Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts

Monday, November 17, 2014

Anthony Horowitz Sherlock Holmes Short Story "The Three Monarchs" - Book Review

 Sherlock Holmes pastiche short story poster image screensaver wallpaper pic review recap blog

Having enjoyed Anthony Horowitz's previous Sherlock Holmes pastiche “The House of Silk, I had high expectations for his next effort. The book under review is not a full length novel, but a short story that makes a quick and a very enjoyable read.

Readers familiar with the Sherlock Holmes Canon will be familiar with the line spoken by Sherlock Holmes to Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade in The Adventure of the Six Napoleans: “You will remember, Watson, how the dreadful business of the Abernetty family was first brought to my notice by the depth which the parsley had sunk into the butter upon a hot day..

This short story by Horowitz deals with this aforementioned incident.

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Dr Watson has moved out of 221 B Baker Street with his recently married wife, Mary Morstan. Memories of his adventures with the Bohemian detective still haunt him. On Mary's advice, he pays a visit to the old rooms and most importantly, his former roommate and friend, Mr Sherlock Holmes.

He finds Holmes listening to a case from another Scotland Yard detective Athelney Jones. As readers might be aware, Athelney Jones has appeared in the novel The Sign of the Four.

Jones needs the Consulting Detective's help to solve the mystery behind the break in at the Abernetty's house. The intruder is shot dead by the elderly Abernetty.

The thief has stolen three china figures from the Abernettys and others. I will leave it to the readers to discover the solution for themselves.

Sherlock Holmes Sidney Paget illustration Arthur Conan Doyle story

The author is good at imitating Arthur Conan Doyle's tone and style of writing. Like most of the original stories, this one begins with Dr John Watson's voice.

Canonical References
1. Sherlock Holmes refers to the Trepoff murder - In A Scandal in Bohemia, Dr Watson states: “From time to time I heard some vague account of his doings: of his summons to Odessa in the case of the Trepoff murder, of his clearing up of the singular tragedy of the Atkinson brothers at Trincomalee, and finally of the mission which he had accomplished so delicately and successfully for the reigning family of Holland.”

2. Holmes mentions the strange behavior of Dr Moore Agar - In The Adventure of the Devil's Foot, Dr Watson writes about Dr Agar: “In March of that year Dr. Moore Agar, of Harley Street, whose dramatic introduction to Holmes I may some day recount, gave positive injunctions that the famous private agent lay aside all his cases and surrender himself to complete rest if he wished to avert an absolute breakdown.”

3. The Abernettys have inherited their house from one Mrs Matilda Briggs - In The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire, Sherlock Holmes explains: “Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson,...It was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared.”

Despite the brief length of the story, Sherlock Holmes' powers of observation and deduction are on full display. Credit to Horowitz for making this an enjoyable experience.

Recommended read for fans of Sherlock Holmes. 

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Image Sources: Anthony Horowitz, HarperCollins Publishers

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Poirot and Me by David Suchet - Book Review

Poirot and Me by David Suchet 2013 book review
This is a review of the Kindle version.

The final episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot, the critically acclaimed adaptation starring David Suchet as the Belgian detective aired recently.

To mark the historic occasion, David has released his take on the making of the series, his preparation for the iconic role and the uncertainties faced during the long running production.

Even though I have read only one or two of Agatha Christie's original stories, I confess to have enjoyed David Suchet's portrayal. In addition to being a good physical match for the legendary detective, Suchet also nails his quirks and accent to perfection.

Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin as Sherlock and Holmes and Dr John Watson in the Russian adaptation of The Hound of the BaskervillesDavid Suchet and Hugh Fraser as Hercule Poirot and Arthur Hastings in Agatha Christie's Poirot

David Suchet is my personal favorite actor to play Hercule Poirot. He captures the essence of the eccentric Belgian detective in a way, that reminds me of Vasily Livanov's performance as Sherlock Holmes: definitive and quintessential.
It all started in 1988, when David was approached for the role by producer Brian Eastman. An unsure David was further shaken, as Christie's daughter, the late Rosalind Hicks asked him to ensure that his portrayal should not make a laughing stock out of Poirot.

Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes in the Granada adaptationDavid Suchet as Agatha Christie's Belgian detective Hercule Poirot

Determined to do justice to Agatha Christie's work as well as his own artistic integrity, David set out to read the original stories and prepared a list of the all the idiosyncrasies of the fastidious Poirot. This reminded me of the 77 page “Baker Street File” maintained by the late Jeremy Brett for the Granada adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.

David gives instances of how he fought to keep his version of Poirot loyal to his creator, often against the wishes of the director.

David Suchet, Hugh Fraser and Pauline Moran as Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings and Miss Lemon in Agatha Christie's Poirot

Any reader familiar with the Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot stories would have easily noticed the similarities: Arthur Hastings (John Watson), Miss Felicity Lemon (Mrs Hudson) and Chief Inspector James Harold Japp (Inspector Lestrade). 

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David confirms the same by stating that Agatha Christie was a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories when she was growing up.

Agatha differentiated her creation from the world's greatest detective in terms of not only his physicality and personality traits, but also his technique of solving crimes.

David Suchet as the fussy and fastidious Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie Poirot

Sherlock Holmes is renowned for solving mysteries using his skills of observation and deduction. Hercule Poirot approaches his cases from a psychological perspective.

Just as any adaptation of Sherlock Holmes benefits from the ensemble cast, the Poirot adaptation too has had one of the best ever assembled for a production.

David Suchet and Philip Jackson as Hercule Poirot and Inspector Japp in Agatha Christie's Poirot Christmas

Hugh Fraser, Pauline Moran and Philip Jackson are synonymous with their roles of Hastings, Lemon and Japp respectively.

Zoe Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver with David Suchet as Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie's Poirot

The series got even better with the addition of Zoe Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver, a crime author. Agatha Christie created this character to voice her own frustrations with Hercule Poirot.

The chemistry between Poirot and Oliver is the highlight, whenever she makes an appearance on the show.

Bob, wire-haired terrier dog in Agatha Christie's Poirot Dumb Witness

As good as the aforementioned recurring cast members are, the guest stars have often stolen the show. My personal favorite (and to some extent, David's as well) is Snubby, a wire-haired terrier who played Bob, the title character in “Dumb Witness”.

Also of note is the fact that, two Dr Who actors have been part of the series: Christopher Eccleston (“One, Two, Buckle My Shoe”, 1992) and the current Dr Who, Peter Capaldi (“Wasps' Nest”, 1991).

The series has also benefited from having some on of the finest screenwriters: Clive Exton, Anthony Horowitz and Mark Gatiss. Mark Gatiss would also star in one of the episodes (“Appointment with Death”, 2010).

Nothing in life is a walk in the park and it was not the case for this show either. Despite the cast and crew's best efforts, a few episodes did not turn out well as expected. Further, there were times when David himself was not sure if he would be able to complete his dream of filming all Poirot stories.

To quote Agatha's favorite writer, William Shakespeare himself: All's well that ends well.

David Suchet and Hugh Fraser as Hercule Poirot and Arthur Hastings in Agatha Christie's Poirot

Completing the entire Canon of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot stories is a crowning achievement. Very few actors have had such privilege and honor. To the best of my knowledge, Clive Merrison is the only actor to have played Sherlock Holmes in all 56 short stories and 4 novels on radio.

A superb lead actor and supporting cast, combined with lavish budgets (especially for the later seasons) and excellent scripts have resulted in a classic adaptation. A fitting tribute to the genius of the best selling novelist the world has seen.

Congratulations, David and wishing you the very best in your upcoming projects.

Recommended read for fans of David Suchet's Poirot and/or Agatha Christie's stories.

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Image Sources: Poirot and Me by David Suchet, Bending the Willow: Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes by David Stuart Davies, Flickr

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection - Free Download

Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection - Free Download

Click here to download the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes stories and novels.

Click here to download the free kindle version of complete collection of Sherlock Holmes stories and novels.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book Review: APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch

Many people love reading books but few of us know the hardships that authors face in the long journey that starts with their putting down their thoughts electronically/on paper.

This book offers an author’s perspective on the publishing industry and what factors go into making each decision in the publishing cycle. Authors make considerable sacrifices to give us the end product. The book provides an honest look at the hard and gritty reality of the publishing industry.

