Blog Tour – Five Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Maurice Barkley

#thewritereads blog tour!

Genre: Short stories, Mystery

Similar to: Classic whodunnits like Agatha Christie, or…you know… Arthur Conan Doyle

Could be enjoyed by: Everyone! I found these stories really enjoyable and suitable for all ages

Publication date: 6th July 2017, according to Amazon (which seems weird but ok)

 

I’m going to say this right at the start – I’ve never actually read any Sherlock Holmes stories before. I’m vaguely familiar with some of the TV adaptations but the actual novel seems to have passed me by. So, it was with some trepidation that I began to read this book.

I have to say, I was really impressed! I found the stories very engaging and I was immediately drawn into the world of Victorian London. All of the stories feel like classic tales of murder, intrigue and suspense and I thought that the overall tone of what I’d expect a Sherlock Holmes novel to be was captured really well. If you’re not familiar with Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing then the nearest thing I could liken it to was Jonathan Creek.

There was no backstory given as to how Holmes and Watson began their partnership or who they even were as people (what is Watson a doctor of? How does Holmes support his somewhat lavish lifestyle?) but even with my limited knowledge I was able to piece together their working relationship. It was nice to see familiar places and phrases pop up, although there was no “elementary, my dear Watson!” which I was waiting for. I did spot one tiny Americanism which I found somewhat jarring but overall I thought that the book was well written and completely evoked the feeling of foggy, repressive Victorian London.

My only real issue was that every time Baker Street was mentioned, that bloody sax solo kept popping into my head:

 

 

Overall, I really liked the Sherlock Holmes short stories. Perhaps the characters could have done with a little more fleshing out and maybe Watson could have done a little more than stand there wetly with absolutely no idea of what was going on but these are minor criticisms. I found the stories to be nicely bite-sized chunks of mystery, murder and suspense, very cleverly written and easy to read. A great little book to dip in and out of if you need to immerse yourself in another world – and let’s face it, we could all do with a bit of that right now.

 

Four “I cannot get this song out of my head”s out of five.

Really well captured, a great addition to the cannon.

 

 


Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of #thewritereads. Thanks Dave!

 

Mid-Month Mini Reviews – Victorian Gothic

Hello bookworms!

Welcome to another load of mid-month mini-reviews – this time focusing on the Victorian period…

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Affinity by Sarah Waters

Affinity

I picked this book up in a charity shop while I was waiting for my car MOT and I’m honestly so glad that I did. I’d never read Sarah Waters before (despite Tipping the Velvet being on my TBR for about 20 years) so I had high expectations – and this book did not disappoint.

Told from the viewpoint of Margaret, a wealthy spinster (God I hate that term) with a desire to help the poor unfortunates incarcerated within Millbank Prison, an encounter with the notorious spiritualist inmate Selina Dawes leaves her reeling. Is Selina truly psychic? Can she help Margaret to deal with the death of her father? Can Margaret help Selina to obtain justice? And is their friendship… something more? Set against a backdrop of heavy prescription drug taking, it’s hard to see where the truth lies – especially in a relationship so heavily weighted by the privilege that money affords you and the desperation to achieve freedom.

I absolutely adored the way that this book was written. I’m such a scaredy cat that certain scenes about wax castings of ghostly apparitions had me completely freaked out! The overall tone was creepy and gothic – much of the book is set within the Victorian prison – but the writing never dragged. Instead, it gave an almost visceral interpretation of the misery, drudgery and relentless monotony of what it would have been like to be locked up in such an institution. I could almost feel the damp stone walls and see the trudging circles of women getting their daily exercise in the bleak prison yard. I hate to use the term “lyrical prose” but yeah… the writing was absolutely beautiful.

The novel is interspersed with the memories of Selina from when she was working as a spiritualist medium and I got completely sucked in by her “powers” (despite the fact I don’t believe in anything paranormal in real life). The relationship between Margaret and Selina was fascinating, exciting and heartbreaking and I LOVED the way that the book ended. If this is one of Sarah Water’s lesser known novels then I can’t wait to read the rest of her work!

 

Four and a half “Look what money can get you” out of five.

 

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

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I loved this richly evocative tale set in Victorian London of Iris, a talented artist who is taken out of poverty by Louis, a rich pre-Raphaelite painter. Her rags-to-riches story seems almost too good to be true – a new (scandalous) role as an artist’s muse, a huge increase in salary, a love affair with a soon-to-be widowed man – yet there’s a shadow hanging over Iris’ happiness and he goes by the name of Silas…

I have to say how beautiful that book cover is. Just glorious. Like the novel, it juxtaposes the beauty, art and grace of the period with the claustrophobia, death and creepy gothic sensibilities of Victoriana – and I can’t get enough of it. The writing within the book is also hugely evocative and has a bit of everything – sex, obsession, art,  death, taxidermy, disfigurement, filth, light, sadness, romance… and a wombat. Everything felt very authentic to the time period even though the story of a woman striking out on her own felt very modern.

The characters were beautifully depicted, with an attention to detail that made them jump off the page. I could see the dirt under Silas’ fingernails, the emerald green on Louis’ painting, the crimson lips on the doll that Iris was painting. I loved the use of the Great Exhibition as a backdrop to their lives – again, a juxtaposition of all that light and ingenuity and modernity sat right next to the filth and decay of the London slums.

Yes, the writing was a little slow in places but I can forgive that, since this is the author’s debut. I loved the use of detail, the setting and the characterisation and I thought that the constant playing with light and shade, love and obsession, hope and despair was inspired. Elizabeth Macneal is clearly a writer to watch out for.

 

    

Four “Has there ever been a nice character called Silas?” out of five.

 

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

Things in Jars

I’d heard a lot about this book on ye olde Twittersphere but I have to say I was a tiny bit let down by it. It’s certainly a fun romp with a highly eclectic cast of characters but for some reason I just didn’t connect with the writing. Not that it’s bad – it’s just not for me.

Bridie Devine, the infamous female detective is challenged to take on the oddest of cases – the disappearance of Christabel, a strange child with colour changing eyes and extraordinarily sharp teeth. Aided by Ruby, the prizefighting ghost and Cora, the towering, magnificently bearded maid, Bridie attempts to find Christabel but on the way encounters everything from beautiful snake charmers to evil surgeons – plus a whole lot of painful memories.

I love the wacky cast of characters and the excitement of the fast paced prose but I just couldn’t emotionally connect to anyone. There was so much going on, plus plenty of back-and-forths in time that I got a bit confused as to who was who and what on earth was happening. Ultimately, I felt like the side plots took over a bit and detracted from the main narrative, so I wasn’t that bothered with the ending. Lots of people have loved this book but it really wasn’t for me.

 

 

Two and a half “Is that the dead guy?” out of five.

So, have you read any of these books? Do you love a good gothic novel? Are there any Cure fans in the house? Maybe The Smiths? Let me know in the comments!

 

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