New Evidence That Demands A Verdict ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: New Evidence That Demands A Verdict
Series: ———-
Authors: Josh McDowell
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-fiction, Christian Apologetics
Pages: 800
Words: 400K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Forward

Preface

User’s Guide

Explanation of General Format

Acknowledgments

He Changed My Life

Introduction

PART ONE: THE CASE FOR THE BIBLE

1. The Uniqueness of the Bible

An intelligent person seeking truth would certainly read and consider a book that has the historical qualifications of the Bible. Unique qualifications that set the Scriptures apart from every other book ever written.

2. How We Got the Bible

Materials used. Bible divisions. Why just thirty-nine Old Testament books and twenty-seven New Testament books? What about the Apocrypha? Why not other books?

3. Is the New Testament Historically Reliable?

The tests applied to all ancient literature to determine reliability. How does the New Testament compare? Archaeological finds confirming the New Testament.

4. Is the Old Testament Historically Reliable?

Bibliographical test. Internal evidence test. Archaeological evidence demonstrating the trustworthiness of the Old Testament.

PART TWO: THE CASE FOR JESUS

5. Jesus, A Man of History

Documented sources of extrabiblical historical references to Jesus of Nazareth.

6. If Jesus Wasn’t God, He Deserves an Oscar

The character of Christ and His claims to deity, with emphasis on secular and Jewish sources.

7. Significance of Deity: The Trilemma–Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?

If the New Testament records about Jesus are historically accurate, there remain only three logical choices concerning His identity.

8. Support of Deity: Old Testament Prophecies Fulfilled in Jesus Christ

Illustrations of the probabilities that all prophecies could be fulfilled in one man, in response to the critic who says, “It is all just a coincidence.” Emphasis on Jewish sources to answer the accusation, “That’s the way you Christians look at them, but what about the Jews?”

9. Support of Deity: The Resurrection–Hoax or History?

This heavily documented section of evidence for Christ’s resurrection refutes theories set forth to disclaim this miracle.

10. Support of Deity: The Great Proposition

The “if…then” argument applied to Christ: “If God became man, then what would He be like?” Quotations and observations of great Christians and non-Christians about the person, character, life, and death of Jesus of Nazareth, and His impact on the world for two thousand years.

PART THREE: THE CASE FOR AND AGAINST CHRISTIANITY

Section I. Introduction

This section deals with inspiration of the Bible, anti-supernaturalism, and archaeology. All three topics relate to the documentary hypothesis and form criticism. There they are treated at the beginning rather than under each of the following two sections.

11. Is the Bible from God?

Part 1 presents the case that the Bible is historically accurate. Here the case is made that the Bible is trustworthy in that it is inspired by a perfect God.

12. The Presupposition of Anti-supernaturalism

A presentation of the presuppositions of both documentarians and form critics. Often the alleged objective historical conclusions are molded by a subjective worldview.

Section II. Documentary Hypothesis

The discipline of literary criticism applied to the Pentateuch is examined along with evidence for Mosaic authorship.

14. Introduction to the Documentary Hypothesis

What is the documentary hypothesis? What are the JEDP documents?

15. Introduction to Biblical Criticism

Biblical criticism defined and the different critical schools explained.

16. Introduction to the Pentateuch

The purpose and importance of the first five biblical books.

17. Development of the Documentary Hypothesis

A description of the various documentary theories and their modern revisions.

18. Ground Rules

The ancient oriental environment provides various principles to apply to the Old Testament.

19. Documentary Presuppositions

An investigation of the four basic documentary assumptions: (1) The priority of source analysis over archaeology; (2) a natural view of Israel’s religion and history; (3) the theory that there was no writing in Israel at Moses’ time; and (4) the legendary view of the patriarchal narratives.

20. Consequences of Radical High Criticism

A discussion of the results of Israel’s history being viewed as unhistorical, fraudulent, and naturalistic.

21. Evidence for Mosaic Authorship

The internal and external testimony for Moses’ authorship of the Pentateuch.

22. The Phenomenon of Divine Names

The various uses of the divine names (Elohim, Yahweh, and others) are put in perspective.

