RSS

Category Archives: Book Reviews

Review of Sherlock Holmes and The Sword of Osman

It is rare that I pick up a Holmes pastiche and immediately fall in love with it – but it happened with this book. Symonds managed to catch the voice of early retirement Watson so perfectly and with so much love and whimsical sarcasm that it is a joy to read from beginning to end. The story itself is set in a time when European powers were slowly realizing that a war unlike any before was approaching. Holmes and Watson come together for an adventure set in 1906 to make sure that the Sword of Osman, an insignia of the emperor of the Ottoman Empire, will remain in the hands of the ruling king in order to keep the brittle stability between several European nations and the Ottoman Empire intact. The initially mysterious client who sends the duo to Istanbul is Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary and a great admirer of both Holmes and Watson.

The adventure is complex, the case more difficult and dangerous than Holmes or Watson anticipate and rife with references to historical and political events – an intertextual feast. I do not want to give away too much of the story, but Symonds manages to write Sherlock Holmes and John Watson very close to how Doyle wrote them and yet manages to make them his own. The story is never boring and there are enough questions and mysteries to keep the reader on edge, especially with some knowledge on the political context (I recommend reading up in the relationship between Britain and the Ottoman Empire at the turn of the century for even greater enjoyment of the book).

Symonds also manages to do what very few pastiches manage: He makes the ending surprising even after Holmes offers us the solution to the mystery. It’s entertaining and educational and offers deeper insight into Holmes’s role in European politics, which results in his role as a double agent in Doyle’s “His Last Bow” as well as his relationship with John Watson and Mycroft Holmes.

It is definitely one of my favourite Holmes pastiches so far, and I am excited to read more of Symonds’s work.

Reviewed by The Baker Street Babes

Sherlock Holmes and the Sword of Osman 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 KindleKoboNook and Apple iBooks(iPad/iPhone). Available on Audio.

178092755X

 

Review of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Dying Emperor (Sherlock Holmes and the Crowned Heads of Europe Book 1)

There are pastiches, and then there are superlative pastiches.

Tom Turley’s novella, ‘The Case of the Dying Emperor’ (available on Kindle) falls firmly into the latter category. A question over the last illness of Frederick III, German Emperor and King of Prussia for 99 days in 1888, sends Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson to the Continent to investigate. A cast of real historical personages and places appear, each drawn with a level of detail and observation worthy of Holmes himself.

I had a sketchy knowledge of Frederick III, enough to know that his short reign is one of the great ‘What Ifs’ of history. Succeeded by his son, Wilhelm II, the infamous ‘Kaiser Bill’ as he was dubbed in Britain during the First World War, it is interesting to speculate on the course of history had Frederick lived. Given the international implications at the time, it is just the sort of case where you can imagine certain important figures turning to Holmes for his opinion. Watson also gets to shine, both with references to his background (based on the Baring-Gould model) and in his medical expertise. Add to this canon fidelity, and there’s plenty to keep the most ardent Sherlock Holmes fan, as well as the casual reader, engaged and delighted.

A problem I have found in the past with stories set in real historical settings is either too much or too little period detail. Mr Turley achieves an admirable balance. There are footnotes for those who want more information; if not, there is enough in the story to explain what is happening. Any necessary explanation flows naturally in conversations with appropriate language for the period between the principal characters without ever overwhelming the reader. Touches like these give the work an authentic feel, sweeping me up in the illusion that I really was reading a story written at the time.

It’s not often I get to say this, but ‘The Case of the Dying Emperor’ truly is a masterclass in the fine art of the Sherlock Holmes pastiche. Faithfulness to the characters, dedicated research and a clear, erudite style of writing makes this a story that I will be returning to again and again.

Reviewed by S.F. Bennett

Available on Kindle.

dying emperor

 

Tags: , , , ,

Review of A Chronology of the Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Revised 2018 Edition

A Chronology of the Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Brian W. Pugh (2018 MX Publishing) was first published in 2009, revised and expanded in 2012 and 2014, and an Addenda & Corrigenda was published in 2016. This 2018 edition has been completely updated and includes information located during research since 2016. The first section contains a family tree and a detailed chronology of the life of ACD and his family from 1755 to 1930. This is followed by sections on events from 1930 to 1998. An Arctic Voyage in 1880, maps of Conan Doyle’s travels, the residences of Conan Doyle and his family, locations of plaques and statues, Conan Doyle and cricket are just a few of the topics covered. A list of biographies and semi-biographical works will aid future researchers in finding the seminal works, a list of facsimile manuscripts that have been published will help some collectors assess their own library. Finally, there are several photographs of ACD and his family at various times of his life; some have not appeared in print before. This publication proves that there is far more to Conan Doyle than just Sherlock Holmes. If you have an interest in the life of Conan Doyle or plan on writing or researching anything dealing with him, this book should be on your bookshelf today.”

Reviewed by Mark Alberstat, Canadian Holmes, Winter 2018/2019

A Chronology of the Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Revised 2018 Edition 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 Kindle.

9781787053465

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

“An engaging addition to Sherlock Holmes legendry.”

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

Before Sherlock Holmes meets John Watson, the young detective solves crimes with a bright lady friend in this delectable “before Watson” novel.

