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Review of Sherlock Holmes and The Nine-Dragon Sigil

Sigil. Pronounced ‘sijil’. An inscribed or painted symbol or occult sign considered to have magical power.” So begins the very latest Sherlock Holmes mystery and adventure from the pen of Institute member, Tim Symonds: a writer who has immersed himself in the drama and legend of England and the Empire’s greatest detective; and, through his brilliant, authentic re-creations of an era, honours the original work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – to the extent that one could almost believe that a miraculous, ageless Sir Arthur was still writing today.

With each new Sherlock adventure, Tim seems to find ever-more exciting and intriguing adventures for his heroes. From book to book, there is simply no lessening of either inspiration or tension. This time, the action moves to the closed, forbidden celestial world of the imperial Chinese court – to a China (of 1906) a year in which a progressive Ch’ing Emperor finds himself at odds with the old order, in the form of the Empress Dowager – guardian of tradition and an insularity that stretches back to a time out of mind, and where secret symbols – of mysticism and dragons – could mean life or death. But British interests are at stake, and the prospect of uprisings and assassinations could be catastrophic for His Majesty’s Government, playing as it is, ‘The Great Game.’…”   

Read the full review here.

Reviewed by The Journal of the Chartered Institute of Journalists.

Sherlock Holmes and The Nine-Dragon Sigil is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine, Amazon 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).

9781787050358

 

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

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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Review of Graceland Cemetery in Chicago A Sherlockian Walk Amongst the Tombstones

To get the full flavor of Graceland Cemetery one must read Brenda Rossini’s guide book by the light of a bulls eye lantern on a dark and gusty night while strolling  in Chicago’s most famous burial ground. Your hair will stand on end and your skin will prickle when you encounter Eternal Silence, the shrouded black granite statue by Lorado Taft near the entrance.

Brenda Rossini has captured the history and beauty of a Chicago landmark.

The cemetery founded in 1860 is the final resting place of Chicago’s most famous and wealthy personages. Ms. Rossini compares John Kinzie, Chicago’s first settler, a murderer and a real estate wheeler dealer, to the swashbuckling adventurers in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. She also cleverly brings in other references to Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle. The boxer, Jack Johnson is buried in Graceland; Arthur Conan Doyle was asked to referee the fight between Johnson, a black man and a white man in 1912. He refused. Anita, McCormick who is buried next to her father, the inventor of the wheat reaper corresponded with Arthur Conan Doyle about spiritualism.  

     Like every good Sherlockian sleuth, Ms. Rossini leaves the reader with a mystery. Who is in the grand mausoleum with the name “John Holmes” at the west end of the Graceland cemetery? John Holmes was supposedly a Chicago real estate broker who died in 1931, a year before Arthur Conan Doyle died. Conan-Doyle had an uneasy relationship with Sherlock Holmes. The author aspired to be known for writing great literature, not detective novels. Was he worried that Holmes would obscure his own reputation and that the detective’s final resting place would become a shrine, visited by pilgrims from all over the world? Did Conan Doyle arrange to have Sherlock’s remains buried in an obscure location under an alias?

     According to the lost diary, “The Mystery of the Scarlett Homes of Sherlock” Conan-Doyle had, on November 10, 1878 visited the cemetery before it became a home to the rich and famous of Chicago. He was with a group of medical students who snatched a body from a fresh grave for anatomical dissection. He was at the time a medical student visiting Rush Medical School with Dr. Joseph Bell, the model for Sherlock Holmes.

During his time in Chicago Conan Doyle met Joseph Medill and Alan Pinkerton who upon their death became residents at Graceland. This information in the first of the lost diaries of Arthur Conan Doyle, “

The Mystery of the Scarlet Homes of Sherlock

” should be included in future editions of Ms. Rossini’s guide book. Sherlockians, and others, interested in the history of Chicago will enjoy “Graceland Cemetery in Chicago”.”

Reviewed by John Raffensperger, MD

Graceland Cemetery in Chicago – A Sherlockian Walk Midst the Tombstones is available from all good bookstores including in the USA The Strand Magazine, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, in the UK Amazon, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle.

9781787050563

 

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Review of Sherlock Holmes: The Julia Moriarty Trilogy

Imagine the awesome mind, and awful morals, of Professor Moriarty in a more attractive, equally lethal package. Impossible, you say? Not at all, for Dick Gillman has uncovered a fact that seems to have escaped Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: the professor had a younger sister! Now she’s back, bent on resurrecting her late brother’s criminal network, wreaking havoc on the British Empire and—far worse—gaining her revenge on Sherlock Holmes. Gillman introduces Julia in three interwoven stories, published as a trilogy in this slim but entertaining volume. In “The Shadow of James Moriarty,” his feminine shadow inserts a horrifying intermission into a play by Oscar Wilde, leading to an initial confrontation with our heroes Holmes and Watson. “The Highgate Magician” raises the diplomatic stakes, for a young woman’s seemingly simple disappearance masks an international intrigue. Finally, in “The Severed Finger,” Julia engineers a kidnapping that could cost Great Britain the Boer War before it has begun. Throughout the trilogy, Holmes dazzles with deductive brilliance, Watson provides strong support, and Mycroft is caught between conflicting loyalties. It can be said, without revealing spoilers, that this new Moriarty proves as dangerous a nemesis for Holmes as the original. She is also, alas, far more elusive. Bad news for our detective, but good news for readers, who can look forward to Mr. Gillman bringing Julia back to fight another day.

