The Devil’s Due (A Sherlock Holmes Adventure)
In this third in series entry, Dr. Watson leads us through a memoir of one of Holmes’ past cases. I am no H&W aficionado, but they have no doubt suffered through countless versions of themselves in print and on film―each writer/actor/director searching for the true essence of the elusive detective and his Victorian world. MacBird has captured the pair beautifully, staying true to the nuance of Conan Doyle’s tales.
A series of gruesome murders have been committed. The dead are all wealthy philanthropists motivated by guilt for shameful past deeds, which Holmes must root out. Most deaths are accompanied by an equally grisly suicide. With last names connected by the first few letters of the alphabet, (Anson, Benjamin, etc.) the list creeps ominously close to ‘Holmes’. The dialogue-driven prose is detailed enough to be all-informing without much need for further exposition. We’re pulled into Holmes and Watson’s world as they plunge through the icy wet fog of London, gaslights turning to muted halos in the dark. Despite the complexity of the crimes, Holmes’ perspective is clear as he cautions Watson: “Never start your theory with a zebra when a horse explains it all.”
MacBird’s cast of characters adds heft and flavour to the narrative. There is Titus Billings, the masochistic police commissioner, determined to blacken Holmes’ name; Hephzibah ‘Heffie’, a street-smart ‘investigator’ friend; James and Andrew Goodwin, the rather effete MPs with their ‘Byronic locks’ and oiled ‘patent leather’ hair; Inspector Lestrade, who secretes police files to Holmes right under Billings’ nose; Lady Eleanor, notable for her standing in society, and Mrs Hudson, the redoubtable housekeeper. The iconic detective and friend come alive in MacBird’s capable hands in this fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable novel.