Sherlock Holmes Audio Review: Holmes Tangles With The Seamstress Again

The Fiends of New York City is a Sherlock Holmes audio drama brought to us by Big Finish Productions. Jonathan Barnes is the writer while Ken Bentley serves as director. Nicholas Briggs returns as the master detective with Richard Earl resumes his role as Dr. Watson. Lucy Briggs-Owen, Timothy Bentnick, John Banks, James Joyce, and Juliet Aubrey are included in the guest cast.

Holmes and Watson have been aware for some time of a new criminal organization operating in 1901 London under the leadership of someone with the unlikely moniker of the Seamstress of Peckham Rye. This story begins when an American claiming to be a former Pinkerton detective shows up on the door of 221 B Baker Street with a strange story concerning what would these days be called a serial killer. The new client has a suspect on his radar and wants Holmes to help prevent another grotesque murder. The problem is that Holmes has determined that he is not being told the whole story, and the case is a springboard to a bigger conspiracy. In the meantime, Watson is finding more about her new wife’s mysterious past. Adversaries old and new are converging on Holmes and Watson as usual.

I am still not a huge fan of this Seamstress woman being this dangerous new opponent, however I did find myself more drawn in than I have been recently in this range. Briggs’ version of Holmes was actually pretty good here. Richard Earl continues to display one of the more impressive versions of Dr. Watson I have heard. The story was somewhat complicated but not in a way I found off putting. The cast was expectedly well chosen.

Juliet Aubrey plays the Seamstress, and I have no issue with her actual performance. I just find this designation difficult to take seriously.

Barnes is one of Big Finish’s more reliable writers in spite of some of my reservations about the direction of this range. He at least manages to pull off a competent entry here.

The performances and postproduction work are considerably more than competent which helps settle some of my doubts about this series.

I am a Big Finish fan overall, so I will look forward to seeing the next installment of their Sherlock Holmes series regardless.

Book Review: A Kind Of Nigerian Magic

Akata Witch is a young adult fantasy novel by Nnedi Okorafor. It was first published in 2011 and is the beginning of a trilogy.

The main protagonist is a young girl named Sunny Nwazue, who was born in the United States, however she is living in Nigeria with her parents. She has some struggles in her new school until she meets a group of other misfits. Sunny sort of stands out since she is albino and has to be cautious of the sun. She finds out that she carries latent magical abilities. A serial killer who targets children also lurks in the community, and Sunny and her friends are enlisted to help find this evil fellow since he also has a few magical abilities of his own.

This turns out to be a fairly engaging novel. Okorafor is a competent writer, however there was not much that really resonated with me in this one. To be fair, this kind of fantasy novel is not one I would choose if left to my own devices, but I am part of a book club. I had some trouble really getting into this one. I do appreciate some exposure to a culture that is different from my usual encounters. It also is for young adults, and I am a long way from that.

Anyway, there is not a lot I have to say about this one. It’s not bad, but it just didn’t grab my attention as well as I hoped.

Next up, I will be returning to more familiar rugged territory in Wyoming with game warden Joe Pickett. CJ Box continues Pickett’s adventures with Winterkill.

Doctor Who Audio Review: The End Of The Stranding

Stranded 4 is a Doctor Who audio boxset from Big Finish Productions and concludes a saga where the Doctor and his friends are trapped on Earth in a house with a malfunctioning TARDIS and Time in disarray. Paul McGann returns as the Eighth Doctor. He is joined by a guest cast that includes Nicola Walker, Hattie Morahan, Rebecca Root, Tom Price, and Colin Baker. There are four episodes directed by Ken Bentley.

Matt Fitton starts off this collection with Crossed Lines, which has the Doctor and young Robin meet while some of the residents of Baker Street contend with conflicting memories and time streams. The Curator is on hand to help, but he is not quite the man encountered earlier by Liv Chenka and Helen Sinclair in previous episodes. Colin Baker, who is best known as the Sixth Doctor, has the role after Tom Baker’s earlier performance. Colin does quite well, but that’s really no surprise. This is probably an episode that needs another run through the player to better understand it, but it was still enjoyable enough.

