Monday, 16 April 2012

The Murder of the Century by Paul Collins

“No writer better articulates ourinterest in the confluence of hope, eccentricity, and the timelessness of the bold and strange than Paul Collins.”—DAVE EGGERS

On Long Island, a farmer finds a duck pond turned red with blood. On the Lower East Side, two boys playing at a pier discover a floating human torso wrapped tightly in oilcloth. Blueberry pickers near Harlem stumble upon neatly severed limbs in an overgrown ditch. Clues to a horrifying crime are turning up all over New York, but the police are baffled: There are no witnesses, no motives, no suspects.

The grisly finds that began on the afternoon of June 26, 1897, plunged detectives
headlong into the era’s most baffling murder mystery. Seized upon by battling media moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the case became a publicity circus. Reenactments of the murder were staged in Times Square, armed reporters lurked in the streets of Hell’s Kitchen in pursuit of suspects, and an unlikely trio—a hard-luck cop, a cub reporter, and an eccentric professor—all raced to solve the crime.

What emerged was a sensational love triangle and an even more sensational trial: an unprecedented capital case hinging on circumstantial evidence around a victim whom the police couldn’t identify with certainty, and who the defense claimed wasn’t even dead. The Murder of the Century is a rollicking tale—a rich evocation of America during the Gilded Age and a colorful re-creation of the tabloid wars that have dominated media to this day.
I'm not always a huge fan of true crime as a lot of it seems to simply be sensationalist rubbish. By contrast this book details the story of not only a horrific murder but how it came to be sensationalised and how the tabloids' fascination with murder and murderers was born in the supposedly more genteel era of 19th century America. 20th century sensationalist reporting started here, at the behest of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Clues to Christie: The Definitive Guide to Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and all of Agatha Christie's Mysteries

The ultimate introductory guide to Agatha Christie and her detectives, including stories featuring Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and Tommy & Tuppence.
Ever wondered how Agatha Christie became the world's best-selling storyteller? Never read one even though you know someone who loves her? Too bewildered by the choice of books to know where to start? Then CLUES TO CHRISTIE could be the key that unlocks the door to a world of mystery, thrills and romance that has captivated readers from 9 to 90 for the last 90 years.
With more than two billion book sales, Agatha Christie is the world's best-selling novelist, translated into more languages than Shakespeare. And with more than 100 books and plays to her name, and over 150 short stories, it is no surprise that one-third of all fiction readers have read an Agatha Christie, and millions have seen the films and TV series.
This exclusive eBook sampler includes a specially written introduction by the award-winning author and world's foremost expert on Agatha Christie, John Curran. Together with other useful and enlightening material to help readers navigate the world of Agatha Christie, such as reading lists, suggestions on different ways to read the books, a Poison Primer, and an A to Z of characters, CLUES TO CHRISTIE also includes three specimen stories by the Queen of Crime, to introduce her world-famous detectives of Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple and Tommy & Tuppence Beresford, and to help you decide which Agatha Christie books you want to read next.

Calling this a definitive guide to anything, let alone to 'all of Agatha Christie's mysteries, is definitely taking artistic license too far. The introductory sections about Agatha Christie and the later section about her interest in poisons are certainly interesting, but don't really contain anything you wouldn't get from reading her autobiography, and the rest of the book is simply a reprint of three of her short stories and then lists of her works divided in different ways (by the means of death, by the detectives involved, by location, and so on) and a reprint of the covers of the novels the author says were Christie's personal favourites.

Monday, 19 March 2012

My Dearest Holmes by Rohase Piercy

"... The accounts of these cases are too bound up with events in my personal life which, although they may provide a plausible commentary to much of my dealings with Mr Sherlock Holmes, can never be made public while he or I remain alive ..."

Although Dr Watson is known for recording some sixty of his adventures with the celebrated Sherlock Holmes, he also wrote other reminiscences of their long friendship which were never intended for publication during their lifetimes. Rescued from oblivion by Rohase Piercy, here are two previously unknown stories about the great detective and his companion, throwing a fresh light upon their famous partnership, and helping to explain much which has puzzled their devotees.

Together, Holmes and Watson face disturbing revelations as they investigate the case of the Queen Bee; and we finally learn what actually happened at the Reichenbach Falls and the real reasons which lay behind Holmes' faked death and his subsequent return.

This is pretty much Harlequin Romance meets Sherlock Holmes, recorded in Doctor Watson's voice as so many of the original cases were. The book is divided into two halves. The first, a mystery worthy of Conan Doyle himself, in my opinion, but interwoven with an insight into the relationship, or lack thereof, between Holmes and Watson, and set shortly before the events of The Sign of the Four, which, devoted readers will know, is the case in which Watson meets the woman he will marry. The second half is set during and after the events of The Final Problem and detail the emotions and actions of Watson, Holmes, and his distressingly cold and calculating older brother, Mycroft, as Holmes 'dies' and is resurrected.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes

What other characters from English literature have captivated hearts and minds as thoroughly as Sherlock Holmes and his loyal companion John Watson? Many fans imagine the relationship between these men is deep and more than platonic. In A Study in Lavender, the Holmes universe is queered and ten authors have devised stories in which Holmes and Watson are lovers, or investigate mysteries of inverts hidden from the laws and cultures of the Victorian era; even the indomitable Lestrade has his turn at love; and famous actors who helped put Holmes on the silver screen face trysts they never dared to film.

I was hoping this would be good and not just an attempt to cash in in the sudden mainstream awareness of the homosexual subtext that can be seen in the Holmes stories (thank you Robert Downey Jr!). And luckily I was proved right!

Friday, 9 March 2012

A Test of Wills by Charles Todd

In 1919, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge remains haunted by World War I, where he was forced to have a soldier executed for refusing to fight. When Rutledge is assigned to investigate a murder involving the military, his emotional war wounds flare. It is a case that strikes dangerously close to home--one that will test Rutledge's precarious grip on his own sanity.

I cannot express how much I loved this book! Rutledge is a detective from Scotland Yard who has just returned to work after recovering from the injuries he sustained in the First World War. Although he has kept the fact from almost everyone what he is really recovering from is shell shock. He hears voices. One voice in particular - that of one of his men. I won't tell you why it is this voice in particular that haunts him since we don't discover that til about halfway through the book.

The Best Alternate History Stories of the Twentieth Century

Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century

Explore fascinating, often chilling "what if" accounts of the world that could have existed–and still might yet . . .

Science fiction’s most illustrious and visionary authors hold forth the ultimate alternate history collection. Here you’ll experience mind-bending tales that challenge your views of the past, present, and future. 

The definitive collection: fourteen seminal alternate history tales drawing readers into a universe of dramatic possibility and endless wonder

Another anthology of alternate history stories, some of them utterly heartbreaking. One of them even made me cry!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Other Earths Anthology

one world among many... eleven stories about them all

What if Lincoln never became president, and the Civil War never took place? What if Columbus never discovered America, and the Inca developed a massive, technologicallyadvanced empire? What if magic was real and a half-faerie queen ruled England? What if an author discovered a book written by an alternate version of himself?

These are just some of the possible pathways that readers can take to explore the Other Earths that may be waiting just one page away.

This is an anthology of alternative history stories and it's one of my favourite genres so I was excited about reading it. Sadly, that didn't last...

There are only eleven stories in the book so I'll discuss each one individually.