Elementary, my dear Wyndham

The Affair of the Mysterious LetterThe Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A book trying very hard to present a magical Holmes & Watson and using all the right cues. An overly amusing and mocking first person narration by Dr. Watson Captain John Wyndham. A Scandal in Bohemia lurks somewhere in the background.

The amusing tone got old pretty fast. About two hours into the audio narration I started to seriously loose interest. The microscopically small plot barely managed to hold the story together. It was a slog. I only continued, because I wanted to find out who was the culprit.

Actually, on second thought, the plot wasn‘t bad. There was just too much fluff in between.

And really annoying? „Oh, she used a bad, bad word, but my publisher told me not to repeat it!“ Funny the first three times. After that, not so much!

Nice resolution at the end and there was something truly well written just before it that caught my interest.

In summation too much amusing vapor, too little actual story. A lot of talk, trying to create a Sherlock-Holmes-apropriate atmosphere. Some great ideas, smothered in the overly quaint narration. Kudos regarding the cameos of various gothic horror novels. Pretty nice Dracula rendition.

Best part of this novel: The excellent audiobook narrator, Nicholas Boulton. His tone of voice reminded me a bit of Stephen Fry.

The author has written some romance novels that look like they could be fun…. Other than that I will definitely not continue with this, if there should be a sequel. I will look up the audiobook narrator though.

The author on Sherlock Holmes: https://crimereads.com/sherlock-holme…

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Armchair mystery

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fairly standard crime fare with common tropes. Damaged and struggling detective with high moral code. Trusty sidekick. Unlikely case. Potentially difficult copper.

Cormoran Strike is a likeable character, my favourite was Robin though. I was positively surprised.

Ultimately though this was too sedate for my taste and halfway into the story I started to get a bit cored. Too many lengthy, uneventful interviews. Not a lot of suspense. The unlikely reveal at the end, where the good guy lays it all out for the reader and the bad guy snaps and is caught. I read a version of this many times before. Bordering on armchair mystery in the style of Agatha Christie.

The highlight for me was the audiobook narration. Oddly though, he made Strike sound a bit like Michael Caine. Accents are not this narrators strength, but his narration was still very good.

So, 3 “this-is-okayish“ stars, with some boring stretches. A pretty generic crime story, made a bit more interesting by Strike‘s backstory. I doubt I will get the next book of this series anytime soon. However, I might look up the audiobook narrator.

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Weyrd, but good

Vigil (Verity Fassbinder #1)

Vigil by Angela Slatter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was pretty good! I was expecting another UF along the usual lines. Tired tropes, a little paranormal romance thrown in… but the setting in Brisbane is refreshing, the Weyrd are mysterious and there is good world building. It is not corny, there is no silly paranormal romance, Verity is kick-ass and snarky. The sleuthing could be a bit more intense—I like my crime to be a bit more procedural. But bottomline pretty darn good.

This actually seems to be UF for grown-ups, what a nice discovery. I liked the short history lesson, how all the Weyrd happened to end up in Brisbane. Lots and lots of potential.

I would have liked more character development for Ziggi and Bela. I have a pretty good idea, what type of Wyrd Bela is (Tepes, D-oh!), but it is never spelled out or strongly hinted at. His powers also don‘t seem to be quite what I thought. He stays a little too episodic and one-dimensional. And does Ziggy really have a third eye in the back of his head or is that a metaphorical eye?

And how fun is it that she doesn‘t end up with the tall, dark and handsome guy?

The only thing that bugged me a little: It feels as if I missed reading an important prequel. Which doesn‘t exist, as far as I can see. And I really looked. I am a little vexed about this strong feeling of having missed something in the FIRST book of a series.

Anyway, good stuff, the next book of the series is downloaded and ready to go.



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Abominable slog

The Abominable

The Abominable by Dan Simmons

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


First things first: This is not a horror novel, regardless of what the book has been categorized as. It‘s a historical adventure yarn, heavy on mountain climbing, with thriller elements.

I went into this book with some hesitation. Ages ago I started reading Hyperion and abandoned it pretty quickly. It‘s been so long, I can‘t even remember, why I gave up. Earlier this year I read Ilium and Olympos. I gave Ilium 5 stars, although I struggled. The scope of the book was just so great and parts of it were enjoyable enough to take me past the not so enjoyable bits. Olympos, the sequel, ended up as another DNF for me. This time the narrative wasn‘t gripping enough to propel me past the boring bits and parts I did not like. The TV adaptation of The Terror was great, but temptation to try Simmons one more time led me to a buddy read of this chunkster.

So…. the introduction immediately dragged. Might be me. I hate prefaces, forewords and the like. The Arctic, Antarctica and Simmon‘s book The Terror are mentioned. The main character as an old man is introduced. Ok, so he‘ll survive the book to tell the tale.

Part 1 introduces us to the other two climbers that will tackle Everest with him. We explore the Matterhorn and some of its climbing history and get some explanations about climbing and Deacon‘s history with Mallory. Picture me skimming the more lengthy sojourns into matters not relating to the main plotline.

I do like how Simmons intertwines real events and characters with ficticious ones. The first 30 pages of Part 1 for example detail the first ascent of the Matterhorn. I also found it interesting to read up on George Mallory and the 1924 Mount Everest expedition that provides the motivation for our three climbers to tackle Everest.

It probably helps with this book to be interested in mountain climbing and the Himalayas.

From the Matterhorn we sojourn to other parts of Europe, ticking off our to-do-list, before actually getting to the main event, Mount Everest. Which takes roughly 240 pages of perfecting their climbing technique, hunting for the perfect gear, getting the perfect gear, testing said gear… There is one scene in Wales, where they climb a vertical ice wall that I really liked a lot. No question, Simmons can write. It just takes him so bloody long to get anywhere!

Finally, finally, we arrive on the appropriate continent, in Calcutta….

“I just wish this Lord Bromley-Whatsis, his serene buggering Highness, had bloody well buggered himself down to Calcutta from the hills and helped us bandobast these buggering great heavy crates to the bloody freight depot a full buggering day earlier, is what I damn well wish. This is his lousy country, his culture where bloody damn venal bribery is necessary everywhere to get the least bloody thing done, and where no one can keep a simple bloody appointment on time. So where is this ‘commander of the expedition’ when we actually need his fat arse?“

Part 2… Close to 300 pages into the book, we finally glimpse Mount Everest.

And, because climbing isn‘t everything: Thanks for the excursion to the war poets of WWI, Siegfried Sasoon et al. Another great amalgamation of fictional and real characters. And a fun side trip to some of my favourite poems and poets… The Soldier by Rupert Brooke, Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen, etc. Reading about Sassoon makes me want to re-read Regeneration or watch the movie again.

Simmons keeps derailing me with arbitrary stuff like this. I wish he would keep the narrative more on target, instead of taking 50 pages on the minutest detail. It bores me.

By the middle of the book I have pretty much had it. Heavy skimming is the only answer to this.

Part 3, close to 500 pages, starts with some screaming and there is the promise of bloodshed and yetis somewhere downhill… Very heavy skimming to get it over with. So, no more research about real characters or events and links to what I found. I just wanted to get it over with this doorstopper.

The story is actually a good one and Simmons writes well. But this was a horribly over-detailed slog through pages over pages of stuff that did absolutely nothing to bring the plot forward. My goodness. If this had been half the length, it probably would have been a great, suspenseful thriller. As it was, I really struggled to stick with it, even with skimming. I am not exactly glad that I read it, but I appreciate what Simmons did here and therefore give it three stars. But, Dan, seriously, I am done with you for the foreseeable future.



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Steampunk mystery

Lady Mechanika, Vol. 5: Clockwork AssassinLady Mechanika, Vol. 5: Clockwork Assassin by Joe Benítez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read Volume 1 some time ago and thought I give this a try. Pretty much the same experience. Pretty nice artwork, if you don‘t mind that the women are built like Barbie and have rubber tire lips. I like the muted colours.

The murder mystery was ok, alas it did not interest me much. There is a twist at the end, but it is not terribly surprising.

If you are into steampunk murder-mysteries with busty women, this might be a great choice.

There is some confusion regrading the numbering. Not quite sure if this is Volume 4 or 5.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

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A face for the Faceless Man

Not uninteresting, but it felt like a really long set-up for the final, frantic third of the book. Which was a good last third. Just the „before“ took its sweet time for me. I also had some trouble to keep the rich families plus daughters apart.

Another highlight besides the ending was the swimming pool scene. Aaronovitch does action very well.

Again a well-done police procedural with a nice pinch of humour.

Aaronovitch is good as well at the more thoughtful, quieter moments. Lady Ty‘s conversation with Peter at the end has stayed with me the most. I am really looking forward to what becomes of that.

Guleed seems to become an integral part of the team, which I like very much. In today‘s present climate in the west a positive representation of a devout muslim woman is a great choice.

Yay! to Nightingale playing a slightly larger role.

Kobna Holbrook-Smith did a great job again narrating the book. Apparently his American accents could be better. I am crap at accents, so I can‘t really tell.

There is an entertaining interview of Ben and Kobna at the end of the audiobook, thanks for that!

Ok, I just convinced myself that this deserves 4 stars.

Valley of Fear

The Valley of FearThe Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Written 25 years after my favourite Holmes story, The Sign of the Four. I don‘t think I ever read this!

25 years later! Excuse me while I wander off to read about Doyle‘s life again.

„..the long, low Jacobean house of dingy, liver-coloured brick lay before us, with an old-fashioned garden of cut yews on each side of it.“

…and about English architecture in the 17th century… and yews…. what a cool tree!

Ok, where was I…I liked the main story a lot, it was very entertaining. Holmes was Holmes—“Really, Holmes,” said I severely, “you are a little trying at times.”—, the various police detectives were very likeable and not as stupid as we have come to believe. Perhaps some of the characters were a bit one-dimensional.

The back-story did not keep me interested enough, but had a nice twist.

Maybe not the best Holmes story, but solid.

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