The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Man From Hell by Barrie Roberts
|The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Man From Hell by Barrie Roberts
|Reviewer: Robert James
|Summary: This superbly written Sherlock Holmes novel is by far the best written of Conan Doyle's numerous imitators.
|Date: February 2010
|Publisher: Titan Books Ltd
Noted West Country philanthropist Lord Backwater is killed – by poachers, according to the police investigating. His son disagrees, and calls in Sherlock Holmes, who quickly establishes that the true solution to the mystery is much stranger – involving a feared criminal brotherhood, crimes from many years past, and the Gates of Hell themselves.
I should probably point out that the Gates of Hell, and the man styling himself as the Man From Hell, aren't actually supernatural – but that's not to downplay the danger that Holmes, his faithful companion Watson, and the new Lord Backwater face. The action builds to a thrilling climax as the great detective uses his powers of deduction to work out the secrets of the victim's past.
This is fairly standard for a Sherlock Holmes story, in many ways. The West Country setting and the death of a member of the aristocracy, followed by his heir hiring Holmes, is strongly reminiscent of Hound of the Baskervilles – and let's face it, when it comes to detective stories, the Hound is hardly a bad one to take inspiration from. It's the emulation that's really impressive here – I've read all of Conan Doyle's Holmes novels and short stories, and many of the other books to have been written using Sherlock as a character, in addition to some internet fanfic. While I've enjoyed many of the books written by later authors, I'd never previously read anyone whose style was particularly close to the original. Barrie Roberts, in this book, has an incredibly similar style to Conan Doyle himself, both in his voice writing as Watson and in the overall plot construction, from the obligatory scene early on when Holmes dazzles Backwater with his deductions about the heir, to the action climax which is so reminiscent of some of the short stories.
The mystery has twists and turns, but is probably one of the easier Sherlock Holmes stories to 'solve'. I could guess reasonable amounts of what was happening as we went along, and while I can't hand on heart say that I guessed the murderer too far in advance, the character in question was certainly on my suspects list. That's not a criticism, though – as much as I like the ingenious plots of some detective novels with seven or eight twists and turns at the end, I also enjoy feeling intelligent when I work out at least some of what's happening, and Roberts definitely 'plays fair' with the reader, giving them enough information to make a good stab at a solution.
Of all the Sherlock Holmes stories out there written by authors other than Conan Doyle, this is definitely the one I'd be happiest to recommend to fans of the originals. For those people who've never read a Holmes book (is there anyone still out there in that category?), this works well enough as a detective novel anyway, and will hopefully inspire people to search out Sir Arthur's books.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
Further Reading: For other Holmes reading, Eliminate the Impossible: An Examination of the World of Sherlock Holmes on Page and Screen by Alistair Duncan and Steve Emecz is an excellent non-fiction book. For more crime fiction, I'd highly recommend The Brutal Art by Jesse Kellerman.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Man From Hell by Barrie Roberts at Amazon.com.
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