Art in the Blood by Bonnie MacBird

London, 1888. After a disastrous Ripper investigation, Sherlock Holmes languishes in a cocaine fueled haze in his flat on Baker Street. His good friend, John Watson, can neither comfort nor rouse his friend and is more and more worried about the other man’s health. The only thing that can rouse him is a new case and that comes in the form of an encoded letter from Paris.

Mlle La Victoire, a renowned cabaret star, has written to Holmes in great need. Her young son has been kidnapped and she fears his father, a known Lord, is to blame.

Holmes rushes to Paris with Watson at his side, where he finds the missing child to be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The theft of a well known statue in Marseilles and the deaths of three children in Lancashire also vie for Holmes and Watson’s attention. The clues in all three cases eventually point to one man – an art collector who is seemingly above the reach of the law.

Art in the Blood is the first novel by movie and television executive and producer Bonnie MacBird. My dearest reader, if this is her first book and she has plans for writing more then I will be one happy person!

Art in the Blood follows our dear Holmes after a disastrous investigation in to the Jack the Ripper case. While what happened is alluded to, it is enough to make the reader guess that what occurred was not pleasant at all. For Sherlock or any one else.

MacBird does a wonderful job of penning a Holmes adventure; well enough to make Doyle himself proud. Clues are dropped throughout the narrative and only at the grand finale does everything come together and make sense.

The books only downfall comes with the way the characters speak at times. MacBird admits she was influenced by the actors who played Holmes and Watson themselves, from Jeremy Brett and David Burke to Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. It is evident that she drew heavily from the latter for speech for there are certain scenes – especially one particular scene with older brother Mycroft – that I heard the actor’s voices in my head.

Is this a bad thing? For me it isn’t as I adore the modern version of Sherlock Holmes just as much as I adore the original stories. However some readers might not like it, particularly those who regard themselves as “purists”.

MacBird says this is the first book in a proposed series. Personally, I greatly enjoyed this first foray and look forward to more.

Sherlock Holmes – The Patchwork Devil by Cavan Scott

World War 1 has come and gone, changing the face of history and of science. Holmes and Watson are retired men now, each having gone their separate ways. It is during one of Sherlock’s visits to London however that the two are called back in to action.

A severed hand has been found along the bank of the Thames. Fingerprints show the hand belongs to a young soldier who supposedly died in France – two years earlier. Yet the hand found is fresh and looks as if it were recently amputated. So how did it end up back in England when its owner was killed half a continent away? And what of the strange giant seen following them?

I am always pleased when a book manages to surprise me. Whether it be from how a character acts to a plot twist no one sees coming; I enjoy them all. So I’m sure you can imagine my surprise and delight, dear reader, when I came across a book that is a combination of two of my favorite stories – Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein.

Just going by the blurb on the back of the book, I already had an inkling that the plot of The Patchwork Devil would likely hint at the original Frankenstein. A person or persons seeking to create life where once there was none, for whatever purpose. So I’m sure you can imagine my surprise (and delight) when during the course of their investigation, Holmes and Watson learn that their main suspect is a descendant of Viktor Frankenstein and has seemingly picked up his work!

Alas, to say much more would be to give away important spoilers so dear reader, I shall have to stop there.

Scott has done admirable work in giving a voice to older Holmes and Watson. There were several moments that had me smiling as the men attempted things that were possible in their younger days only to suffer the consequences and realize getting old is difficult! He also did excellent work with the character of Frankenstein’s monster. Those who read the original book know that he is an eloquent character, well spoken and quite intelligent. Unfortunately the movies (and sometimes books) have cast him as a shambling individual with a childlike intellect. Scott has reminded us that that man was anything but.

If I have any qualms with The Patchwork Devil, it would be how quickly everything was resolved. The whole mystery and bad guy were dealt with in what seemed like a matter of paragraphs. It felt a bit too rushed to my taste.

Other than that, I rather enjoyed this most recent Holmes tale. Readers like myself and those who like a good medical mystery will likely enjoy it as well.

Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone by G.S. Denning

Sherlock Holmes. A name, that when spoken, brings to mind a genius. A man who uses his brilliant mind to solve the most puzzling of crimes. A man whose name has become synonymous with deduction and reason.

