Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Two Book Reviews for Sherlock Lovers

Two books for Sherlock lovers. The first for children, the second for adults:

The first book is Curse of the Deadly Dinosaur, written by Derrick Belanger and illustrated by Brian Belanger. 7-to-12 year-olds will enjoy this latest adventure starring Emma and Jimmy McDougall, twin sleuths that work with Sherlock Holmes.

It’s Christmastime, and the McDougalls have just finished decorating their tree, when they are visited by none other than Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s older brother. Their services are needed by Sherlock, as well as those of Toby, a dog who has helped Sherlock before.

At 221b Baker Street, the twins meet Jonas Bogswell from a farming village in Surrey. He has come to Sherlock for help because a dinosaur – that’s right – is killing sheep on the local farms. Because of an old legend the local fortune teller remembers, the Bogswell family is being shunned for bringing bad luck to the village. The entire McDougall family accompanies Sherlock and Dr. Watson to the village. They stay with Bogswell family. One by one, events unfold that make the McDougalls believers in this dinosaur.

Several things make this a pleasurable read: The author has a good sense of pacing and suspense. Clues are believable and scattered like bread crumbs to keep a reader turning the page, and tension heightens all the way through. Despite Mrs. McDougall’s insistence that the twins cannot join the dangerous hunt for the dinosaur, Emma and Jimmy  encounter the beast in some really scary scenes that kids will love. The twins are well drawn in ways that demonstrate why they are good detectives and in ways that complement each other, and the climax is a satisfying surprise.

A nice touch Belanger includes in his books is the use of footnotes in the form of “fun facts” at the bottom of pages involved. These really are fun facts, and they don’t interrupt the flow of the story.

At the end of this satisfying adventure, a reader is promised more to come. With Christmas near at hand, this book would make a nice gift under the tree.

Contact information:
 You can order Curse of the Deadly Dinosaur at:

Harry deMaio's A Case of Scotch, as even the title suggests, is a book for adults, not children -- and for adults who like word play and clever allusions to people and places. It's the author's third book in this one-of-a-kind” series. 

In the alternate universe of Octavius Bear, a solar flare rendered Homo Sapiens extinct and made all other mammals evolve exponentially. Octavius Bear, the wealthy Kodiak scientist and leading detective in each book is writing an erudite history when he is not solving cases with the help of his team -- a meerkat (African mongoose) named Maury who plays Dr. Watson to the bear’s Sherlock, two wolves, a porcupine, and an otter, among others.

This particular case kicks off with an R & R visit to Bearmoral Castle in the Shetland Islands in Scotland. (Thus the title.) The castle was inherited by Octavius’s new wife, Belinda when her first husband, Bearon Byron Bruin, passed away. But strange things have been happening lately on the premises and in the nearby oilfields, doing away with the anticipated R & R. Mysterious power outages occur. Platforms appear and disappear among the oil rigs. An elevator shaft seems to go nowhere but turns out to have lethal destinations. When a family member is found dead, the game is “apaw”. 
Other characters who figure in this adventure is a slinky cheetah (named Chita) with an unsavory past who owns a North Sea oil rig, Belinda’s obnoxious bruin in-laws, and a group of wildcats who hang out at a local pub, drowning their sorrows over the fact that their oil production is down.

There is lots of action in this complex mystery, and all the characters are truly humorous. The author tells the story “tongue in cheek” all the way, with allusions and puns that kept making me smile, even while I was trying to figure out “who dunnit”. Maury the meerkat is the main narrator. His narration is supplemented by excerpts from Chita’s memoir and Octavius’s rather pedantic history of the world. Each chapter begins with a clever limerick that sets the tone for unfolding events.

Occasionally there was a point-of-view bump, and the huge cast of characters kept me flipping back to the roster at the beginning to make sure I knew who was who and what their role was. That said, this is a real romp of a book readers will enjoy.

Contact Information:
You can buy A Case of Scotch at:

Are you a Sherlock Holmes fan? If so, what are some of your favorite tales from both the canon and pastiches? Are you a mystery fan? I love a good mystery and am always looking for a good recommendation.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Has it been two weeks????

Wow, time flies. This is kinda double celebrating, 2 weeks worth;  But first, hats off to the two co-hosts for this blog hop,  Lexa Cain @ Lexa Cain , L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog  You can go to any of these sites to get all the links and add your name to the links. 

So, what am I celebrating:

1. I'm writing a new Imogene story for an anthology, and it's going well. Tons of research, as usual, but that's going well, too. And, as a matter of fact, I love research, especially historical research.

2. Art Club at the community center started 2 weeks ago -- well, three -- and I have such a wonderful class. The class is mainly for 8-to-12-year-olds, but I have two 7-year-olds and three 6-year-olds. Normally I don't take students that young, because the class is an hour and a half long. But these little sweeties are so focused, they are in like Flynn, as the saying goes.

Two weeks ago I attended Stories on Stage in Davis, (there's one in Sacramento, too). A writer friend of mine was there, and I took copies of his mystery to sign. And Catriona McPherson, one of my favorite authors, was there, and I won a copy of her latest book! I couldn't believe it, but there you are!

Have you ever won something that you didn't expect to win? Do you enjoy doing research?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sherlock Holmes and the Dead Boer at Scotney Castle

At last I can get back to the Sherlock Holmes and one of the many good novel pastiches that abound at MX Publishing.

Sherlock Holmes and the Dead Boer at Scotney Castle, is full of surprises, even for the great detective himself.

The adventure begins in early summer of 1904. The President of the Kipling League, David Siviter, sends Sherlock Holmes a telegram, inviting him to Crick’s End in Sussex that afternoon to give a talk to the League as an expert on “the criminal mind.” The League includes Siviter (poet and children’s writer), Alfred Weit, Sir Julius Wernher, and Viscount Van Beers, all rich and powerful men, devotees of Kipling and adamant believers in empire. Pevensey, a famous, if mediocre, painter will also be on the premises.

Holmes accepts, but is suspicious. Ignoring the telegram’s instructions as to times and stations (and the promise that a chauffer will be waiting for them), he makes his own arrangements for a different train route that allows him and Watson to arrive at their host’s mansion three hours earlier than Siviter planned.

Following a long and effusive introduction by Watson, Holmes gives his talk, explaining his methods and giving examples from cases that Watson has made famous. After meeting Pevensey, who has completed two paintings commissioned by Siviter, the two are taken to Etchingham station for the trip home.

At the station, news headlines again arouse Holmes’s suspicions. The unclad body of a man has been discovered in a wagon pond at Scotney Castle, not far from Crick’s End. Watson thinks the death may be accidental or self-inflicted. Holmes feels the Kipling League is behind the death and hires a carriage to take them back for a confrontation, which leads to a serious quarrel between him and Watson. To tell why Holmes is convinced of what he calls “the smack of a great crime,” would create spoilers for the reader. Let me just say that his suspicious involve a discrepancy between two paintings, a strange hatband, an ill-fitting hat, and linseed oil, among other clues. 

There was much to like about this story. Symonds captures the flavor of the early Edwardian era in the settings and furnishing and the language of the time. His characters are interesting, and for the most part, Holmes and Watson feel true to character. There were times, however, when I felt they were a bit overdrawn. And there were some sections where too much detail slowed the story. That said, a reader will find this an intriguing case and will enjoy trying to put the facts together that explain who the dead person was and how his body ended up in a wagon pond at Scotney Castle.

Sherlock Holmes and the Dead Boer at Scotney Castle is available at:
and all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA.