Thursday, 29 July 2010

Necropolis by Anthony Horowitz

Four of the Five have been found and have come together in Peru. Just as they are about to leave the country to go off in search of the Fifth, they are attacked and their plans are thrown awry, forcing Matt to make decisions he would rather not have to make. Should he keep them all together or should he split them up? It seems whatever he does is doomed to fail. What use is finding the Fifth if the rest of the group is scattered to the winds? Meanwhile the Fifth, Scarlett, is fighting a destiny she does not yet know is hers while she tries to figure out what’s wrong with the world.

Necropolis is the fourth book in The Power of Five series. Again, this book shifts perspective as Scarlett is introduced and her tale is told. In itself, this wouldn’t have been a problem, but Horowitz not only switches between perspectives but sometimes goes backwards and forwards in time. This gets a little irritating as much of it seems repetitive. The story loses continuity and I can’t help but feel that it’s as if he wasn’t paying much attention to the book while he was writing it. It’s as if he had too many other things to think about to concentrate on making the novel a really good one. Almost as if he’s frankly just tired of writing the series and wants to get it over with so he can move on.

Having said that, it’s still a pretty good story and younger readers will certainly like it. Personally I don’t think it’s as good as the last two so it only gets 3 out of 5 from me.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Naughty, naughty Lady Chatterley goes off and has an affair with her groundskeeper causing much strife and controversy throughout the world in the first half of the 20th century. How could you!

Seriously, I think the main reason I decided to read this book was to see what the fuss was about. I read, I saw the fuss. Seriously, this book is a little racy even by today’s standards. OK, so maybe there’s a lot more sexually explicit material available today, but it’s still not a book I can see showing up in a high school library any time soon despite its literary relevance. In any case, I can see why the book was banned when it first came out. It must have been a real shocker, although I’m certain it was sold and lent and borrowed and passed on a lot more often than people would have admitted, although I’m sure a great number of people read it for the same reason I did, namely to see what the fuss was about.

Lady Chatterly marrys Clifford before the war half thinking that he would never return. Defying all the odds, he does, but was wounded and lost not only the use of his legs, but his “manhood” as well. Lady Chatterley does the decent thing and remains with him, both of them trying to convince themselves that the really important thing is that they are close in mind and spirit, if they can’t be in body. Constance, however, soon realizes, although perhaps not so concretely, that mind and body are not only two separate things, but that they both need attention for a human to be healthy. She becomes bored with Clifford and his friends with their talk of intellectualism, especially as she is supposed to be the pretty, decorative piece on the occasions when they are together and her taking part in the discussion does not come into question. The men are happy for her to listen, but only listen. She also tires of the constant care her husband seems to require. For him it is the only way for them to be physically close, for her it is a chore, like taking care of a child all day long.

As she becomes increasingly discontented with her life, she begins to seek out other sources of amusement, i.e. men. Not that she became veritably promiscuous, but she does have the odd affair before meeting, and falling in love with, the grounds man, Oliver Mellors. They come from different worlds and Mellors is the exact opposite of Clifford. He is taciturn and uncouth, a man more of action than of words. His own personal life is less than ideal but instead of seeking refuge in intellectualism, he seeks solace in nature and in work. At first he is reluctant to allow Constance anywhere near him, but soon relents and their relationship begins.

The whole book is one big juxtaposition of physical and mental well-being. One is no good without the other and those who try and resist either become something like half people. Constance, Clifford and Mellors are all half-beings, but those who have a choice, i.e. Constance and Mellors, soon come to realize that they are only half alive. That one without the other is simply no good. Even poor Clifford seems to realize that it’s all only pretence. He betrays his own postulations on the subject when he repeatedly tells Constance he would claim any child of her for his own and make it his heir, the only stipulation being that she remains with him.

