Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Title: The Diviners

Author: Libba Bray

Series: The Diviners

Rating: 5 stars

Review:

It was only meant to be a harmless brag, a little showing off at a party after she had a few drinks too many. But when Evie O’Neill proves to everyone that she has a psychic power – the ability to see a person’s memories by holding an object of theirs – she lands in one hell of a mess. Accidentally accusing the son of a wealthy and powerful family of knocking up a maid means Evie better skip town for a while, until the heat dies down. She is thrilled when her parents suggests that she stay with her uncle Will in fabulous New York City, and just knows that this will be her chance to find her way to stardom. Even if it does mean working at Will’s freaky museum, dedicated to the Supernatural and the Occult.

But a string of ritualistic murders leaves the city in terror, the police ask Will to help and Evie is determined to tag along. With her and Jericho – Will’s quiet but strong assistant – to help, Evie knows that not only will they stop the killer, but that she is sure to end up on the front page. That’s if she can stay alive first…

I will confess that I haven’t read many fantasy or Young Adult books set in the 1920’s (in fact, none others come to mind), but after finishing The Diviners this is something I strive to change, in the hopes that they are as good as Libba Bray’s wonderful book. The Diviners is a somewhat deceptive book, in that it starts in a fairly mild manner: the focus is on Evie and her hopes and dreams as she moves to New York. We are shown the paranormal talent that Evie possesses in being able to read a person’s history from a beloved item as way of explanation as to what trouble she caused that ended up with her having to hide out in New York until things calmed down at home, but this is almost forgotten about in nearly the first half of the book. Never fear though, for instead we are treaded to the gilts and glamour of the Big Apple. The level of descriptions and detail in this book is amazing – clearly there has been a lot of research put into it – and I believe it all pays off big time. As the story progresses tension grows as a serial killer attacks taking pieces of his victims and leaving behind pieces of scriptures about ‘offerings’, the whole book becoming decidedly creepier and brilliantly scary. We also get glimpses of other people with talents similar to Evie’s, teasing hints of bigger things out there in the world of this story, which sadly won’t be further explored until the rest of the series.

The other great thing about The Diviners is the number of varied and complex character there are. No-one is 2D in this story, and some you might at first dismiss as ‘shallow’ or ‘ignorant’ but when you learn about their past, you see them in a whole new life, and can’t help but love them. One of the most moving back stories for me was that of Thata, who may seem a stereotypical flapper at first but who has a past so dark it’s like a punch to the gut to read (but then again, some of the best writing is like that). I also loved the budding romance between her and Memphis, which was just plain sweet. It is also a great example of a romance that has instant attraction and chemistry but is definitely not the dreaded intsa-love. Instead, it’s a slow but powerful burn that just makes you happy for both characters. Evie herself is testament to Libba Bray’s excellent writing. She starts off as a bit of a brat: she got into a lot of trouble by getting very drunk and showing of her special talent, but clearly hasn’t learnt her lesson as she continues to drink, and is always dying to be the centre of attention. But as we read, Evie grows, slowly but surely. We see her naivety as she is pick-pocketed virtually the moment she steps of the train into New York. We she her brave spirit as she confronts the thief a few days later. We see her kindness and love for her friends and her uncle as she adjusts to life in the city, helping to get her uncle’s museum more business (albeit in her own misguided way), tries to break her best friend Mabel out of her shell and out of her mother’s shadow, and adopts Thata into their friendship straight away. Evie reviles herself to be a much more complex character, and although we don’t get a full backstory from her, the pieces we see are just as heart-wrentching as all the others, and her need to be in the spotlight (her need to be loved) becomes clear. She is definitely a character that grows on you, without changing who she is.

My only (very minor) criticism of this book is that the narration has a tendency to jump from character to character within the same scene, sometimes even within the same paragraph. This can make it hard to keep track of who’s POV we are following. In particular it made Thata and Memphis’ first meeting a little confusing as the text refers to Thata by name but it’s only at the end of the scene Memphis actually learns her name.

Bottom line, I loved this book. And so begins the long arduous wait for the sequel.

5 stars.

