Sherlock Book Reviews - Sherlock Holmes and The Black Widower

Posted by Steve Emecz on

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Kieran McMullan has written a book which initially asks a lot of the reader in terms of adjusting generally assumed characteristics of the protagonists. Holmes has moved to Sussex and kept Mrs Hudson as his house keeper. Mrs Hudson is, in contrast to almost all depictions of her, in fact younger than both Holmes and Watson and the basic issue of the book is the fact that John Watson has been in love with her for quite a while and intends to propose to her. Holmes is not surprised but finds it somewhat inconvenient as that change will mean that he will have to find a new house keeper – and we all know how difficult that might be for a man like him.

Watson proposes and Martha Hudson accepts and the news travel rather quickly – all the way to Australia, where Mrs Hudson’s nephew approaches the police to voice his fear that Watson, who has had three wives already, all of whom died in rather unfortunate ways, is a serial killer and might possibly intend to kill his fourth wife for her money, too. The money is seen as the main motive for the killings. Lestrade, feeling the need to defend Watson’s honour, comes and asks Sherlock Holmes for help. Holmes immediately jumps into the investigation and begins researching Watson’s past to find out that he never really knew his friend beyond their line of work.

McMullan explores the doctor’s life and his relationships with his wives, his love for horses and gambling and his altruistic tendencies. While the canon stories focus heavily on the character of Holmes, we get to know very little about Watson. The book places its narrative into the canon stories by linking not only certain events from the books to this new story, but by marrying Watson off to Miss Lucy from A Study in Scarlet, which she apparently survived in this version, and Lady Francis Carfax. Gentle moments between Dr Watson and Mrs Hudson seem slightly awkward, and made me want to turn away and give these two some space. It’s pretty adorable and at the same time slightly weird to think of the two in that way.

The book works with appropriate illustrations as headings for each new chapter and the style makes this book easy to read. At one point the author mixes up the wives, but Doyle has been known to mix up names as well, so it made me smile. In general the book offers a very different and new glimpse into the lives of Holmes and Watson and the case itself proves to be interesting, exciting and, at times, nerve-wracking. Despite its challenging nature concerning head-canons, I enjoyed reading this book immensely and I needed a moment after finishing it as the ending is quite extraordinary; and that is something which rarely happens when I read. As far as Holmes pastiches go, this one stands out for its innovative approach. I do not want to write more about the actual story because I think everyone should be able to go on that journey, but let’s just say, it’s an eye opener of a special kind.


Sherlock Holmes and The Black Widower is available from this site with a share going to our good causes and also available from:

Amazon USA      Book Depository (free delivery worldwide) 

Amazon Kindle Kobo, Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).


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