Friday, January 18, 2019

Clifford Knight's The Affair of the Jade Monkey

Clifford Knight (1886-1963) was an American writer who wrote a substantial number of mysteries featuring amateur detective Professor Huntoon Rogers, including The Affair of the Jade Monkey which appeared in 1943.

The setting is Yosemite National Park. This clearly pleased the Yosemite National Park authorities because in the 1990s they issued it in paperback as a Yosemite Mystery. It’s fairly easy to find affordable copies of this paperback edition.

Professor Rogers has asked to join a hiking party in the park but it’s not the scenery he’s come for. He’s trying to unravel the mystery of a dead man, a dead man found in the park in a state that makes identification very uncertain.

It’s a time-honoured murder mystery technique to take a group of maybe a dozen people and temporarily isolate them from the rest of the world. They then discover that one of them is a murderer. A hiking party in the wilderness serves this purpose admirably. This is to be a seven-day hike and by the morning of the second day the murderer has already struck.

I’m a bit of a disadvantage reviewing a book like this because to me the idea of voluntarily setting off into the wilderness, on foot, is so bizarre as to be incomprehensible. And as for national parks, I’m sure they’re a most admirable institution, but I wouldn’t visit one if you paid me. So Knight’s attempts to create an atmosphere of peace amid natural beauty, a peace that will of course be shattered by murder, is kind of lost of me. To me the whole thing seems like a nightmare, even before the murder. Having said that I can see that if you’re susceptible to this nature stuff you probably would find the atmosphere quite effective.

Of course normally you’d think that the first thing to do would be to contact the sheriff but apparently in a national park in the U.S. (in 1943 anyway) the park ranger conduct their own criminal investigations, they make any necessary arrests and the park even holds its own preliminary hearings. So the park rangers basically have all the powers of cops. This is one of the intriguingly original things about the novel. It also makes it plausible that the  park authorities, knowing that the rangers have no experience in conducting a murder enquiry, would call on an outsider like Professor Rogers to help.

Having a murder mystery set in the wilderness is interesting but what makes it more original is that it’s not a stationary setting. A murder occurs, and then next day they’re off on the next stage of the hike.

I have to say that based on this novel having park rangers investigating murders is probably a seriously bad idea! Things like preserving the crime scene, looking for fingerprints, looking for footprints, making some effort to estimate the time of death - they don’t do any of that stuff.

Forensic science isn’t going to play any part in the solution. And it’s pretty hard to keep track of people in the middle of the wilderness so alibis are going to be tricky. This means that the investigation is primarily centred on motives. Neither Rogers nor chief park ranger Floyd Plummer do much active detecting. Mostly they just get people talking. Once they start talking Rogers likes to let them keep going, while he keeps listening, and slowly he starts to piece at least a few of the pieces of the jigsaw together.

In the beginning the hiking party seemed to be a collection of complete strangers. As the story progresses we discover that this is not the case at all. There are intricate connections  that seem to tie just about every member of the party to one or more of the other members. This is not coincidence. Most of the members of the party did not join this particular party randomly. As the connections are slowly revealed various motives start to take shape. At the start it appeared that nobody in the party had a motive for any of the murders. Eventually we find out that almost all of them have motives.

As you might expect from what I’ve said so far the clueing is mainly in the form of pointers towards motives. Since such pointers can be somewhat vague it makes it a bit hard to say if it’s fairly clued or not. There’s one major physical clue which is of course the jade monkey itself but I certainly had not the slightest idea of its significance until the very end. There was another major clue that I knew was very important, but again I had no idea what it actually meant. So Knight’s plotting was certainly good enough to fool me.

As for the solution, this is one of those books that has not so much a plot twist as a genre twist at the end. It doesn’t quite belong to the genre to which it originally seemed to belong. Whether you find the solution satisfactory depends on how you feel about this. It’s not that this isn’t a puzzle-plot mystery, but there’s something else going on. Mind you, there are clues pointing in this direction. I hope I’ve made all that sufficiently vague to avoid even a hint of a spoiler!

