Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box by George Mann (book review).

October 20, 2014 | By | Reply More

I felt a little glow of warmth as I listened to the voice of Dr. John Watson in my head. That’s how the opening paragraphs of ‘The Spirit Box’ made me feel. I lay no claim to being an expert on the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ genre, I just know what I like and George Mann’s latest book took me directly to crumpets and the roaring fires of the early 20th century.


‘Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box’ is a post-retirement novel, for we are in 1915 and Homes has gone to the country to keep his bees. Watson is feeling the pain of the war directly, as his nephew has been killed in the ongoing slaughter. Watson’s wife has also left for the country and he is melancholic and emotionally vulnerable as his multiple efforts to aid the war have been rejected due to his age.

A letter from Mycroft Holmes changes all that and, before Watson can butter those crumpets, he is rattling to the Victoria Railway Station in one of those new fangled motor cars. He’s not a fan but more than delighted when he meets the one Holmes brother he is not expecting. It’s time to take another case and the future of the country is at stake,

With three apparently unconnected deaths to solve, Sherlock is back on form and back in the morgue. Watson doesn’t miss his dull routine, although he often misses his dinner.

I loved this book and raced through it faster than a 1915 Bugatti. Key points for me are how it directly draws us into the experience of civilians in war that became a reality in the First World War. The conflict is keenly felt in London, due to the Zeppelin raids that causes the civilian population to suffer losses previously unheard of in wars that were usually fought on foreign soil. Food plays a part in the novel and Watson documents his meals or lack of them with relish. That would be Gentleman’s Relish. Ahem! There is a great deal of movement and pace in the novel and, despite our duo’s advanced age, they seem able to keep pace with the modern world. The plot is not simplistic and does dangle elements of Conan Doyle’s later life obsessions to tempt our way of thinking. We also get to meet with Mann’s other characters, Newbury and Angelchrist, who manage to secure supporting roles here and muddy the water about how things might pan out. Overall, this was a great read and I’m looking forward to the next Mann.

Sue Davies

October 2014

(pub: Titan Books. 205 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK), $12.95 (US), $14.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78116-002-2)

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Category: Books, Steampunk

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