Warlock Holmes, on the other hand, is an idiot who couldn’t deduce his way out of a paper bag. He is a good man with an incredible amount of arcane power and the might of a thousand demons at his beck and call; but he is also brilliantly dim. Fortunately he has his newest flatmate, Dr. John Watson, to steer him on the straight and narrow. And perhaps prevent Holmes from accidentally bringing down Armageddon on us all.

Friends of mine and fans of this blog will know I adore the character Sherlock Holmes. After being introduced to his original stories in high school (more years ago than I would care to admit), he wormed his way in to my heart and still he resides as one of my favorite characters. So when I saw this newest retelling of the familiar Holmes stories, I of course was intrigued.

Warlock Holmes is one of those books that I am so glad I bought for I will definitely be reading it again. Denning has a firm grasp of the original stories which allows him to mimic them while still leaving them recognizable. For instance, the first story is a retelling of the original ‘A Study in Scarlet’ which introduces us to Holmes and Watson. In the original story, we first see Holmes flogging a dead body with the intent of learning of post-mortem bruising patterns. In Denning’s version, Holmes is beating a dead body with a cricket bat because it is supposedly a zombie and wishes to dine on Holmes’ brain.

Personally, I found how Denning gave the familiar characters a complete makeover. He has taken two well known individuals and practically switched bodies on them. It is Watson who does the observing and deducing with Holmes being along for the ride. Denning does this with all the characters; from Moriarty to Mrs. Hudson; and it makes for a well done and refreshing read.

It isn’t often that I find a book that actually makes me laugh out loud, but I found myself doing just that several times while reading Warlock Holmes. Light hearted yet with a macabre side, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I recommend this one highly to all my readers and eagerly await the next novel!

The Strange Return of Sherlock Holmes by Barry Grant

James Wilson has decided to retire from journalism and to live out his days in Hertfordshire. To make the rent a bit easier to handle, he agrees to take on a roommate. Upon meeting Mr. Cedric Coombes, Wilson finds the man’s behavior a tad eccentric and he also experiences a strange feeling and swears he has seen Mr. Coombes somewhere before.

When Coombes is asked to assist on a local murder, Wilson cannot help but to follow along. There he witnesses first hand a display of deductive reasoning that could only have come from a novel. After several instances of seeing such marvels, Wilson begins to wonder just who Coombes really is.

A retiring gentleman takes an apartment with an eccentric roommate only to find himself drawn in to a baffling mystery. The roommate has a brilliant mind, plays violin, and has a penchant for cocaine despite the laws and health risks. Sounds familiar, no?

If the basic plotline of The Strange Return of Sherlock Holmes sounds familiar, it is with good reason. It is the first in a series and much like it’s predecessor, A Study in Scarlet, it introduces us two very familiar characters. And though the names have changed, much of the rest remains the same.

Grant has done his research well in regards to creating a unique yet familiar voice for Holmes. Much of his speech and mannerisms are the same, harkening back to his Victorian days, yet there are also minor differences as Holmes grows accustomed to modern times and modes of speaking. The way Holmes is brought in to the modern day is also handled well with enough factual science combined with a bit of hand waving to make the truth plausible.

One thing I found quite amusing, and is something I hope is continued through subsequent books; is how a goodly number of those who meet Coombes/Holmes for the first time have a kind of deja vu. They feel like they have seen him or met him before but can not quite place where. Once Wilson knows the truth about Coombes it is something he finds amusing, and is something I found funny as well.

As much as I enjoyed The Strange Return of Sherlock Holmes, I found a few minor drawbacks. For me, I found the book too short. Much like the original story it is a novella and therefore under 200 pages. I found it too short to deal with the various threads of the story in a satisfactory manner.

The other point that irked me was how quickly and neatly the case was resolved. The villain fairly spelled out his crimes to Wilson and Holmes. There was little to no guessing as to who had done it.

As a Sherlock Holmes fan, I liked reading The Strange Return of Sherlock Holmes. It was a light and fun story and reminded me a good deal of the animated series Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century. Fans of Conan Doyle and Holmes might well enjoy this series.

Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

Being a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes mysteries, I am always curious as to who else enjoys the stories as I do. I know literary lovers run the gambit and come from every walk of life but sometime I come across one that surprises me. Imagine my surprise when I learned that famed NBA basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was penning his own Holmesian mystery! We often forget that he is a UCLA graduate as an English/History major. With this book however, he proves aptly to never judge a book by its cover.

Mycroft Holmes is fresh out of Cambridge University. At the young age of twenty-three the elder Holmes brother is quickly making a name for himself in the British government. However as much as he loved Queen and country; a part of him is tied to Trinidad. It is the birthplace of Cyrus Douglas, Mycroft’s good friend and confidant, as well as the place where Georgiana Sutton, Mycroft’s fiance, was born and raised.

When troubling news of strange disappearances and mysterious footprints in the sand reach their ears, Georgiana abruptly leaves for Trinidad. Fearing for her safety, Mycroft convinces Douglas to follow her and the two men quickly set off in pursuit. Yet when they reach Trinidad and begin looking for Georgiana, they soon learn that not everything is as it seems. A dark web of secrets ensnares them and becomes more deadly the closer they get to the truth.

Mycroft Holmes is a fresh take on the Sherlock Holmes canon. The character himself appeared in only four of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, leaving readers and fans a great deal of leeway in regards to Sherlock Holmes elder brother. Abdul-Jabbar seizes the opportunity to flesh out this intriguing character and he does it incredibly well.

It is quite clear that Abdul-Jabbar is not only a fan of the original Conan Doyle mysteries but that he did his research as well. Mycroft says how he spent a few summers studying with a Dr. Joseph Bell as a young man; knowledgeable readers will know that Conan Doyle studies with Dr. Bell and it was he who was the original inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes. Great research was also done for the different locations, from Victorian London to Trinidad of that same time. Great care is given in describing the locales and makes it easy to imagine being there.

I did find the book a tad slow in the beginning and as such had to almost force myself to continue reading. The action did however begin to pick up and once it did I found the book difficult to put down. Once it hit its stride, the story made great leaps and bounds before coming to a satisfying conclusion. There were a few moments where the reader might have to suspend belief as little more than usual, but I found that rare.

The stories of Sherlock Holmes have thrilled readers for over a century now and during all that time his elder brother Mycroft was often left in the shadows. In Mycroft Holmes, he is given a chance to shine and he does with aplomb. Fans of Conan Doyle should definitely give this one a read because it gives a very plausible backstory to a most fascinating and overlooked character.

Sherlock Holmes: The Thinking Engine by James Lovegrove

‘Not another Sherlock Homes novel!’ I am sure I hear some of you dear readers cry. Yes, another Sherlock Holmes novel. Why? Why not?

It is spring in 1895 and Sherlock Holmes is adjusting to life once more at 221B Baker Street. When news from the towering spires of Oxford University reach his ears however, the game once more is afoot.

Professor Quantock has created an incredible machine that he claims can rival the most astute minds – including Sherlock Holmes. When the newspapers place a wager between man and machine, Holmes cannot resist a challenge. He and Watson travel to Oxford’s hallowed halls to take on the clever thinking engine where the two compete to be the first to solve a series of crimes. At first the crimes seem unconnected but as Holmes and Watson dig deeper they begin to uncover more clues that point to the Thinking Machine perhaps having its own agenda.

As much as I love the influx of new Sherlock Holmes stories, unfortunately The Thinking Engine is not one of the best. Lovegrove’s previous Holmes novel The Gods of War was excellent and I was hoping this second book would be as good as the previous, but alas it is not.

That is not to say this wasn’t a good book; far from it in fact. While the mysteries were well thought out and executed and the story itself was overall quite good, it just did not feel like a Sherlock Holmes novel. At some points the characterizations were so off; especially that of Holmes. At times it felt like Holmes was almost a caricature of himself.

As for the thrilling climax, I found it almost laughable. It was not the kind of ending I was looking for and it felt quite trite. The ending felt rushed and wasn’t very satisfying. Yes, the good guys won and the bad guys got their comeuppance; it just didn’t feel right though. It could have been handled so much better.

As much as I enjoy reading and rereading Sherlock Holmes short stories and novels, The Thinking Engine is one I will likely not read again. The characters whom I normally find so fascinating were not at all engaging and the end left me feeling let down.

Only the most die-hard Holmes fans should consider this one even if it’s to complete their collection. Casual Holmes fans can give this one a pass.

