“I always had a rather unorthodox view of the third most featured character in the Sherlock Holmes Canon – Mrs. Hudson, landlady of the best known address in English literature: 221B Baker Street. I imagined her as a younger, more involved and most knowledgeable and perceptive character.
Barry S. Brown has taken Mrs. Hudson to a delightfully higher level in this series and casts her as the brains behind Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. The canny middle-aged Cockney widow of deceased police constable, Tobias Hudson, creates her own consulting detective agency and hires Holmes and his friend, Watson as her “front men”. Holmes takes the lead in a rather dramatic and occasionally humourous fashion whilst steady and dependable Watson takes copious notes of their exploits for Mrs. Hudson’s expert edification and review. In posing as the housekeeper, she can listen in on client consultations whilst serving refreshments.
The Unpleasantness at Parkerton Manor begins with a visit from Lady Parkerton to 221B. She believes that her husband, Sir Stanley, the wealthy inventor of the binaural stethoscope, did not die from natural causes, but from poisoning. But the family ate from the same food and drink and suffered no ill effects. There is no dearth of suspects within the immediate family or the servants. Each has something to benefit from the demise of the victim, be it financially, professionally or both – even Lady Parkerton herself.
Holmes and Watson travel to the country manor of the Parkerton’s to interview possible suspects and gather evidence. In what begins as a typical “country house” setting for a murder, more complex developments begin to occur. The inexplicable murder of the family’s coachman whilst Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are on the scene is but one and the absconding of the direct heir and his family is another.
In a fascinating twist, Mr. Brown gives the reader an introduction to malevolent head-hunters and the White Raja of Sarawak – a true-to-life character from Malaysia.
Mrs. Hudson stays at a hotel close to the action and meets with Holmes and Watson to debrief her on their activities and discoveries and to provide direction regarding next steps. Whilst staying on the periphery, she focuses her attention on Sir Charles’ and the coachman’s murders.
Mr. Brown also places Inspector Lestrade on the scene since he is on a holiday with his wife in the area. The local constabulary welcomes the Scotland Yard man on the case, much to the chagrin of Holmes and Watson. But the pair manages to remain one step ahead and Dr. Watson even informs Holmes that he is actually becoming quite a good detective in yet another lighthearted moment.
Barry S. Brown has very successfully given us a refreshing view of the residents of 221B Baker Street. He is quite convincing in his depiction of the characters in their new roles. Mr. Brown’s writing skill makes for highly dramatic and suspense-filled scenes interspersed with an occasional wry sense of humour. He also introduces the reader to well-researched, exotic locales and actual historical characters. His unique point-of-view provides the audience with a change from the typical pastiche, yet retains the voice and atmosphere of the original Canonical work.
I was so entertained by Barry S. Brown’s work that I purchased book 2 of the “Mrs. Hudson of Baker Street Mystery” series. There are now 5 books in the series and I am pleased to say that book 6 is coming soon.”
Review by Wendy Heyman–Marsaw, author, Memoirs from Mrs. Hudson’s Kitchen
The Unpleasantness at Parkerton Manor is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine, Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble USA, Amazon UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).
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