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The Case of the Empty Tin

The Case of the Empty Tin - Erle Stanley Gardner

We all have an aunt like this (if not aunt, then some other close relative; you do not have to go as far as second cousins to find such person). The kind who loves make homemade preserves: pickles, jams, and such. The preserves are carefully stored on shelves in a basement, labeled and ordered.


Florence Gentrie was such person. Imagine her righteous indignation when she found an unlabeled closed empty tin can on her shelf. To a casual observer it would seem like much ado about nothing, but it looked like this can was somehow connected to a crime committed in a nearby house.


The crime was a strange one. People heard exactly one shot in the middle of the night and the car of the apartment tenant from where the shot came from was all in bloodstains in the morning. Both owner and his housekeeper disappeared. This meant it was not even clear who was the victim and who was the (possible) murderer. Where does Perry Mason come in? He was hired by a reclusive handicapped guy living above the apartment where the crime was committed. Mason’s task was to keep his client in the background as much as possible – from the police interrogations and the resulting publicity mostly. Obviously the best way to do it would be to solve the crime before the police starts meddling.

Police investigation


Perry Mason is very good at investigating, even if it means lying to the police hiding behind client-lawyer confidentiality, breaking into somebody’s home, finding a dead body or two, and generally put his life in danger. Do not feel bad for the guy as his fees clearly show all the excitement he had to go through.


The mystery was complicated enough to make me keep guessing about not only the identity of the villain, but also about what exactly was going on. I admit that the vital clues were given early, but it was practically impossible to recognize them as such behind all the red herrings thrown in. I also learned a simple but effective method of encrypting your messages which would put all the modern computer cryptography to shame.



I had one fairly big problem with the book using one of the worst trope of a mystery story. Not to spoil anything I will use a completely different situation from another book with the same trope. A guy was murdered. The investigation uncovered two facts from his history – among others. Some time ago the victim was driving a car being completely intoxicated, lost the control and ran over a wife and a kid of a guy named X, used a good lawyer and avoided the jail. Some other time the victim looked at another guy called Y the wrong way. Now for the trope itself: the investigators completely forget about the existence of X and build their investigation around Y trying to find (non-existing) evidence against him. I consider this to be an insult to readers’ intelligence.


This book had one such trope. Fortunately it was not about the main clue, otherwise I would have lowered the rating a lot, my love for the series notwithstanding. This was one additional very obvious lead which Mason overlooked. I came to expect better from one of the most famous lawyers in literature.

Reading progress update: I've read 86%.

Baptism of Fire - Andrzej Sapkowski

A vampire with a golden heart has only one problem: he loves to start a long philosophical rants with the slightest provocation. I consider myself a patient person, but this guy makes me want to grab a wooden stake and go full Buffy on him - golden heart of not.

Reading progress update: I've read 34%.

Baptism of Fire - Andrzej Sapkowski

Yay! Geralt is the main character in here.

The Ace of Skulls

The Ace Of Skulls - Chris Wooding

Vardia was in the middle of a civil war thanks to actions of Ketty Jay crew in the previous book. Its infamous captain Frey still pursued his lost love, the rest of the crew and all the consequences be damned. The crew finally began getting clued in that their captain would not think twice about putting their lives on the line only to get closer to the woman he was obsessed with (I cannot call this feeling love and keep a straight face) - took them long enough. Slag the rum-drinking cat got old. Fun and exciting times were coming.


I want to make it clear from the start: for two thirds of the book I was sure I would give it two stars; I even briefly thought about DNF-ing it. Last quarter improved the situation somewhat so that the final rating is 3 very weak stars. 


Mercifully Frey's love interest appeared very briefly in the first book. In the second his love was cute, in the third it became really annoying.

Puppy love

How bad was it in the last book? Sufficient to say, it made me a thief. Yes, I confess I stole the following stress reduction kit from my buddy reader and generally good friend Sarah.

Stress reduction kit

I hope she can find forgiveness in her heart, but my read was really stress-inducing.


The book actually has high rating. People say the writing quality is good. I can only answer that the writing quality by itself does not make a good book. People say the character development is great. I can only answer with a longish rant (yes, finally!!! I was waiting for a chance to talk about it for a while).


