from the adventures of sherlock holmes – part two

“The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb”

Watson tells us at the beginning of this story that this is only one of two cases that he referred to Holmes during their partnership.  The puzzle begins with a man arriving at Watson’s residence in dire need of medical attention as a result of his thumb being amputated.  Victor Hatherly tells Watson that the story of his missing thumb is an extraordinary one for which he’ll need to contact the police, but Watson recommends that he tell his story first to Holmes, and Hatherly agrees, saying he is familiar with Holmes’ reputation and will pursue whatever recommendation Holmes gives him.  Once at Baker Street, it is revealed that Hatherly is a hydraulics engineer who used to be employed with an engineering firm but now is in business for himself.  He hasn’t many clients or a lot of work, so when a man appears—Colonel Lysander Stark—with a job for him which he is willing to pay Hatherly twenty guineas to complete, Hatherly instantly agrees.  However, the job is a curious one—he must appear at his client’s house at 11pm in the evening, and he must tell no one anything about the job itself.   There is also no train back to London and so Hatherly will have to spend the night at his client’s home.  Hatherly is a bit suspicious but he agrees, and as the evening progresses he becomes even more suspicious.  He does finally have a look at the machine and identifies the problem, but he also knows that the machine cannot be used for the purpose that Stark has claimed it is used for.  Revealing this knowledge puts Hatherly in danger and results in the loss of his thumb.

I think that this story is one of my least favorite stories.  Hatherly states the case to Holmes and Watson, but once he does, Holmes calls in Scotland Yard and they go to apprehend the culprit.  There’s not much thinking involved, just the resolution and reveal of the business that Hatherly has gotten himself mixed up in.

“The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor”

This is the story of Lord St. Simon and the “strange” events of his marriage.  Holmes receives a letter from St. Simon, requesting his assistance in a highly delicate matter.  Holmes turns to Watson to get the backstory on St. Simon, who has been following the man’s story—both leading up to and after his marriage—in the papers.  Watson explains to Holmes that St. Simon at last finally proposes to and marries a young American heiress, and that the newspapers are up in arms because it seems that the sons of the British aristocracy have begun to select American wives instead of British wives.  Immediately after the wedding takes place, the wedding party returns for a wedding breakfast, and ten minutes into the breakfast, the bride excuses herself and completely disappears.  St. Simon hopes that Sherlock can help him solve the mystery of his missing wife.  Holmes does, quite easily, and he says that he’s known even before meeting St. Simon what the likeliest explanation was for his wife’s disappearance.

This story is similar to the one that precedes it in the collection—there is long exposition of the case and the reveal happens almost instantaneously.  This story was okay, but again, not one of my favorites.  I like it better when Holmes and Watson actually do some detecting.

“The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet”

In this story, Sherlock’s client is one Alexander Holder, a London banker.  This story also begins in an entertaining way.  Watson is standing at the windows and notices a man running down the snowy, icy streets of London; he thinks the man is an escapee from an asylum, while Sherlock believes that he is their newest client, and of course he ends up being correct.  Once the banker is able to calm himself, he begins to state the case to Holmes and Watson.  Just the previous day, he was approached by an incredibly prominent, important personage whose face everyone in London would recognize but whom Holder will not name for reasons of propriety and discretion.  This person asks Holder for a short term loan of 50,000 pounds, and because the banker is known for not making loans unless some kind of collateral can be given to secure the loan, this person provides Holder with the beryl coronet—a most valuable public possession of the empire.  If anyone were to find out that this person has used the possession to secure a loan, or if anything should happen to the coronet, it would be quite the public scandal.  Holder, of course, agrees to give the loan, but at the end of the day he feels uneasy about leaving the coronet in the safe in his office.  He thinks it would be better to always have it in his possession, and so he takes it home with him, where it is promptly stolen from his bedroom that very night.  In the house at the time are some servants whom Holder has the utmost faith in, save one, as well as his son and adopted daughter.  Holder’s son has a problem with gambling and getting into debt, and when Holder hears a noise that night and goes to investigate, he finds his son holding the coronet, which has been damaged and from which three of the beryls have been removed.  Holder believes his son to be guilty and has him arrested.  He has come to Holmes for help in locating the missing beryls and trying to convince his son to reveal what he has done with them.  Sherlock takes the case.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and it’s one of my favorites in this collection.  Again, Holmes has to do some detecting and looking into motives for the crime.  Holmes is notorious for donning disguises, and once again he puts on the disguise of someone who is “disreputable” merely by changing his clothes, offering further commentary on how appearances can be deceiving.  Another thing about this story is that Holmes’ favorite maxim makes an appearance: “When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”  After finishing this story, I found myself hoping that Steven Moffatt would choose this story to adapt for the Sherlock series.  I can totally imagine Mycroft bringing this case to Sherlock and asking him to solve it.  This is definitely one of the must-read stories in this collection.

