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Saturday, January 18, 2014

sherlock holmes and the case of sabina hall - 1988

sherlock holmes and the case of sabina hall
by l. b. greenwood
1988

i keep telling myself i'm going to catch up on my sherlock holmes. i've read very little thus far and despite my good intentions i keep getting sidetracked into other pursuits. given that gap in my traditional mystery background i recognize that i may be inclined to judge sherlock holmes imitators differently than someone who is acquainted with more of the real deal.

having said all that, i thought that sherlock holmes and the case of sabina hall was quite a fine piece of work. i wasn't able to locate too much information about the author, but what i found indicates that she is (or was) a schoolteacher based in canada. her other holmes knockoffs include sherlock holmes and the thistle of scotland and sherlock holmes and the case of the raleigh legacy.

as the proceedings get underway, watson takes on an assignment to care for an aging tycoon whose miserly tendencies make ebenezer scrooge seem like an okay guy after all. holmes tags along and by the time they arrive at sabina hall, the old coot is goners and quite possibly not by natural causes. his sister-in-law and sole heir turns out to be just as miserly and wastes no time preparing to dispose of the rickety old hall.

the plot thickens, of course, and a few more bodies stack up, but to reveal too much more would be at risk of throwing out spoilers. and it's not really for the plot, serviceable though it was, that i'd recommend this one. where greenwood really shines is in creating an unremittingly bleak atmosphere, with a drafty, rundown old hall located on the forbidding bristol coast, the weather relentlessly awful, and a group of characters that absolutely would not win any congeniality awards.

but i've always been kind of a sucker for this sort of thing, so in this case the author might just have been preaching to the choir.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

mystery house - 1938

mystery house
from a story by mignon g. eberhart
1938

'one of those people downstairs is a homicidal maniac.'

not a bad whodunit, this one, given that the running time is less than an hour. although one the crimes is a locked room mystery that could possibly be said to stretch the bounds of credibility just a bit.

a prominent banker gathers his company officers at his hunting lodge to let them know that he's discovered some financial malfeasance. a short time later he's killed in his locked bedroom and found with a gun in his hand.

the death is officially ruled a suicide but the banker's daughter is not buying that. she reconvenes the guests at the hunting lodge and invites detective lance o'leary to sort the mess out. which he does, but not before the body count rises and a number of red herrings are scattered in his path.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

most popular baby names for 2013

fuckwit
chagrined-horse
mississippi
bob
irritabilly
starbucks
melancholia
danny bonaduce
diphtheria
hamsterteeth

Saturday, January 4, 2014

the alfred hitchcock hour: an unlocked window

an unlocked window
the alfred hitchcock hour
1965

i'm a sucker for anything in the haunted house and old dark house realm so i was intrigued by the blurb for this episode of the alfred hitchcock hour, which is currently airing on the encore suspense channel. an unlocked window is adapted from a story by ethel lina white. her 1936 novel, the wheel spins, was made into the 1938 hitchcock film, the lady vanishes.

an unlocked window is pretty much dripping with old dark houseness and the house itself, or at least the exteriors, should look very familiar to anyone who's ever seen hitchcock's original version of psycho. the action is, for the most part, confined to said house, in which a pair of nurses are tending to a bedridden patient. also on hand, the man and wife in charge of keeping the household running.

the key issue here, from the viewpoint of the nurses, is that there's been a rash of killings lately and the victims have all been, well...nurses. while a storm rages outside the inhabitants of the house batten down the hatches and lock the place up tight (with one obvious exception) in hopes of keeping themselves safe.

given the way things are structured this is really more of a suspense tale than a whodunit but the former quality is in no short supply. there's also plenty of rain and bushes lashing the windows, thunder and lightning and a strategically timed power outage to enhance the general creepiness and tension.

this episode was redone twenty years later during a short-lived revamp of the hitchcock series. i have yet to see it but i can't imagine how it could possibly improve on the original.