Read enough reviews written by different people and you will eventually come to the same conclusion as I did: every single person has his/her/its own definition of character development. I saw two reviews from two different people of the same book; in one of them the character development was mentioned as its main strength and in another the book was trashed for a complete lack of the said development. So in discussing the topic as it relates to this book I will use my own definition.


Frey finally developed into a weak-willed lovesick puppy, is it good? The only character who was really developed was Silo. Asked nicely (especially if this involves a large wad of cash) I might admit that sudden and complete change of personality of Harkins in the last part of the book could qualify as a development. As to the rest of the main players: they were just present for the purpose of moving the action along. Some of them actually became boring (I am looking at you, Jez).


One more point which kept bothering me a lot. During the whole series the crew got shot at often. Sometimes on practically every page, multiple times. I am not going to spoil this book, but how many times they were hit by bullets in the first three books? One time. In the previous book. Pinn shot himself by accident. I can only think of three explanations of their invincibility. First, the Ketty Jay folks got in shooting matches only with retired Stormtroopers.

Stormtroopers always miss

Second, they all have the same superpower: bullets always miss them. Third (with credits to my friend Bookstooge for this one), Aliens! I cannot think of any other reason.


As I already mentioned the last quarter saved the book from being completely hopeless by showing some larger-than-life action scenes. The ending though was a little on the cheesy side. Rant mode off.

The Time of Contempt

The Time of Contempt - Andrzej Sapkowski, David French

The person everybody was searching for in the previous book was still at large with Geralt being one of the two people who could guess the whereabouts.

Dead or Alive
This means everybody was still conducting the search, but this time it became clear that the aim was to make sure the person in question is really dead just like the rumors started by Geralt stated. As we all know sometimes little people can get in the way of movers and the shakers of the world and make them very much inconvenienced by just being alive and breathing. This was exactly the case here. A big political game went on with different parties hoping to outsmart and backstab everybody else. In this climate nobody wanted any additional complications which Geralt and his protégé seems to bring despite the fact that he continued to do his damned to remain neutral. Would it be a big spoiler to say he miserably failed at the end?

True Neutral

The first half of the book looked exactly like the previous one: lots of talk and behind-the-scene machinations, but not much action. Some secondary players that happened to be in the way of the mighty got removed, but nothing major happened. The moment I hit 50% (according to my ereader) I was sure I would rate this one with 3 stars as I already saw practically the same happenings in book 3.

In the second half it all began innocently enough. Geralt woke up in the morning in a castle and decided to play a sophisticated person. So instead of peeing in the first available quiet corner of the castle (yes, this is what the nobility did in the Middle Ages) he went looking for a real toilet. The result made me gave one extra star to the rating: the double-crossings and back-stabbings that followed would not put to shame even the true master of those in fantasy, Glen Cook – read his Black Company if you do not believe me.

My minor complaint would be that the most interesting characters do not get enough screen time, Geralt included. It is not that the ones that do are boring, but in this case others are more exciting.

Anyhow after all the excitement the fallout that followed is shown in a very unusual way. The last part was a little too long in my opinion, but not long enough for me to lower the rating: 4 stars. I am very eager to start the next book of the series.

Reading progress update: I've read 32%.

The Ace Of Skulls - Chris Wooding

Despite the opinion of the majority of readers I found this book to be weaker (so far) that the previous ones.

The Case of the Silent Partner

Case of the Silent Partner - E. Gardner

All the previous books of the series followed roughly the same general plot. A client came to Perry Mason office with a non-trivial but also not critical problem. Mason began investigating (usually involving Paul Drake) until a dead body showed up with all evidence pointing to his client being the murderer. Mason continued the investigation while avoiding the obstacles created by his archenemy Sergeant Holcomb until the court hearing where he would finally show the truth with skillful cross-examination of witnesses.