Just when we thought that Sgt. Andy Davidson was doomed in the previous set, writer Lisa McMullin decides to not allow that to last with her contribution, Get Andy. The Doctor is trying to rescue his apparently deceased friend from a rogue timeline but ends up in dire trouble himself. In the meantime, the mysterious traveler known as Mr. Bird comes to Andy’s aid; however, that doesn’t go as planned either. There are two storylines that are quite compelling. Andy is a somewhat comically optimistic character, and Tom Price does a great job with it. The Doctor is about to die in this one, and Paul McGann always delivers a compelling performance. His efforts to say his apparent good-byes to his companions is pretty moving. This may be the episode I enjoyed the most here.

Roy Gill continues the story with The Keys of Baker Street which has the remaining residents of the Doctor’s house facing what is left of reality. Colin Baker returns as the Curator in a final bow as that character. Hopefully, Colin Baker has plenty of bows left as the Sixth Doctor. Some effective sound design is presented here. This episode actually has the Doctor solve the problem of the shredded reality.

Which brings us to the conclusion written by John Dorney, Best Year Ever. The Doctor and his friends are now in what is apparently the genuine 2020, but of course that wasn’t a great year in any reality. Everyone is coping with the year of COVID 19. Liv Chenka and Tania Bell, played by Rebecca Root, figure out their relationship since one is a traveler in time and space and the other isn’t. This ended up being a rather tame final story for a lengthy saga. It was basically a character piece no real action that is typical of a Doctor Who episode that concludes a series.

I am just glad this thing is finally over. There were some interesting moments in the stories. The high points tend to include Colin Baker’s performance. Big Finish will find more to do with Paul McGann’s version of the Doctor. I ca understand Big Finish’s interest in changing the pace and maybe slowing things down a little, but at times it moved a bit too glacier-like for my taste. None of the stories turn out terribly. Unfortunately, it was a struggle to consistently stay interested. Anyway, all of time and space is available to this Doctor once again, so the pace should pick back up.

Book Review: A Mole In The Midst

Enemy at the Gates is another addition to the Mitch Rapp series by Kyle Mills. Rapp was initially created by the late Vince Flynn, but his estate has allowed the series continue.

A new president has taken up residence in the White House, however Mitch Rapp does not enjoy the confidence of this one as he did with the predecessor. Rapp has been staying in Africa with his girlfriend and her daughter lately. He is more of a free agent than ever before; however, he is still willing to do a favor for CIA Director Irene Kennedy. Kennedy has become aware of an information leak coming from one of the highest offices of Washington DC. Rapp is then tasked with searching for a virologist lost in the jungles of Uganda after an attack from another fanatical terrorist with a cult following. Rapp also has to protect the nation’s first trillionaire from a growing number of threats. Rapp has his usual cadre of dangerous friends come to his aid. He also comes to face to face with a shocking betrayal.

Mills is obviously taking his cues from current events and figures; however, he does add his own variations, so it doesn’t appear that he is doing little work when it comes to creativity. The character Nick Ward is obviously a representation of Elon Musk, yet Mills avoids making him a carbon copy. The other aspect I enjoyed is that Rapp’s completion of an initial mission is by no means the end of a story. Mills also seems to be taking a break from sending Rapp after ISIS leaders for the moment. Rapp changes very little as a character, but it does help him seem a little fresher with a broader variety of adversaries.

As I reflect on this particular novel, I find that I consider it to be one of the better additions to the series. Of course, no one does better than the master, Vince Flynn, but I think he would be pleased with what Mills has done with his character in the recent years. Mills remains faithful to Flynn’s vision while still presenting new challenges for Mitch Rapp.

Next up, I will be reading a new author to me. Nnedi Okorafor takes her readers to Nigeria to introduce us to the Akata Witch.

Book Review: Ali Reynolds Gets Too Close To The Edge

Edge of Evil is a mystery novel by J.A. Jance that was first published in 2006 introduces her readers to Ali Reynolds, who has become another popular series lead character for the prolific author.

Ali Reynolds starts off her adventure here with getting fired from her job as a television news broadcaster. She learns that her second husband has been embroiled in a couple of affairs. She learns of her best friend being terminally ill and then apparently killed in a car accident. She and her son from a previous marriage take off to Arizona to see where she can be of some help. The best friend may have committed suicide; however, Ali has her doubts about that. Her son has set up a blogging account for her to reach out to those who may be in need of a friendly ear. As Ali adjusts to these major changes in her life, she finds that there are new dangers she has never considered before.

I am more familiar with Jance’s other characters, J.P. Beaumont and Sheriff Joanna Brady; however, I think I can find some enjoyment in the Ali Reynolds tales. The mystery itself was not that original, however Ali’s situation and how she overcomes some of these personal challenges is rather inspiring. In spite of the tragedies depicted in this novel, there is some humor. Ali has a spunky likability which I can appreciate. I also appreciated that she seems to have an overall respectful and loving relationship with her adult son. It’s too bad that Jance chose to create a difficult marriage for Ali, but I am sure that particular challenge will unfold in the following novels.

This isn’t really a game changer for the mystery genre, but Jance doesn’t aim for that. It’s still worth the time to explore this initial entry into now well-established series. I have enjoyed many of Jance’s works over the years, and this particular novel did not disappoint. I am glad to welcome Ali Reynolds novels to my overcrowded bookshelves.

Several years ago, Vince Flynn was taken way too soon by cancer, but his character Mitch Rapp was allowed to continue his efforts to save our country from ongoing terrorist machinations. Kyle Mills continues the missions of Mitch Rapp with Enemy at the Gates.

Doctor Who Audio Review: The Doctor Has Some Extra Bills

Emancipation of the Daleks is a Doctor Who audio novel presented by Big Finish Productions. Jonathan Morris is the writer with Dan Starkey serving as the reader. Nicholas Briggs pitches in yet again to voice the Daleks. It features the Twelfth Doctor, who had been played by Peter Capaldi on the television series. Bill Potts is the companions in this story. Pearl Mackie had played that role on television.

Bill Potts is relaxing at home when an unexpected visit occurs. She meets a future version of herself, so she reaches out to her new friend, the Doctor. A Dalek saucer traveling through time has crashed on Earth, and history is altered. The Doctor finds that humanity has enslaved the Daleks instead of the other way occurring as it usually does. Bill Potts has to contend with a new future and an alternative past as well. Although the Daleks have exhibited murderous ruthlessness, the Doctor finds that human beings are not in short supply of those traits as well. He still has Earth’s history to restore and a friend’s future to ensure.

This was a very intriguing story. Morris has been a frequent contributor to Doctor Who lore. He is a competent writer and usually has some creative and interesting story ideas. This turned out to be one of his better ones. No need to worry if the Daleks may seem a little soft at first. They become their more familiar murderous selves as well. Dan Starkey has performed solidly for Big Finish before and continues to display impressive vocal range. He is able to replicate Capaldi’s voice quite well.

The story delves a bit into Bill’s potential history. There are three distinct parts in this story, and Morris brings threads together quite well by the time it comes to an end.

This is a solid addition to the Big Finish Doctor Who library. It is both well plotted and well performed.

Book Review: Forgery, Murder, and Lies Keep Sherlock Holmes Busy

Masters of Lies is a Sherlock Holmes written by Philip Purser-Hallard. It is a continuation in the long running series of novels published by Titan Books. Of course, Holmes and Dr. John Watson are the creation of the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but scores of authors have written their own contributions to the efforts to keep the cases in fresh supply. Many of them have been satisfactory while others have fallen short.

This adventure takes place in 1898, and Holmes and Watson are asked to look into what at first appears to be the suicide of a senior civil servant. Mycroft Holmes believes there is something more, and his younger brother soon is on the trail of a lethal forgery ring. Watson though begins noting some unusual behaviors exhibited by his brilliant friend. Can even the reader trust that the whole truth is being told? There comes a point where Holmes’s investigation has his own brother in the crosshairs. Just as matters are coming to a violent climax, the truth of the account narrated by Watson himself comes into question.

