Book Review: The House at Baker Street

Author: Michelle Birkby
Read: April 2016
Number of pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Published: 25th February 2016
ISBN: 1509807225
Publisher:  Pan; Main Market Ed. edition
Rating: 

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I was very excited when I saw this book pop up on my amazon account and I must congratulate the author, Michelle Birkby for such a refreshing take on a classic.  I have never clicked on a ‘Buy it Now’ button so quickly. What a fantastic idea to have two characters, Mary Watson and Mrs Hudson, whom we love for different reasons in a traditional Holmes story, now get to take centre stage in their own Novel and see their characters evolve. It is a good detour away from Holmes and Watson stories and like the book suggests, ‘Behind every great detective stands a great woman…’

‘I loved The House at Baker Street. This is the perfect post-Sherlock book: warm, compassionate, intelligent, with plot and language crafted in the style of the Master Conan Doyle himself. Martha Hudson and Mary Watson step off the page, finally given the life they always needed. It’s the kind of book any of us would be proud to have written, but to have done so as a debut is little short of exceptional. Michelle Birkby is a name to watch as she rises to literary stardom – and I can already feel the television adaptation on the way’ – MANDA SCOTT, AUTHOR OF ROME & BOUDICA.

Synopsis: When Sherlock Holmes turns down the case of persecuted Laura Shirley. Mrs Hudson – the landlady of Baker Street – and Mary Watson – the wife of Dr. Watson – resolve to take on the investigation themselves. From the kitchen of 221B Baker Street, the women begin their inquiries and enlist the assistance of the Irregulars and the infamous Irene Adler. A trail of leads lead them to the darkest corners of Whitechapel, where the fearsome Ripper supposedly still stalks. They soon discover Laura Shirley is not the only woman at risk and the lives of many others are in danger too. The investigation becomes bigger than they can imagine, are they just pawns in a much larger game?

Review: As I settled down into reading this new Sherlock adventure with a cuppa I was full of questions. How will it be different? Will it be any good or just a disappointment? I became so absorbed that I now find my steaming tea is very cold. Both Martha Hudson and Mary Watson are believable characters and the plot is a good one, though not perhaps quite of the standard of an original Conan Doyle.  The book doesn’t have the same period feel as the Conan Doyle stories either, but then why should it?  It was written a hundred years later and doesn’t make any pretentious to be the same as the originals.

Mrs Martha Hudson is a pure heroine is there ever was one, she is by far my favourite character in this new adventure and high competition for Mr Holmes himself. It is so lovely to see her inner strength and strong character grow throughout the novel. She is reserved, composed and determined. Fiercely determined and protective of those she loves. We hear of her life before Baker Street. We are slowly given the details of her relationship with the two solid partners in crime and allowed to bear witness to how they love her so, how she is their family, theirs to protect. We learn of the new found friendship with Mrs Hudson and Mary Watson, witness to a strong bond they have for each other and see a more personable side to Miss Irene Adler.

The Irregulars also feature a main part. We see Wiggins and Billy in a light we usually do not seeing and how precious they are to Mrs Hudson.

The ‘case’ is an adventure, the imagery created by the descriptive and detailed writing can be quite vivid at times and gory, but exciting as yet again and again another suspect is added to the list or another body found battered and bruised. Sometimes you think they will not solve the case.

The House at Baker Street is an atmospheric novel with strong characters, stronger relationships, trust, secrets, burglary, murder, blackmail and surprising events. I am already looking forward to the second book. Can not recommend this book enough. A must read for any sherlock fan! For your copy click here.

Graphic Novel Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London

Author: Sylvin Cordurie
Illustrator: Laci
Read between: Christmas 2015
Number of pages: 96
Format: Hardback
Published: 18th February 2014
ISBN: 1616552662
Publisher: Dark Horse
Rating:four-stars.jpg

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Here is a review on something a bit different to the Novel’s I usually review. My husband is a big DC and Marvel comic reader so it was inevitable I was going to end up reading some Sherlock comics… well he is never going to let me read his collection!

