A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
There isn't much better than "Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" and "The Return of Sherlock Holmes". These stories show ACD at the top of his game. Like I mentioned in my review of Volume 1, the brilliance of Doyle's detective stories is they are universal, they are timeless and they are -- elementary.
While Doyle is a master of short stories, he isn't a consistent distance writer, and his previous longer pieces were usually a tad uneven (Study in Scarlet, Sign of Four). However, with "Hound of the Baskervilles", Doyle shows a marked improvement.
All-in-all this is a wonderful collection of some of Doyle's finest pieces. Definitely not to be missed. Griffin is a wonderful narrator for Sherlock Holmes. His range is impressive, yet he still manages to not hog the stage. His narration is varied, but still rather understated.
I loved it. I thought Hammett was amazing before, but the Glass Key just solidified it. Definitely his tightest, most coherent novel. The characters were sharp, the pacing was quick, the plot was Goldilocks. No wonder the Coen brothers couldn't get enough.
G.K. Chesterton's empathetic little detective seems like an unabtrusive Edwardian counterpoint to Sherlock Holmes. While Sherlock Holmes ability to adapt allows him to escape both time and place (House to Sherlock to Elementary), Father Brown is (like Catholicism itself) almost tied to man's fallen state and the early 20th century.
That being said, there are many of Chesterton's stories which I solidly prefer to Doyle's. Chesterton's prose, his love of paradox, his appreciation for humility, his black humor and his empathy for mankind makes me emotionally connected to Father Brown in ways I never managed with Sherlock Holmes
I just finished listening to “Fer-de-Lance”. It was written in 1934 and is the first book in a series that runs to more than 40 books. The Nero Wolfe series is considered by many to be one of the great mystery series of all time.
There are fashions and fads in publishing just as there are in clothing. At the time Rex Stout was writing, the fashion for crime novels was for them to be short. I think they usually ran 180 to 200 pages. Just before listening to this book, I listened to a rather horrible and over-long science fiction novel, and starting this was like a refreshing breath of cool mountain air. The Sci Fi novel ran nearly 24 hours. Fer-de-Lance, at 8.5 hours, was about a third as long. This means that Rex Stout had to make every word in this novel count. The plot had to be tight; he didn’t have any room in his word count for long, preachy speeches or irrelevant subplots. This novel may have been a third the length of the other, but I got three times or ten times or 50 times the pleasure from it.
And yet in that 8.5 hours, he manages to give us vivid characters who are instantly recognizable by the way they speak, a complicated mystery, and a great deal of humor. He does not find it necessary to assault us with bad language, gratuitous sex (or any sex at all), or gruesome details of gory or prolonged deaths. Thank goodness.
I was introduced to this series as a teenager, and every few years I have to reread them. I’m not sure I’ve read every one in the series. It used to be hard to get the whole series. The series was written over more than 40 years so some of them always seemed to be out of print. I’m not sure all of them are available now, but Audible has 19 of the 47 (By my count. I could be wrong.) Kindle has most of them, but I’m not sure if they have them all.
Do not be afraid to start the series because you can’t get them all. This is one series in which each book truly stands alone. You don’t need to read them in any particular order. However, since they were written over such a long period of time, I like to read those I can get in order by publication date because I get some amazement and pleasure out of watching the changes in society over time. For instance, in this book, cars still have rumble seats, housemaids earn $1.00 per week, and biplanes are still the standard. In one of the books in the series written 20 years later, Archie (Wolfe’s assistant) boards an airplane in New York and flies to Italy while wearing his gun in a shoulder holster and nobody even questions him about it.
Now a word about the narrator. I think all the books in this series are read by Michael Prichard. He narrates a lot of crime and suspense novels. He does a good job. I can tell Wolfe from Archie by his voice. I have no complaints about the way he does women’s voices. I am sorry that he doesn’t do accents because there are people in these books that definitely have them. But on the other hand, you probably couldn’t find a single narrator who could do as many accents as you would need for this series, so I guess we have to be grateful for what we get.
Bottom line: I recommend this entire series. Big time.