17 September, 2013

#BookReview :: Sherlock Holmes and the Ghosts of Bly (Sherlock Holmes #6) by Donald Thomas

"Have you ever seen a ghost, Mr. Holmes?" asks Victoria Temple, and Sherlock Holmes, at the height of his powers in 1898, must face a new challenge, one that plunges the great detective into the realm of the supernatural. Miss Temple has been found guilty--but also insane--at her trial for murdering a child under her care. She is locked away in the Broad moor lunatic asylum, and worse still, she believes fully in her own guilt. But were the hauntings at the Elizabethan manor house of Bly a vision of the walking dead, perhaps, rather than delusions of her tormented mind? Or could it be that a criminal conspiracy is to blame for the psychic phenomena, as well as a second murder cunningly concealed in the past? In the company of Dr. Watson, the indefatigable Holmes will track down the perpetrators through the occult underworld of Victorian London. Next, on the eve of World War I, Holmes is confronted with fraud and forgery at the Royal Navy Academy in "The Case of a Boy's Honor," while back in London, behind the scenes of the Herculaneum Theatre in the Strand, "The Case of the Matinee Idol"embroils Holmes and Watson directly in an apparent on-stage murder. How did poison get into two Shakesperean goblets when only the victim, now dead, had access to them and the most likely suspect was a mile away with an unbreakable alibi?

I have been reading the new Sherlock Holmes books by Donald Thomas back to back. I have to admit that my first instinct was why anyone would want to recreate Sherlock Holmes, the enigma? Also, with the mental image of that we already have of Holmes, it would be difficult for any author to make us fall in love with his version. In the end, I guess, it is a fact that we want the legends to live on forever and give us more and more. So, I tried to wipe clean my mind of the Sherlock who has reigned in my mind for quite long, in order to be able to accept this newer version.

There are four stories in this instalment - The Case of the Boy’s Honour, The Case of the Ghosts at Bly, Sherlock Holmes: The Actor and The Case of the Matinee Idol. The first story deals about a soldier in training in the Royal Naval Academy just before the World War I. Sherlock turns around the case completely. The Case of ghosts at Bly shows us Sherlock setting a woman free when she herself was convinced of her own guilt. The third story gives us a glance at Sherlock as a Theatre actor and also sets up the stage for the fourth story where a popular actor is found murdered.

Without giving away much of the plot, I can only say that these four stories are very different from each other in terms of plot, twists and action. Donald Thomas’s Sherlock Holmes is everything that the original Sherlock stood for, only a notch below though. Also, there was something missing in the dynamics between Sherlock and Watson. I just can’t put a finger on what exactly it was – whether their friendship in general or their dialogues or their reaction to each other. The setting, the plots and the characters were all acceptable but the one thing that kept bugging me was the pace. Sherlock is beyond ordinary and as such he always worked at an extraordinary pace. I missed the fast pace of Arthur Conan Doyle a lot. But yes, Donald Thomas has done an excellent job with his narration style.

Overall, Donald Thomas has managed to produce a couple of good stories that entertained me well. He had a humungous shoe to fill in and he has risen way above my expectations. I would surely suggest Sherlock fans to give this one a try with an open mind.

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