A’llo El Moochadores! Okay, I tried that with my best “typed” English accent, and maybe I’m just as bad at my written accents as I am with the spoken ones… Anyways! The best book publisher in the world, Titan Books, is out with a new Sherlock Holmes adventure written by the master of 19th century steam punk, George Mann! The novel, titled Sherlock Holmes: The Will of the Dead, places Holmes and Watson in the middle of a murder mystery while at the same time dangerous “Iron Men” rob London’s wealthy of their jewels! Here’s the synopsis:
A young man named Peter Maugram appears at the front door of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson’s Baker Street lodgings. Maugram’s uncle is dead and his will has disappeared, leaving the man afraid that he will be left penniless. Holmes agrees to take the case and he and Watson dig deep into the murky past of this complex family.
As I’ve said in past reviews of his prior novels; George Mann has a unique talent for writing steam punk. His stories are imaginative and full of a late 19th century English charm. However, Mann didn’t write a Sherlock Holmes novel. It seemed more like a Charles Bainbridge novel with Holmes and Watson sometimes included for the ride. Bainbridge is one of Mann’s characters from his Newbury and Hobbes stories and, in Will of the Dead, he steps in as a sort of “replacement” inspector for the more traditionally used Inspector Lestrade. Bainbridge is an excellent character and very enjoyable in Mann’s other books, but this was supposed to be a Sherlock Holmes story. Which means I (the reader) wanted to read about the adventures of Holmes and Watson. Instead I felt like I was being force fed an ad for Mann’s own library of works which was more than a little off putting. In the story Holmes and Watson are trying to discover who murdered a family’s wealthy uncle. While at the same time Inspector Bainbridge is on the trail of giant metal “Iron” men who bash into wealthy homes and rob their possessions. Through out the entire book Holmes and Watson have nothing to do with the stampeding Iron Men until at the very last moment when Holmes steps in with a very “Scooby Doo” like resolution. Inspectors Bainbridge’s adventure with the Iron Men probably should have been it’s own published work, but instead it’s pages are mixed in with a very nice Holmes murder mystery.
My other criticism of The Iron Men (and other recent Holmes novels) is toward the way steam punk used; Way over the top! In this novel it was giant walking robots. In others it was transforming robots or rocket trains. Too loud! Tone it down please. I like steam punk, but I feel (especially in Holmes novels) it should be used like cinnamon. Just a little is enough. Too much and we’ll all choke. The challenges faced by Sherlock Holmes should be thought provoking and engaging to the reader. Giant robots are always cool, but there was no mystery there. You knew damn well who was using the robots from the moment the character was introduced. Sherlock Holmes should be in the middle of a tangled murder mystery, not chasing down amazingly impossible steam powered automatas! Still, I do love that name. Automata!
Sherlock Holmes: The Will of the Dead is now available in all major books stores or you can get your copy at Titan Book’s online store!