Book Review: The Twisted Blackmailer by T.L. Garrison


I’ll admit it: This book had me at the revelation that the high school-aged narrator’s locker was 221A, meaning, of course, that the new girl, Sherlock Holmes, would soon take possession of locker 221B.

Garrison isn’t the first author to craft feminine versions of Holmes and Watson or to write about Holmes’s younger years, but The Twisted Blackmailer is one of the best-written books I’ve encountered in the genre. As you might have tracked from the comment about lockers, the book also takes place in the modern world. Since the advent of modernized Holmes on TV, this isn’t a particularly difficult concept to take on board, particularly since Garrison’s characterizations are spot on.

Canon aficionados might have guessed from the title that the story riffs off Doyle’s Milverton case. This book takes its own twists and turns and is inspired by the original rather than being imprisoned by it.

Particularly enjoyable is Watson’s sardonic practicality and literal narrative style that sometimes seems to reveal more than the narrator intends. That’s a difficult thing to achieve, but Garrison manages it seamlessly.
If you decide to give this book a try, don’t be afraid that you’ll miss the Sherlock Holmes we know and love. Our favorite detective may be a girl in the modern world, but the essential Sherlock Holmes is lovingly present on each page – maddening, endearing, hilarious, and brilliant.
Alternate universes can go terribly wrong or very, very right. Garrison has begun crafting an enjoyable Sherlockian AU that I’ll be excited to visit many times in the future. (Twisted Blackmailer is Book 1 of a planned series.)
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to go to high school with Sherlock Holmes, this is certainly the book for you. If you’re leery of non-traditional approaches, don’t be put off. The Twisted Blackmailer is a beautifully-written book that tells an engaging mystery story involving a Holmes and Watson who are as irresistible a duo as ever, while teasing upcoming mysteries for future stories to solve. Hard to put down, and I’m looking forward to the next one.
Paperback available here

Available for e-purchase here
The above-reviewed work was provided for consideration by the publisher. All opinions expressed are the reviewer’s own.

How to purchase my Sherlock Holmes novels:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

My Friend Holmes

CushingHolmes

For several years now, I’ve been writing regularly about Sherlock Holmes, more than I’ve ever written about anyone else. That means that he (and Irene Adler, the co-protagonist of my novels) lives in my brain in a way that few characters, if any, ever have.

I’m currently in the editing process of my fourth Sherlockian mystery novel, but what many people don’t know is that I wrote the first draft of it while I was undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer. For a while each day, I escaped the pain, fatigue, and depression the drugs caused by jumping into Holmes’s world and walking with him. He was my companion in the cancer center and a friend who helped me through some very dark days.

Fiction matters, and stories are important, not just the heavy, sad ones. Being able to escape to a mental world populated by Adler and Holmes made one of the most difficult times in my life less bleak.

I have a special place in my heart for all of the stories and characters I encountered and enjoyed during my cancer treatments, but Sherlock and Irene dwarf the rest of them because I didn’t just read about them, I also wrote. I forced myself to enter their world by creating, and in so doing, I found a deeper purpose and a satisfying temporary respite from my daily struggles.

I know that nothing I write will ever be perfect. That is the curse and blessing of the author, because it means flawlessness is unattainable, but that, at the same time, improvement is always possible. Still, though I know I can’t reach perfection, I write–because I know how it feels when a story becomes more than just fiction and a character becomes a friend. The chance to offer that to someone else who might need a new world to escape into and an imaginary friend today? That’s a priceless gift.

 

.How to purchase my Sherlock Holmes novels:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Humor in the Detective

I absolutely love this photo, which depicts the immortal William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes in a dramatic mood, while Watson looks, frankly, horrified. I could laugh at it for hours.

Quite honestly, there’s a lot about Sherlock Holmes I could laugh at for hours. One of my biggest discoveries when I re-read the Canon as an adult was a treasure trove of dry humor that had gone over my head as a child.