Synopsis: Sherlock Holmes died fighting Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. At least, that is what the press claims. However, Holmes is alive and well and taking advantage of his presumed death to travel the globe. Unfortunately, Holmes’ plans are thwarted  when a plague of vampirism begins haunting Britain. Holmes takes the opportunity to secretly visit with his brother Mycroft to tie up his personal dealings before leaving London permanently and anonymously. He is tracked down by a master vampire in London who has a serious problem with a rogue vampire. Through non too gentle coercion (threats on Watson and his wife) Holmes will be persuaded to use all his skills to find the vampire before the situation becomes out of hand. Especially when it becomes clear that the rogue vampire has specific plans for the master, the Queen, and Holmes himself. But Moriarty’s men are still following Holmes and he does not want to alert them that he is still alive.

Review: So yes after reading this I want to read more. This particular series is published by Dark Horse. There are another three in the collection that follow on from each other. These are Sherlock Holmes and the Necronomicon and Crime Valley. These reviews will follow in my blog at some point.

They are presented in smart hardback A4 books with beautiful detailed naturalistic artwork. It represents a reduced palette of colourful (for the reflection of industrial London) and propel the story adequately. It has a straightforward narrative, mostly by Holmes (in a memoir style to give to Watson after his presumed death) which is a refreshing view-point but can lack the emotional involvement Watson injects into stories. You see Holmes use his observation, chemistry, contacts and logic to find the rogue vampire and solve the case.

The story itself ‘Vampires’ to be honest did not fill me with excitement. It personally does not interest me.Those that do read Doyle’s classics would know that Holmes is not one for the supernatural and in this story Holmes is depicted as being intrigued and curious, excepting the super natural. Because of this I always find difficult to believe or difficult to get into. However, before I rule this one out, to my surprise the elements were well executed in the story and it was something a bit different.

The familiar characters such as Watson, Mary, Mrs Hudson, Moriarty are mentioned and is a great ‘what if’ twist for the events taking place after Reichenbach Falls. There is a good twist and turn in the story being that Holmes was hunting the wrong Vampire. It is nice to see Holmes picking up the deerstalker hat and cloak and taking a solo mission on.

If you want a break from the novels and would like a different take on a Sherlock adventure have ago at this, click here for your copy!

 

 

 

Book Review: The Art of Blood

Author: Bonnie MacBird
Read:  November 2015
Number of pages: 336
Format: Hard Back
Published: 27th August 2015
ISBN: 0008129665
Publisher: Collins Crime Club
Rating:   five-stars

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“In a world with more than its share of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, it is rare for one to soar above the rest, but Bonnie MacBird’s Art in the Blood achieves this singular feat and deserves a tip of the deerstalker.” – OTTO PENZLER, EDITOR, “THE BIG BOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES STORIES”

Synopsis: London. A snowy December, 1888. Sherlock Holmes, 34, is languishing and back on cocaine after a disastrous Ripper investigation. Watson can neither comfort nor rouse his friend – until a strangely encoded letter arrives from Paris. Mlle La Victoire, a beautiful French cabaret star writes that her illegitimate son by an English lord has disappeared, and she has been attacked in the streets of Montmartre. Racing to Paris with Watson at his side, Holmes discovers the missing child is only the tip of the iceberg of a much larger problem. The most valuable statue since the Winged Victory has been violently stolen in Marseilles, and several children from a silk mill in Lancashire have been found murdered. The clues in all three cases point to a single, untouchable man.

Will Holmes recover in time to find the missing boy and stop a rising tide of murders? To do so he must stay one step ahead of a dangerous French rival and the threatening interference of his own brother, Mycroft. This latest adventure, in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, sends the iconic duo from London to Paris and the icy wilds of Lancashire in a case which tests Watson’s friendship and the fragility and gifts of Sherlock Holmes’ own artistic nature to the limits.

Review: What to say about this book? I loved it. It hit the satisfying holmesian notes that a sherlockian craves. It was exciting, very well researched and touches of humour which kept the pages turning. The art work leaped out on the bookcase screaming ‘Read Me!’. What is it about hardback books?

The glorious Sherlock and Watson relationship is observed and respected by MacBird and is a tribute to the Conan Doyle style. Having just finished and reviewed the House of Silk by Horrowitz, this was every bit as good; if not better. Ironically, or deliberately, this novel has a similar side plot to Horrowitz’ House of Silk so it felt like it was a continuation of the story …this, for me, put it into context.

There are plenty of twists and turns, plots and sub-plots, and convincing villains making this an engaging adventures, complete with scenes in Baker street, rattling along London streets and the countryside in cabs and trains. An exceedingly enjoyable read and I can’t wait for the sequel, ‘Unquiet Spirts’ next year.

This one comes highly recommended. Click here for your copy!

Book Review: The Stuff of Nightmares

Author: James Lovegrove
Read between: February – March 2016
Number of pages: 291
Format: Paperback
Published: August 2013
ISBN:1781165416
Publisher: Titan Books
Rating: 

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This is the 3rd offering in the Titan Sherlock Holmes collection. The stylish covers have really drawn me to this collection and I know new titles will be continued to be added. This is the first one I have read of three Sherlock Holmes novels Lovegrove has currently penned (the other two being Gods of War and The Thinking Engine, these are currently sitting patiently on my bookcase waiting to be read).

“An action-packed, fun adventure filled with traditional Holmsian details but with the added spice of a strong sci-fi steampunk element.” – Popcorn Reads

Synopsis: Set in 1890, Stuff of Nightmares starts with a powerful opening of Watson arriving at Waterloo station as a terrorist bomb explodes causing a shocking amount of death and devastation. This is the third bombing to have gone off and the country is beginning to panic. Having witnessed the horror first hand Watson immediately sets off to find his old friend Holmes knowing he would be in the thick of the investigation. Meanwhile, a strange figure has been spied haunting the rooftops and grimy back alleys of the capital. Holmes believes the masked attacker holds the key to the attacks. This is not just an ordinary person. He possesses weaponry and armour of unprecedented sophistications and is now only by the name, Baron Cauchemar; and he appears to be a scourge of crime and villainy. Is he what he appears to be? Holmes and Watson are set to embark on one of their strangest and most exhilarating adventures yet.

Review: What to say about this book apart for it being brilliant! What first struck me about this book is Lovegrove’s excellent use of language, just the opening bomb scene at Waterloo station alone was wonderfully described, not only in it’s use of words but the tone of the book was spot on from Watson’s point of view. I also felt it was very relevant to today. The ‘problem’ goes back to the heart of the British Empire and threaten the heart of the Monarchy itself. The story treads at a steady pace following Holmes’s investigation meeting a fair amount of both familiar Holmes characters such as Mycroft, Mrs Hudson, Lestrade as well as a host of new faces which are brought to life with equal skill, my favourite being the infamous Baron Cauchemar who turns up in truly splendid fashion at every appearance. The balance is also very well done with a mixture of serious moments but also added humour.

When we meet Cauchemar his enigmatic character is exciting and reminiscent echoing portraits of Iron man or Batman. Is he a friend or foe? A a read you fear him but then you admire him. With its martial arts, fast, unrelenting action, suspense and heroics this has all the ingredients you could hope for in a Sherlock Holmes adventure. Fortunately, it is also clear that Lovegrove is a fan of Holmes’ creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as there are plenty of references and allusions to the original canon.

The ending is over the top taking if far in the opposite direction to a Doyle classic but you can forgive it because it is highly entertaining. Even though it is more of a fantasy ending, Lovegrove, shows great respect to Holmes and Watson and has created a great novel. I would recommend and recommend again! To get your hands on this great novel click here.

P.S Welcome my new Sherlock Holmes lego mini figure… I am sure he will be making more guest appearances in this blog.

© Chris Bird Photography 2016