Category Archives: Crime

The Enormous Room – E. E. Cummings

The Enormous RoomTitle: The Enormous Room

Author: E. E. Cummings

Publication Date: 1922

Review Score: 6/10

Based on Cummings own experience during World War 1, The Enormous Room follows the story of an American ambulance driver and his best friend, stationed in France, who are arrested after some of their anti-war letters are intercepted.

The pair are thus sent to the La-Ferte prison, a rundown cesspit filled with men of all nationalities, none of whom seem to have actually done anything wrong! The reader is then introduced to the colourful characters the pair meet during their time in captivity, as well as living with them through their quite unique prison experience.

I found the first part of The Enormous Room highly entertaining, as we meet the pair of “criminals” and follow them on their journey across France to the La-Ferte prison, accompanied by a couple of completely incompetent police officers.

Once in the prison we start to be introduced to the array of characters that have somehow ended up in this hell hole. The stories start out intriguing and the characters are very enjoyable, but then the problem I had with the book was that there were just too many of these characters!

Introduction, introduction, introduction, I felt like I could never get too invested with any of the characters as every 2 seconds there was a new one on the scene! The entrances and exits of these characters also seemed to get more and more lazy with less thought and explanation behind each one as the book went on.

Don’t get me wrong, Cummings is an excellent writer and his creation of all these personalities and the prison surroundings is very impressive, but I just felt like I couldn’t really get into the book as it was always as if I was on chapter 1, being introduced to the main protagonist.

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Title: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Publication Date: 1891-1892

Review Score: 10/10

A couple months ago I read the Hound of the Baskervilles, which was my first introduction to Sherlock Holmes, and I was absolutely blown away by how good it was. I was therefore happy to see that The Adventure’s of Sherlock Holmes had also made it onto the list of 1,001 Books to Read Before you Die.

In this collection, the reader is treated to 12 of Sherlock Holmes’s adventures, brilliantly told by Dr Watson and featuring some of the most bizarre circumstances ever dreamt up. Within these tales Sherlock encounters a league of red-haired men, the KKK, opium dens, a hidden jewel in a goose and a plethora of mysterious happenings that only he can solve with his brilliant deduction and logical reasoning.

What is brilliant about his collection is that Conan Doyle does not make Sherlock an invincible hero who always gets his man and serves justice. No, instead we see that even Sherlock can be duped and although he most often is able to deduce every crime and finger the criminal, he does not always send his man to the gallows.

Sherlock is not a policeman or a vigilante, he is purely a logical man who is interested by these mysteries and likes to solve the puzzle, and the way in which he comes to his conclusions, through pure reasoning logic, is mind blowing.

The brilliance of Sherlock Holmes as a character, the superb originality of the stories and the twisting path the reader is taken on makes The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes a ridiculously addictive novel and one of the best books I have ever had the pleasure to read.

I have given it my first ever 10/10 for a book on the list and would recommend it to anyone and everyone. If you want a good book to read, choose The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

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The 39 Steps – John Buchan

Title: The 39 Steps

Author: John Buchan

Publication Date: 1915

Review Score: 8/10

In The 39 Steps we are introduced to the steely, charming and witty Richard Hannay, the adventure hero who appears in 5 of Buchan’s novels, but none so delightful as this first one.

In this original Richard Hannay novel we find our leading man accidently caught up in an international plot of war, after a murder is committed in his apartment, and so, to save himself from the clutches of the police or worse, he must flee London, travel to Scotland and figure out what rouse is a foot.

It may sound like a basic idea and a story that has been told a hundred times, but the way in which Buchan weaves the plot makes it highly exhilarating and very unpredictable.

Giving the reader very little to piece the mystery together throughout, the book is able to hold its fast pace right until the end. Along the way you can’t help but get caught up in the continual shock and awe of events and become completely compelled towards Hannay who is a fantastically well developed character.

This may just seem like a stream of praise rather than an adequate description of the book, but there isn’t much to say but that. You know what a mystery, adventure tale is and this is one of the greatest!

I suppose, the best way I can think to describe it is by saying, the mixture of mystery, crime and adventure makes The 39 Steps a kind of cross between Sherlock Homes and James Bond. Hannay is less intelligent that Holmes and not as violent as Bond, but he is adequately equipped in both departments.