Recently, my fellow Baker Street Babe, acclaimed author Lyndsay Faye, commented that in her view, one of the surest ways for a Holmes pastiche/fanfiction story to fail is to be over-serious, because that’s simply not the tone Doyle created. Her thoughts made me realize that as a writer and reviewer, I completely agree. I can forgive a lot of things in Holmes stories, and generally, my reading experience is celebratory of the fact that we all have these characters we love that we continue to want to explore. However, I have a lot of trouble with stories that treat Holmes and Watson and their world as humorless; those lose me.

As a writer, all of my Holmes stories are partially tongue-in-cheek, and I’m not sure readers always get the jokes. Author intention vs. reader interpretation is a topic for another time, but rest assured, if you’re ever reading one of my books and something strikes you as funny? It’s absolutely supposed to be.

When it comes down to it, I don’t think I could have sustained this many years of ardent love for these 60 stories if they weren’t funny. People often ask me and other writers why the stories have endured in popularity for so many years. I wouldn’t argue that humor is the only or primary reason, but I think it’s an important one.

So next time your love of Holmes starts to get over-serious, whisper “Norbury” to yourself and get over it😉

(See “The Yellow Face” for context)

.How to purchase my Sherlock Holmes novels:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

 

Holmes for the Holidays

I just finished writing “The Adventure of the Missing Irregular,” a Christmas-themed Holmes story that will be published in the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part 5, a holiday story collection coming out later this year.

When one of Holmes’s Baker Street Irregulars vanishes, Wiggins joins forces with his employer and Dr. Watson in a heartwarming tale perfect for reading by a (fake or real) Christmas fire.

My previous story, “The Adventure of the Traveling Orchestra,” is featured in Part 1 of this collection.

TV Review: Houdini and Doyle


Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle knew each other, and they had a conflict regarding the validity of spiritualism. Houdini and Doyle, the new ITV-produced miniseries, has this friendship at its core. Lest you expect any further historical accuracy than this general framework, however, let me disabuse you of the notion immediately: Houdini and Doyle is not without fun moments, but it is not a historical series in any respect.

The story wastes little time in getting to the heart of the premise, which is an antagonistically-friendly crimesolving partnership between Houdini and Doyle, who set out to solve the murder of a nun—a murder with supposedly-supernatural overtones. An (expectedly) uncooperative Scotland Yard assigns them the third member of their unit—a female officer named Adelaide Stratton. If you are a student of history, this is, well, an issue. The first female police officer was not hired until 1919, when Doyle was nearly 60. This series presents a younger Doyle, who is acutely mourning the loss of his wife Louise, who died in 1906 (without contending, at least initially, with the reality of his second wife, Jean Leckie, with whom he was already deeply in love when Louise died).

I belabored these points early to get the issue of history out of the way: This series is neither realistically accurate to its time nor is it accurate to its characters. It is both anachronistic and as violently murderous of timeline continuity as Doyle himself was in his stories.


However, and it’s a large however, that is not at all to claim that Houdini and Doyle isn’t very, very fun at times. Seen as a work of fanfiction in which characters loosely based on Houdini and Sir Arthur have been placed in a quirky AU world somewhat resembling turn-of-the-century England with equal parts Steampunk silliness, it actually somewhat works. It’s a bit like the world of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films taken to the next level of heightened reality.

Stephen Mangan and Michael Weston do a capable job as the believer Doyle and the skeptic Houdini, respectively, and Rebecca Liddiard plays an eager and self-possessed Stratton. Some of the first episode’s most enjoyable moments exist in the characters’ banter rather than in the solving of the mystery itself, which is fairly standard for a crime series.

 Houdini and Doyle presents some very pretty visuals and an amusing way to spend three quarters of an hour. It’s not exactly memorable, and it’s certainly not a work of historical significance, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth checking out if you enjoy light mystery and entertaining procedurals.

Houdini and Doyle can be viewed on ITV Encore in the UK and will begin airing weekly on May 2nd on Fox in the US.