Come At Once If Convenient

The Adventure of the Colonial Boy
Narrelle M. Harris
Improbable Press
March 2016

 

colonial-boy-v-smlThe Adventure of the Colonial Boy by Narrelle M. Harris is a Sherlockian novel steeped in a strong brew of Victoriana—in the sense of both the era and the state. And to see our much beloved characters running about in places so familiar and dear is an utter delight.

These are my places, you see. The places my almost daily perambulations take me—down Collins, past Parliament, up to Eastern Hill, around the old terraces near St. Vincent’s, the road up to Kyneton.* Is this what it feels like when a New Yorker watches all those movies set in New York? Or are they so inured to them that it seems the natural way of things? Perhaps I should just read more books by Melbourne authors set in Melbourne. Seems a legit fix.

The Adventure of the Colonial Boy is one of the latest from Improbable Press—a press dedicated to the more romantic interpretations of the Holmes and Watson relationship.

For those who know, you know this facet of the relationship has been discussed, studied, elaborated upon for almost as long as the original stories themselves have been around. For those of you wondering what on earth the world has come to, I’m afraid I’ve got some news for you. Here, let me make you a cup of tea. You wrap this shock blanket around your shoulders, have a bit of a sit down—we need to talk. But first, let me tell everyone else about this lovely book.

We enter into our heroes’ world two years after Holmes’s apparent destruction along with his great nemesis, Moriarty, at the falls of the Reichenbach. Holmes’s ever faithful companion Doctor Watson, still mourning the greatest loss of his life, now mourns the recent death of his wife, Mary.

After a strange day of near-misses, Watson receives a message that sparks near equal amounts of hope and anger and suspicion—“Come at once if convenient. If inconvenient, come all the same—S.H.”. He follows the familiar summons, making his way to the antipodean post-gold rush city of Melbourne.

There, both Watson’s anger and hope are vindicated when he finds Holmes alive and well. Well, alive anyway. From here they must overcome their recriminations and (please allow me this wonderful cliché) find their way back to each other, emotionally. All the while they pursue and are pursued by the remaining dregs of Moriarty’s web.

Holmes’s two year endeavor to eliminate this intricate syndicate of criminals has led to Australia and the pursuit of Sebastian Moran. For Dr. Watson, memories of his younger days spent in the Victorian gold fields with his brother and father are brought back, as well as the memory of the scandal from which he has been running ever since.

Narrelle M. Harris evokes a tangible sense of colonial Australia with an intricate and at times wonderfully gruesome mystery worthy of Doyle’s best. The Victorian is strong with this one and the romantic relationship between Holmes and Watson is handled with the deftest of delicate touches. Their years of miscommunication are finally confessed and resolved—or are they? Spoilers sweetie. This book was promptly added to my growing list of blanket books. Cozy-fireplace-hot tea-rain patter-blanket books that just make you want to curl up and keep reading.

 

*Well, obviously I don’t walk up that one daily. Or maybe that’s not so obvious to everyone. I do not walk daily to Kyneton. I’d need a lot more porridge in the morning.

On the Beat

Tennison
Lynda La Plante
Simon and Schuster
September 2015, RRP$39.99

TennisonA long time ago—back when the term ‘on a school night’ actually referred to a night before attending a learning institution—I remember sticking a tape into a VCR recorder to capture the rest of the first Prime Suspect mini-series. It was after all a school night and Netflix was not yet the tiniest twinkle in a TV addict’s eye. I don’t remember the series in great detail; Helen Mirren striding down a corridor to visit someone in the cells, Helen Mirren drinking more than she should, Helen Mirren yelling. Basically, Helen Mirren is about all I remember. Continue reading

The Face of Jesus in my Soup

The Book of Memory
Petina Gappah
Faber & Faber
September 2015

the_book_of_memoryThe Book of Memory is Petina Gappah’s first novel, a tightly woven tale of privilege and prison, of Zimbabwe, and of course memory.  It is the fictional memoir of the convicted murderer, Memory.  She has been asked to write in service of a potential appeal against her death sentence.

Memory is an albino woman.  Sent away as a child from her home in one of Harare’s townships to live with a white man, Lloyd, she struggles to find a sense of belonging and of self.  She feels neither black nor white; her birth family has rejected her; and with her Cambridge education she is at great odds with her fellows in the Chikurubi Prison.  We see as she pieces together clues from her life, trying to work out how it arrived at this ugly point.  Of course she professes her innocence of the murder. Continue reading

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