Finally, the Titan Books series gets a solid nod of approval from this occasionally humble blogger. There are no curses or missing jewels to find here. There is the business of Holmes behaving a bit more brusquely and at times more violently than usual, but that has a reasonable explanation by the end. The twist toward the end of the novel is actually rather clever but should probably not be used again. The story was well presented and really kept to the theme of really not being able to trust what is thought to be known.

This latest effort by Purser-Hallard was actually quite enjoyable in spite of the literary sleight of hand.

Next up, I will be returning to a favorite author of mine, although I am reading the first in a series not yet explored by me. Ali Reynolds has been around for quite a few years now, but I just had not gotten around to getting to know her. I have finally found the first novel, Edge of Evil, written by J.A. Jance.

Film Review: Sierra Six Goes Rogue

The Gray Man is an action film directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. The screenplay is written by Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely. It is based on a novel by Mark Greaney, which is the first in a series featuring a CIA operative known as Sierra Six, who is described as working in the gray. Ryan Gosling has the lead role here with Chris Evans taking on the lead villain, a rogue freelancer known as Lloyd Hansen. Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Billy Bob Thornton, and Alfre Woodard are included in the cast.

Sierra Six is recruited from prison to do some of the CIA’s dirty work. A job in Bangkok goes awry when Six is given a drive which details some dirtier deeds done by Six’s current handler. The handler sends a psychotic mercenary when Six decides to refuse extraction. He turns to his old mentor, played by Thornton, for help, however he has his own problems when his niece is kidnapped. Sierra Six has to stay ahead of the chaos if he has any hope of rescuing his friend and bringing down an insane level of corruption.

I sure hope the book is a lot better, because this thing was a disappointing mess. There are some pretty engaging action scenes, and some of the fight scenes worked rather well. Gosling was just a bit too detached in his performance. The barbs thrown by Six and Hansen did not land all that well in the midst of the explosions and fisticuffs. These were apparently supposed to be a couple of quirky and quick-witted killers, but the quips were lame. Not even the formidable presence of Alfre Woodard could make this more engaging.

The action sequences were just too chaotic and loud. Some of those scenes went on too long, and the film felt like it dragged in spite of the barrage of gunfire and frantic fights.

I have not read any of the novels from Greaney, however I suspect that that this film bears little resemblance to the source material. I guess I would call this a mediocre effort from the production team, but it was a struggle to reach even that level.

I may still likely check out the novels though.

Book Review: Celebrations And Monsters

Twelve Angels Weeping is an anthology of Doctor Who tales written by Dave Rudden. It’s basically another collection showcasing some of the Doctor’s best-known adversaries and it’s supposed to bring the twelve days of Christmas to mind. Christmas really isn’t mentioned all that much, but that’s fine. I enjoy Christmas just fine, and I love Doctor Who at least its early days, but tying the two of them together is a rather dubious prospect.

The Doctor does not show up all that much, which is a bit of a disappointment. Rudden is fine as a writer but nothing spectacular. He is writing Doctor Who, so one can’t expect a literary masterpiece.

Some of the stories were rather imaginative. Grey Matter starts off with the Twelfth Doctor facing off against the Weeping Angels, the cosmic assassins who are frozen by a stare but attack in just a blink of an eye.

There is a story about a Celestial Intervention Agent on Gallifrey trying to stop a TARDIS from being stolen. I thought it was kind of fun to revisit the Doctor’s first departure from his home planet. Another story is basically told from the prospective of a recently converted Cyberman.

The Daleks, the Ood, and the Silurians also show up with the Master finishing off this collection.

Anyway, there is not much to say other than this is another adequate diversion for Doctor Who readers but nothing all that memorable.

Next up, Sherlock Holmes takes on a case where he will have to outwit some Masters of Lies by Philip Purser-Hallard.

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.