Book Review: Inspector Rutledge Has A Murder To Solve And A Child To Find

A Fatal Lie is another addition to the Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery series written by the prolific Charles Todd. Rutledge is a veteran of the First World War and a dedicated inspector for Scotland Yard. He does have a problem in that he suffers from shell shock which manifests itself as an auditory hallucination. He has the voice of a Scottish comrade he had executed for disobeying orders. He was then rather inconveniently shelled by the enemy and left buried with the corpse of his friend who he had felt duty bound to execute. Rutledge manages to be an effective investigator in spite of his psychological condition.

This particular novel has Rutledge investigating a death in Wales in which a man had apparently plunged to his death from an aqueduct and was found by a young boy on a fishing trip. When Rutledge finally identifies the dead man, he finds that a missing child is at the heart of this matter.

It’s always rather enlightening to revisit this era and this character. I am finding that there is very little change in the pace and atmosphere here. Rutledge seems to be making very little progress in moving forward with his life in spite of his affliction. The mood among the various towns and with the various characters encountered in these stories is still the same. The shadow of the war still feels oppressive. It would be nice for Todd to consider how to shake things up a bit. Rutledge does have a new superintendent, however that guy has been around for a few books. Rutledge will likely still have to contend with the voice of Hamish MacLeod rattling around in his head in order to keep him interesting. The problem is that this novel is another one that does not break any new ground. Todd is fine as a writer, and Rutledge is somewhat interesting in that he has this ongoing issue for what is now known as PTSD.

Charles Todd is actually the pseudonym for a mother and son writing duo, and I just learned that the mother had died a year ago Anyway, the series is fascinating when a reader first starts out, but it is getting a little stale in some ways. It may be time to push Rutledge’s limits a bit more and add a bit more spice to his already complicated life.

Next up, I have returned to the universe of Doctor Who with an anthology written by Dave Rudden entitled Twelve Angels Weeping.

Film Review: They Found The Kids…Now What?

Thirteen Lives is a film directed by Ron Howard, which tells the tale of the soccer team in Thailand which ended up trapped in a deep cave after an unexpected monsoon. William Nicholson wrote the screenplay with Don Macpherson helping out with the story conception. Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton, Tom Bateman, and a whole bunch of Thai actors recreate the chaos and courage exhibited during the crisis which occurred in 2018.

Twelve members of the soccer, or the football team, and their coach are trapped in this cave, and a whole slew of rescuers and volunteers converged to lend a hand. It took about three weeks to find them and then extricate everyone from the depths of this thing. The rescue effort is spearheaded by a couple of British cave divers, but the film does a great job of showing the unity of the thousands of volunteers and personnel as they struggle to overcome the challenges presented by the unpredictable weather and the deep waters within the cave system.

The performances were compelling, and Ron Howard was apparently quite meticulous in replicating the circumstances of this miraculous rescue. The Thai actors did a great job in portraying the rollercoaster of emotions as this saga unfolded.

The film is a little longer than most, but Howard makes good use of the length. This has been one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. I am not sure how this one could be improved, which is an unusual perspective from me. There are probably some details that could have been explained better, but the experience is gripping. The cast was great. The sets were well constructed. The dialogue felt genuine. I am sure there were some artistic liberties taken but probably not that many.

This film is definitely worth the time and see if you can resist the urge to pull up the interviews of the real people involved in this calamity.

Doctor Who Audio Review: Lost In A Cycle of Destruction

Dalek Universe 2 is a Doctor Who audio boxset from Big Finish Productions and has David Tennant return to the role as the Doctor. Jane Slavin and Joe Sims are also back as Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven, agents of the Space Security Service. Ken Bentley is in the director’s seat for this trio of episodes. The Doctor has found himself separated from his TARDIS in a universe where the Time War has yet to happen, and the Daleks remain as large a threat as ever.

Roy Gill starts off with Cycle of Destruction which explores the origins of Mark Seven, the android agent of the SSS. Nina Toussaint-White, John Banks, Avita Jay, and Nicholas Briggs make up the guest cast. This episode turned out to be a pretty good start to this collection. Mark Seven apparently had his start in the comic books or something and was given a voice by Joe Sims. Tennant has been able to recapture the energy that made him so acclaimed on the television series.