23. The Repetition of Accounts and Alleged Contradictions

Certain stories in the Pentateuch are said to be repeated, and others to have contradictory details.

24. Incongruities

The writing in the third person and the record of Moses’ death are factors said to be incongruous with Mosaic authorship.

25. Internal Diversity

A discussion of the assumed difference of subject matter, style and diction.

26. Conclusion to the Documentary Hypothesis

Section III. Biblical Criticism and the New Testament

Basic tenets of form criticism examined. Practical answers to basic assumptions and conclusions. The modern quest for the historical Jesus.

27. Introduction to New Testament Form Criticism

Form criticism is defined and its purpose and proponents discussed.

28. Historical Skepticism

The reliability of the record of the historical Jesus is examined.

29. Jesus Under Fire

An examination of the historical quests for Jesus and their culmination in the Jesus Seminar.

30. Conclusion to Form Criticism

A look at the contribution and limitations of the form critical approach.

31. Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism

by C. S. Lewis

PART FOUR: TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES

Personal Note from the Author

32. The Nature of Truth

33. The Knowability of Truth

34. Answering Postmodernism

35. Answering Skepticism

36. Answering Agnosticism

37. Answering Mysticism

38. Certainty vs. Certitude

39. Defending Miracles

40. Is History Knowable?

Bibliography

Biographical Sketches of Selected Authors

Author Index

Subject Index

The Four Spiritual Laws

My Thoughts:

This version of “Evidences” was published in 1999 and consisted of McDowell’s previous Evidences I & II with updates for a changing culture. Since this version there has been another version, updated by McDowell and his son Sean as our culture continues to change and the questions asked are different from even 20 years ago.

I read this mainly for the first part about whether we can trust the Bible or not. I feel that Part 2 and Part 3 flow from that answer and so am not nearly as concerned about that. The final and fourth part is for people who sit up at night worrying about whether there is a God and the consequences of deciding either way. Somebody needs to address those, but I’m not concerned with them.

McDowell himself recommends not reading this straight through but simply choosing an area that interests you or that you have questions about and diving in. This is setup in the way a scholarly paper would be, with main points and then sub-points drillling down so a chapter might look like 1, A, A1,A2,B,B1, 2,A, A1, A1a etc. Because of this, there is a lot of repetition as many of the same answers apply to different questions and challenges.

I started reading this in October of last year and used this for my work read. I’d read 5 or 10 minutes a day at work and have finally wrapped this up. The final part was hard for me to get through because it wasn’t what I was looking into, but as I knew that going in, it wasn’t a frustrating experience.

Thinking about this, I’d recommend it to Christians who feel a need to bolster their knowledge about how what they believe is based on more than Airy Fairy Nonsense. For non-Christians, I’d say it would help someone who is genuinely seeking an answer to “What is Truth?”. McDowell does address the fact that there are a lot of people who are asking questions but who either don’t want a genuine answer or who simply want what they already think confirmed. You can’t MAKE someone believe something, no matter how much evidence is presented to them.

Overall, this was a very strengthening read for me, a shot in the old arm, as it were. I am sure I will be revisiting various parts of this book as the years pass.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Crossing Over (Spawn #10) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Crossing Over
Series: Spawn #10
Author: Todd McFarlane
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comic
Pages: 25
Words: 1K



Synopsis:

From Imagecomics.fandom.com

When Spawn tries to examine Angela’s abandoned lance, it transports him into a realm beyond his wildest imaginings. While in this strange world, Spawn encounters imprisoned heroes, faces a mockery of Blind Justice in the form of the Violator, and glimpses a dreamlike scenario of happiness for him, Wanda and Cyan.

He witness captured heroes who plead to take their power. They reach out from a prison with men tied and bound with rope and burlap sacks covering their faces. Cerebus explains these are comic creators who have sold the rights to their creations and they are now held powerless.

My Thoughts:

Wow, this was as subtle as a concrete baseball bat made of dynamite smacking you upside the head. This must have been done during the Death and Return of Superman because Supes plays a big part in talking on behalf of the trapped heroes.

