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review 2017-05-20 13:03
Echoes of Holmes and Watson
The Riddle of the Third Mile - Colin Dexter

6/13 in the series of crime mysteries involving Chief Inspector Morse and as seems to be Dexter's habit, this book is split into separate parts ('miles' in this case) and though not described as such, Chapter 1 provides a prologue set in El Alamein, 1942. In particular, the narrative introduces the three Gilbert brothers - Alfred and Albert (twins) and their younger sibling, John and a young field officer in the Royal Wiltshires, Lieutenant Browne-Smith. Fast forward to the University of Oxford and Dr Browne-Smith is on a panel of examiners considering the submissions of the academic creme de la creme - the 'greats', but the echo of that distant past will drive a profound sequence of macabre events, which Morse is called upon to unpick.

 

'The Riddle of the Third Mile' is thirty pages shorter than most of the books in this series, but Morse and his trusty sidekick DS Lewis are on good form and through mention of the 'greats', the author gives us some additional insight into the former academic career of the enigmatic Chief Inspector. Morse is now 52, but intriguingly the hallowed halls and the intense love he found there have clearly shaped the man. Indeed, the reader might surmise that lost love and spectre of what might have been perhaps contributed to the gruff shell behind which Morse, in his self-imposed isolation, tends to operate. It is also tempting to speculate on whether Lewis, who endures a torrid relationship with his superior and yet remains endearingly loyal to the 'great' man, in some ways occupies an important space in the emotional vacuum of Morse's life. However, for me, part of the curiosity piqued by Dexter lies in the oblique insights into the unfamiliar elite world of high-end academia. Just as Agatha Christie's Poirot typically plies his detective skills in the upper echelons of the inter-war British class system, so Morse can help the reader navigate the revered institution of which he was once part. The stark contrasts of the public facade, with the soft underbelly of wider society and the seamless way in which Morse traverses the two lends the series a gritty realism and yet remains equally implausible enough to be obvious fiction. Still, the book is enjoyable for all that.

 

The discovery of a headless torso (also minus hands and legs) is unusual, but not gratuitously grotesque. Moreover, as Morse seeks to understand the purpose of such deliberate mutilation, it does provide a vehicle for the resumption of barbed banter with the police pathologist ('Max'), as the body count also mounts further. I think the brilliance of Morse lies in his ability to identify and assemble clues and marshall his thoughts to formulate them into a working hypothesis. The acknowledged value of Lewis lies in  the blunt challenge he poses to his boss's ideas and the debunking of the fanciful, to keep Morse planted on terra firma. They are, it seems, more than the sum of their respective parts, but In the tradition of Holmes and Watson, they are also a compelling double act and much more than an aside to their investigations.

 

 

 

 

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review 2017-04-24 08:00
The Stravinski Intrigue
The Stravinsky Intrigue (Fugue & Fable) - Darin Kennedy

I read The Mussorgski Riddle some time ago, and I enjoyed its unique style and story, so I was looking forward to The Stravinsky Intrigue although I had to admit that the details from the first book had become a bit fuzzy and I'm not really acquainted with the ballets from Stravinsky that play a major role in this book.

At times I was a little bit disappointed with The Stravinsky Intrigue. While the story resembled The Mussorgski Riddle, there were some things that annoyed me (that I don't recall from the first book). There are many coincidences, and Mira jumps into danger at almost any possibility. The rest of the time she's defending her psychic-ship in a condescending manner which I disliked. Also, the story seemed rather finished at the ending, but since I know there's a third novel coming, probably everything will be resolved (taking any suspense there was about the main characters).

What I did like, as in the first novel, was all the music. It is a nice introduction to the music, and I would certainly recommend to listen to it while reading. I enjoyed that a lot. The story is also moving forward rather quickly, and there's a mystery to be solved (before it's too late).