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Book Review: Insomnia by J.R. Johansson

Title: Insomnia

Author: J. R. Johansson

Series: The Night Walkers

Rating: 3.5 stars

Review:

(Mild spoilers)

If you thought high school was tiring, trying being Parker Chipp. For the last four years he has not slept. Instead every time he closes his eyes at night he gets pulled into the dreams of the last person he made eye contact with. He’s seen it all:  the chilling nightmares, the boring snippets of everyday life, the random craziness that make no sense. He’s done all he can to search for an answer, but how can he ask for help without people thinking he has lost his mind? He asks his family doctor what happens to someone without sleep, and gets the answer he was expecting. If Parker can’t find a cure soon, he will die.

Then Parker meets Mia, new girl at school and foster sister of Parker’s football coach. In her dreams Parker feels a peace he can barely remember and he can finally, finally, sleep. He starts making excuses to see her, waiting for her after class, ‘accidentally’ bumping into after school, needing to make eye contact with her, knowing that she is the only one who will save his life. But Mia doesn’t understand, she thinks Parker has a crush on her and tries to let him down gently. But she doesn’t understand, Parker needs her. When someone starts sending threatening emails, Mia thinks that Parker is stalking her and begins to have nightmares about him hunting her down. How can Parker stop these threats, and prove that it isn’t him, all whilst still making eye contact with her at the end of every night? And how can he be sure that he isn’t the one making the threats?

Before I began Insomnia I read a couple of reviews comparing this book to Wake by Lisa McMann, which also has the ‘people watching the dreams of other’s’ plot line. From what I can tell, most people who read Wake first feel that the set up for Insomnia was too similar. However, I have yet to read Wake so I was able to enjoy this book without any unconscious comparisons. I was intrigued by the idea of someone being caught in the dreams of another, and felt these scenes were some of the strongest parts of the book. The nightmares of Mia being hunted and beaten by Parker and a woman who is being abused by her husband are both excellently written and pretty terrifying. J. R. Johansson knows how to write horror: the best bit of Insomnia is when Parker discovers he’s been doing things he can’t remember, beginning to feel he can’t trust himself and you realise he has actually been an unreliable narrator. From the start of the book, we are told that Parker’s condition will lead to him losing his mind then dying, and seeing those cracks in his psyche is quite creepy and very gripping.

On the other hand, it’s such a shame that a book pitched as a paranormal thriller becomes just a regular thriller. Despite Parker’s dream watching is such a huge part of the story, it doesn’t really affect the plot – you could take it out and still have the core story (Mia’s stalker and Parker being framed) almost completely unaffected. Also, the first chapter features the dream/memory of the school caretaker killing a woman. It’s a great beginning, captivating and creepy but it’s never mentioned again. Was it just a dream? Did the caretaker actually kill his wife? And if he did, why didn’t Parker try to do anything about it? In fact, the biggest problem about this book is the unanswered questions. Why can Parker watch other people’s dreams? Did his father also have this curse? Is that why he left? Is there a cure to the curse? It’s implied that all these questions will be answered in the next book, as though the main plot is finished, it ends on quite a big cliffhanger about Parker and his curse. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the next book will focus more on the paranormal elements.

3.5 stars.

Book Review: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

17286817Title: Conjured

Author: Sarah Beth Durst

Rating: 4 stars

Review:

Her name is Eve now – not that she knows what it used to be. In fact, all Eve really knows is what Agent Malcolm has told her: that she’s in a witness protection program and has undergone multiple surgeries to change her appearance, to hide her from a serial killer. She must pretend to be a normal teenager, living a normal life, and hope that her memories return so she can help catch the monster who’s after her.

But it’s hard to know what ‘normal’ is when you can do magic that causes you to black out and have visions of hauntingly creepy carnivals and people with antlers or snake scales. Between the agents of WitSec who keep relentlessly pushing her to remember more, a trio of non-human teens who can also do magic, and an alluring boy who works with her at the library, who can use her magic when they kiss, who can really be believed? Eve must learn who to trust when she can’t even trust herself.

