Review: Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson ~ Lyndsay Faye

Dust and ShadowISBN ~ 978-1416583301
Publisher ~Simon & Schuster
No. Of Pages ~325 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster

From the gritty streets of nineteenth century London, the loyal and courageous Dr. Watson offers a tale unearthed after generations of lore: the harrowing story of Sherlock Holmes’s attempt to hunt down Jack the Ripper.

As England’s greatest specialist in criminal detection, Sherlock Holmes is unwavering in his quest to capture the killer responsible for terrifying London’s East End. He hires an “unfortunate” known as Mary Ann Monk, the friend of a fellow streetwalker who was one of the Ripper’s earliest victims; and he relies heavily on the steadfast and devoted Dr. John H. Watson. When Holmes himself is wounded in Whitechapel during an attempt to catch the savage monster, the popular press launches an investigation of its own, questioning the great detective’s role in the very crimes he is so fervently struggling to prevent. Stripped of his credibility, Holmes is left with no choice but to break every rule in the desperate race to find the madman known as “the Knife” before it is too late.

2 Thumbs-UpFor a debut novel, this book was OK.  Yes, I said OK as I had a love hate relationship with this book from the very first chapter.

For anyone to take on writing about the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson takes guts, but if it is pulled off well as in the case of the House of Silk (reviewed here) it can be a glorious thing, that was not the case here.  Despite a valiant effort, this Author was unable to capture all the character nuances that combine to make the detective readers of other Holmes missives have come to know and expect.  By writing the book from the perspective of Dr. Watson a lot of the internal debates and musings Holmes has with himself are lost along with a lot of his eccentric qualities.  In this book Holmes comes across as an arrogant, pretentious ass that has no lovable qualities to his name at all.  Unfortunately, Dr. Watson does not come out of this novel unscathed; as a character I’ve always seen as being the stable and steadying force behind Holmes, here he is depicted as bumbling fool who would be well pressed to dress himself in the morning.  The portrayal of Jack the Ripper was also flimsy, and would have benefitted greatly with a lot more fleshing out and back story.

The novel is extremely dry, the language at times definitely at odds with the era in which it is set.  The Author does a good job of portraying Whitechapel at the time of the murders but apart from that there was very little to keep me interested, and this was definitely not the page turner that had been promised.  For me there was not enough tension, and the discovery of who the Ripper was became obvious about partway through the book; surely not a mystery worthy of calling in Holmes to solve.

If you like Sherlock Holmes, you may enjoy this book; as for me I don’t think I will be reading anymore by this Author despite their valiant attempts to recreate the works of Arthur Conan Doyle.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson ~ Lyndsay Faye

  1. Sounds like a lost opportunity to pit the world’s greatest mystery against the world’s greatest mystery solver. In the films I never liked it when Dr Watson was portrayed as an idiot, I can’t see how that relationship can work if Watson is inept.
    Chris

    • My feelings exactly. It was a great opportunity to create a novel that could have been really gripping, unfortunately that was allowed to remain unfulfilled.

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