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review 2017-03-26 06:07
An Inside Job
The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins

I had no idea that this book existed until my bookclub decided to make it the book of the month. In fact I had never heard of Wilkie Collins until this book was mentioned in passing. As it turns out (or at least according to some of the members of my bookclub) Wilkie lived under the shadow of Charles Dickens. In fact Wilkie and Dickens were good friends, that is until they had a falling out, and Dickens went out of his way to trash the works of Wilkie (and vice versa – I guess we can work out who won). I'm not really all that sure of any of the details beyond that, namely because I can't be bothered looking it up, even though this statement seems to be based upon a rumour that I heard from another person. The other thing about Wilkins, and this book in particular, was that I had some trouble finding it in a bookshop and ended up having to order it in, only to wander into a secondhand bookshop a week later to see a copy of this book, and Woman in White sitting on the shelf – it always happens like that.

 

So, the Moonstone is about this huge diamond that is stolen from India and finds its way to England and into the possession of a wealthy young lady (who inherited it from her uncle, who had originally stolen it from India). On her eighteenth birthday party she proudly wears it, but later that night it goes missing, and suddenly the mystery as to what happened to the diamond and who stole it begins. However, unlike most detective stories that I have read, where the mystery is pretty much solved within 24 to 48 hours of it happening, it isn't and everybody goes home. However, a year later the hunt for the diamond begins again in ernst and the mystery is eventually solved, though not as we would expect it to be solved.

 

Apparently The Moonstone is the first ever detective novel, though there was a discussion as to whether Wilkie or Poe were the first to write in this specific style of genre (apparently Poe was first, but because his story was a short story Wilkie is attributed to having the first full length novel). However the interesting thing is that it doesn't necessarily set the standard for how the genre developed in the future, though as I have said numerous times in the past, the detective novel, or even crime fiction, isn't a genre that really catches my attention. I have tried to read Agatha Christie, and despite really enjoying And Then There Were None I wasn't able to get into any of the other novels of hers that I read (though I'll probably try a couple more but I am not rushing out to do so). As for Doyle, as I have also previously mentioned, while at first I really enjoyed Sherlock Holmes, as the series dragged on I become less and less enthralled with the character and the stories.

 

The thing is that in my mind the idea of the detective fiction is that it is a game between the author and the reader to see if they can actually solve the problem before everything is revealed at the end, however my Dad, who is an avid reader of the genre, suggests that this generally isn't the case. For instance the Butler never, ever actually does it, and if he does it is generally considered to be so clichéd that the book is tossed into the recycling bin before anybody else can pick it up and have their intelligence insulted. As for Agatha Christie, my Dad suggests that her conclusions are so contrived that it is almost impossible to work it out (for instance in one of the books it turned out that everybody did it, though I still hold to my theory that Miss Marple is the real criminal, it is just that she is so clever at being able to throw the scent off the trail and pin the crime onto somebody else that she is never ever suspected, let alone caught).

 

Mind you, when I read a detective novel I generally give up trying to solve the problem pretty quickly, namely because that isn't the reason why I read – if I wanted to solve problems I would go and try debugging computer programs, or even write my own, or have an extended session on Duolingo – to me novels aren't designed to solve problems, but rather to open up one's mind to other possibilities, and to explore these possibilities through sites like Goodreads, or even my own blog. The other thing is that I suspect this style of detective fiction is rather new and wasn't the way that the original authors of the genre intended it to be.

 

The other thing about The Moonstone is that it was surprisingly amusing, which also baffled me because I never considered classical literature to actually be funny. Mind you, they probably are quite amusing, it is just that the style of humour, and the subtle references, are something that we generally wouldn't understand. Okay, I have known, and even done so myself, people who have burst out laughing at the plays of Aristophanes, and I also note that we have a few Roman comedies available, however it seems as if for quite a while most pieces of literature were actually quite serious, but then again we do have Shakespeare so I guess I am just talking rubbish again.

 

The really amusing thing about this book was the character who swore by the book Robinson Crusoe, which I have to admit does have a tendency to poke fun at those of us who happen to be religious. In fact sometimes I wonder myself at the absurdity of putting one's faith in the writings of a group of people that lived thousands of years ago. In fact a lot of people completely write off the writings of the ancients in that as far as they are concerned, if it was written over a thousand years ago then it has absolutely no application to the world today. Personally, I would disagree, though I guess the whole idea of basing one's life around Robinson Crusoe is that there is a difference between somebody who simply blindly follows a religious text, and those who go out of their way to completely debunk the text only to discover that no matter how hard they try the text stands up to scrutiny. Mind you, this does eventually come down to the way that you go about debunking the text.

