Elementary

When I was in my early teens I devoured every bit of the Sherlock Holmes opus, all 4 novels and the 5 collections of short stories. In fact I think I read most of them twice! Since then I have read a few attempts to extend the series, some have worked quite well (e.g. The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz) and some have fallen short.

Elementary by William Todd comprises “4 mysteries from the case files of Sherlock Holmes” which Dr Watson had not published. It didn’t work for me, it felt formulaic and somewhat predictable. To be honest I couldn’t bring myself to read all 4 of the stories, 2 were more than enough!

Unless you have read and remember all of the original Conan Doyle stories you might do better to go back to the originals and even if you do remember them I would still rather read the originals again than these wooden homages.

Death in Delft

Death in Delft by Martin Brack is the first in a new series. Set, not surprisingly in Delft in 1671 the plot is based around 3 young girls who have been abducted, one turns up dead and our hero Master Mercurius a protestant protest who is also a secret catholic, is called on by the mayor to try to solve the murder and find the two remaining girls before they are killed.

As a crime novel this might be quite standard fare though well executed, what makes this more interesting is the rich imagery of 17th century Delft, the currents of repressed religion post reformation and the insertion of the painter Johannes Vermeer and the scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek who discovered protozoa into the plot. The novel is in the form of a journal by Mercurius and has a dry humour running through his dialogue with the reader.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this, I’ll give the next one a go.

4/5

A Shooting at Chateau Rock

A Shooting at Chateau Rock is the 13th in Martin Walker’s Bruno Courreges series and it does not disappoint.

The Bruno series are well paced, elegantly written and charming, there are usually 3 threads to the plot, the main mystery, a sub-plot and a beautiful description of the French village life within the Perigord region. Add in Walker’s obvious love for French regional cuisine and wines, the simple recipes that magically appear and you will feel as if you are sitting around the table with him for a Sunday lunch in the French countryside.

This isn’t all food and countryside, Bruno is a tough, likeable character who fans of the series have followed through scrapes and romances (still unresolved). A Shooting at Chateau Rock delves into the way in which wealthy Russians have been purchasing EU citizenship and the crime that follows them. It’s a great page turner for a sunny afternoon, perhaps with a glass of chilled white at your side.

4.5/5

Agency

Friends have recommended William Gibson’s novels to me for some time but I hadn’t got round to reading any of his stuff. Agency is a cracker of a SciFi novel.

Agency isn’t an easy read, you have to work at it, as the basis of the plot unfolds quite slowly and you are left wondering what is going on and struggling to keep track of the different threads for a while. Press on because it is well worth the effort.

The novel switches from San Francisco in 2017, where Clinton won and Brexit didn’t happen, to a weird techno London a century in the future. Are we jumping back and forward in time or are these different parallel strands of history and who controls who?

This is very reminiscent of some of the best of Philip K Dick (the all time master of SciFi for me) leaving the reader wrestling shifting reality and consciousness. I loved it and will be plunging into more of Gibson’s work soon. Read it!

5/5

The Boy From The Woods

Harlan Cohen is one of my favourite authors, his Myron Bolitar series is both witty and pacey.

The Boy From The Woods is a stand alone novel. Wilde, no first name, is the boy who was discovered living in the wild in the woods, there’s no real explanation of why. Years later he is an ex special forces, loner investigator searching for Naomi, the target of the class bully, who has gone missing, then the bully goes missing! Confused? Add in a couple of distracting side plots and an unsatisfactory ending 😤

Not my favourite Coben book.

2.5/5

The Brothers York: An English Tragedy

The Brothers York by Thomas Penn is a superb example of how history can be serious, detailed, absorbing and exciting. I loved it.

The York brothers – Edward, George and Richard were the successors of Edward III. Their history, spanning three kingships from 1465 to 1485, is full of rivalry, feuds, treachery and deception. This is one of the bloodiest periods in English history and Penn leads the reader through the twists and turns of fate that lead to the rise and fall of the three York brothers and ultimately to the Tudor dynasty starting with Henry VII.

The Brothers York reads as exciting narrative but it is also well researched and insightful history. I couldn’t put it down.

5/5