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Review of When the Song of the Angels is Stilled: A Before Watson Novel

26 Apr

It would be faint praise to call this novel merely a fine Sherlock Holmes pastiche. What A.S. Croyle has written is a complex, moving novel with memorable characters of her own creation (including the most appealing heroine since Irene Adler), besides a fascinating portrait of young Sherlock Holmes. Here is a callow, more vulnerable Sherlock than we are used to seeing, yet unmistakably the youth who will become the man. The case that he and Poppy Stamford undertake to solve incorporates the oldest Canon mystery, “The Gloria Scott,” and centers on an “Angel Maker.” Rooted in historical events, it reminds those who would romanticize Victorian London that its underworld was, in fact, a truly awful place. The novel’s most important revelation is that Sherlock Holmes was being less than honest when he told Dr. Watson: “I have never loved.” Disproving that claim may seem like heresy to some Sherlockians, but our lovelorn young hero loses Poppy Stamford precisely because he is already trapped inside the man that Conan Doyle created. We mourn their fate, even though it was inevitable, for love might have made the great detective (if nothing else) a far less lonely man. Happily, the author devises an ending that reconciles us to his loss. After finishing When the Song of the Angels is Stilled, I felt I fully understood, for the first time, why Sherlock Holmes became the man he was. That is the measure of Ms. Croyle’s achievement, and it took a fine novelist—not merely a fine writer of pastiches—to accomplish it.

Reviewed by Thomas A. Turley

The Bird and The Buddha – A Before Watson Novel – Book Two

When the Song of the Angels is Stilled: A Before Watson Novel is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine,  Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK,and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository . In ebook format it is in Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone). Also available in Audio.

when the song of the angels

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