Tag Archives: Sherlock Holmes

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

13th June 2012

*I bought this book (and want every one of these with the new covers put out by Harper Collins).

From the back cover (because I’m still exhausted from New York):

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer.

Isolated by the storm, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again.

Toward the end of the spring semester, my students and I read an ESL version of Death on the Nile. Keep in mind, we read this on the heels of two other detective novels: one, a sort of Sam Spade, down-and-out detective novel and Sherlock Holmes in Hound of the Baskervilles. My students did not take kindly to Monsieur Poirot. After the other detectives, they couldn’t understand why Poirot kept allowing people to get killed. “2 bodies!” “5 bodies!” they’d exclaim. “And he doesn’t give us any hints!”

As an avid mystery reader, this would also be my complaint about Poirot. So pompous, and he keeps things so close to his chest, proclaiming again and again that he knows the killer without letting on what exactly gave him the idea. Ah, Poirot, you madden me. Yet, I’m still a sucker for it. This mystery in particular was one I enjoyed just because the victim was so dastardly. When his past comes to light, and the suspects express their happiness for his untimely end, you can understand why. Each passenger has an express reason to want the victim dead, and the end result is one I was both surprised and pleased with, in terms of mystery telling. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever read a mystery quite like this one.

Also, in contrast with Ms. Marple, whose exploits are very often close to home, Poirot is the exotic traveler, unfamiliar with his surroundings, yet in his element all at once. I read a few other Poirot toward the end of last year and wasn’t sure if I’d continue with him or not, but Murder on the Orient Express has changed my mind. I’ll still be grumpy about my own limitations and inability to determined the killer, and I’m sure I’ll complain about Monsieur Poirot as well, but as Lawrence Block says on the back of this book, “Agatha Christie is something special.”

Audiobook Review: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

23rd January 2012

*I bought and listened to the audiobook through Audible.

Watson begins The House of Silk by explaining why this story is just now coming to light, 100 years after being written: the mystery and the case were much too shocking for late 19th century London. When Edmund Carstairs initially seeks out Sherlock’s help because an Irish gang member, a man in a flat cap is following him, neither Sherlock nor Watson have any idea how deep and ghastly the case will become. Neither man expects one of the Baker Street Irregulars to be brutally killed. Nor do they expect for Sherlock himself to be placed under suspicion for a murder. However, both must use the height of their skills to solve the crime and help clean up the dark alleys of the great city.

I listened to the magnificent Derek Jacobi narrate this book, and he was absolutely perfect. He achieved Watson’s wistfulness for the old days as well as his unwillingness to relate the sordidness of the story he has to relate, even telling the reader right off that he is entrusting the manuscript to be published 100 years after his death.

As the only Holmes authorized by the Doyle estate, Horowitz had big shoes to fill, and, as a Holmes’ fan, I must say he did an impeccable job. The cast of characters – including Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, and Mycroft – were all on target, and the mystery itself was complex and enthralling.

However, my absolute favorite parts were the beginning and the ending where Watson reminisces about his days with Holmes. His words were so endearing, and the relationship between this unlikely duo is partly what makes these mysteries so successful. Horowitz understands this in a way I’m not sure many of the other spinoff authors do, and that absolutely made this book for me.

Also, if you haven’t picked up any of Holmes and Watson’s adventures in the past, don’t worry: The House of Silk is a great read for longtime fans or those new to Sherlock.

The game is indeed afoot my friends. Who of you has accepted the challenge?

Other reviews:

Pop Culture Nerd

Linus’s Blanket

Devourer of Books

Book Addict Katie

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

8th November 2011

*I won this book in a giveaway from @contextuallife.

It has been quite some time since I read any of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. I do, though, try to stay connected. I read and disliked The Sherlockian earlier this year, and I try to watch the Robert Downey Jr./Jude Law version every couple months. I also stumbled across the BBC version of Sherlock and loved it. I love mysteries and always have, and Holmes’s acute observation skills are incredibly interesting to me.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of short tales that Watson pulls from his old files in order to give a more complete recollection of Holmes’s abilities, up to and including his last case involving Professor Moriarty, called “The Final Problem.”

Though these are very short stories, several of them are fantastic, including “The Naval Treaty” and “The Adventure of the Yellow Face” -both really fantastic short mysteries, one involving a case of brain fever and a stolen treaty and the latter tackling race in a quiet but sweet way. It was a really endearing story with a fantastic ending.

I can see where long-time Sherlock fans would be disappointed in the brevity of these tales; however, I liked getting a glimpse of some lesser-known and easily-solved cases. Holmes needed the money and was bored and destructive without a case, so it makes sense he would take some simple ones.

My only complaint is “The Final Problem” because it felt unfinished. Watson is reluctant to tell the tale and tells the reader he only gives in because Moriarty’s relation has told an altogether untrue version of Holmes’s demise. However, Holmes’s battle with Moriarty occurs in the years after Watson is happily married and when, Watson tells us, he only assists Holmes with about three cases per year. Therefore, he isn’t clued in to what is going on, and unfortunately, Holmes doesn’t have the time within the telling to divulge just what has happened, other than that Moriarty is a match to his wits and skill and that he is a dangerous criminal mastermind. I kept thinking I’d get more because Holmes tells Watson he’s done some of the finest work ever and seems intensely proud of himself…but nada. In fact, I’m not enough of a Sherlockian or Holmesian to know if Doyle ever told this story in more detail. Inquiring minds want to know.

All in all, this was a very fun read and one that adds and doesn’t detract from Holmes’ lore. It has also made me even more eager for December 2011 and this…