Book Review: Blind Justice

Blind Justice* was the first Sir John Fielding novel written by American Author Bruce Alexander Cook (pen name: Bruce Alexander). The series is eleven books long, and I look forward to happily reading them all. Unfortunately, Mr. Cook is no longer with us, having died of a stroke in 2003.

The book starts with a murder, which looked like suicide, and a non-grieving widow, who is adamant that the suicide is, in fact, a murder. When the recently orphaned Jeremy Proctor mentions the lack of gunpowder residue on the victim’s hands, Sir John Fielding realizes that the widow is right. There has been a murder. What ensues is a very fun series of events that don’t reveal the answer until the very end. Very, very good plot lines, with clues added in periodically. Some of them, so well placed, that they don’t become important until the story is all tied up.

It’s not all fun and games, of course. Jeremy’s father is killed in the early pages, leaving him homeless orphan. He runs off to London to escape those who would mistreat him in his hometown. Then there is the matter of Meg, who was sexually assaulted by the murder victim when he was alive. For much of the book, I had hoped that Meg was the murderer, just so she could get her revenge. She does get it, but not in a way one might think. Finally, Sir John Fielding faces the pain of losing his wife to cancer.

I really liked all of the characters. Alexander took time to develop all of them throughout the story, giving us a reason to pull for the ones we liked, and hate the ones we didn’t. All of this done, mind you, through one POV (Jeremy Proctor). One of my favorite characters is Meg, who was treated very badly by Lord Goodhope while he was alive. I love how Bruce fixed her circumstances and let her get her revenge. Of all the characters, save Jeremy, I felt most invested in Meg and wanted her to get her revenge.

In addition to being a good mystery, the book is also a well-researched reference for the language and customs at the time, as well as medical and court procedures.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I look forward to getting to know Sir John Fielding and Jeremy Proctor better through the novels. It’s a series I will dabble in from time to time, like visiting old friends. I only wish the author were still around to bless us with more of his work. Easily a 4 out of 5 review.

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Book Review: Emmanuel

I liked the book, first and foremost. I think it’s a great start for a dystopian America book series where faith seems dead, humanity might just be at its worst, and nothing seems hopeful on the horizon. Even there, as the author suggests, there is hope, and that hope is in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I like that idea a lot.

The story begins with a boy named Ezekiel, or EZ, who is lives in a domed slave world in a very bad part of the broken country. We are then introduced to Reese, who isn’t related to EZ in any way but seems to play a sort of parental role. The book details Reese, who has some knowledge of Christmas and its Biblical story, as he tries to teach the story to Ezekiel.

As it is a novelette, it needed to move quickly, and it does. We meet the supporting cast early on, understand the reasons for Reese’s hesitation to believe the Christmas story (or to have hope, for that matter), and learn how the little boy helps God break down Reese’s hard heart. Really good.

I was a little confused a little at the end, when Ezekiel talks about seeing Jesus, but it’s not something that will ruin the story for anyone. Certainly didn’t ruin it for me.

While the writing is good, I must point out that it could use a little tightening. Like, just a little bit. That’s the only thing it could use though. Great plot, great characters, great story. I was happy to give it four stars.

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Book Review: Runaway Saint

Runaway Saint was a great book overall. I liked that the author didn’t force me to suspend belief in order to make the plot work (as in, the plot was plausible). I also liked that there was a happy ending, without having everything happily ever after. Finally, I liked that it was Christian fiction, but not dry or overly safe.

One issue I had with the book, and this might seem minor, but it bothered me. On page 51, the author talked about the great missionary to China, “Judson” Taylor. However, the missionary’s name was Hudson Taylor. I find it hard to believe that a publisher would have allowed a serious mistake like that, so I’m assuming that this was a typo that made it through. The “J” and the “H” are very close on the keyboard. Just to make sure I wasn’t wrong, I googled Judson Taylor and didn’t come up with anything useful, certainly not someone who was famous for being a missionary to the Chinese like Hudson Taylor was. As a student of Taylor’s (via research), I was kind of put off by this mistake and almost stopped reading the book. I’m glad I kept going though. It was a good book.

Three stars because the ending was good, but I was really unnerved by the crucial mistake in editing.

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Book Review: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

** spoiler alert ** Let’s start with the title. I’ll just cut to the chase and tell you that there aren’t a hundred lies, or even a hint at lies. We learn that Lizzie Lovett wasn’t as happy as she pretended to be. That’s not even a story, much less the title of a book.

It got preachy at the end. The last twenty pages or so was supposedly internal monologue with a few scenes in it, but the reality is that it was a thinly veiled sermon. I did like that the main character seemed to find love in the end. I did want that for her, just like I want it for my own daughters.

