Monday, August 30, 2021

Is the game afoot? #SherlockHolmes #ReviewTuesday #Giveaway


 Blurb

The game is not afoot. The Better-Every-Day world of 1895 is gone, even hard to recall as WWI ends. From his rural cottage, Holmes no longer provokes Scotland Yard’s envy or his landlady’s impatience, but neither is he content with the study of bees. August 1920 finds him filling out entry papers at a nearly defunct psychiatric clinic on the Normandy coast. England’s new Dangerous Drugs Act declares his cocaine use illegal and he aims to quit entirely. Confronted by a question as to his “treatment goal,” Holmes hesitates, aware that his real goal far exceeds the capacity of any clinic. His scribbled response, “no more solutions, but one true resolution,” seems more a vow than a goal to his psychiatrist, Pierre Joubert. The doctor is right. Like a tiny explosion unaccountably shifting a far-reaching landscape, the simple words churn desperate action and interlocking mystery into the lives of Holmes’ friends and enemies both.

Excerpt

Holmes speaks, Watson answers:

It’s clear, Watson, that you have come to trust this man, never mind your fancy knot work.” He let a hand rest briefly on Joubert’s shoulder, and then snatched it away. “The charade you two gentleman have just now performed causes me to question myself. You are evidently in collusion.”

I said, “We were that obvious?”

I’m afraid so,” Holmes said. “In fact, when I have time, I will publish a monograph on what I will call ‘body language.’ Today’s performance will serve as a prime example. I watched you usher this Frenchman across the cottage—your hesitation, your caution lest you cause him the least pain, was evident. Your care was exactly as you would grant a lifelong patient going through a complicated procedure. You watched his every backward step, lest he trip. I noted the commiserating tilt of your head—and the lines of concern on your brow. Without a single word, you managed to signal your sympathy. To sum up, between the gun and the man you pointed it at, I detected at least a hundred yards worth of high-grade Watsonian scruple.

Holmes glared down at the top of Joubert’s head. “No doubt the entire Punch and Judy was your conception, Pierre, but you could not hide your concern for Watson, how you sought to assure him that it was all for a worthy purpose. Indeed, I saw you shudder and sweat, but you were in no fear for your life—in no dread of John Watson, at least. I submit to you both, that what I have witnessed just now was more a dance than an arrest.”

Review by Lisabet Sarai

When the impossible has been eliminated, then whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth.” ~ Sherlock Holmes

As a teenager, I was as avid a fan of Sherlock Holmes as any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s contemporary readers – those pesky fans who refused to allow the author to kill off his fictional detective even after Doyle had become thoroughly tired of him. Indeed, Sherlock Holmes still lives on in twenty-first century culture. When I do a web search, one question that Google pops up is “Was Sherlock Holmes a real person?” I wonder how many twenty-somethings believe he was. In any case, more than one hundred years after the setting of Doyle’s last Holmes story (1914), the insightful, moody, irascible forensic genius retains a enduring grip on our imagination.

Susanne M. Dutton’s novel is a meticulously constructed and engagingly presented homage to the Holmes myth. It takes place in 1920, well past the Victorian era I so strongly associate with the series. Holmes and Dr. John Watson, his faithful friend, assistant and the chronicler of many of his adventures, are both in their sixties. Holmes has retired to a rural cottage in Sussex where he reportedly occupies himself with his violin and with bee-keeping. Watson is one of the few people who know that he is actually a patient at a psychiatric hospital in Normandy, seeking a cure for his long-time addiction to cocaine. Thus the good doctor is quite surprised (though pleased) to receive a telegram, ostensibly from his old friend, with the traditional summons: “The game’s afoot.”

All is not as it seems, of course, as Watson discovers when he arrives at the cottage. I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment by detailing the twists and turns of the plot, or previewing the characters who turn up to play a role in the tale. If you’re a Holmes aficionado, you’ll recognize some of them, while others are clever re-imaginings from the original stories. (I particularly liked the nineteen-twenties version of the Baker Street Irregulars.)