John Dorney is the writer for the second story, The Trojan Dalek, which has some vocal assistance from the likes of Blake Ritson, Pippa Bennett-Wilson, Barnaby Edwards, and Nicholas Briggs. The Doctor and his two companions make it to a space station where the thought that the way to defeat the Daleks is to create more Daleks. This seemed to start off with a bit of humor, but the story takes a tragic and gruesome turn when the Doctor finds out what lengths are being taken to defeat the darkest of foes. This one has a very unexpected twist at the end. Dorney is a very prolific writer for Big Finish and is usually quite reliable. He does a bit better than that this time with this contribution. The performances are compelling, and I had a bit of the chills when the Doctor discovers who is in the Dalek casing. Anyway, Dorney delivers a solid one with this one.

Finally, Robert Valentine closes out this set with The Lost. The Doctor and Anya come to terms with a loss and the history of their first encounter. Of course, there is a troubling alien presence known as the Lost. Kevin McNally, Leighton Pugh, and Nicholas Briggs are the guest cast for this one. This is a strangely moving story as well. Anya Kingdom was at one time known as Anne Kelso and traveled with the Doctor, who was in his fourth incarnation, at the time. It ends on a cliffhanger which will be resolved in the next set.

Tennant being back in the role is rather fun. This follows some interesting threads that begin in earlier sets. The Doctor finally has to admit his knowledge of Anya’s family members, Sara Kingdom and Bret Vyon, who were significant to the era of the First Doctor. This set was a bit of a treat for the long-time fans of the series. This particular saga has one more release before the Doctor makes his way back to his proper place in time and place.

Doctor Who Audio Play: The First Doctor Has A New Voice

The Outlaws is the latest release from Big Finish Productions to feature the First Doctor. There are actually two stories here which features a new actor in the role. Stephen Noonan tries his hand at resurrecting the role initially performed by the late William Hartnell. Lauren Cornelius brings back a character first played by a deceased actress, Jackie Lane. The Doctor and Dodo are about to have some more adventures together. The set is directed by Nicholas Briggs.

The Outlaws is written by Lizbeth Myles. Rufus Hound returns as an old adversary, known as the Meddling Monk. Gynis Barber, Christian Edwards, Sam Stafford, Carly Day, and Barnaby Edwards comprise the guest cast. The Doctor and Dodo arrive in England in the early thirteenth century where a conflict is brewing between the Sheriff of Lincoln and a gang wanting to interfere with the king’s efforts to find a war with France. The leader of the gang knows the Doctor quite well, and Dodo has fallen into his hands.

It’s a fun adventure and reveals a piece of medieval English history. Noonan isn’t always able to sound exactly like Hartnell, but the spirit of the performance is close enough. Cornelius is an engaging addition to the Big Finish cast. Barber is cast as a female sheriff of Lincolnshire at the time. It turns out that Nicola de la Haie is actually a real historical figure at that time. Carly Day delivers a standout performance as Idonea de Camville, who was so wonderfully petulant and duplicitous. Idonea is supposed to be quite unlikeable, but Day sort of gives her an amusing charm that made me hate her as much as I should.

Compared to some of the other output from Big Finish, this probably wasn’t what I would call the greatest, however it was a fine enough introduction to this latest version of the First Doctor.

A second shorter story is written by a woman as well. Lizzie Hopley delivers with The Miniaturist. Paul Copley, Yasmin Mwanza, Benedict Briggs, and Caroline Hrycek-Robinson make up the guest cast here.

This is probably the one I prefer in this little set since it has a spookier tone. The Doctor and Dodo arrive in the future at an abandoned mine where a geological exploration is occurring. Ghostly children have been materializing, and a presence has been at the heart of otherworldly occurrences, which includes keeping the Doctor and Dodo from access to the TARDIS.

This one was quite gripping in spite of the shorter length, although I am more of a sucker for ghost stories and surrealism in Doctor Who.

Well, I am glad that Big Finish continues to dip into this era even if the pool of original performers is getting smaller. They apparently plan to have David Bradley return to the role, however Noonan does well enough. He does imbue the Doctor with a strange sort of growl at times that I do not remember Hartnell uttering. It’s a little distracting, but perhaps Noonan will improve on sounding a little closer to Hartnell.