 

As for basing your life around Robinson Crusoe, well, I'm sure it is possible, but I'm not really going to give it a try. Maybe I'll just stick with Mr Men (though I hope I haven't lost the one that I thought I put in my bag this morning).

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1938970519
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review 2017-03-06 11:16
He's Back
The Return of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle

When we last left our fearsome detective he was plummeting to his death having cornered his arch-nemesis Dr Moriarty on the Reisenbarch Falls. Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle (Arty to his friends, and me) had thought that he has seen the last of him and was planning on taking it easy having put the famous detective to rest. Unfortunately that wasn’t going to be the case because we now see the beginning of what has since become the term ‘back by popular demand’. Well, sure, the fans may not have been satisfied with the short stories and couple of novels that had been released, but it seems that Arty had pretty much become sick of Holmes and the only reason that Holmes managed to survive the fall is not just because of public pressure, but because the financial gain that no doubt was heading Arty’s way was quite alluring.

 

Anyway, in the first story we learn that not only had Holmes survived that fateful encounter, but that he had been lying low for quite a while because he wanted to make it appear that he was actually dead. The main reason for that is because Moriatey’s second in command had taken over the organisation and Holmes wanted to bring it to an end without alerting his enemies. Anyway, he manages to do so, and then solves a multitude of other cases and finishes us preventing a European wide war when he steps in and locates a note that the Prime Minister of England had believed that he has lost. Actually, the final adventure in this particular book has the Prime Minister of England coming to Holmes for his assistance.

 

Okay, this collection of short stories appeared around ten years after the previous one so there was no doubt a long time between drinks. Maybe the reason Doyle decided to bring Holmes back from the dead is the same reason that bands from the 80s and earlier do come back tours – they have run out of money. For instance, I saw John Cleese live a year ago and when I mentioned that to a friend he made mention that the only time John Cleese goes on tour is when he runs out of money. Maybe that is why Simon and Garfunkle put aside their differences and went on a world tour (though I suspect that even a rumour of a comeback tour would be enough to set them up for the rest of their lives).

 

The thing is that I really didn’t think all that much of this book. In a sense the things that I loved about Holmes were missing. His cocaine addiction and his brothel visiting habits (as well has being a prize fighter) actually made the character seem really really cool. However, come short story collection number three and all of the sudden he seems to be little more than a cardboard figure that seems to have no personality beyond being able to solve crimes. Okay, they are short stories, and the audience most likely wanted more of these short, easy to digest, crime stories, but I personally wanted something a little more. Further, the cleverness of some of the stories that appeared in the first couple of collections no longer seem to be the case here – they are just good old murder mysteries. Well, not all of them, but there is at least one dead body appearing in most of the stories.

 

Interestingly Inspector LeStrade makes an appearance now. The only reason that LeStrade comes to mind was because he appeared in an adventure game that I played as a kid called, not surprisingly, Sherlock Holmes. I was a bit baffled as to the significance of this character, but my Dad pointed out that he was a police officer that would always come to the wrong conclusions. Mind you, he didn’t come across as bumbling in that sense, rather lazy. Anyway, two more to go (and a re-read of Hounds of the Baskervilles), but I think I’ll put my next dose of Sherlock Holmes on hold for a little while.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/470322583
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review 2017-01-29 05:13
The 1st Detective Story

Murders in the Rue Morgue & Other Stories (Library Edition)Murders in the Rue Morgue & Other Stories by Edgar Allan Poe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I checked this audiobook out to celebrate the October Spooky mood. I have been an admirer of Poe since I was a grade school student, and what I've read by him, I've loved. I have been meaning to read more by him, but haven't taken the time. Audiobooks are such a good way to maximize my time because I can listen and do other things, so I grabbed this one. In all honesty, it wasn't very scary or even eerie (with the exception of "The Raven. " I am glad that I did listen to it though. I had never read any of these stories. I could have done without a couple of them, but overall, it was enjoyable, and this four hour audiobook format was a good way to keep me company as I did other things. The narrator's voice was a bit irritating, with a nasally tone that wasn't my favorite. He was good with accents and voices though.

Here are my thoughts on the stories:

"Murders in the Rue Morgue" --I love a good detective story, and this is the first detective story, and that is to be celebrated. I saw a lot of Sherlock Holmes in C. Auguste Dupin and Watson in his anonymous friend. It was a great mystery with a crazy resolution. I never would have guessed. My only issue with it is that it's basically telling and not showing. Dupin seems very pompous in his way of analyzing people, and he seems very self-important. He shows the observant trait of a good detective, which Poe terms ratiocination. I loved the twist on how each witness thought the guttural speaker was a foreigner, but from a place that had never been. In light of the resolution, that was a very nice touch. I give this four stars because it's impressive as the first detective story. I think all the detective fiction readers and writers owe Mr. Poe a great debt.

"The Purloined Letter" --I didn't find this one as impressive as the first. It seemed very simplistic, and there was no real tension. I do give Dupin props for his handy solving of a mystery that had the police stumped, but he's so obnoxiously arrogant about it. Sherlock with some aristocratic French attitude thrown in. 3 stars.

"The Thousand and Second Tale of Scheherazade" --I didn't care much for this, sadly. I love Scheherazade and the Arabian Nights stories, and I don't think this added anything to the mystique of the stories. I felt like it was full of weirdness, way too random, with bizarre diversions in the storytelling, but at the same time, really quite boring. Besides, it ruined the best aspect about the stories, so that was a downer for me. Probably my least favorite story by Poe. 2 stars.

"A Descent into the Maelstrom" --This felt more like a Jack London story than a Poe story. It's good to see that he does venture into straight adventure, no pun intended. I felt it was an average read. It didn't have much of an impact on me, but I didn't dislike it like the previous novel. 2.5 stars.

"The Raven"-- A classic by this author. I love poetry, especially eerie poetry. I admit I don't like overly long poems, so this was a nice length. Long enough to get a reader involved, with a beautiful rhythm to it. Listening to this was a lot of fun. I think I would need to read it, to delve more meaning out of it. It's a bit oblique, in my opinion. 3.5 stars

"Masque of the Red Death" --I really appreciated listening to this. I have seen the movie with Vincent Price and thought it was very clever. It's interesting how they managed to get a full-length movie out of this, since it was very short. I think the tone was nicely Gothic and sinister, and it has an impactful statement about the concept of believing that being wealthy and high status makes one exempt from all ills. And there is something very repugnant about indulging debauchery and hedonism when people are suffering around you. Death finds everyone of us. 4 stars.

Conclusion: Four hours of my life that I can't say I regret. It helped that I was finishing a project for school at the time, so it kept me busy. I would say that one's life is not added to much by "Scheherazade" and "A Descent into the Maelstrom", but I recommend the other stories.




View all my reviews

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review 2017-01-29 04:09
Small Town Girl
Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 2 - Brian Michael Bendis,Michael Gaydos,David Mack

This volume is very dialogue heavy. Such a different sort of Marvel title. Really not any action. Lots of social commentary that is very timely. I can understand 100% Jessica's disgust at the pastor who was rehearsing a speech that is despicable, and he truly believes in. Ugh. Yeah, that's definitely a pet peeve of mine, so I was feeling Jessica. Jessica goes to small town America to help find a missing girl. The trail reveals a rot in the small town and gives Jessica one more thing to be disillusioned about. Not that Jessica needs that. Oh and she goes on a date with Scott Lang. You can see a lot of the creators' worldview in this, but I think things that need to be said and addressed are done in such a way without being preachy. Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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review 2017-01-29 03:41
Diversified Interests
Cryoburn - Lois McMaster Bujold

I knew this wasn't the first book in the series, but I decided to check it out from the library and listen to it anyway. Very enjoyable. Miles is an appealing lead character. I loved that Miles isn't your typical hero as far as looks. He's not very tall and he has medical issues that have affected his looks. It doesn't matter at all, because he has presence. And I love a smart guy who's solving mysteries. Miles is more or less a space detective. I like detective in any setting, but it was fun to read a science fiction book with detectives in it. I read this while I was working on my final painting for my class, and it more than kept me company. The narrator was good, he had a pleasant voice, sort of like an older English butler. It worked for me.

The story involves corporate corruption and cryostasis. Quite a combination. I liked how multicultural the cast of characters were. It sort of reminded me of how in Firefly, the Chinese culture has dominated and its reflected in the dialogue and names of people. In this case, there is a good mix of various Asian cultures, along with other ethnicities. There is plenty of suspense, but a lot of wry humor, which is always welcome. It didn't mess things up for me that I hadn't read the first book. Instead I am intrigued to read about Miles' parents Aral and Cordelia, and fortunately I do have that book.

I know I'm not giving this book justice in this review. My brain is pretty fried, so this will have to do.

I recommend this.

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