Saturday, 11 June 2016

Review: Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure by Bonnie MacBird

Art in the Blood by Bonnie MacBird
2016  336 pages • Collins Crime Club

It’s the winter of 1888 and Sherlock Holmes is languishing. After a devastating result concerning the mysterious Ripper investigation, Holmes can find no solace and falls back in to his troublesome relationship with cocaine. Not even his good friend Doctor Watson can cheer him – that is until an encoded letter arrives from Paris from a young French cabaret star who claims her son has vanished. Intrigued, Holmes explores the case only to uncover that the disappearance of a young boy is only the tip of the iceberg. Journeying to Paris and then to the Lancashire countryside, Holmes and Watson become involved in a dangerous investigation, concerning a prized stolen statue, child slavery, and murder – but who is the culprit behind it all?

Art in the Blood is an entertaining adventure that took me right back to the nineteenth century and to the original Sherlock Holmes stories. Its gloomy Victorian atmosphere is powerful but not stuffy, and although MacBird kept the narrative in the perspective of Doctor Watson like Doyle’s original works, I could definitely sense some modern voices coming through. I could almost certainly picture some scenes as though they were Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock himself but don’t take this as a bad thing. I personally am a fan of the modern TV adaptations of Doyle’s work and I liked how I could see elements of that in MacBird’s versions of Holmes and Watson; they felt fresh but recognisable and I thought MacBird did a very good job.

The portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in this novel is interesting because although he comes across in his usual brilliant and unconventional way, he wasn’t overly characterised. The story does have a feel of the dramatic but Holmes doesn’t always come across as the omniscient genius everyone believes him to be. He’s still brilliant, but he’s also more subtle and I liked the human touch this gave to his character. You can sense Watson’s frustration in the narrative at times towards Holmes and it’s quite amusing, but Watson is the same as always and shows never-ending concern and affection for his friend.

There’s also plenty of action – chases and fights and of course Sherlock Holmes donning one or two of his brilliant disguises. Saying that there are lots of scenes designed to fill in the blanks so there are a few chapters dedicated to keeping you updated on what is happening elsewhere. Again this isn’t a bad thing and it’s kind of necessary in order to follow the mystery, but it can be a little long-winded. The case itself is good; full of intrigue and danger and if you don’t mind a bit of a slow build-up this is a rewarding read. Die-hard Doyle fans may find their faults with this book, but I for the most part found myself having a lot of fun reading it and found it to be a fresh take on the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

Overall rating: 3 stars

My proof copy of Art in the Blood was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review was originally published on their website.

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