Marie’s Reading: ”The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes” by Zach Dundas

great-detectiveThe Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes by Zach Dundas is funny and conversational and passionate and made me fall in love with Holmes and Watson and their many adventures all over again.

Dundas includes a bit of everything, from Arthur Conan Doyle’s biography to real-life walks around London to meetings of the Baker Street Irregulars to interviews with well-regarded fanfiction writers. He talks about all of the theatrical, radio, television, and cinematic versions of the stories right up through Sherlock and Elementary, and makes the point that every generation creates their Sherlock Holmes anew–Holmes is a kind of cultural barometer.

Best Holmes.

As a fan of literary histories I also appreciated the insights into how Doyle came to write the Sherlock Holmes stories, and where they fit into their contemporary culture (or, as time went on, didn’t fit in so well).  The discussion of the fandom surrounding these characters was enlightening, too.  If a little scary.

(…in that it hits a bit close to home)

Best Holmes Movie.

In all, this is a glorious romp through all things Holmes and Watson brimming with passion and fun.  Dundas is a wonderfully funny guy, and his conversational style and footnotes make you feel like he’s telling you all that he’s discovered about Sherlock over coffee at a bookstore.  One fan to another.

Best Holmes’n’Watson.

The book includes Dundas’s personal must-read list of the original stories, and fantastic source notes.  There’s a whole Sherlockian world out there.  Me, I’m going to curl up with my Annotated Sherlock Holmes for a bit.  I’ll enjoy it on a whole new level now.




A Slight Trick of the Mind

A-Slight-Trick-of-the-Mind-Book-CoverHaving heard that Ian McKellen is going to play Sherlock Holmes in a new Bill Condon film co-starring Laura Linney, I decided I had to read the book on which the movie is based.

Mitch Cullin’s A Slight Trick of the Mind takes us to the Sussex coast, 1947, where a very elderly Sherlock Holmes lives in retirement, tending his bees and reflecting on his life. He has little contact with other people, aside from his widowed housekeeper, Mrs. Munro, and her young son, Roger. Holmes has grown uncharacteristically fond of the boy and teaches him about caring for the bees. When Roger is suddenly killed in an accident, Holmes finds his mind—already somewhat untethered—turning back to the few people he has cared for, an early case involving an intriguing woman, and a recent visit to war-ravaged Japan.

Cullin’s Holmes is a man no longer spry, either physically or mentally; this Sherlock is fragile and often confused—about his experiences, his surroundings, and his feelings. And while the book was a bit dry, it makes an interesting addition to the post-Doyle Holmes canon—and a promising basis for a movie.



Spotlight On: Mystery!

This month, the spotlight is on: Mystery!

At base, a Mystery is pretty easy to define.  Crime + Investigation + Solution = Mystery.  In a mystery novel, a crime is committed, someone investigates the crime, the who, why, and what of the crime is solved.  There are endless variations on this basic theme, and that’s where we get the overwhelming array of choice in the mystery genre.  The basic framework is the same, but the possibilities for tone, theme, and main character are just about endless.

Classic detectives are grade-A spoof fodder, too.
Classic detectives are grade-A spoof fodder, too.

There are private investigators, amateur sleuths, police procedurals, and detectives.  There are dark, gritty noir mysteries and light, gentle mysteries.  There are theme mysteries of every sort you can imagine–knitting, baking, catering, holidays, crossword puzzles, antiquing, golf, NASCAR.

swapping paint
Yes, really.

As you can see, there are LOTS of different kinds of mysteries out there.  Sometimes the terminology we throw around can get a little confusing.  Here at CPL, for example, our mystery fans seem to fall into three broad categories, as far as I can tell.  Here are a few explanations of different kinds of mystery, as well as authors for each subgenre.

Police Procedural Fans.  These readers are the ones who like detectives, private investigators, or complete police teams solving a crime.  Think CSI, or the first half-hour of a Law & Order episode.  Very realistic, very case-oriented, with likeable good guys within a force or institution working to bring a criminal to justice.   Henning Mankell, Elizabeth George, Ruth Rendell, and Donna Leon are just a few examples.