“The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”

The beginning of this story is wonderful.  Indeed, the first couple of pages are the best part of the story.  Holmes and Watson are home at Baker Street, and Holmes tells Watson that he tends to embellish the stories, and notes that he doesn’t write up the cases that get the greatest public attention but those cases which showcase Holmes’ powers of deduction and logic.  Feeling a bit stung by Holmes comments, Watson calls Sherlock egotistical and that it is one of Holmes’ qualities that he finds most repellent.  Holmes says “Crime is common. Logic is rare.”  He goes on to tell Watson “You have degraded what should have been a course of lectures into a series of tales.”  The opening is a fantastic look into the relationship between the two men.  Of course, their conversation is interrupted by a new client.  Her name is Violet Hunter, and she is a governess.  She comes to Holmes to ask if she should take a new job and tells him the story of her potential employer and his odd idiosyncrasies.  The one she finds most offensive is his request that she cut her lovely chestnut hair.  Ultimately, Holmes advises her to take the case but also cautions her that there is something wrong about the job offer and tells her to call him when she feels herself to be in danger.  She does call, and Holmes and Watson go out to investigate.  The solution to the mystery reminded me a bit of The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, but otherwise, this was one of my least favorite stories in the collection.  It’s only the beginning that redeems it.

 

 

from the adventures of sherlock holmes – part one

from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by A. Conan Doyle (1892)

*Note: These are just brief sketches of the short stories so that I can remember what each story is about and what I thought of it.  Beware: here may be spoilers!

“The Man with the Twisted Lip”

This story is about the search for a man named Neville St. Clair.  One of the things I really liked about this story was the way it started—Watson has just returned home to his wife after a long day at work when a woman knocks on his door.  She entreats Watson to find her husband who has been missing for two days, and she suspects that he has spent the time in an opium den.  Watson dutifully goes to find the man and send him home to his wife, and while in the opium den he encounters Sherlock Holmes, dressed in disguise.  Holmes bids Watson to wait for him outside of the opium den, and when he appears, he asks Watson to accompany him to the home of Mr. and Mrs. St. Clair, the latter being his client.  Mrs. St. Clair has told Holmes that she saw her husband in a room above the very same opium den where he and Watson ran into each other, and that she fears for her husband’s life.  During the seven-mile journey to the St. Clair home, Holmes recounts the case to Watson (and thereby, the reader) and upon arriving puts several questions to Mrs. St. Clair.  Holmes and Watson then retire to bed—well, Watson goes to bed.  Holmes stays up all night smoking his pipe and puzzling out the case.  At dawn he wakes Watson and says he has solved the puzzle.  I’ll try not to spoil the ending, but one of the things that interests me about the revelation of the story is the way it demonstrates class privilege but also the way it explores how a man can make a more fruitful living by casting off the vestiges of his middle-class status and effecting a disguise of a man of a lower class.  As in so many other Sherlock Holmes stories, Doyle uses the art of disguise to demonstrate that what is on the surface is not always indicative of what lies beneath or an accurate measurement of an individual.

“The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”

This story opens in an interesting way.  Watson makes a call on Holmes at Baker Street, and when he enters his gaze falls upon an old, beaten-up hat that is hanging on the back of a chair.  As is Holmes’ way, he invites Watson to examine the hat and relay what it tells him about its owner.  As is Watson’s way, he looks at the hat but can discern nothing.  Holmes proceeds to tell Watson all kinds of things about the owner of the hat, and Watson, astounded, encourages Holmes to explain how he has deduced all that he has.  I will say that I was particularly amused by the opening of the story.

