Review – Sherlock Holmes and the Copycat Murders – Barry Day

Sherlock Holmes and the Copycat Murders
Barry Day
192 pages


It has been too long since his last assignment, and Sherlock Holmes is beginning to come unglued. He stalks around his rooms at 221B Baker Street, too tense to work, and he is about to drive Dr. Watson up the wall when they are rescued by a knock at the door. It is Inspector Lestrade from Scotland Yard, and he has come to save Holmes—with a murder. A man has been found dead in Bayswater, slumped over a piece of homemade stationery marked with the words “Jabez Wilson”—the name of the victim in the long-solved mystery of the Red-Headed League. When Holmes enters the death room, the first thing he spies is the corpse’s flaming red hair. The old case is open again.

A series of bizarre crimes follow, each an imitation of one of Holmes’s greatest triumphs. Either Europe is in the grip of a madman—or the great detective has finally gone ’round the bend.

The Premise:

This book comes in two parts that separate neatly: the foreground and the background. In the foreground, a series of murders have taken place, decorated with props carefully chosen to suggest one or another of Watson’s publications. Some of them reveal knowledge of details only Holmes or Watson could have known. Worse yet, Holmes himself has been seen coming and going from each of the victims’ homes, though he claims not to remember. Either he has gone criminal, or he has gone insane.

In the background, a top-secret weapon is being developed, its designers are in mortal danger, and a land-grasping group of German agents may be responsible. But Holmes, under suspicion of treachery or insanity, may not be allowed to intervene.

The Good:

The writing. The writing was beautifully Watsonian, with several charming and unexpected flashes of humor. In fact, there was more than a bit of whimsy about the entire book, with Watson and Mycroft and Lestrade occasionally exchanging knowing looks over Holmes’s often pompous self-assurance. At the same time, though, it was not too whimsical for the subject matter; there is a deep and nuanced humanity in Watson’s helpless fear as it becomes more and more apparent that his best friend is losing his mind. I was also very pleased with the respect given to Lestrade, who is far too often portrayed as crooked or as a buffoon. Day shows us a dedicated, competent police detective who, like the rest of us, is still not quite as sharp as Mr. Sherlock Holmes, but who, over the years, has yet come to view him as a friend.

The characterization is beautiful, the action quick, and the writing smooth.

The Bad:

Mostly smooth. There were a few turns of phrase that jarred me out of the story, either by feeling too modern or too archaic. Whether they were accurate or not, they felt off. There weren’t too many of those, though.

Also, the first half of the mystery is mind-bogglingly transparent. I knew whodunnit almost from the get-go and kept waiting for a surprise that didn’t come. It was terribly disappointing that Watson hadn’t a clue. I consider myself pretty sharp, but I don’t expect any reader to be mystified by the foreground mystery.

I’m also sick to death of surprise Moriarty. It’s over-done, and there was no compelling reason that it had to be a Moriarty brother trying to help the Germans annex Britain. < Highlight text for spoiler.

In Conclusion:

I would purchase another book by Day. This one made for a fun addition to the Canon, and none of its flaws, for me, outweighed the enjoyment.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Review – The Last Moriarty – Charles Veley

The Last Moriarty
Charles Veley
ISBN-10: 1477829725
287 pages

A lovely young American actress from the D’Oyly Carte Opera Troupe comes to 221B Baker Street on a cold November morning, desperately seeking assistance from Sherlock Holmes. Inexplicably, Holmes agrees to help, even though the Prime Minister of England and his cabinet need Holmes to solve a murder case that could threaten a high-stakes meeting with John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan. The clock is ticking. Holmes will need all his physical and deductive powers to preserve innocent lives and prevent political and economic chaos on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet even Holmes cannot foresee how much the ultimate outcome will depend on a mother’s sacrifice, a daughter’s hopes, and on the true identity of the last Moriarty.

The Premise:
A meeting between captains of industry is threatened. Men connected with the upcoming meeting keep turning up dead, and all signs indicate that a criminal organization on par with the defunct Moriarty gang is responsible. Possibly even the successor of the Moriarty gang, as Colonel Sebastian Moran has escaped from prison, and he had help.
Into the mix is thrown a young actress, Lucy James, whose ties to this shadowy organization grow ever more perplexing and sinister as she enlists Holmes’s help to hunt for her true parents. At the same time, both Miss James’s plight and the murderous plot begin to shed light on Sherlock Holmes’s past.

The Good:
The writing is lovely, and amazingly faithful to the source. It’s very rare to find pastiche that really has the sound and the feel of Conan Doyle’s writing. Watson’s voice is authentic, and at no point was I drawn out of the story by awkwardly modern – or awkwardly Victorian – language.
It is also very well researched, with that strong sense of place that is so essential to mystery and to Holmesian mystery particularly. Well researched without being a treatise on Victoriana. Some works have a tendency to lift passages straight from textbooks, but all of Veley’s references feel natural.
I have to mention the cover, as well. I love the cover. Love it.

The Bad:
Much of the story was, sadly, predictable, and the foreshadowing heavy-handed. Certain twists were not so much hinted as laid out. Nothing ever really surprised me, and the mystery was thin.
I would also have liked more sleuthing, more of the hunting and connecting that ought to characterize Holmes stories. I’d characterize this one more as suspense than mystery, which I suppose is all right, but wasn’t what I was expecting.

Worth Noting:
Veley’s Holmes is an emotional sort. I am not one of those who thinks Holmes should always be an emotionless machine – he shows himself in Canon to feel strongly, though he generally keeps his feelings under tight control. In the context of Veley’s storyline, I feel that the little displays of affection, distress, and concern were entirely appropriate, but I do know that many aficionados would take issue.

In Conclusion:
I enjoyed this one. I finished it in two sittings, which has been an increasingly rare occurrence for me. It did not blow me away, but the end hints at a coming sequel, and I will certainly look for it when it arrives.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.