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The last of the Holmesian marathon, and a very odd book indeed. The story itself is pretty straightforward and enjoyable; Holmes & Watson are asked to assist Sir James, the nephew of the late Professor Moriarty, who is about to be accused of a terrible crime. Livestock have been mutilated by some apparently demonic force, and now a man has been killed. Superstitious villagers blame Moriarty, and it is only a matter of time before they take matters into their own hands. A significant complication is that young Sir James loathes Holmes for what he has done to the Moriarty name and does not want his help.
Despite what turned out to be an interesting and rather gothic story, I found this book disconcerting. This was largely because of the number of photographs from the Granada TV adaptations starring Jeremy Brett. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed those dramatisations, particularly Edward Hardwick as Watson, but Brett isn’t the image I have in my head when I read a Holmes story (I’ve always been a Rathbone aficionado, despite the dodgy storylines for some of his films), and I found the illustrations more an irritant than anything else.
The book originated from Italy and was obviously meant to be the first in a series, although I haven’t found any of the others in English. Worth having a look at, but not one I think I would pick up again.
I haven’t caught up with the Book Panel for a few weeks, but have just managed to listen to the two most recent editions, which recommended the following:
Lucky Star by Cathy Cassidy
Blood Captain by Justin Somper
The Pools by Bethan Roberts
Artemis Fowl -The Graphic Novel by Eion Colfer
The Book God is very excited by Blood Captain as it’s about Vampirates, which says it all really. I very much like the sound of The Pools, and it’s now on my Wish List.
Or I should say were missing, as three books which I have bought over the past couple of months but couldn’t quite find (and therefore haven’t blogged about) turned up in among the pile of books next to the Book God’s sofa. So, being a completist (as ownership of nine box sets of X-Files DVDs will confirm), herewith additional purchases, probably August but possibly before:
The Complete Father Brown Stories by GK Chesterton, as a result of my Holmesian marathon;
When the Astors Owned New York by Justin Kaplan, following a review by dovegreyreader; and
The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas, following a favourable review on Simon Mayo’s Book Panel ages ago.
I really do think that’s everything now, unless he’s secreted some more away somewhere………
One day towards the end of last week I got really fed up with sitting in front of the computer, and decided to take a walk in my lunch break. I am notorious for bottling out of exercise and so thought having a purpose to the walk would make me stick to the plan, so I aimed for the London Review Bookshop near the British Museum, where I thought I’d just pick up the most recent copy of the magazine. Well it didn’t quite work out like that, and I had to confess to the Book God the following purchases:
Victorian Sensation by Michael Diamond
The Sea Lady by Margaret Drabble
Angelica by Arthur Phillips
None of these were on my wish list so I had no excuses except that they seemed really, really interesting. And at least I did remember to get the LRB as well.
I have been watching the Comics Britannia season on BBC4 with great enjoyment; hearing about The Dandy and The Beano, as well as Bunty and Judy, brought back many happy memories of my childhood, and of course the Book God’s devotion to Dan Dare knows no bounds. I caught up with one of the best programmes earlier this evening, celebrating 70 years of The Broons; seeing lots of well-known Scottish celebrities confessing they still get the annual (you know who you are!) was great, and the evident joy of Muriel Gray who was featured on one of the comic strips was fantastic. Of course as soon as the programme was over I visited Amazon to see what’s available. Let’s just say that The Broons Annual for 2007 may be on the Bride’s Christmas wish list this year!
I watched the recent BBC series with the Book God, and although I have never been a huge fan of James Nesbit, I really enjoyed his performance in this; scenery chewing at its very best. The series seems to have really divided opinion, but I’m always willing to give Stephen Moffat the benefit of the doubt, especially as he has written some of the very best episodes of the rejuvenated Dr Who.
There was also an excellent documentary on BBC Four, a companion piece to the series presented by Ian Rankin, which looked at the influences on Robert Louis Stevenson – why the book was set in London and not Edinburgh, who was Jekyll based on etc. It gave some real insights into Victorian double life and the creative process itself.