The mystery comes when Peterson, the man who brought the hat as well as a goose to Holmes, returns to Baker Street to tell him that his wife discovered a blue carbuncle within the cavity of the goose as she was preparing to cook it for Christmas dinner.  A carbuncle is a precious gem, and because blue carbuncles are rare (indeed, the note in the story says that a blue carbuncle has never been discovered and that carbuncles are usually red in color) Holmes recognizes it as the very blue carbuncle that has been reported stolen by an aristocrat.  A man has already been arrested and held over for trial as the suspected thief, but with this new development Holmes begins to think that the man may indeed be innocent.  So the game is on to trace the goose back to the actual thief.

I actually enjoyed this story.  It was one of my favorites thus far in this collection.  I also found two great lines spoken by Holmes: “I am somewhat of a foul fancier, and I have seldom seen a better goose” and “My name is Sherlock Holmes.  It is my business to know what other people don’t know.” I feel like both of these are just classic Sherlock Holmes lines and I can imagine Benedict Cumberbatch uttering them.  The choice Holmes makes at the end about the fate of the actual thief is an interesting one in that it is Holmes obstructing justice for what he thinks is the greater good, and of course Watson’s agreement makes the reader think that what Holmes has done is ultimately the correct choice.

“The Adventure of the Speckled Band”

Something interesting happens in the first paragraph of this story – Watson says that, at the time he is writing this story, it has been eight years that he has known Sherlock Holmes and that together they have investigated over seventy cases together.  He explains that the case he is going to relate occurred early in his association with Holmes, while they were both still bachelors living at 221B Baker Street.  The client is one Helen Stoner.  She comes to see Sherlock because she fears for her life.  Her twin sister, Julia, died under somewhat mysterious circumstances two years before, just a couple of weeks before her marriage.  Now Helen is engaged to be married, and little things that have been happening in her home have raised alarm bells in her mind.  Miss Stoner explains to Sherlock that she lives with her stepfather, Dr. Grimesby Roylott (what a name!), and through Sherlock’s deductions it is revealed that Roylott is a cruel and abusive man.  Indeed, no one in the neighborhood where they live actually like Dr. Roylott.  Holmes agrees to take her case, and then he says something funny to Watson.  As they prepare to make the journey out of London to Surrey, Holmes makes sure that Watson will be bringing along his revolver and tells him that the only other thing they will need is a toothbrush. A revolver and a toothbrush.  Seriously?

One of the other things that I found interesting about this story is that (a) it delves a bit more deeply into motive—why does someone want Miss Stoner dead, and why would they have wanted her twin dead as well?  This doesn’t usually come up so strongly in the Holmes stories; and (b) Watson repeats a couple of times that Holmes works for the love of his art rather than the acquirement of wealth.  I think that that is such a wonderful statement to break down.  Holmes was able to work for the love of his art because he was already independently wealthy, and there is nobility in doing exactly that; and yet, most of us have the business of daily living and at best we look for ways to combine doing what we love for a paycheck.  Still, that sentiment recalls back to me the idyllic, and perhaps overly simplistic ideas about work and art.  It also reminds us just how singular Sherlock was, and how all of his eccentricities and peculiarities served to set him apart from the typical man.  I’ve noticed that a lot more now that I’m reading these stories a bit closer together (I’ve been reading before going to bed each night).  Doyle is definitely putting in characteristics and qualities of Holmes that make him not only unusual, but one of a kind.

**The first five stories of this collection, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” “The Red-headed League,” “A Case of Identity,” “The Boscombe Valley Mystery,” and “The Five Orange Pips” have already been written about elsewhere, so they won’t appear here.

review: the quickening maze

The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds (2009)

The Quickening Maze belongs to the genre of historical fiction.  It takes actual events in the lives of its three primary characters—English poets John Clare and Alfred, Lord Tennyson and medical doctor Matthew Allen—and fictionalizes those events.  According to the back cover and the acknowledgements, the events in the novel are historically accurate.