Because she is already throwing all caution to the wind, Constance also feels free to discover herself and think about her own needs and wants, which was frowned on by society. Women were there to care for men and behave themselves, not to act as sentient beings with wants and needs just like men. She also doesn’t feel bound to propriety anymore. Somehow, considering the situation with Clifford, her affair would have been acceptable had it only been with an acceptable man, i.e. someone from her own class. Instead, she really does abandon all propriety and takes up with the groundskeeper, something her own sister takes exception to despite her intense dislike of Clifford. It’s as if she must stick to rules while not sticking to rules. It’s sort of the sexual equivalent of Thou Shalt not Lie, but little white lies are OK as long as no one gets hurt. Her behaviour would have been acceptable had it been carried out discreetly within certain bounds. Alone the fact that Lawrence choose to air such a thought would have been considered scandalous at the time, regardless of how true it may have been.

His confrontation of social rules and boundaries coupled with the philosophical bent of the book is what keeps this book alive as a classic. Had this been lacking, it would have been nothing more than a blip in literary radar with its only note being that it caused much moral outrage and indignation. My only qualm is that it occasionally seemed repetitive and overly dramatic on the philosophical front, the latter is probably down to the change in moral behaviour between last and this century. It would have all seemed much newer than and less old hat. Still, it is undoubtedly a classic and the fuss is justified by more than just its racy reputation. 4 out of 5.

Monday, 26 July 2010

The Memoires or Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Memoires or Sherlock Holmes is a collection of short tales about the feats of Sherlock Holmes written in the form of Memoires by his ever faithful sidekick Dr. Watson. They give what purports to be the most interesting of Holmes’ cases, including his finale with Professor Moriarty and how Holmes came to his death. Fortunately for us, the readers of the day kicked up such a fuss about killing Holmes off, that Doyle resurrected him in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Having read both works recently, I can see why Doyle did what he did. First of all, there really is no other suitable death for Holmes because his character simply isn’t one that would grow old contentedly. Imagine a old, decrepit Holmes unable to go about his business chasing after criminals. He’s not particularly stable at the best of times, but inactivity would send him over the brink. Death by and with Moriarty was the best possible scenario in my opinion. However, Doyle was a bit premature with killing off his character and was forced to bring him back from the grave so to speak. Since Moriarty really was dead, that particular scenario couldn’t happen twice (that would have been cheesy anyway). I

I can also see why he was so eager to kill off Holmes. The more you read, the more similarities you start to see between the cases and they becoming increasingly easier to solve yourself, or at least to imagine where Doyle will take the reader. I think Doyle might have been afraid that he would become stale and tried to do what so many others before him should have done, i.e. quit while he was ahead.

I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the book, because I did, it’s only that I can see Doyle’s reasoning. 5 out of 5 for this lot because how could you give Holmes any less!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Evil Star and Nightrise by Anthony Horowitz

These are the second and third books in the Power of Five series by Anthony Horowitz. I reviewed the first, Raven’s Gate not all too long ago. Although I don’t really feel either of these books warrants a blog entry a piece, I will say that they are much better than Raven’s Gate. Raven’s Gate felt like it never really got off the ground, but Evil Star and Nightrise were both what I was expecting for the series. I did like Evil Star just a bit better than Nightrise, but I think that’s because of the switch in characters. Just as you were feeling comfortable with Matt, Nightrise takes you somewhere different. However, that’s not to say that Nightrise isn’t worth the read, it just foreshadows lots of change for the series.

Evil Star is the continuation of Matt’s story. Just when he thinks it’s all over and can resume his life, he’s whisked away to Peru to try and prevent the second gate from opening.

Nightrise is the story of two twin brothers, Scott and Jamie, who are performing on stage in Reno, Nevada with their mind reading trick, only there is no trick. They really can read each other’s minds. That is their power as given to them as two of the five. Scott and Jamie must flee for their lives when men from the Nightrise corporation come for them. They don’t know it yet, but Nightrise is their greatest enemy and they will do anything to get their hands on the boys for reasons Scott and Jamie have yet to understand.

None of these will ever be my favourite YA books, but they are a good read none the less. Maybe I would be more enthusiastic if I were in the target age range, but I still think they’d take a back seat to books like Harry Potter or the Bartimaeous Trilogy. Still, I can recommend them as a good, light read to anyone who likes the magic genre. 3 out of 5.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

I think the biggest reason I had for reading this book was the fuss it makes. When people get onto the subject of banning books, this one seems to pop up every time and I wanted to know why it would be on that list. I had tried to read it before, but had a lot of difficulty reading the dialect and gave up after the first few chapters. It was just one of those books that was too tiring to read after work. So, I bought the audio book. That made a huge difference. It’s still a long work, but it only took me a week or so to get through the 21+ hours. The story is compelling and the subject matter full of emotion and frankly, I think every American student should have to read it in a classroom situation, possibly in combination with a history lesson.