There are some major red herrings. The plotting is complicated and while it doesn’t fit together with the precision that you’ll find in a plot by a Crofts or a Carr I think the plot can be regarded as quite serviceable. So The Affair of the Jade Monkey has quite a few slightly odd and original features, and an unusual setting. I think that’s a more than sufficient reason to recommend this one.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel

There have been some discussions on some of the vintage crime blogs that I frequent (such as The Invisible Event, Beneath the Stains of Time and also Ho-Ling’s blog) on the subject of mystery/science fiction crossovers. A title that always comes up in these discussions is Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel. Although I used to consider myself to be a science fiction fan I’ve read very little of Asimov’s work. It seemed like a good time to check out The Caves of Steel.

Science fiction of course deals with possible futures. Some of these futures are more possible, or more likely, than others. The actual future will probably bear little resemblance to these science fictional possible futures but the fact that these futures seem at least to be possible is important. One of the intriguing things about vintage science fiction is that it offers glimpses of futures that seemed quite possible at the time but that turned out to be wildly off base.

In The Caves of Steel Asimov gets some of his predictions of the future spectacularly wrong, although in fairness to him he was no more spectacularly wrong than most other science fiction writers. In 1954 when this novel was published it seemed obvious that population growth would continue indefinitely at the extremely high levels of the preceding couple of centuries. The cities of the future would therefore be gigantic and horrifically overcrowded. It seemed just as obvious that we would face extreme shortages of just about everything, including food and water. In the Cities of Asimov’s future world the inhabitants would live on ghastly synthetic food that would be strictly rationed. Having your own bathroom would be a luxury that even very high status people could only dream about. People would live very much like battery hens. The possibility that overpopulation might simply not happen did not occur to Asimov in 1954.

On the other hand he did quite accurately predict a future in which the entire Earth has become a single bland monoculture and society has become a kind of soft totalitarianism in which anything other than absolute conformity is simply unthinkable. We’re well on the way to both of those futures. This is one of the elements that seems to get overlooked regarding this book - it is actually a rather subtle dystopian novel.

The Earth in this particular future had gone through a period of space colonisation but that was a very long time ago. The so-called Outer Worlds have long since achieved complete independence. In fact more than that, they have achieved military and political dominance over the Earth. There are fifty Outer Worlds but no new colonies have been established for centuries, if not millennia.

Robots are an accepted part of life in the Outer Worlds but not on Earth. On Earth they are regarded with suspicion and loathing. Now the Spacers (as the inhabitants of the Outer World are known) are trying to force Earth to embrace robots. Why they are doing this is one of the mysteries that has to be solved.

A Spacer has been murdered and it seems clear that he was murdered by a City Dweller (all of the inhabitants of Earth live in vast Cities are are known as City Dwellers). C-class policeman Elijah Baley, a human and a City Dweller, is assigned to investigate the murder. Much to his horror he is assigned a Spacer as his partner. But it’s worse than that - R. Daneel Olivaw is not just a Spacer but a robot.

Asimov was considered to be a major pioneer in dealing with the subject of robotics in science fiction. He was also generally regarded as being a writer of hard science fiction. What I find interesting about The Caves of Steel is that he appears to have no interest in the hard science fiction side of robotics. He doesn’t seem interested in the scientific and technological aspects. The positronic brain is kind of like a magical device. What Asimov is interested in is the social and psychological effects of a robotics revolution. What happens when robots start to take people’s jobs? What happens when people have to take orders from robots (Asimov’s famous Laws of Robotics notwithstanding there is no question that the robot cop in this novel expects humans to obey him without question). What happens when people start to realise they cannot compete with robots? How will robots make society worse, and how might they make things better? Most importantly, how will people feel about robots?

I must say I’m rather intrigued by this whole Laws of Robotics thing of Asimov’s. The First Law says that a robot cannot injure a human being and the Second Law says that a robot must obey orders from humans. But one of the protagonists of The Caves of Steel is a robot cop and he immediately takes actions that appear to break all three of the Laws of Robotics. How is Asimov going to get out of the corner he seems to have painted himself into?

I’m quite impressed by the discipline of Asimov’s writing. He has a story to tell and anything that does not contribute to the story is ruthlessly eliminated. How were the Outer Worlds settled? Did humanity invent some kind of faster-than-light drive? How do the Spacers who live in Spacetown on the outskirts of New York communicate with their compatriots on the Outer Worlds? What kinds of technologies do the Spacers have that allow them to dominate Earth? How and why, and when, were the positronic brains that make the robots possible developed? How does a positronic brain work? For any science fiction author the temptation to include lengthy infodumps explaining these things would have been overwhelming but for the purposes of the story we do not need to know these things so Asimov tells us nothing about any of these questions. He tells us what we need to know, no more and no less. I rather admire that.

