This book was on my Amazon wish list. I was attracted to the location of the yarn, given I live some 40 mins from Scotland’s aesthetically beautiful capital. There have been a fair few books which imagine Holmes and Watson in Scotland and I always like to give them a spin.
So, where to start on this?
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Edinburgh Haunting has broken new grounds for a published book that simply needs to be edited and edited badly. The page layout is dreadful with no indents for paragraphs and no spaces between them either. Two paragraphs could roll into one and you wouldn’t know. For this reason alone I almost put the book down after 3 pages.
Then there is the most asinine examples of grammatical and syntax errors you could dread to find in a book. There are numerous occasions of speech quotations not being closed, of possessive pronouns fearing the apostrophe and god-awful misuses of words (principal was used instead of principle as an example).
If that is not bad enough, the attempt to mimic Watson’s prose style in the parts where the Doctor tells the story are cumbersome at best. There are phrases like ‘left on the sidelines’ in the book – which just doesn’t befit Holmes and moreover, didn’t actually come into being until first half of the 20th century, and is an Americanism at that.
The book is laden with exposition, making the narrative seem like a yawn inducing story set as a cure for insomnia.
And, one thing that raised my hackles right off was the declaration that the characters in the book were entirely fictional and that any similarity to persons living or dead was purely coincidental. Blah, blah, blah… You know the drill.
Then Joseph Bell makes an appearance in the book. He is a real man, admittedly dead, and definitely not fictional. Heaven forbid!
You may ask yourself, why did I stick with it and finish the book? Two reasons: a) it was bought as a gift and I had a sense of duty in that regard and b) there was actually some merit in the plot.
The story goes thus: Watson is invited to Edinburgh by his cousin Patrick, with the ulterior motive of getting the London Watson to take up a lecturing position at Edinburgh University. Holmes tags along out of boredom. When they arrive in Edinburgh a local story of a haunting is brewing and Holmes gets embroiled.
The young constable involved in the case becomes Holmes’s Boswell as Watson is off assessing the job offer from his cousin. And then we have a book which has a couple of different first and third person narrative views.
Is the house really haunted? Did a ghostly apparition kill the lodger? Or is there something more sinister at work?
Well, the latter of course. Holmes has to untangle a skein of greed, malice, revenge and downright evil-doing. He has to frequent Leith’s docks, see his way around the New Town and battle with the idiotic Embra polis as opposed to their London counterparts.
Underneath the need for a massive rewrite and edit, the plotline – with a few twists and turns – is reasonably good. It is hard to follow some of the narrative and the painful spelling and style errors mean that as a reader you might get distracted by mistakes and miss context. All of which is a shame as this book could have been so much better and may have been a worthy addition to burgeoning Holmes cannon.
As it is, don’t touch this with a bargepole. It is an example of what can happen when a market gets saturated by copycats and wannabes. In film terms, it would be like a half-decent film being blotchy, patchy and full of interference. Only the strong persevere and only the most dedicated would get to the end and try to see the merits in it. If the publishers and author cannot take the time to get a book into the required shape to make it worth you spending your money, you shouldn’t indulge their indolence.