After having read it, I agree that there are some aspects of the book which could still have a negative impact, such as the stereotypes it probably helped create. That’s why I think it should be read in a classroom situation, because that’s a subject that needs to be discussed, especially with younger children who may not be able to distinguish stereotype from reality. Although I will say that even as a child I found those types of negative stereotypes ridiculous and unbelievable because they are overdone. However, on the whole, I see no reason for banning the book. The whole story is one long lesson in the wrong that was done and thinking back, I would have liked to have, as I said before, have this a part of my history lessons in school. It certainly would have driven the point home in a much more tangible way. Some of the things mentioned, such as whipping houses where the slaves were sent to be whipped, are so horrifying it beggars belief that so called civilized people could have thought of this as even remotely acceptable. That particular point was the worst of the whole story for me because it seems to take de-humanization to a whole new level. It’s bad enough to whip someone at all, but to send them out to be whipped by a “professional” is beyond belief. On the one hand, the owner can’t be bothered or doesn’t have the stomach to do it himself and on the other it’s like sending out a shoe to be mended, a thing to be dealt with by someone else. Horrifying and shameful. It makes me mad just thinking about it, but then I got mad after about a half a page and just stayed that way throughout the book. I can’t believe the things people can do to each other. Sometimes we really are a nasty race. Fortunately we are able to learn and grow as people and now recognize our faults and can better ourselves, otherwise what would be the point?

I won’t go into the story for this entry. It’s long and complicated with several lines running at once. Stowe obviously wanted to cover as many aspects of racism and slavery as possible to make her case against it. Tom is, of course, the central figure and supported by his belief in God throughout the good and the bad times. One of the things Stowe did well was to give some of her characters a halfway decent life, if only for a time. It kept the book from becoming too dark and too focused on evil and made it more palatable for the reader in that time. She gave the slaves a good range of characters that would have fit the white population just as well as the slaves showing them to be equal in all but their social position. Above all, Stowe’s story was a good one which it needed to be to catch people’s attention and sway their opinions. An out and out diatribe would have surely been disregarded and never have managed to motivate change and cause such a furore. So well done to Stowe, even if she wasn’t perfect and doesn’t fit today’s ideal. 5 out of 5 for a book every child should have to read in school.

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Five Red Herrings by Dorothy Sayers

Sandy Campbell is a drunken, aggressive painter who manages to make enemies of nearly everyone in the small village in Galloway. Lord Peter Wimsey is in the area fishing and as he knows, and likes, most of the people in the village, he offers his assistance and with his help, the police set off to find out which one of 5 men killed Campbell.

There’s not much to say about this one. Sayers has never grabbed me like Christie did, so unless I get them on sale or from the library, I haven’t really put much effort into reading her books. They’re cosy, comfortable mysteries good for a pleasant bout of reading that doesn’t require a whole lot of thought or effort. This one is neither brilliant, nor horrible. It earns a solid 3 from me.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowels

Figuring I needed to get myself out of my wallow in crime and YA literature, I decided I needed to read a classic and went with The French Lieutenant’s Woman as a cross between classic and future classic; it’s not quite a heavy book, but not a light read either.

Sarah Woodruff is a woman jilted in love, or is she? She can be seen pining day after day on the Cobb in Lyme Regis staring out to sea apparently after her French lover whom she nursed during his recovery from an injury sustained in a shipwreck, but who left her as soon as he’d recovered. She is penniless and alone and the society of the time would have condemned her to the life of an outcast for her “crimes”, but through the charity and kindness of others, finds a place as a lady’s companion. Mrs. Poulteney takes Sarah in out of a need to prove her piety. Sarah accepts that she must suffer for her past indiscretions, at the same time refusing to divulge any details or even hint that she may feel penitent. She lives her life seemingly without hope for improvement or thought of the future, often refusing to take advantage of offers of assistance given to her. The only comfort she does allow herself is the confidence of Charles, who is affianced to Ernestina, a wealthy woman of the rising classes. Charles and Sarah enter into a relationship which may lead to both their ruin.

