Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Series & Short Stories: Baker Street, Irish County, Victorian Magic & Evil Geniuses

Reviews by Jeanne

Baker Street Translation by Michael Robertson is the third in the “Heath and Heath” series about two brothers who rent offices at 221 B Baker Street in London, and thus fall heir to answering all the letters sent to Sherlock Holmes.  This time around, the brothers find themselves involved with an earnest translator who wants to prove he made no errors, but ends up dead for his troubles, a Texas lawyer who wants to know why his client was told to make a will leaving her vast fortune to Reggie, Reggie’s romantic rival kidnapped, and a whole load of toy ducks. I found the book to be a lot of fun, with some Sherlockian references thrown in.  You don’t have to read all the books in the series, but you might want to read The Brothers of Baker Street before this one just to learn about the romantic triangle.

An Irish Country Wedding by Patrick Taylor continues the story of Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly and his young protégé Dr. Barry Laverty as they minister to the good people of Ballybucklebo in the early 1960s.  In this entry, O’Reilly is planning his wedding to old flame Kitty when his loyal housekeeper, Kinky Kincaid, is stricken with a serious ailment.  In the meantime, there are the usual village problems to be sorted and perhaps the start of a new romance.  I have thoroughly enjoyed all the Irish Country series, which just seems to get better and better.  If you like the stories of Miss Read, James Herriot, or even Alexander McCall Smith, this might be a series for you.  The stories are gentle but there’s a practical, no nonsense feel to them. Some things work out as expected; others don’t. The Irish setting is absolutely delightful, though the author makes sure that it isn’t seen as purely idyllic.  He avoided Irish politics for the most part, but does start to address the question a bit in this book.  Here’s an earlier series review: Irish Country Series

Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terry Wilding is a collection of fantasy stories in a Victorian setting.  As usual with these editors, there’s a strong collection of stories and excellent selection of authors, including Gregory Maguire (Wicked), multiple award winning novelist Tanith Lee, and Ellen Kushner (Thomas the Rhymer.)  A number of the stories feature magical takes on real people such as Queen Victoria and the Brontes, real events (the phosphorous strike) or well-known literary creations (Scrooge and Frankenstein.) If you like the era and enjoy a bit of the fantastical, there’s sure to be something you like in this collection.

On the other hand, if you prefer something more futuristic, try The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination:  Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius edited by John Joseph Adams.  This collection features contributions from authors such as Diana Gabaldon, Naomi Novik, and Harry Turtledove.  The stories range from amusing to tear-inducing, and all are clever.  “Professor Incognito Apologies:  An Itemized List” by Austin Grossman is the sort of story I expected in this collection, but the twists made it memorable.  “The Executor” by Daniel H. Wilson read a bit like one of the old hard-boiled mystery stories, while “The Angel of Death Has A Business Plan” by Heather Lindsley explains that evil geniuses need a coach to get those threats just right.

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