I didn’t think much more about Jekyll until I came across Dr Jekyll and Mr Holmes as part of my Sherlockian marathon; this is a retelling of the story with Holmes called upon by Jekyll’s solicitor Mr Utterson to investigate the hold Edward Hyde has on his client. Written by Loren D Estleman, this version of the story works quite well, and I must admit to loving the fairly lurid cover, but it did make me hanker after the original, which I listed to on my daily commute by way of an excellent Naxos audiobook. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is read by John Sessions (one of my favourite Scottish actors) with real passion, and reminded me just how dark the original tale actually is; it’s really well worth a listen. It does reinforce what a masterpiece the Jekyll story is, which of course leaves it open to all sorts of retelling and reinterpreatations. One of the very best of these is Valerie Martin’s Mary Reilly, which looks at the tale from the perspective of Jekyll’s housemaid, who gets drawn into the very heart of her employer’s terrible story.
Looking back at my book diary, I found that I had read this for the first time on Christmas Eve 1991 (nice and atmospheric) and hadn’t looked at it again since, but on re-reading it I was pleased that it really was as good as I had remembered. Forget the film, which I didn’t take to largely because I thought Julia Roberts was miscast in the title role, and go back to the novel for something special.
Another August purchase which I completely forgot about, again because it’s an audiobook, but also because I listened to it almost immediately. Portuguese Irregular Verbs is by Alexander McCall Smith, best known for the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. I’ll confess up front that I bought this as much because it’s read by Hugh Laurie (and I was suffering withdrawal symptoms after the end of Season 3 of House) as my enjoyment of the author’s other works. This book revolves around Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, author of the the eponymous work on language, and his misadventures with colleagues, his trips to Ireland and India, and his concern about his place in the world. I found it very amusing; it didn’t make me laugh out loud on the train (probably a good thing) but wry smiles and quiet giggles. And Hugh Laurie is, as always, fantastic.
The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes by Jamyang Norbu is an attempt to fill in the gap in Holmes’ life between his apparent death at the Reichenbach Falls and his miraculous reappearance in London some two years later. Like many, it claims to be based on a hidden or forgotten manuscript recently come to light, this time in India. It is narrated by Hurree Chunder Mookerjee, who accompanies Holmes throughout the tale.
I was particularly interested in this book because of a strong recommendation from the Book God, and also because of its Tibetan setting. It gives a flavour of what the country must have been like before the Chinese finally seized total control. It also links rather neatly with Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, sharing as it does some of the same characters (rather like Laurie King’s The Game).
I enjoyed the setting in India and Tibet, and the mystery itself is fascinating but I found the climax of the novel when the supernatural meets Holmesian logic disappointing; I must admit to not being entirely convinced. However, there was a great deal to enjoy along the way, and ultimately it doesn’t spoil a well-written yarn.
I forgot to include in my list of books purchased last month that I had got a hold of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, largely because I bought it on CD and I don’t always think of audio-books as proper books. I stopped reading Harry Potter on paper after HP and the Order of the Phoenix, but have really enjoyed listening to them as narrated by Stephen Fry, a good thing to keep the mind occupied while doing the ironing. I still haven’t listened to the Half-Blood Prince yet, but I’ll get there. Eventually. Needless to say the Book God has now read all seven, but that’s just showing off if you ask me.
A bit crime dominated this month, with some old stalwarts and a couple of authors I haven’t read before. First with the general stuff. I love books about reading, and having seen a couple of recommendations, I decide to get Nick Hornby’s Complete Polysyllabic Spree; having had a quick dip into it I know I’m going to find it really enjoyable.
The Book God and I visited the South Bank branch of Foyles at the beginning of August (having been to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenixat IMAX) and I picked up a couple of interesting things: an Edward Gorey illustrated book of ghost stories (The Haunted Looking Glass) and a novel by Lauren Sanders called With or Without You, which looked like it could be an interesting read.
I also added to my library of books on the sixteenth century with Susan Ronald’s The Pirate Queen, which I suspect does exactly what it says on the tin!
As for the crime, well, the old stalwarts were Mark Billingham and Kathy Reichs whose novels I buy as soon as they come out, so no surprise that Death Message and Bones to Ashes were obtained pretty quickly on publication, and are likely to accompany me on my October holiday. I’ve read a number of Georgette Heyer’s detective novels over the years (but not her historical stuff, though a recent discovery that Stephen Fry is a fan might make me think again) and I came across one that I hadn’t read before, Detection Unlimited, with a wonderful cover which caught my eye immediately. Lastly, I decided to try Denise Mina’s The Field of Blood, having heard her interviewed on Radio 5; I was kind of aware of her but hadn’t got around to buying anything. It’s the first of her Paddy Meehan series and I’m interested in seeing whether its as good as the reviews.