While on one level it felt like a real waste of an issue, at the same time it was pretty much the only way McFarlane could tell the world how he felt about the corporate policies of both DC and Marvel and why he had rejected them. Authors gave up control of their creations to the Company and got money in return but at the cost of their hearts and souls. McFarlane makes it clear he can do whatever he wants with Spawn because Spawn is HIS and nobody else’s. As much as I tend to despise McFarlane, I do applaud his stance on this issue and am glad he apparently made it work.

So the four stars is more for the Moxie attitude than for any actual content, because there wasn’t any :-/

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reggiecide (Reeves & Worcester Steampunk Mysteries #2) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Reggiecide
Series: Reeves & Worcester Steampunk Mysteries #2
Author: Chris Dolley
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Steampunk Mystery
Pages: 68
Words: 21.5K



Synopsis:

From the Publisher

Guy Fawkes is back and this time it’s a toss up who’s going to be blown up first – Parliament or Reginald Worcester, gentleman consulting detective.

But Guy might not be the only regicide to have been dug up and reanimated. He might be a mere pawn in a plan of diabolical twistiness.

Only a detective with a rare brain – and Reggie’s is amongst the rarest – could possibly solve this ‘five-cocktail problem.’ With the aid of Reeves, his automaton valet, Emmeline, his suffragette fiancée, and Farquharson, a reconstituted dog with an issue with Anglicans, Reggie sets out to save both Queen Victoria and the Empire.

My Thoughts:

I laughed almost the entire way through this book. Dolley has captured the spirit of PG Wodehouse and while I won’t say he’s improved it, he’s distilled it to its essence and captured it in under 100 pages. I hadn’t even realized how short it was until I went looking for the data. It didn’t feel like a long book but it still felt like a complete story. That takes some talent as far as I’m concerned.

I do like that Reggie is affianced and not a single guy bumbling around. So far there have been no marriage proposal shenanigans and I’m guessing Dolley is staying away from that particular aspect of the original Jeeves & Wooster. Emmeline makes for a great catalyst to “make things happen” as she’s a spitfire, dynamite and ball of wax all rolled into one.

A small part of me wants to complain that these novellas about Reeves & Worcester aren’t long enough, but if I am being honest, they are just the right length. Long enough to be funny but not so long that they wear out the humor and send the reader off in a bad mood.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Project X – N

For all the bionic details about what led to the Creation of Project X, please visit the Intro Post. It’s totally worth six million bionic dollars.

LIKE
Nitroglycerin

Of course, any high explosive will do but considering how unstable Nitro is, I like it. I love those old movies where they are trying to move old dynamite and they don’t know if the nitro inside it is stable or not and just when you think they’ve gotten it all safely, BOOOOM, some old guy gets blown to bloody smithereens with gobbets everywhere.

DISLIKE
Neapolitan Icecream

While I love icecream so much, I can not abide Neapolitan. Why? I have no idea. I like chocolate icecream. I like vanilla icecream. I like strawberry icecream. But put them together side by side and suddenly it is like a tentacle monster is trying to have its way with my tastebuds. Just Say No to Neapolitan!


And that is it for this week. Stay tuned for our next episode, .where there will be a distinct lack of Orgies, guaranteed!

[Manga Monday] The Oath (One Piece #6) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Oath
Series: One Piece #6
Arc: East Blue Part 6
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 200
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_One_Piece_chapters_(1_186)

Chapter List:

“Before the Storm”

“An Uninvited Guest”

“The Don’s Offer”

“Steer Clear”

“Storm”

“A Parting of Ways”

“Zoro Overboard”

“The Oath”

“Mackerel Head”

Luffy is a kitchen assistant and waiter until the torn-up flagship of Pirate Commodore Don Krieg lays anchor next to the floating restaurant and a half-starved Krieg, leaning on Gin, staggers inside. He begs for food, which Sanji provides without hesitation. When Krieg’s strength is restored he reverts to his normal self, demanding ownership of the restaurant and food for his 100 men. Nami leaves with the Merry Go, and Mihawk arrives. The master swordsman followed Krieg from the Grand Line, where he had wiped out his entire fleet. Zoro challenges him to a duel and, despite his best efforts, is defeated. After the fight, Usopp, Johnny, and Yosaku take Zoro aboard the bounty hunters’ boat and set sail to follow Nami. Luffy is left behind to pay his debt to the restaurant by defeating Krieg and his men.

