Books by Donald Thomas

Released: March 12, 2013

"Thomas' attempt to intertwine the Holmes saga with the political fortunes of the empire is more ingenious than convincing, unless your idea of Holmes is Errol Flynn."
Spurred on by a well-informed war veteran, Sherlock Holmes revisits several homicides in war-torn South Africa and India. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 15, 2010

"The prolific Thomas (Sherlock Holmes and the King's Evil, 2009, etc.) recreates Holmes' milieu with a sure hand, gracefully spinning his well-appointed yarns. "
New challenges—a novel, two novellas and a bagatelle—for the inimitable sleuth and his stalwart amanuensis. Read full book review >
Released: May 15, 2009

"Thomas stretches the frames for Holmes's cases to historical niches previously unexplored. Though not a great stylist, he's a meticulous plotter, and the enticing puzzles seem just as long as they need to be."
Prolific Thomas, who's made a cottage industry of "newly discovered" Holmes cases (The Execution of Sherlock Holmes, 2007, etc.), presents five tales starring the iconic sleuth. Read full book review >
Released: May 17, 2007

"Ceremoniously written, carefully researched and much, much too long."
Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty—a different Moriarty—go at each other again, and again, in the pair of tales that frame this cycle of pastiches. Read full book review >
Released: March 12, 2007

"Comprehensive to a fault."
Murderers, swindlers, prostitutes, burglars, gangs, thugs, conmen and cops collide in England. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2001

"As before, readers will come away sharing the conviction of Conan Doyle's earliest audience that Victorian England would have been both fairer and more exciting if Sherlock Holmes really had existed. "
Now it can be told: Sherlock Holmes starred in still more real-life adventures, bringing to book such varied miscreants as the serial poisoner Dr. Thomas Neill Cream and the brides-in-the-bath killer George Joseph Smith. Following a summary account of two "failures," Holmes's skirmishes with Dr. H.H. Crippen's trial for murdering his wife and Oscar Wilde's ill-fated libel action against the Marquess of Queensbury, historian/biographer Thomas (The Victorian Underworld, 1998, etc.) gets down to the serious business of immersing the nonpareil detective in five annals of Victorian crime. All of them are notable not only for Holmes's ingenuity in reasoning and tactics but for Thomas's in maintaining mystery even in cases like Smith's—a case in which most readers will recognize the guilty party from the outset. True, except for Smith and Cream, the leading figures are more obscure than in the previous volume (The Secret Cases of Sherlock Holmes, 1998), and Thomas is so intent on re-creating each case in all its historical detail that they all go on far too long. But there are ample compensations throughout, from the high-concept openings—a gambler who guarantees that his clients will never lose, an outraged neighbor's glimpse of nocturnal rituals involving a series of naked bicyclists—to Holmes's airy pertinacity in clearing the hopelessly guilty-looking Major Alfred John Munson of a murder charge. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 11, 1998

Highlights of Victorian low-life, from costermongers' barrows, East End brothels, and "penny gaffs" to Scotland Yard, the court system, and the prison hulks. Any reader looking for the real-life context for Bill Sikes, Prof. Moriarty, and Raffles the Gentleman Thief will find a vivid, occasionally lurid one in this true-crime history by novelist-biographer Donald Thomas (The Ripper's Apprentice, 1989; Henry Fielding, 1991; etc.). Concentrating on London, this history leans heavily on such notable sources as Henry Mayhew's London Labour and London Poor, the priapic memoirs (by a diarist known only as "Walter") entitled My Secret Life, and Dickens's Sketches by Boz. Through these and other sources, Thomas covers the environs of working-class criminals (sometimes known as "the poor who fought back"), from the slums of Whitechapel and the tenements of "The Devil's Acre" in Westminster, colloquially called "rookeries" and "rabbit-warrens." These firsthand accounts of thieves and prostitutes, dodgers and doxies, come alive through Mayhew's investigations and Walter's confessions. Thomas, on his own merits, proves best on more intricate crimes: the Great Bullion Robbery, in which several hundredweight of gold was stolen from railway safes designed by the redoubtable locksmith John Chubb; the career of the forger "Jem the Penman," actually the successful barrister James Saward; and a notorious case in which an arch con man corrupted three detectives to cover his tracks. After this comprehensive chronicle of crime, Thomas concludes with the punishments, newly designed prisons, and miscarriages of justice. Strangely absent is the most notorious Victorian criminal, Jack the Ripper, whose killings were unlike any in England before and struck at the era's heart. Otherwise, the only thing missing is Thomas's own insights into Victorian morality and criminality, for which the richness of the material cries out. A colorful survey of what one reformer called "Darkest England," though Thomas is content to watch from the shadows. (60 b&w illustrations) Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1998

Thomas (Dancing in the Dark, 1993, etc.) drags the inimitable detective out of retirement still again to investigate seven mysteries closely based on historical fact, from the alleged bigamy of George V (a case that brings him to the attention of Professor Moriarty) to the theft of the Irish crown jewels from an impregnable strongroom. Holmes journeys with a grumbling Watson to Paris to vindicate Captain Dreyfus (embroiling himself in the death of French President FÇlix Faure), books passage to Yokohama for the second of two cases of arsenic poisoning, and allies himself with the pyrotechnical barrister Sir Edward Marshall Hall for two cases closer to home. Holmes's repeated defense of hopeless cases casts him as an unlikely Perry Mason, and the cases themselves—spacious and leisurely, unfolding over a period of months or years—do more justice to history than to Holmes. But dedicated Sherlockians will appreciate the novelty of the great detective's incursion into real-life crimes that don't involve Jack the Ripper. Read full book review >
DANCING IN THE DARK by Donald Thomas
Released: Jan. 17, 1994

Undaunted by the news that three of shady Sonny Tarrant's intimates have just been murdered, petty con Johnny McIver—and his mistress and frequent photographic subject Solitaire (nÇe Sally Brown)—plot to empty out Tarrant's safe, succeeding to their sorrow: When McIver turns down an offer from a Tarrant underling to buy back the hot ú5 notes at a steep discount, he finds himself abandoned by the money-changer who'd promised him more, framed for the murder of Solitaire, and on the run from the police as well as Tarrant. Meanwhile, Inspector Jack Rutter, assigned to Solitaire's murder, turns up evidence of a murderous cross-fire between Tarrant's cronies that leaves Solitaire almost forgotten. Thomas (The Ripper's Apprentice, etc.) doesn't quite pull off this hybrid of man-on-the-run melodrama and police detection, but his bleakly stylish evocation of 1949 London smartly captures the sour taste of McIver's realization that ``he was about to die from lack of ambition. He had been content to rob in a world where the game was murder.'' Read full book review >