Review – Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of Ichabod Reed (M. Pepper Langlinais)

Lacking for any other cover image…

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of Ichabod Reed

M. Pepper Langlinais

ASIN: B0095OB3NK

Available for purchase

From Amazon: “The man is the mystery.” So says young Malcolm Durstwell when he comes to Baker Street in hopes of discovering the truth about the man who has inherited his uncle’s estate–a man no one has ever heard of or seen. Sherlock Holmes is inclined to dismiss the case . . . until Malcolm Durstwell himself is found dead shortly after his visit.

Is it a coincidence? Or has the nameless, faceless Ichabod Reed gone so far as to commit murder? And if so, how can Holmes identify him and bring him to justice?

Inspired by the classic mysteries of Arthur Conan Doyle, the “New Sherlock Holmes Adventures” from award-winning author M Pepper Langlinais follow the further exploits of Holmes and Watson in the style of the original stories. “The Adventure of Ichabod Reed” is the first volume in the series and is followed by “The Mystery of the Last Line.” Further adventures are forthcoming in 2013.
The Premise: 
A young man – Malcolm Durstwell – arrives in Baker Street, concerned and outraged that, due to a strange and unexpected provision of his late uncle’s will, he and his family will be evicted from their home. The benefactor, Ichabod Reed, is unknown to the family and has never been seen, instead choosing to conduct his legal affairs by proxy. Holmes sees nothing criminal in the case and refuses to take it on, until Malcolm Durstwell is found dead on the train the following morning.
The Good:
Ichabod Reed was an enjoyable little story that got me through an hour at the shoe store, which will ensure my favourable opinion of pretty much anything.
The mystery engaged me directly from the beginning; it isn’t terribly often that the client is also the victim, which created interest for me straight from the start.
The language was, for the most part, closely complementary to the Canon, though somewhat more succinct so as not to alienate a modern reader.

The Watson was admirably sharp and considerate – not the bumbling idiot he is sometimes made out to be – and I really do appreciate that. Watson is a physician, after all. The body of medical knowledge may have been much narrower in the nineteenth century, but there has never been a point in time at which idiots could make it through medical school and establish themselves in respectable practice.

The Bad – SPOILERS:
Some of the clues did not seem to match up. For instance, though heredity was still a fledgling science, I can’t see both Holmes and Watson assuming that two brown-eyed parents could not produce blue-eyed offspring. And while I can’t claim any first hand knowledge, my understanding is that nightshade berries are too sweet to be concealed in so bland a food as an egg sandwich, and the alkaloid extracts would be too bitter. Additionally, death by nightshade typically involves horrific hallucinations, agitation, convulsions, and painful vomiting. It’s very unlikely that poor Malcolm could have died quietly of belladonna poisoning without attracting any notice.
It is a personal preference, but I don’t find the killing of canon characters to be good form in pastiche. Unless Langlinais has some clever trick up her sleeve, reserved for later Adventures, I can’t approve of the death of Mycroft. (However, if she absolutely had to kill off Mycroft, she did it well; another writer might have penned some maudlin dialogue for the bereaved Sherlock, but her Sherlock handled the loss as dispassionately and reservedly as the real one would.)
In Conclusion: 
I enjoyed it. It was well-considered, well-written, and well-edited, if not as well-researched. When one has run out of Adventures and hasn’t the time for a novel, Langlinais’s New Adventures are an agreeable substitute.

Fun with Holmesian Fan Characters – 1

I had no desire to attract the attention of the two men I had seen entering the club, so I took myself in the back way, as I had done so many times before. As ever, the staff did not greet me, or even acknowledge my presence, with the notable exception of Henri and his sly wink. He obligingly turned his back as I stole a slice of bread and a rasher of bacon from the larder to break my fast. I ate while I waited and washed down my improvised meal with a cup of someone else’s coffee.

At half-past ten, Henri tapped twice on the corner of the basin, and I ascended the stairs to drift silently down the hallway. Two backs retreated ahead of me, one black and one grey, and I paused my steps long enough to let them disappear down the other stairs. When they were gone, I found my door. One knock brought forth a soft call of invitation; I slipped through.

An enormous silhouette came into view, skulking in the window as he no doubt watched the same two backs disappear into a waiting cab. He gave no sign that he was aware of my presence, but of course I knew better. Instead of interrupting his study of the street, I left my hat and coat by the door and moved back further into the apartments to avail myself of his amenities. I returned after some minutes, and he still had not moved. Despite the early hour, I helped myself to a glass of his excellent port.

“Did you have something for me?” I asked.

For several seconds more, he sat perfectly still and silent, until a whisper of doubt began to nudge at me. But then he turned, stroking his bristling sideburns.

“Not today,” he said. “And you?”

I returned to the door and drew a small packet from the interior pocket of my coat, then laid it on his desk.

“That was all I could get,” I told him. “I estimate that it’s about half of what you wanted. I’ll see about retrieving the rest in a month or so, once the furore has died down.”

His mouth twisted in displeasure, but he nodded. “Were you sufficiently diverted?”

“It wasn’t as entertaining as I had hoped, no. Still, better than the alternative. Thank you.”

He nodded again and slapped a meaty palm down on his thigh, huffing as he rose to his feet.

“Her Majesty thanks you,” he said with a shade of irony. “The cheque will be made out as usual. Will you stay for luncheon?”

I did.

© 2012 MR Graham