Not as good as the first one, but I'm still curious as to how it's going to end.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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review 2016-12-14 23:09
The Riddle of the Sands
The Riddle of the Sands - Erskine Childers,Milton Bearden

As for the other two, the girl when I saw her next, in her short boating skirt and tam-o'-shanter, was a miracle of coolness and pluck. But for her I should never have got him away. And ah! how good it was to be out in the wholesome rain again, hurrying to the harbour with my two charges, hurrying them down the greasy ladder to that frail atom of English soil, their first guerdon of home and safety.

 

The Riddle of the Sands is often hailed as the original spy novel that laid the groundwork for the more famous adventures of later characters such as James Bond. Except, of course, that Childers tale of two young men going off on a sailing trip and inadvertently stopping an invasion is nothing but a boys own adventure story.

Granted, most James Bond novels are adult versions of simple adventure stories, but at least Fleming added some style, some character development, social criticism, and reflections on the complexities of human nature to his stories. As many of you know, and as those long-suffering buddies who have read a Bond novel with me can attest to, I have some problems with some of the attitudes displayed in Fleming's books. Yet, I'd prefer the worst of his writing to the Childers exploits in the spy genre. Not only lacked the story anything memorable (other than the proposed invasion), the proposed politics or assumed strategy in the book seemed quite illogical and just wrong - as would be proven during the First World War. The book is also pretty boring. Well, at least for someone who is not interested in the finer details of sailing. 

 

The aspect that unnerved me most about the book, however, is that it's story of a planned invasion of Britain by Germany fed into a general paranoia held by society at the time, that it took advantage of a fear of being attacked, that it glorified that naive sense of nationalism that would lead so many into the juggernaut that was WWI, and that its publication actually led to Britain building additional naval bases and increase its efforts in the arms race.

Is it not becoming patent that the time has come for training all Englishmen systematically either for the sea or for the rifle?

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review 2016-11-29 19:15
Who Is to Blame? A Russian Riddle by Jane Marlow
Who Is to Blame?: A Russian Riddle - Jane Marlow

The book is set in the 1800s before the emancipation of the serfs and follows Count Stepan Maximov and Elizaveta who is a peasant.

Elizaveta loves her childhood friend but they can’t marry because marrying your godparents’ child can’t happen. Instead, she has to marry a man she knows is a violent one and the marriage isn’t a happy one. But it seems like abusiveness kinda runs in Ermak’s family and Elizaveta’s sister-in-laws aren’t having any more luck in their lives.

Maximov’s lost their child and Stepan’s wife never got over her grief and it starts to affect their marriage too. Stepan struggles to run the estate, to find new ways to grow and develop it but new things takes time. In the latter part, we see more of Anton, the eldest Maximov son who spends most of his time drinking and playing cards.

I don’t really know what to say about this. I loved the book and was pleasantly surprised how good it was. It’s always hardest to write about a book you like… I just wanted to keep reading and wanting to know what happens next!

You can see that the author has done her research and there are lots of little details but it’s well written in the story.

We get to see how disconnected the nobility and the peasants were and had so little contact with each other. Nobility thought that the peasants should be thankful because they are being taken care of…. By working them to death yet they were seen as just lazy…

I wanted to slap Anton so many times that I’m not surprised that Stepan was so frustrated with him. He did change his ways a bit in the end but I would like to know if he manages to really change. But I think there is next book coming so I’m hoping we’ll see that.

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review 2016-11-11 00:00
The Riddle-Master of Hed
The Riddle-Master of Hed - Patricia A. McKillip,Simon Prebble Fabulous book. I miss high fantasy that dgaf about how magic worked, or what the rules were, and just fell into mythology like a watercolour painting of fog. The characters are drawn so clearly and beautifully, and it's impossible not to feel with Morgon as he's wrenched away from the life he wants and given one impossible choice after another. It's also a middle ages(ish) secondary world fantasy that is full of women in just about every role.

Loved the narrator. Hell of a cliffhanger ending though.
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