“Sherlock Holmes, The Missing Years: Timbuktu” by Vasudev Murthy (Poisoned Pen Press, 2016)


When the eminent Sherlock Holmes in an altercation with his nemesis Moriarty plunged to his death at Reichenbach Falls in 1891, the world was changed forever. It was changed again when Holmes resurfaced, alive and well, in 1894, as he continued to solve cases that left New Scotland Yard baffled. But what happened during those three “missing” years?

Vasudev Murthy tells of one chapter in Holmes’s life in Sherlock Holmes, The Missing Years: Tumbuktu, as recounted by his close and trusted friend, Dr. Watson. This is the story of a most unique document created long ago that was purported to possess strange and monumental powers. Marco Polo supposedly made a rubbing of a brass disc found in the libraries of Kublai Khan.

But the document was divided in half centuries ago to protect those from the information it contained. Holmes now has half of this document secreted in his possession and seeks to discover where the remaining half is and put this riddle to rest.

While this novel doesn’t feel exactly like a work penned by Arthur Conan Doyle, it is nevertheless and fun and adventurous story taking the reader across the globe and back through time on a journey they won’t soon forget.

Originally written on March 1, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Sherlock Holmes, The Missing Years: Timbuktu from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons (Little, Brown and Company, 2015)

Fifth Heart
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One thing you can never do with Dan Simmons is pigeon hole him under a specific genre. He’s published in most, from epic science fiction to mysteries to horror to thrilling historical fiction. Other than his Blade Runneresque novel Flashback from 2011, his previous four novels have been works of historical fiction; a couple of them have been fantastic, engrossing books — The Terror and Drood — and the other two — Black Hills and The Abominable — were lacking in something. His latest novel, The Fifth Heart, is a return to those earlier, thrilling works as he takes an idea that would hook any literary fan and takes you on one wild ride. The premise is a relatively simple one: what if Sherlock Holmes and Henry James teamed up together to solve a murder?

Sherlock Holmes is in Paris on a foggy night and finds Henry James by the Seine about to commit suicide. Instead, Holmes tells him he will join him on a ship in the morning to cross the Atlantic for James’s native United States to solve a murder that was thought and assumed to be a suicide. Clover Adams was a close friend of Henry James who committed suicide in 1885 under somewhat unusual circumstances. She was a member, along with James, of the Five of Hearts salon. And yet an enigmatic message is sent to the remaining members each year indicating nothing is as simple and clear cut as it seems.

Holmes begins his painstaking investigation, interviewing many and traveling all around Washington DC. James unwittingly becomes his Watson, as he also learns that Holmes is unsure if he is a real person or a fictional character, and that the stories Watson has penned about him with the help of literary agent Arthur Conan Doyle have distorted the facts of his past cases to make them all the more adventurous and grandiose. Holmes takes on many disguises and does what he does best.

Along the way readers will get to meet some fun characters, like Mark Twain and a young Teddy Roosevelt. They will also get to meet some familiar people from Holmes’s world, including Irene Adler and the infamous Professor Moriarty. The mystery will take James and Holmes away from DC to New York and then up to the Chicago to the White City and the World’s Fair where they will attempt to thwart a plot to assassinate the President of the United States.

Simmons clearly had a lot of fun with this novel, throwing as much literary subject matter as history. It is a lengthy novel and he enjoys taking the reader on interesting tangents, which all help to keep the reader enthralled as they have no idea where the story is going to go next. As with The Terror, the language makes it feel like one is reading something penned by Arthur Conan Doyle, with the use of particular language, diction and detail. Simmons fans will not be disappointed, while Holmesian ones will be delighted.

Originally written on August 1st, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Fifth Heart from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Hyperion  Drood  The Terror