But my first task is to summarize what the novel is about. Tennyson and his brother, Septimus, arrive in the community where Dr. Matthew Allen runs an asylum, in which John Clare is institutionalized.  Septimus is to be a patient of Allen’s and committed to the asylum, and Tennyson is there to…well, it seems that he is there to be near his brother as well as write some poetry.  This is a young Tennyson who has yet to receive literary achievement, notoriety, or the position of Poet Laureate of England.  It is six years after the death of his close friend, Arthur Hallam, and the narrative suggests that Tennyson’s time in Allen’s community, his acute grief and remembrance of Arthur, and the setting may have inspired him to write Idylls of the King.  Dr. Allen and Tennyson become friends, but Allen’s great desire is to leave behind the work of the director of an asylum and embark upon some new adventure that will make him a fortune.  He finally hits upon this adventure—he will create a machine that will enable mass production of furniture made by master craftsmen that can be sold at a fraction of the cost.  Upon designing this scheme, Allen sinks his entire life savings into the venture and also secures funding from Tennyson and his family, whose investments come from an inheritance left to them by their father.  He also secures a whole host of other investment capital (indeed, Allen is a kind of charismatic, Victorian venture capitalist). As Allen becomes more and more engaged with this business scheme, the daily running of the asylum is given to a man named Stockdale, a kind of foreman, Allen’s son, Fulton, and his wife, Eliza.  Needless to say, a series of horrors and atrocities are perpetrated within the asylum upon the patients, unbeknownst to Allen. Running parallel to this story is that of John Clare, “the peasant poet” who is slowly descending more deeply into insanity even as he longs for his freedom from the institution.  Parallel to that is the story of Allen’s daughter, Hannah, who imagines herself to be in love with Tennyson and tries to secure his affections and a marriage proposal, but a relationship between them fails to materialize.

If my summary of the novel seems to be a bit disjointed, that’s because the novel itself, at least in my opinion, is disjointed and wandering.  Part of this is a function of the narrative style, which is admittedly my least favorite. The narrative jumps from the interiority of one character to another and then another, most often taking the form of interior monologue, where we get to hear the thoughts and opinions of the character whose mind we are in at that moment.  Anyone who has read A Game of Thrones understands what I mean (though The Quickening Maze doesn’t offer the clarity of separating these transitions into chapters and identifying the name of the character who is narrating that chapter).  It appears to me that the reason Foulds has chosen to implement this narrative style is so that he can tell multiple narratives from multiple perspectives (if I were characterizing him for my students, I’d call his style postmodernist in nature). Thus the novel has many different threads—Dr. Allen’s business scheme, Tennyson’s grief and his struggle to write, John Clare’s struggle with sanity and his desire for escape, Hannah’s pursuit of Tennyson, and other threads I haven’t mentioned her for brevity.  This is what makes the novel problematic for me—there are too many different threads and I didn’t feel invested in any of them.  Additionally, the multi-perspectival narrative style prohibits me from feeling any attachment or identification with any of the characters.  In fact, I found myself turning the pages so that I could get to the end, not because I was especially interested in the ending, in any of the characters, or how their lives turned out.  I think the multi-perspectival narrative style can work (such as in Last Orders by Graham Swift) but it has to be handled well, and it isn’t handled well here.  There’s too much distance between the reader and the characters.  My thought is that this novel would have improved exponentially if there had been one unifying, omnipotent, third-person narrator.

Another complaint that I have about the novel is all of the multiple references to defecation.  Okay, I get it—the author wanted the novel to be realistic in nature, and perhaps these moments were intended to be comic relief, but I didn’t find them at all amusing, and they didn’t add anything to the narrative.  I like to think of myself as a fairly open-minded reader and I’m not a prudish or snobbish reader, but after the third, fourth…eighth seemingly pointless reference, I really had had enough.

The thing is, I really wanted to like this book, and I try to find one good thing to say about every book I review.  This book has been on my to-read list for quite awhile.  The idea—fictionalizing a moment in the life of Alfred, Lord Tennyson—I thought was a brilliant one.  The execution, though, was seriously lacking, and none of my expectations were met.  As I kept reading, I kept hoping that the end of the novel would redeem itself, but instead it became more and more predictable, and more and more disappointing.  The lack of tension and conflict between characters and within the plot made for an uninteresting read.  In the end, I’m left wondering how The Quickening Maze made it to the Shortlist for the Booker Prize. If the novel is on your to-read list, might I suggest skipping it and moving on to something else.

review: the woman in black

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1983)

The Woman in Black is the story of Arthur Kipps, an English solicitor.  The narrative opens with Kipps as a man of about fifty years of age enjoying Christmas Eve with his wife and children.  As the evening unfolds, the children begin telling ghost stories, and eventually they ask Kipps to tell a story of his own.  Kipps, who has been listening to the stories with increasing tension, abruptly rises and says he has no story to tell and flees from the room.  Once outside and alone, Kipps reflects on his behavior, and reveals that he does in fact have a ghost story of his own to tell, but in his mind it is all too real and chilling to be told for the light amusement of an audience.  Kipps’ narration reveals that his experience with ghosts and the supernatural still affect him, and in order to finally free himself from the past, he decides to write down his story with the caveat that it will not be read until after his death.  Thus ends the opening frame of the narrative.