My Thoughts:

For whatever reason, this felt like a more “serious” volume than the previous ones. I think that comes down to the fact that we realize just how “under-powered” everyone that Luffy and Co have met so far are in comparison to the people they are going to meet on the Grand Line. We meet Mihawk Dracule, the world’s greatest swordsman and my goodness, he is a veritable god of ability. He destroys a whole fleet of ships with just a sword for goodness sake.

We also get an explanation for why this arc is called East Blue. The world is divided by the Red Line and the Grand Line and various sections get called their designation. So Luffy and Co are in the East Blue quadrant, which Mihawk assures them is the easiest quadrant to live in. Zoro faces off against Mihawk and is so easily defeated that it is stunning. Mainly because we’ve seen how Zoro just rolls over anyone he’s come up against so far. It’s classic shonen but I hope that Oda can do better and tell a good story along with the shonen components. Once a series goes strictly shonen, it tends to become rather dull and uninteresting. I’ve experienced that with two other series, Hunter X Hunter and Reborn!.

Overall, I am glad to see something a little more serious from Oda, as it shows he has a deeper understanding of writing and has the ooomph to pull it off. Silly and Zany are good but it does need to be leavened and this volume felt just right in that regards.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The King of Plagues (Joe Ledger #3) ★☆☆☆☆ DNF@30%

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The King of Plagues
Series: Joe Ledger #3
Editor: Jonathan Maberry
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 492 / 160
Words: 151K / 50K



Synopsis:

DNF@30%

My Thoughts:

By the 30% mark Maberry had used the term “hate crime” 15 times. I quit reading when he used the term to justify a muslim special forces guy beating people so badly that they ended up in the Emergency Room because they used words he didn’t like. It’s called Free Speech, for good AND bad. When you start telling people what words they can and cannot say or use, you have entered the Deep State.

So adios Maberry, you confirmed my fears about you and I’ll be avoiding you like the plague from now on.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

The End of the World (British Library Science Fiction Classics) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The End of the World
Series: British Library Science Fiction Classics
Editor: Mike Ashley
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 237
Words: 87.5K



Synopsis:

The End of the World
Helen Sutherland

three dooms of london: London’s Danger
C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne

The Freezing of London
Herbert C. Ridout

Days of Darkness
Owen Oliver

Within an Ace of the End of the World
Robert Barr

The Last American
John Ames Mitchell

The End of the World
Simon Newcomb

The Great Crellin Comet
George Griffith

Two by Two
John Brunner

Finis
Frank Lillie Pollock

The Madness of Professor Pye
Warwick Deeping

Created He Them
Alice Eleanor Jones

There Will Come Soft Rains
Ray Bradbury

My Thoughts:

Yeah, this wasn’t half bad. Despite Ashley desperately trying to make this collection a CliFi oriented set of stories, seeing the world end over and over and over was pretty cathartic.

There were a couple of stories where the world didn’t end and I have to admit they kind of made me feel sad, on the inside. There were also several stories where “The World” was encapsulated into London. Typical tribalism at its most petty and annoying.

The bar was super low so I don’t really feel that saying this wasn’t half bad is much of a compliment. This series has felt like the literary equivalent of eating fried vegetables. Not the best tasting and not even good for you. Just one more to go in this series. It’s like the last leg in a marathon before crossing the finish line.

