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review 2016-09-26 08:49
Review: The Whole Art of Detection
The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes - Lyndsay Faye
"I require your assistance, and you suppose you're too good for my money! Well, you aren't, Mr. Holmes!" "On the contrary. I suspect that I've been too good for better people's money as a matter of fact."

The cases Holmes investigates in pastiches are often grand and important. Conspiracies that involve powerful people. Killers that are so clever nobody but Holmes even knows that they're out there. Cases where the future of the world is at stake (or worse: The future of England). That doesn't have to be a bad thing but to me the point of the original stories has always been that Holmes didn't investigate important cases. He investigated interesting cases. And sometimes it would turn out that there wasn't even a crime behind it all, only an interesting story. But that was enough.

 

The Whole Art of Detection captures exactly that spirit. All but one stories are about mundane things but that doesn't mean that they're boring. Just because somebody's actions don't have far-reaching consequences doesn't mean they can't do really clever things that are interesting to read about.

Now in some of the stories the solution was quite easy to guess which is a minor drawback but since I enjoyed everything else about them so much I didn't really mind it. Especially because apart from engaging mysteries Faye is also great at writing the relationship between Holmes and Watson and showing how much they care about each other. If you want to be nit-picky you might argue that it's a bit too much. Not because they express their emotions in a manner that would have been inappropriate for Victorian gentlemen but because almost every story has a few lines (or more) that show that, while Conan Doyle used such scenes very sparsely. I, however, am not nit-picky about that. I just enjoy it very much.

 

ARC received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2016-08-03 10:01
Review: Tears of Pearl
Tears of Pearl - Tasha Alexander

Even before Emily steps off the Orient Express in beautiful and decadent Constantinople, she's embroiled in intrigue and treachery. The brutal death of a concubine in the sultan's palace allows her first foray into investigating a crime as an official agent of the British Empire--because only a woman can be given access to the forbidden world of the harem. There, she quickly discovers that its mysterious, sheltered walls offer no protection from a ruthless murderer.

 

"I don't think I could survive if anything happened to her. She's been beside me my whole life."
"You would. I'd make you."
"I'm not sure I'd thank you for it."
"You forget how persuasive I can be."

In which Emily is worried about her best friend dying and Colin is slightly creepy. Don't get me wrong. I'm sure he means well...but couldn't he have said how he'd help her through it instead of 'I will make you survive'? Also, two lines later they are talking about their sex-life again in that cutesy Victorian wink-wink-nudge-nudge way that did have me grin the first two or three times they did it but once every private conversation they head led to the same I wanted to yell 'Can you screw each other without constantly talking about it?'.

The mystery was just ridiculous. It involved so many coincidences that I just couldn't stretch my suspension of disbelief that far. And yes, cozy mysteries are books in which the main characters just keep stumbling over dead bodies or met people who just have but even for that genre the coincidences were over-the-top. 

 

I did like that death in childbirth was a topic since I can't remember many novels that are set in an era where that is an issue that talk about it. (No matter if they were written in that era or in the present day). But the way it was discussed left me mostly unmoved. Emily's fear of it was told rather than shown. Its only result were some long internal monologues and her not telling Colin about the fact that she thinks she might be pregnant. (And even that can just as easily be attributed to the fact that she fears Colin would stop her from doing more dangerous things once he knows). 

Ivy's storyline again did nothing for me. This book makes it painfully obvious that Ivy is just the foil to Emily. Ivy is the 'good Victorian woman' in the eyes of her contemporaries, while Emily is the one with too many strange ideas for her pretty little head. Ivy will always do what she is told and she'd never dream of demanding answers. Even if the answers concern her and even if she's scared. Ivy is there to tell the reader who 

Ivy is there to tell the reader how Victorian women were expected to behave and how much the good old days sucked. Ivy is there so that Emily can worry about her. Ivy is not in any way a character in her own right with interests, hopes or anything. She's a symbol, somebody Emily can angst over and occasionally a plot device.

 

Talking about characters that aren't really characters: Every single woman from the harem. They were there so that Emily could have discussions with them about whether women in the West are better or worse of than their counterparts in the ottoman empire. 

And while I think that that it's not intentional, it has some unfortunate implications that the only woman who is unhappy in the harem is the one who is secretly Christian. Because only if your religion tells you it's wrong, you'd be unhappy in such a place. Now that brings me to my biggest gripe with the book.

Spoiler alert. It's not directly about the mystery part but it is intertwined with it and it concerns events at the very end of the book so read at your own risk.

 

Roxelana, the unhappy Christian in the harem wants to flee. Because she hates her life in the harem and because she has a lover outside. And she wants Emily's help. After some reluctance Emily agrees. The escape fails and Roxelana has to return to the harem but - for contrived and absolutely nonsensical reason - she won't be punished further. Her lover (who is an idiot and screwed up badly in the course of the book) considers that a fitting punishment for his screw ups. Yes, you read that right. He will now suffer the punishment of not being able to screw the hot chick.

 

 

Meanwhile, the girl (full disclosure: she was also was stupid and screwed up...she was also terrified) is going to remain a sex-slave. Which she will hate because her religion tells her it leads to eternal damnation. (So does suicide so that wouldn't be a way out either). And she will be so popular with the other women after her attempt to flee, I'm sure.

But it's important that the guy has accepted that he has to put his dick somewhere else and this is going to be a bit bad for him.

 

(spoiler show)
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text 2016-05-28 09:53
DNF: The Bachelor's Guide to Murder
The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder (Herringford and Watts Mysteries) - Rachel McMillan

In 1910 Toronto, while other bachelor girls perfect their domestic skills and find husbands, two friends perfect their sleuthing skills and find a murderer.

Inspired by their fascination with all things Sherlock Holmes, best friends and flatmates Merinda and Jem launch a consulting detective business. The deaths of young Irish women lead Merinda and Jem deeper into the mire of the city's underbelly, where the high hopes of those dreaming to make a new life in Canada are met with prejudice and squalor.

While searching for answers, donning disguises, and sneaking around where no proper ladies would ever go, they pair with Jasper Forth, a police constable, and Ray DeLuca, a reporter in whom Jem takes a more than professional interest. Merinda could well be Toronto's premiere consulting detective, and Jem may just find a way to put her bachelor girlhood behind her forever--if they can stay alive long enough to do so.

 

 

So the two main characters are friends with a policeman. He's nice enough to let them see the crime-scenes so that they can investigate, even though they have no business being there. A superior finds out about this and he gets demoted. The MC's reaction to learning that 'Oh now that's no use to us.'

Isn't it hilarious and not to mention dark and edgy how she cares about nobody but herself and has no bad conscience about the fact that a friend almost lost his job because of her?

 

 

Fuck you book. I am so done with these characters, I won't even bother to continue reading.

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review 2016-03-12 13:30
Review: Dust and Shadow
Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson - Lyndsay Faye

I have a complicated relationship with Jack the Ripper fiction. I really want to like it but I rarely do. In fact, the only one I really enjoyed was Melanie Clegg's From Whitechapel and you could argue that it is more a novel that uses the case as background than an actual Ripper-novel.

My track-record with Holmes meets the Ripper fiction is even worse. In the best case, I found them totally forgettable but mostly they were so horrid that I wanted to rip them into little pieces.

Dust and Shadow is different. I love it. It's a great Holmes-pastiche. Faye catches the voice of Watson perfectly. I also didn't feel that her Watson was too stupid or her Holmes too cold, both are things that often ruin Holmes pastiches for me.

It's also a great fictional account of the Ripper killings. With the focus on fictional. I don't mean that Faye didn't do her research (she definitely did), but in reality, there was no Sherlock Holmes involved in the investigation. The fact that here he was does change some minor things because the Ripper reacts to Holmes' involvement. I think only absolute purists can object to the way this was handled. I found it very well done (and I have often grumbled over stuff like this ^^).

The whole subject is also treated with the respect it deserves. Of course, this is the true story of the brutal killings of several women and you can certainly argue that it is always ghoulish to read/watch/listen/play anything inspired by something like that. I know that there are people who wouldn't do that under any circumstances and I am aware that my enjoyment of these stories might be a bit questionable...

But there are different ways to treat this case (I actually read a story once in which the author thanked Jack the Ripper in the foreword because he inspired so many authors...really). This book never forgets that the victims were people and the characters act accordingly.

 

Then there is of course the question of the ending. It won't be a spoiler when I tell you that this book doesn't stray so far from the historical facts that the Ripper is caught and everybody is happy. I've seen various ways the question 'Why didn't they say anything when they knew who it was' (if in fact they found out...) was handled and I have to say that I liked this one best so far. It made sense and was not out of character for Holmes.

 

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review 2016-03-05 15:24
Review: Germania
Germania: Roman - Harald Gilbers

In der zerbombten Reichshauptstadt macht ein Serienmörder Jagd auf Frauen und legt die verstümmelten Leichen vor Kriegerdenkmälern ab. Alle Opfer hatten eine Verbindung zur NSDAP. Doch laut einem Bekennerschreiben ist der Täter kein Regimegegner, sondern ein linientreuer Nazi. Der jüdische Kommissar Richard Oppenheimer, einst erfolgreichster Ermittler der Kripo Berlin, wird von der Gestapo reaktiviert. Für Oppenheimer geht es nicht nur um das Überleben anderer, sondern nicht zuletzt um sein eigenes. Womöglich erst recht dann, wenn er den Fall lösen sollte. Fieberhaft sucht er einen Ausweg aus diesem gefährlichen Spiel.

 

 

NB: Diese Rezension bezieht sich auf das gekürzte Hörbuch

 

1) Das Buch an sich:

 

Es gibt eine Stelle an der Oppenheimer von einer Freundin gefragt wird ob er den letzten Montag gut überstanden hat. Zuerst weiß er gar nicht wovon sie spricht, dann fällt ihm ein, dass es an dem Tag ja einen Bombenangriffs in der Nähe seiner Wohnung gegeben hat.
So eine Szene zeigt ja sehr viel. Aus heutiger Sicht ist es schwer vorzustellen, dass man so etwas einfach vergisst und dass Oppenheimer es doch tut zeigt so einiges über die damaligen Zustände/Oppenheimers Zustand.