Anyway, Big Finish is showing a bit more courage on recasting and exploring early eras of the series. Even if I like some episodes more than others, I respect the overall effort and will enjoy revisiting the era of William Hartnell even though he is no longer with us.

Book Review: Gulliver Sets Sail

Gulliver’s Travels is an adventure novel written by Jonathan Swift and first published in 1726. Lemuel Gulliver is an explorer who sets on several journeys where he comes across strange lands. The most famous of these jaunts was Gulliver’s time in a land known as Lilliput which is populated by people less than sex inches tall. His next destination introduces him to a land of giants. Of course, the final journey acquaints him with a group of savages known as yahoos.

In some ways, the novel flows a little easier than expected for something written in the eighteenth century, but it still is a pretty challenging piece of prose to interpret. The novel is known as a satirical commentary on the society at the time. The bit goes a little over my head, but I still managed to find some enjoyment in attempting this endeavor with this particular literary classic.

Gulliver’s emotional journey is as interesting as his physical traverses. He develops a resentment toward his family he has to attempt to reconcile. Gulliver faces a different disaster with each voyage which affects his optimistic view presented at the beginning.

This is a tough one to read recreationally, but it is worth the effort.

Next up, I am moving back into the twenty-first century as far as the author, but the story takes place just after the First World War. Charles Todd has brought back Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge, who is finding out the consequences of A Fatal Lie.

Book Review: The Lincoln Lawyer Himself Is Charged With Murder

The Law of Innocence is a suspense novel from Michael Connelly and features the wily Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller. Haller finds himself on the wrong side of the defense table when he is charged with the murder of a former client who owed him money. His usual team of lawyers and investigators come to his aid. His half-brother, retired LAPD detective Harry Bosch, enters the fray. Haller finds himself at the center of a conspiracy as well. He decides to take his case to trial as soon as he can, but he finds himself in a race against a mysterious virus from China that threatens to bring the world to a halt. Haller is going for the gold, complete exoneration from the charges that would be well beyond just a verdict of not guilty. He might be tenacious and clever enough to pull it off.

Connelly works in a bit of current events with the beginnings of the COVID lockdowns lurking in the background. The story itself seems a little far-fetched with the unorthodox court proceedings. Haller still ends up being compelling enough for the reader to root for him. Bosch ends up helping without taking the story over, which is understandable. That makes sense since the Lincoln Lawler novels are written in first person narrative. Haller can sometimes be seen as very clever and somewhat underhanded. There was one thing about Haller’s reaction to his circumstances I respected. He did not have all that much doubt in his abilities. He had a few moments of uncertainty, but he stayed in the game during the court scenes. It was also pretty heartwarming to see his interactions with his daughter during his plight.

It just seems to be a little too self-indulgent and unlikely to have Haller himself accused of murder, but Connelly still writes it well enough and seems to stay true to his creation. Plus, it’s kind of fun to have Bosch and Haller work together, although Bosch had a more periphery role in this one. The story is enjoyable and interesting enough for me to not experience any resentment. Connelly still manages to remain deserving of the acclaim and appreciation of his fanbase, however just the notion of Haller having to defend himself against a murder charge just feels somewhat predictable. I am so glad Erle Stanley Gardner resisted the idea of having Perry Mason in a similar situation.

The next read is going to be quite the departure from my usual literary flavor. I had vowed to start reading a few considered classics. I am about to find out what was discovered during Gulliver’s Travels as told by Jonathan Swift.

Doctor Who Audio Review: Doctors Caught In The Crossfire

The Annihilators is a Doctor Who audio play written and directed by Nicholas Briggs. Briggs decided to try his hand at a seven part story starring Tim Treloar starring as the Third Doctor and Daily Ashford, taking on the role originated by her mother Caroline John, Liz Shaw. Jon Culshaw is back to give voice to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, who was originally played by the late Nicholas Courtney. Briggs decided to include another Doctor to help carry the load. Michael Troughton fills in for his late father, Patrick, as the Second Doctor as Frazer Hines returns to his usual role of Jamie McCrimmon. Other cast members are Karen Archer, Daon Broni, Mark Elstob, Bethan Walker, and Sam Stafford.

A strange creature lurks in the waters at Lewgate Docks, and the Doctor and his allies learn of an alien rivalry which has found its way to Earth. There is also a complication when the Doctor’s previous incarnation and Jamie McCrimmon arrive to make the matter more confusing.