This book signifies the departure from the formula above. For starters it contains not just Mason's POV which was the case before. Sergeant Holcomb is gone replaced by Lieutenant Tragg. This was quite surprising as Mason mentioned that he was partially responsible for Holcomb's departure - and I thought the two finally came to (reluctant) understanding in the previous book. Tragg is smarter than Holcomb and tries to cooperate with Mason most of the time. Paul Drake does not make his personal appearance, but he will be back in the next book.


Two sisters opened several flower shops.
Flower Shop
Later when they become successful one of sisters - Mildred Faulkner began to suspect a guy who was holding a virtual monopoly on the business was trying to take over by buying off their stock.


So her part of the stack was safe, but when she checked on her sister it turned out the sister let her husband manage it. The husband could not produce it immediately and Mildred realized she needs a good lawyer - say Perry Mason - to protect her interest. Before she came to him she did her own investigation which led her to an illegal casino and its poisoned employee.

Illegal Casino

By the time Mason got involved another employee was shot with clues pointed at Mildred. To his complete surprise Mildred did not want Mason to represent her.


It was fun to see Mason closely working with police represented by Tragg for a change. I did miss Paul Drake and his attitude on life, but I am happy to say he will be back in the next book - as I already mentioned. Due to the cooperation the case was solved before it got to the courtroom, but it was complicated enough to make up for the absence of Mason's interrogation of witnesses. Even despite the fact that I was able to figure out what exactly was going on, I still rate the book with 4 stars.

Blood of Elves

Blood of Elves - Andrzej Sapkowski

This book signifies a sharp departure from the previous two. The first and second ones were collections of short stories mostly told from Geralt the Witcher POV. This time this is a full-length novel with multiple POVs. Actually we only see Geralt's POV in just one chapter - and a shortish one too. In my opinion the book still shows its origins in short story format as the transitions between the chapters are mostly not continuous. Instead they start with a jump in time to give a flashback to connect the events between the previous chapter and current time.


As to the plot it is quite easy to outline. The last story of the second book left Geralt stuck with - supposedly - his destiny; namely a child (not his). The poor Witcher was doing all he could and even more to prove that destiny does not exists - at least in his case, only to fail spectacularly. Coming back to destiny's child:

Destiny's Child
oops sorry, wrong picture. It turns out everybody and their brother want to find the poor kid. I mean it literally: it was easier to count the number of named characters of the novel who could not care less about Geralt's protégé than the searchers. I also need to mention some of them were so insistent they would not hesitate to leave a dead body (or ten) if somebody happened to be in their way. Now Geralt needs to provide the protection. He also wants to remain neutral in the intensifying political games and this task turns out to be practically impossible unlike disposing of hired thugs.


I have some complaints about the book. Geralt is supposed to be a monster hunter first and foremost. Well he hunted exactly one monster in here; none others bothered even to show up. There is something to be said about the evil created by humans being the biggest monster of them all, but I seriously missed a tentacled multi-headed poison-tailed chitin-armored creature waiting for its butt to be kicked by a skilled professional.


Now that I finished the book, I cast my mind back and realize that not much actually happened here: a lot of talks, a lot of politics, but by the end most of the characters remained right where they started. Things were brewing, but had not come to boiling point yet.

For all the slowness the book has charm. I cannot quite put my finger on it, but somehow I was never bored reading and the read itself was quite fast. For this reason I give the higher rating than I usually do for such book: 4 stars.

The Case of the Baited Hook

The Case of the Baited Hook - Erle S. Gardner

Mason received a phone call late at night; it was an unlisted phone known only to Della Street and Paul Drake. To make a long story short, he ended up receiving a man and a woman in the middle of the night in his office. While thanks to his foresight he managed to learn the identity of the man the woman was wearing a mask and was wrapped in a cloak making her a complete mystery. The lawyer was suckered lured into representing her in case she ever gets in trouble - while still being in the dark about who she is.

Next morning an aged woman came to him for a consultation. She gave him a long and romantic story involving a Russian noble couple fleeing the Revolution, Russian Revolution
a sinking ship (NOT named Titanic),

a house for orphaned children with some shady business practices,

and a trust fund with mismanagement problems.

Trust fund
One of the funds trustee happened to be the identified night visitor, so Mason expected the enigmatic woman to show up at any time. He was wrong as he remained in the complete darkness regarding to who his client is - makes it hard to defend the girl, does not it?