It’s a dystopian novel but it doesn’t see this dystopian future as inescapable. Whether you will actually accept Asimov’s hopeful alternative as wildly impractical or totally plausible is a matter for your judgment. What is interesting is that Asimov doesn’t just offer an alternative - he explores the psychological underpinnings of his alternative, and he accepts that it can only work if people can be persuaded to want it to work.

How does it stand up as a mystery novel? Remarkably well actually. There are lots of red herrings and false leads and before he discovers the real solution Elijah Baley comes up with several very ingenious solutions that turn out to be completely wrong. There are plenty of clues provided and the clever thing is that they’re effective mystery novel clues but they also relate to the science fictional themes of the novel. And most importantly Asimov does not cheat. He explains how his future society works, he explains how the people of this society behave and he explains how his robots behave, and having laid down the ground rules he sticks to them. Which doesn’t stop him from pulling off some very effective misdirection.

So this is a novel that deals with interesting science fiction themes with surprising subtlety and it’s a novel that works very satisfyingly as a detective story. It’s an unqualified double success. Highly recommended.

Friday, January 4, 2019

The Black Camel by Earl Derr Biggers

The Black Camel, published in 1929, was the fifth of the six Charlie Chan mysteries written by Earl Derr Biggers.

Movie star Shelah Fane’s career is fading rapidly but she either won’t or can’t see the writing on the wall. On her way to Hawaii to film some scenes for her latest movie she meets handsome (and very rich) Englishman Alan Jaynes. Since they’re both madly in love and her career is on the skids it would obviously be a very good idea to marry him. But Shelah will not take any important step without consulting fortune-teller Tarneverro.

Tarneverro has already had an encounter with Inspector Charlie Chan of the Honolulu Police Department who warned him, very politely, that fortune-telling is frowned upon by the authorities in Hawaii.

Shelah Fane has rented a luxury house in Honolulu and the party she throws there attracts lots of Hollywood types and some Hawaiian high society as well. And it ends in murder.

When Charlie Chan gets to the scene he finds that one of the few certain things about the crime is the time at which it occurred. But Inspector Chan will discover that nothing in this case can be taken for granted. Airtight alibis vanish like mist while new alibis spring up in their place. There are some very fine clues but they turn out to be treacherous. They may be false, or simply mean the opposite to what they appear to mean. There are suspects with apparently strong motives but the various likely motives for the murder may be mere illusions.

This is the most elaborately (and effectively) plotted of the four Chan novels I’ve read so far. Biggers uses misdirection with consummate skill - like a good stage magician he can successfully misdirect you even when you know he is doing it.

This is one of the two Chan novels set in Hawaii. Hawaii still has a certain glamour and exoticism but the Hawaii of the late 1920s is wildly exotic. We get to see both the glamorous and the squalid sides of Honolulu. Yes, even tropical paradises have their seedy underworlds.

And it’s Charlie Chan’s home and we get some interesting glimpses into Charlie’s interior world. One moment that I found to be rather affecting was Chan’s reflections on his vanishing heritage. He is profoundly saddened that his children are so thoroughly americanised and have no interest in their own culture or traditions. Chan can see his sense of identity slipping away from him. It’s not that he dislikes America. Not at all. He just wishes that his children could be Chinese as well as American.

In a good golden age puzzle-plot detective story you don’t want the characters (apart from the detective) to have too much depth. The plot is what such stories are all about and in-depth characterisation is a distraction and it slows things down. On the other hand you do want the characters to be more than just ciphers. If they have no personality at all then you’re not going to care who committed the murder or who gets charged with it. It’s a balancing act and Biggers does it pretty well here. The personalities are sketched with quick and broad brush-strokes but they’re vivid and colourful sketches.

There are occasional moments of sly wit. Charlie Chan takes his job very seriously but he does not lack a sense of humour.

