Category Archives: Book Reviews

Review of Sherlock Holmes as a Pipe Smoker

Excellent work on the beloved character Sherlock Holmes. Instead of examining the mystery stories, this book discusses Sherlock Holmes and his constant companion, his pipe. The text is filled with well-organized details of the tobacco use of Mr. Holmes in his many adventures. A great read for anyone who loves Sherlock Holmes. Filled with many reproductions of the artwork from early stories, the book is an essential tool for all those interested in the history of Sherlock Holmes. Lots of references for the academic study of Sherlock Holmes as a character!

Reviewed by Marty Ludlum

Sherlock Holmes as a Pipe Smoker is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine, Amazon USA, Amazon UK,  Waterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository.



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Review of Test of the Professionals I

Last year, Marcia Wilson joined the Sherlockian mainstream with her wonderful debut novel You Buy Bones. Beginning just after the fateful meeting between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, it transformed the Scotland Yarders—Gregson, Bradstreet, and Lestrade—from mere foils to be outshone by Holmes into living, breathing characters in their own right. Since then, Ms. Wilson’s short stories have been featured in several MX Publishing anthologies, edited by David Marcum, and in Derrick Belanger’s anthology Beyond Watson.

Now she carries her saga forward to the autumn of 1883, as the Yarders investigate seemingly unrelated waterfront crimes (missing seamen, stolen flour barrels) linked to an agent of the master criminal who still lurks behind the scenes. Whereas Watson was as important as the Yarders to the plot of You Buy Bones, here the focus is on Inspector Geoffrey Lestrade. In Ms. Wilson’s hands, he becomes a full-fledged personality, not the one-dimensional character we met in Doyle. While not the smartest of the Yarders, “Inspector Plod” is truly (as Holmes admits) the best of them, due to his iron sense of ethics (for which he has paid a heavy price) and his grim determination to battle both criminals and his own limitations in the pursuit of justice. In Test, we learn of an incident in Lestrade’s past that forever darkened his relations with his family, as well as his career at Scotland Yard. An old enemy returns to devil him, serving as both the charming, heartless villain of the piece and a romantic rival. For Test is also the story of Lestrade’s meeting with Clea Cheatham, a young woman of independent mind and her own unusual family and backstory. Like the inspector’s, they are woven skillfully into the tale.

Underlying these delights of plot and character is some amazing historical research. Marcia Wilson has an encyclopedic knowledge of Victorian minutia; happily, her footnotes are helpful rather than intrusive. Osage orange trees, Krakatoa, mudlarks, and tie-mates all find their places in the story. A potato pie, we learn, can be an insult. There are even notes explaining Inspector Bradstreet’s strange invective. On another level, Ms. Wilson writes with compassion of the day-to-day perils of the London poor. We see far more of Watson as a doctor, and of Mrs. Hudson as a housekeeper, than we ever did in Doyle.

Readers who buy A Test of the Professionals should not expect a traditional Sherlock Holmes pastiche. Ms. Wilson does not tell her story with Victorian reserve; her intimate, informal style is in keeping with the rough-and-tumble lives led by the Yarders. Yet, devotees of the Master will find nothing to offend them, for the characters in Test are never incompatible with their originals. The idiosyncrasies of Holmes, and his interactions with Watson and the Yarders, are as familiar and delightful here as ever. The difference is that for her canvas of Victorian London, Marcia Wilson employs a more colorful palette and a broader brush than Conan Doyle’s. Such is her artistry that she enriches and fully brings to life the world he left us.

Reviewed by Thomas A. Turley

Test of the Professionals I 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 and Kobo.



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Review of The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive

This is the third book in this series by Amy Thomas and is proof that great writers can reach new heights as they progress with a series! The two previous books were superb and this one is equally special!

…As usual the author plays Holmes and Irene off each other with the skill of an archer splitting an arrow with another arrow! Doctor Watson, Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson and Mrs. Turner add their moments in this truly fascinating novel. I only hope that Amy Thomas continues this series. It is top of the line!

I gladly give this book five stars, plus!

Reviewed by Raven’s Reviews

The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive 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 Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).




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New review of Sherlock Holmes and The Nine-Dragon Sigil

Tim Symonds SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE NINE-DRAGON SIGIL could rival Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. As a lover of period pieces, especially those with a mystery, the idea of reading a Sherlock Holmes story was an easy decision.

For me, the story itself wasn’t just entertaining. It was visually satisfying with its richness of detail and descriptions. While Edwardian England is of interest to me, early twentieth century China tickled the senses with its sea of color, movement, sounds, tastes and smells.

Purveyors of a good bit of detective work have nothing on Symonds. I loved everything about this story from the pacing; the opening with Watson reminded me of so many other Sherlock Holmes stories that it was easy to fall under its spell…to the utterly fascinating descriptions of China, I was instantly taken in and quick to read.

Whether you are a lover of detective stories, period pieces, or a combination thereof, it simply isn’t possible to go wrong choosing this Sherlock Holmes story. And I certainly hope that you’ll be as tickled with it as I was.

Reviewed by Leslie Obrien

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).


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Posted by on January 16, 2017 in Book Reviews, Uncategorized


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Review of Test of the Professionals I

In October 2008, after reading the works of Marcia Wilson on a fan fiction website, I was moved to write a fan letter. I’ve been reading and collecting thousands of Sherlock Holmes stories since the mid-1970’s, and I had never read anything like what she was writing. They were stories of the Scotland Yarders, the ones that we knew from the Holmes stories. Lestrade, Gregson, Bradstreet, Hopkins, Jones, Youghal, and others. They weren’t clichéd bumblers that so often appear in pastiches, but rather knowledgeable officers who were serious about their very difficult jobs. They didn’t resent Holmes, although they did realize that his responsibilities were upon different lines. They were the professionals, and he was the gifted amateur. And that wasn’t a problem, because they respected each other, and even had a sort of friendship.

More importantly, Watson – as presented in these stories – was not a Nigel Bruce-like “Uncle John” bumbler or figure for comedy. Rather, he is a gifted and intelligent doctor and former military officer who has earned the regard of all the Yarders. The Watson shown here is a very deep individual who hides his own light under a bushel but never fails to be a hero as well.

The main figure of these tales is Inspector G. Lestrade. Wilson chose the name “Geoffrey” for him, not because she liked that name, but because she didn’t, thereby causing her to work harder to understand him and present him favorably. And once these stories are encountered, the reader will like him too, and never see him the same way again.

In these stories, the lives and backstories of the men of Scotland Yard are revealed, presented in a very authentic manner that shows Wilson’s amazing knowledge of the period. She never tosses in facts in an awkward manner to remind you that these stories are taking place in the late 19th century. Rather, the characters simply accept these facts in passing as part of the world around them, giving great credence to the stories’ authenticity.

Over the course of a number of years, Wilson constructed a vast web of interrelated stories and adventures, all mounted on the solid framework of the Canon. In my first fan letter to her, I begged her to publish them for the wider world, and I’m so happy that she’s doing so. There was You Buy Bones, telling of Lestrade’s first meeting with Watson, who will become a close friend, and Watson’s service to the Yard that earns their admiration forever after. Next chronologically is this book, which tells how Lestrade meets Clea Cheatham, as well as becoming reacquainted with an old enemy, Jethro Quimper, who is now working for a certain Professor.

For those of us in the know, the anticipation is almost unbearable, waiting for the next volumes to appear. I know what happens next from reading and archiving all of those old fan fiction stories – much that we didn’t previously know is going to happen to Lestrade, Watson, Holmes, and the rest as we progress through the 1880’s and so into the 1890’s, and the years before, during, and after The Great Hiatus. But Wilson didn’t stop there – she’s chronicled adventures through World War I and beyond. She still has places to fill in details, and I can’t wait to see what happens next – and for other readers to find it out as well.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll conclude by saying it again: Marcia Wilson has found Scotland Yard’s Tin Dispatch Box!

