I thoroughly enjoyed the first in the series The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife and was looking forward to this book. I was not disappointed.
It is close to Christmas, and the house is full of family and guests. Some uninvited guests arrive, and of course they are invited to stay. But then, the unthinkable happens, and a dead person, probably a gypsy, is found in the Holmes barn. A hasty arrest is made, but no one believes, especially Sherlock and Mrs. Holmes, that the appropriate person was arrested. There's layer upon layer of mysteries to be solved.
While there may be multiple mysteries, they all are connected, and the author does a find job of weaving them together. Who is the murdered man? Is his untimely death connected to the arrival of the new visitors? Or is there a connection to other guests? Or perhaps he really was a gypsy, but who killed him? And why do the new visitors somehow not ring true?
Another fascinating aspect that the author explores are the cultural norms of the era (remember, Sherlock is 13). While Mrs. Holmes is certainly the brains of the family, she is excluded from discussions with the police because she is a woman. Some things are just not done! I love how she has no choice but to accept, but she certainly doesn't like, nor agree with these restrictions.
We continue to see Sherlock learning and maturing as the story unfolds. Even though Sherlock is not an adult, this is not a children's book. Our primary character just happens to be young.
There are mentions of what happened in the earlier book, but you could enjoy this as a stand-alone book if you were to read this before reading the prior book. While there are references, the plot in this story is not dependent on the ending of the prior book.
The Adventure of the Murdered Gypsy is the welcome second installment in the charming Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes series. Sherry is still at home with his extended family but not for much longer; he is secretly dreading his return to Eton. This time the eccentric Holmes clan are joined by a diverse selection of visitors hoping to celebrate Christmas peacefully, but fate has other ideas. Soon the Yuletide season is overshadowed by the dreadful suspicion that someone in the house is a murderer. Of course the doughty inhabitants of Underbyrne are on the case so we can sit back and enjoy watching them swing into action once again.
This is another effortlessly enjoyable story from Liese Sherwood-Fabre and whilst it can be read as a standalone novel I would recommend starting with the first book in this series. The beautiful thing about delving into the imaginary early life of Sherlock is what we learn about his wider family. Mycroft is of course familiar to many but the dynamic between the brothers, their parents and Uncle Ernest is as interesting as the mystery itself.
In particular, I enjoy marvelling at the cool-headedness of matriarch Violette Holmes. Had she been born in another time she would have been the subject of a series of mystery novels, but alas here she is barely allowed to be in the room whilst men are talking. I appreciate Sherwood-Fabre’s attention to detail regarding the etiquette and moral standards of the time. In this tale we are not only irked by the way Violette is excluded from serious discussions but also feel pain on behalf of dear Constance who is marginalised by her relatively humble station in life.
These novels are good “Holmesome” fun for anyone who is a fan of Conan Doyle’s greatest creation. But they are more than just an attempt to take advantage of the appetite the modern public has for tales about this fascinating character. It is clear that Liese Sherwood-Fabre spends a lot of time researching the time period and referring to the original stories; the use of Baritsu as a pivotal element of the plot was a nice touch.
Young Sherlock Holmes’ family comes together to exonerate an Indian princess suspected of murder in the second installment of Sherwood-Fabre’s historical mystery series.
Sherlock Holmes’ powers of observation and deductive reasoning are highlighted early on in Sherwood-Fabre’s second novel, which features the sleuth as a boy. When the family receives guests from abroad, Sherlock blurts out “India” before his uncle, Ernest, even finishes the introductions. One of the guests, Col. Herbert Williams, asks the boy to explain himself and Holmes replies, “Quite easily…your bearing indicates military service....Given your friendship with my uncle, the most obvious location would be India.” He alludes to the ring finger of the second guest, Meredith Cummings, as indicative of her being “recently engaged, but no longer,” a statement that elicits a signal from his mother to cease observing so closely. The idea that the ability to minutely scrutinize one’s environment could be a symptom of social awkwardness presents readers with an intriguing way to interpret Sherlock. Sherwood-Fabre also contextualizes the novel in the era of British imperialism—a prominent component of the story that moves the action forward. The mystery revolves around Chanda,an Indian princess disguised as Meredith’s servant, who becomes a suspect in the murder of a stranger whose clothing marks him as Romani; the killing of Takahashi Fusamoto,Sherlock’s Japanese martial arts instructor; and an assault on Meredith. Sherwood-Fabre adds further twists to the Holmes mythos by suggesting that Sherlock learned his initial crime-solving abilities from his mother. At one point, in order to analyze clues and secure Chanda’s release, she has the family meet in her sitting room, where “her bookshelf housed scientific treatises and...a microscope for her biological studies.” As they converse, she writes ideas on a blackboard, thus inviting comparisons to the leader of a modern homicide task force using visual clues and logic to connect disparate bits of evidence. Overall, Sherwood-Fabre’s reimagining of the famous detective ably expands the possibilities of the Holmes canon.
A multifaceted and convincing addition to Sherlock-ian lore.