Friday, July 13, 2018

A New Way to Enjoy Sherlock Holmes

It isn’t mandatory for a book about Sherlock to be a new mystery starring Sherlock. In this clever new series, Gemma Doyle, manager of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, uses Sherlockian logic to figure out a crime scene she reluctantly stumbles into.

In Elementary, She read, by Vicki Delany, Gemma has come to West London in Cape Cod for a fresh start after her divorce. She manages the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium for her great uncle, Arthur Doyle, a Sherlock Holmes aficionado (and maybe even a distant, distant relative of the famous author). Uncle Arthur bought the building for its address: 222 Baker Street. Next door (220 Baker Street) Jayne Wilson, who co-owns Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, has become Gemma’s best friend and confidant. The two shops are connected, benefiting both businesses. 

The story kick-off: While tidying up after twenty-four women on a bridge group holiday swept in, shopped, and left, Gemma comes across a bag wedged between some books. Inside the bag is what appears to be an original edition of a magazine containing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first story. If not fake, it could be worth a fortune. Gemma finds a postcard in the bag with the name of the hotel where the magazine’s owner must be staying. After stashing the magazine in her great uncle’s safe at home, she and Jayne set out for the hotel to ask a few questions before returning the magazine. They find a dead body, and the game is afoot.

The characters are deftly drawn: Gemma isn’t the Sherlock Holmes fan both her great uncle and Jayne are, but her mind works, ironically, like the Great Detective’s. She can take every little detail and arrive at accurate conclusions in a way that disconcerts local police and even wrecked a fine romance. Jayne is her Doctor Watson, sensible, anchored, and yet secretly thrilling to the adventure Gemma drags her into. Other quirky characters move the plot along: great uncle Arthur who, despite being in his 90s, has wanderlust and is on a trip in this story. The author’s brushstrokes are just enough to make him vivid by his absence. (This reader hopes he pops up again in a future book.) Then there is Ruby, the grumpy clerk at the shop cash register; Irene Talbot, the journalist hungry for a story; two book collectors (one hunky, one boring), who take an interest in the magazine; Detective Louise Estrada, out to pin a murder rap on Gemma; a dysfunctional family of would-be heirs . . . and many minor characters breeze through the pages with life and humor. Gemma, as a matter of fact, has some very funny lines throughout. 

This is a mystery that is both satisfying in the puzzle sense and disarming to a reader who lies cozy mysteries with endearing sleuths.

Vicki Delany obviously loves writing mysteries and has several series out, as well as stand-alones. You can learn more about her at her website HERE

How about you? Are you excited to find a new series? If so, is it the location or the characters that grab you and make you want to read more?   Do you prefer stand alone novels  or series?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Sherlock Holmes and a Quantity of Debt — Book Review

I have been "missing in action" for almost a month since we came back from Spain and Portugal. (No this picture is not me; it's the cover of a good book I read and am reviewing below.) On return from our trip, we immediately needed to go vote in the California primary. Then Rajan had cataract surgery (which went well). And ever since then I've been catching up on gardening, cleaning, and politics. (Marching this Saturday on behalf of asylum seekers on the border.)

I also wrote a new post about the Braga Romana festival in Portugal on my Fourth Wish blog HEREif you want to check it out.

But I've also found time to read.  I am a Sherlock Holmes fan, and although the discovery of pastiches came late to me, now I'm hooked. When they are well done, they are as satisfying as the original stories. I just finished a most satisfying mystery by David Marcum: Sherlock Holmes and a Quantity of Debt. 

Here is my review below:

David Marcum’s new mystery once again presents Sherlock Holmes and John Watson with just the right “voice” to make this novel seem as if it is part of “the Canon”. The title pays homage to a line from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations,and its layers of meaning unfold with the story.

The story opens with Dr. Watson in the doldrums over the death of his beloved first wife, Constance. He has moved back in with Holmes for company and for some direction to his now purposeless life. It is a cold, stormy day in April. Enter Inspector Alec McDonald with a troubling case in Bedfordshire: Workmen who were replacing an antiquated pipe drainage system on an estate uncovered a body hidden under the pipe fifty years earlier. The corpse has been well-preserved with physical details that play a large part in the story. McDonald asks for help from Sherlock, and off the three go to Bedfordshire to investigate further.

