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

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Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure by Bonnie MacBird tells the tale of an older and somewhat bitter Sherlock Holmes. Feeling betrayed by his brother and the country he loves after a disastrous investigation into the Jack the Ripper murders, Holmes has fallen into a back under the influence of the drug, cocaine.

In December of 1888, Watson finds his friend listless and unresponsive. Fearing Holmes is fallen into a bout of depression that is fueled by his drug use, Watson implores the great detective to rouse himself. But it is only when a letter arrives from Paris that Holmes awakens. A beautiful French cabaret singer is attacked on the streets of Montmartre and her young son has vanished. But when Holmes investigates he finds that the missing child may only be the beginning of the mystery to unfold.

Political intrigue and the theft of valuable statues cloud the disappearance of the child. Then comes the bodies of young children consigned to labor in a silk mill in Lancashire. The very silk mill owned by the father of the missing child. All clues seem to implicate an English nobleman, an art collector who seems to be beyond the reach of the law.

Sherlock Holmes must find the missing boy before he becomes the next victim of the child murderer. But can he shake his addiction in time and what of the aggressive French detective? Is he ally or foe. And there is his own brother to contend with. Mycroft, who in the name of Queen and Country will sacrifice another small child to keep any scandal quiet.

The problem with picking up such established characters that are widely known and adored as the Sherlock Holmes cast is that if you have nothing truly fresh to add to the lexicon, then you must tell the tale in the same manner as was told by its original author. Truthfully, to write as Conan Doyle is a task too great for any writer to take on. Art in the Blood is more in the realm of Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven Per Cent Solution and for a good portion of the tale holds its own. But as it moves the story from the streets of Paris back to the English countryside the story changes into something that for many Baker Street Irregulars will become something less recognizable as Holmes and Watson turn from their literary selves into the caricatures that were the Robert Downey Jr. films of late. Fun perhaps. Exciting even. But not Holmes and Watson.

I wish MacBird had made more of rivalry between Holmes and the French detective Jean Vidocq. This French detective is often credited with being the first true private detective. Lambasted by Conan Doyle and Edgar Allen Poe, Vidocq actually put together the first detective agency in 1834. Decades before Scotland Yard created the Crime Squad and America had its very own Pinkerton Agency. Vidocq, it should be added, was the inspiration for Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.

Instead here, he is a womanizer, who preys on the vulnerability of a distressed mother to take the glory from Holmes and solve the case himself. His intentions motivated by lust or money or fame.

A true battle of wits between the two detectives would have been far more entertaining for those who enjoy Holmes and Watson.

Over all this is a weak effort in the vast ocean that is the Sherlock Holmes universe.

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One thought on “Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure by Bonnie MacBird

  1. I don’t usually reply to reviewers, but thanks for taking the time to review my book. I should point out a couple of things. As it’s 1888, Holmes and Watson are quite young in this book, in their early thirties, and very active. Many people think that the Downey films were way too action-packed to be “true Sherlock” but actually there is quite a bit of action in canon, just usually not more than once in a single short story. Movies and novels are longform and it is somewhat a necessity to have more high points, whether you do this by action or other, for the longer form. It should be noted that Conan Doyle has Holmes punched, shot at, nearly strangled, attacked by a snake, and he leaps over sofas, is an expert boxer, stickfighter and bartitsu expert, and…. sends someone” home in a cart”, just to name a few instances. He also flings himself to the ground to look at something, leaps over sofas at 221B and races across fields… he’s actually a very active man. He’s also sent to hospital by Baron Gruner’s men, and collapses in France after a trying case. So really, there is plenty of canonical precedent for the action in this book. One other thing, the real Vidocq was many years before this story, and the Vidocq here is a charming ne’er do well ( I woudn’t call him a womanizer, he’s a flirt, and Cherie is using him as much as being used) who happens to have taken on the name, claiming to be a descendant. The real Vidocq had no known descendants. Also he was a criminal himself, a forger and a thief as well as the man who founded the Surete. If you might enjoy more detail on this, my historical annotations to the book are here, many Holmesians have found them enjoyable: http://www.macbird.com/aitb/notes/

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