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Review of Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Beer Barons

“This is the third Sherlock Holmes novel by Christopher James, and in it he shows both his own unique style and approach to The World of Holmes, and also he provides a very interesting and informative travelogue to the area around Burton upon Trent, England.

In addition to being a Sherlockian novelist, James is also an award winning poet. (He’s combined the two on several occasions, providing some truly amazing introductory poems to various volumes of “The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories”.) Perhaps it’s because of his poet’s perspective that each of his three Holmes novels have had a slightly dreamlike feel to them.  While the narrative does move in a linear fashion, there’s a calmness about it – even when Holmes and Watson are being pursued by killers. Like his previous books, “The Ruby Elephants” and “The Jeweller of Florence”, this volume’s episodes become something of a pointillist painting – getting too close makes the details a little blurry, but stepping back allows one to see the big picture, bringing it all into focus.

During the course of their investigation – attempting to determine who is poisoning barrels of beer – Holmes and Watson meet a variety of interesting characters, including three unique brothers (the sons of a beer dynasty) who each have their own interests and agendas, a disinterested police inspector, and most important, a lady detective who is also working on the case. She is a very defined character, and one might suspect that James has brought her to life so well so that she might appear in a book or two of her own in the near future.

Of particular interest to me, as a nearly life-long Holmes fan who has also made three (so far) extensive Holmes trips to England, were the descriptions of Burton upon Trent, an area that I’d never really considered visiting before, but now find myself wishing to explore. Of course, when I finally get there, I’ll re-read this book to make sure that I follow in Holmes and Watson’s footsteps.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book, and I look forward to the next Watsonian volume that Mr. James discovers in Watson’s Tin Dispatch Box.”

Reviewed by David Marcum

Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the Beer Barons is available for pre order from all good bookstores including Amazon USABarnes and Noble USAAmazon UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. Pre-publication copies available from The Strand Magazine and directly from MX Publishing.

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Review of Mrs. Hudson Takes the Stage

“ … a delightful entertainment with more than a dash of comedy … deftly juggles historical fact with fictional whodunnit … Mrs. Hudson Takes the Stage holds up in the … world of Sherlock Holmes … and deserves a wider audience.”-Wilmington StarNews

The game is afoot, but with a twist

By Ben Steelman For The StarNews

“Since retiring to Carolina Beach after a career as a psychologist and counselor, Barry S. Brown has devoted his life to setting things straight about Sherlock Holmes.

Brown’s thesis, as you might recall, is that Mrs. Hudson, the indefatigable housekeeper at 221-B Baker St., London, was the real brains of the operation.

She learned criminology and detection from the late Mr. Hudson, a career London police constable, as well as from reading the papers. But of course, no one would take a little old lady seriously in Victorian times, especially if she has a thick Cockney accent. So, she hired Holmes and Dr. Watson as the front men. They do the leg work on the cases, but she solves them.

Brown’s previous novels have taken the Baker Street team to New York and even to the first Olympic Games, in 1896. In “Mrs. Hudson Takes the Stage,” the sixth installment, they go behind the curtains of the London stage.

It’s 1901, and Mrs. Hudson and the crew are off to see a play – a new import from the colonies called “Sherlock Holmes,” starring the American matinee idol William Gillette.

(In fact, Gillette did tour London and the major British cities in 1902 in “Sherlock Holmes,” in which he starred and which he wrote with Sherlock’s creator, Arthur Conan Doyle. Rather like a Marvel superhero movie, the critics hated it, but the crowds went wild.) Gillette, by the way, is credited with creating the trademark Holmes profile with deerstalker hat and curved pipe – although some sources credit Sidney Paget, the artist who drew the illustrations for the Holmes stories in The Strand magazine.

Anyway, something goes wrong on opening night. Somebody stabs the wardrobe mistress to death backstage – a pretty, quiet woman who kept to herself. Holmes and Watson are called in by Gillette, who supposedly has been getting threatening letters.

Since Mrs. Hudson can sew, meanwhile, she steps into the breach – which gives her an excellent backstage view of what’s going on.

The murdered woman, of course, is not whom she appears to be, and the investigation leads off into the shadowy world of London anarchists – just about the time, Brown reminds us, that President McKinley was fatally shot across the Atlantic by anarchist Leon Czolgosz.

The result is delightful entertainment with more than a dash of comedy. Brown’s novels have grown steadily better as he goes along. He deftly juggles historical fact with fictional whodunnit.