Reviewed by Thomas A. Turley

Sherlock Holmes and The Julia Moriarty Trilogy – 2nd Edition is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine, Amazon 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).

9781780927640

 

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Sherlock Holmes Book Review – Sherlock Holmes and The Nine Dragon Sigil

“This new investigation set in 1906 spirits Holmes and Watson away from the pea-soup streets of London to the exotic Orient. Rumours abound that a deadly plot is hatching in the Forbidden City in faraway Peking. Holmes must discover whether such a plot exists and if so, foil it. Are the assassins targeting the young and progressive Ch’ing Emperor or his imperious aunt, the fearsome Empress Dowager Cixi? The murder of either could spark a civil war. China’s fate and the interests of Britain’s Empire in the Orient could be at stake. Early reviews say it’s ‘a great addition to the Sherlockian world, with a brilliantly constructed plot, complete with clever clues and moments of action, humour and mystery.’”

Murder, Mystery, Mayhem and More (10th March, 2017)

Sherlock Holmes and The Nine-Dragon Sigil is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine, Amazon 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).

9781787050358

 

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Review of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part V

Despite their common Christmas season setting, the 30 stories in this latest collection of traditional pastiches are not lacking in variety. For connoisseurs of pure deduction, tales by Mike Chinn, Jan Edwards, Arthur Hall, Roger Riccard, and S. Subramanian show Holmes at his most brilliant. (A future MX volume will feature more “untold” cases from the Canon like Mr. Subramanian’s.) Several pairs of stories revolve around a single theme. Jealousy motivates the crimes recorded by Bob Byrne and Denis O. Smith; Queen Victoria figures in offerings from Derrick Belanger and Julie McKuras; S.F. Bennett and Marcia Wilson tell similarly gruesome Christmas stories, the former redeemed by an unexpected heroine. In selections by James Lovegrove and Vincent Wright, Holmes and Watson concoct Christmas entertainments for each other, with rather mixed results. Most enjoyable of all, perhaps, are tales that cast new light on the personalities and relationship of our two heroes. C.H. Dye paints a delightful portrait of their second Christmas as young bachelors, while David Marcum illuminates Holmes’ religious beliefs in an even earlier story. Two fine concluding works by Hugh Ashton and Mark Mower, set in and after World War I, show that the long friendship between our detective and his Boswell has only deepened through the years. As Marcum notes in his introduction, Conan Doyle’s London was only a generation removed from Charles Dickens’. The Dickensian spirit of Christmas shines through many of these tales, notably John Hall’s, Tracy Revels’, and Amy Thomas’s. Ms. Revels’ moving story, in particular, proves that those who consider Holmes as much a misogynist as Scrooge are very much in error. Happily, the quality of this ongoing MX anthology remains as high as ever, with four new volumes set to appear within the next two years. Surely that news, for Sherlockians, is the nicest Christmas gift of all.

Reviewed by Thomas A. Turley

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Part V: Christmas Adventures is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine, Amazon USA, Amazon UKWaterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).

9781780929958

 

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Review of The Vatican Cameos

Ryan’s series debut is a must for die-hard Sherlock Holmes fans. Crafted in Arthur Conan Doyle’s style, it opens with a Roman Catholic cardinal asking Holmes’ help in recovering cameos created by Michelangelo in the 16th century that have been stolen from the Vatican.

In Rome, Holmes’ and Watson’s sleuthing is rife with familiar ACD trappings, from their respective character traits and procedural approach to problem solving, on to the imaginative means of maneuvering around inevitable hurdles, and down to the trademark minutiae of ACD’s storytelling.

The action time-travels between 1501, when the cameos were created, and 1901, when Holmes and Watson meet with Pope Leo XII. Compatible to a fault with the arcane aspects of ACD’s Sherlock, the story offers a well-researched cultural history of the papacy.

Ryan, author of “The Official Sherlock Holmes Trivia Book (Quinlan Press), is at work on his next Holmes mystery.

Reviewed by Fran Wood

The Vatican Cameos is available from all good bookstores including The Strand MagazineAmazon 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 on Audible.

FRONT COVER

 

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