I have only read one other book by Sarah Beth Durst (the beautifully written desert fantasy Vessel), but already she is fast becoming a favourite author. The imagery she uses and the amazing ideas are what has hooked me to these books, and I’m eagerly waiting for more of her work. Though Conjured is a stand alone novel, I would love to see more of this world – or more accurately, worlds – as the brief glimpses of the worlds Eve and Zach jump through towards the end of the book were fascinating, and would have made a great setting for another book. The carnival setting itself was also beautifully done, in a creepy but captivating way, and Eve’s visions of her time with the Magician were easily the best part.

Conjured is a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Between Eve having no memories of who she is and what has happened to her, not knowing who to trust with everyone telling her to trust them and not the others, and randomly losing weeks or even months of her life, neither Eve nor the reader has any idea what exactly will happen next. The only downside of this is that some of the best scenes, when the carnival is revealed and we finally meet the Magician himself, are left until right at the end. Also, I wasn’t completely sold on the character of Zach, and thus his romance with Eve. When he’s first introduced, he talks way too much about random knowledge he has, which seems a little to much like showing off, then without warning tells Eve there’s no way they can ever “just be friends” and that he wants to kiss her. Creepy, much? Yet, when Eve meets him again, after she has lost some weeks of her memory, he’s suddenly shy. Though his character improves and becomes more likeable, Zach is just too inconsistent in the beginning and not fully fleshed out, leaving the romance a little bit forced.

Despite this minor hiccup, Conjured is an awesome book that comes highly recommended, and I can only hope for more in this world.

4 stars.

Book Review: Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

16078584Title: Broken Homes

Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Series: Peter Grant #4

Rating: 3.5 stars

Review:

(Contains spoilers.)

A car crash that kills a man who seems to have just murdered a woman with a shotgun to the face. The sudden and unexpected suicide of a man who seems to being controlled by magic. A man who has bust into flames from the inside out. All connected to a stolen rare book on magic. It’s just another day in the life of Peter Grant: police officer and wizard apprentice.

Peter’s investigations lead him to a tower block of flats in Elephant and Castle called Skygarden. Built by a German man as a way to enhance magic through the human activity happening within, Nightingale believes that the Faceless Man is up to something sinister here. Soon the tower block becomes a new home for Peter and Lesley, who go under cover to meet the residents and hunt out who is working for the Faceless Man. But danger lurks around every corner, and Peter soon discovers that no-one can be trusted.

The Peter Grant series is an odd one, and though I have enjoyed all the books (this one included) I can’t help but find problems. First the positives: there are so many great ideas in these books. River Gods, wizards in the police force, a magic sensing dog, Inspector Nightingale a wizard who doesn’t age and helped fight in WWII, and the series villain known as the Faceless Man. The police investigation side is very detailed and practical – if Ben Aaronovitch has never been a policeman then he must know someone in the force, as these are probably the most realistic books about policing I’ve ever read. In Broken Homes the plot is pretty captivating, new fascinating characters are introduced, and certain events at the end are complete game changers which mean the next book is going to be very interesting.

However, there were some problems. Broken Homes is pretty slow at the beginning, with what seems like random murders and cases being investigated. It takes a while before we even see Skygarden and the Faceless Man’s name is mentioned, and feels like Peter is moving aimlessly throughout the first 100 or so pages. It does pick up about half way through, but there doesn’t seem to be a great sense of urgency, not even in the climax where the action really picks up. The biggest problem though is the character of Lesley. Throughout the book I couldn’t help wondering why she doesn’t have a bigger emotional reaction to the events around her. I don’t mean to say as a woman she should be emotional, but it feels like we are only ever told her actions, not her thoughts. Especially after all she has gone through, and the damage to her face – at one point she is chasing a suspect and accidentally leaves her mask behind, and only realises when she is caught in the middle of a crowd, complete with people videoing her. But her reaction is never shown, she just swears, leaves with Peter and the scene moves on. When she reveals that she’s sleeping with a petty thief who helps the police called Zach, we have no idea what exactly their relationship is – is it a real romance? Just a bit of fun? A way to vent her frustration at the world? The discovery that Lesley is in fact working with the Faceless Man seems  put in more for shock value more than anything else. Peter assumes that it’s to get her face back, but it could be anything since she never talks about her thoughts. Are these problems because she’s meant to be a closed off character, or is Peter just too selfish to notice the woman he’s meant to be friends with is struggling? It seems that Peter is a fairly self involved character, not just with Lesley, but with Nightingale and other characters like the River Gods.

Despite these problems, I will being reading the next book, but I know that it will be the one that makes or breaks this series. I have my hopes but, realistically, I know the only way to save it is to get inside Lesley’s head more, and have Peter realise how selfish he has been.

3.5 stars.

August New Releases

(Sorry this a week later than normal, but again work and real life gets in the way. This shouldn’t be too much of an issue now, so (hopefully!) it’ll be regularly scheduled post as normal. Thanks for understanding.)

There is nothing more exciting than the release of an amazing sounding book. I for one love the whole process of book releases: the slow reveal of the title, the cover, the synopsis, extracts and teasers, and then, finally, the publication day. So here is my personal list of books I’m looking forward to this month with their UK release dates.

Books I can’t wait for:
The Glass Republic (The Skyscraper Throne #2) by Tom Pollock – 1st August
16045366Description:
Pen’s life is all about secrets: the secret of the city’s spirits, deities and monsters her best friend Beth discovered, living just beyond the notice of modern Londoners; the secret of how she got the intricate scars that disfigure her so cruelly – and the most closely guarded secret of all: Parva, her mirror-sister, forged from her reflections in a school bathroom mirror. Pen’s reflected twin is the only girl who really understands her.

Then Parva is abducted and Pen makes a terrible bargain for the means to track her down. In London-Under-Glass looks are currency, and Pen’s scars make her a rare and valuable commodity. But some in the reflected city will do anything to keep Pen from the secret of what happened to the sister who shared her face.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke – 15th August
12930909Description:

You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery…who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block – 27th August
16059426
Description:

Seventeen-year-old Penelope (Pen) has lost everything—her home, her parents, and her ten-year-old brother. Like a female Odysseus in search of home, she navigates a dark world full of strange creatures, gathers companions and loses them, finds love and loses it, and faces her mortal enemy.

In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.

The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns #3) by Rae Carson
e063ea1a7d7e6305597d285e7ad8434cDescription:

The epic conclusion to Rae Carson’s Fire and Thorns trilogy. The seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.

Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she’s never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion-a champion to those who have hated her most.

Books that have caught my eye:
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon – 20th Aug
13636400Description:

t is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine—a young woman learning to harness her powers in a world where everything has been taken from her. It also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut.

Awoken by Timothy Miller – 13th August
16064647Description:

Fourteen-year-old Michael Stevens has never been ordinary; no orphan who hears music coming from rocks considers himself a typical teenager. But life gets a lot more complicated when two-foot-tall, albino, doll-like men sneak into his room one night, transforming the harmless music into a frightening ability he cannot control.

Soon, strangers in black suits begin to ask unsettling questions while unnatural animals with mismatched eyes haunt the streets. They are hunting, and not just Michael: anyone he cares about is in danger.

With the help of a mysterious drifter, an annoying girl he’s accidentally mutated, and one of those creepy doll men, Michael finds himself in the middle of a war that could forever change the world he knows – reconstructing the very definition of humanity.

That’s my list for August, what about you? What books are you most looking forward to this month?

Early Review: Elysian Fields by Suzanne Johnson

(Apologies for the late review, life just gets in the way sometimes.)

16059404Title: Elysian Fields

Author: Suzanne Johnson

Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #3

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review:

(Spoilers for books one and two.)

Only a few weeks after settling the mermaid feud and losing the closest thing to a mother she’s ever had, all DJ really needs is time to rest and recover. Most certainly not an historical undead serial killer known as the Axeman come back to reek havoc on New Orleans. During the investigations, DJ discovers that he is being controlled by a necromancer, one of her own wizards, and now the Axeman is after her. Trying to survive being hunted by a serial killer is really not being helped by the elves’ interest in her being taken to a new, worrying intensity. It seems like everyone is after a piece of her, and they don’t care how many pieces she breaks into.