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But would-be authors need not fret – the latest book from Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch gives us a comprehensive tour into the publishing cycle. Guy and Shawn have coined a new term: Artisanal Publishing. Here is a sampling of the topics covered:

  • Writing tools to create content
  • Tips to proofread the finished product
  • Raising money to finance the whole process
  • How to convert our script in the Word document to the format of eBook resellers
  • Reaching the customers through online book resellers or direct sales or author-services companies
  • How to sell directly to readers
  • International translation of books and audiobook versions
  • How to take steps to precautions against frauds and rip-offs
  • The need to check up with relevant authorities about taxes and legal requirements.
No book on self-publishing or eBooks can be complete without a detailed look at, the online retailing giant. I do not have the statistics on hand but Amazon’s Kindle is probably the most popular and the bestselling eBook reader. There is much more to Amazon and a separate chapter appropriately titled “How to Navigate the Amazon” is focused on the wide services and features provided by Amazon.

As a bibliophile, I enjoyed the chapter on the history of publishing. It was very informative and gave a good insight into the technological changes that have happened over the passage of time.

Guy Kawasaki APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book
Guy Kawasaki
The book is extremely well-researched and has numerous links (or “Hat-tip” to quote Guy) to source materials. This lends a high degree of credibility to the book (and the authors).

I also liked the chapter on how to price one’s book. Specifically, I liked the pricing philosophies suggested by the authors. I also learnt a couple of new things – using serial commas, and the meaning and importance of ISBNs.

The techniques advocated by Guy and Shawn are applicable not only to book writing but also to blogging. Each blog post can be compared to a book chapter. I was humbled to know that I have been practicing a few of these methods. One example: I follow the second school of thought, when it comes to revising mistakes. I would leave it to the readers to learn more from the book itself!

Shawn Welch APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book
Shawn Welch
In a nutshell: The book contains a wealth of practical information. In addition to the numerous tips and techniques from Guy, the book lists a number of online resources that can be utilized right away. The best part is that many of these resources are free of charge.

I would recommend the book to aspiring authors, bloggers and bibliophiles.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: Bait & Switch: A sci-fi Sherlock Holmes by Ashley Marie Bergner

Bait & Switch: A sci-fi Sherlock Holmes by Ashley Marie Bergner

This is a review of the Kindle version.

The author, Ashley Marie Bergner is a fan of the science fiction genre and Sherlock Holmes. This book successfully combines both these components and the end product is a delightful Sherlock Holmes pastiche with a sci fi flavor.

There are a total of 6 cases in this pastiche. The first one begins with Sherlock Holmes and Jaymie Watson meeting at building 221 in Quadrant B. A woman disappears shortly and our duo is off on their first case together. The second and third cases have Holmes solving the murder of an actress and the theft of a precious diamond respectively.

The final 3 cases have Holmes piecing together the pieces that would help him stop a criminal mastermind with unlimited resources and power at his command.

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Here are the things I liked the most:
  1. Good representation of the Canonical Holmes – Calm with a dry/sarcastic sense of humor. Some of his exchanges with other characters are similar to those of Cumberbatch’s version.
  2. Nods to classic Holmesian traits – Conducting experiments, operating outside the law, thorough knowledge of London, lack of respect for social titles and designations, breaking into buildings as part of investigations, using his memory to store facts only when needed, knowledge on poisons, Holmes’s penchant for adopting disguises and accents.
  3. Lestrade is featured heavily in this pastiche. As can be expected, there are familiar jabs by Sherlock at the efficiency of the Official Police force and the “little sallow, rat-faced, dark-eyed fellow” in particular.
  4. Good sci-fi flavor to the Legendary Detective – All the familiar settings and characters but cast in a different universe. Couple of examples: London is Loudron and Scotland Yard is Civic Security Station.
  5. My favorite character is Miles Zawker. To reveal more will be spoiling the fun and I will leave it at that!

