"Reading this book will make most readers crave a drink, because the narrative includes so many descriptions of quality beer and other alcoholic beverages. When a beer barrel delivered to 221B has an unexpected surprise inside, Holmes and Watson start investigating the case, along with the unwanted help of Miss Gertie Cresswell, a detective herself who admires Holmes. There are some brief glimpses at Cresswell’s backstory, but a lot more needs to be provided to explain her character and decisions. As it is, it’s unclear why she made some of the life choices she has. The central mystery, involving a scandal with poisoned ale and militant suffragettes, has a lot of inspired moments, though the climax ends a little bit too abruptly. Overall, though, it’s a fun read."
“This is the third Sherlock Holmes novel by Christopher James, and in it he shows both his own unique style and approach to The World of Holmes, and also he provides a very interesting and informative travelogue to the area around Burton upon Trent, England.
In addition to being a Sherlockian novelist, James is also an award winning poet. (He’s combined the two on several occasions, providing some truly amazing introductory poems to various volumes of “The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories”.) Perhaps it’s because of his poet’s perspective that each of his three Holmes novels have had a slightly dreamlike feel to them. While the narrative does move in a linear fashion, there’s a calmness about it – even when Holmes and Watson are being pursued by killers. Like his previous books, “The Ruby Elephants” and “The Jeweller of Florence”, this volume’s episodes become something of a pointillist painting – getting too close makes the details a little blurry, but stepping back allows one to see the big picture, bringing it all into focus.
During the course of their investigation – attempting to determine who is poisoning barrels of beer – Holmes and Watson meet a variety of interesting characters, including three unique brothers (the sons of a beer dynasty) who each have their own interests and agendas, a disinterested police inspector, and most important, a lady detective who is also working on the case. She is a very defined character, and one might suspect that James has brought her to life so well so that she might appear in a book or two of her own in the near future.
Of particular interest to me, as a nearly life-long Holmes fan who has also made three (so far) extensive Holmes trips to England, were the descriptions of Burton upon Trent, an area that I’d never really considered visiting before, but now find myself wishing to explore. Of course, when I finally get there, I’ll re-read this book to make sure that I follow in Holmes and Watson’s footsteps.
Overall, this was an enjoyable book, and I look forward to the next Watsonian volume that Mr. James discovers in Watson’s Tin Dispatch Box.”
David Marcum (Sherlockian editor and author)
Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the Beer Barons is available for pre order from all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble USA, Amazon UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. Pre-publication copies available from The Strand Magazine and directly from MX Publishing.
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