Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye

Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye, 2009 Simon & Schuster hardcover, mystery novel, Sherlock Holmes pastiche, subtitled An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson

Plot Summary:
In a foreword, writing in 1939, the elderly Dr. Watson decides to leave his manuscript account of the Ripper killings to his estate for publication after his death. The account was confidential until then, but Watson feels its important that the true facts be known, since the deceased Sherlock Holmes, for once in his life, was wrong when he predicted that “the world has already forgotten [the Ripper].”

In 1888, Watson is horrified by the news of Mary Ann Nichols’s murder and mutilation, but Holmes dismisses it as an isolated incident. However, when Annie Chapman is murdered in a similar manner, and Inspector Lestrade asks for help, Holmes is forced to notice the similarities between the two killings, and predicts that more will follow if the killer is not stopped. Investigating the murder scenes in Whitechapel, Holmes and Watson meet Mary Ann Monk, a casual friend of Mary Nichols, who agrees to spy on their behalf. After a few nights, she excitedly claims to have identified the killer, from tavern gossip, as a soldier named Johnny Blackstone, on leave from his regiment.

In spite of their efforts, Holmes, Watson, and the police, are unable to prevent the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes. Holmes interrupts the killer in the process of murdering Stride, and suffers a near-fatal stab wound without being able to catch the man. Worse, newspaper stories suggest that Holmes himself is the killer, based on his proximity to each of the murder scenes. Holmes also receives an anonymous note from the killer, identifying himself as “Jack the Ripper.”

Patient investigation leads Holmes to an elementary solution that horrifies Watson, Monk, and Lestrade: the Ripper is actually a police Constable. Could it be?

My Take:
I had read a small number of this author’s short stories featuring Holmes and Watson, but this is her first novel, and the first I read by her. I found it to be very well written and it kept me turning the pages to what I found to be a satisfying conclusion. Recommended for those who enjoy Sherlock Holmes pastiches.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery | 5 Comments

short stories read

The Golden Anaconda and Other Strange Tales of Adventure by Elmer Brown Mason, introduction by John Locke, [Off-Trail Publications, 2009 trade paper, 269 pages] – pulp reprint –

Five short stories featuring Wandering Smith (from The Popular Magazine) and five more with various heros in various locations.

Officially, Elmer Brown Mason was an entomologist for the United States Government, his beat, the swampy backwaters of the South. Privately, he journed to the dangerous corners of the world in seach of adventure.  For a brief but intense period, his experiences inspired thrilling stories of exploration and wonder.

The ten fascinating—and fantastic—stories collected here are set in the Everglades, the Louisiana bayous, the Amazon jungle, Borneo, and other dangerous placed known to few people of his era. These appeared in The Popular Magazine, this collection features the South American epic, “The Golden Anaconda.”  Also included are five tales from All-Story Weekly, topped by the horror-laden two-part saga, “Black Butterflies” and “Red Tree-Frogs.” All ten stories were published from 1915 to 1916, when the world was much younger than today.

Posted in Adventure, Books & Reading, Short Stories | 12 Comments

National Pie Day!

Sunday, January 23 is National Pie Day! I love pie, and will be having some on this very special day, my favorite, strawberry/rhubarb. I hope you enjoy some pie too!

From the National Pie Day website: Sponsored by the American Pie Council (yes, that’s a real thing!), National Pie Day lets us enjoy one of our favorite desserts guilt-free. After all, we’re celebrating a national holiday!

“While pie exists in some form all over the world, the United States has an inextricable relationship with the flaky dessert. From Don McLean’s epic song “American Pie” to expressions like “as American as apple pie,” our country embraces the pie — apple in particular — as a symbol of national pride.”


One of the oldest prepared foods, pie shows up in written recipes dating back as far as the ancient Romans. The first known pie recipe was for a rye-crusted goat cheese and honey pie. The Romans made pies with a variety of meats, seafood, and fruit, and developed a dense pie similar to cheesecake. At sumptuous Roman feasts, pie played a role in several courses.

Until recently, pie crust was mostly used as a vehicle for filling. Unlike many of today’s luscious, buttery crusts, early pie crusts often didn’t get eaten at all. The crust acted as a container to keep the meat moist and prevent it from burning.

