Posts Tagged ‘Mystery’

Majanka’s Reviews: TV Series “The Frozen Dead”

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Lately, I’ve grown more and more fond of these Netflix mini-series, with six or eight episodes. I like how they take more time to tell the story than a movie would (with the series lasting about six hours total, whereas movies last only about two hours) so we get to explore the characters and their history more, and we get to know them better. I previously reviewed Manhunt: Unabomber, another eight-part TV series by Netflix, and since I really liked that one, I wanted to give The Frozen Dead a shot, since it seemed similar in tone and topic.

The Frozen Dead, or Glacé as it’s originally called, is a French TV Series that is set mostly in the French Pyrenees, a setting that works wonderfully here. In fact, I would go as far as to say the setting is the most interesting part about the entire series. We get beautiful shots of the mountains, we get a psychiatric center set in total isolation from the rest of the world. As a viewer, you instantly get a sense of isolation, of being abandoned, of being alone, of being lost.

The series opens with main character Martin Servaz, a grizzled old detective who carries a heavy burden of guilt, being brought on a case involving a flayed and headless horse. While this wouldn’t be my preferred case either (and Martin apparently is haunting down a murderer back in Toulouse), he’s apparently been brought on the case because the horse is worth 600 00 euros. Martin makes it clear to his supervisor he would rather be anywhere but here, but gets to work anyway, teaming up with Irene Ziegler, a local policewoman.

We’re also introduced to our second main character, Diane Berg, a psychiatrist working in the local mental hospital, which is totally isolated from the rest of the world. From the get-go, it’s obvious something is up with Berg. For example, why does she want to get into building A so badly? And why is she so dead set on treating Hirtmann, a patient who was locked up there for murdering six girls.

As the story unfolds, and the Martin-Hirtmann-Berg connection becomes clear, the suspension rises, and soon enough, a cat-and-mouse-chase begins, during which it’s far from clear who is the cat and who is the mouse…

Yet, despite the stellar cast and beautiful scenery, the show is missing something. It’s just not thrilling enough. There are too many clichés, too many subplots that are easily to uncover for viewers who often watch this type of show. Every surprise the show throws in, I already saw coming, and while it’s still entertaining, it doesn’t knock you off your seat. Hirtmann is a psychopath for sure, but he’s not scary or creepy, not in the way you expect from a serial murderer: not in the way Hannibal is, or Norman Bates, or heck, even Dexter.

If you don’t go in expecting too much, you’ll probably enjoy yourself. It isn’t the best out there, but definitely not the worst either, and for crime TV fans, it’s a good choice.

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Majanka’s Reviews: TV Series “Alias Grace”

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

If I had to name my favorite TV series of 2017, I would no doubt choose “Alias Grace”, a miniseries based on a novel written by Margaret Atwood. Another series based on a Margaret Atwood novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is gaining a lot of popularity as of late, but don’t hesitate to try “Alias Grace” just because it gets less publicity – this series is pure genius.

The story focuses on Grace Marks, a nineteenth-century Irish-Canadian servant girl who allegedly helped murder the owner and housemaid of the farm where she worked. The book is based on a true homicide case from 1843, but the life story of Grace Marks is mostly fictionalized.

Grace gets to tell the audience her own story through sessions with a therapist, Dr. Simon Jordan, who was hired by a group of citizens eager to get Grace released from prison, believing her innocent of the crime she was accused of permitting. Slowly, while at times gazing straight into the camera, Grace tells us her story. The narrative switches back from the scenes with Grace and Dr. Jordan, to Grace’s past, showing us the events that led to the murder.

The actress portraying Grace Marks, Sarah Gadon, is absolutely phenomenal. Her performance is by far the best of the entire series and that’s saying something considering each actor and actress plays their role extraordinarily well in this miniseries. The issues focused on by the series are surprisingly timely, given that the book is set in the nineteenth century.

The series is a slow burn, taking its time to unfold. Every scene is detailed, mesmerizing, and the last episode is downright ghastly, in the way gothic horror can be, giving an eerie, surreal vibe to the viewer that will stay with you long afterwards. A story about women too often suppressed by society, it’s also about liberation, about setting oneself free, and it tells this tale in a hypnotizing way that keeps viewers glued to the screen.

Keeping the reader guessing if Grace’s story is truth or fiction until the very end, this series is capable of mesmerizing the viewer and compelling them to keep watching episode after episode. Superb acting, lush settings and a strong, multi-layered narrative conjure up the best TV series 2017 had to offer: “Alias Grace”.

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Sign Ups are Live for A Study in Shifters Cover Reveal

Friday, December 8th, 2017

Calling all bloggers! Want to participate in the cover reveal for the first book in the Adventures of Marisol Holmes series, A Study in Shifters?

Click here to sign up for the cover reveal.

