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Eye of the Crow

Eye of the Crow  - Shane Peacock I have never given much thought to Sherlock Holmes as a boy or spent any time pondering what Holmes must have been like as a teenager. Reading "Eye of the Crow" though kind of forces the issue.

I think the origins of Holmes that Peacock chooses are a much darker and more depressing view than I would have had. That certainly does not make Peacock's ideas wrong, just a different interpretation than I probably would have made.

The story IS dark. It shows a bleak childhood for the boy who would become Sherlock Holmes.


4 STARS

The Copycat Murders

The Copycat Murders - William Meikle The entirety of Willie Meikle's "The Copycat Murders" is written like the climax of a much larger work. It is solid action from start to finish.

Meikle presents some pretty unique ideas in this short story. I would have liked to see what he could have done with something longer than 66 pages.

With a topic like "catoptromancy" and Meikle's imagination....wow...the potential!


4 STARS

Right to Life

Right to Life - Jack Ketchum, Neal McPheeters Read as one of two novellas under the [b:Old Flames|2583591|Old Flames|Jack Ketchum|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1349128529s/2583591.jpg|2599872] cover.

Moonbane

Moonbane - Al Sarrantonio Al Sarrantonio's "Moonbane" is an entertaining Sci-fi / horror novella. If you are able to put critical thinking into autopilot and let someone else take the wheel for a bit, go ahead and give this one a run. If lapses in reality, sometimes brutal lapses, and an "Independence Day" style climax annoy you, give it a pass.

3 STARS

The Concordances of the Red Serpent

The Concordances of the Red Serpent - William Meikle In the last year and a half, I have read 14 books written by Willie Meikle. Not because Meikle is some literary genius, a modern-day Robert Burns. But, rather, because what Meikle writes is fun. Looking through a list of Meikle titles, you get a solid feel for the entertainment that lies between his books' covers. Carnacki, Holmes, Professor Challenger, throw in a fair mix of HP Lovecraft, Dashiell Hammett, HG Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson and Louis L'Amour and you are getting fair idea of what Meikle is about.

"The Concordances of the Red Serpent" is a Dan Brown-esque mystery with a pinch of a Dashiell Hammett-esque detective on the case. From the streets of New York through some of the oldest Scottish seats of royalty, Meikle's hero pursues a murderer that is himself in pursuit of a much desired secret.

Solid fun!


4 STARS

PORN: An Extreme Novel of Sex and Gore

PORN: An Extreme Novel of Sex and Gore - Matt Shaw A horror novella entitled "Porn"! What isn't to love?

With the high ratings, though, I think I went in with exaggerated expectations.

The story is decent but a bit confusing. The flow is a bit rough. Shaw is telling a story in three parallel parts. One part of the tale is told by the jaded and wronged porn actress to her victim. Part of the story is flashback. Another part of the story is current action. At points, I had to step back a paragraph or two just to figure out where I was. That aside, there were points in this book where I winced at the action. It was brutal.

Frankly, it was fun!


3 STARS

Crucifax

Crucifax - Ray Garton "Crucifax" is a 1980's Pied Piper story.

I've read a few 1980's horror novels recently and have cringed slightly at how outdated a couple of them have been. "Crucifax", though, holds up well with a theme that is still relevant. Granted, there are still a few references that didn't survive Father Time and the spiked mullet hair-style sported by the antagonist wouldn't pass muster today, those aside, the novel works.


3 1/2 STARS

Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes

Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes - Charles Prepolec, Kim Newman, Kevin Cockle, Lawrence C. Connolly, Simon Clark, Paul Kane, William Meikle, Tom English, Christopher Fowler, J.R. Campbell I just finished reading the anthology Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes. Reviews of each story are below.

As with any collection, there were highs and lows. Fortunately, the highs greatly outpaced the lows.

As a collection, this is a hearty 4 STARS.



"The Comfort of the Seine" by Stephen Volk

Young Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe and the origins of Holmes as a detective. Great Story!

5 STARS



"The Adventure of Lucifer's Footprint" by Christopher Fowler

This story was missing something.

The flow between scenes was awkward. One second you are in London, the next Devon. One second you are in the local tavern, the next walking a field. There is little or no mention of means of conveyance.

The author also missed the descriptive scenes that help make Holmes stories. Holmes and Watson are sitting in front of a fire with a brandy. You are offered little more description than that.

Additionally, I believe there are references to a failure of one of the characters in the Charge of the Light Brigade. I am not a British military history scholar and didn't feel it worth my while to fill in the blanks where the author failed to do so.

