Reviews by DMcCunney

by

Also published as The Woman In Black, E. C. Bentley's Trent's Last Case is a landmark in the art of mysteries. While one of the first modern mysteries, it's also a send up of the genre, turning the standard elements neatly on their heads.

Trent's Last Case is the first book featuring him. It's dedicated the G. K. Chesterton, and was a response to a challenge by Chesterton to Bentley. It's considered the first of the "Golden Age" mysteries, and was called one of the three best mysteries ever written by Dorothy Sayers.

Bentley had a dim view of the personality of Sherlock Holmes and the portrayal of the the police inspectors as dull witted incompetents. He tried to make Trent a warm and rounded human being, and Trent's police counterpart, Inspector Murth, is quite sharp, with an amiable competition between them to see who can unearth clues and solve the crime.

Philip Trent is an artist, and the son of an artist. He gets involved in solving crime by accident, when he takes an interest in a reported murder, reads all of the availble accounts, and sends an impassioned letter to the newspaper that published the best account pointing out holes in the evidence and leading the arrest and conviction of the real killer.

The publisher of the paper is impressed, and hires Trent as a Special Correspondent on a number of occasions over the next several years to investigate similar cases, which Trent does with success.

In Trent's Last Case, Financial magnate Sigsbee Manderson is murdered, with suspicion falling on his wife. Trent falls in love with the widow, which is usually a mistake, investigates, and concocts a plausible explanation for what happened that turns out to be utterly wrong. When he learns the truth, an astonished Trent vows to have nothing further to do with investigating crime.

It's not universally admired as a mystery: Raymond Chandler made pointed comments about the preposterous plot in his essay "The Simple Art of Murder", and others have revised their opinion downward for technical reasons, it's an engaging read with well developed characters and a surprising denouement.

Recommended.

Reviewed on 2010.07.22

Metropolis

by Thea von Harbou

Fortunately, Ken Applebaum's comment is no longer really true. Missing footage from Metropolis was discovered in a film museum in Argentina, and Kino has a newly restored version in circulation that is nearly complete. (Lang was reportedly inspired by a visit to New York City in the 1930's.)

The print verion of Metropolis with the Kaluta illistrations is hard to find. But Mike put the illustrations online on his website, at http://www.kaluta.com/pages/metropolis/metbook.html

I created a custom Mobipocket ebook version with the illustrations starting with the HTML version here.

I've read the book a number of times over the years, and get a different take each time. In part, these days, I see it as a story of redemption.

Yoh Frederson is Master of Metropolis. His beloved wife Hel died giving birth to his son Eric. Yoh has sealed himself off from feelings since, seeking to become a precise, efficient machine like those that power his city. Machines don't feel. Machines don't hurt. In the process, he has divorced himself from empathy and the ability to understand the plight of the workers who keep things going.

His chief scientist, Rotwang, has created a robot that can replace the fallible workers. Rotwang too loved Hel, and was a rival for her affections before she married Yoh, so the relationship between the men is complex.

Eric becomes involved with Maria, daughter of a worker and leader of a worker religious sect, and discovers the worker's plight and resolves to help, setting in motion the events of the film.

See the film. Read the book. They complement and illuminate each other.

Reviewed on 2010.07.08

Ullr Uprising

by H. Beam Piper

This is the serialized version of "Uller Uprising", which appeared in Space Science Fiction in 1952. It's a novel written for an anthology published by Twayne Books as a "Twayne Triplet", based on an essay by Dr. John D. Clark postulating a world with intelligent life based on silicon instead of carbon.

It's set in Piper's Federation universe. Uller is colony world run by the Chartered Uller Company. The protagonists find themselves in the middle of a native uprising. The natives are silicon based hermaphrodite humanoids with four arms and a roughly early industrial revolution level of technology.

Piper uses the canvas to retell the Sepoy Rebellion in India in SF terms. It's not the best of his books (that honor probably goes to Little Fuzzy or Space Viking, also available here), but it's a brisk fairly enjoyable read.

Reviewed on 2010.06.30

Frank and Fanny

by Mrs. Clara Moreton

Let's see...

Mrs. Clara Moreton is a pseudonym of General Dwight D. Eiosenhower, and Frank and Fanny was written in odd moments while winning World War II, yet the book was published in 1851, and Ike wasn't born until 1890?

The descriptions of Frank and Fanny are equally removed from reality.

Lovely little work of fantasy. Utterly useless review.


Reviewed on 2009.07.18

more reviews ->