Reviewed by David Marcum

Test of the Professionals I 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 and Kobo.


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Posted by on January 14, 2017 in Book Reviews, Uncategorized


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Review of Irregular Lives

Review of Irregular Lives –  The Real Thing

Kim Krisco’s Irregular Lives is really two books in one. The first half is reminiscent of Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, in that Sherlock Holmes’s reminiscences in post-War 1919 London frame tales about the Baker Street Irregulars, that band of youths that he employed when from before he moved to Baker Street in 1881, until long past his retirement in 1903.

Holmes’s opportunity to have these memories occurs when he is mysteriously invited to an exhibition of photographs, taken years before, of various unfortunates from London’s East End. As he makes his way around the room, he begins to recognize images of the Irregulars, and each photo that he encounters leads to a memory of a past case. Each of these are well told, having different tones depending upon which Irregular is being recalled.

When Holmes and Watson learn the identity of the mysterious photographer, the events that make up the second half of the book tumble upon us, leading to a very satisfying conclusion.

This book purports to tell how Holmes met and recruited the Irregulars. There are a few chronological issues from a Sherlockian standpoint, but the writing is excellent. This book isn’t told in first-person, like many Holmes adventures. The third-person narrative serves it well, showing what Holmes is thinking, and the actions and viewpoints of numerous characters.

There have been a great number of Holmes stories that tell how became acquainted with Wiggins and the other Irregulars. It has long been my contention, (as explained in my own story “The Gower Street Murder” in Sherlock Holmes – Tangled Skeins) that there were a great number of Wiggins-es through the years, all related, and all with their own groups friends who made up sub-groups of Irregulars. This tale doesn’t disagree with any of that. It tells the important events in one of the bands of the Irregulars, adding a very important threat into The Great Holmes Tapestry.

It was especially interesting to me to see that Chapter 6 of this book consisted of a reworked version of “Blood Brothers”, Krisco’s contribution to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Part III: 1896-1929. Curiously, in the original MX anthology version, the narrative occurs in 1913, and for this book it has been shifted to 1889. As a committed Sherlockian Chronologicist, I’ll have to work that out, but the facts of the case themselves are first-rate, as is the rest of the book.

This is the kind of Holmes book that is the real thing, and well worth reading. I look forward to the next one.

Reviewed by David Marcum

Irregular Lives 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 and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).



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Review of Sherlock Holmes and A Hole in The Devil’s Tail

Another tale about the True Holmes!

I believe that this is Mr. Messick’s first Holmes adventure, and it starts in the right direction by telling us more about the true Holmes, and just keeps going. Set in the 1890’s, Holmes is faced by two mysteries, a locked room puzzle related to the mysterious murder of a solicitor, and a series of connected murders linked by their ferocity, along with Tarot cards found on the victim’s bodies.

This convoluted tale moves back and forth between the two cases, and Holmes finds himself threatened by the Tarot killer, who promises that, if Holmes does not cease his investigations, retribution will be swift – not on the detective, but rather those that he cares about.

One of the things that I enjoyed most was the investigation of the locked room puzzle, and how it relates to the Hole in the Devil’s Tail, as mentioned in the book’s title. It isn’t what you would expect. And I always enjoy when something is thrown in that teaches me something at no extra charge – in this case, how cracks were repaired in marble statues in ancient times. The way that this bit of information is relevant is a treat, as is the way that Holmes reveals it.

I’ll be looking forward to Mr. Messick’s next offering from Watson’s Tin Dispatch Box.”

Reviewed by David Marcum

Sherlock Holmes and A Hole In The Devil’s Tail 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). Also available on Audible.



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