Book Review: ‘Murder in Keswick – A Sherlock Holmes Mystery’ by William Todd

Murder in Keswick: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery by William Todd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Arriving in Keswick for a well-earned rest from sleuthing in the grimy metropolis, Holmes and Watson find the town abuzz with rumours surrounding the murder of a local landlord – much to Watson’s consternation and Holmes’ quiet delight.

The puzzles come thick and fast: Why that particularly effortful means of murder? What about the well-worn left sleeve? And how could such a fate befall a fellow who seemed not to have an enemy in the world?

The characters and prose – with the possible exception of Watson’s too-fulsome admiration of Holmes’ deductive abilities – are true to the original ‘Adventures’, and the landscape and interiors realistically and sympathetically portrayed. Some reviewers have mentioned Americanisms creeping in but a quick bolt down an etymology rabbit-hole reveals it’s perfectly possible that ‘server’ (in a restaurant) and even the dreadful ‘gotten’ were indeed used as words by real people in the nineteenth century when our two languages were less diverged.

The plot and clues of this short novel are well put together such that I, at least, kicked myself (metaphorically!) when ‘all was revealed’ at the end in the classic style.

A touching author’s note completes the read: the author is American, and thanks the people of the online community who have helped him achieve such a true-to-life portrait of the Lake District (disclaimer: I admit I take the place for granted a bit too much – my parents live there!)

The final mystery is – how did this particular book come to be where I found it – namely, abandoned wedged in some railings in York? Somebody either missed a trick or decided to pass-on a good read!




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Book Review: ‘Roadside Attractions’ by Eric Lahti

Roadside Attractions by Eric Lahti

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The story opens with what, under normal circumstances, would be a tragic death – but the victim’s attitude is refreshingly different. Having spent her brief adult life in the margins of Hollywood – as repeated victim of typical Hollywood men, and being driven to drugs as a consequence – she finds in death the blessed release of no longer having to deal with the burdensome liability of a tangible female body.

The cynicism is darkly hilarious. But the characters are still (nearly) all ones you would root for. Even when you find out, at the mid-point, what the most enigmatic one has in mind, you still feel a brief temptation to take their side after all the torment they’ve been put through…

The backdrop, as the two unlikely main protagonists first ply their trade chasing troublesome ghosts from people’s houses and then become drawn ever deeper into an all-encompassing supernatural conflict between evil and, er, even more evil, is reminiscent of ‘American Gods’. But with the difference that here we have realistic (even though mainly supernatural) relatable characters, each with something to fight for, in a well-woven plot. I mean, these characters are so true-to-life that you even catch one of the women grumbling about the inadequate size of jeans pockets.

If you like an all-American road trip with a difference, including atmospheric landscape, crackling magic, and some long-drawn-out and marvellously gruesome fight scenes (immortal characters can sustain so many more injuries than the rest of us) then this is the read for you.



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North York Moors, Saxon church, and sundial

“I want to drag you all out for a walk.”

Nobody reacted.

“There’s a Sundial.”

It also has to be said that the temperature had finally reached the upper realms of single figures, and the weeks-long gruesome wind had died down; so off we all went.

The Moors are heather and peat, and sparsely inhabited. At night, they offer some of England’s darkest skies.

The milestone here was put up in 2000. We sat for a bit of a rest and noticed the lamb near the sheep on the left there wasn’t moving – the sheep kept returning to it hoping for better luck each time. Eventually the lamb got up on shaky legs and started to feed. Life isn’t always easy.

This hole i’th wall was Lastingham’s village well.

Lastingham village.

The land for Lastingham Church was originally consacrated by St Cedd, who also took part in the Synod of Whitby (which, among other things, set out how the date for Easter is calculated.)

Cedd died of the Plague in 664. Of a party of monks who travelled all the way from Essex to mourn him, all bar one met the same fate. What with that and the Saxon crypt, the church is kind-of Metal…

The village, under the moors. Ever noticed how it’s the most recently-built houses in Northern villages that have the best views? The older ones nestle to keep out of the wind – and their inhabitants would probably have had enough of the Great Outdoors by the time the working day comes to an end!

Vintage postbox (Note ‘V : R’ embossed at the top!)

We now come to one of the flatter parts of Yorkshire…

…which led us, finally, to Kirkdale, and the 11th century sundial whose inscription mentions not only Edward (‘the Confessor’) but also Tostig, at that time Earl of Northumbria. Tostig’s later support of Harald Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge contributed to King Harold’s defeat at Hastings in the same year.

In the wake of that battle, and wanting to stamp out any possibility of Northern rebellion, William I sent mercenaries north. They exterminated three quarters of the population here.

Like I said – dark skies.