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Dr. Mortimer and the Barking Man Mystery

1 rating: -3.0
A book by Gerard Williams

Featuring the winning Dr. James Mortimer, who originally appeared in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, and his very capable partner, Dr. Violet Branscombe, this new Victorian mystery novel haunts the criminal underworlds of London … see full wiki

Author: Gerard Williams
Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers
1 review about Dr. Mortimer and the Barking Man Mystery

Whodunit? Who cares?

  • Jan 20, 2011
Rating:
-3
In the opening paragraphs, Dr Mortimer teases lovers of the great Sherlock Holmes and introduces himself with flair referring fleetingly to Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, "I am the James Mortimer who left his stick behind in the rooms of Sherlock Holmes at 221B, Baker Street in the fateful year of 1889". The plot, deftly summarized on the novel's dust flap is reminiscent of the zesty, piquant political gumbo that Anne Perry served up her readers in Charlotte and Thomas Pitt's Seven Dials and The Whitechapel Conspiracy. As a lover of Victorian fiction and a long-time fan of both Sherlock Holmes and the Pitts, I was hooked and went for it!

Russian politico, General Ostyankin, has been brutally murdered and the police appear to have an open-and-shut case against Solomon Solomons, a young east end revolutionary with a long, violent past that is well known to the coppers. Dr Mortimer and his new wife, Violet Branscombe, investigating the case at the frantic request of Solomon's lover, Iris Starr, find themselves embroiled in a world of political intrigue, a prostitution ring involving under-age girls, a savage revenge and a race against the clock as time runs down towards the execution of a wrongly convicted prisoner.

All that sizzle and nary a steak in sight!

Because the book was a short one, I persevered (no, let's say it straight up, I struggled) to the ending which I will acknowledge was a clever summary of a complex trail of obscure clues and brilliant logical deductions reached in the style of Sherlock Holmes. But, there is nothing more to commend this exceptionally weak variation on a Holmes pastiche. Along the way, Gerard Williams forgot that most readers want a developing plot line, some atmosphere, some characterization and a few reasons to actually care about what happens. This novel was dry, dry, dry and completely lacking in any of these graces, even one of which might have redeemed the book from complete failure. I closed the last page and realized that I didn't have the slightest foggy mental picture of what Mortimer and Branscombe might have looked like - their age, their clothing, their build - and as to what they were feeling, why they acted the way they did, their place in the world ... nothing! The tricks that Williams could have used to place the novel into that most atmospheric of settings, the Victorian age - streetscapes, noises, smells, political background, clothing, conversation, class distinctions, accents, habits, games, housing, jobs - all of it sadly lacking!

A rather visceral reaction about good reading time wasted on some very bad writing. Two thumbs down!

If despite all this, you still insist on giving the book a try for yourself, you won't want to read this last little spoiler. The author, Williams, suggested that Dr Mortimer and the Barking Man Mystery pays homage to his first fiction love, the classic whodunit! Sorry, Mr Williams, you get a D for that as well. Even the most careful reader who managed to keep the myriad loosely flapping threads and clues straight could not have puzzled his way to a correct solution because the culprit isn't even introduced until the very final few chapters of the novel. How maddening is that?

Paul Weiss

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January 20, 2011
Steering way clear! Nice review, Paul.
 
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