Spoiler: For Christians, I would say this book is not an option. There is a description of sex in one of the latter chapter. It’s not overly dramatic, but for believers, I believe it’s a non-starter.

Spoiler: One of the only things I really appreciated from the book was on page 340, when it talks about a list of suicidal warning signs, even though Lizzie hadn’t had any. That’s true in so many cases. We talk about what we might have missed, but the simple fact is that we often don’t see any warning signs. It sucks, but it’s also true.

The biggest takeaway, and the biggest negative, is that I kept reading the book, hoping that there would be some positivity at some point, but there just wasn’t. Even in tying up loose ends, Sedoti left me depressed. I get it, teenage angst is tough. As a human, I went through it too. Unfortunately, all I felt at the end of this book was depression. It was technically sound, so I give it 3 stars, but nothing more.

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Saving Ebenezer is Coming to Girard!

Contact Name: S. Daniel Smith

Phone: 858-309-2306

Email: dan@navychristian.org

Website: http://www.sdanielsmith.com

            FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

First Christian Church, Girard, to Host Author

Girard Native to present his Christmas Novella

 

front-2[GIRARD, KANSAS, October 22—] Sheldon Smith, Girard native and 1996 GHS graduate, will present from his Christmas novella, Saving Ebenezer: The Continuing Saga of a Man Named Scrooge, at First Christian Church, Girard, on 10 November 2019 at 2:00pm. Sheldon writes under the pen named S. Daniel Smith and wrote the holiday novella to offer hope and a Christian message during the holiday season.

Saving Ebenezer: The Continuing Saga of a Man Named Scrooge begins with Tiny Tim’s death and seeks to answer questions about tragedy, faith, and relationships as the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, struggles with his loss. Fans of A Christmas Carol will note Smith’s use of Dickens’ writing style and his respect for the original characters.

First Christian Church of Girard, located at 119 North Summit in Girard, meets weekly at 9:30am for singing and Sunday School and 10:45am for worship. Cristine Warring serves as pastor.

Daniel Smith is an author and career Navy officer living in San Diego, CA. He has authored articles in over a dozen periodicals, both online and in print. Saving Ebenezer: The Continuing Saga of a man named Scrooge, is available at Amazon.com. More information is available at his website: www.sdanielsmith.com.

Additional information about the book is available at AMAZON and at THIS LINK.

 

Saving Ebenezer Back Cover

Sdansmith_3D-2 copySeven years after Jacob Marley and the three ghosts of Christmas changed Ebenezer’s life, Scrooge has a problem. He’s given away most of his money and brightened many lives, restored churches, and made London workhouses better for those living and working inside. If only all of that made him feel better about his life…

Doubt plagues Ebenezer. Even with all of his philanthropy, he still has questions he can’t answer. Are the scales balanced? Did he do enough good after that fateful Christmas Eve to avoid Jacob Marley’s fate? And after a very special person dies, he adds another question: Why did God let it happen?

When he falls ill himself, Ebenezer’s questions take on a new desperation. 

From the Cratchits to the workhouse fundraisers to nephew Fred, you’ll be reintroduced to several old friends, as well as a few new ones. With each visitor, Ebenezer tries to get closer to the answers to his questions. As the clock starts to run out, Ebenezer will need the words from an old friend to tip the scales in his favor.

Order the book HERE.

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Saving Ebenezer Easter Eggs

SPOILER ALERT! Some of the eggs discussed here may ruin the book for you, so please, please, don’t read this post until you’re done with Saving Ebenezer.

The page numbers are for paperback, but you can search for them on the Kindle version, or go to the chapters the egg is located in and read from there.

Egg #1: On page 8 (Chapter 1), you’ll read: Scrooge had the best doctors working on the boy’s condition, all of them happy to have Scrooge pay for this treatment or that, but never quite figuring out exactly what was wrong.

– Dickens didn’t write about an actual ailment, which has caused a bit of a debate over the century plus since he wrote the book. According to an article by Live Science, online sleuths believe that the condition could have been rickets or kidney disease. Another Live Science author believes he suffered from both conditions. A National Institute of Health publication agrees with the kidney disease. Because the debate continues, I wrote it in such a way as to leave the argument unhindered by my timeline.

Egg #2: On page 25 (Chapter 1), you’ll read: One of the smallest children opened the door. T’was the littlest sister of the family – Gillian or Lucy or, well, some such name – who was younger than Tiny Tim by three years or so. As far as Scrooge was concerned (for he did not trouble himself to know the specific information of ages), the younger children were younger and the older children were older, and only Tim really mattered.