There is a certain stylishness to this novel. I suspect that the Hawaiian setting inspired Biggers to really work on giving this story a distinctive flavour. There are some interesting little nuances that you don’t necessarily expect in a detective novel. Hawaii is an earthly paradise but it’s not good for everyone. It has a very bad effect on some people, a demoralising effect. For some people Hawaii is the end of the line.

There is just no way I could have failed to enjoy this book. I love theatrical/movie world murder mysteries. I love murder mysteries involving stage magic or phoney occultism and the Tarneverro character provides pleasing dashes of both these qualities. And I adore stories set in the tropics or in what we used to call (in less politically correct days) the Mysterious Orient. So this novel provides everything on my wish list. Plus it has a wonderfully constructed plot and we get a clearer understanding of what makes Charlie Chan tick. I’m not sure what else you could possibly ask for. Very highly recommended.

The 1931 20th Century-Fox adaptation of The Black Camel was arguably the best of all the Charlie Chan films.

You might also be interested to read my reviews of the earlier Chan novels The House Without a Key, The Chinese Parrot and Behind That Curtain.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

best reads of 2018

These were my favourite reads of 2018. They’re listed by publication date, not in order of merit.

Here’s the list, with links to my reviews.

H. C. Bailey, Mr Fortune Speaking, 1930

J. J.  Connington, The Sweepstake Murders, 1931

Henry Wade, Constable Guard Thyself! 1934

John Dickson Carr, The Burning Court, 1937

C. S. Forester, The Happy Return, 1937

Donald E. Keyhoe, Complete Adventures of Richard Knight vol 1, 1937

John P. Marquand, Think Fast, Mr Moto, 1937

Rex Stout, Black Orchids, 1942

Christianna Brand, Tour de Force, 1955

Leigh Brackett, The Secret of Sinharat, 1964

Gavin Lyall, Midnight Plus One, 1965

Peter O’Donnell, Modesty Blaise, 1965

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sax Rohmer’s President Fu Manchu

President Fu Manchu was the eighth of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu novels. It appeared in 1936 and it marks an interesting departure for the series. Dr Fu Manchu has now turned his attention to American politics.

The date of publication is significant. The United States was still in the grip of the Great Depression and political instability seemed like a possibility. There had certainly been waves of political instability throughout the world since the Bolshevik Revolution and the Depression had made things even more dangerously unsettled. There were Hollywood movies like Gabriel Over the White House predicting a fascist takeover. Communism was gaining ground in most western countries. So Rohmer’s idea that Fu Manchu might see an opportunity for power was perhaps not quite so far-fetched as it seems today.

A priest who is a popular broadcaster is suddenly cut off in the middle of a broadcast. He was about to tell the American people something terribly important, warn them of some great danger. And now he cannot for the life of him remember what it was. The manuscript for the broadcast has been stolen as well. Federal agents now have the priest under guard in an old tower. Worse is to come - presidential candidate Dr Orwin Prescott has disappeared. That leaves only one viable candidate, Harvey Bragg. Federal Officer 56 knows that  Harvey Bragg is a mere puppet. If he is elected the real power will be in the hands of a sinister man in the shadows and Federal Officer 56 knows the identity of that man in the shadows.

Federal Officer 56 has been given sweeping powers, slightly surprising given that he is not an American. In the current crisis however he has been recognised as the only man who can save the situation. He is cagey about his identity although he claims that his name is Smith. The alert reader who is a keen fan of the Fu Manchu books will have a pretty shrewd idea of the identity of this Englishman named Smith.

Fu Manchu’s plan is even more devious than initial appearances would suggest. It looks like Fu Manchu intends Harvey Bragg to be his puppet but the real plan is more subtle. Its also not just about the presidential election. It has been suggested that just as the Roman Republic would appoint a dictator in times of crisis then the present crisis should be dealt with by electing an American dictator.

Dr Fu Manchu has managed to gain control of a large part of the American underworld and indirectly he has control of significant business interests and a grassroots political movement. Combined with his undeniable genius he should now be unstoppable but there’s a complicating factor. Fu Manchu’s American operation is on a vast scale and lavishly funded but it’s been put together in a hurry and it doesn’t work as smoothly as his previous operations in more familiar territory. Also he is dealing with people who are not the kinds of people he is used to dealing with. Many of them are not Asian and do not share his dream of Asian dominance over the West. They serve him for money or because they have been blackmailed or hypnotised but their loyalty cannot be entirely relied upon. This is an uncomfortable situation for Fu Manchu.

Of course Sir Denis Nayland Smith is in unfamiliar territory as well but he has adapted and he has been fortunate to find a thoroughly reliable lieutenant in the person of Marine Captain Mark Hepburn.

There is of course a mysterious dangerous glamorous woman with a slightly exotic air. In fact there are two such women, and Captain Hepburn has fallen for one of them.

There are some of the features you always expect in a Fu Manchu story. There’s the elaborate secret headquarters with the concealed river entrance. In this case it has lots of other surprises as well. And there are some more unusual features, such as a secondary secret headquarters concealed in a skyscraper.

Rohmer was obviously determined to make this a fresh entry in the series and tries very hard to make the American atmosphere effective. It’s the kind of American atmosphere you get from an imaginative writer who knows America from movies and pulp fiction but that just makes it more fun. The stuff about American politics is mostly fanciful although the 1930s was a time when it seemed like almost anything could happen in politics. Rohmer (probably sensibly) doesn’t really take an overt political position. Fu Manchu’s objective is the same as it has always been - to achieve the dominance of eastern over western civilisation. Gaining control of the U.S. is simply a means to this end.

As always in these books it is obvious that Rohmer admires his villain, Fu Manchu, just as much as he admires his hero, Sir Denis Nayland Smith. Fu Manchu is the ultimate expression of the genius of the East (as Rohmer saw things) while Nayland Smith represents the finest virtues of the West. Their struggle is not a struggle between civilisations and barbarism but a struggle between civilisations. Fu Manchu is ruthless but he believes that ruthlessness in such a worthy cause is not only justified but necessary. He is ruthless, but never dishonourable. And in this story as in quite a few other Fu Manchu shows himself to be capable of noble gestures that would be worthy of any hero.

President Fu Manchu is an intriguing attempt to do something slightly different within the formula Rohmer had already perfected and it succeeds pretty well. Like everything Rohmer wrote it’s vastly entertaining. Highly recommended.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Case of the Rolling Bones

Erle Stanley Gardner’s 1939 Perry Mason mystery The Case of the Rolling Bones adheres closely to the formula Gardner had well and truly established. And it works beautifully.

Mason is hired by a young woman named Phyllis Leeds to protect the interests of her Uncle Alden. 72-year-old Alden Leeds made a fortune in the Alaskan goldfields at the beginning of the century and now he seems to be planning to marry. Alden’s relatives are not pleased as the marriage could spell the end of their expectations for hefty inheritances. They are trying to get the old boy committed to an asylum.

As is fairly usual in the Perry Mason novels there’s no question of murder, or any serious crime, until we’re a very long way into the book. There is however a definite puzzle. Or rather there are a number of puzzles. There are several intriguing questions of identity. There’s more than one marriage that is being obstructed. There’s also more than one missing person. And finally there’s the question of the loaded dice.

Of course all this does eventually lead to murder. Which raises those questions of identity again.

The timing of the murder should be straightforward. The apartment house in which the murder took place was under surveillance by the Paul Drake Detective Agency so the times at which various people arrived and left are known with complete certainty. But the timing still turns out to be problematic.

There are two major courtroom scenes. The first, in which Mason is attempting to block the family’s attempts to have Alden locked up in an asylum, is an absolute joy. Mason sets an exceptionally clever and devious trap for the opposing counsel who proceeds to walk right into it in the most eminently satisfying way. The second courtroom scene is perhaps not as amusing but it’s more dramatic.

In a Perry Mason story you expect Perry Mason to cut a few corners as far as legal ethics are concerned. Which is exactly what he does. You also expect the District Attorney’s office to be even less ethical, which is exactly what happens. The only real differences are that when Mason plays fast and loose with either ethics or the law he does so in order to protect the interests of his clients, and he does so with more skill than the D.A.’s office. As usual in Gardner’s novels the message is that if you’re accused of a crime you can’t trust the police or the D.A. to play fair so you’d better hope your lawyer knows all the legal tricks in the book.

This concern over the way that the legal system is stacked against the little guy is present in all the early Perry Mason novels but it’s especially marked in this case. In this story Mason pushes his ethical flexibility to the limit, but he does so because the D.A.’s office utilises outrageously illegal methods in attempting to entrap both his client and Mason himself. And Mason is prepared this time for a showdown on the matter - he’s prepared to put his career on the line to make his point.