In Croyle’s (The Caretaker, 2009) new series, Holmes is a loner college student at Oxford in 1874 when he’s bitten by a dog visiting the campus with its owner, Priscilla “Poppy” Stamford. Guilt over the dog bite forces Poppy and her suitor, Victor Trevor, to take an interest in Sherlock’s welfare, and a friendship forms between the three. Though studying nursing, Poppy is keen to become a doctor, but England’s medical schools aren’t yet open to females. Medical training, Poppy says, is “a door still closed to me. Universities like Oxford and Cambridge, and medical schools were largely bastions of male privilege.” Her feminist sensibilities are conveyed in language appropriate to the era, and Poppy makes quite a fine narrator—and heroine. Her sharp mind draws Sherlock’s attention, and soon they and a few friends are sleuthing together. A serial killer known as the Angel Maker is somehow acquiring and murdering illegitimate babies, their tiny bodies thrown into the River Thames like trash. While Poppy’s compassion has her yearning to solve the case, Sherlock’s intellect and curiosity compel him—and perhaps his affection for Poppy. Croyle doesn’t try to re-create the style of Arthur Conan Doyle’s John Watson; instead, he conjures a fresh, new narrator in Poppy, sister of the man who eventually introduces Sherlock and Watson. The book needs better editing, though, to catch omitted words and spotty punctuation of dialogue. Holmes fans will find much to enjoy here, including Sherlock and Poppy’s friendship with her friend Effie’s cousin, writer Oscar Wilde. Also, Trevor is the son of Mr. Trevor from Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott,” and that story gets a retelling here. This fast-paced tale will appeal to those who like to ponder what made Sherlock Holmes the great detective he was, and hearing his story from a female perspective is particularly enjoyable.

An engaging addition to Sherlock Holmes legendry.

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

when the song of the angels

 

Tags: , , ,

The Sherlock Holmes Society of London reviews The Druid of Death – A Sherlock Holmes Adventure

“As an unashamed fan of new Sherlock Holmes stories, I am discomfited to admit that I had not read any of Richard T Ryan’s earlier novels. This is his third, and a splendid book it is. The plot revolves around some mysterious deaths, bearing the hallmarks of ritualistic sacrifice or cult murder. Scotland Yard is baffled, and Inspector Lestrade invites Holmes and Watson to assist. Our heroes are drawn into the mysterious lore of ancient druidic symbols and Celtic mythology to face a race against time in unravelling the case and preventing further bloodshed. The pace is well-judged, and it is a gripping and colourful tale from the offset. Ryan’s style is reassuringly familiar, and he clearly has a respect for the Canon, demonstrated in the many neat references and affectionate nods to the characters, stories and intrigues of the original texts. Another fine touch is the inclusion of the Revd Sabine Baring-Gould, real-life grandfather of the celebrated Sherlockian, William S Baring-Gould. Ryan demonstrates a comprehensive knowledge of British history and there is good attention to detail throughout this tale. It is a great story told with skill and affection.” – Mark Mower

The Druid of Death – A Sherlock Holmes Adventure 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 Kindle. Available on Audio.

DruidRyan

 

Tags: , , , ,

The Sherlock Holmes Society of London reviews A Chronology of the Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Revised 2018 Edition

Brian Pugh has been working on his chronology of Arthur Conan Doyle for many years. The 2009 edition was a trusty companion and, as it went through subsequent revisions, I was gratified to see my own works referred to in its pages. I value and admire Brian’s work so much that it is an honour to be mentioned alongside great names such as Stashower, Lycett, Dickson Carr and Nordon. This latest version is enormous at over 450 pages — roughly three times the size of the 2009 edition.

So what do you get in this edition? First and foremost it incorporates all corrections to previous editions, thus superseding them. It also includes all the maps (now in full colour) and material featured in the 2016 Addenda & Corrigenda. Then, of course, there are the fruits of Brian’s latest research: family trees, maps, photographs of residences, commemorative plaques, graves, a day-by-day list of pertinent activities, a bibliography of Conan Doyle and those who’ve written about him. There are also photos, of which some are appearing in print, it is believed, for the first time. Any student of Doyle (and Holmes) needs to be equipped with certain books — the core texts if you will. This is a vital element of that core library.

A Chronology of the Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Revised 2018 Edition is available from all good bookstores including The Strand MagazineAmazon USABarnes and Noble USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository.

9781787053465

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Review of Baker Street Beat – an Eclectic Collection of Sherlockian Scribblings

Before he created the McCabe and Cody series – [Or is it Cody and McCabe? It depends on whom you ask, and it’s an interesting point to ponder … .] Dan Andriacco had written a variety of Sherlockian items – essays, plays, and even a pastiche. Fortunately, instead of being forced to seek each of these out in their various original points of publication, they have all been collected in “Baker Street Beat”.

There’s something here for every Sherlockian. There are a couple of radio plays – one of “The Speckled Band”, and one with a more contemporary feel. For those that like Sherlockian Scholarship, the book includes several essays, including one which is of particular interest to me, “Writing the Holmes Pastiche”. Another of equal importance is “You Know My Methods, Watson”, examining the connections between Holmes and Dr. Thorndyke, another of my heroes. And then there’s “Reichenbach Pilgrimage”, which means a lot to me since I haven’t been able to get there yet – and in the meantime this essay helps to provide valuable information until I do.

As a devotee of Holmes Adventures, what I want most is MORE adventures. And this book has a real winner, Dan Andriacco’s own version of “The Peculiar Persecution of John Vincent Harden”. As much as I enjoy his McCabe and Cody [Cody and McCabe?] books, I want him to write more Holmes pastiches! Are you listening, Mr. Andriacco?

This book has been around since 2011, but it certainly hasn’t gone out of date. Add it to your Holmes collection today!

Reviewed by David Marcum

Baker Street Beat is available through all good bookstores including in the USA  Amazon USABarnes and Noble, in the UK Amazon and Waterstones, and for all other countries Book Depository who offer free worldwide delivery. In electronic formats Amazon KindleKoboNook, and iTunes for the iPad. Available on Audio.

perf5.500x8.500.indd

 

Tags: , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: