The Sign of Fear by Molly Carr

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The Sign of Fear by Molly Carr

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A variation of the Holmes mythos, with Dr John Watson's wife first becoming aware of the underworld, then solving crimes of her own. If she'd stayed on her own it might have made a lot more sense.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 314 Date: June 2010
Publisher: MX Publishing
ISBN: 978-1907685002

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Meet Mary Watson - a distant second to John Watson, who of course was a distant second to Sherlock Holmes. Fed up with staying at home while her new husband spends too much time at 221b Baker Street, or away with Holmes sleuthing, she gets to dabble her own feet in the underworld waters when a certain Professor Moriarty comes calling.

The Sign of Fear starts off at quite a pace. Here is Mary, still single, but already given some mysteries in life (referring to real Conan Doyle stories I know nothing of, unfortunately). Instantly she is factored in to several Holmes tales, explaining this, elucidating (or not) that, and providing an in-joke or several for Conan Doyle fans. Oh, and here are Raffles, and some parents of people we are bound to recognise as being from the pen of Agatha Christie, to add to the frivolity.

But it's never great, and it goes downhill from there. It's page 67 before Mary says something will turn up - as regards an actual case for her to solve - and while it's a relief for her to admit it's all been a bit so-so so far, it doesn't go any further. Mary has a colleague, and I really couldn't see the purpose of the book with her on board.

Surely this should have been a jovial lesson in Victorian spoofery, with Mary evidently the brains of the couple, if not better than either Holmes or Moriarty. But no, she enters an imbalanced detective partnership of her own with her friend Emily. What follows are several cases, covering a wide variety from theft to murder, kidnap to blackmail, that I can only say are splodged into a novel plot. Some stolen jewels hang about, but otherwise we have short episodic cases that don't gel together, and suffer in the telling.

Beyond an arch wink at the hormonal women succumbing to every possible suitor's dishy accent, there is no reason to turn the Holmes/Watson dynamic into a female copy. Sometimes Mary is the successful sleuth, sometimes Emily. One story has the Watsons together in Australia, but wherever you look there is no real benefit to be had from these addictions to the Holmes canon. One story is simply related in way-after-the-drama-is-over dialogue from Emily to Mary and it's nowhere near as interesting, compelling or sensible as Watson narrating to us.

This was a disappointment, given I'd come fresh from reading Carr's biography In Search of Dr Watson. She fails to match her excellent non-fiction narrative with any fictional equal. By the time she peppers these pages with her conclusions based on the questions and theories raised in the other book - as well as copied a whole chapter, and the same concluding revelation - I know which I much prefer.

I would still like to thank the publishers for my review copy.

New Holmes fictions are more than possible - Exhibit A is The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes by John H Watson, Tony Reynolds and Chris Coady. For younger readers, check out The Dragon Tattoo (Baker Street Mysteries) by Tim Pigott-Smith.

Buy The Sign of Fear by Molly Carr at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Sign of Fear by Molly Carr at

Buy The Sign of Fear by Molly Carr at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Sign of Fear by Molly Carr at


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