This book is destined to become a classic, or already is one despite its relatively recent publishing date. It was written in 1969 but takes place in Victorian England. It’s written from the point of an omniscient narrator who provides insights and commentary into both today’s society, i.e. that of 1969, and Victorian society, often offering praises and critique of both. He imparts not only the character’s feelings, but the reasons behind those feelings as well. Victorian England can often be a complicated and incomprehensible world for modern society as it’s based on many rules and regulations which often seem to have no logical derivation even though they are obviously motivated by Religion an purity of soul.

That Sarah is based on Tess of the D’Urbervilles is obvious to anyone who has read the latter. Fowles not only includes many quotes and references to Hardy, but Sarah, at least on the surface, is really just a clone of Tess, who also feels the constant need for penitence and punishment. The twist is that Fowles includes Doctor Grogan in his story who offers another possible interpretation to Sarah, namely that of a maniacal, twisted woman who is out to manipulate others to her own benefit. He changes Charles perspective and forces him to confront his feelings and opinions. Fowles also offers the reader several scenarios within his own book, all of which are possible and believable. He forces the reader into thinking about which ending he would chose for the characters. I won’t give my choice away because it would ruin the story for anyone who hasn’t read it. Besides, that would just lead me to spending an age discussing all the variants.

It’s an interesting read and well worth it. The modern commentary and the twists Fowles introduced kept it from being as gloomy and doomy as Tess and Hardy are, thus making it the more pleasant read. I now understand what all the fuss was about. 5 out of 5.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Death in a Far Country by Patricia Hall

Suprise, suprise, suprise! This is another one I got through an Audible sale. What can I say, I bought a few during their last $4.95 sale.

I’m afraid it’s yet another crime/mystery as I remain in my relaxing, shut down summer mode.

DCI Michael Thackeray is just back from sick leave after having been shot. He’s still facing an inquiry from his last case where his girl friend, Laura Ackroyd a local journalist, became involved in his case with deadly consequences. He has no time for respite on the job as he is catapulted into a new case involving the local football club and human trafficking when a young girl of unknown identity is found dead. Again this leads him and Laura down a path they don’t want to take, but must deal with all the same. Both face difficult decisions as they race against the clock to find a murderer and those who brought the girl into the country.

Frankly, I didn’t care for this one. Despite the potentially loaded subject matter and moral quandaries of human trafficking and abuse of those in no position to defend themselves, the whole thing seemed much too formulaic and one dimensional. Thackeray is a standard detective with his girl friend who is often in the way of things. Hall spent much too much time going over the past instead of focusing on the present. It wasn’t a long book as it was, but if you removed the discussion about events in the last book, there wouldn’t be much left of the current one. What was left felt a bit like Hollywood schema #47. It felt unoriginal and unrealistic, and if the recaps of the last book are anything to go by, the plot was fairly repetitive with Ackroyd doing the same thing all over again. The ending was also too pat and too convenient to be realistic and left me feeling a bit like Disney had its oar in there somewhere. 2 out of 5 with a recommendation to read only if you’re bored or not in the mood for challenging.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Dead Like You by Peter James

I’m beginning to feel a little bit top heavy on crime novels lately, but I do like them and it’s summer, which is my busy season at work, so I’ve been choosing my books for fun and relaxation.

I also have to admit that I often read other reviews before I write my own, mostly because I’ve already read several other books before I get around to writing a review and I need reminding of what the book was about. Usually a word or two suffices and the memory comes flooding back, but it’s often necessary all the same. What disturbs me about this is that some of the reviews can be the exact opposite of what I think of a book. It makes me doubt my own judgement, especially if I enjoyed reading it. What bothers me most though is that it seems to me that many of the critics are judging books against others which aren’t really relevant or even against an invisible wall of criteria which don’t really apply. When I review a book, regardless whether it’s Literature, crime, YA or a children’s book, I try and review and judge it within its own genre. I don’t expect anything profound from a crime novel, just as I expect children’s books to be fun and enjoyable. I can only rate a book in comparison to others like it, even if an author has hitherto written books of a different kind. You cannot really compare an apple to an orange even if they do come from the same garden. I guess what I’m trying to say is that most crime or mysteries are never going to be Nobel Prize material, but that doesn’t change my liking, or my regard for them. My reviews might just be a bit shorter because these types of books aren’t meant to be analysed to death. They were written for enjoyment and not to compete with great literature giants.