In the next frame, Kipps takes us back to when he was a young solicitor at the age of twenty-three.  His employer sends him to be the law firm’s representative at the funeral of one of their clients, Mrs. Alice Drablow.  Along with attending the funeral, it is Kipps’ task to go through Mrs. Drablow’s personal papers and return to London with anything necessary to close her estate.  Upon arriving in Crythin Gifford and visiting Mrs. Drablow’s home, Eel Marsh House, Kipps becomes aware of a secret that everyone else knows but refuses to reveal to him.  Determined to uncover the secrets surrounding Eel Marsh House, Kipps insists upon spending more and more time at the house in spite of his fears and the warnings of everyone in Crythin Gifford.  In the end, Kipps does find answers to the questions revolving around the supernatural events that take place in the area and the apparition of the woman in black, and yet the cost of this knowledge that Kipps must pay is a heavy and painful one.

I picked up The Woman in Black because, like A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, I am considering teaching this novel in a class next Spring that takes as its theme “from page to screen”.  There are lot of things about this novel that a group of readers would find interesting to talk about.  First and foremost, there is Kipps himself.  The novel is written in first-person, and it is also written through the distance of time, so that Kipps has had plenty of time to reflect upon his experiences.  However, that also means that perhaps he has forgotten, mis-remembered, or reshaped his memories, and so the reliability of the narrator has to come into question.  Hill encourages the reader to believe Kipps’ story by drawing him as someone who is rational and relies upon reason and evidence.  Indeed, his occupation as a lawyer only further underscores the kind of mind Kipps brings to Crythin Gifford and Eel Marsh House.  Kipps says from the beginning that he does not believe in ghosts, and yet as the narrative progresses, he changes his mind, seeing no other reasonable explanation for what has been happening to him.

Another noteworthy aspect of the novel is its pacing and how Hill builds suspense and terror.  I read somewhere that this novel is written in the style of the classic English ghost story and I would agree with that statement.  It’s what cannot be seen, the noises and occurrences that cannot be explained, the overall atmosphere of Crythin Gifford and Eel Marsh House with its “frets” and fogs and sudden falling darkness that produce a sense of fear and unnerves Kipps, resulting in uncertainty over what will happen next.  Suspense is generated by the way Kipps is kept in the dark about the truth concerning the woman in black, why she haunts Eel Marsh House, and what her connection is to Alice Drablow.  Kipps’ efforts to solve the mystery take time, and as readers we are waiting for him to solve the puzzle and thus continue to turn the page.  This being said, I think that 21st century American readers who have grown up with graphic violence and gore in their horror movies will find this novel considerably tame and may question the description of the story as a “chilling ghost story”.  This novel is much more about psychological terror.

I have mixed feelings about this novel.  On the one hand, I figured out much of the mystery well before it was unveiled to the reader, and so I don’t feel like the story was all that suspenseful.  I kept waiting for Kipps to figure it all out.  Then again, I didn’t figure out the whole story, so there was a bit of a surprise for me at the end of the novel.  On the other hand, I can appreciate this novel as a classic English ghost story. I think the novel would have been called a “shilling shocker” in Victorian England, and I enjoyed all of the literary references.  I’ve read that this novel has been adapted for the theatre, and that it has run on the London stage for more than twenty years.  This makes me wonder if it has been changed to make the story more…suspenseful?  I appreciate that this novel isn’t like every other novel–yes, there’s a mystery at its core, but it’s still distinguishable from other ghost stories.  The problem, I think, is that my expectations, based upon the synopsis on the back cover, weren’t really met.  I don’t think this is the fault of the novel.  I just think that I didn’t get what I was expecting.  What I got was a good story, but not a great story.

