Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Sign of the Four - Arthur Conan Doyle

For my next literary outing I returned to to world of Sherlock Holmes.  After not being overly thrilled with the first novel, I didn't really have high hopes for the next.  But it seemed convenient to read (being on my Kindle) and avoided too much decision making.

The Sign of the Four revolves around a mystery that starts with Mary Morstan reporting to Sherlock Holmes about the strange events surrounding her father's disappearance.  Over time, however, the mystery quickly thickens and as one loose end is tied up another unravels.

What I really liked about this book was that it felt slightly more realistic than the first.  Holmes himself is portrayed brilliantly.  The idea that a man who thrives on intellectual challenge would turn to drugs when the puzzles run out is very easy to believe.  And then there are those quiet periods where leads dry up and trails go dead, so all they can do is wait.  Which, again, contributes to making the whole thing seem just a little more likely.  Or as likely as you can get in a story about treasure.

It has everything a good mystery book should have.  Intrigue, a cast of crazy characters, grey areas between good guys and bad guys, and a high-speed chase.  I always love a good chase scene.  The story completely pulled me in and I couldn't wait to keep reading to find out what would happen next.  Even during the reveal I kept hanging on every word, because it was played out so well.

The only thing I did struggle with is a lack of knowledge about the politics of India in the 1850s.  And, quite frankly, it's not something I would expect most people to be familiar with.  But this is one of the things you get when reading a book that was written over 120 years ago.  However, the context is explained well enough and so it's easy to pick up everything you need.

I would definitely recommend this book and will most certainly carry on with the world of Sherlock Holmes when time allows.  The art of pure logical deduction is such a great concept that such a character absolutely fascinates me.

Friday, 16 November 2012

The Truth - Terry Pratchett

How do I write one of these posts again?  It's kind of been a while.  Every time I think I've got over the worst reading blip another one turns up.  And in a style that's becoming far too familiar, it took me weeks to read the first 100 pages and then about a day for the other 300.

Returning to Discworld for the first time in a while, I finally reached the 25th book in the series.  The Truth is based in Ankh-Morpork and follows William de Worde as he goes from part-time newsletter writer to full-time newspaper editor.  It's amazing what a printing press and some business-savvy dwarves can do with an idea.  As is the way with these things, once you start looking for more news you find more than you'd bargained for.

The range of characters involved in The Times are typical Pratchett brilliance.  William himself is the perfect shadow of his father, more so than he'd ever even realise, and the relationship between him and Sacharissa is beautifully real.  The transformation of the pair into hard-core journalists is brilliantly written.

But my favourite character has to be Otto.  As a reformed vampire he has taken the pledge to stop biting people, and so has driven his passion into the world of photography.  Cue a desire to ever-improve the technology, and lots of issues with flashlights.  A particular personal highlight was the dwarves singing the positive-reinforcement songs.

I also enjoyed the role that the Watch played in the story, as Vimes is such a great character.  The developing chemistry between the Duke and William was wonderful.

This is definitely a book I would recommend.  Even if you haven't read a Discworld book before you would still enjoy the satirical references to the world of newspapers.  But it would mean missing out on the passing references, which are sometimes the best bits in Pratchett books.

The Truth Shall Set Ye Free, as they say (whoever they are), and the truth is that sometimes all you need is appropriately-timed roaring thunder to make your day.