The cast of characters are wonderfully “Victorian Gothic”: Martin Briley, the estate owner, is an old man in his sixties. He’s highly thought of by all the villagers for his many good works throughout his life, but now he’s chair-bound and on the brink of death. His housekeeper, Mrs. Lynch, is as freezing as the inclement weather outside. On the other hand, his estate agent, George Burton, is a popular villager who has worked his way up to his current position. Burton, soon to inherit the estate, enjoys only antipathy from the forbidding Mrs. Lynch. Minor characters are quirky enough to be memorable without detracting from the main cast. Interiors, landscapes, and weather are so well described it’s easy for a reader to visualize and navigate all sites in the story and feel immersed in Victorian England. The clues scattered along the twists and turns of this puzzle mystery lead to a satisfying conclusion. 

All in all, a pleasurable read, and I certainly hope more from this author are in the works. 

Author, David Marcum


David Marcum is also the author of several Sherlock Holmes adventures as well as the editor of several Sherlock Holmes story collections. You can read more about him and all of his writing ventures on his Author Page HERE.

How about you? Are you a Sherlock Holmes fan? Are you a mystery fan? Do you prefer novels or stories? Have you ever written a pastiche?

You can contact David Marcum at 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

An Evening in Apúlia That Began with Pessoa

My husband and I returned Sunday from a five-day trip to Braga, Portugal. We went for the Braga Romana Festival, which I'll be posting about soon, with pictures.  Here is a little "taster" until then. But today our last evening in Braga is fresh in my mind, because friends we've been privileged to know — Carla Pereira, her husband, Armando Coelho, and their daughter, Beatriz — made it magical.  
To begin with, I am a fan of Pessoa, the mysterious Portuguese poet whose poems were never discovered until after his death. He's considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century, and one of Portugal's two greatest poets. The fact that I'm a fan doesn't mean I've read a lot of his work: But I do have two books of his translated poems that I dip into from time to time. And when I do, there is something about his use of words, even translated, that etch the heart and linger on.
So the evening we were to go out to dinner, Carla invited us to their flat for snacks first, and gave us this marvelous present: A hand-crafted book of some of his poems. You can see what a marvel the book is: The cover is wood, as it the spine, all lovingly assembled into a masterpiece of workmanship. The poems are in Portuguese, alas, but I will make it my Portuguese language lesson to start translating them one by one — probably for the next 30 years! 😊 She also gave us a bottle of Dona Carla wine, which we are saving for a special occasion. (Maybe when my new book comes out in October)

Those were the first two surprises.

The third surprise was where we went for dinner — a small fishing village about 32 kilometers away from Braga. It's called Apúlia, which is also the name of a town in Italy, and it is thought that perhaps there is a connection, due to Roman-style original folk costumes that may go back to the Roman Empire. The name of the restaurant was A Cabana (The Beach Hut). More about that later, but first we walked along the beach, enjoying the fresh breeze, the susurro of waves, the peacefulness that always comes near the ocean.


Carla took the picture of me on the beach looking up at Rajan. The reason I like this picture so much is that a few minutes earlier, a man came along singing loudly and with high spirits. I think he was gypsy because of the melody of his song and the wonderful "warbling" effect that you often hear in gypsy music. He stopped and leaned on the rail above, looking out to sea, with his arms wide open toward the water. Rajan was beside him at that point and gave him a couple of coins, and, in Spanish he spoke at length, thanking Rajan, blessing him, blessing his wife (with a nod to me where I was looking up from the sand), and then he went on his way, singing. I had my camera and would have loved to take a picture, but it would have made him self-conscious. And it would have destroyed the moment. But it's an experience I will always remember. 

Before we got back in the car to go to A Cabana, we posed for two group photos. And then we went on to the restaurant which was another great experience.

The restaurant was one of several in a line, but it was absolutely packed. Obviously a popular place. Wonderful artifacts of the sea and of fishing. Waiters who loved to joke — and who were some of the fastest I'd ever seen! And the food was just delicious. We had grilled salmon, but it came with potatoes and vegetables, and the meal was served with a very tasty table wine in a carafe the water kept refilling. Everyone at every table seemed to be having a wonderful time. (WE certainly were!) 

Finally, it was time to go. But the evening wasn't over! You might call this surprise #4: Armando drove us from beach area to beach area as twilight fell. It was a beautiful night. The sky was that lovely blue that always seems so mystical. The moon wasn't visible from inside the car, but Venus was — a planet, but also known as the evening star and the morning star, and always shining brightly. That's the epitome of Portugal for me: always shining brightly. 

