Art in the Blood by Bonnie MacBird Art in the Blood by Bonnie MacBird
Narrator: Thomas Judd
Series: Sherlock Holmes Adventures #1
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. on May 5, 2016
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Length: 6 hrs 29 mins
Format: Audiobook
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three-half-stars

London. A snowy December, 1888. Sherlock Holmes, 34, is languishing and back on cocaine after a disastrous Ripper investigation. Watson can neither comfort nor rouse his friend - until a strangely encoded letter arrives from Paris.

Mlle La Victoire, a beautiful French cabaret star, writes that her illegitimate son by an English lord has disappeared, and she has been attacked in the streets of Montmartre. Racing to Paris with Watson at his side, Holmes discovers the missing child is only the tip of the iceberg of a much larger problem. The most valuable statue since the Winged Victory has been violently stolen in Marseilles, and several children from a silk mill in Lancashire have been found murdered. The clues in all three cases point to a single untouchable man.

Will Holmes recover in time to find the missing boy and stop a rising tide of murders? To do so he must stay one step ahead of a dangerous French rival and the threatening interference of his own brother, Mycroft.

This latest adventure, in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, sends the iconic duo from London to Paris and the icy wilds of Lancashire in a case which tests Watson's friendship and the fragility and gifts of Sherlock Holmes' own artistic nature to the limits.

It’s not often that I say this, but what originally drew me to Art in the Blood was the cover. It’s simple and stylish and while it doesn’t scream “Holmes” it does give us the era with the top hat and walking stick. Add in that I love a god Holmes pastiche and I was hooked.

The conceit here is that an old, unpublished adventure written by Watson has been discovered and the author is simply sharing it with us, reconstructing any pieces that time has faded. I don’t know that MacBird accomplishes the task of writing in the vein of Conan Doyle. It doesn’t feel Victorian. Touches of modern language sneak in and to be honest, I’m not sure that anyone else can work with a character so brilliant, addicted, prone to depression, gifted as Holmes without pushing him over one edge or the other in their attempt to send him out on new cases. But I enjoy Holmes in most of his forms; I just don’t expect him to be the original Holmes if it’s not one of the original stories.

We have all the necessary components of a Holmes novel, including the landlady/housekeeper Mrs. Hudson, the lodgings at 221b Baker Street, a nod to the Baker Street Irregulars, brother Mycroft, Holmes’ costumes, lock-picking abilities, arcane knowledge, etc. It’s all there, along with a plot constructed to make the most of the red herrings provided. The whodunnit, and of course all three mysteries do come back to one villain, was well-done. The revelation is surprising and the motive believable in a horrible way.

Clear writing, a breakneck pace, atmospheric description, and memorable, make Art in the Blood enjoyable if not memorable. Sherlock here’s is more vulnerable than usual, shows that he cares. He needs Watson and other allies to help him solve the case and stay alive.

I don’t usually care for extras when it comes to books. Maps don’t attract me, I often listen to audios so in general have no use for illustrations, I rarely read author’s notes at the end, but I’m glad I didn’t miss MacBird’s annotations. She provides them on her website for each of her Holmes books. They do contain spoilers so should be read along with the books, not in advance, but she discusses everything from location to art to people to clothing.

“My dear friend Sherlock Holmes once said, ‘Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms.’ And so it was for him. In my numerous accounts of the adventures we shared, I have mentioned his violin playing, his acting – but his artistry went much deeper than that. I believe it was at the very root of his remarkable success as the world’s first consulting detective.”

About Bonnie MacBird

Bonnie MacBird has been a screenwriter (TRON), studio executive (Universal) producer (three Emmys), a playwright and a classically trained actor. She teaches writing at UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program and is a regular speaker on writing, creativity, and Sherlock Holmes.

She has three Sherlock Holmes novels, out now: ART IN THE BLOOD (2015), UNQUIET SPIRITS (2017) and THE DEVIL’S DUE (2019). A fourth is in work. All are for HarperCollins.

MacBird lives in Los Angeles and London.

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