Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box by George Mann

Summer, 1915. As Zeppelins rain death upon the rooftops of London, eminent members of society begin to behave erratically: a Member of Parliament throws himself naked into the Thames after giving a pro-German speech to the House; a senior military advisor suggests surrender before feeding himself to a tiger at London Zoo; a famed suffragette suddenly renounces the women's liberation movement and throws herself under a train. In desperation, an aged Mycroft Holmes sends to Sussex for the help of his brother, Sherlock.

Set later than Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories, we’re now in the First World War and John Watson is mourning the loss of his nephew in the trenches. Too old to fight and with his wife evacuated to the countryside, he’s determined to stay in London but is struggling with lethargy. Suddenly, out of the blue, Mycroft needs his help with finding out whether three recent odd suicides are linked.

Suddenly, he and Sherlock are back together like old times. Leaving self-imposed retirement in the countryside where he’s been studying bees, Sherlock sweeps back into London, his old inscrutable self, to work out why seemingly sane people have suddenly killed themselves and what the Spirit Box is that one of them spoke of before they died.

George Mann’s Newbury & Hobbes stories took the Sherlock Holmes Victorian crime style and gave it a steampunk twist. In this book, part of the ‘Newbury & Hobbes universe’, the steampunk element is largely dropped apart from an appearance by a terrifying Queen Victoria, kept alive beyond her normal lifespan and now more machine than human, and the spirit of Conan Doyle is very much kept alive. I really enjoyed The Spirit Box and thought Mann has kept the tone and pacing of the original stories whilst moving it forward to a new setting of WW1 London. Sir Maurice Newbury of the other series makes a welcome appearance and it is nice to see the character from an outside point of view. There is also a short story, The Lady Killer, included at the end, for those who like their femme fatales.

If you enjoy the Sherlock Holmes stories I would highly recommend this as Mann has clearly put a lot of effort into keeping the original Holmes and Watson’s character traits and even if the story itself is a bit ridiculous, it’s a fun read.

Sherlock Homes: The Spirit Box by George Mann
336 pages
Titan Books (22 Aug 2014)

9/10 If you enjoy the Sherlock Holmes stories I would highly recommend this.

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