The cover reveal takes place on Tuesday, December 12, 2017.


Seventeen-year-old Marisol Holmes may be the great-great-great granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes, but it’s hard to live up to the family name when only one mistake can spell your downfall. After trusting the wrong guy in a case gone totally wrong, Marisol convinces the Conclave, an underground organization of detectives solving supernatural cases, to give her a last chance to prove her worth, and maybe even heal her broken heart.

After all, as a half-blood jaguar shifter, Marisol is uniquely qualified to solve this murder—and every scrap of evidence points toward the culprit being a fellow jaguar shifter. But is one of her own people involved, or is this all a ploy to kick Marisol’s mother off the shifter throne?

Then Marisol discovers her best friend, Roan, is missing, and maybe the killer’s next target. The stakes just got higher than political intrigue. Just when things couldn’t get worse, Marisol’s ex-boyfriend-turned-nemesis, Mannix, starts leaving sinister clues for her. Marisol fears this case might be far more personal than she could’ve imagined.

It’s time for Marisol to prove her worth, or her people could fall into chaos while her best friend loses his life.

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The Adventures of Marisol Holmes: Round-Up

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

Are you interested in reading my posts about The Adventures of Marisol Holmes? Well, here’s a round-up, so you can easily find the post you’re looking for.


All About The Shifters Species

Detective Skills and Locations

All the posts were cross-posted to this blog too, so you can find them here as well.

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The Adventures of Marisol Holmes: Jefferson Disk

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Writing The Adventures of Marisol Holmes, I had to do a lot of research, not just into the different species of shifters that would appear in the book, but also on other rather mysterious topics. One of those topics was ciphers.

The Jefferson disk, or wheel cipher as the inventor, Thomas Jefferson named it in 1795, is also known as the Bazeries Cylinder. It’s a cipher system, or code system, using a set of wheels or disk, each with the 26 letters of the alphabet arranged around the edge.

The order of letters is different for each disk, scrambled randomly. Each disk has an unique number and a hole in its center that allows it to be stacked on an axle. The disks can be moved on the axle in any order desired, and can also be removed. The order of the disks is known as the cipher key.

The Jefferson disk had 36 disks that could spell a message. The disks are placed on the axle, and then the sender rotates each disk up and down until a message is spelled out on a row. For example, one row could spell out: The murderer is Mr. X.

Then, the sender would have to look at one of the other rows, which will contain a message that is complete gibberish. He copies down this message, and gives it to the recipient, the person who he wants to break the code.

The recipient then rotate the disks until they spell out the encrypted message on one row, the gibberish message, and then looks through all the rows until he finds the plaintext message: The murderer is Mr. X.

Pretty cool, eh?

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The Adventures of Marisol Holmes: Writing Tough Scenes

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

Today’s post is a little different. Rather than sharing trivia with you about the shifters appearing in The Adventures of Marisol Holmes, I wanted to touch upon a more difficult subject. Writing tough scenes.

Sometimes, scenes are tough because you struggle while writing them. Action scenes are often like that. You need to visualize what the characters are doing, the way they move, what they do at presicely what moment. As such, for a lot of authors, action scenes are difficult to write. But today I’m not talking about scenes that are difficult to write because they’re complicated… I’m talking about writing scenes that are tough to write because writing them… hurts.

While editing A Study in Shifters, I had to add in a scene that features Marisol Holmes and her father, and the scene hit close to home for me. Without giving away spoilers, in the scene Marisol and her dad pretend to be Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. It was tough for me to write that because it reminded me a lot about my own father.

My father passed away when I was seven years old. My fondest memories of him were when we played “Robin Hood”. Whenever we played that, I was Robin Hood, and my father played just about every other role there was: the evil Prince John, Robin Hood’s sidekick Little John, and a bunch of other characters we came up with.

Writing that scene with Marisol Holmes and her father, reminded me so much of what I used to play with my own father, that it really hurt to write that. It hurt, but at the same time, it also made me happy, because people able to conjure up the fondest memories you have of a person, and then being able to incorporate them into a story, is a wonderful way to honor a person. I’m sure my father would’ve agreed with that. He loved books and always encouraged me to read and write.

Even though it’s been twenty years since my father passed away, it makes me happy to know the memories of the person he was still inspire me, and that he’s still close to me, even now.

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The Adventures of Marisol Holmes: Invisible Ink

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Writing The Adventures of Marisol Holmes, I had to do a lot of research, not just into the different species of shifters that would appear in the book, but also on other rather mysterious topics. One of those topics was invisible ink.

One of the earliest writers who ever mentioned invisible ink is Aeneas Tacticus, in the fourth century BCE. Invisible ink has been used for centuries, and was particularly popular in the Roman Empire and 16th century Europe.