Now, I usually enjoy a good Briggs script, but this one was a little too long for my taste in audio format. The performances were solid enough, which is something that always saves the listening the experience from total disaster. Michael Troughton makes his debut taking over from Hines as the Second Doctor. He decided to try not to sound exactly like his father, but he gets close enough to still recognize the character. It is strange to recall that all of the original cast members who would have been in this story are now all deceased. I think the whole release was just a little overstuffed and seems to drag. The attempt was to emulate most of Jon Pertwee’s first season as the Doctor, which was well known for these seven part sagas. In spite of the criticism, it was not devoid of amusement entirely. The scenes shared by the two Doctors deliver a few chuckles. It’s still strikes the right chords of nostalgia to hear voices similar to the characters this cast is supposed to represent.

Anyway, the effort is appreciated from Big Finish Productions to keep this era of Doctor Who alive with new stories, but seven part stories may not be entirely necessary to satisfy the fans.

Book Review: More Russian Plots For Scot Harvath To Foil

Spymaster is a Scot Harvath thriller by Brad Thor. Harvath is one of several fictional antiterrorist operatives that any patriot would want on their side. Harvath is working in Northern Europe tracking down a rogue Russian group setting off bombs as a means of assassinating diplomats in Turkey and Italy. Harvath has spies to capture and interrgations to conduct to keep the United States out of war.

This novel was first published in 2018.

This is the second Thor novel I have read, and it was fine. There are some long gaps between action scenes. Harvath is dangerously competent, but he seems to lack a certain intensity found in other characters in this genre. I enjoyed reading of the various locales that Harvath travels throughout the story.

This doesn’t end up being a bad book, but it just failed to intrigue me all that much. Thor is a competent writer, but I am not finding his prose style to be that distinctive. Harvath seems to have interesting missions, but I don’t find him all that engaging as a character.

There is not a whole lot to say about this one, so the next literary indulgence is going to be Michael Connelly’s The Law of Innocence.

Book Review: Has The Professor Returned?

Revenge From the Grave is the latest Sherlock Holmes novel from David Stuart Davies. Sherlock Holmes has not been back in London after his self-imposed exile where the world thought he had died locked in hand to hand combat with Professor James Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls. In 1894, Holmes is troubled to find mysterious notes and corpses turning up at his doorstep. Moriarty seems to be taunting him, prompting the great detective to put on one of his most important disguises to infiltrate a criminal organization that seems to be rising from the ashes after its leader was presumed dead. Holmes and Watson need determine whether they have a new enemy or an old one has done the impossible and survived a fall that would have finished anyone else.

This was nearly impossible to imagine that Arthur Conan Doyle would have written anything like this. Davies seems determined to indulge his fanboy tendencies in this one. He keeps changing perspectives throughout. I felt there was something almost juvenile about the way the plot is presented. The identity of the new leader was not all that clever or surprising. The characters seemed rather flat and uninteresting. Davies just delivers what appears to be a shell of Doyle’s creations.

These pastiche works are always a bit of a gamble, but Davies seems to have missed the mark worse than usual with this effort.

What will I be reading next? Good question! I have decided to return to an author I have just started sampling recently. Brad Thor sends Scot Harvath on another mission in Spymaster.

Doctor Who Audio Review: Zoe Gets Another Shot

Second Chances is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions. It is an episode from the range known as The Companions Chronicles and is written by John Dorney. Lisa Bowerman sits in the director’s seat once again. Wendy Padbury reprises her role as Zoe Heriot and is joined by guest actress Emily Pithon.

Zoe has few memories of her time traveling with the Doctor and Jamie McCrimmon. She is being held by the Company and gets an opportunity to repair a mistake made during her travels in the TARDIS, but she has to avoid contact with her old friends and her younger self.

Dorney is usually pretty reliable, but I had some trouble getting into this one. It will probably require another listen in order for me to make sense. Everyone hits a sour note from time to time, and this one seems to indicate that it was Dorney’s turn. The actresses were fine as usual. This one did not leave much of an impression other than confusion and a bit of boredom.

There is not much more to say here since this episode turned out to not leave much an impression. Better luck next time, John Dorney.