Another reviewer suggested that "The Adventure of Lucifer's Footprint" was just an outline of a story and not the completed work. I think that is accurate.

1 STAR



"The Deadly Sin of Sherlock Holmes" by Tom English

English's Holmes and Watson are note perfect. The setting was right on. This one hit all of the proper notes with one glaring exception, the resolution of the mystery lacked explanation.

Holmes for certain figured it out. He had resigned to the fact that he was dealing with something supernatural. A dangerous experiment was conducted providing Holmes with the proof he needed. But, there was never any hint as to how or why the experiment that would prove the case worked and no clue as to why Holmes made the conclusions that he made.

Fill in the blanks and this story is top notch. Without that....meh.

2 STARS



And now we come to the reason I bought the anthology to start with:

"The Color that Came to Chiswick" by William Meikle

Having read Holmes, Carnacki and Professor Challenger pastiches by Meikle, I knew this one would be a win. I like to be proven correct.

Holmes and Watson are dispatched to investigate a case of industrial sabotage at a local brewery. What they discover may have other-worldly origins.

As is often the case with short stories, you find yourself enjoying the story, setting or mystery so much that you feel a slight sense of disappointment at its end. That is the case here. My only complaint is selfish. I wish it were longer.

4 STARS



"From the Tree of Time" by Fred Saberhagen

Saberhagen is known best to me as the author of his Dracula series of books.

In this tale, Sherlock Holmes employs his friend, the vampire Count Dracula, to assist him on a blackmail case. Holmes feels that Dracula's knowledge of vampires could be particularly helpful in this instance.

The first third of this short story is Dracula dispelling for the narrator the myths surrounding vampires. It seemed overdone. But, it was relevant to the conclusion of the story.

3 STARS



"The Executioner" by Lawrence C. Connolly

This short story is a different view on the moments after the death of Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls.

There was very little mystery to the story. But, the premise is good and makes an interesting retelling of those vague events. It would probably also make a strong starting point for a new series.

4 STARS



"A Country Death" by Simon Kurt Unsworth

A consulting detective is called in to investigate a mysterious death...the death of Sherlock Holmes.

This one is more of a horror story than a Sherlock Holmes mystery. But, that is just fine. It is very well written and touches on a well documented hobby of Sherlock Holmes in his retirement.

4 STARS



"Sherlock Holmes and the Great Game" by Kevin Cockle

I am not usually a fan of Holmes outside of Victorian Great Britain. I feel that part of the appeal of Sherlockian stories is that specific setting and often can't abide any deviation. I found this story though a bit intriguing.

Set in frozen rural Canada, Holmes and Watson, armed with an ancient relic are hunting killers that may have some ancient, dark origin. The hints given as to Holmes' role in this mystery may also indicate something darker and more aged in our hero.

This tale left me wanting to know more about what was merely hinted at.

4 STARS



"Sherlock Holmes and the Diving Bell" by Simon Clark

"Watson. Come at once. That which cannot be. Is."

With this message, Holmes summons Watson to join him in a mystery five years in the making.

A marine salvage tragedy has left one man on the ocean floor, stranded in his diving bell with no chance for rescue.

Five years later, diving on the same wreck, the salvage crew suffers yet another tragedy resulting in the deaths of two more divers, who appear to have died of fright after hearing calls from their comrade lost five years earlier.

Enter Holmes and Watson.

4 STARS



"The Greatest Mystery" by Paul Kane

Holmes and Watson are faced with a series of seemingly random murders committed by some close acquaintance or loved one of the victims. Only Holmes is able to discern a pattern to the crimes and only Holmes, with the aid of Watson, is equipped to face his greatest foe.

This short story got a little long-winded in both the first few and last few pages. But, the meat of the story was fantastic!

4 STARS



"The House of Blood" by Tony Richards

The immortal Sherlock Holmes investigates a series of murders in modern day Las Vegas.

Again, I am not usually a fan of Holmes outside of Victorian Great Britain. But, in this case it seemed to work.

Richards leaves just enough questions about Holmes to have piqued my interest in this story line. How, for instance, did Holmes become immortal? What type of immortal is he, as when responding to a comment about vampires, he says, "There are no such creatures."?

I would be interested in reading further along these lines if Richards chose to write it.

4 STARS



"The Adventure of the Six Maledictions" by Kim Newman

This tale is told in the first person from the point of view of Colonel Sebastian Moran, the right hand man of Moriarty. Holmes and Watson do not make an appearance in this story.

I found it a little rough getting into the flow of Moran's colloquialisms. But, once I got the groove, this story was actually quite good.

