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THE ELDER ICE By David Hambling

I’d like to thank for recommending this book. The Elder Ice is a 74-page tale of what Ernest Shackleton really found on his Antarctic explorations is narrated by ex-boxer Harry Stubbs. Stubbs works for a legal firm and finds himself involved in the famous polar explorer’s legacy which is full of Lovecraftian secrets. David Hambling has really done his homework on Shackleton. I learned a lot about Antarctic exploration with a Mythos twist. I enjoyed this unusual story and I’m eager to read more of David Hambling’s work! GRADE: A-
The Elder Ice (2014)
Broken Meats (2015)
Alien Stars (2017)
Shadows from Norwood (2013)
The Dulwich Horror & Others (2015)
Short Fiction
A Question of Blood (2016)
The Mystery of the Cursed Cottage (2017)


The story that affected me most in Carmen Maria Machado’s collection, Her Body And Other Parties (2017), was “Inventory.” A woman takes inventory of her life by making an annotated list of all the men and women she’s had sex with. There’s a compelling story why she’s doing this, but I felt a bit manipulated as a reader following the arc of this story. Most of these stories are fueled by sex. In “The Husband Stitch,” a woman marries a man and promises him she will do anything for him…with one restriction. After two pages, I figured out what the conclusion would be. It’s a variation on the classic story, “The Green Ribbon” and Alvin Schwartz’s In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories. None of the women in the eight stories in Her Body And Other Parties seem very happy with their decisions, sexual and otherwise. The only dud is “Especially Heinous” (subtitled “272 Views of Law & Order: SVU”) where Machado provides episode synopses (some are snarky) poking fun at cop TV shows. The “joke” goes on too long. Although Her Body And Other Parties has garnered good reviews, it’s getting a very lukewarm rating from me. GRADE: C
The husband stitch 3
Inventory 33
Mothers 45
Especially heinous 65
Real women have bodies 125
Eight bites 149
The resident 169
Difficult at parties 219


I loved the 2003 movie version of School of Rock so I was really looking forward to this musical version since it was announced last year as part of our package at Shea’s Performing Arts Center. An aspiring rock musician, Dewey, gets kicked out of his group. His roommate is pressured by his girl friend to kick Dewey out of their house if Dewey doesn’t pay his overdue rent. In desperation, Dewey pretends to be a substitute teacher at an exclusive private academy in order to earn enough money to pay his rent. This cynical strategy changes when Dewey discovers the young kids in his class are musically gifted. He trains them to compete in “The Battle of the Bands” in order to get revenge on the band that ousted him. But, of course, things change. Yes, the talented young kids actually play their instruments.

In this touring company, Rob Colletti played “Dewey,” a demanding role that keeps Dewey on the stage for almost every scene. I loved Lexie Dorsett Sharp as Dewey’s Principal, Rosalie Mullins, and my favorite song was Rosalie belting out “Where Did the Rock Go?” If you liked Jack Black in School of Rock, you’ll like this musical version of his story. And, of course, the kids are terrific! GRADE: A
Act I
“I’m Too Hot for You” – No Vacancy and Dewey
“When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock” – Dewey
“Horace Green Alma Mater” – Rosalie, Students and Teachers
“Here at Horace Green” – Rosalie
“Variation 7” – Dewey and Ned
“Children of Rock” – Dewey and Ned
“Mount Rock (Reprise)” – Patty
“Queen of the Night” – Rosalie, Dewey and Gabe
“You’re in the Band” – Dewey and Students
“You’re in the Band (Reprise)” – Dewey and Students
“If Only You Would Listen” – Students
“In the End of Time (A Cappella Version)” – Dewey
“Faculty Quadrille” – Teachers
“In the End of Time (Band Practice)” – Dewey and Students
“Stick It to the Man” – Dewey and Students
“In the End of Time (The Audition)” – Dewey and Students
“Stick It to the Man (Reprise)” – Dewey and Students
Act II
“Time to Play” – Summer and Students
“Amazing Grace” – Tomika
“Math Is a Wonderful Thing” – Dewey and Students
“Where Did the Rock Go?” – Rosalie
“School of Rock (Band Practice)” – Dewey and Students
“Dewey’s Confession” – Dewey, Rosalie, Patty, Ned and Parents
“If Only You Would Listen (Reprise)” – Tomika and Other Students
“I’m Too Hot for You (Reprise)” – No Vacancy
“School of Rock” – Dewey and Students
“Stick It to the Man (Encore)” – Dewey and Students
“Finale” – Full Company


