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Philip K Jones reviews Mystery at St. Andrews

04 Nov

“This is the first Sherlockian fiction by Mr. Lawler.  It is a mystery novel that takes place during “The Great Hiatus” and it stars Colonel Sebastian Moran and Irene Adler Norton along with an unexpected visit by Dr. Watson.

This book is dedicated to Golf, and it devotes a great deal of time to the “Royal and Ancient” course at St. Andrews.  The database lists more than twenty tales involving golf, most of them from two books by golfer Robert D. (Bob) Jones with an anthology of eighteen short stories (Sherlock Holmes, the Golfer) and a novel (Sherlock Holmes Saved Golf).  These two books have been the literary stars of Sherlockian golfers up until now, but I expect their luster has faded with publication of the present volume.

This book is a carefully constructed and entertaining mystery, although Sherlockians will know the outcome once they have placed the characters and timing, it remains fascinating to find out how the know results will occur.  Even with a known outcome, the mystery that unfolds is compelling and intriguing.  The author also manages to interlard the mystery with a good deal of narrative about golfing on the course at St. Andrews.  I did not look forward to reading it as my interest in golf was killed by too many fruitless games of miniature golf in my teens.  The book was a pleasant surprise for a defiant non-golfer.  The author’s explanations and descriptions of the play on the course were amusing and interesting.  He certainly loves the sport and manages to convey his fascination with the game in a most effective fashion.

The familiar characters in the book are all depicted very much as they appear in the Canonical tales.  Irene is grace and beauty personified and Colonel Moran is charming with barely suppressed violence hidden behind a genial manner.  Watson remains the epitome of an English gentleman, both in manner and in actions.  He is, of course, somewhat smarter than he portrays himself in his tales, but Sherlockians all know that anyway.

The story is well-told and well thought-out and the characters are familiar and very well presented.  We can feel comfortable with all of them and we can enjoy a delightful trip to “the Royal and Ancient” in the early 1890s with congenial old friends.  The editing was well-done and the usual Americanisms expected from Colonial writers were absent, or at least unobtrusive.  Since I am quite picky, I managed to find a few neologisms, but it is very difficult to weed out new terminology from a Century and a quarter in the future.”

Mystery at St Andrews is available from all good bookstores including Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository . In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle,  KoboNook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone) and it is available in Audible Audio Edition.

mystery at st andrews

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