Go me!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Map (Bone #1) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Map
Series: Bone #1
Authors: Jeff Smith
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 28
Words: 1K



Synopsis:

From Boneville.fandom.com

Two weeks after being run out of Boneville, the three Bone cousins are suffering from quickly diminishing supplies and are stuck inside an uncharted desert. Smiley finds a map, but it is hand-drawn and crudely made. After quarreling, the cousins get attacked by a swarm of locusts and are separated. Fone Bone barely escapes and falls off a cliff. He climbs onto the other side of the cliff and discovers a trail of Smiley’s cigar butts. After following the trail, Fone Bone falls asleep whereupon the Rat Creatures come to see if he is the one they are looking for. They realize it is not him and plan to eat him, but are chased away by a dragon. After hiking through the mountain range using the map as a reference, he makes it to The Valley. While looking around, he meets Ted the Bug who tells him to find a person named Thorn, who could help him return home. Ted also warns him of winter being around the corner: a time where no one can enter or exit the Valley. Ted runs off when Fone Bone is again attacked by the Rat Creatures. He escapes due to one of the Rat Creatures calling the other fat. Fone Bone looks for Ted but he is unable to find him. He takes a drink from a river and then sits under the tree nearby. He worries about getting out, saying the valley is too weird for him. A blanket of snow then falls on the ground marking the beginning of winter, marking his point.

My Thoughts:

This Bone series was originally released as 56 individual comic books starting in the early 90’s. They were then re-released in 10 volumes. Those 10 volumes were then released yet again as a Complete Collection. I read that One Volume Bone back in 2007 and it was over 1300 pages of awesomesauce. So when I decided to expand my visual reading beyond just Spawn and some manga, Bone was an easy choice. It was made even easier with the discovery that I had access to Bone as the original comics, making it much easier to read one a month.

So this drops us right into the action, such as it is. The Bone cousins are dying of thirst in a desert and they’re off the map. It’s obvious we’re not in our world simply based on the Bone’s physiognomy. We also get really GOOD character workup in just a couple of panels. Smith gives us each of the Bone’s cousin’s character so deftly, so easily it just slips right on us. It is good storytelling and he doesn’t stretch it out for one million chapters. I can appreciate an artist at work.

The other thing is just how weird things are. There are giant furry creatures called rats that eat any kind of meat. Then at the end the season changes with an entire foot of snow falling over the whole region in one big pancake. There’s a dragon and talking insects. Fantastic!

This was a lot of fun, well told and I think this re-read is going to hold up extremely well. Bravo Mr Smith!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Gods and Legionnaires (Galaxy’s Edge: Savage Wars #2) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Gods and Legionnaires
Series: Galaxy’s Edge: Savage Wars #2
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
Pages: 390
Words: 132.5K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com

The Coalition is reeling. New Vega and its other worlds have fallen beneath the boot of the newly allied Savage marines, and the death count continues to rise at a staggering rate. One thing is clear: the war to come will be a fight for the very survival of the species. For both sides in this conflict, now is the time to become what fate, and victory, demand.

The Savages—post-human monsters who believe themselves to be gods—are intent on remaking civilization in their own violent and pathological image. Yet their alliance is tenuous. Among the many tribes of the Uplifted, as they call themselves, the struggle for supremacy rages on. All know that in the end there can be only one tribe. One leader. One truth.

Meanwhile humanity’s last, desperate hope is the formation of a new kind of fighting force: The Legion. Those select few who are hardy enough—or foolish enough—to undertake the relentless, grueling, and merciless candidate training will have the chance to be transformed into mythical heroes… or die trying. They will be pushed beyond their physical and mental limits as they seek to survive an unforgiving planet, lost and derelict ghost spaceships, and worst of all, the cold, unflinching brutality of Tyrus Rechs. At the end of this crucible, only the one percent of the one percent will earn the right to be called ….. Legionnaires.

My Thoughts:

In many ways, this was 2 books. The first part, Gods, followed one Savage Marine from after his time on New Vega to a new joint operation by another clan of Savages. What the rest of the Savages don’t know is that the Savage Marine (who I’ll call Johnny) has been tasked by his masters to introduce a virus into the Savage Alliance to subtley draw all the savages under control of one clan, Johnny’s clan.

Between fights we get Johnny’s history from when he fled from Earth during the scattering thousands of years ago, to what happened on the Savage Ship. We also realize how technologically advanced in some areas the Savages are and yet how internally focused they are which only heightens their arrogance, paranoia and sense of godhood. Then you come to realize just much they’ve messed with their minds and you can’t believe a thing they think about themselves. It was intriguing and disturbing all rolled into one.