Haffner Press just shipped this wonderful volume of Paul Pine mysteries edited by Stephen Haffner himself. In his brilliant “Introduction,” Richard A. Lupoff explains why the Paul Pine mysteries should rank with Hammett and Chandler’s private eye fiction. In her “Afterward,” Melissa Flagstad (Howard Browne’s daughter) provides some information about her father and the Paul Pine series that I didn’t know. Trond Flagstad is the model for Paul Pine for Laurel Blechman’s evocative cover for Halo For Hire. If you’re a fan of Private Eye fiction, Halo For Hire is a must-buy. But, don’t delay! The print-run is only a 1,000 copies. The prices for this book will double in a year! GRADE: A
Halo in Blood
Halo for Satan
Halo in Brass
“So Dark for April”
The Taste of Ashes
“The Paper Gun”
Laurel Blechman (cover artist), Stephen Haffner (editor), Richard A. Lupoff (introduction), Melissa Flagstad (afterword & Howard Browne’s daughter), Trond Flagstad (the face of the face of Paul Pine)


James Lovegrove’s THE CTHULHU CASEBOOKS: SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SHADWELL SHADOWS (2016) tells a very different story of Holmes and Watson than The Canon presents. Holmes takes a dream-quest and discovers the Great Old Ones, the Outer Gods, and of course Cthulhu. Meanwhile, Watson reveals the real story of his military service injury from an attack in a terrifying cavern in Afghanistan where ancient creatures lurk.

Holmes and Watson investigate a series of murders where the victims are found drained and wasted as if their life forces had been sucked out of them. Their search takes them to the Dark Side of reality that H. P. Lovecraft presented in his classic works. Lovegrove has written a handful of conventional Sherlock Holmes pastiches-The Stuff of Nightmares (Titan Books 2013, ISBN 978-1781165416), Gods of War, (Titan Books 2014, ISBN 978-1781165430), The Thinking Engine, (Titan Books 2015, ISBN 978-1783295036)–and another book in this series, Sherlock Holmes and the Miskatonic Monstrosities (Titan Books 2017, ISBN 978-1783295951). If you’re a fan of Holmes/Lovecraft mashups (and I am!) you’ll have fun reading James Lovegrove’s series. GRADE: B+

Hope you enjoyed Sherlock Holmes Week! Normal posting resumes tomorrow.


Diane and I enjoyed Gnomeo and Juliet back in 2011 (my review is here) so we were looking forward to its sequel, SHERLOCK GNOMES. Gnomeo and Juliet and the rest of the garden gnomes now reside in London. But gnomes all over London are disappearing. Sherlock Gnomes (voiced by Johnny Depp) and Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor) scurry through the London shrubbery investigating these kidnappings. Jamie Demetriou steals the movie as his key character. Emily Blunt and James McAvoy return as the voices of Juliet and Gnomeo. Mary J. Blige voices a provocative Irene Adler doll. There are plenty of puns and silliness in Sherlock Gnomes, but the plot involves the audience in a clever mystery. Children will enjoy the action and adventure and humor while adults will appreciate the entertaining characters. There’s a lot of Elton John music in this film. GRADE: B+


Metropolis Pictures is filming The Speckled Band in Hollywood around 1940. But the director of the film, an infamous libertine named Stephen Worth, threatens “changes” which outrage The Baker Street Irregulars, a band of Sherlock Holmes aficionados. In an attempt to calm the critics of the ill-fated movie, owner of Metropolis Pictures, F. X. Weinberg, invites The Baker Street Irregulars to Hollywood to act as “advisors” on The Speckled Band. Into this dangerous mix enters a murder and a dozen various theories of “Whodunit.” The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars is another book I’ve had on my shelves for decades. Anthony Boucher blends dozens of Sherlock Holmes references into his twisty plot. If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you’ll enjoy the wit and deception in this mystery. GRADE: B+

WATSON’S CHOICE By Gladys Mitchell

Watson’s Choice is Gladys Mitchell’s 28th Mrs. Beatrice Bradley mystery. Mrs. Adela LeStrange Bradley is a polymathic psychoanalyst and author who solved crimes in 65 mystery novels. Her assistant, Laura Menzies, champions social and philosophical concerns. In Watson’s Choice (1955), Mrs. Bradley attends a house party hosted by an eccentric Sherlock Holmes aficionado, Sir Bohun (pronounced “Boon”) Chantrey where attendees appear as characters from Sherlock Holmes stories. The participants include the attractive but cunning governess that Sir Bohun has hired to teach one of his two nephews, a nervous tutor who teaches the other nephew, a group of actors and a pack of greedy relations, along with Mrs. Bradley’s assistant–Laura Menzies–and Laura’s fiancé who is a policeman. And a dog who looks a lot like the Hound of the Baskervilles. The unusual events at the Sherlock Holmes party end with the death of the governess, Linda Campbell.

Mrs. Bradley, as usual, makes short work of solving the murder that baffles the local constabulary and Scotland Yard. There are multiple references to stories in the Sherlock Holmes canon (which may or may not provide clues to the reader). I’ve had Gladys Mitchell’s Watson’s Choice on my shelves for a couple of decades and now I’ve finally read it. Good, but not great. Are you a Gladys Mitchell fan? GRADE: B-
Speedy Death, (London: Gollancz, 1929)
The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop, (London: Gollancz, 1929)
The Longer Bodies, (London: Gollancz, 1930)
The Saltmarsh Murders, (London: Gollancz, 1932)
Death at the Opera, (London: Grayson, 1934);
vt. Death in the Wet (Philadelphia: Macrae Smith Company, 1934)
The Devil at Saxon Wall, (London: Grayson, 1935)
Dead Men’s Morris, (London: Michael Joseph, 1936)
Come Away Death, (London: Michael Joseph, 1937)
St Peter’s Finger, (London: Michael Joseph, 1938)
Printer’s Error, (London: Michael Joseph, 1939)
Brazen Tongue, (London: Michael Joseph, 1940)
Hangman’s Curfew, (London: Michael Joseph, 1941)
When Last I Died, (London: Michael Joseph, 1941)
Laurels Are Poison, (London: Michael Joseph, 1942)
The Worsted Viper, (London: Michael Joseph, 1943)
Sunset Over Soho, (London: Michael Joseph, 1943)
My Father Sleeps, (London: Michael Joseph, 1944)
The Rising of the Moon, (London: Michael Joseph, 1945)
Here Comes a Chopper, (London: Michael Joseph, 1946)
Death and the Maiden, (London: Michael Joseph, 1947)
The Dancing Druids, (London: Michael Joseph, 1948)
Tom Brown’s Body, (London: Michael Joseph, 1949)
Groaning Spinney, (London: Michael Joseph, 1950)
The Devil’s Elbow, (London: Michael Joseph, 1951)
The Echoing Strangers, (London: Michael Joseph, 1952)
Merlin’s Furlong, (London: Michael Joseph, 1953)
Faintley Speaking, (London: Michael Joseph, 1954)
Watson’s Choice, (London: Michael Joseph, 1955)
Twelve Horses and the Hangman’s Noose, (London: Michael Joseph, 1956)
The Twenty-third Man, (London: Michael Joseph, 1957)
Spotted Hemlock, (London: Michael Joseph, 1958)
The Man Who Grew Tomatoes, (London: Michael Joseph, 1959)
Say It With Flowers, (London: Michael Joseph, 1960)
The Nodding Canaries, (London: Michael Joseph, 1961)
My Bones Will Keep, (London: Michael Joseph, 1962)
Adders on the Heath, (London: Michael Joseph, 1963)
Death of a Delft Blue, (London: Michael Joseph, 1964)
Pageant of Murder, (London: Michael Joseph, 1965)
The Croaking Raven, (London: Michael Joseph, 1966)
Skeleton Island, (London: Michael Joseph, 1967)
Three Quick and Five Dead, (London: Michael Joseph, 1968)
Dance to Your Daddy, (London: Michael Joseph, 1969)
Gory Dew, (London: Michael Joseph, 1970)
Lament for Leto, (London: Michael Joseph, 1971)
A Hearse on May-Day, (London: Michael Joseph, 1972)
The Murder of Busy Lizzie, (London: Michael Joseph, 1973)
A Javelin for Jonah, (London: Michael Joseph, 1974)
Winking at the Brim, (London: Michael Joseph, 1974)
Convent on Styx, (London: Michael Joseph, 1975)
Late, Late in the Evening, (London: Michael Joseph, 1976)
Noonday and Night, (London: Michael Joseph, 1977)
Fault in the Structure, (London: Michael Joseph, 1977)
Wraiths and Changelings, (London: Michael Joseph, 1978)
Mingled with Venom, (London: Michael Joseph, 1978)
Nest of Vipers, (London: Michael Joseph, 1979)
The Mudflats of the Dead, (London: Michael Joseph, 1979)
Uncoffin’d Clay, (London: Michael Joseph, 1980)
The Whispering Knights, (London: Michael Joseph, 1980)
The Death-Cap Dancers, (London: Michael Joseph, 1981)
Lovers, Make Moan, (London: Michael Joseph, 1981)
Here Lies Gloria Mundy, (London: Michael Joseph, 1982)
The Death of a Burrowing Mole, (London: Michael Joseph, 1982)
The Greenstone Griffins, (London: Michael Joseph, 1983)
Cold, Lone and Still, (London: Michael Joseph, 1983)
No Winding-Sheet, (London: Michael Joseph, 1984)
The Crozier Pharaohs, (London: Michael Joseph, 1984)
Sleuth’s Alchemy, Cases of Mrs. Bradley and Others (Crippen & Landru, 2005)


A series of strange events lure Sherlock Holmes and Watson into investigating mysterious deaths in London. The victims’s bodies are shredded and their bones are rearranged in bizarre patterns. And then, there is the gold and the spherical bones found at the crime scenes! Lois Gresh’s Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Deadly Dimensions (2017) features alien artifacts that mystify Holmes. These devices seem to be alive! Secret societies, dark cults, horrific rites, and eldritch events propel the plot of this faux-Sherlock Holmes novel. At 437 pages, Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu is a little too long for my taste. This is the first book in a trilogy. The second book, Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Neural Psychoses , will be published on August 14, 2018. GRADE: B


A. Conan Doyle’s The Sign of the Four (aka, The Sign of Four (1890) was the second novel in the Sherlock Holmes canon. This 1987 adaptation starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Watson is considered by many as the best movie version of a Sherlock Holmes story. Of course, the story has a bit of everything: a hidden treasure, murders, sinister forces, a locked room, and an exciting chase. The movie version leaves out the romance of Dr. Watson and Mary Morstan (Jenny Seagrove in this production) and Sherlock shooting up with a 7% solution of cocaine. Do you have a favorite movie version of a Sherlock Holmes story? GRADE: A