Alibis play a major part in this mystery and if you’re a connoisseur of the art of busting unbreakable alibis you’ll be in bliss. Never use lamb chops as part of an alibi in a murder case - they can be treacherous witnesses.

Doubts about identity are a staple of detective fiction but this novel just keeps on adding more twists to the saga. Even Perry Mason has to admit he’s hopelessly confused about the identity of one key player. And every time the matter seems to be about to be resolved Gardner finds that he can extract one more twist from his plot.

Of course any Perry Mason story is going to be neatly plotted but this one is exceptionally strong in that area. There are colourful characters and some fascinating glimpses into the brutal life on the Klondike goldfields. It all adds up to a very entertaining novel indeed. Highly recommended.

The long-running Perry Mason TV series included some remarkably successful adaptations of Perry Mason novels sadly the adaptation of The Case of the Rolling Bones manages to eliminate all the really interesting elements of the book.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Finding of Lot's Wife by Alfred Clark

The Finding of Lot's Wife is a lost world adventure tale. The author was a certain Alfred Clark, of whom I know nothing whatsoever. I am more than a little addicted to lost world stories and this is a rather obscure example of the genre.

While the book was apparently published in 1896 there is some evidence that the events it purports to describe happened somewhat earlier. There is what appears to be a reference to the Crimean War as a contemporary event.

Hal Aylward is wealthy young Englishman who takes it into his head to go off travelling in the Middle East. He persuades his friend Noel Yorke, an artist, to accompany him. They eventually end up in Palestine where they hear a story that intrigues them. There is supposedly a Greek Orthodox monastery built on an inaccessible site in a hidden valley, a monastery that has not been visited by, or even seen by, any outsiders for centuries. The monks are reputed to live to an incredibly advanced age and to have lost the power of speech. They are fed, so the story goes, by ravens. There’s a suggestion that there is some connection between the monastery and the Biblical tale of Lot and his wife fleeing from God’s destruction of the Cities of the Plain.

It’s obviously a tall story but Noel is captivated by it and insists that they set out at once to find the lost monastery of St Lot.

They are deserted by their Arab guides but, suffering considerably from thirst and hunger,  are taken in by a wandering Bedouin tribe, the Beni Azaleh. The tribe has suffered misfortunes of its own. Some rather strange circumstances lead Aylward and Yorke to a remote valley and there, sure enough, is a monastery perched atop a pillar of rock.

This is indeed the monastery of St Lot but the monks are not unusually old nor have they lost the power of speech, nor are they dependent upon ravens for their food. It seems like a fairly ordinary monastery, except for its extreme isolation. The big surprise is that there are two guests already staying at the monastery, an American professor and his daughter (the daughter being disguised as a young boy).

There are however odd things happening at the monastery.Some odd things had also happened among the Beni Azaleh. The sheikh’s son had disappeared, and the sheikh had gone off to search for him, down a narrow defile in the rocks from which no traveler had ever been known to return. The sheikh did return, but at the cost of the loss of his reason. These various strange happenings are connected to the legend mentioned earlier. The two young English travellers will make the same descent that the sheikh had made, with frightening and horrible results.

I’m not sure if I’d call this an explicitly Christian adventure tale but obviously Christianity does play an important rôle. Of course in 1896 a writer would presume that most of his readers would be at least nominal Christians and would be reasonably familiar with Biblical tales, such as the fate of Lot’s wife. I don’t think a reader would actually need to be a Christian to appreciate this story.

There is some action, there’s a minor battle and there’s plenty of danger. The country itself is a bigger danger than any human foes, especially in the Valley of Madness.

The Arabs are treated in an even-handed manner. El Jezzar is certainly a true villain but the young Englishmen will owe their lives to the mullah of the Beni Azaleh who refuses to countenance cold-blooded murder. The story has two heroines, one an American girl and the other a Bedouin girl.

There’s some effective atmosphere in this story. The horrors of thirst, hunger, isolation and madness are palpable.

The Finding of Lot's Wife is perhaps a lost world story for lost world completists like myself but it’s a fairly entertaining book. If you are a lost world fanatic you’ll certainly want to add it to your reading list. Recommended.