How about you? What is the most magical trip you can remember? What is the most magical evening? Does twilight affect you? Do you love to wander along the beach?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Late Celebration of My Husband's Birthday.

My husband's birthday was last Thursday, but we've been too busy to post anything. Here is a photo of where we had our birthday dinner Thursday (O Grelo), a wonderful restaurant in Monforte de Lemos that cooked some of the best fish we've ever tasted.

The next day we had lunch with a friend, and she brought us a beautiful white rose, which has been unfolding by degrees each day in our galleria. 

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Lots more has been going on before and after, visits with friends and sightseeing, but frankly, we've been too busy for me to download anything until this morning. And all my posting about other pictures will have to wait because we are on the go again, visiting friend today and going to Braga, Portugal tomorrow (for 5 days). I hope to bring back lots of pictures and do lots of posting on return. Till then, best wishes for a good week and wonderful week-end.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Today I'm Posting Next Door at Elizabeth Varadan's Fourth Wish

My post today about a recent trip to an ancient castro is next door at my Fourth Wish Blog. You can read it HERE. Please do visit, and I'll be back at Victorian Scribbles later this week.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Mystery Anthology is Launched!

I'm not a member of the ISWG, but I'm a mystery fan, and the prospect of a collection of mystery short stories was too good to pass up. I've ordered my print copy that will be waiting for me when I get back from my vacation. Go visit the site HERE and grab a copy for yourself: It's in both print format and ebook format.

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Here is the blurb: "The clock is ticking...
Can a dead child's cross-stitch pendant find a missing nun? Is revenge possible in just 48 minutes? Can a killer be stopped before the rescuers are engulfed by a city ablaze? Who killed what the tide brought in? Can a soliloquizing gumshoe stay out of jail?
Exploring the facets of time, eleven authors delve into mysteries and crimes that linger in both dark corners and plain sight. Featuring the talents of Gwen Gardner, Rebecca M. Douglass, Tara Tyler, S. R. Betler, C.D. Gallant-King, Jemi Fraser, J. R. Ferguson, Yolanda Renée, C. Lee McKenzie, Christine Clemetson, and Mary Aalgaard.
Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these eleven tales will take you on a thrilling ride into jeopardy and secrecy. Trail along, find the clues, and stay out of danger. Time is wasting…"


Are you a mystery fan? Do you belong to the ISWG? Do you like story collections? 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Back in Galicia, Spain!

Today I'm celebrating being back in Galicia Spain. It's hard to believe we left Sacramento two weeks ago, arriving on Saturday evening, April 14th (Spain time). Since arrival, we've had intermittent cold, warmth, bright sunny days, thunderstorms, sun again, wind . . .. Each day is an adventure in weather.

It's great to be back! We've been busy ever since, having lunches with friends, snacks with neighbors, visiting our closest neighbors Eva & Manolo often, walking to a nearby pueblo (about a mile or two away), going into Monforte de Lemos (the closest bigger town) to walk around and stop for a glass of wine at our favorite cafe-bar on the main plaza.

Above is a picture of our field that one of our neighbors, Miguel-Angel plants each year with potatoes. It was plowed like this last week with plans to plant on Monday, but a fierce thunderstorm struck on Sunday, so he had to wait until Wednesday. Here are some scenes from a walk we took to El Barrio, a small village that fringes the larger village of Tuiriz.

This is outside a small village
 called Santalla, taken from the road.
Nearing El Barrio. 
Somewhere along the way.

Meanwhile, below is a picture of the plaza in Monforte. It's like this all the time, filled with families enjoying coffee, lunch, beer or wine, pastries. Kids running about everywhere in glee. Babies being cooed over. And the rise and fall of voices in the beautiful Spanish language.
Outside a cafe-bar we like, Lienzo.

Because we have come here so often and for so long, we keep running into people we know in Monforte. It's almost like a homecoming. Our Spanish is decent enough that we can limp through conversations without too much trouble. In no way can I say we are fluent—we aren't by a long shot—but it's encouraging to at least understand most things and to be understood. (And the Spanish are encouraging. They patiently wait out our word searches.)

More pictures will be coming. Meanwhile, do you like to walk out in the country? In the park? What are some of your favorite walks?

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop co-hosted by Lexa Cain at: Lexa Cain,  L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Tidbits Blog(You can go to any of these sites to add your name to the links, if you want to participate.)