The language and overall style are convincingly antique, similar enough to Doyle’s prose to pull the reader back into the Holmes world. At the same time, there are delightful modern touches. The author shows us that Holmes is a celebrity at the level of Kim Kardashian or Brad Pitt. The detective is disgustingly famous. His escapades are well known, and when it seems he may have a new case, all sorts of people are eager to get involved, just for the excitement and the glory. All that’s lacking is a Sherlock Holmes Twitter or Instagram account.

Like Conan Doyle, Ms. Dutton also does a great job illustrating Holmes’ somewhat precarious grip on sanity. Genius is definitely kin to madness.

The actual facts of the “case” did not impress me as much as the overall atmosphere and the attention to the details of Holmesiana. There’s a long, dramatic dream/hypnosis sequence that really made no sense to me in the context of the plot. Also I was disappointed by the ending, which stretched my credulity beyond the limit of the improbable. Nevertheless, I had fun reading the book.

If you’re not familiar with the Holmes cannon, the novel will likely be quite hard to follow. However, anyone who has spent significant time with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s world will find Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable a well-crafted, entertaining diversion.

About the Author


Susanne Dutton is the one who hid during high school gym, produced an alternative newspaper and exchanged notes in Tolkien’s Elfish language with her few friends. While earning her B.A. in English, she drove a shabby Ford Falcon with a changing array of homemade bumper strips: Art for Art’s Sake, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Free Bosie from the Scorn of History. Later, her interests in myth and depth psychology led to graduate and postgraduate degrees in counseling.

Nowadays, having outlived her mortgage and her professional counseling life, she aims herself at her desk most days; where she tangles with whatever story she can’t get out of her head. Those stories tend to seat readers within pinching distance of her characters, who, like most of us, slide at times from real life to fantasy and back. A man with Alzheimer’s sets out alone for his childhood home. A girl realizes she’s happier throwing away her meals than eating them. A woman burgles her neighbors in order to stay in the neighborhood.

Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Susanne grew up in the SF Bay Area, has two grown children, and lives with her husband in an old Philadelphia house, built of the stones dug from the ground where it sits.

Blog https://www.inside221b.com

Facebook https://www.facebook/noguessing (Improbable Holmes)

Publisher bookstore link to book:

https://www.propertiuspress.com/our-bookstore/Sherlock-Holmes-and-the-Remaining-Improbable-by-Susanne-Dutton-p310417036

Susanne M. Dutton will be awarding a $75 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

55 comments:

Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Terri. said...

This sounds like a great read.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Welcome to Beyond Romance, Susanne!

Your description of yourself as a child sounds like me.

I very much enjoyed this trip back into my past (and Holmes' past).

Hope your tour goes really well!

aerokorngal said...

Love the armchair travelling across the pond! reneela2000(at)gmail(dot)com

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hello Lisabet Sarai. Thank you so much for your in depth, thoughtful review. I'm late to your blog because the link I was given didn't link, but I'm pleased to have found it. You are obviously a Holmesian yourself, at least in my (uh) book. Did you know there's another group, the Holmaniacs? I did my best to please these people, but it does take someone who knows those old Irregulars to recognize the new ones. I did choose to emphasize Holmes identification with the Vernet family, and Carle Vernet in particular because Holmes claim in "The Greek Interpreter" that they are his ancestors. For that reason he claims that his detection is truly, "art in the blood" taking another form. Holmes says, "My grandmother married a Vernet," so I suppose his grandfather was a Vernet. Imagine my amazement when I read that one of those female Vernets, Emilie, was guillotined in 1794, along with her friend Rosalie Filleul, a woman who painted one of the best portraits we have of Benjamin Franklin. My other motive for including the Vernets is the correspondence to Holmes life in which the law and justice play a big part, hence his late-in-life considerations for the Moriarty family. I need Holmes to be what Watson said he was, "The best and wisest of men." Thank you again! Susanne Dutton

Susanne Dutton said...

Hello Terry! Thank you for commenting. The more you are into Holmes, the more you will probably enjoy the book. At the same time, I did try to present new challenges to the great detective. Susanne Dutton

Susanne M. Dutton said...

aerikorngal, thank you for commenting. Which way are you crossing the pond? I enjoy it as well, especially if I can splice in some time travel, too. Susanne Dutton

Amber Terry said...