The new book gives a vivid picture of the old-time theater scene. (A cheeky 12-year-old newcomer named Charles Chaplin wanders through in the background.) Brown’s Holmes is a natural ham with all his makeup, wigs, fake noses and phony accents, and he takes to the case like a duck to water.

Old favorites from the Holmes canon wander through, notably Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. (Lestrade gets along much better with Mrs. Hudson than with Holmes, largely because he has a sweet tooth for her fresh-baked scones.) Even Conan Doyle pops in, identified only as a doctor and the author of such well-liked historical novels as “The White Company.” (He helps out with the detecting, and the other characters conclude he’s pretty good at it.) “Mrs. Hudson Takes the Stage” holds up in the rather picky world of Sherlock Holmes fanatics, and it deserves a wider audience.”

Mrs. Hudson Takes the Stage is available from all good bookstores including The Strand MagazineAmazon USA, Barnes and Noble USAAmazon UK, Waterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle.

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Review of The Art of Sherlock Holmes – USA Edition 1

This second volume in Phil Growick’s project to commission new paintings as illustrations for new Sherlock Holmes stories is big and handsome, like the first. Seven of the thirteen stories have been published before, and you’ll recognise some of the authors who have contributed: Mark Mower, Denis O Smith, Tracy Revels, Mike Hogan, Tim Symonds, the ubiquitous David Marcum. The painters’ names and their work may be less familiar. There’s a remarkable variety of style and medium: each painting is unique, and as Mr Growick says, art is in the eye of the beholder. A share of the proceeds from the book goes to Stepping Stones School at Undershaw, the Happy Life Children’s Home in Nairobi, the American Cancer Society and the World Food Programme.

Reviewed by The Sherlock Holmes Society of London

The Art of Sherlock Holmes USA edition is available from all good bookstores including  Amazon USABarnes and Noble USA,  Amazon UKWaterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository.

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Review of Sherlock Holmes These Scattered Houses

A previously untold adventure of the “Great Hiatus”. Holmes, travelling in the guise of Professor Keevan Sigerson, is being pursued across Europe by Moriarty’s henchmen. Narrowly escaping death for the umpteenth time, he resolves to return to London, but is forced instead to take passage to New York. Seriously injured, he finds his way to Poughkeepsie and takes refuge in the Vassar Women’s College, where he is soon embroiled in a mystery. The pace of this novel is well-judged. From the outset it is a gripping and colourful adventure with lots of action. Clear respect for the Canon is demonstrated in the many neat references and affectionate nods to the characters, stories and intrigues of the original texts, and some real-life characters, such as Harry Houdini and Samuel Morse, add further colour to the plot. The author demonstrates a comprehensive knowledge of Poughkeepsie history and the significance of Vassar College. It provides a splendid backdrop to a fast-paced story told with great care and affection.

Reviewed by The Sherlock Holmes Society of London

Sherlock Holmes These Scattered Houses is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine,  Amazon USABarnes and Noble USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. Also available on Audio.

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Review of Mrs Hudson Investigates

I believe this is Susan Knight’s first collection of stories about the investigative abilities of Sherlock Holmes’s esteemed housekeeper, Mrs Martha Hudson. And a triumph it is too. The book contains seven tales, all told with great clarity and affection. Not all are full-blown investigations, but each has its place in helping us to understand the character — and hitherto unrecognised talents — of dear Mrs Hudson. Throughout the volume we have occasional glimpses of “the doctor” and “Mr H”, but it is Mrs Hudson who rightly remains centre stage. This is an extremely humorous book that shines a light on the domestic arrangements at 221B which we rarely get the opportunity to read about. Let’s hope the author has further stories planned.

Reviewed by The Sherlock Holmes Society of London

Mrs Hudson Investigates is available from all good bookstores including The Strand MagazineAmazon USABarnes and Noble USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in KindleNook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).

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Review of Sherlock Holmes: The Baker Street Legacy

These eight stories are presented by our Watson’s nephew, Christopher Henry Watson MD, writing in 1948, and are to be accepted as “overlooked gems” from the older Watson’s collection. Mark Mower works hard to capture the elusive atmosphere of “1895 and all that”, and largely succeeds. The plots are varied and ingenious, and there are plenty of allusions and references to our beloved Canon. The final one of these stories is a particularly nice sequel to the affairs of a certain builder from Norwood. In conclusion, this book is a pleasing and entertaining read, and a worthy contribution to the seemingly endless flow of Holmesian pastiche.

