Holmes fans will enjoy this tale’s admirable verisimilitude and bracing storytelling.

ONE MUST TELL THE BEES

This homage to the Sherlock Holmes saga gives readers both his first case and his last.

Matthews’ novel begins with a manuscript that Holmes has sent Dr. John H. Watson detailing his adventures as a very young man in Civil War–era America (who knew?). Not only did Holmes solve his first case (spies stealing gun powder from the Du Pont works in Delaware) there, but he also became invaluable to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, earned the confidence and friendship of President Abraham Lincoln, and was instrumental in the tracking down of the villainous John Wilkes Booth. And all this before Holmes reached his majority. He befriended Abraham, a Black boy who became his partner in sleuthing, showing up that nasty and opportunistic bully Allan Pinkerton. Readers also learn of Holmes’ very humble, Dickensian childhood as a boy named Johnnie Barrow: his brutish father; his mother who died young; and his brother, Mycroft, who essentially raised his sibling. It was Mycroft who decided they would become the Holmes brothers, erasing their past, and it was Lincoln himself who dubbed the detective “Sherlock.” Back to the present day. Watson, retired, receives an urgent message—along with that manuscript—instructing him to take a fast train from London to the south coast of England. There, Holmes, long retired himself, is a very contented beekeeper. On the way, Watson discovers that there has been a murder in one of the train’s compartments. The message proves to have been a lure, and Holmes and Watson face a final test at the hands of—well, no spoilers, but it is, as the doctor might say, deucedly clever.

The tone and the writing certainly ring true in these pages. In Matthews, Holmes has an acolyte to be proud of. (Indeed, it is a bit creepy how Holmes has reached a place in literature where he seems to readers to be a real, historical person—the ultimate compliment to poor Arthur Conan Doyle.) This novel seems intended to be the final word on the life of the esteemed detective. It’s no spoiler to say that the great man dies at the end, peacefully, with the humble and the exalted attending the service in a little country church. For all his famous career achievements in London, Holmes finds rest in picture-postcard rural England. Matthews’ portrayal of the sleuth is one that readers have come to know: Holmes’ affection for Watson, for example, which does not prevent his browbeating of the beleaguered man, and his constant showing off of his powers of observation and deduction. And if there is such a thing as militant patience, that’s the good doctor. In some ways, the book is too detailed—too committed to tying up even imagined loose ends. When told that Holmes’ ambivalent attitude toward women goes back to his having had a twin sister, long lost, that their cruel father forced into debauchery, readers can only roll their eyes (really?). On the other hand, the “American” Holmes is a refreshing creature: willing (and eager) to learn, acting properly deferential, and quite lacking the airs that the audience associates with the Baker Street legend, for all his talents and virtues. And he can even handle a horse.

Holmes fans will enjoy this tale’s admirable verisimilitude and bracing storytelling.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more