I love this review. Anything relating to Sherlock Holmes is always interesting :) Also, I love that illustration of the author!

Mick Loves Books said...

I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan! And this sounds great! Added to my wish list!

Sherry said...

Sounds like a very good book.

Koshkalady said...

Where do you get your writing inspiration? How do you go about your research of another era?

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hello Amber Terry. I'm glad you enjoyed the review. I owe the avatar (is that really what that's called?) to my daughter, a gifted graphic designer/facilitator, Christina Bonner. Last Christmas she gave the drawing to me as a gift. I don't know that I can say I've ever received anything more personal and helpful! Susanne Dutton, author

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hello Mick. Thank you for commenting. You will find the classic Holmes in my story, but a man who is facing both challenges from adversaries and some he imposes on himself. It's a fast read, at 143 pages, but rather intense. This Holmes is not fooling around, though he does have quite a bit of fun. Susanne Dutton, author

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hello Sherry. Thank you for commenting. I often have a hard time deciding whether I'd enjoy a book, even if I have a lot of information about it. One of my favorite modern writers is T. R. Pearson and I read it all. Still, I get the feeling that are some I'm meant to connect with and some I just don't, no matter how much I expect that book to be just my thing. Susanne Dutton, author

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hi Koshkalady. Love your name. It's even fun to say. I began to write this book after visiting a French art exhibit at an art museum and finding the works of a whole family of 18th Century French artists, the Vernet family. That sounds absurd, as this book is set in 1920, but no matter, that's how it happened. As I noted in my comment to Lisabet Sarai, the Vernet family were recent ancestors of Sherlock Holmes, according to Holmes himself in the Conan Doyle story, "The Greek Interpreter." The classic Holmes believes his detection is a form of art, transmitted to him through the blood of this Vernet family. I took advantage of that in this story, though it's just piece of the plot. I have been reading Victorian classics and history since highschool, so that era is not hard for me. Still, I truly indulged myself in this case. During Covid, when I didn't do any other shopping, I began to bid on late 19C newspapers, journals, and magazines on ebay. I now have a huge, tattered collection living on top of my upright piano. There's nothing like immersing yourself in the periodicals of the day, sensing yourself as an original reader of that material, to get to know a culture. Thank you for your questions. Susanne Dutton, author

Colleen C. said...

Thanks for sharing!

tetewa said...

Sounds like something I would enjoy! tWarner419(at)aol(dot)com

Maryann P said...

This sounds really good. Looking forward to reading!

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Colleen, hello. I grew up on a Colleen Drive. I often wonder how that name came about... Anyway, thank you for your comment. Any questions about the book, I'm happy to answer. Susanne Dutton, author

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hellow Tetewa. If you like complex mystery, history and Holmes, you will like it. Holmes takes on an exterior as well as a more personal challenge in my story. Thank you fo commenting. Susanne Dutton, author

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Maryann P. Thank you for your comment. It's classic Holmes and also unique. I will admit--and feel good about--that's what the publisher said when they offered to publish: A really good summing up from people from the outside, who certainly looked at the book critically--and did make the changes they deemed important. Susanne Dutton, author

Judy Thomas said...

I love a good mystery to solve.

Audrey Stewart said...

I am so excited about this book and I can't wait to read it. I have been reading Sherlock Holmes books my whole life.

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hello Judy. I read recently that solving a mystery, or even trying to do so, and succeeding in some of it, is a big dopamine hit to humans. It feels good and I supposes this is something offered by a good mystery that you won't find in some other literature, though I like it all. Thank you for commenting. Susanne Dutton, author

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hi Audrey. I think I started with Nancy Drew, way back, before I found Holmes. My mother bought something about a secret clock. (Strange that I chose a clock for my cover...) She loved Nancy Drew as a girl, too. As I grew up, she'd switched to Westerns and true crime. Is true crime mystery? Sometimes. I don't know about the Westerns, but part of it may have been the settings. Thank you for commenting. Susanne Dutton

katieoscarlet said...

I really enjoyed the blurb and excerpt. I am looking forward to reading

molli said...

this really looks interesting, i am a sucker for sherlock holmes and all things mysterious!

Melanie Borhi said...

would love to read some of your books they sound amazing!

sfzphd said...

