Sunday, December 31, 2017

Two Reviews: Melodie Campbell's The Goddaughter's Revenge and Edward D. Hoch's Sherlock Holmes stories

Two reviews:

Melodie Campbell, The Goddaughter’s Revenge
Rapid Reads/Orca Books © 2013 Meoldie Campbell
ISBN 978-1-4598-0489

Gina Ricci has (sort of) broken away from her family’s business, by opening a high-end jewelry store (Ricci Jewelers), in Hamilton (Ont.).  The family business is, by and large, illegal.  But someone, it seems, has removing the real, high-quality gemstones in the custom designed jewelry she creates, and replacing them with much lower quality stones.  She discovers this during a routine cleaning of a ring for one of her customers.  She decides to rectify matters by identifying the items that have been affected, “stealing” them, and re-replacing the stones with the real things.  But things begin to go wrong from the very beginning…

This seemed like a nice set-up—the stones involved all seem to have been replaced when Gina was on vacation, so who did it, and why, are pretty straight-forward.  And the things that can—and do—go wrong can make for a fairly amusing story.  But after a couple of disasters, it’s almost like Campbell lost interest.  The remainder of the book involves, not more and more convoluted problems in resolving the substitutions, but getting her relatives off her back.  And the book ends incredibly abruptly, almost as if she couldn’t figure out how to wind up the story in a convincing manner.  Fortunately, the whole thing took less than 2 hours to read.

Edward D. Hoch. The Sherlock Holmes Stories of Edward D. Hoch
Mysterious Press/Open Road Media, 2007
(Individual stories have various copyright dates)

Ed Hoch was one of the most prolific authors of mystery short stories ever.  For over 35 years, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine published one of his stories in every issue; in total, over 1000 of his stories appeared in print.  13 of these stories feature Sherlock Holmes (and Dr. John Watson, in all except the final story).  I had great expectations for these stories.

The problem with great expectations is that they are so often not fulfilled.  And I’m afraid that happened, for me at least, with these stories.  Hoch does a good job with the setting, I think (although it often seems a bit perfunctory) and he has the relationship between Holmes and Watson just right.  Unfortunately there were, for me, two ways in which the stories do not shine.  The first is what seemed to me to be a failure to capture Watson’s narrative voice.  The cadences of Watson’s style are so much a part of the stories that I at least felt that the rhythms of the stories were flat.  The second problem I had was he frequency with which Holmes would say something like “I guessed that…” something was the case.  Well…that’s just not right.

Overall, although these stories were not first-rate Holmes pastiches, they are readable.  And any dedicated fan of the Great Detective will want to read them.

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