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review 2017-09-17 11:05
Stalking Jack
Stalking Jack - Madison Kent

by Madison Kent


I have mixed feelings about this book. The prologue was pure info dump and there were many signs of an amateur writer; shoehorning too many subplot lines into the first chapter, showing a limited knowledge of Victorian convention, dialect, British English or proper use of apostrophes, yet the writing was strangely engaging and I took a liking to the main character, Madeleine, early in the story.


Madeleine Donovan is a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and fancies herself an amateur sleuth. She lost her family in tragedy and in the process of looking for purpose, travels to London. All the papers are full of stories about Jack the Ripper and a group of English ladies whom she meets shipboard become concerned about a niece who has gone wayward in Whitechapel and could be in danger. Madeleine vows to find her, despite the danger.


The premise is actually rather unlikely in Victorian England and the author uses American English for English character's dialogue, but the story itself is engaging and I ignored the occasional cringe and let myself enjoy the story. I think a few words didn't mean what the author thought they meant and the idea of finding bourbon in a 19th century Whitechapel pub just boggles the mind, especially contrasted with an almost encyclopedic history of the nationalities and religions of people who settled in the area shoehorned into a conversation, but I liked the main character and with Alternative History being a popular genre these days, I started treating this as Fantasy and ignored anomalies like decent women casually going out for a drink in a pub in that era.


Of all the things technically wrong with this novel, the thing that bothered me most was the attempt to have lower class characters talk in dialect. It read like something out of the hills of Arkansas rather than anywhere in all the history of England. Old ladies wearing pillbox hats (invented in 1930) in 1888 London pales by comparison. Other dialogue was sometimes stilted too. Yet despite all the historical inaccuracies and other problems, the characters were brought to life skilfully and the plot moved along in a way that kept me interested.


The editorial mistakes increased later in the book, yet the story itself took on relevance, looking into issues of obsession and addiction in a Victorian setting where opium use was rife. Madeleine is a headstrong character and I found it easy to feel sympathy for her, yet she walks into trouble on many levels and I felt needed rescuing from her own impulses.


I actually liked the way the story ended. The explanation of what happened to Jack the Ripper was as plausible as any of the popular theories and there was a wonderfully poetic passage about the way London leaves its mark on a person's soul. Just before the poinsettias all bloom in November English weather (poinsettias are native to Mexico and an old association with Christmas travelled to America when the plants were first cultivated in the U.S. in the early 1900s, long after this story takes place. The tradition never travelled to England and the plants don't survive in under 58 degrees Fahrenheit.)


Apparently there is a series and Madeleine becomes a female detective in her native Chicago, but the ripper's story is finished so I won't be following the other books. Perhaps someone who likes detective stories would enjoy them. Hopefully they'll be set in America where the language and cultural references will fit!

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review 2017-09-08 19:00
Meet My Twin Brother, Merlock Holmes
A Beautiful Blue Death - Charles Finch

Image result for prince walking away gif


This will be short cause I really loathed this book. It took me two days to get through. If not for the fact that a DNF does not count towards bingo, I would have done so at the 10 percent point. This book is tedious, boring, and overwrought somehow all at the same time. The main character is opposite day Sherlock Holmes. I really wanted him to reach a terrible end, but since this is the first book in a 11 book series, there was not much hope of that. I heard through reliable readers that the series gets better. I hope so.


I read this for the "Darkest London" square since this is a mystery taking place in London during the Victorian age. 


The lead character is Charles Lenox. He is self proclaimed amateur sleuth who helps out the Yard from time to time. He has a Yard inspector that doesn't like him, a close friendship with a childhood friend, another friend who is a doctor with a drinking problem, and his butler is used as his runner for certain jobs he needs him to do. When his childhood friend and London neighbor, Lady Jane asks him to look into whether a former maid of hers was murdered, he does. Frankly, I never got a good reason why Lady Jane cared, but that is neither here or there. So off Lenox goes to stick his nose in and quickly deduces that the former maid (Prudence Smith) was poisoned. Hence the name "A Beautiful Blue Death."


Lenox really is just a boring type of Sherlock Holmes. He fusses about being cold, his feet being cold, being wet, taking naps, how much toast to eat, his freaking tea, wine, scotch and soda, everything. I have never read so many boring descriptions about what a character was doing in one book before.

Everyone in this book is a version of a character in a Sherlock Holmes novel. I refuse to list them and all the ways. 


The writing was blah. Reading that when X woke up, they stretched their arms, and thought about what they would have to break their morning fast. They rose from the bed and admired their pajamas which were silk and put their feet into soft slippers. Looking around the room, X admired a winter painting of London which he thought captured London as it's most beautiful when it was quiet and no people around. Blah. The whole book was like that. He literally took a paragraph to describe a terrible ass room that he needs to re-do. I just can't anymore. Skip this first book unless you want o know the main players for future books. 


The ending was a mess. It didn't make much sense. I think Finch is trying to set up Lenox having his own Moriarty and once again, good luck to him. Once we find out the guilty party it's like another 50-70 pages before the book ends. Maybe I am exaggerating, I don't care enough to open my e-reader to check.  



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text 2017-09-08 12:02
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
A Beautiful Blue Death - Charles Finch

Made sure I finished last night. So irritated. Call this dude watered down Sherlock Holmes and be done with it. There were also three endings to this book.


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text 2017-09-07 21:34
Reading progress update: I've read 58%.
A Beautiful Blue Death - Charles Finch

I swear that Charles Lenox is boring as watching paint dry. He gets attacked by two men and almost swoons because he is not used to getting into "fisticuffs" with other men since he was raised as a gentleman. 

There are endless descriptions of his drinks, food, and his socks, boots, coat, hat, and how much he likes to take naps once in a while. 


The lapse into American slang once in a while is pretty hilarious to read.

Plus there is no there there while I am reading. Meaning, we go into a general overview of how he met his now butler. But seriously, there is a long winded description about how they pretty much don't talk about personal matters, but you know, are friends. It's so weird. This reads like a toothless version of Sherlock Holmes. 


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text 2017-09-07 10:05
Darkest London: I've read 15%.
Stalking Jack - Madison Kent

I don't know what it is about Jack the Ripper that holds fascination after all this time. As much as I generally avoid serial killer stories, I'm just as intrigued by this case as many people are.


I admit that the cover drew me to this book. I got it on a freebie and into the slush it went, excavated now for a dark story set in London.


So far the author is showing a limited knowledge of Victorian convention, dialect, British English or proper use of apostrophes.Yet the writing is strangely engaging and I'm taking a liking to the main character, Madeleine.


She's the poster girl for an overused trope: the Victorian woman who has an independent streak and pushes the boundaries of what is expected from women of her time and place. The language sometimes gives away an amateur writer who has English women describing their house as "six blocks away from the madness" or offering to "exchange contact details", not to mention referring to the Mormon's.


Yet despite this inattention to detail or language used in the chosen time and place as well as correct use of punctuation, the tale is unfolding in a way that is keeping my interest... with the occasional cringe.


Madeleine is American, from Chicago, and is recently widowed. Her trip to London is part of her grieving process, but she is also a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes novels. When an opportunity presents itself to play amateur sleuth, she grabs it and never mind the danger.


This could get good, if the English characters stop speaking in American terms. ;P


If anyone isn't aware, 'blocks' are American. In England, they would be six streets away and would probably say ten minutes away instead anyway. Exchanging contact details is late twentieth century. In Victorian England, they might exchange calling cards or if they weren't of a class to use them, they would simply give an address. I expect the apostrophe issue will be glaringly obvious to all here.


Oh, and the story would suit the amateur sleuth square as well if anyone is interested.

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