Having said my piece (which I have the sneaking suspicion isn’t the first time I’ve done that), on to the book.

This is one of the Superintendent Roy Grace series and follows the possible re-emergence of the Shoe Man, a rapist with a fetish for shoes, who eventually became a murderer. Grace is worried that he’ll continue to be able to pray on women and that his crimes may escalate if he cannot find and stop the man. The whole scenario was enough to make me glad that I haven’t a shoe fetish, or at least not a high-class, high-heel, designer shoe fetish. I could buy walking and hiking shoes/sandals from here to kingdom come, but you won’t get me into a pair of high heels (frankly that would just end in a visit to the hospital and possible several weeks of intense pain).

Back to the book at hand, the reader is also treated to a more in-depth look into Grace’s life with his wife Sandy opening up the book to a second dimension. Until now, Sandy has pretty much been put on a pedestal while Grace searches for her and the reason for her sudden disappearance. As Grace remembers the first investigation into the Shoe Man, James fleshes out Sandy and Grace’s relationship with her, offering the reader insight into possible motives for her vanishing act. It’s another reminder that things are often not as they seem, even with inside information.

I thought this was one of the better Grace novels. The mystery held my attention, James kept up the suspense well without becoming tedious and there’s enough character connection that you care what happens to them. 4 out of 5.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

Once again, thanks to Audible for their sales because I’ve just found a new author to follow. The Various Haunts of Men is the first in the Simon Serrailler series and it’s brilliant. But before I wax enthusiastic on this one, let me tell you what it was about.

A geriatric night-nurse with a well-ordered life goes running one morning and never returns, even though it was obvious she intended to do so. The only person who misses her is her employer, who held her in high regard and swears she wouldn’t just not show up for work, despite the statistics that tell her differently. She pressures the police into taking an interest which DI Freya Graffham does. She also can find no reason for the woman to have disappeared, she does however, discover the woman had a secret life and secret love, but they are just that, secret. There are absolutely no hints as to who the man is or where she met him, just and bills for gifts she gave him. The case seems to be going nowhere and Freya is even losing ground with DCI Serrailler who believes in her instinct, when they suddenly start connecting more and more disappearances. There is a particular hill that seems to swallow people up leaving no trace as to where they went.

Parallel to the disappearances, a couple of new alternative therapists arrive on the scene. DCI Serrailler’s sister, who is a doctor, is trying to figure out who they are and just how dangerous they may be.

This is a fairly complicated book with several stories running parallel to each other with seemingly no connection. I’ve read books where this has been the death of the novel because they move too slowly and the reader loses interest. Hill prevents this her life-like characters. She draws the reader in and makes them interested in what has happened to these people and what’s going on in their lives. When she leaves one hanging for a while and then returns to them, you find yourself wanting to know what the character has been doing in the meantime. I also found myself trying to make the connection between the incidents and people, just as Graffham was, which gave me an extra bit of affinity with her. I could feel her frustration and determination to find out just what was going on. Hill also doesn’t leave you out in the cold with clues and hints you aren’t privy to or can’t possibly understand. It’s actually quite the opposite, because the reader is privy to the many different stories connected with the disappearances. Even if you do figure it out before Graffham does, it doesn’t detract from the suspense because you switch back to worrying about the characters and egging them on to do what you already know would be the most sensible thing.

Brilliant story, well written and woven together, great characters. For the first time in a while I can give a book an unreserved 5 out of 5.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy

I know, I know, I know! I keep swearing I won’t read anymore Hardy, except for Jude the Obscure, and then I keep doing it anyway. What can I say, the mini-series was good and it was on sale, so I thought I’d give it a whirl in the hopes that Hardy took a happy pill like when he wrote Return of the Native.

Someone should have given the man a larger supply of happy pills. Seriously, Hardy can make a jovial party sound like a dirge.