The second part was about the formation of the Legion itself. Nobody but Tyrus realizes just how brutal the training must be and that only a total bastard can forge others into being the tough mothers the galaxy needs at the moment. Opposed by the very Alliance that is placing their hopes on him, by his best friend Caspar and even by the very soldiers he is trying to train, Tyrus doesn’t let any of that slow him down or stop him. He has a job that only he can do and he’ll finish it.

While I enjoy a good military training montage, something about this one just didn’t quite grab me. Part of it is that Tyrus isn’t much of a person any more. There are a squadron of Legionnaires who we get to know which was good but it wasnt “quite” enough either.

Overall, this was a really enjoyble story and gave a lot of backstory. This Galaxy’s Edge universe continues to keep me interested and to tell a good story.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Some Buried Caesar (Nero Wolfe #6) ★★★★✬

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Some Buried Caesar
Series: Nero Wolfe #6
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 202
Words: 75.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

While on their way to a rural exposition in upstate New York to show orchids, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are involved in a minor car accident. On their way to a nearby house to phone for help, they are threatened by a large bull but are eventually rescued by Caroline Pratt, a local golf champion, and her acquaintance Lily Rowan. The house and bull belong to Thomas Pratt, Caroline’s uncle and the owner of a large chain of successful fast food restaurants, and he has purchased the bull—a champion Guernsey called Hickory Caesar Grindon—in order to barbecue it as part of a publicity stunt.

While Wolfe and Archie enjoy Pratt’s hospitality, they meet several of Pratt’s family and neighbours—Jimmy Pratt, Pratt’s indolent nephew; Monte McMillan, the original owner of Caesar, who sold the bull to Pratt after falling into financial difficulties; Clyde Osgood and his sister Nancy, the children of Pratt’s neighbour Frederick Osgood; and a New Yorker named Howard Bronson, who is apparently a friend of Clyde. There is tension between the Pratt and Osgood families due to a bitter rivalry between Thomas Pratt and Frederick Osgood, and when tempers flare Clyde makes a bet with Pratt that the latter will not barbecue Caesar. As Pratt is already paranoid due to the hostility of local farmers opposed to his plans to cook Caesar, Wolfe offers Archie’s services as a guard for Caesar in exchange for a comfortable stay at Pratt’s house. During his watch that night, Lily Rowan shows up to keep Archie company, and together they discover Clyde’s body, gored to death in the pasture.

The local authorities assume that Clyde was simply gored by Caesar during an attempt to sabotage Pratt’s plans, but Wolfe believes that Clyde was murdered; the bull’s face was cleaner than it would have been had he fatally attacked Clyde. His suspicions are shared by Frederick Osgood, who knows his son to be an experienced cattle-man who would not have made the amateurish mistakes that would have caused his death had the bull been responsible. The elder Osgood consequently hires Wolfe to learn the identity of the murderer and agrees to house him in comfort for the duration of the investigation. Archie is also hired by Caroline Pratt to prevent what she believes to be Lily Rowan’s attempts to seduce her brother Jimmy.

In a meeting with Waddell, the local district attorney, Wolfe proposes that the murder weapon was in fact a digging pick that the murderer used to fake the attack, having first knocked Clyde out and dragged him into the paddock. Waddell, who has a petty rivalry with the elder Osgood, is skeptical but is nevertheless convinced to reopen the investigation. However, before the investigation can proceed far, sudden news comes that Caesar has died suddenly of anthrax. In order to prevent it spreading, this means that the bull will be automatically cremated. Wolfe dispatches Archie to either delay the cremation or take as many photos of the bull as possible before this, but Archie arrives too late to do either.

After interviewing Nancy Osgood, Wolfe learns that Bronson is in fact a New York loan shark who has been shadowing Clyde in order to ensure he receives $10,000 that Clyde borrowed to cover his gambling debts. When confronted by Wolfe and Archie, Bronson confirms this, but is vague and unhelpful when questioned regarding Clyde’s death, leading Wolfe to suspect that Bronson knows more than he is saying. Out of respect for Nancy Osgood, Wolfe has Archie recover the promissory note Bronson was holding over Clyde by force, but warns the loan shark to be careful.