This sounds so intriguing! I'm really looking forward to reading this.

Susanne M. Dutton said...

katieoscarlet. Hello. Thank you for your enthusiastic comment. If you'd like a truly mysterious mystery, one with history, depth in the characters and humor as well as disguises, sieges, and poison, you got it. All in 143 pages. Susanne M. Dutton

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hello Molli. I started at about age seven with Nancy Drew, but it wasn't long before long I discovered Holmes. Much later I saw Jeremy Brett as Holmes for Masterpiece Theater and I was off to the races. I'm working another Holmes mystery now. My goal has been to make them classic (as in Watson, as in Mrs. Hudson, Baker Street, the cocaine problem, the Irregulars, etc,) but also unique. I know I succeeded with this book. Susanne Dutton, author

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hi Melanie. If you like mystery, you'll enjoy my Sherlock Holmes work. It's classic, but unlike any other story. Thank you for your comment. Susanne Dutton, author

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hi sfzphd. I'm happy to hear the excerpt and other information have intrigued you. The book is just $4.99 now for the ebook at the Propertius Press link above. Susanne Dutton

Cindi Knowles said...

Thank you for your thoughts and review. I have always loved Sherlock Holmes.

Blogger 2021 said...

WOW love the excerpt "Hooked on Holmes" already but now really intrigued! Keep up the great work! All the best!

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hello Cindi. I'm glad you appreciated the thoughts and review. I understand your love of Holmes, though I am still trying to figure just what it is that attracts so many. Conan Doyle was a genius, though he wasn't so fond of his detective as the world was and continues to be. Thank you for your comment. Susanne Dutton, author

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hello Blogger 2021. As the author, I am "keeping up" the work, well into another Holmes story now. The first book was a three year effort, though I did publish three other shorter stories during that time. Somehow, I always came back to Holmes. Thank you for commenting. Susanne Dutton, author

DVDgal75 said...

Thank you for this awesome giveaway

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hello DVDgal75, You're welcome. Best of luck! Susanne Dutton

Anonymous said...

Good luck with the release!

--Trix

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hello Trix. Your thoughts are appreciated! Susanne Dutton, author

Audrey Stewart said...

I loved your bio...outlived her mortgage. Part of your wit and writing skills?

Veronica Lee said...

I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan!

This sounds fantastic!

pippirose said...

As a Sherlock Holmes fan, this book sounds fascinating. Thanks!

L.C. said...

I often wonder what it is about Sherlock Holmes that still fascinates us to this day... I think his friendship with Watson helps. Thank you for the book tour!

ToniAnn said...

Sounds like I need to reread Doyle before delving into this one! Thanks for your honest review!

Jeanette J said...

Sounds like a good story about one of my favourite characters

Buddy Garrett said...

It sounds great.

Susanne M. Dutton said...

L. C. I wonder the same thing. I do think that the TWO of them, Watson and Holmes, make up the protagonist, more interesting than a single viewpoint, a lot more dynamic. Doyle did try a few Holmes stories without Watson. They were not unread, but not as popular. Susanne Dutton, author

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hi Buddy. Thank you for your comment. I did my best for Watson's "best and wisest man." Susanne Dutton, author

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hello Pippirose. I'm going to miss all these real Holmes fans. I can't wait to get to a book fair and meet more in person. Susanne Dutton, author

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hello ToniAnn, I don't know that you have to reread all of them. That's 63 stories. You give me an idea. I think I'll come up with a fast read Holmes autobiography, hitting the high points. Thank you for this idea. I'll be posting on my website. Susanne Dutton, author

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hello Jeanette. I can't wait to get out to the book fairs and meet real Holmes fans like you. Thank you. Susanne Dutton, author

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hello Audrey. You even read the bio! Thank you. The truth is, that's the truth, and I feel it and I'm thankful everyday. May you outlive your mortgage, too--unless you can live on the magnificent inheritance you have coming soon. I don't have one of those, either, by the way. Susanne Dutton, author

Susanne M. Dutton said...

Hello Trix. I'm not sure where I am in the "sold" part of this business. I just keep writing and talking about the book as best I can. Thank you for your thought! Susanne Dutton, author

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