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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Murder at Oakwood Grange by Avril Field-Taylor

Sherlock Holmes fans will love this. Written in the style of Conan Doyle, so well that the reader is not aware it isn’t one of his stories, Murder at Oakwood Grange follows Sherlock and Doctor Watson as they take on a seemingly simple case of murder. However, it quickly becomes clear that this is anything but straightforward.

Doctor Watson narrates, and acts, as he helps the famous sleuth to track down clues in this complex crime mystery. Avril Field-Taylor has done her research and takes the reader on a journey which is so well constructed that it is like watching a film of events play out. Set in Devon, Hull and London, with Buckingham Palace playing a role, the story moves rapidly with the trains and Handsome cabs that propel the protagonists through the convoluted plot. The railway stations, backstreets, country houses and, of course, Baker Street, are all described so well that the reader feels at home with them.

The action brings in Mycroft, Sherlock’s brilliant but mysterious brother, the professionally jealous Lestrade from Scotland Yard, the Hellfire Club and Sherlock’s arch-enemy, Moriarty, in a plot which twists and turns without ever losing credibility. The damsel in distress is beautifully drawn and turns out to have more courage and good sense than initially expected, so that the reader really cares about her fate. Watson’s love and concern for Mary, his wife, is very well depicted. And Mrs Hudson gets an unexpected shock when Baker Street is attacked.

I won’t spoil your enjoyment by detailing the plot. This story moves apace and all the characters live so there are no stereotypes here. This will be enjoyed by all who love a good crime novel, a mystery, a problem-solver and an authentic historical setting. Sherlock Holmes fans will particularly enjoy this new adventure for their classic hero, in which the author has the voice of Watson as narrator exactly right. I picked this up, expecting to read it off and on over a few days but did not put it down again until I’d finished it. An exciting and absorbing tale, which I thoroughly recommend.

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