Reviewed by The Sherlock Holmes Society of London

The Baker Street Legacy is available from all good bookstores including The Strand MagazineAmazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle.

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Review of Too Many Clues

The small town of Erin, Ohio seems to attract characterful residents and visitors, including Professor Sebastian McCabe, BSI (magician, crime-writer) and his brother-in-law, would-be crime-writer Jeff Cody, who serves, sometimes reluctantly, as Watson to his Holmes. Erin should be used to crime by now, and when complaints about “inappropriate behaviour” at St Benignus University are followed by two murders on campus, there are plenty of clues. Too many clues, in fact, and the killer seems to be invisible… Can McCabe’s expertise in magic help him to solve the case? I hailed the first of the McCabe & Cody mysteries as “a clever, exciting and witty romp”. Too Many Clues is the tenth, and that opinion holds.

Reviewed by The Sherlock Holmes Society of London

Too Many Clues is available from all good bookstores including The Strand MagazineAmazon USABarnes and Noble USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, for free shipping worldwide Book Depository and in ebook formats.

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Review of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts XVI, XVII and XVIII

As in Parts VII and VIII, subtitled Eliminate the Impossible, contributors were instructed to honour Holmes’s statement: “The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply” — and to present him with a challenge that appears to be supernatural. The results are forty-nine atmospheric tales of darkness and dread; we may sometimes wonder whether even Sherlock Holmes can dispel the darkness and expose the truth, but of course he can and does. The authors include Mark Mower, Kelvin I Jones, Jayantika Ganguly, Paul D Gilbert, S.F. Bennett and David Marcum. There are radio scripts by Bert Coules, M.J. Elliott, Gareth Tilley and Hugh Ashton. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar contributes a foreword. And none of them will make money from it, as all royalties go towards the preservation of Undershaw.

Reviewed by The Sherlock Holmes Society of London

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories are available from all good bookstores including The Strand MagazineAmazon USABarnes and Noble USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, for free shipping worldwide Book Depository and in ebook formats.

XVI, XVII, and XVIII Covers

 

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Review of The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – The Complete Jim French Imagination Theatre Scripts

Twenty years ago Jim French — writer, actor and producer — decided to redress the decline of good popular drama on American radio: he set up Imagination Theatre to create quality series and single plays. Sherlock Holmes was only a part of it, but a very important part, and it began with The Further Adventures, a series gratifyingly reminiscent of the days when listeners tuned in every week to hear Rathbone and Bruce as Holmes and Watson. The main difference is that IT’s Watson, played by Lawrence Albert, is not only brave and loyal, but intelligent. Jim French assembled a team of writers that includes M.J. Elliott, John Hall, Matthew Booth, Gareth Tilley — and David Marcum, who has prepared this very handsome three-volume edition of French’s own splendid scripts. Jim French died in 2017, but The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes continues, with 135 programmes recorded to date. All royalties from these books will go towards the preservation of Undershaw, Conan Doyle’s former Surrey home, which now houses Stepping Stones School.

Reviewed by The Sherlock Holmes Society of London

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores including Amazon USABarnes and Noble USA,  Amazon UKWaterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository.

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Review of Sherlockian Musings: Thoughts on the Sherlock Holmes Stories

Dr Goldfarb surveys each of the sixty stories, lighting upon all sorts of points that others may not have considered. The style is friendly and informal, but always intelligent and thoughtful. Of “The Empty House”, for instance: “Watson’s bereavement, presumably the death of Mrs Watson, is almost a cheery note. The gesture towards grown-up living, marriage, domesticity — that can all be forgotten now. Watson and Holmes can be adventuring boys again, and will be.” Of “Lady Frances Carfax”: “Poor Watson. He’s feeling old and rheumatic, and look how Holmes treats him: Go to Lausanne, track down Lady Frances, keep me informed — But then I’ll show up unexpectedly and tell you you’ve done everything wrong (but has he? most commentators say no). And for good measure you’ll get beaten up by the savage stalker, who I’ll then tell you is the good guy…” The “musings” were first published in The Petrel Flyer. This wider publication in more permanent form is well merited.

Reviewed by The Sherlock Holmes Society of London

Sherlockian Musings is available from all good bookstores including Amazon USABarnes and Noble USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository.

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