review: a man called jones

A Man Called Jones by Julian Symons (1947)

This novel features Julian Symons’ Inspector Bland of Scotland Yard.  It is the second novel in which Inspector Bland appears (the first being The Immaterial Murder Case).  These are the only two novels I have read by Symons but my impression so far is that they do not have to be read in order.  The plot of the novel revolves around solving the murder of Lionel Hargreaves, son of Edward “EH” Hargreaves, owner of the Hargreaves Advertising Agency.  The murder occurs during a 25th anniversary/birthday celebration for the agency that is being held at the Hargreaves home. Upon discovering the body of his son, EH calls in Scotland Yard. Enter Inspector Bland, and the search for a murderer begins.

A Man Called Jones is a prime example of classic, golden age detective fiction, and it starts with Inspector Bland himself.  His last name, as you would expect, is a signal of his demeanor, his personality, and his general disposition.  Thus, when his behavior is anything but bland, the reader knows that she should sit up and take notice.  Like the figure of other “Great Detectives” in golden age detective fiction, Bland does have a handful of mannerisms that make him unique and singular, most noticeably the way that he holds the tip of his pencil against his teeth while in thought.  The thing about Inspector Bland is that he is indeed bland, and so although he is the central character in the novel, he’s also a difficult character to become invested in. He’s not offensive, but he’s also not as fully drawn or developed like other Great Detectives of the tradition, such as Hercule Poirot.

Other conventions of the genre are present in the novel—a somewhat isolated or limited access setting for the murder, a closed circle of suspects, and a full statement of the case to all interested parties after the murderer has been caught.  At the end of the novel, order is restored and justice has been served, and all of the characters are free to go back to their lives without further delay or concern.  The murder plot is a puzzle for the reader, and though I felt that I knew who the murderer was before it was revealed, I’m not sure that I would say all of the clues were laid out for me.  One thing I have noticed Symons does in both of the novels that I have read is that he has Bland select a confidante/helper from the pool of suspects.  Both times it has been someone that Bland knows, and both times it has been someone that can give Bland inside access to the group of suspects.  I don’t know if this happens in all of the Inspector Bland novels, but it’s different and something that gives these novels a kind of trademark that readers can come to expect.  In a hardboiled detective novel the reader would expect this confidante/helper to betray the detective but in Symons world, it seems that the confidante/helper is above suspicion and trustworthy.  Indeed, in this novel, Bland refers to his helper as his Watson, à la Sherlock Holmes.

In general, I am a fan of detective fiction and I enjoy defending it against charges of being formulaic and mere “brain candy” instead of “important” literature.  Not all literature needs to be important in my opinion and reading should be a pleasure, not a torment.  Still, I can see why detective fiction has these charges leveled against it, and this particular novel displays much of the ammunition used by critics who accuse the genre of being subpar.  While I was interested in discovering who had killed Lionel Hargreaves, I wasn’t really all that engaged with the story, and the characters weren’t all that interesting to me.  They felt like stock, flat characters who occupied the world of the novel in order to serve a purpose.  The reason why the Poirot novels escape this criticism, at least for me, is that at least the Belgian detective is interesting and commands my attention.  I can’t say the same for Bland.  If it was Symons’ intention to create a bland Great Detective who is different from Holmes, Marple, and Poirot, he certainly succeeded.  The consequence, though, is a character that I don’t really care about.  Still another criticism of golden age detective fiction is that it’s completely consumable and then forgettable, and though I think this criticism is unfair, I have to admit that A Man Called Jones is a totally forgettable read for me.  I consumed it, and after writing this review, I’m going to forget it.  Finally, as I’m sure I have demonstrated so far in the books that I review on my blog, I am a big fan of serialized fiction.  I love seeing characters develop and evolve as the series progresses.  However, I’m adamant that the primary characters do show development and evolution, and I also expect that with each new installment the author will pull me so deeply into the world and characters he or she has created that once I get to the last page, I’ll want to pick up the next installment.  Unfortunately, with these Inspector Bland novels, that’s not the case.

If you like golden age detective fiction and haven’t sampled anything by Julian Symons, you might give this novel a try.  Inspector Bland might be more to your liking than mine.  In the final analysis, though, I wouldn’t recommend adding this book to your to-be-read list.