Songolis needed a slave to serve the household.

This is definitely Muna’s tale. I felt a mix of strong feelings towards her and that added to my enjoyment of the story. However, I do have to say that she did have incredible luck in that everything really goes her way once she starts to realize that she has some power over her life. Still, I couldn’t help but be on her side for most of the book.

Over all, it’s a chilling tale along the lines of ‘you get what you give’ for most of the characters. Muna is well written and fascinating because she didn’t always react the way I expected her to. While I had a few little outstanding questions by the end of the tale, it did hold my attention the entire way through.

I received a copy at no cost from the publisher (via LibraryThing) in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: I know Justine Eyre’s narrating work from Gena Showalter’s books (the Alien Huntress series which is a mix of scifi and erotica) so I wasn’t sure if she would be a good fit for this book. I worried for nothing. Eyre was very good, giving a serious (and sometimes creepy) performance of the tale. I’m not very familiar with the Hausa accent, but I can say that Eyre kept it consistent throughout the book. 

What I Liked: Very tense story; Muna is a complicated person; kept me engaged throughout the story; all the characters are flawed individuals, making them interesting; great narration.

What I Disliked: There were a few little questions about the plot left over at the end; Muna’s luck was a little hard to believe.

What Others Think:

SciFi Now

Novel Heights

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The Book Bag

 

Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid

Tofu was napping.
Tofu was napping.

Where I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Gerard Doyle

Publisher: HighBridge Company (2015)

Length: 11 hours 45 minutes

Series: Book 9 Tony Hill & Carol Jordan

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 9 in the series, it works mostly fine as a stand alone novel.

Former British crime investigator Carol Jordan has a drinking problem and it finally leaves her in a jail cell, needing to be bailed out. She’s had a long, mostly successful, career and now some superiors want her to head up a task force that spans over various precincts. She has to make her choice right quick so that they can put things in motion. She chooses the new job assignment and starts pulling together her old team – a psychologist (Tony Hill), a computer specialist, and some seasoned detectives. It’s quite a varied crew, which I really enjoyed. They decide to do a practice project first, to work out all the kinks, deciding to look into the suicide of a successful, outspoken woman. But as they dig deeper, they find other women who were loud and proud of their causes that mysteriously turned melancholy and killed themselves.

I liked watching Carol struggle to get her legs back under herself. At first, she doesn’t believe she has a drinking problem but her long time friend Tony won’t back down on this one. In fact, he brings over his Xbox to give her a new addiction while she battles the alcoholism. It was great to have this personal battle running in the background even as our heroes track down an unusual serial killer.

The point of view bounces around from the killer to Carol to Tony and then a few side characters. It was well done. From the first, we readers know the supposed suicide is really a murder but we don’t know who is doing it nor his full motivation. I liked that we got into the mind of the killer from the beginning but didn’t have his identity.

I think I would have enjoyed this book quite a bit more had I read the previous books in the series. There’s plenty of references to past relationships, etc. that come across as excess fluff in this book. I think I would have cared a lot more about the side characters had I come to know them previous to this installment in the series. However, this is my only criticism of the book. It’s well written, the pacing is great with a mix of action and contemplation, loved the cat and mouse aspects too.

The murders bring to light the rising issue of cyberstalking and trolls gone out of control. The author did a great job of showing how various people react to internet threats (some people are insensitive and blow it off and others take it seriously) and then also showing how it affects the lives of those targeted. I liked that she gave some great, very visceral examples but didn’t linger over the threatened violence.

 

I received a copy at no cost from the publisher (via LibraryThing) in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration:   The narrator… hmmm.. well, I have loved Gerard Doyle’s work for The Grim Company (an epic fantasy) and the retelling of Odysseus through the eyes of boy slave (Torn from Troy is Book 1 in that series). He does young male voices really well, having a kind of funny filled-with-wonder voice. However, I had a hard time getting use to his voice for a hardened serial murderer or a brittle, angry lead detective. It took me about 3 CDs to finally settle into the book because of the narrator. But once I got use to his voice, he did have multiple accents, keeping each character distinct. His female voices were believable.

What I Liked: The lead character has alcoholism; the serial murderer is clever in his killings; brings up cyberstalking and trolls that our out of control; a varied cast.

What I Disliked: It took me a while to get use to the narrator; I think I would have enjoyed this book much more had I read the previous ones in the series.

What Others Think:

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Debbish

Book’d Out

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