Inspiration to the likes of Graham Greene, Ian Fleming and John le Carré, The 39 Steps is well deserving of its place in literary history and on the list of 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die.

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Casino Royale – Ian Fleming

Introducing the charming, sophisticated and deadly 007. Casino Royale is the first of Ian Fleming’s classic series of James Bond novels and is widely regarded as the greatest of them all.

In this original James Bond story we are introduced to the British spy and follow him on a journey to Royale where he must neutralize a vicious and vindictive Russian operative called le Chiffre.

The mission is simple, find Le Chiffre at the Casino Royale, get into his high-rolling Baccarat game and take him for all he’s worth, leaving him ruined and shamed in the face of his native Russia. Sounds simple, but Le Chiffre is not one to yield easily and refuses to let Bond simply walk away with his money.

Reading this after only ever watching the films I was surprised to find that James Bond was not who I thought he was. I grew up in the Pierce Brosnan generation and at the time thought he was very entertaining, but having read this I find that James Bond is much more harsh, bitter and cold in both character and style.

This was of course a pleasant surprise as the actual, Ian Fleming James Bond is much more enjoyable than the Hollywood version. He has a gritty realism to him that is much more befitting to his background and profession.

The character of James Bond is by far the best thing about this novel and if it wasn’t for the unique brilliance of him I feel it might be a very average crime thriller.

The plot is enjoyable but quite basic and apart from the crescendo of the horrific capture and torture scene it is quite slow paced. However, 007 makes this story what it is and for his creation alone Ian Fleming easily deserves his place on the 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die list.

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The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle

An eerie howl heard across the moors, the discovery of a man killed by sheer fear and the cursed history of the Baskerville family are all enough to intrigue the amazing Sherlock Holmes to the Devonshire moors.

In these chilling surroundings, Holmes, with the help of his trusted partner Doctor Watson, must attempt to uncover the mystery of the hell hound that has haunted the Baskerville family for generations and stop the last heir of the family fortune from falling prey to the same fate as his predecessors.

Forget the likes of Ian Ranking, Lee Child and Peter Robinson, if you want a crime thriller there is no one better than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Not only do you get an unbelievably enthralling mystery, fast paced adventure and truly ingenious twists and turns, you also get 2 of the greatest fictional characters ever created!

I wouldn’t have cared if the whole book was just the 2 of them walking around a quite park in the Lakes, that is how good these characters are! The genius, tenacity and wit of Holmes makes him completely loveable from the first moment and there is no better compliment of this than the beautiful narration from Watson.

If you are a crime fan I guarantee you will love The Hound of the Baskervilles and even if you loathe crime I am certain you will still adore Holmes and Watson. (But don’t think that they will be like the god awful Holmes and Watson in the new films, the originals are a million times better!)

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Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky

I have come to find that the mention of Crime and Punishment tends to conjure up many negative ideas in the minds of those who have not read it. Although the majority of people revere it as is a classic piece of literature and respect Dostoevsky, they still tend to see it as a book that is long, dull and incredibly difficult to read.

However, I assure you that these ideas are unfounded misconceptions. Firstly, Crime and Punishment is quite a light weight novel at around 300 pages. Secondly, the modern translations are very good and the language, style and dialect are all easy to follow. And finally, although the novel was written in 1865, it is incredibly enthralling.

Ok, the story may not be an orgy of fast paced chases, thrilling gun fights or huge explosions, but from the very first page it is filled with murder, theft and deceit. From the moment it begins the reader is plunged head first into the disturbed mind of Raskolnikov, a former student who has convinced himself that he is capable of, and even worthy of, murder.

Although poor, unemployed and without great heritage, Raskolnikov believes himself to be a great man and even Napoleon like in intelligence and stature. He has therefore convinced himself that he can kill without remorse or even punishment.

Suddenly, the murder is committed and Raskolnikov is away with the old woman’s money and no feeling of guilt. However, before long there is a police officer sniffing around and a growing voice in Raskolnikov that is tearing at his soul with feelings of remorse and regret.

The novel is not just a great story of cat and mouse between a failed genius and a brilliant officer, but also a chilling insight into a disturbed mind, capable of so much yet lost in sea of paranoia, anguish and ultimately, guilt.

Gritty, real and incredibly dark, Crime and Punishment is one of Dostoevsky’s greatest novels and true literary masterpiece.

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