Vicki of Reading At The Beach hosts A-Z Wednesday. Today’s letter is N.

I read this one in May of 2008. It’s actually the second in the series. The first is The Patient’s Eyes. I’m a big Holmes fan and this fiction series takes a different twist on the original, with Doyle as the narrator and Dr. Bell as the model Holmes was based on.

The Night CallsThe Night Calls by David Pirie

Inspired by the discovery that Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle attended medical school in Scotland with one of the 19th century’s most notorious serial killers, David Pirie’s The Night Calls reels out a grim but engrossing tale that suggests a model for Holmes’s foremost adversary, Professor James Moriarty.

A series of bizarre assaults on women in the brothels of 1878 Edinburgh draws the attention of Dr. Joseph Bell, a surgeon, charismatic teacher, and forensic expert who periodically applies his deductive skills to solving crimes. Together with a young Conan Doyle, his “trusted clerk and pupil,” Bell follows the trail of an elusive attacker who leads them on crepuscular chases through gloomy Victorian streets and to a blood-filled room where the puzzle of his motive becomes deeper. However, Conan Doyle is occupied with other matters, as well. He’s fast developing a fondness for fellow student Elsbeth Scott, whose interest in promoting educational rights for women has made her many enemies, and whose sister, the wife of a hypocritical philanthropist, grows sicker by the day–either as a result of disease or deviousness. The future author is disturbed, too, by his father’s deteriorating mental condition. Assisting Bell offers Conan Doyle some release from worry–at least until their controlling quarry becomes a threat to Miss Scott. Pirie’s plot only gains more perplexity and darkness as its action shifts to London, forcing the logical Bell and his impetuous amanuensis to contend with opium fiends, disappearing corpses, a severed head with “horrifying power,” and continuing taunts by a murderer who believes that “evil is freedom.” (

At the time, I said this is a very “dark” novel. There are two mysteries, one of which is solved. The other mystery is solved, but the offender is not brought to justice. I love the atmosphere of this series and the Doyle and Bell characters are fascinating. Of course, I’m a Holmes fan, so I may be biased.


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