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Category Archives: Book Reviews

Out today – The Detective, the Woman and the Pirate’s Bounty

In The Detective, The Woman and The Pirate’s Bounty, Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler retrace the steps of pirates as they uncover a conspiracy at the heart of Florida’s islands. Death threats and gangsters are not enough to stop the pair as they meet new friends and enemies while seeking pirate treasure and preserving law and order.

Thomas portrays this iconic character and his mannerisms brilliantly. The story was so good and is written in such a way that enables you to picture it happening; as if watching a film.  I’d most definitely like to read more from this author in the future.” – Curled up with a good book

The Detective, the Woman and the Pirate’s Bounty is available from all good bookstores including  Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle.

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Review of The Celtic Phoenix: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure

It’s 1919 and Sherlock Holmes has retired to a South Coast cottage where he is using his past cases to compile a definitive work on crime and criminals. This is interrupted by the arrival in the post of a decorated jewellery case/casket inside which are a pair of testes. Is this a warning or perhaps a challenge, maybe from a murderer?

Back in London, at Scotland Yard, there is an investigation following a murder that has links to Holmes’ unusual package. An acquaintance of Dr Watson’s has been killed, his suspected murdered a young woman with a sad past. It’s claimed that the young worker, under the care of the Salvation Army, killed her master. The victim, like Holmes, had received something in the post that disturbed him.

The symbols on the casket (of testes) are Celtic in origin. The Celtics lived thousands of years ago, with a sacred and respectful view of nature, and equality between the sexes. Women, the birth-givers/creators of life, often took on leading and important roles, such as priests and warriors. Given the contents of the casket sent to Holmes, was this sent by a woman with a Celtic link?

One legendary cult of women warriors, the Sisters of Scathach, are making a return, and it could be timely. With slavery, sexual abuse, violence and discrimination rife, there’s plenty for such a group to fight against. But is this a welcome social justice campaign or criminal plan for revenge for modern crimes against women?

A former Baker Street irregular, Tessa Wiggins, teams up with Holmes – and to some extent Inspector Walls – as they attempt to prevent more killings and restore order, whilst serving justice. There are several strong female characters in a book which explores feminist issues that are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago.  

There are hidden items, secret codes and historic lore, making for an interesting adventure. A well told story from a writer comfortable with the Holmes canon.

Reviewed by Crime Thriller Hound

The Celtic Phoenix: 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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