Part romp through Victorian England, part maritime adventure, Lutton’s Sherlock Holmes-inspired novel will keep readers guessing even past the final page.
It all starts when a patient at London’s most gruesome mental hospital goes missing; Sherlock Holmes has been hungering for a new case, and Dr. Watson unwittingly feeds him what could be—hypothetically speaking, of course—his most lethal one yet. Throughout the first half of the book, a distressed woman, a monstrous dog, a boy spy who Holmes considered his surrogate son and the Queen herself all become intertwined as layers of the mystery are piled on and stripped off at a breakneck pace. On nearly every page, Lutton reminds readers that no alliances are safe and no identities assured, as the author constantly reverses friend and foe. The effect is dizzying; there are so many “Ah-ha!” moments that the excitement of uncovering a new angle on the case begins to wear thin. However, the book changes direction in the second half; Holmes and Watson find themselves aboard a submarine with “The Bard,” a midget who speaks mostly in Shakespearean verse and is positioned at the crux of both the case and the matter of Holmes’ adopted son. Finally, literary worlds collide as Holmes and Watson rendezvous with Jules Verne and the Nautilus. This drastic shift in the narrative makes the book feel split in its personality, and the schism is never resolved as Lutton makes like Hollywood and sets up a potential sequel in the final pages. Stylistically, the book is unified by Lutton’s period-inspired language; however, his dramatic overpunctuation of the text disrupts its flow, often obscuring the action and compounding the vertigo created by the fast pacing.
Sit down and buckle up, Sherlock Holmes fans, because Lutton’s speculative addition to Conan Doyle’s world is far from elementary.