Invisible ink can be applied on a writing surface in many different ways, sometimes even just by dipping a finger in the liquid. Once dry, the written surface will look blank, and otherwise perfectly similar as how it would look prior to being written on. The ink can then later be made visibile using different methods, depending on the type of ink used.

One of the most common ways to display invisible ink is by viewing it under ultraviolet light, by applying the appropriate chemical, or even just by putting it under a heat source. Whoever thinks you need a complicated chemical balance to create invisible ink, would be very wrong. Some organic substances oxidize when heated which turns them brown. You can even try this at home.

Any acidic fluid will work for this drink, but some suggestions are coca cola, honey solution, sugar solution, lemon / apple / organge or onion juice, wine, or even milk.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make invisible ink using lemon juice:

  • Use the juice as ink by applying it to a stick or paintbrush, and then writing on paper.
  • Wait for the paper to dry.
  • When you’re ready to read your invisible message, hold the paper up to a lightbulb or another heat source.
  • The heat will cause the writing to darken to a pale brown.
  • You can now read your message!

Give it a try, and feel free to email me a picture of your invisible ink experiment.



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The Adventures of Marisol Holmes: All About Spiders

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

In this week’s post, I’m going to talk to you about one type of shifter species in The Adventures of Marisol Holmes series that we haven’t discussed yet. Spiders. In the books, the mortician / coroner is a spider named Mormont.

Spiders are arthropods, meaning they have eight legs. They also have fangs that inject venom. There are at least 45,700 spider species and 113 spider families. That’s a lot of species! On top of that, spiders are found worldwide on every continent except Antarctica (so for those of you who have arachnophobia, like I do, let’s head to Antarctica!).

Male spiders have complex mating rituals to avoid being eaten by the females of the species. Males usually survive a few mating rituals in their life. Females weave silk eggcases after mating, each of which may contain hundreds of eggs. Females will often carry their young around or share food with them.

Social behavior among spiders is often complex. Some spiders such as the widow spiders are solitary creatures, but other spider species hunt co-operatively, or even share food.

Some spider species have venom dangerous to humans but most venom is harmless. Spiders use it to hunt their prey (not, contrary to popular belief, to hunt down human beings at least a hundred times their size). Spiders capture their prey by creating sticky webs, which they then manipulate to capture prey. When a prey is captured in their web, they inject the prey with venom, paralyzing the fly / bug / whatever else insect they captured.



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The Adventures of Marisol Holmes: All About Foxes

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

As you know, The Adventures of Marisol Holmes features a school of shifters, and one of the shifters who appears in the story is a fox shifter. Foxes are small-to-medium-sized, and “fox” is actually a group name given to twelve distinct species of “vulpes”. On top of that, there are also 25 current or extinct species often called foxes.

The red fox is the most common subspecies of foxes, and currently has 47 recognized subspecies.

Foxes are smaller than wovles, jackals and even than domestic dogs. Foxes typically live in small family groups, but some foxes, in particular the Arctic fox, are known to be solitary.

Foxes are omnivores. They often eat insects, reptiles and birds, but can also eat eggs and plants. A female fox is called a “vixen”. Unfortunately, fox hunting was a popular sport since the 16th century in particular in the United Kingdom. While it’s now banned to hunt with dogs, hunting without dogs is still permitted.

In Asian culture, foxes are depicted as familiar spirits. They have magical powers, and are seen as mischievous tricksters. These spirits are called “kitsune”. Kitsune can take on a human form, and can duplicate the appearance of a specific person, in particular beautiful women. While the fox shifters in The Adventures of Marisol Holmes are also quite mischievous, they don’t have additional magical abilities like the Japanese kitsune.




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A Study in Scarlet vs A Study in Shifters

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

The Adventures of Marisol Holmes: A Study in Shifters is completely different from Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet”, but the title is based on it. “A Study in Scarlet” was published in 1887 and marks the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Since the Marisol Holmes series features a heroine who is the great-great-granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes, and who has the same intelligent, sharp mind as her ancestor does, it made a lot of sense to base the title of the first book in the series on the title of the first Sherlock Holmes book. And admit it, “A Study in Shifters” sounds pretty cool either way.

In “A Study in Scarlet”, Dr. Watson (the narrator) meets Sherlock Holmes, who reveals he’s a consulting detective. They first meet in a laboratory where Holmes is experimenting and explains to Watson the importance of bloodstains as evidence in criminal trials. In A Study of Shifters, Marisol too explains the importance of bloodstains in crime scenes.

Watson is amazed by how perceptive Holmes is, considering the consulting detective notices right away that Watson served in Afghanistan, without the doctor telling him.

Holmes is asked to consult on a murder case, but he’s reluctant to do so. Watson urges him to reconsider, and then Holmes invites Watson along. While Watson is on the sidelines, more a spectator than an active participant in solving the crime, and most of the credit goes to Holmes, he does offer some helpful suggestions that help Holmes along the way.


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