Ashley Marie Bergner
Ashley Marie Bergner
Canonical References
  1. When Watson first meets Holmes, the latter is conducting a chemical experiment.  A very similar scenario happens in A Study in Scarlet.
  2. This line from the pastiche - “… his eyes quickly darting about the room like a praxit cat’s, taking in every detail.” is a nice variation on following observation made by Dr Watson in The Sign of the Four: “So swift, silent, and furtive were his movements, like those of a trained bloodhound picking out a scent..”.
  3. There is a reference to this line in The Adventure of the Three Garridebs – “The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain.”
  4. One of the characters refers to Holmes as a meddlesome, far-too-nosy busybody. Readers familiar with the Canon will recognize the “Holmes, the busybody!” line spoken by Dr. Grimesby Roylott in The Adventure of the Speckled Band.
  5. Sherlock Holmes cautions Watson against judging her date based on his (seemingly) nice behavior. Reference to The Sign of Four - "It is of the first importance not to allow your judgment to be biased by personal qualities… The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning."
  6.  I especially loved "room No. 1893". Very subtle and yet very satisfying!

I found some nods to the current Sherlock Holmes adaptations:

Guy Ritchie directed movies
  • Holmes pastes pictures, words and thoughts on his bedroom wall. He calls the wall his "association map". This is similar to the diorama maintained by Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes in Watson’s office.

Sherlock Holmes Diorama from the movie 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows'
Diorama from the movie 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' 
  • Holmes enacts his plans as a digi-drama in his mind before things happen. This reminded me of the Holmavision of Robert Downey Jr.'s version.

Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) performing his Holmesavision
Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) performing his Holmesavision 
  • The plot of Case # 4 has some similarities to the first movie.
BBC series Sherlock
  • The sci-fi version of Holmes is verbose and wears a trench coat and scarf.
BBC Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) in his signature trench coat
BBC Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) in his signature trench coat
  • Anderson, Sherlock's nemesis in the Scotland Yard is referred to indirectly.

Anderson in 'A Study in Pink' BBC Sherlock
Anderson in 'A Study in Pink'
Some things that did not work out:

  1. In Case # 1, Holmes guesses some things about Watson. This is a significant departure from the Canon. In The Sign of the Four, Holmes makes the following observation - "No, no; I never guess. It is a shocking habit - destructive to the logical faculty." But to the author’s credit, this is a rare misstep.
  2. Case # 5 - I personally found it to be considerably less involving than the rest. There is not much mystery or suspense in this section and the main focus is on Watson’s date with another character.
  3. The final case contained some melodramatic elements and the resolution was a bit clichéd.
  4. Too many times, the words “meddling” and “meddler” are used with reference to Holmes. I can only guess that the author likes Scooby Doo a lot!
In conclusion, this pastiche is a good example of how to give a futuristic update to the Victorian settings of the Canon. It is an excellent homage to the legend of Sherlock Holmes.

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Image Sources: Amazon, Fanpop, GQ Magazine

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Review: City Under The Moon by Hugh Sterbakov

City Under The Moon by Hugh Sterbakov

NYC finds itself the target of a carefully planned series of werewolf attacks that start on the night of Dec 29. Main target – the New Year's Eve celebration at Times Square. FBI Special Agent Brianna Tildascow zeroes in on one Demetrius Valenkov. An European Werewolf hunter is brought in. The Government and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) work together on finding a solution to the outbreak. Body count rises and the resolution is suitably climactic.

Emmy-nominated author Hugh Sterbakov’s writing is smart and the book has a crisp sense of humor throughout. The characterizations are excellent: Brianna Tildascow – FBI Special Agent and the protagonist, Rebekkah Lufts – National Security Advisor, Dr Melissa Kenzie – the doctor, Lon Toller- the geek, William Weston – President of the US, Dr Jessica Tanner – Director of CDC and Elizabeth – Lon’s girlfriend.

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The story is well-paced and sustains interest from start to finish. There is enough gore around to satisfy the gorehounds. Hugh has paid homage to the Werewolf legend through references to the actor Lon Chaney and the movies Silver Bullet and An American Werewolf in London. Hugh also gets brownie points for his jabs at Twilight and other books of that ilk.

Hugh Sterbakov, author of City Under The Moon
Hugh Sterbakov, the author

What is more striking is his devotion to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The book has some scenes set in Transylvania and Romania. There are direct references to the Carpathian Mountains and the horse carriage ride while being surrounded by wolves on all sides. The line in the book – “Those hills are alive with the sound of music” instantly reminded me of the classic line in Stoker’s book - "Children of the night. What music they make…".

The book ends with a potential for a sequel. I am definitely looking forward to that one!

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Image Source: City under the Moon

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