Book Reviews - The Riddle of Foxwood Grange

Posted by Steve Emecz on

The Sherlock Holmes Society of London

“There’s a rich cast of characters, the setting is splendidly evoked, and Holmes’s solution to Harley’s puzzle is a tour de force.” 


David Marcum

I’ve been collecting pastiches for a long time – 41 years now – and I always want more. Give me traditional stories – none of this Alternate Universe stuff. Set it in the correct time period. Holmes should be a hero, not a broken mess or a murderer, and Watson shouldn’t be an idiot or a caretaker or someone just there to give a comical double-take.

From the first time that I discovered Denis Smith’s stories, in the form of individually published chapbooks in the 1990’s, I knew that he was the real deal. This was someone that had found one of Watson’s Tin Dispatch Boxes – and surely Watson hid a bunch of them all over the place! – and Mr. Smith was presenting the stories for publication the way Watson intended, without grafting on his own agendas, turning Holmes in to some objectionable sociopath, or a slob, or an addict. This was Holmes the way he was in the original Canon, and the way he should be now.

I collected Mr. Smith’s other Holmes narratives as they appeared over the years – in collections from Calabash Press and in Sherlock Magazine and The Strand, and later a couple of really fine omnibus editions. And now he brings us the first book-length adventure that he’s edited from Watson’s notes, once again living up to his own very high standards.

This story starts in fine form – a client visits Baker Street and tells his strange tale. Things progress to Foxwood Grange, where strange things have been occurring. We – through Watson’s eyes – meet the neighbors and get to walk the countryside, getting to know our surroundings. In addition to the immediate crimes, we are shown an ancient puzzle. Suddenly events tumble toward the fascinating conclusion, and we realize that, in a masterful performance, we had the clues right there in front of us all along, but it took Sherlock Holmes to figure it out.

Once again Mr. Smith presents a tour de force, and I cannot wait to read his next effort.


Kelvin Jones

It has to be said outright. I did not like that cover at all. The colour balance is quite wrong, However, there's nothing else here to detract from the Jewel In The Crown that is concealed within; for this 263 page novel is certainly one of the best longer pieces in the Conan Doyle pastiche series of Dennis O. Smith,

This man has been writing Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories for nearly half a century and he shows no sign of either lack of ideas, or the ability to match the splendid formula in terms of atmosphere and originality.

Smith is pure, quintessential Conan Doyle. It is as if he has been given personal permission to exhume the spirit of The Master, for the Sherlock Holmes of Mr. Smith's narratives is the living incarnation of the original. He has every detail correct, especially the pipe smoking - an area which I have deeply researched.

Yes, Mr. Smith's portrayal of pipe-smoking Sherlock Holmes is 100 percent accurate. But then, so are his narratives and the settings of his stories. They have that correct mixture of the bizarre and the fanciful. The Holmes of these stories is laconic and ratiocinative. He is the living and breathing reincarnation of the original - cintrospective, sometimes annoying, and remote yet always on target; and he is kind to his intelligent companion, Dr. Watson.

In short, without any hesitation, here is an uncannily accurate Sherlock of the original. The plot is intriguing, the setting of the country house atmospheric, the characters three-dimensional. and that also includes the minor characters. I  observe here not one piece of evidence within this complex story to suggest that Mr. Smith has not grasped the 'cerebral tentacle' of the illustrious genius who wrote the original Sherlock Holmes masterpieces.

I have a long railway journey coming up. Can we have any more Denis O. Smith please, MX Books? 


From the back cover:

An invitation to take lunch at the Great Western Hotel at Paddington station leads Sherlock Holmes into a baffling mystery. Who is it that is watching every move made by popular journalist, Farringdon Blake, and why? When the trail goes cold in London, Holmes and his friend, Dr Watson, must travel down to Foxwood Grange, Blake’s home in rural Oxfordshire, to seek a solution to the mystery there. But Foxwood Grange, a 300-year-old Elizabethan mansion, is a house with a chequered past and holds mysteries of its own. 

The Riddle of Foxwood Grange is available from this site and also from:

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