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Philip K. Jones reviews The Final Page of Baker Street

“This book is based on the assumption that the final page (Billy the Page) employed at 221 Baker Street while Holmes lived there was Raymond Chandler.  Within the world of the Canon, this is a plausible assumption.  During 1903, Raymond Chandler was a day-student at Dulwich College (UK, Secondary School), near London.  After leaving Dulwich, he became a professional writer and he stayed in the UK until 1911.  since Raymond was born in Kansas, he retained American citizenship, even though his mother, who was Irish, brought him to England to live with her mother after his father deserted them.

The close association between Holmes and Billy the page is mentioned in Watson’s later writings about the final year before Holmes retired. This book provides background material for the later events which entangled Holmes and Watson once more in the life of “Billy.”  It so happens that I am a fan of Chandler’s stories about the detective, Philip Marlowe, and I have read and enjoyed all of them several times.

The really amazing thing about this book is the author’s ability to call up the ‘essence’ of both the Baker Street ‘digs’ of Holmes and Watson as well as that of the ‘mean streets’ of Marlowe’s Los Angeles.  Although none of the action takes place in either place, Holmes and Watson share a sense of camaraderie and self-confidence in facing threats and problems that also pervades many of the later tales in the Canon.  Following their conversations and banter is a return to Edwardian England and its certainties and hope for the future.  This is definitely the world before The Great War

When the action focuses on Chandler, we walk into Marlowe’s world of cynical despair with society and of loneliness and distrust.  Chandler is truly a stranger passing through this world, a homesick, tarnished angel grieving for a lost paradise forever denied him.

Adding in Colonel Sebastian Moran as a villain brings in a sense of continuity that is both comforting and frightening.  His motivation is even more surprising for who could imagine “the second most dangerous man in England” acting out of love and concern for another?

For Chandler fans, the book relives “The Long Goodbye” and, in lesser ways, “The Big Sleep.”  There are also echoes of “Little Sister” and “The High Window,” as well as some of his shorter works.  I have read at least three Marlowe pastiches and none captured the essence of Marlowe nearly so well as this book.   I have also presented a serious analysis of Doyle’s style in writing the Canon and, again, this book captures the essence of “The Return…” and “The Casebook…” stories better than any other writer I have read.”

The Final Page of Baker Street is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository .

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Philip K. Jones reviews A Professor Reflects on Sherlock Holmes

“This book is a collection of articles on Sherlockian matters by a true Sherlockian scholar.  It includes a variety of subjects and formats and is liberally spiced with the unobtrusive dry humor that is typical of Professor Alvarez.  The only consistent theme in this book is that of scholarship.  Professor Alvarez documents everything.  Because of that attention to detail, readers may take him a bit seriously and think they are reading class presentations or detailed redactions of dusty volumes from the back of the Library stacks.  Don’t make that mistake.  These are intensely personal observations by a Sherlockian with a true love for the Canonical tales, the Great Detective, the Good Doctor and the man behind it all, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The “Essays” segment includes short studies in Sherlockiana.  “Simplifying Complexity in Sherlock Holmes Stories” gives guidelines for new readers of the Canon, things to look for and keys to the “Sherlockian” viewpoint.  “Sherlock Holmes and Educating” provides clues to Holmes’s world.  It gives “facts” from the Canon about Holmes, his skills and interests and it asks readers to educate themselves using the Canonical tales as a guide to the world of Sherlock Holmes.  “Dr. Watson vs. Sherlock Holmes’s Writing Style” looks at the several different modes in which the tales were written and applies standard literary analysis techniques to them, with modest results.“Sherlock Holmes Encounters Three Professors” examines the three professors who appear actively in the Canon.  “Sherlock Holmes as College Professor” examines what the Canon tells us about Holmes and concludes that he had many of the characteristics needed by an effective educator.

In “A Call to Academia” Holmes is offered a Professorship at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, after his retirement from detective work.  This article points out his qualifications and his general suitability for this position.  “Sherlock Holmes as Detective and Scientist” examines how Holmes applies the Scientific Method in his investigations and the advances that have been made since his time.  It is followed by several appendices that are cited in the various articles.  “The Valley of Fear: Three Missing Words” examines, and explains the differences between the English and American Publications of VALL and does quite a good job of it too.  “The Stock-Broker’s Clerk: Parallels and Parodies” examines and explains similar themes that occur in STOC and in other Canonical tales, specifically REDH, 3GARand NORW.  “Thumb-less in Eyford” examines some logic problems that appear in “The Engineer’s Thumb.” Professor Alvarez offers explanations and gives earlier views expressed in these matters by other Sherlockians.