Fancy Day returns to her native village to become the new school mistress. Dick Dewy falls in love with her at first sight and tries his best to make a good impression on her. Fancy likes Dick, but is hesitant to return his affections as she knows her father wants better for her. She is educated to a much higher standard than Dick and as such, her father meant her to rise in the world instead of remain where she was born. Nonetheless, she is attached to Dick. When she receives proposals from both Dick and the new vicar, she is at a loss as to what to do. Meanwhile, the village is undergoing a struggle between the musicians, who have always provided music for the church services, and the new vicar, who would like to replace them with an organ, played by Fancy Day.

There’s not really a whole lot to this story, and frankly, the mini-series was better. They fleshed the story out a bit and made Fanny less wishy-washy and better able to stand on her own. They also left out the melancholic note that Hardy manages to let seep into all of his works. It gives the story a happier air, even though not everyone in it is a winner. All in all, it was so-so. If you’re looking for a quick introduction to Hardy, this is probably a good place to start. Still, it’s definitely not the best of his work. 3 out of 5.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Raven’s Gate by Anthony Horowitz

Matt Freeman lost his parents when he was 8 years old. Ever since, his life has gone downhill. He aunt allows him to live with her, but doesn’t like him, he hooks up with the low life little brother of career thief and his school work starts to suffer. Then, one evening, he is caught stealing DVDs with his new best friend, who then stabs the security guard and then blames it on Matt. Matt is given one more chance to get his life back on track, the New Leaf Program. He is taken off to live with an elderly lady in the depths of Scotland, out of the tempting reach of criminal life in the big city. Only this old lady is not what she seems to be, and neither is Matt.

I had purchased Necromancer in an Audible sale without realizing that it was the 4th book in The Power of Five series, so I decided to go back and read the others first. Raven’s Gate is the first and sets up the story line for the rest of the books. There’s a little magic, a lot of stealthy mystery and sinister happenings but little proof of anything. Anyone trying to help Matt simply dies in a convenient accident before they can really do anything for him. Matt is alone and must learn to help himself.

I was a little disappointed in this one. I like a lot Anthony Horowitz’s work and assumed that this would be his usual high quality writing, but it just lacked something. You never really connect with the characters, possibly because you just keep expecting something more of them that’s constantly foreshadowed, but never comes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good story, just not a great one. I will however, continue to read the series because, not only do I already own book 4, but I want to see where he takes it and if it gets better as it goes along. I know they usually don’t, but I’ll give it a chance all the same.

3 out of 5, readable, but not brilliant.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Midwinter of the Spirit by Phil Rickman

After her first brush with the otherworldly, Merrily is asked by the new, aggressive/progressive bishop to become the official Diocesan Exorcist, or Head of the Deliverance Department. Reluctantly she takes up the challenge, only to find herself thwarted at every turn. Her tutor actively seeks to turn her away from the challenge with the reasoning that women should become more comfortable with their new role within the church before moving on to tackle such grey areas. The newly retired diocesan exorcist is openly against women in the church and blatantly tries to sabotage Merrily’s first efforts before she can get a toehold in. His old secretary, on the other hand, is thrilled to have Merrily fill his shoes as she is convinced that there are things going on in the cathedral which shouldn’t be.

Whilst struggling to find her place within the church, Merrily must also help her daughter find her place in the world. Jane is also interested in the paranormal, but rejects the church and sets off on her own to discover for herself what she really believes and really doesn’t. As most teenagers do, she rejects her mother’s help and advice and winds up in trouble of her own.

I think I mentioned in my review of the first Merrily book, The Wine of Angels, that this isn’t really a genre I would normally be attracted to. I’m not overly enamoured with anything New Age or as Old Age as exorcism. However, Phil Rickman really does manage to make the best out of all the directions this book takes. It’s a combination of clerical mystery, crime, thriller and ghost story, all of which he pulls together nicely. He has good, strong characters who are easy to care about, a great setting and just enough action to keep the reader interested without going overboard. I also like that he’s outlining the struggles women still encounter today because even if they are set within the church, it’s still a reflection of the way society functions as a whole.

This book could have gone either way, but Rickman pulls it off well. 4 out of 5.