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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 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.

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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).

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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).

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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.

9781787050297

 

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