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Carlo’s book reviews

This actually contains two stories, the main one (The Amethyst Box) is novelette length, with a short story (The Ruby and the Caldron) following it.

Both fall into the category of "gentlemanly mysteries" in a high society setting, although the stories are completely different. The writing and characterizations are well done, especially in comparison with other works of this genre during the same time period. In particular, the author creates dramatic tension without being too overblown (by the standards of the day).

The ending of the main story wasn't completely satisfying, but it was still well worth reading. The short story was surprisingly entertaining for me and a nice example of the genre, which is really more about the character relationships, although some clever twists are included.
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This is one of those novels that is not quite sure what it wants to be. It has rather uneven elements of mystery, gentlemanly adventure, and espionage fiction. The ending felt rather abrupt to me and didn't mesh particularly well with the rest of story, some aspects of which were interesting and featuring sympathetic characters. Not really worth the time for me, although it wasn't terrible.
This novella does an excellent job in limited space of introducing an interesting main character whose main foil is the local society he was exiled from and now returns to. Exploring its ins and outs and sometimes shocking challenges is as enjoyable as the main plot. World creation is not easy and the author shows her expertise at drawing the reader into it and making it live and breathe without dull exposition.

This doesn't get the highest rating from me, largely due to what felt to me like some uneven plotting in the second half of the work, but it's still high-quality SF overall.
Very similar experience to that of reading "At the Earth's Core" - if you liked that, you'll like the sequel.

I found it flawed in similar ways, not being up to the standards of ERB's better works in terms of character and plot development. Both stories I thought started off strongly, but by around the middle part became rather random and disjointed. That said, Pellucidar was a bit better read for me, overall.
As an ERB fan (primarily from the "Mars" and Tarzan books), I have to say I was a bit disappointed with this one, especially since I'd wanted to read it for some time.

The setup - feuding Stone Age civilizations at the Earth's core - is certainly interesting, but I found that the characters other than the narrator are rather one-dimensional and uninteresting. The plot has more of a pulp feel to it and seems driven more by chance than anything else.

ERB does this sort of thing much better in his other series, where the characters are more memorable and the plot twists and turns seem more coherent and logical, if sometimes just as fantastic.

Still might be worth a read, although ERB fans expecting more might be disappointed and those being introduced to his work won't see him at his best.
Sophisticated, excellent novella-length story set on Darkover. A good example of the best kind of SF writing, where the story is about the characters and the setting is seamlessly integrated into it. Manages to pack in challenges that are psychological, physical and scientific. Does not feel dated at all.
This is a more focused story than some of the author's later works, although some common elements appear (the hero is a gentleman, the women tend to be mysterious, espionage is a central theme). The fact that almost all of the action takes place in a remote English village, while revolving around a story of international intrigue, is remarkable in itself. The first-person narrator finds himself more or less accidentally drawn into a position of great importance and secrecy, without knowing whom he can trust.

Aside from a couple of jarring narrative transitions, the plot plays out in an interesting and understandable manner, with some genuine tension created by the other characters' personalities and motives. The author's strength at character sketches and injecting immediacy and emtotion into critical scenes is on display in this work. The fact that the main bogeymen are the French is historically accurate for the period and perhaps a little refreshing for those accustomed to the slightly later genre of fiction centered around German espionage in Britain. Worth reading, if you understand what to expect.
The story sucks you in at the beginning with an intensely-described visit to an unusual Paris location, then proceeds to London. The author overall does better at creating interesting characters (who seem somewhat overly mysterious at times) and describing places than at constructing a strong plot. With that caveat, still worth the read.
The current (mid-January 2011) blurb description (something about an English curate) is not correct. This is in fact about an English gentleman who becomes involved in circumstances surrounding a murder in his building. Most of the action takes place in London, with an interlude in France.

While the author does a good job with some of the plot aspects and I enjoyed his descriptive abilities (especially the part set in France), the work overall is rather uneven. Some blatant anti-Semitism involving greedy ugly-looking Jewish characters, beyond the usual for the time period, intruded on the experience, as did a rather abrupt and explicitly jingoistic ending. The author can and has done better, I'd give this one a pass.
 Adam Nicholls & Jay Nadal - Private Eyes, Detectives and Psych Thrillers
FEATURED AUTHOR -  Adam Nicholls grew up in the southwest of England, where he studied creative writing while working a variety of full-time jobs. When his Mason Black series was first published, he quickly became a bestseller and then went on to create a name for himself in the thriller genre. Adam now lives with his wife in Bristol.