The phrase “action-packed” seems too tame to describe Elysian Fields, which is stuffed full of so many great different plots, that all tie off nicely at the end. More happens in this book by the half way point that most others in entire series, and it’s very impressive how Suzanne Johnson fits so much into one book. Watching DJ struggling with everything that happens is quite moving, and shows her strengths as a character. It’s also great to see progress with the romance, which is still no where near a boring “happily ever after” as events in this book will definitely cause further issues and more entertainment. One of the best parts of this book is the extended world building. The Elves’ culture is a very interesting one, their political systems and nature are the cause of a lot of the conflict, and it’s interesting to see where exactly DJ, as both part elf and wizard, fits into this. Many of these issues are left open to be further explored in the next books.

The only real problem with Elysian Fields is that other than DJ herself, there seem to be too few women in this world. Other than her human friend Eugenie who doesn’t know anything about DJ’s world, two elven woman (one who is barely featured before she is killed off in what felt a little too much like a plot device), and a vampire who does nothing but seduce and corrupt a wizard, there are next to no women. Eugenie was the only real positive female secondary character in this book, and it is good to see her taking a bigger and more active role in the story. Men, on the other hand, see to be everywhere – from romantic interests, to friends, colleges, enemies, even to nameless background characters. This just doesn’t reflect real life, and I can’t help but worry that this is a subconscious decision to make DJ look all the more special – she’s the only woman who is not a bitch, a slut, or is naive.

This one issue aside (which was more of a musing after I finished the book), Elysian Fields is a non-stop, action packed book that will keep you captivated throughout.

4.5 stars.

Book Review: River Road by Suzanne Johnson

13539162Title: River Road

Author: Suzanne Johnson

Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #2

Rating: 4 stars

Review:

(Spoilers for book one.)

It’s been three years since Hurricane Katrina blew through New Orleans, and through DJ’s life, but she has come to terms with what happened and is settled with her life working for the Elder wizards along side her close friend and FBI enforcer, Alex. But when, out of the blue, undead pirate Jean Lafitte contacts DJ about conflict between two clans of merpeople and the debt she owes him for saving her life, DJ must investigate before poisoned water spreads and harms the humans of the city. Whilst breaking up fights between the mermen, and judging whether to trust Jean and his advances on her, DJ also has to juggle a werewolf who likes her but may not be able to control himself, her parner Alex who is suddenly acting funny around her, and the elves who want to meet (and probably use) her. Maybe running off to the Beyond with an undead pirate isn’t the worst idea in the world…

River Road picks up three years after the events of Royal Street, and though the time gap may seem a little much, the main characters have , thankfully, not changed. This book is in fact an improvement over the first: the pacing is a lot more even, the events are better connected to each other and don’t feel hastily thrown together (as the last book suffered a little from), and DJ on the whole felt more sure of herself without losing any of her humour, stubbornness, or practical mindedness. She is a character who is not afraid to get her hands dirty or push her limits. Though this is a trait often found in Urban Fantasy heroines, DJ doesn’t fall into the trap of being too headstrong to make rational decisions that end up putting herself in danger. When danger does arise, she uses the backup help Alex offers her, without insisting she doesn’t need him or taking his offer to mean that he thinks she isn’t strong enough.

The world of this series is expanding, be it slowly. River Road heavily featured merpeople, nymphs, and their relation to the human world, but also mentions the River Styx (a place in the Beyond), the fact that the Beyond has links to different time periods, and the elves (who seem to be becoming an increasingly bigger part of DJ’s life as she tries to research her own elven heritage). Once again the Beyond is visited, but only briefly, giving the reader an almost infuriatingly small glimpse of this huge world. As DJ learns more about herself, and discovers yet more ways the Elders are trying to keep wizards from travelling to the Beyond, I can only hope that this means a greater amount of time spent there.

The other big part of this book is the romance, and all the male character are written so well, it’s hard to know who to choose. Though slowly taken, DJ has not one but three romantic interests, each with their own charms and faults. Her partner and friend Alex seems the obvious choice, as the relationship they have is both sweet and funny – in any other series he’d be the only guy to root for. Whilst his cousin Jake also seems sweet, his struggle to control himself since he became a werewolf makes him dangerous, but also sympathetic and vulnerable beneath his tough exterior. Lastly, Jean Laffite is the wild card, both dangerous and attractive. Though he (mostly) behaves in this book, the fact that he not only hurt DJ in book one but actually tried to kill her, makes him unstable and untrustworthy. Had that incident not happened, I would have been a big fan of Jean.

In summery, River Road takes everything that was good in Royal Street and makes it better. Add some more journeying into the Beyond, and the next book may even be a five star read.

4 stars.

July Classic Challenge: A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

“Classic” – a book which people praise and don’t read. – Mark Twain

Welcome to a new monthly feature, where I challenge myself to read a ‘classic’ novel. This is because I, like so many others, haven’t actually read many of the amazing novels that are hailed by many as masterpieces or a defining work of a certain genre.

July’s Classic challenge is a series I, like many, have had my eye on after enjoying many different cinematic retellings. Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous characters in British literature, and with the recent wave of adaptations (including Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes movies and the BBC’s modern day Sherlock, both of which are very entertaining) I decided it was time to read the original story. So we start at the beginning with A Study in Scarlet.

10943536Title: A Study in Scarlet

Author: Arthur Conan Doyle

Publication Date: 1887

Rating: 3.5 stars

Review:

After serving his country in the Afghanistan war, Dr John Watson returns to his beloved London looking for a home. Permanently injured during his service and with little money, John soon realises he’ll need a roommate. By chance, a friend introduces him to the world’s only Consulting Detective, Sherlock Holmes – a man of great intellect and almost terrifyingly accurate observations. Thus begins their many adventures together, starting with the body of a man found in Lauriston Gardens, and the word Rache spelt in blood across the wall. With the police stumped, only Sherlock can solve the puzzle.

Sherlock Holmes is undoubtably the most well known fictional detective in the world, famed for his amazing ability to decipher clues that no-one else can. We are repeatedly told of his genius, through the adoring eyes of Dr John Watson, and the joy of this entire series is the many mysteries and trying to figure out just how Holmes was able to solve them. It is stated by Holmes several times that he is not in fact a genius, but merely able to observe tiny details that other people nearly always miss. The big reveal in A Study in Scarlet shows that it was actually a fairly simple case had the police seen all the details – as Holmes himself says “I’m not going to tell you much more of the case, Doctor. You know a conjurer gets no credit when once he has explained his trick, and if I show you too much of my method of working, you will come to the conclusion that I am a very ordinary individual after all”.  Since the novel is written from Watson’s point of view, we are unable to notice what Holmes sees, as Watson is not an observant man – or at least, not as observant as Sherlock Holmes. The reader of this series comes to idealise Holmes as capable of solving anything because we see him through Watson’s eyes as an impressive genius beyond all doubt.

In terms of characters, both Watson and Holmes felt a little flat, especially Watson, which is odd considering he is the narrator of this novel. Watson spends most of his time marvelling at Holmes’ amazing abilities, and Holmes showing off said abilities. It seems that Conan Doyle wanted the reader to feel the same love for Holmes as Watson does, and what better way than to have the whole story narrated by a admiring (though not mindless) fan? This appears to be one of those issues with knowing the characters more through adaptations that through the source material itself. The relationship, which plays a huge part in practically all the films/TV shows, felt under developed as we were told, rather than shown, that they had become friends. This relationship is almost certainly expanded during the course of the entire series, but in terms of A Study in Scarlet, it seems to be sacrificed in favour of the mystery.

There were a few other surprises, namely that the story changes in both scenery and characters in the second half, to explain the mystery, and that the author’s political views aren’t exactly subtle1. On the whole, A Study in Scarlet is an enjoyable book, but I can’t help but feel that people’s love of Sherlock Holmes comes both from the entire series and the many different interpretations we have available.

3.5 stars.

1 Conan Doyle seemed to really hates Mormons. I wonder why?