It's what a police procedural is all about.
It’s what a police procedural is all about.

Cozy Mystery Fans.  These readers comprise the biggest group at our library, I’d say.  A cozy mystery is the sort where there’s not too much bad language, sex, or violence, and if there is a murder it happens off-screen.  The main character is usually an amateur detective.  Cozies usually have quite a bit of humor, too.  Classic mystery writers like Agatha Christie fall into this category, as do Susan Wittig Albert, Alexander McCall Smith, Joanne Fluke, Carola Dunn, and M.C. Beaton.  See the excellent, brilliantly extensive Cozy-Mystery website for every kind of softboiled mystery you can imagine!

Cabot Cove's answer to Miss Marple, and a wonderful example of a cozy mystery.
Cabot Cove’s answer to Miss Marple, and a wonderful example of a cozy mystery.

Hardboiled Fans.  Bring on the noir-y atmosphere!  Tough, streetwise, often troubled loners solve grisly crimes in bleak locations.  Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler are the grandaddies of this type of mystery.  Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books are good examples of more modern hardboiled mysteries.  Other examples include Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Walter Mosley, Dennis Lehane, and Lawrence Block, among many many others.

Here is Bogart.  He is Hardboiled.  It cannot be expressed  more plainly than that.
Here is Bogart. He is Hardboiled. It cannot be expressed more plainly than that.

 No matter what sort of mystery you like, we’ve got you covered!  Come on down to the library for bookmarks, book lists, and as many different kinds of mysteries as we can fit on our display space!

Have fun sleuthing, mystery fans.  Have a present:

The 2013 Edgar Awards!

The Edgar Awards, presented by Mystery Writers of America, are the most prestigious awards given for the mystery genre.  This year’s winners were announced on May 2nd in New York.  Click here for a full list of winners and nominees.

The winner for Best Novel of 2013 is Dennis Lehane’s Live By Night, while Chris Pavone’s The Expats won Best First Novel.

I’m sorry to say I’ve  not read either one yet, so I haven’t any comments.  However, having read and adored Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, I’m a bit surprised she didn’t get the prize.  Not that Live By Night doesn’t sound great–it’s set in the gritty crime world of the Roaring Twenties, and by all accounts is one that I should certainly put on my t0-read list.  Speaking of,  The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye, another runner-up, has been on my to-read list for a while.  I think I’ve started it twice and then put it down in favor of a thriller or something.

Years ago I used to read mysteries all the time.  The literary mystery was my favorite genre.  My tastes have evolved into a preference for suspense and thriller.  I enjoy mystery elements, I’ve found, but I’m not in it for the puzzle or the solution.  I’m in it for twists and turns and a big reveal, which sometimes occurs in mysteries, but happens more often in suspense.

The Edgar Awards honor all types and sub-genres of mystery.   Here’s a link to the Edgars Database, where you can search all past winners and nominees.

Also, congratulations to one of my favorite programs, Sherlock–Steven Moffatt snagged a Best TV Episode Teleplay award for the episode “A Scandal in Belgravia.” Obsessive nerdy fangirl that I am, I have to say that was my personal least favorite episode–I thought “The Reichenbach Fall” was much better, both as an episode and as a mystery…maybe it didn’t win because there’s no solution yet?

I can’t think of a good way to end this post, so enjoy this picture of my very favorite Sherlock Holmes and John Watson team:

Holmes and Watson, from the BBC's "Sherlock."
Holmes and Watson, from the BBC’s “Sherlock.”

These two are a *very* close second, though:

Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley in the film "Without a Clue."
Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley in the film “Without a Clue.”


Christmas Preview!! A Few of Marie’s Christmas Favorites

Christmas starts when Santa gets to Macy’s after the parade.

Yup.  Noon on Thanksgiving Day.
Yup. Noon on Thanksgiving Day.  Will not hear otherwise.

If you are the type to agree with my husband, who believes one can begin to ease into the holidays no earlier than December 10th, and Christmas proper does not begin until the 22nd or so…uh…save reading my posts until then, I guess?

For those who side with me on this one, let’s get a jump-start on December with a few of my personal favorite Christmas reads!Read More »