House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

I am sure I have said it before dear reader, and I know for certain I shall say it again in the future, but allow me to state it once more – I greatly enjoy the tales of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. Be they in the form of books, short stories, movies or even TV series, their adventures both old and new never fail to make my heart skip a beat.

With an introduction like that, it should not surprise you then that this week I am reviewing yet another book starring the famous fictional detective.

London, 1890. Art dealer Edmund Carstairs comes to Holmes saying he is being stalked. This someone has followed him from America and now terrorizes his home and business. It is when Mr. Carstairs home is broken in to and the thief later turns up dead that things seem to take a turn for the worse.

As they delve deeper in to the mystery of the motives behind Carstairs’ stalker, Holmes and Watson find themselves being pulled into an even larger conspiracy. One that is not isolated to the lowest levels of criminality, but spans from the highest levels of the government to the lowest levels of humanity. It is one that whispers to beware ‘the House of Silk’ and woe to those who do not listen.

Several weeks ago I reviewed Moriarty, the most recent Holmes’ novel by Anthony Horowitz. As it had been some time since I’d read this novel originally, I decided to go back and re-read it. And much like the last time, I absolutely devoured this book. If it weren’t for the fact that I had to do Real Life things like work, eat, and sleep, I’m sure I would have finished reading the novel in half the time.

Like with Moriarty, in The House of Silk, you can see why Horowitz was tapped by the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate to pen this tale. His writing is very reminiscent of the original stories Doyle wrote all those years ago. Told from the point of view of Dr. Watson, as all the stories were, the writing it tight and the action is fast paced. The various plot lines are woven together masterfully; what seems like some random happening early in the novel later on becomes a vital clue.

What at times seems like a jumble by the end makes complete and perfect sense. This seems to be a recurring theme with Holmes; the fact that we, like Dr. Watson, “You see, but do not observe”. It is a small piece of advice, but one that holds very true, especially within the pages of this novel.

I honestly hope Mr. Horowitz will continue to write Sherlock Holmes mysteries. He is one of the few authors I have found who truly seem to capture the voice of such a beloved character. I shall continue to check the shelves of my local library for his future works.

Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Dr. Moreau by Guy Adams

Throughout literary history characters have emerged that continue to stand the test of time. Characters such as Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ and Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’.

Over the years several authors have written books and short stories starring the famous detective. While most were good (and some not so good in my opinion) few were able to capture Doyle’s particular writing style. That is, for me at least, until Guy Adams came along.

As of this writing, Adams has written two original Sherlock Holmes novels. Sherlock Holmes: The Breath of God and Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Dr. Moreau. Breath of God came out first and really should be read before The Army of Dr. Moreau simply because a few characters are introduced in the first book and re-appear in the second. Of course, should the reader not do so it will in no way decrease their enjoyment of the book.

In The Army of Dr. Moreau, we see Sherlock and Watson approached by Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft. Bodies have started to surface bearing wounds that could only be inflicted by wild animals not found in London. The bodies are supposedly the calling card of Dr. Moreau, but as he was drummed out of England and later died, it could not possibly be him murdering these individuals. Some person or persons have picked up Dr. Moreau’s work where he left off and continue to experiment. Mycroft instructs Holmes and Watson to find who it is before their work goes too far.

As you can tell by the title, this book features not one but two well known literary characters. Reading further in to the story, we are introduced to even more literary characters such as Professor Challenger from Doyle’s The Lost World and Abner Perry from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At the Earth’s Core, among others. I will not divulge their roles in the book as that would ruin the fun. I will say however that Adams weaving of the multiple characters from different authors is well done. They are not simply dropped in to the book but are given a role, one that fits each one well and would be completely plausible should they all exist in the same literary universe.

The pacing of the book was also well done, I found it to be a real page turner. The language and style of speaking is very reminiscent of the original stories. Adams captures not only the cadence of Sherlock Holmes’ speech but that of Dr. Watson and the myriad of other characters within.

I am a big fan of Sherlock Holmes and have been for many years. This recent influx of new fiction with the famous detective delights me to no end. Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Dr. Moreau is one I will be adding to my shelves.

Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Doctor Moreau by Guy Adams (Aug 7 2012) – On Amazon