Wednesday, February 25, 2015

'Sherlock Holmes-The Missing Years: Japan'

Yes, I'm still reading stories written by some friends and their family members, and I'm totally amazed at the raw differences in style.  Mind you, reading a rough draft is rather hard, but it's fantastic to find a few diamonds-in-the-rough.  One of the stories I'm reading is now in book form, and I promise, I really promise, that I'll be writing a review.  I'm taking it slowly.

And then there's an advance copy that I only read at night before I went to sleep.  Yes, it's a mystery.  And, yes, it was good.

And it's a Sherlock Holmes story.  A new one.

The Doyle estate has given its blessing to new Holmes stories, and most aren't really my cup of tea, although I love Laurie King's 'Mary Russell' series (if you're a Holmes fan, read her books).

'Sherlock Holmes-The Missing Years: Japan', written by Vasudev Murthy, was first published by HarperCollins India, and Poisoned Pen Press has re-edited this story for its American audience.  It's thrilling, and (believe it or not) funny.  It's another perfect 'whodunit' in typical Doyle style...but with a fresh voice.

It's 1893, and Sherlock Holmes has not been seen since his encounter with Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.  Dr. John H. Watson receives a strange letter from Yokohama, so he sets sail from Liverpool. His cabin mate, Mr. Hashimoto, is murdered on the voyage to Bombay...but did the assassin enter the locked room via the small porthole? And who, out of their small group, killed him?   

As Dr. Watson narrates the story, we learn about what happened to Sherlock, and why murder and mayhem are found around every corner during the journey to Japan.  It's a thrilling global chase that will leave you wanting more...and occasionally laughing.

The surprises are many, and the style, while very close to Doyle's, is a bit more lively, most likely due to some funny sequences that Mr. Murthy added with great brilliance.

Author Vasudev Murthy

This is a long, Victorian-era journey across countries that, in our present age, aren't so far away anymore, thanks to social networks, Skype, and cell phones. Although we've grown closer as a global community, and the fear of the unknown is almost nonexistent, it's still rather fun to read a story that takes place when that unknown was worthy of exploration (but let's not forget about the coming eras of domination and exploitation).

If you're in the mood for a good Holmes and Watson story, the wait will not be long. And to whet your appetite even further, 'Sherlock Holmes-The Missing Years: Japan' is the first in a series. Rumor has it that the next one will take place in Timbuktu.

'Sherlock Holmes-The Missing Years: Japan', written by Vasudev Murthy, will be published by Poisoned Pen Press in March 2015.  Book Hog would like to thank the publisher for the chance to read and review it!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

'The Illusionists'

For the past few weeks, I've been reading manuscripts as a courtesy to some aspiring writers.  Why they want me to read them, I have no idea.  But I do know what I like...and what I don't like.  Most readers know when a story flows, and when the characters become real to them.  You don't need to be a rocket scientist (or literature professor) to know what feels most comfortable.

I was reading a manuscript for a young romance novelist friend when I received a notice from the library that a book I've had on my Hold list had finally arrived.

Once I had 'The Illusionists' in my hands, the manuscript was forgotten for a few days.

I was immediately taken with the story.  The richness and vibrancy.  The sense of place and decade.  I was sucked in so fully that there was no way I could get out of it. 

Author Rosie Thomas is known primarily as a romance author (which isn't a bad thing, mind you), and her talent shines in her newest story.  But it's more than romance.  It's magic, and greed, and resentment.  The characters are brilliantly portrayed, and I wonder if Thomas based them on real people.

At the beginning of The Illusionists, in 1870 London, we meet clever and ambitious Devil Wix, a man who dreams of running his own theater company.  Soon to enter the mix is Eliza, a young, beautiful woman who is employed as an artist's model.  She has no desire to be like the women of her age; mother and dutiful wife.  She longs for excitement, and finds that and more when she meets Devil.

Devil's right-hand man is Carlo Bonomi, an ill-tempered dwarf with an enormous talent for all things magic and illusion.  He and Devil clash constantly, and it is Eliza who brokers an uneasy alliance between them. And then there is Jasper Button, mild-mannered and a family man at heart, but it is his gift as an artist that makes him the final member of the motley crew.

Together, they become a company of performers, ready for independence and a theater of their own.

I was really impressed with Thomas' writing style.  It's gritty and real, and I love her 'sense of place'.  Her characters took their time in revealing themselves, and it made the journey even more interesting.

But Eliza....
Author Rosie Thomas

She's a woman who knows what she wants, and knows just when she wants it.  

And Devil.  Oh, lordy lordy.  Gorgeous, naughty, brilliant.  But not your 'run-of-the-mill' romantic hero.  He's no hero.  He has a past that still haunts him, and companions who either love him or hate him.  He's flawed and so very real.

I was impressed by Thomas' research of the era. Her portrayal of a city that had a brilliant surface, but a tragic undertone was beautifully realized.  I truly enjoyed reading this story.

Reading this story gave me the courage to tell my young writer friend that her story needed more depth.  She needs to suck it up and be true to herself and her story.  

Who knows where it will lead?  Hopefully, it will lead to a story as finely written as 'The Illusionists'.

'The Illusionists', written by Rosie Thomas, is available at your local library and favorite independent bookstore.  ISBN 978-1-4683-0990-4