Pies first appeared in England in the 12th century, still mostly filled with meat. The dubious origin of some pie fillings gave rise to jokes and horror stories, almost always untrue. When the Puritans and other English settlers fled for the New World, they took pie with them. But although in current times, no American Thanksgiving table is complete without pumpkin and pecan pies, sweet pies didn’t make an appearance at the so-called “First Thanksgiving” and pumpkin pie didn’t become popular until the 1800s. Today, sweet pies overwhelmingly outsell savory pies, and pumpkin pie is an enduring fixture of the Thanksgiving meal.

Not to be confused with National Pi Day, National Pie Day has nothing to do with math and everything to do with that sweet American treat. Created in the 1970s by Charlie Papazian (who conveniently placed the day on his birthday), National Pie Day encourages us all to take a break with America’s favorite dessert.

So preheat your oven or visit your local bakery, grab a whole pie or a slice, and celebrate the simple, delicious pleasures of good pie. Enjoy!

Posted in At Home in Portland | 23 Comments

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

It’s almost Christmas Day, and here in Portland the weather is cold and rainy, though as I type this we’re getting a sun break. There’s a very slight chance of some snow on Christmas afternoon. Fingers crossed.

Here’s hoping you’re all safe and have a happy Christmas and rest of year!

Posted in Books & Reading | 25 Comments

short stories read

Having finished two collections the previous week, I read a novel and then shifted to these for a change of pace. I finished Renegade Swords, a sword-and-sorcery anthology, then got back to the huge Thinking Machine collection, which I’ve been nibbling away on for a long time. I read three more stories this past week which brings me to the halfway point. The third book is a collection of science fiction by E. C. Tubb, who some think is one of the better SF writers in short form.

“People of the Dragon” by Lin Carter from Renegade Swords

“Pillars of Hell” by Lin Carter from Renegade Swords

“The Rune-Sword of Jotunheim” by Glenn Rahman and Richard Tierney from Renegade Swords

“The Princess of Chaos”  by Bryce Walton from Renegade Swords

note: Renegade Swords isn’t bad, but is probably best for the dedicated s&s fan.

“Problem of the Interrupted Wireless” from The Thinking Machine – the ship’s radio operator is murdered, but what is the motive?

“The Mystery of the Golden Dagger” from The Thinking Machine – a novelette about a young woman’s murder in a locked, deserted house.

The Problem of the Knotted Cord” from The Thinking Machine – a blind man’s granddaughter is strangled.

“Fallen Angel” by E. C. Tubb from The Best of E. C. Tubb – a robot story

“Death-wish” by E. C. Tubb from The Best of E. C. Tubb – massive interstellar fleets fight a seemingly unwinable war in space

note: I may need to skip my short story post next week as I’m trying to read a couple of novels, so don’t be surprised.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Short Stories | 9 Comments

reading short stories – Nov 24, 2021

It’s Thanksgiving week!

I finished the Maigret stories by Georges Simenon, started a collection by Patricia Highsmith, and I’ll get back to the Andrea Camilleri later. 

“The Man On the Streets” by Georges Simenon, from Death Threats and Other Stories – Maigret trails a man suspected of committing murder, though there is no hard evidence. Day and night the two men, the suspect aware he’s being tailed, move through the Paris streets, waiting, but for what? An unusual story.

“Candle Auction” by by Georges Simenon, from Death Threats and Other Stories – A cash auction for a small farm holding is to take place, several bidders have large amounts of cash with which to bid, and one is murdered. Maigret must determine which of the persons at the small inn is the killer.

”Death Threats” by Georges Simenon, from Death Threats and Other Stories – In the final story in this collection, the question is from whom, and why?

  • This was a very good collection and it was nice to revisit the more relaxed and analytical world of Chief Inspector Maigret.

“Chorus Girl’s Absolutely Final Performance” by Patricia Highsmith, from The Animal-Lover’s Book of Beastly Murder – sad story of an elephant in a zoo, misunderstood, with a mean handler. 

“Djemal’s Revenge” by Patricia Highsmith, from The Animal-Lover’s Book of Beastly Murder – an owner of a camel takes care of himself first, the animal second. When he fails to win a race, the man, who is at fault, blames the animal, who bites him. The camel is sold, but the camel has his revenge.

“There I Was, Stuck With Bubsy” by Patricia Highsmith, from The Animal-Lover’s Book of Beastly Murder – old Baron had lived with Eddie since he was a pup, but when Eddie died and his new owner neglected him, he wanted nothing more than to go to Marian, whom he loved.

“Ming’s Biggest Prey” by Patricia Highsmith, from The Animal-Lover’s Book of Beastly Murder – when Ming witnesses a theft, he acts.

“In the Dead of Truffle Season” by Patricia Highsmith, from The Animal-Lover’s Book of Beastly Murder – Samson the truffle-snuffling pig was very good, but, perhaps, he liked truffles a bit too much.

“The Bravest Rat in Venice” by Patricia Highsmith, from The Animal-Lover’s Book of Beastly Murder – unpleasant story of a young rat wounded by cruel boys, who later returns for revenge. Nightmarish.

“Engine Horse” by Patricia Highsmith, from The Animal-Lover’s Book of Beastly Murder – a man wants money from his grandmother. When she’s reluctant, he plans an “accident” so she’ll have to sell her beloved farm. Things go badly awry. 

  • note: before starting this collection I knew Patricia Highsmith wrote dark crime novels and stories, but this book was highly praised, so I decided to try it. After reading “Engine Horse” I quit the book. Too dark, cruel and gory. I probably won’t read anything else by this author.
Posted in Anthology, Books & Reading, Mystery, Short Stories | 10 Comments

reading short stories – Nov 17, 2021

I’ve finished Guilty Creatures, continued the Simenon collection and started on a new collection by Andrea Camilleri. You may notice in the cover gallery that the cover images move to the left as I continue and then finish a book. 

“The Man Who Hated Earthworms” (1921) by Edgar Wallace from Guilty Creatures – a scientist spent a decade working on a formula to kill, all for revenge.

“The Courtyard of the Fly” (1935) by Vincent Cornier from Guilty Creatures – a fabulously valuable pearl necklace is carried away by…a fly. But is it?

“The Yellow Slugs” (1935) by H. C. Bailey from Guilty Creatures – a Reggie Fortune story in which it appears a dishonest boy, morally hounded by his fundamentalist step father, tries to drown his little sister. When Fortune visits the children, who have been pulled from the water, he sees them scared, undernourished and self-deprecating. But, what’s really going on? The elderly lodger at the children’s shabby house has disappeared. Chilling.

“Pit of Screams” (1938 as “Pit of Punishment) by Garnett Radcliffe from Guilty Creatures – a story told, “Once when I was in India…” about a cruel Raj, an innocent clerk, a pit of vipers.

“Hanging By A Hair” (1950) by Clifford Witting from Guilty Creatures – the author’s only published short story. Cat hair, it can get everywhere, even into a murder investigation.

“The Man Who Shot Birds” (1954) by Mary Fitt (Kathleen Freeman) from Guilty Creatures – the robbery of a valuable diamond pin, an inquisitive medical student and a half-tame Jackdaw combine in this simple story. Shiny things…

“Death In A Cage” (1958) by Josephine Bell (Doris Bell Collier) from Guilty Creatures – a baby gorilla is stolen from the zoo on the same night a tramp is killed. I found the motive for the crimes unconvincing.

“The Man Who Loved Animals” (1965) by Penelope Wallace from Guilty Creatures – a wonderful old man is cruelly fooled. Good story but I didn’t like what happened in it.

“The Hornet’s Nest” (1967) by Christianna Brand from Guilty Creatures I’d read this one before. The hornets are used only a referencery way. The story is about a cruel man, his new young bride and a death at the wedding reception. Inspector Cockerill is on the job.

    • A note on Guilty Creatures anthology: I liked this one very much, and can recommend it. Edwards’ single page introductions to each story add a lot.

“The Men at the Grande Café” (1940) by Georges Simenon, from Death Threats and Other Stories – Retired Inspector Maigret plays cards with the same men each afternoon. When one of them is killed, everyone expects him to solve the murder, but he doesn’t want to get involved.

“Room Number 2” by Andrea Camilleri, from Death At Sea: Mantalbano’s Early Cases – an hotel fire is likely to be arson, but what is the motive?

“Double Investigation” by Andrea Camilleri, from Death At Sea: Mantalbano’s Early Cases – A rich woman, known to be carrying a large sum, disappears, apparently kidnapped. But no ransom is asked, and Inspector Mantalbano has more than one possible suspect in mind.

“Death At Sea” by Andrea Camilleri, from Death At Sea: Mantalbano’s Early Cases – an accidental shooting on a fishing trawler reveals a possible smuggling plot.


Posted in Anthology, Books & Reading, Mystery, Short Stories | 7 Comments

reading short stories – Nov 10, 2021

This week I’ve been reading from two anthologies and a collection:

 “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane” by Arthur Conan Doyle from Guilty Creatures – Sherlock Holmes is asked to discover the killer, by scourge or whip, of a local Sussex teacher. This is the final Holmes story Doyle wrote.

“The Case of Jannisary” by Arthur Morrison from Guilty Creatures – A case of a murder, a crooked bookie and an inquiry agent. Morrison’s usual stiff style, but a good story.

“The Sapient Monkey” by Headon Hill (Francis Edward Grainger) from Guilty Creatures – Sebastian Zambra solves a bank robbery when all the evidence points to the wrong man.

“The Green Parakeet” by F. Tennyson Jesse from Guilty Creatures – an odd story about a woman, Solange Fontaine, who can sense evil in persons, and acts when possible to prevent or solve crimes. In this story, a loving couple give their adored adopted child a parakeet, with deadly result.

“The Oracle of the Dog” by G. K. Chesterton, from Guilty Creatures – an impossible murder explained by what the dog did, though the humans misunderstood the facts.

“The Improbable Monsieur Owen” by Georges Simenon from Death Threats And Other Stories – Maigret, retired and on holiday, is called upon to solve a murder in a luxury hotel.

Introduction by Neil Clarke, to The Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 1 edited by Neil Clark. Similar to the state of the genre introductions Gardner Dozois did for his Best Of anthologies, but more concise. (see note, below)

“Today I Am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker from The Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 1 edited by Neil Clark – a medical care android that is able to emulate family members cares for an elderly woman patient. Touching.

“Calved” by Sam J. Miller, from The Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 1 edited by Neil Clark – in a dystopian future, a laborer and his son are victims of their generation gap.

note: The 800 page Best SF anthology wasn’t pleasing me. I read an additional six stories and didn’t like a single one of them. I suspect short SF in the twenty-first century isn’t the SF I grew up loving. So off this goes to the library donation store, along with the volumes for the following three years. I’ll focus my reading on the SF that is more “old style”.


Posted in Anthology, Books & Reading, Mystery, Science Fiction, Short Stories | 14 Comments

niggles & peeves

  1. The anti-vaxers top the list, but not by much. What the hell has happened in America when “you can’t tell me what to do” is more valued than logic, rules, and science, even common sense? Just get vaccinated, people. It’s safe, effective and doesn’t even hurt.
  2. The GOP say “no” to everything (Covid relief, voting rights, infrastructure, climate improvement and the rest), while blaming the Dems for not getting things done. Meanwhile they continue to fawn at the feet of the twice-impeached ex-President and the Big Lie.
  3. Commercials. It’s enough to make a person give up watching television. In a half hour the amount of program content vs. commercials is about 50-50. Bah.
  4. Sports on TV. We watched the World Series. Those big league players sure can spit and grab their crotch. Hitting and throwing are, apparently secondary. In football, it now seems every “color commentator” wants to be the head coach and is proud to tell the audience what should be done by the real, actual head coach. Just call the game, okay?

Fall is here, the heat is gone, we’ve had rain. Thank goodness.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Short Stories | 7 Comments

reading short stories – Nov 3, 2021

Let’s face it, single comic book issues tell a short story, and a series is a set of stories. So this time I have Arrowsmith for you. These are the first six issues of Kurt Busiek’s 2004 magic & war comic, with excellent writing and artwork. There was a second set of issues the following year. Now Busiek has announced he’s going to write another set, a continuation.

The stories, one per issue, all written by Busiek:

“New York” 
“No Man’s Land”

For anyone interested in illustrated storytelling, these really are excellent, as a patriotic young man, clear-eyed, joins an aero-corps and soon faces the realities of war. Set in 1915. At the end of this month a hardcover omnibus of all 12 issues will be published by Image Comics.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Short Stories | 4 Comments