Eigentlich ist so eine Szene prima. Eigentlich. Leider traut der Autor seinen Lesern wohl nur einen IQ knapp über Zimmertemperatur zu, denn am Ende der Szene sinniert Oppenheimer dann noch schnell darüber, dass es wirklich seltsam ist, dass er so etwas einschneidendes wie einen Bombenangriff nur wenige Tage später wieder vergessen hat und wie das andere, die das nicht selbst erleben, kaum verstehen können.

Das ist nicht die einzige Szene in der der Autor erst beweist, dass er Gefühle u.ä. eigentlich ganz gut zeigen kann aber gleich noch eine Erklärung von dem was er gerade gezeigt hat nachschiebt. Das ist noch frustrierender als ein Autor, der nur erklärt, denn er kanns ja. Eigentlich.

 

Dazu kommen noch eine unglaubliche Menge an Infodumps. Und zwar die der schlimmsten Sorte, die wirken als wären sie direkt aus einem Geschichtsbuch kopiert. Über die Reichspogromnacht, die Presse im 3. Reich, welche Autoren verboten waren, die genaue Funktionsweiße und Aufgabenbereiche von SS, Gestapo und SD… Zum einen kann man sich fragen ob man nicht zumindest bei einigen dieser Dinge erwarten kann, dass der Leser zumindest die Grundlagen davon schon weiß. Zum anderen, selbst wenn jemand dieses Buch liest für den all das neu ist: über die Hälfte der Dinge sind für die Handlung sowieso  nicht relevant sind. Um dem Plot folgen zu können muss ich nicht wissen, dass Tucholsky und Kästner verboten waren.
Das einzige was nicht mit einer halbseitigen Erklärung versehen ist, ist die ständige Pervitin-Einnahme der Charaktere. Aus dem Kontext konnte man zwar herauslesen, dass es sich um irgendeine Art von Stimmungsaufheller handeln muss aber es blieb so vage, dass ichs am Ende doch selber gegoogelt habe. (Mit anderen Worten: Der Autor meint seinen Lesern sagen zu müssen, dass Bücher von Karl Marx in der NS-Zeit verbrannt wurden, aber erwartet, dass sie etwas über ein Arzneimittel wissen, das seit 1988 nicht mehr vertrieben wird).

 

2) Der Krimi

 

War…OK. Am Ende vielleicht ein bisschen zu viele glückliche Zufälle aber für mich hielt sich das noch im erträglichen Rahmen. Und schließlich ist Germania kein typischer Krimi, der in einem (mehr oder weniger) demokratischen Land spielt, mit einem Ermittler der klare Befugnisse hat sondern ein Krimi mit einem jüdischen Ermittler in Berlin 1944. Wenn man da trotzdem noch einen typischen Krimi mit Ermitteln, Hinweisen und einem Täter der klar identifiziert (und bestraft) will, dürfte es schwierig sein das ohne den einen oder sehr glücklichen Zufall zu schaffen.

 

3) Hm…ja

 

Und dann ist da natürlich noch die ganze Prämisse. Die mich auch erst sehr skeptisch gemacht hat, weil ich befürchtet habe der Autor würde ‚jüdischer Ermittler in Nazi-Deutschland‘ nur als eine Art Gimmick verwenden. Frei nach dem Motto ‚da können die ganzen Skandinavischen Kommissare noch so traurig schauen, so tragisch wird ihr Leben nie‘ aber die Befürchtung war unbegründet. Trotzdem hätte man es sicher auch besser machen können. Wie die Krimihandlung und das Buch an sich ist es einfach mittelmäßig. Vielleicht ein bisschen besser, da z.B. Begegnungen zwischen Oppenheimer und alten Bekannten, die ihm sagen, dass sie ja nichts gegen ihn persönlich haben aber die Juden an sich… tatsächlich so stehen gelassen werden und ohne anschließend Erklärung was er von solchen Kommentaren hält auskommt.


Aber das geht dann stellenweise wieder zu sehr in die andere Richtung. Nach knapp der Hälfte des Buches fängt Oppenheimer nämlich an ein doppeltes Spiel zu spielen und Informationen an jemanden weiterzugeben, von dem er hofft, dass er ihn aus Deutschland rausschmuggeln kann und…das tut er einfach. Ohne das irgendwie darauf eingegangen wird, was passiert wenn das rauskommt. Zwar erwarte ich nicht, dass er ständig darüber nachdenkt aber dass er es gar nicht tut, ist auch schwer zu glauben.

 

Alles in allem: durchschnittlicher Durchschnitt aus dem man hätte mehr machen können. Band zwei höre ich vielleicht irgendwann mal, aber eigentlich hab ich genug andere Hörbücher.

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