Informational Note: I am reviewing the following audiobook completely of my own free will however I have been contacted by the author of this book in the past and he is aware of my reviews through a book themed social media equivalent
Hello again to you all! I hope you are all as well as could be expected. Now at the end of my last review I didn’t indicate to you what my next review would be. Although it is now time to reveal it.
My frequent readers will be familiar with the fact that among my many other favourite topics I have a fondness for Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson and their various adventures. So I thought why not listen to a modern Sherlock Holmes pastiche or investigation? There is one company of which I am aware and in some cases helped back some releases who specialise in Sherlock Holmes adventures. MX Publishing who acted as the publishers for today’s manuscript. For the curious they also publish a multiple volume series of Sherlock Holmes anthologies named The MX Book Of Sherlock Holmes designed to raise funds to restore Conan Doyle’s home of Undershaw which is now a school for children with learning difficulties.
The plot in simple terms of The Merchant Of Menace is as follows: Inspector Lestrade is at his wit’s end. He is being pestered night and day by a particularly obnoxious nobleman who demands the police force hunt down the thief of his extremely luxurious and valuable knife. Holmes displays minimal interest in the case however what is initially assumed to be a standard theft soon turns into a game of cat and mouse with a knowledgeable criminal Watson names The Merchant. The Merchant will steal anything providing a price can be negotiated and has very few limits to what he will and won’t do to attain his target. How will Holmes and Watson catch their clever thief?
The story of The Merchant Of Menace is a very entertaining one. When I listened to it it practically flew by! This story contains a set up of a journalist who had obtained Watson’s famous tin dispatch box at an estate sale in Scotland discovering the tale under a false bottom. The story itself is told to us by Watson who sounds very much like the Conan Doyle original. Some mentions throughout the narrative are made to previous canonical adventures as well as a few mentions to characters I believe may have originated in Ryan’s previous Holmes stories as Merchant is the most recent of four to date. Ryan’s Holmes is also convincingly written with both the closeness expected between Holmes and Watson as well as his usual enthusiasm for all things investigation. He also makes vivid use of Holmes’s intelligence with regards to certain plans involving museums and palaces. As such the pair shine off the page as does the Merchant.
The mystery is an intriguing one and a good example of multiple authors attempting a similar concept in other Holmes stories but requiring an undefinable mix of talent, luck and skill to successfully pull it off which Ryan certainly does here! I look forward to his next Holmes adventure!
Throughout the narrative several genuine and important historical figures and items become matters of interest such as a janbiya knife belonging to the aforementioned nobleman, the Irish Stone of Tara or Lia Fáil and the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough among others. To some readers this may seem distracting or at least unusual but it is actually a common theme in modern Sherlock Holmes fiction. It even showed up in The Adventure Of The Peculiar Protocols which I reviewed last year. Other examples of famous individuals Holmes has met in other stories include H.G. Welles, Conan Doyle himself and some rather famous American politicians from the post Civil War Reconstructionist period.
With regards to the audiobook of this particular adventure I was pleasantly surprised! The narrator is a Nigel Peever who has the ability to draw you even further in. His Watson is probably my personal favourite of all the characters in the book he performs as he seems very much in the spirit of that Edwardian era. Peever also succeeds admirably at his version of Holmes– one with a surprisingly deep voice! Certainly deeper than most performances I’ve seen or heard but in Peever’s case I think he makes it work. His version of The Merchant when he makes his entrance is suitably arrogant and somewhat grandiose as befits someone with that level of talent. Even criminal talent.
One small criticism I have for the audiobook is for its accents. It becomes clear that his non English accents can come across a little over the top or ever so slightly arch. His Mrs Hudson in particular seems like he’s over egging the pudding a little. Another example would be the Irish and French museum characters who have strong accents. And yet despite my understanding why certain people would have an issue with this I can’t bring myself to dislike it. It is exactly the right level for me to see it as artistic license for the sake of the narration or to imagine those specific characters as though this entire Holmes narrative is being acted out in a play complete with the occasional sound effect.
In conclusion I think this is a very entertaining Holmes story. Although I personally have not yet read or listened to Ryan’s previous efforts I can certainly say I fully intend to. The Merchant of Menace is a very enjoyable story and one I heartily recommend. I’m curious to see what his version of Holmes has to pit his mind against next. I’ll see you all soon.
Sayonara to you all!