Monday, October 4, 2010

September's Reads

I'm trying to catch up on my book reviews in anticipation of Dewey's 24-hour Readathon.  This is a surprisingly easy feat as I only read three books in September.  Granted, Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley by Alison Weir was a sprawling 720 page non-fiction work, but, nonetheless, it still a puny number of reads.

I've already discussed the Weir book, so I'll review my other two reads: The Anatomy of Deception by Lawrence Goldstone and The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Incidentally, both books count toward my RIP challenge!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="504" caption="Painting by Thomas Eakins, 1889. Cover art for The Anatomy of Deception"][/caption]

The Anatomy of Deception is a forensic thriller set in the medical community of 1889 Philadelphia.  The plot concerns the death of a young socialite and the subsequent death of a shady medical student.  Medical student and doctor Ephraim Carroll finds himself in the midst of a murder investigation, questioning his mentor, finding and losing love, and contemplating a huge career move to a new medical university, Johns Hopkins.

The story itself was gripping, I did find myself eagerly turning the pages and the medical details (especially of the autopsies) fascinated me.  My problem with the novel is that it felt a bit lazy in regards to the characters.  None of the characters truly came to life and they seemed to be stock figures:  "The Austere Victorian Medical Student", "The Female Bohemian Artist", "The Shady Fellow at the Docks", and "The You-Know-I'm-The-Culprit Person."  In fact, I guessed who was going to be the "bad guy", but not because the character was fleshed out, it merely seemed like the only reason this person existed was to be thrown into the last quarter of the book and be pinned with the crime.    This book could have been so much better if it had been written by a more skilled author.

The second, slim book I read was The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  I read all the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels as a child and have recently decided to revisit them all.  I have to say that this is not my most favorite Holmes tale.  The story involves Holmes and Watson, a damsel in distress, a treasure, cryptic notes, and -- of course -- murder.  What particularly bothers me is the racism in the book.  Of course this is reflective of the time in which Doyle wrote but I think it a cop-out to *****spoiler alert ***** blame everything on the black guy.  There is another villain but he isn't as "bad" as the restless, simple, violent, dark native.  (eye roll)

When it comes to Sherlock Holmes, I think the short stories are far better.  While Holmes' character is fascinating, the other characters are lackluster.  Doyle's skill is with plot, mystery, and deduction and these elements truly shine in the shorter tales.  With the novellas, I find the plot a bit watered down to make room for the characters.

I have a huge pile of books for October and I'm hoping to read at least seven on the pile, hopefully the Readathon will give me a leg up on my October reading!

1 comment:

Thomas at My Porch said...

I have decided to join the read-a-thon this year. Very excited about that. So glad to see you post this Eakins painting. Just over a year ago I had the chance to see it in person at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I even took a picture of a detail of this painting and put it on the blog. Check out the link and then click on the image of the painting to make it bigger. Pretty darn cool if I say so myself.