“Sherlock Holmes Revealed in Art” examines the “artistic” side of Holmes.  It concentrates on a painting by Eric Conklin done in the “trompe L’oeil” style.  With no Art experience, I couldn’t understand what was said and the picture in the book is too dark to see details. “Sherlock Holmes, American Football and Schenectady” relates an incident during a lecture tour made by Holmes and Watson to various American locations.  As American Baseball arose from the English game of Cricket, so American Football grew out of British Rugby.  Watson’s confusion about football provides a counterpoint of light relief to Holmes’s earnest explanations.

The “in the Footsteps” segment tells of trips the Professor Alvarez took and passes along his thoughts on the places visited.  These included The Reichenbach and the nearby Trummelbach Falls as well as Trinity College and its Library.  His conclusions involving Doyle’s mind and the two falls are compelling.  His reflections on Trinity and its Library reveal the true nature of a bibliophile

The final segment, “Magic Squares and a Quinquain,” includes a basic Magic Squares coding/decoding sheet and a puzzle to be solved as well as the elements of unique poem form.”

A Professor Reflects On Sherlock Holmes is available through all good bookstores including Amazon USAAmazon UKBarnes and Noble USAWaterstones UK. For elsewhere Book Depository offer free delivery worldwide.  In ebook format there is KindleiPad and Kobo.

A Professor Reflects On Sherlock Holmes

 

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Philip K. Jones reviews The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive by Amy Thomas

“This is the third novel by this author about Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler.  As these novels come out, readers find themselves travelling a strange pathway.  Both Sherlock and Irene have developed defenses against caring about others.  Their reasons are different, but their actions are similar.  Both are self-reliant loners who suppress their feelings of care and concern for others lest they be trapped into allowing others to distract them from their own immediate concerns.

This novel opens with Irene arriving at 221B Baker Street to inform Sherlock that her bee hives have all died.  At this time, Irene is the Apiarist and Sherlock is an occasional visitor and interested observer of the process of tending hives.  Dr. Watson is again in residence at Baker Street following the death of his wife (1903 edition, #2 or #3?) and Mrs. Hudson is keeping house for both of them.  Mrs. Turner is housekeeper for Irene at her house on the Downs.  The good Doctor has been a regular visitor to her there and seems to be courting Mrs. Turner while Mrs. Hudson is thinking of selling her town properties and retiring to the country.

The death of Irene’s bees is accepted by Sherlock as a case, since they were killed by a disease with no likely source near her farm.  Initial investigations lead Sherlock to recognize a malevolent influence seemingly centered on himself, but affecting those around him.  The mystery proceeds in fine fashion, but it actually plays out as the beginning of a true friendship between Sherlock and Irene.  The steps in this friendship are careful and slow, but they begin with finding that both of them care for the wellbeing of others.  As these revelations come, they begin to care for each other’s welfare and realize that they are giving up some of their own freedom of action to do so.

The mystery gives way a piece at a time as the source of the dark influence reveals itself.  Innocent parties are killed or harmed and the detective pair find that they are not free to treat all as merely a problem to be solved, but rather that they feel guilt and remorse for exposing friends and colleagues to this evil.  A dark period in Sherlock’s past has generated the hatred that pursues all he cares about and its source must be identified and prevented from doing further harm.  In the meantime, both Irene and Sherlock must learn to open their hearts to others who suffer from association with them.  This process is the theme of the novel and it is well-presented and convincingly handled.

There is no need to say that the explanations and outcomes are all unexpected.  As in her earlier novels, the author has written alternate chapters from the viewpoints of Irene and then of Sherlock.  This practice presents the reader with a more sympathetic view of the two protagonists and it reveals their inner fears and concerns in an indirect fashion.  It is perhaps, the best novel yet in this series.  As ever, the author underplays the emotional content and concentrates lovingly on the facts.”

The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository . In ebook format it is in Amazon KindleKoboNook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).

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Philip K. Jones reviews Charlie Milverton and other Sherlock Holmes Stories by Charlotte Anne Walters

“This book is a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories set in the 21st Century.  They include agents and Rock Stars, cell phones and E-Books and take place in a thoroughly modern world.  They are not written in the style used by Doyle, so this Dr. Watson is not the Watson of the 19th Century.  Instead, Watson is married and is working for a law firm that specializes in “no win, no fee” cases of insurance fraud (Watson’s words).

