Friday, May 29, 2009
Review: Dust and Shadow, by Lyndsay Faye
I admit that I thought I was going to hate this book. But I was actually quite surprised—and in a good way.
Narrated by Dr. John Watson, the story follows the adventures of Sherlock Holmes as he tries to solve the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888. It’s basically a what-if mystery, and provides a solution, albeit fictional, to a mystery that people have been trying to solve for 125 years.
I liked this mystery. I’d originally thought that this kind of pastiche would be hokey, but it’s not. I’m not completely familiar with the Ripper case, so I was excited to read a fictional account of it. The author provides an interesting solution to the murders, and Holmes and Watson are believable and conform with those created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Even the characters (such as Mary Ann Monk) that Faye’s created herself are very fleshed out. It’s clear that the author knows quite a lot about Sherlock Holmes (though there was one place in the novel where I questioned that Holmes wouldn’t know the location of a particular opium den). In Doyle’s version, Holmes has contempt for the less-than-average intellect of Lestrade; but in Faye’s novel, Lestrade is much smarter than Doyle’s character.
Still, I was satisfied by the resolution of the mystery—and there’s another scene in there that truly gave me goosebumps. In all, this is a highly enjoyable foray into late-19th century London.