Watson on the Orient Express (Elliott & Veley)

April 23, 2020 Book Reviews 5 ★★★½

Watson on the Orient Express (Elliott & Veley)Watson on the Orient Express by Anna Elliott, Charles Veley
Published by Wilton Press on April 6, 2020
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 203
Format: eARC, Kindle or ebook
Source: the publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble
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three-half-stars
Also by this author: The Last Moriarty

A pernicious assassination plot. A devious decoy. And a transcontinental race against time to catch a killer . . .

London, 1898. Held captive by a diabolical criminal mastermind and his gang of thugs, Watson overhears an assassination plot that not only endangers the life of Sherlock Holmes, but threatens to ignite a war. If he has any hope of foiling his kidnappers’ nefarious plans, he must escape, and quickly.

Eluding the familiar foe proves challenging, however. Watson is soon caught and awakens in jail, the prime suspect for two murders, dressed in the clothes of a missing man, one Lord Harwell. To save himself and prevent the assassination, Watson embarks on a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse that leads him on a harrowing journey to Constantinople aboard the famed Orient Express.

Meanwhile, Sherlock and Lucy have been called upon to discern the whereabouts of the missing Lord Harwell. The stakes become much higher when Holmes discovers the missing man has ties to an important diplomatic negotiation in Constantinople. Just as he is pulled deeper into the investigation, Holmes receives a distressing telegram from Watson himself. He and Lucy quickly board the next outgoing Orient Express in hopes of rescuing Watson and preventing a gruesome act that could very well lead the nation to war.

Success seems uncertain as the enemy looks to thwart their heroic efforts at every turn, and Watson, Holmes and Lucy become targets in an ever-more-sinister plan. Will three intrepid detectives stop the assassination and put its mastermind away for good? Or will it all be too little, too late?

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

Review

Watson on the Orient Express begins in media res, with Watson waking up from a blow to the head to discover that he has been kidnapped. By whom soon becomes apparent, but why remains a mystery for nearly the whole of the book. The plot, which involves a missing peer, an assassination plot, and a possible double agent, is fiendishly complex, with enough twists and turns to rival an Agatha Christie novel. And in fact, there are several nods to Christie along the way, including the book’s title and the fact that about a third of it is set aboard the Orient Express.

The first-person narrative alternates between Watson and Lucy James, the natural daughter of Sherlock Holmes. Watson we know from the original canon, and Veley and Elliott’s Watson stays pretty true to character. Lucy is the authors’ own invention; she displays much of the intellectual prowess and courage of Holmes, but is more approachable. Holmes we see only through Watson and Lucy’s eyes. Like Watson, his character is familiar, but fatherhood and working in partnership with Lucy have perhaps mellowed him slightly, and taught him a better respect for the skills and talents of women.

The Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James series by Charles Veley and Anna Elliott is one of the better Sherlock Holmes pastiches I have read (although nothing can rival Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series in my mind.) That said, I felt that this book is not quite as true to the original canon as the first two in the series. That may be in part because I listened to books one and two, brilliantly read by Edward Petherbridge, whereas I read this one on my Kindle at a time when I’m finding it hard to concentrate. On the other hand, it may also reflect changes in the narrative resulting from the authors’ collaboration. The first two books were by Veley alone, primarily through Watson’s viewpoint, and hewed closely to the voice and narrative style of Conan Doyle’s stories. This is the first story I’ve read which includes both Elliott’s writing and Lucy’s point of view, and the overall tone has changed somewhat, being a little less steeped in the language of late Victorian Britain. To be fair, though, Lucy is American by upbringing, and obviously younger than Conan Doyle’s characters, so it makes sense that her outlook and language are more modern and more frank than those of Holmes and Watson.

If you like Sherlock Holmes, by all means give this series a try. You could jump in at this book, but I would recommend starting from the beginning. Regardless of the minor reservations I expressed in that last paragraph, I am enjoying this series and the character of Lucy James, and look forward to reading the intervening books, since I skipped from book 2 to book 8.

Note: I did receive a review copy from the publisher, but only after I had already purchased the book.

three-half-stars

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Quarantine Edition (2020)

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