The short story, “Charlie Milverton,” is the only one that was published earlier as it appeared in Sherlock’s Home (Steve Emecz, ed.)  Just as “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton,”this story is about a blackmailer who gets his comeuppance through the efforts of Sherlock and Dr. Watson.  It also features a retired Inspector Lestrade who is now working as a private security consultant.  Todd Carter, a “Manager to the Stars,” hires Lestrade to guard his girlfriend, Della Breton,an up and coming rock singer.  Milverton has a security tape of Della kissing another man in a hotel elevator and demands money from her to keep it from her manager/boy-friend.  Watson and Holmes muddle through and get Milverton arrested and deported on a technicality.

In the novella, “The Premier Bachelor,” as in “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor,” a popular, attractive female (author) is engaged to marry a (soccer) superstar, but then disappears immediately after the wedding.  Watson’s (and her) agent demands he get Holmes to help and they manage to solve the case, but the agent dumps him anyway,so that he will not have a second book of Holmes’ adventures published.  Watson worries that his wife will dump him when he loses his royalties.

In the short story, “The Leaping man,” as in “The Adventure of the Creeping Man,” Holmes and Watson encounter a man acting very strangely.  Some outlandish fan attacks Della Bretton when her Security Manager, former Inspector Lestrade, has left her with no explanation.  The fan is averted by a strange man jumping and twitching between Della and the fan, but her security detail is in a shambles.  Again, Holmes and Watson prevail, but Watson is tormented by his lawyer masters for not pushing paper effectively enough.

In the novella, “A Question of Identity,” as in “A Case of Identity,” a young lady of some substance is disappointed in love.  In this tale, circumstances are thoroughly updated to a 21st Century standard with cell phones and social media, but this young lady is bright and ingenious and fourteen years old.  Watson manages to sabotage a case of “injury for money” sponsored by his “no win, no fee” lawyer employers and ends up fired and on the way to marital rocks.

In the novella “Abbey Strange,” as in “The Adventure of Abbey Grange,” Holmes and Watson find themselves facing a murder that has been “pre-staged.”  Finding the true nature of the events and fitting the punishment to the offense is a complicated task for Holmes and Watson.  Further, Watson needs to find some way to support himself after getting fired in the previous tale and deserted by his wife in this one.  This becomes quite an epic in 21stCentury technology in itself.

Each of these tales is carefully crafted and all are satisfying as well as amusing.  The author tweaks the beaks of 21st Century social media freaks and brings the problems of the 19th Century right up to date, proving that people remain people as Sherlock remains Sherlock across the Centuries.”

Charlie Milverton and other Sherlock Holmes Stories is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USA, Amazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository . In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle,  KoboNook and Apple iBooks(iPad/iPhone).

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Philip K Jones reviews The 1895 Murder by Dan Andriacco

“This is the third in the author’s series featuring Jefferson Cody and Sebastian McCabe.   To my taste it seems the best in the series of four.  Events center around the wedding of Jeff Cody and Lynda Teal.  As is customary, we meet again with old acquaintances and run into a group of new ones.  This time we learn more about old friends and meet even more interesting new ones than is usual.

Although the upcoming wedding permeates the entire book, this is because the narrator is the groom.  He is, quite naturally, preoccupied with his bride-to-be and is only marginally aware of the mystery around him.  An old acquaintance of Professor McCabe has decided to resurrect the abandoned Odd Fellows Hall as the Lyceum Theater and to stage a play as its reopening extravaganza.  McCabe has volunteered to write a play for the opening and has adapted “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” as the foundation of the play, “1895,” along with elements of “The Empty House” and other Canonical tales to round-out the script.  The story begins on opening night, which is two weeks before the wedding is supposed to take place.

Opening night jitters are everywhere and everyone is preoccupied.  A troubled young man, a protégé of Sister Mary Margaret McBride (Polly or “triple M”) helping as a stage hand, steps out for a forbidden smoke and finds a dead body.  Hetexts the Police Chief, who arrives with siren screaming to upset the audience at the end of the play.  Murder enters the scene and steals the show.  According to the Police Chief, when the text sender disappears during the crime scene investigation, he becomes the prime suspect.  Sister Polly protests and asks McCabe and Cody to find what really happened.

From this point on, suspects turn up everywhere, motives abound and no one is who or what they seem.  Jeff and Lynda stumble on to the solution at about the same time Sebastian manages to figure it out.  All in all, it is a good mystery, with many interesting, complex characters and a fun plot.”

The 1895 Murder is available from all good bookstores including in the USA  Amazon and Barnes and Noble, in the UK Waterstones and Amazon, and for everywhere else Book Depository who offer free worldwide delivery. In ebook format there is KindleNookiPad and Kobo.

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