09-08-2021: Book Review – Art in the Blood

In this post, I will be reviewing Art in the Blood by Bonnie MacBird…


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.”

My Review:

Around six years ago, when this book was newly published, I bought the hardback copy and read it whilst on holiday. After lending the book to a fellow Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, it was never returned – so, I bought the paperback version to replace it and thoroughly enjoyed reading this story for the second time!

I’ve enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes novels of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle since I was in high school, so the discovery of a series of Sherlock Holmes novels by a female writer was exciting.

Despite the miniscule aspects of Americanisation in a few of the descriptions (I can’t recall exact quotations, but I remember noticing them as I was reading), the portrayal of Holmes and Watson in Art in the Blood would’ve made Sir Arthur Conan Doyle proud. For those inconsistencies of description or characterisation, I appreciated the thought MacBird attributed to creating a Preface which added a satisfying depth to her story:

Over time, perhaps from moisture and fading, a number of passages have become unreadable, and I have endeavoured to reconstruct what seemed to be missing from them. If there are any mistakes of style or historical inaccuracies, please ascribe these to my inability to fill in places where the writing had become indecipherable.”

My favourite character in this novel has to be Watson, the narrator himself, because MacBird illustrated a character that was both believable and endearing. Alongside Watson, the development of Holmes’ character in possession of various afflictions associated with genius was exercised intelligently, without damaging the sanctity of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. I found the other characters in the novel to be brilliantly written, with unexpected twists and turns that kept me from prematurely guessing their motives, behaviours, and ultimately, their fate.

The storyline was diligently plotted, which allowed little room for inconsistency – something that can ruin an otherwise great read. I am definitely a fan of Bonnie MacBird’s writing, thanks to Art in the Blood, and I look forward to reading the other Sherlock Holmes novels in this series.

Whilst there were aspects of the story that were both disturbing and devastating, MacBird handled the difficult subject matter tactfully, with a literary flare obviously sparked by the inspiration of her muse, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. To be able to elicit such reaction through her words is proof enough that MacBird is a talented author, yet I also believe the way she wove descriptive detail into dialogue made Art in the Blood such a page-turner!

Whether or not you relish novels based on protagonist Sherlock Holmes, if mystery and crime writing are your genres of choice, you’re likely to find this book a gripping read. If you’re already an avid reader of the adventures of Holmes and Watson, you won’t be disappointed by Art in the Blood – thanks to MacBird’s sympathetic storytelling skills, you’ll find yourself immersed in a familiarly mystical world originally envisaged by a literary legend.

D.E. Kendall

Author, Pawrent, Tea-Drinker.

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