Monday, April 25, 2016

The Mangle Street Murders

The Mangle Street Murders: A Penny Dreadful Review

            Sidney Grice is a detective even more insufferable and idiosyncratic than Sherlock Holmes. March Middleton is his ward, a strong-minded and compassionate young lady. Sarah Ashby is a woman seemingly murdered by her husband William.
            The Mangle Street Murders, by M. R. C. Kasasian, is an interesting Victorian mystery (I do love Victorian mysteries). The guilty are not exactly punished and the good do not exactly escape unscathed. There is a fascinating and labyrinthine solution to the murder, but all the ends are not as tidily tied of as in a Sherlock Holmes story. It is much messier here, and I find that quite satisfying and very modern.
            I can hardly give further review without spoiling the plot, which is the entire joy of a mystery story. I will say that the reader should be on the lookout for the story-within-a-story of allusions to March Middleton’s past. It is almost as intriguing a mystery as the murder.
            I give The Mangle Street Murders four gears out of five. If you like anti-social genius detectives, you simply cannot miss this book.

Your Correspondent From The Bookstore,

Penny J. Merriweather

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Adventures of Alan Shaw, Volume 1

The Adventures of Alan Shaw: A Penny Dreadful Review

            I do love an exciting adventure story. The plucky hero defeats overwhelming odds and outwits a horrible villain. This sort of dashing tale is close to the heart of Steampunk. There are often deranged plots to foil and airships to clamber aboard. Therefore, Craig Hallam is to be applauded for creating The Adventures of Alan Shaw, Volume 1. If one likes adventure, one will like Alan Shaw.
            Craig Hallam’s exciting book is a collection of novellas detailing a few of the scrapes of young Alan Shaw. Alan Shaw is an orphan escaped from the workhouse and surviving on the streets. He’s clever, resourceful, and a silver-tongued little devil. In his first adventure, he stops a bomber and is adopted by a police constable, whose son Simon teaches him to read. In later chapters, a growing Alan encounters a shadowy organization, gypsies, a mechanical squid, a mad scientist, and a fishing boat. Alan is everything a man of action ought to be.
            Not all of Alan Shaw’s adventures turn out to have happy endings, however. Sometimes the bad guys win, and sometimes the good guys get hurt or killed. Alan doesn’t always have all the answers, and he is maneuvered like a pawn more than once. This gives the stories depth and seriousness that one would not necessarily expect from a book whose cover depicts a dashing young man swinging from an airship. I rather like this dimension to the adventures, but it might not be for everyone.
            I give The Adventures of Alan Shaw, Volume 1 four gears out of five. It is a lot of fun to read, and I look forward to seeing what other scrapes Alan Shaw talks (or shoots) his way out of.

Your Correspondent From The Bookstore,

Penny J. Merriweather

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Frankenstein Chronicles

The Frankenstein Chronicles: A Penny Dreadful Review

            A miniseries set in 1827 is too early to be termed Steampunk, being as that year is pre-Victorian, despite the presence of a large electrical generator and much mad science. Let us instead call it ‘Clockpunk’ or ‘Regencypunk’ or perhaps ‘Shelleypunk.’ Perhaps we should simply call it ‘Awesome.’
            Sean Bean, an actor known for playing such roles as Boromir and Ned Stark, stars in The Frankenstein Chronicles as Inspector John Marlott. A body is recovered from the Thames, or perhaps I should say several body parts stitched together to form one girl, a la Frankenstein. Inspector Marlott is tasked to investigate by the Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel, who wants to keep the sordid affair quiet, fearing that it might interfere with legislation he is trying to pass through Parliament. In the course of his search for the culprit, John Marlott uncovers several missing children who have likely been murdered, a kidnapper, grave robbers, surgeons, an author, and nobility. His investigations are complicated by the fact that he saw the dead body move. Was it his advancing syphilis or something much more sinister?
            I really enjoyed The Frankenstein Chronicles. The mystery kept me guessing until the very end, and the revelation of the true culprit is even more horrifying than I thought possible. This is a thrilling drama to track down and view. I found it on NowTV, but I’m sure it will be available on other viewing sites such as Hulu.
            My most favorite part of the series was the inclusion of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley. She is involved somehow in the mad science, and it is quite poignant. I found her opinions of her famous work fascinating.
            I give The Frankenstein Chronicles five gears out of five. I loved how it kept me guessing as to what events were science and what were madness. I highly recommend it.

Your Correspondent From The Moving Picture Show,

Penny J. Merriweather