The next day, Wolfe’s orchids win numerous prizes at the exposition, defeating a hated rival in the process. While following some of Wolfe’s instructions, Archie discovers Jimmy Pratt and Nancy Osgood in a secret rendezvous; the two are lovers, but have kept their relationship secret from their feuding parents. By chance, during their confrontation Archie also stumbles upon the body of Howard Bronson, gored with a pitchfork and hidden under straw. He manages to conceal the body and returns to Wolfe with the news. But when the body is discovered, Archie is detained by Captain Barrow, the bullying local head of the state police, and is imprisoned by the authorities as a material witness when he refuses to reveal what he knows.

The next day, Wolfe secures Archie’s release with the promise to that he knows who the murderer is and will soon expose him to the authorities. To Archie, Wolfe admits that despite knowing the murderer’s identity, the evidence that will enable him to prove it has been efficiently destroyed. Nevertheless, based on his memory and official records from the local farming authorities, Wolfe draws some sketches of the bull that he and Archie encountered and uses them to confront Monte McMillan. Wolfe has deduced that the bull that Thomas Pratt purchased and intended to barbecue was not, in fact, Caesar at all. The champion bull was killed in an anthrax outbreak that decimated almost all of McMillan’s herd, and the bull that was passed off as Caesar was in fact Hickory Buckingham Pell, a similar but inferior twin. Facing financial ruin, McMillan sold Buckingham as Caesar for an outrageous sum, but due to his experience with cattle Clyde realised the deception and was planning to expose it to win his bet. McMillan thus murdered Clyde to silence him, and later killed Bronson when the loan shark, realising that McMillan was the murderer, tried to blackmail him.

Although Wolfe admits that McMillan has covered his tracks well and is unlikely to be convicted of murder, the evidence Wolfe has manufactured is sufficient to convict McMillan of fraud, which would expose and ruin him nonetheless. Accepting defeat, McMillan reveals that he has infected himself with anthrax and agrees to write a confession out for Wolfe before dying. Months later, Archie records the case, revealing in the process that Jimmy Pratt and Nancy Osgood are engaged to be married and that he has begun a friendship with Lily Rowan, who has returned to New York.

My Thoughts:

First off, I am giving this the Best Book of the Year tag. This is the first time I felt a book was good enough to get that tag this year. I haven’t been paying that much attention to this kind of thing and when I don’t pay attention it tends to slip under the radar. With the end of the year fast approaching, that is always a wake up call for me.

Plus, I just had a rollicking good time for the entire book. Archie particularly made me laugh and smile again and again. In one instance, when he’s thrown in jail more reasons of clashing of wills between Wolfe and the police, he organizes a Union and elects a president and treasurer, etc and writes up a bunch of rules that they are going to submit to the Warden. It was pure cheek and was done simply to annoy the Warden. It was done in Archie’s easy going but tough way that you just had to enjoy it!

There is also the confrontational frission between Wolfe and his client. He warns the client to not hire him but that if he does X,Y and Z will happen. Sure enough, they do and Wolfe lambastes the client for complaining about them when he, Wolfe, had already warned him. At first glance Wolfe appears to be an arrogant jackass but when you take into account who we see him interacting with, it’s no surprise and the real wonder is that Wolfe hasn’t become a complete misanthrope to everybody he meets.

Finally, I enjoyed Archie’s romantic sparring with Lily Rowan. They both have no longterm use for the opposite sex or at least to push the idea of marriage as far down the road as possible and as such make great foils for each other. I don’t expect them to get married though and I even wonder if we’ll see Lilly again in future books or not. So far I don’t remember any recurring young women. As long as Archie doesn’t turn into some sort of cad, I’ll be ok with the trend though.

Overall, I just have to sit back and marvel that Rex Stout is such a wordsmith. To make characters like Wolfe and Archie, to craft scenes like the one near the beginning when Wolfe is stuck on top of a boulder while an angry bull stalks around the pasture, it just makes me glad that I did decide to read this series. Good stuff.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.