Monday, May 05, 2014
Martin Allison Booth's The Reichenbach Problem ~ Reviewed
Arthur Conan Doyle is on the run from his own fame. Taking a much needed holiday, Doyle flees to a picturesque village in Switzerland nestled beneath the imposing Reichenbach Falls. There he hopes to find anonymity, but even in this beautiful rural setting, peace eludes him when he finds himself immediately recognized by a fan who pressures him into looking into the death of a fellow visitor.
All too soon, Doyle’s somewhat unwilling gentle probing into the case begins to cause the finger of suspicion to turn towards him. But can the creator of the famous detective actually do the sleuthing himself? Although able to pen the character of Sherlock, he soon begins to learn he does not share his leading creation’s characteristics, but rather Watson’s. Can the “sidekick” see enough of the picture to solve the case for once?
Sherlock Holmes has fascinated readers ever since he first burst into fiction, over one hundred years ago. In this novel, the first in a trilogy, we meet his author and discover the difficult relationship between them.
I was sent a copy of The Reinchenbach Problem for review, and although the title wouldn't have made it a must read, the topic made it a have-to in my book. This twisty tale full of intrigue and danger is a fictional account of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle getting caught up in a mystery of his own.
The creator of Sherlock Holmes takes to rural Switzerland to sort out his feelings about his larger than life character. His fame, his medical practice and his spiritual seeking created his need to go to a pristine, mountainous area where he could enjoy brisk walks and engage in conversations with friendly locals and other tourists and hopefully hide from the spotlight.
However, as happens in every good story, the plan is changed for Doyle.
Beginning from the second a young man enters Doyle's train compartment and works his awkward self under Doyle's reluctant wing, the good doctor's delightful vacation turns into a cloudy nightmare.
Within hours of his arrival into the pastoral refuge there is a horrible death with the shadow of unanswered questions hanging over it. And, on top of that, Doyle is known by the other tourists. One hands the author a book that he's written and expects that it will change Doyle's life, another needs a little marriage counseling. Then there is the character of Sherlock Holmes…is there a spirit of Sherlock? A seance is suggested, just for the fun of possibly meeting the real Sherlock.
Things spiral out of control, so much so, that the suspicious death seems connected to Arthur Conan Doyle.
Can the creator of the world's most brilliant and quirky detective solve a case without Sherlock's help? And can he do it in time to save his own neck?
I really enjoyed this read. Set in the early 1900's/late 1800's the language is formal and slightly foreign which adds all the more to the story. Readers who get frustrated by prose with heavy vocabulary might find that a deal breaker, but those who love a meaty read should find the prose very satisfactory. And speaking of prose, there are some beautiful paragraphs, the writing is a delight to read. I appreciate a slower moving story that takes time to paint a picture, and this novel does that.
But though there is plenty of scenery and introspection, there is also plenty of activity. Unfortunately, I didn't have the luxury of sitting down and reading the novel over several long sessions. I will reread it to see what I didn't pick up in my shorter snippets spread out over several weeks. There were bursts of activity with a few cliff-hanger moments. I did have a few issues with keeping track of the large cast of characters and the last 1/4 of the middle may have gotten a little boggy for me. But those may be issues completely related to my need to set the book down for several days.
I loved that there were little facts about Arthur Conan Doyle's life thrown in and it was interesting to see his struggles with spiritism vs the Catholic religion play out. His personal life played out a little and hinted that he might have a bit of a wandering eye. After reading it I did read a very short bio about Doyle and indeed the author seems to have done his homework.
Overall, if you are a Sherlock Holmes fan this book needs to end up in your to read pile. A great gift idea for friends or family who love a good mystery or Holmes. Did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have a little bit of Sherlock Holmes in his blood? Well, you'll just have to read The Reichenbach Problem to find out.
Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer