Come At Once If Convenient

The Adventure of the Colonial Boy
Narrelle M. Harris
Improbable Press
March 2016

 

colonial-boy-v-smlThe Adventure of the Colonial Boy by Narrelle M. Harris is a Sherlockian novel steeped in a strong brew of Victoriana—in the sense of both the era and the state. And to see our much beloved characters running about in places so familiar and dear is an utter delight.

These are my places, you see. The places my almost daily perambulations take me—down Collins, past Parliament, up to Eastern Hill, around the old terraces near St. Vincent’s, the road up to Kyneton.* Is this what it feels like when a New Yorker watches all those movies set in New York? Or are they so inured to them that it seems the natural way of things? Perhaps I should just read more books by Melbourne authors set in Melbourne. Seems a legit fix.

The Adventure of the Colonial Boy is one of the latest from Improbable Press—a press dedicated to the more romantic interpretations of the Holmes and Watson relationship.

For those who know, you know this facet of the relationship has been discussed, studied, elaborated upon for almost as long as the original stories themselves have been around. For those of you wondering what on earth the world has come to, I’m afraid I’ve got some news for you. Here, let me make you a cup of tea. You wrap this shock blanket around your shoulders, have a bit of a sit down—we need to talk. But first, let me tell everyone else about this lovely book.

We enter into our heroes’ world two years after Holmes’s apparent destruction along with his great nemesis, Moriarty, at the falls of the Reichenbach. Holmes’s ever faithful companion Doctor Watson, still mourning the greatest loss of his life, now mourns the recent death of his wife, Mary.

After a strange day of near-misses, Watson receives a message that sparks near equal amounts of hope and anger and suspicion—“Come at once if convenient. If inconvenient, come all the same—S.H.”. He follows the familiar summons, making his way to the antipodean post-gold rush city of Melbourne.

There, both Watson’s anger and hope are vindicated when he finds Holmes alive and well. Well, alive anyway. From here they must overcome their recriminations and (please allow me this wonderful cliché) find their way back to each other, emotionally. All the while they pursue and are pursued by the remaining dregs of Moriarty’s web.

Holmes’s two year endeavor to eliminate this intricate syndicate of criminals has led to Australia and the pursuit of Sebastian Moran. For Dr. Watson, memories of his younger days spent in the Victorian gold fields with his brother and father are brought back, as well as the memory of the scandal from which he has been running ever since.

Narrelle M. Harris evokes a tangible sense of colonial Australia with an intricate and at times wonderfully gruesome mystery worthy of Doyle’s best. The Victorian is strong with this one and the romantic relationship between Holmes and Watson is handled with the deftest of delicate touches. Their years of miscommunication are finally confessed and resolved—or are they? Spoilers sweetie. This book was promptly added to my growing list of blanket books. Cozy-fireplace-hot tea-rain patter-blanket books that just make you want to curl up and keep reading.

 

*Well, obviously I don’t walk up that one daily. Or maybe that’s not so obvious to everyone. I do not walk daily to Kyneton. I’d need a lot more porridge in the morning.

Here, Though the World Explode…

The Night They Met
Atlin Merrick
Improbable Press
December 2015

 

tntmMany moons ago, in a more innocent time when the world was young and carefree, I reviewed The Day They Met—a series of short stories about the day (the many days) that Sherlock Holmes and John Watson met. Because they did, they do and they will, and in every which way throughout time and space.

There was, however, one terrible dastardly thing about this book—it ended. How unutterably rude. Of course, all books must come to an end so I cannot fault it for doing so but still, the cheek. The impertinence, I say!

So colour me all sorts of bright and cheerful hues when The Night They Met was released. Oh yes, my pretties, they’re back—John Watson and ‘Herlock Sholmes’… I mean, Hemlock Shromes… I mean… oh, you know who I mean. The sun may have set, dear reader, but the temperature is about to rise. Continue reading

I Felt You in my Arms Before I Even Met You

Carol
Patricia Highsmith
as The Price of Salt 1951; as Carol 2016

carolAt least in my circles, Todd Haynes’ new film Carol created quite a buzz.  After all, it’s still quite a rarity to see a movie about a same sex relationship that doesn’t end in tears.  In 1951, when The Price of Salt was first published, it was unheard of, not just in movies but also in books.  Censorship, both official and soft, meant publishers were unwilling to produce books about same sex relationships.  Pulp lesbian fiction, which because of said censorship ended in death or in the blessed powers of the healing cock, was pretty much it for the ladies.  In terms of fiction, men had even less to turn to. Continue reading

Social Justice with Vegetables

GREEN VALENTINE
Lili Wilkinson
Allen & Unwin, RRP $16.99
August 2015

GreenValentine_sm

Green Valentine is a beam of sunshine through the dark cloud of cynicism. Let’s face it; fiction these days, and in particular young adult fiction, can be pretty bleak. There’s The Hunger Games, where a totalitarian region maintains order through fear by forcing children to slaughter each other. The Harry Potter series, known for its quirky humour, also straddles dark territory with beloved characters dying during the terror of war. These are poignant stories which allow the reader to ride waves of emotion; fear, anger, sadness; and feel just that little bit more alive, to exist wholly in the moment. But when the worlds we read are always dark they can shape our perception until, perhaps, we then see only darkness in our own world.

So in the landscape of distrust that real life is becoming, perhaps we owe it to ourselves to find stories that celebrate the joy and excitement of life, to surround ourselves by inspiration rather than despair. Which brings us back to Green Valentine. Lili Wilkinson has written an unapologetically optimistic story of finding love, learning acceptance and changing the world, one strawberry at a time, and it’s like a warm shower after a week’s worth of camping in the rain. It could possibly even be the sweetest story ever written. Continue reading

Love and Leather… and Vampires

The ShadowsThe Shadows (Black Dagger Brotherhood Book 13)
J.R. Ward
Piatkus, March 2015, RRP $29.99

I can’t remember if I’ve already outed myself to the MRB readers as a romance genre reader. In real life everyone knows, and are mostly accepting, though I get a few comments about ‘those shirtless dudes’ on the covers.* As a genre, romance is huge, and made up of a multitude of subgenres. Thus finding your way into the genre, let alone into the subgenres can be a really tricky process. One of the large sub-genres that has been extremely popular over the last few years is paranormal romance. Vampires, werewolves, zombies and a whole host of other supernatural creatures have all made their appearance in different iterations.

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One Hundred Different Flowers Bloom Inside a Woman

THE STORY OF LIFE ON THE GOLDEN FIELDS, VOL. 1-3
Kim Dong Hwa (trans. Lauren Na, First Second, 2003) ISBN: 978-1-59643-458-5; 978-1-59643-459-2;  The colour of earth978-1-59643-460-8

Kim Dong Hwa’s The Story of Life on the Golden Fields is a series of three gorgeous manhwa (Korean graphic novels and comic books), telling the story of Ehwa and her widowed mother as they wait for love. Based on the life of Kim Dong Hwa’s mother, it is set in a rural Korean village and has a timeless feel to it. Slow-moving and elegant, the books are part coming-of-age and part love story.

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