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Review of Rendezvous at The Populaire a Sherlock Holmes Novel by Kate Workman from The Ill Dressed Vagabond

08 Jun

Rendezvous at the PopulairePhilip K Jones is one of the USA’s leading Sherlock Holmes reviewers. Here he casts a comprehensive eye over Kate Workman’s debut novel (the first in a series of five) pastiche ‘Rendezvous at The Populaire’. New Jersey based Kate is getting much acclaim for the novel and Phil admits “she has talent” and overall seemed to enjoy the book saying it is ‘readable’ and inventive’.

This is the first book in a projected series of Sherlockian tales by Ms. Workman.  This tale has a small number of editing errors, mostly misused words or terminology.  In any case, editing is not a major concern, as it has been for so many new authors lately.  Another characteristic is that the book ‘reads’ as if it had been translated from the French.  This is odd, but it has the ‘feel’ of a number of Sherlockian tales I have read that were so translated.  Also, a few of the terms used were ‘out of context.’  

The author credits Sam Siciliano’s “The Angel of the Opera” which involves Sherlock with ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ as an inspiration, but I found this book to be more interesting.  On the other hand, I never really enjoyed Mr. Siciliano’s effort in the first place.  For Sherlockians, the Holmes they meet in this book is a new person.  The utter self-confidence and disdain for others that pervades the Canonical Holmes is absent here.  This Holmes is chastened and unsure of himself.

I have never read the original “Phantom of the Opera,” by Gaston Leroux nor have I ever seen any of the Plays built on the character.  From that viewpoint, this is a relatively new story for me, so I have no preconceptions or emotional ties to the tale.  This book has an original approach to the classic tale and draws serious lines between the characters of Erik and Sherlock.  I am unsure of the degree of culpability that Erik’s original had, but this book presents him as a sympathetic character whose violence is only used to protect others or to prevent his own destruction.

The plot moves right along and the characters are mostly well drawn.  One almost feels that the heroine is really more than a pretty face attached to a pretty voice and the hero actually attains a sort of stature at the end.  I must admit that it took a while to see him as a serious person and I’m not sure that the impression will last.  Mostly, this book concerns Holmes and Erik so that their confrontations, both with their own inner demons and with each other are the actual tale told here.  The other supporting cast members are mostly interesting and even attractive, in a perverse way.  I especially liked the managers, for whom the phrase “dumb as a box of rocks” may have been invented.

As a first effort, this book is good.  As a Sherlockian pastiche, it is readable and inventive.  The author’s vision of Holmes in the grip of misfortunes is compelling. Although it contradicts the Canonical presentation, it presents a number of intriguing points and it seems to have a good amount of legitimacy if one accepts the author’s premises.  It has become common practice for authors to submit their manuscripts to a group of knowledgeable fans for discussion and error checking before publication.  This author would benefit from wider early exposure and discussion.  She has talent and good ideas but could use more active discussion in advance of publication.

Rendezvous at the Populaire is available from all good bookstores including Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Kobo and iBooks (iPad and iPhone).

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