Moriarty's scheming stole the show and the tidbits of humor hidden in Moran's colorful language flavored every paragraph.

I have a couple of Kim Newman's novels that have been deep in the to-be-read stack for quite some time. Those books just moved closer to the top of that mountain.

4 STARS

The Darlington Substitution (From The Deed Box of John H. Watson MD)

The Darlington Substitution (From The Deed Box of John H. Watson MD) - Hugh Ashton In "The Darlington Substitution", an artifact of some legend and the source of a long-lived family curse has gone missing. Holmes is hired to recover the artifact and finds himself in the midst of a larger and much more threatening mystery.

This is a well-written Sherlock Holmes pastiche.


4 STARS

Devils Of D Day

Devils Of D Day - Graham Masterton During the D-Day invasion at Normandy, Allied forces called on dark powers to engage the enemy. At the end of the war, one of the evil weapons remained on the battlefield. Thirty years later, it is demanding to be reunited with its ancient brothers.

This was a fun read. You could drive a tank through a couple of the plot holes. But, that in no way detracted from the entertainment value of this novel.

3 1/2 STARS

Descendant

Descendant - Graham Masterton In "Descendant", Masterton draws on the Romanian folklore of the strigoi, the immortal vampires, to weave a tale that crosses WWII and the decade or so after its end.

Jim Falcon, is an American academician who, due to a paper he wrote, is called upon to hunt strigoi in WWII's European theater. After the war, Jim is happy to walk away and live his happy life.

But, when post-war evidence of strigoi emerges in London, Jim is again called upon to address what has become his specialty.

I really enjoyed the story but felt that it wasn't written quite as tight as I would have liked. At one point, two scenes were so similar that I thought I had accidentally reread a paragraph or two.

With almost 10% of the book remaining and just as it appears Masterton is winding things down, he manages to tie up some loose ends in a surprising way that ends the novel on a high note.


3 1/2 STARS

Sherlock Holmes - The Stuff of Nightmares

Sherlock Holmes - The Stuff of Nightmares - James Lovegrove If Arthur Conan Doyle had teamed up with H.G. Wells and Jules Verne to write his Sherlock Holmes stories, I am sure the result would have been something like James Lovegrove's "The Stuff of Nightmares".

I enjoyed the book and its steampunk-ish ideas. One leap in logic that did not land on a firm footing early on in the novel did not settle well with me and stuck in my craw enough to outweigh what was a generally well written Holmes pastiche.


3 STARS

Blackwater, Vol. 2: The War / The Fortune / Rain

Blackwater, Vol. 2: The War / The Fortune / Rain - Michael McDowell I read each title of the Michael McDowell's Southern Gothic Blackwater series individually.

There was not a weak point in the entire series. From the opening scene of Elinor's rescue in "The Flood" to the final dark scene in "Rain", McDowell stayed true to his theme.

I think it says a lot of a series when, finishing six books, you wish there was more. That is where I am with the Blackwater series.


5 STARS

Blackwater, Vol. 1: The Flood / The Levee / The House

Blackwater, Vol. 1: The Flood / The Levee / The House - Michael McDowell I read each title of the Michael McDowell's Southern Gothic Blackwater series individually.

There was not a weak point in the entire series. From the opening scene of Elinor's rescue in "The Flood" to the final dark scene in "Rain", McDowell stayed true to his theme.

I think it says a lot of a series when, finishing six books, you wish there was more. That is where I am with the Blackwater series.


5 STARS

Rain

Rain - Michael McDowell "Rain" is the sixth and final book of Michael McDowell's Southern Gothic Blackwater series. "Rain" was a fitting finale to the saga of the Caskey family.

There was not a weak point in the entire series. From the opening scene of Elinor's rescue in "The Flood" to the final dark scene in "Rain", McDowell stayed true to his theme.

I think it says a lot of a series when, finishing six books, you wish there was more. That is where I am with the Blackwater series.


5 STARS

The Stone Child

The Stone Child - Dan Poblocki Since reading John Bellairs' Lewis Barnavelt series, I have been looking for something with the same feel. I think I found it with Dan Poblocki.

"The Stone Child" is a dark, YA tale that doesn't insult the intelligence of older readers. Tying in myths and folklore, Poblocki puts together a creepy story that has you not wanting to put the book down....and hoping that it doesn't end here.

It doesn't appear that Poblocki has written anything further with this set of characters, Eddie, Harris, Maggie and their favorite author, Nathaniel Olmstead. But, he has set it up so that "the further adventures of...." is certainly doable. Here's to hoping.


4 1/2 STARS