– This is really fun! To the average reader, it just looks like I wrote Scrooge to be extra callous (I didn’t have to work hard, of course). However, to anyone familiar with the history of A Christmas Carol, you’ll notice a trick. In the original story, Martha, Belinda, Peter, and Tiny Tim are mentioned by name, and two younger children are alluded to, but never named. The only thing stated in the original, in Stave Three, is thus: “No, no. There’s father coming,” cried the two young Cratchits, who were everywhere at once. “Hide, Martha, hide!”

Depending on what adaptation you listen to or watch, the two youngest children are called Lucy, Gillian, Matthew, or Miranda. In my story, I simply showed Scrooge impatiently not knowing their names.

Egg #3: On page 13 (Chapter 1), you’ll read: He took pity on her just then, like maybe she was looking in on a man being taken by demons ten times worse than before.

– This egg isn’t from the original story, but from the Bible (remember that my story is a gospel-centered one first, and a sequel to the Dickens original second). In Matthew 12:43-45, the Bible talks about demons being cast out. When they can’t find another place to go, they return to the original host, bringing others with them. I didn’t write this in order to show that Scrooge was really possessed, but to show just how mean he’d been in previous times, and how it looked like he was going back to that level or, indeed, becoming worse.

Egg #4: On page 156 (Chapter 12), you read: It was always said of Scrooge, from that day forward, that he displayed Christ well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that also be said of us – of all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim used to observe, “God bless us, every one!”

– You’ll surely remember the famous line from Tiny Tim in the original story. “God bless us, every one,” is probably the most famous line from the entire book. However, I want to key in on the line right before it. In the original, it reads: it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. I owe this egg to my wife, who realized I’d ended with Tiny Tim’s famous line, but forgot Scrooge’s end. To that point, Scrooge is the most important character in my novella, because it is through his eyes we see the gospel play out. So, in wrapping his story up at the end, I repurposed the original (Alicia gave me the line and I played a little with it). I think it works well.

Egg #5: On page 30, and again on page 51, Scrooge is referred to as “old scratch.” This is a term used to describe the devil in that time period. It is also a term used to describe Scrooge in the original story (Stave 4). Using the term to describe Scrooge a little more informally, of course, was a nod to the original. It suggests that he has turned from being an “old scratch” and allows that maybe he had returned to his old ways. Read more about the term HERE.

Egg #6: Old Marley was at it again (pg 121). In A Christmas Carol (Stave 1), Ebenezer Scrooge thinks his door knocker turns into Marley’s face. I thought that was so interesting that I repurposed it to describe the door knocker being banged against its striker plate.

While the following points aren’t necessarily Easter eggs, I thought they made interesting insights into the Victorian Era. Please enjoy!

Number 1: On page 83, you read: “Fifteen pounds goes to helping you further that effort,” said Ebenezer. “Each of you will take two pounds and a half sovereign for yourself, to do as you see fit, and to spend as you please.”

– The original said two pounds and ten shillings. In researching the Victorian money system, I learned that ten shillings, which equaled a half pound, also went by the name half sovereign. I thought that was so cool I wrote it into the book.

Number 2: On page 121, you read: “Yes! Of course! I have some funds I’d like to show you. I know of a consol I can point you to as well. It pays a nice annuity.”

– When Bob Cratchit meets the widow Napier, he recommends that she settle her late husband’s affairs by starting a consol or some funds. This requires a bit of knowledge about Victorian Era investments. It probably goes without saying that investments weren’t as developed in that time as they are today. This was especially true for widows and, indeed, women in general. Part of that was due to shareholders of a company being libel for any debt incurred by the company. Unlike today, when a shareholder can be shielded against bankruptcy or lawsuit, in Victorian times, all shareholders could be held accountable. This made owning part of a business untenable for most Englanders.

However, funds would have been available and paid out a fairly modest interest. According to Pool, “funds” were national debt that often paid around five percent (5%). Good luck finding that return on a treasury bond today!

The other option for Mrs. Napier would have been the consol, which was short for consolidated annuity. This, according to Pool, paid out a slightly lower three percent (3%). Even at a smaller rate, this still paid out more than most bonds today.

 

How many of them did you see before reading this blog post? Email me at dan[at]navychristian.org to let me know!

By the way, I found Daniel Pool’s book, What Jane Austen ate and Charles Dickens Knew to be indispensable, not just in my own writing, but in reading Dickens as well (and, presumably, Austen). I highly recommend getting a copy at your local library or follow the link above (it is an affiliate link…I may receive a small commission if you use it).

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