This is one of the very rare stories where Mason was able to untangle the mystery before it got to the courtroom. As a result the usual courtroom drama is not here, but the book more than made up for it. The identity of his client remained unclear for a really long time. Mason's switchboard girl Gertie got her screen time and at one point her interaction with Mason (she was under the police surveillance at the time) was hilarious. Mason put in place a high-society snobbish woman - while defending another woman, so please do not call him sexist. I also loved the way he handled uncooperative stock brokers.

So far I managed to say everything except for the mystery itself. It was good, quite on the level with the rest of the series. Given all of these the rating is my usual for the series: 4 stars.

Reading progress update: I've read 1%.

Blood of Elves - Andrzej Sapkowski

It only took me 4 hours to move this book from planning-to-read to currently-reading. 


Calamity (The Reckoners) - Brandon Sanderson

I would like to start by discussing writings of Brandon Sanderson in general even though I risk having a lynching mod of his fans showing at my doors. The guy writes fairly fast and he already delivered several complete series. I wish he would teach Speed Writing 101 to George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and J.V. Jones, but I strongly suspect they will fail the final exam. Coming back to Sanderson, he creates very original and interesting magic systems. He is one of the best modern fantasy writers when it comes to one-on-one duels/battles. 


He also cannot write a good second book of a trilogy even if his life depends on it. His trilogies look like this: an excellent first book followed by unbelievably boring second partially due to a fact that he leaves the best characters behind or kills them. Finally the last book is an improvement, but still nowhere close to the first one in terms of excitement and quality. 


This trilogy is one such example. The first book was an equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie (a good one, not recent generic superhero crap, or a reboot).

The Matrix

It contained a very memorable first line, excellent characters, great action scenes, and David's awful metaphors. The second book came. We left a couple of interesting guys behind (I challenge anybody to call Tia - who prominently featured here - at least two-dimensional character and she is as one-dimensional as they come), there was a lot of talk and minimal action, and David' metaphors became stale. It did not help any that Alcatraz from the similarly named series used them as well. 


Finally we came to the last book. It does contain more action than the second one and the characters missing from the second installment made a much-needed comeback. In this sense it is a definite improvement. On the negative side the action lacked something that makes it really great and there were still lots and lots of mostly pointless talks. 


As to the plot: after the events of the previous book the Reconers are few and scattered. The survivors keep themselves busy trying to neutralize a very powerful Epic (Epics can be briefly described as X-Men gone bad) who used to be their ally. Now the person in question just wants to watch the world burn.

Some people want to see the world burn

I mean it literally. For starters the Reconers must get some equipment and to do so they need to infiltrate a stronghold of their previous supplier. In the trilogy "infiltration" means using lots of explosives and really heavy guns - the type that only very strong people can carry. From there they will have to move to a city made entirely out of salt (poor Atlanta). 


I already mentioned that this book is better than the previous one which I rated with 4 stars. This also means I have to rate this one similarly as there is no way it deserves a perfect rating. Quite a few people said the ending was bad because the resolution of the main conflict was way too simplistic. I agree about the resolution, but I do not think the ending is bad; just unsatisfactory. 


Some fun references follow. I mentioned Alcatraz used bad metaphors straight from David's collection. In this book one Epic used a talent straight from Alcatraz books: the guy could talk any imaginary language. Speaking about Epic talents, Larcener's one comes straight from X-Men's Rogue. 


I still remain convinced the first book is better off as a standalone. Besides it did provide some closure. 

Reading progress update: I've read 22%.

The Case of the Baited Hook - Erle S. Gardner

The beginning is so complicated I have no clue how to give a plot outline in my review - and keep it reasonably short.

Reading progress update: I've read 53%.

Calamity (The Reckoners) - Brandon Sanderson

Of cause I had to stop reading right before the the infiltration mission. Using kitchen blenders.

The Case of Rolling Bones

The Case of the Rolling Bones - Erle Stanley Gardner

We all know the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

The Prodigal Son

Unlike his Biblical counterpart the guy in this tale named Alden Leeds struck gold – literally. So he became rich and came back to the loving embrace of his family. After all, who would not want to have a rich relative?

Rich Uncle

Especially a dying rich relative? Leeds however disappointed his heirs-to-be by not only staying alive and kicking, but also deciding to get married. Obviously for the relatives marriage meant kissing their dream of getting rich quick goodbye. Such people can become really dangerous really fast.


Luckily for Leeds he had a niece who had a rebel idea that the guy was entitled to spend his money the way he wanted, even by marrying a woman who looked like a typical gold-digger. She hired Perry Mason to protect the interests of her uncle. As everybody familiar with the series knows Mason is not shy about charging for his services – and delivering too, but that is another story. This time Mason really earned his money, the hard way.


First he had to extract Leeds from the mental asylum where his loving relatives put him. The moment the guy was free (he escaped before Mason overcame the legal obstacles) he became a prime murder suspect with police happily adjusting the evidence to secure the conviction.


Mason had to untangle a very complicated tale involving Gold Rush, loaded dice, a blackmail, a former bar dancing girl, a doctor with dubious reputation, and of cause deadly loving relatives. I always say the amount of red herrings in a Perry Mason mystery is very high. This time it was close to overload.

Red Herrings

It did not help any that Mason himself threw a couple of them just to keep the police busy and happy. The mystery can be solved before it is explained if you manage to see the truth behind all the red herrings, but I wish you good luck with this.


Two other things are of note. A private detective Paul Drake, another main character of the series who does the legwork for Mason finally was able to get to eat in style - the way high-class lawyers eat - a couple of times. He usually had to have a low-quality sandwich while Mason was eating in a good restaurant. I always felt pity for him because of this.


Mason usually tends to leave the prosecution look somewhat foolish in the courtroom thanks to his brilliant performances. This time he literally humiliated the guy who fully deserved it to be honest. The moral of the story: do not get Mason pissed-off. It is hard to do, but if you manage it – watch out.


To summarize: a good entertaining mystery which most probably will keep you guessing to the end. It is quite on the level with the rest of the books of the series.

Reading progress update: I've read 15%.

Calamity (The Reckoners) - Brandon Sanderson

The beginning of this installment is not as epic as that of the first one (bad pun intended), but is much better than the second.

Sword of Destiny

Sword of Destiny - Andrzej Sapkowski

This is a second collection of short stories featuring Geralt of Rivia. If I understand correctly it was written before The Last Wish, but chronologically comes after that one. The stories of this anthology are longer and less funny although one of them can be considered to be entirely humorous. 


As most of the people already know Geralt is a witcher. This means he hunts monsters for living. He is also considered to be a mutant by many as his training included undergoing some chemical (herbs) and magical treatment that left him not-quite-human. So what does the guy do in this anthology? He is being lovesick - he is madly in love with Yennefer, he does his damned to escape what he thinks is his destiny, he follows his Codex which does not allow him to kill intelligent monsters. Have you notice something is missing in this description? 


Exactly, the monster hunter does everything, but hunting monsters. This makes even one of the characters wonder how the heck he made his living with his nonexistent work-related income; it feels kind of like this:


Unsurprisingly Geralt is broke most of the time. 


I would like to talk about the love part of the book. What is a cornerstone cliché of a romance novel? The one without which the whole genre would not exists at all? It is a standard situation when two people are deeply in love with each other, but both of them keep creating obstacles that prevent them from being together, knowing exactly what they are doing. I mean imagine two people meet each other, fall in love, get married right away within a couple of pages, and fall into a standard married routine. Who in the right mind would read such a boring book? 


Geralt and Yennefer is exactly such couple. The troubles they go to NOT be with each other boggle the mind. As you might guess these situations feel a little old. They felt old during Shakespeare time actually. 

Romeo and Juliette

At least in the Great Bard's tale it were families that kept the kids separated. 


It was not a bad anthology despite my criticism, but it did resulted in a lower rating by half a star. I am also willing to cut some slack due to a fact that it was the first written installment of the series. The next book promptly goes to my to-read shelf.