Sherlock Book Review - Before Watson Book 4

Posted by Steve Emecz on

"This is the fourth – and final – of Ms. Croyle’s “Before Watson” novels, narrated by Poppy Stamford. The previous books include “When the Song of the Angels Is Stilled”, “The Bird and the Buddha”, and “The Case of the Swan in the Fog”. These four books tell how Poppy, almost the fiancé of Victor Trevor and sister of the Stamford who introduces Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Watson, initially meets Holmes in 1874, and how she falls in love with him. The books cover the years 1874-1880, as Poppy settles into a Watsonian-like relationship with Holmes, assisting him with some of his investigations, even as she realizes that they have no permanent future together.

When I reviewed Ms. Croyle’s first Holmes book, I commented on some issues that I had with both the internal dating of some of the Canonical events, and also the fact that Poppy believed that she was the only person that young Sherlock Holmes had ever loved in those early days. (There are a number of other stories out there beyond Poppy’s personal experience telling of some of Holmes’s additional young romances.) However, in spite of these objections, I found the book to be an excellent portrait of Holmes in his early and mid-twenties, torn between the cold emotionless career that he was in the process choosing and the feelings that he had for Poppy. The two subsequent books continued this theme, as Croyle fills in the details of those years “Before Watson”, including some interesting cases and a group of friends that we previously didn’t know about.

With this volume, Croyle’s exploration of these same ideas continues – but with the knowledge that things between Holmes and Poppy are inevitably winding down. In this book, the “Three Species” refer to three separate cases that Holmes and Poppy investigate in late 1880. In the meantime, word has come that Stamford’s friend, Dr. Watson, wounded earlier that year at the Battle of Maiwand, is slowly making his way back to England . . . .

It’s a shame that these books have come to an end. Perhaps another of Poppy’s journals from sometime before this book might be located . . . ?"

David Marcum


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In the fourth and final book in the Before Watson series, Sherlock Holmes and his companion and assistant, Dr. Poppy Stamford, embark on their greatest adventure yet.  They are charged with solving not one case but three. One involves bogus charges against Poppy's former stable boy. The second is their attempt to stop a wave of crime perpetrated by the Elephant Gang, the famous and ruthless girls' gang that terrorized London in the nineteenth century. The third is an investigation into who burglarized the brothel owned by Maggie May, a mysterious woman with a keen mind and a treasure trove of secrets. During this time, Poppy also faces great losses and the promise of a new life--if she can bring herself to give up her quest to capture Sherlock's intransigent heart.

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