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Philip K. Jones reviews Sherlock Holmes and the Dead Boer at Scotney Castle

10 Sep

“This is a first novel by an author new to Sherlockian fiction.  The presentation of Holmes and Watson is a bit different than is common in such works, but it does seem more sensible than others, both in the Canon and in the many pastiches available.  Holmes and Watson disagree and argue and look at the world quite differently than as we are accustomed to view them.  On the other hand, the world inhabited by this Holmes and Watson is quite different from that of the Canon and most pastiches.  It is a complex, gritty and more realistic world where things are seldom as they appear.

Early in the story as well as near the end, the author describes meals featuring a Turkish dish, Imam Bayildi, translated as “The Swooning Imam.”  In many ways, this dish is representative of the story as a whole.  Imam Bayildi is a main dish made with eggplant (aubergines) and a number of vegetables, herbs and spices.  In reality, the eggplant merely serves to provide neutral bulk and texture for the dish whose taste is compounded of the many flavors of the other ingredients.  In this story, the tale itself is complex and convoluted and not really believable, but it provides an excellent medium in which to present the gorgeous tapestry of places, characters, objects and opinions included by the author.

Holmes and Watson receive a peremptory summons to make presentations to a small society of wealthy Kipling fans.  In arriving early for the appointment, Holmes manages to scramble some of the plans for the event and this has consequences.  Plans are shifted and adjusted and complex events proceed with deviations.  A naked corpse is found in a pond on a neighboring estate and, from newspaper accounts Holmes decides that murder has been committed.  Watson objects and the dance begins.

The characters perform, the scenery changes and Holmes begins to realize his mistakes.  Dr. Watson comes to see that murder has been done and Holmes realizes the murder cannot be proven or prosecuted.  Clues contradict clues and the world shifts around as viewpoints change.  The author continues to present paradoxes and the characters act out their destined roles.  The modern world shifts its focus and Europe edges closer to the brink of war.

In addition to sharing my taste for complex prose and tangled events, the author also exhibits some talent in his fiction writing which does not appear in mine.  The only problems I could find were a very few anachronistic terms and a possibly over-active imagination.  Either the editor is quite capable or the author is most erudite or both contingencies apply.  A wide range of subjects are discussed and presented in complex language without becoming boring.  It was a real joy to read.”

Sherlock Holmes and the Dead Boer at Scotney Castle is available from all good bookstores including in the USA Barnes and Noble and Amazon, in the UK WaterstonesAmazon and Book Depository (free worldwide delivery) and in all electronic formats including Kindle and  iPad.

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