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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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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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