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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-10-15 17:00
Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Bohemia
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection - Arthur Conan Doyle,Stephen Fry

To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman.

 

That is the opening line that still gives me goosebumps of delight even after decades of devoted reading of the Holmes stories.  

 

A Scandal in Bohemia is the first of the Holmes short stories and sets the structure and tone of many Homes stories to follow: Holmes and Watson are at 221B Baker Street when a new case presents itself. (There may be some spoilers from this point onwards.)

 

What may come as a surprise in this story - apart from the story line - is the construction of the story:

 

It is the first short story, so we have just gotten to know Holmes and Watson, yet, this story (despite being set in March 1888) is told from a point in time much, much later. 

Watson tells us this story with a lot of hindsight. One of the additional bits of information we get from Watson is that the story was told three years after the death of Irene Adler. 

 

I had not actually picked up on this on previous re-reads, but it does make sense that Watson would not have disclosed the story any earlier - not for the sake of keeping his promise of confidentiality to their client, but to allow Ms Adler to pursue her life without the public knowing knowing much about her past. While Watson and Holmes may have seen her brilliance and not judged her against the social mores of their late Victorian times, Watson readers may have disagreed. 

 

Ironically, of course, ACD did exactly this: He wrote a story that had the most brilliant mind and most anti-social of characters, show admiration - maybe even what may pass for affection - for not only another person, but one that beats him at his own game.

And that this person was a woman, may not have been that important to Holmes, but it may have been to many of ACD's readers. 

There is another quick jibe at Victorian society in this short story where Ms Adler writes to Holmes that

"Male costume is nothing new to me. I often take advantage of the freedom which it gives."

I have no idea what ACD's own view was on women's role in society, and he never has his characters elaborate on the standing of women other than when Holmes shows up the stupidity and arrogance of his client at the end of the story (another one of my favourite quotes!):

“What a woman--oh, what a woman!” cried the King of Bohemia, when we had all three read this epistle. “Did I not tell you how quick and resolute she was? Would she not have made an admirable queen? Is it not a pity that she was not on my level?” 

“From what I have seen of the lady she seems indeed to be on a very different level to your Majesty,” said Holmes coldly.

I would love to find out more about ACD's views on this issue, so am looking forward to researching it a bit more. 

 

So, anyway, we have ACD pointing at some issues with Victorian society, even to poke fun at the aristocratic beliefs that breeding cannot be substituted by other qualities.  

 

We also have some fun banter between Holmes and Watson, Watson describing Holmes cocaine habit, we have high adventure with Holmes being Holmes or someone else, and we get more insight into Holmes' method:

“I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.

(One day I will have this printed on a mug for the office!) 

 

However, what I probably love best in this story are the very subtle ways in which Holmes shows his affection for his adversary in this story:

 

“I was half-dragged up to the altar, and before I knew where I was I found myself mumbling responses which were whispered in my ear, and vouching for things of which I knew nothing, and generally assisting in the secure tying up of Irene Adler, spinster, to Godfrey Norton, bachelor. It was all done in an instant, and there was the gentleman thanking me on the one side and the lady on the other, while the clergyman beamed on me in front. It was the most preposterous position in which I ever found myself in my life, and it was the thought of it that started me laughing just now. It seems that there had been some informality about their license, that the clergyman absolutely refused to marry them without a witness of some sort, and that my lucky appearance saved the bridegroom from having to sally out into the streets in search of a best man. The bride gave me a sovereign, and I mean to wear it on my watch-chain in memory of the occasion.”

 

 

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text 2017-10-13 20:43
Reading progress update: I've read 40%.
Three Miss Marple Mysteries (The Murder at the Vicarage / The Body in the Library / The Moving Finger) - Agatha Christie

I am reading this for Locked Room Mystery square.


I already finished "The Murder in the Vicarage" and loved every bit of it. But it's definitely a transition from a Miss Marple that feels barely tolerated to the Miss Marple that we all know and love that shows up in "The Body in the Library."

 

I also think that having the Vicar (Leonard) be the main narrator for the first story definitely colors how you think of Miss Marple as well. 


Review for The Murder in the Vicarage:

So this is a classic locked room murder mystery. Told from the point of view of St. Mary's Mead, local vicar, Leonard Clement we have him starting to wish harm upon the head of Colonel Lucius Protheroe. The colonel is despised by many of the residents and eventually winds up dead, he is found murdered in the vicar's study. 

 

What makes this murder mystery even more intriguing is that two people confess to the murder, but it seems that the real suspect could be far sinister. 


The vicar goes around and through being around when discussions are held and clues abound he digs around into who could be behind the colonel's murder. One of St. Mary's Mead resident, Miss Jane Marple always seems to be on the scene too, helping along the vicar. 

 

We get a lot of characters who show up in later Miss Marple books. 

 

I really did get a kick out of this one, especially when we get to the reveal. Miss Marple reads as stuffy and gossipy though by the vicar. I am glad that Christie changed that up in later books. 

 

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review 2017-10-11 07:00
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection (Audio)
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection - Arthur Conan Doyle,Stephen Fry

Sherlock Holmes is my fictional crush; I know he'd be no damn good for me, but I'd still willingly follow him until the wheels fell off.  Proof of this being that I started listening to this audio in April and have since been devoted to it whenever I've been in the car - no cheating on it with Wilkie Collins or Kevin Hearne - and I've never gotten bored or developed a wandering ear.

 

Huge credit goes to Stephen Fry too, because my adoration of Holmes makes me picky and prickly.  If he'd portrayed him as nasally or supercilious I'd have been righteously indignant and all up in his business (metaphorically speaking).  But Fry gives him the perfect voice, which is, oddly enough, close to Fry's own (although I almost never heard 'Stephen Fry').  Condescending, a tad bored, but warm and tinged with a bit of humour at himself as well as others.

 

Where Fry really goes above and beyond though, in my opinion, is his portrayal of Watson.  He nailed Watson and he did it for 4,260 minutes without ever losing track of his voice or allowing it to wander into being someone else's.  It would have been an easier job to give his own voice to Watson instead of to Sherlock, but it works better this way; Watson sounds exactly like the kindly, naive, generous sort of man Conan Doyle created.  

 

If you've already read the Sherlock Holmes stores but would like to revisit them, this is an excellent way to do it.  If you haven't already experienced the brilliance that is Sherlock Holmes, this is a perfect introduction.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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review 2017-10-01 16:29
Silly but fun comic collection
Tim Seeley's Action Figure Collection Vo... Tim Seeley's Action Figure Collection Volume 1 - Tim Seeley

This volume is a collection of short stories based on an action figure collection: it is fairly silly, obviously a mickey-take of traditional comics with some wonderful strange characters from Dracula Man to Princess Poodlea of the Animaliens (You get the idea!).

 

Reasonably amusing, this collection is worth a brief look and makes a nice change to more serious collections.

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review 2017-09-27 12:25
Man's World
Wolfshead - Robert Bloch,Robert E. Howard

This my first stab at Howard, of Conan fame, and I don't know how to rate it, or if I'll ever read something by him again.

 

In favor it has the fact that it has no compunctions about pulling in elements from any source, and mimic any style to flavor and serve the current story. Makes for diverse settings and background mythos, always an entertaining plus.

 

The downside: It is so heavily male. I'd call it misogyny (and it is), but women so seldom make even a peep appearance in this volume, and affect the stories none at all, it goes past contempt or hate to total disregard territory (I went into minute detail here, so scant they are). It is a man's world he writes, and what makes it worth it are guns, swords and fighting monsters so you can tell a tale *eye-roll* White man's world. Blond white man's world... yeah, you get the drift.

 

So, the run of the stories:

 

- The Black Stone: Cthultuish account, with a nice dash of bookish love for ancient tomes. The name Xuthltan comes up.

The flogged dancer, and the sacrificed girl.


- Valley of the Worm: Norse myth flavored epic (Aesirs). Big on white and man.

Some mention of women being fierce too. None named, one appeared a second without lines.

- Wolfshead: Swashbuckling European nobles in Africa, and a werewolf. Reminded me of Quartermain's adventures.

One pretty virgin, one flirtatious twit (who might be the best female character of the whole book, for what it is).

- Fire of Asshurbanipal: Hunting for treasure in the dessert turns Lovecraftian. Another mention of Xuthltan.

None appear.

- House of Arabu: More blond male. If nothing else, the pretty pictures it painted in my mind and the hour reading on Sumerian mythology it spurred may make it worth it. Aesirs' world. Fits the demon square.

One assassin courtesan (that sounds like it could be sooo cool, but no), one backstabbing, abused slave girl, one demoness, geee, we are overflowing.

- Horror from the Mound: Vampires in the old west.

Again, not even mentioned.

 

Since it's an anthology that runs the gamut, this one could fit Vampires, Demons, Supernatural, Monsters, Classic Horror, likely a couple more if you squint, and my pick:

 

 

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