App Review–Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus

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Ladies, Gentleman, and Airship Captains, grab your iPads! I hardly know where to begin this review, so brimful am I with Holmesian, Steampunk, geekish glee.

Several months ago, I had a chance to help my fellow Baker Street Babes interview members of the Steampunk Holmes team about their new venture, a series of Sherlock Holmes pastiches set in an alternative Steampunk universe. More than that, they tantalized us with tales of a world beyond the page, a fully interactive app experience with unique artwork, music, audio drama, and design.

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At the time, I purchased the text-only version of Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus, which was the inaugural story written by P.C. Martin. I was blown away. Far from being a gimmick, the Steampunk elements were an integral part of a beautiful story. During our interview, P.C. shared with the Babes her painstaking process of assimilating the narrative voice of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Her success is a crucial aspect of the success of this project, because a story that places Holmes, Watson, and others from their world into a Steampunk universe needs to feel authentically Holmesian, or else there just wouldn’t be enough of a link to the original stories to call this a Sherlock Holmes series. Thankfully, P.C. more than attained her goal.

Now we come to the issue of apps. Sherlock Holmes has had a presence in the world of technology for some time, starring in eBooks, games, and applications. When I first purchased an iPad, I eagerly searched the iTunes store for anything related to the detective. My search came up more depressing than empty, and I ended up with a supposedly-interactive version of a Holmes story that was ugly, had few features, and couldn’t keep up with my reading speed. In other words, I felt a mighty need for a Sherlock Holmes app that actually utilized the features offered by the tablet in the service of uniquely Holmesian content.

This week, my wish was granted, with my acquisition of the brand new Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus iPad app, which is just as whimsical, beautiful, and engaging as its creators promised.

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Why should you purchase this app?

  • The artwork is stunning. Artist Daniel Cortes has created a design style that is echoed throughout the app and feels delightfully old and delightfully new at the same time, as Steampunk should. The inclusion of clickable links throughout the text that bring up pictures of items and characters is particularly enjoyable.
  • The musical soundtrack is neither to little nor too much. Steampunk musical act Abney Park has created (optional) background accompaniment that complements the narrative without being overly obtrusive.
  • The audio performance is its own unique experience. The professionalism of the voice acting elevates the audio option from a simple add-on to a whole other world.
  • The update of Mycroft Holmes is, well, something you have to experience for yourself, and it’s ideal for an alternate Steampunk universe.
  • The story itself, in addition to being well-told, has strong ties to one of the original Sherlock Holmes stories. I’ll let you discover which one for yourself.

Simply put, Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus is a feast for the eyes and ears of fans of Sherlock Holmes, Steampunk, or both. It ups the ante of Holmes-themed applications, while at the same time providing a central story that is engaging and suspenseful. Truly a can’t-miss, and one that leaves me longing for more titles to be added to the series as soon as possible.

To purchase the application, visit the iTunes store.

Purchase the story in print or as an ebook..

Check out the Steampunk Holmes website.

Follow @SteamHolmes on Twitter for updates about future stories in the series.

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A copy of the Steampunk Holmes application was provided for consideration by its creators. The opinions expressed are the reviewer’s own.

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.

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.

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Winking Tree Mood Board

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Click here to check out the Pinterest board for my second Sherlock Holmes novel, including fantasy casting and other fun things.

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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.

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.

Canon Thursday: Studying Molly Hooper

This week’s character study is a true labor of love, an exploration of Molly Hooper, who is played brilliantly by Louise Brealey. Like the other studies, this one was written before Sherlock’s second series, but in this case, I’ve added a postscript because I couldn’t bear to ignore the brilliant way Molly’s character evolved and grew in Series 2.

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Deducing Molly: A Character Study

Long, straight hair, lipstick that comes and goes, and an ironically macabre career—exploring unassuming Molly Hooper is a journey that starts with specific stories framed by the creators of the BBC’s Sherlock, finds its anchor in the Sherlock Holmes canon as a whole, and winds up the wider genre of procedural mysteries. She may seem unimportant at first, but Molly’s character is far from insignificant.

Molly in Sherlock

At the beginning of A Study in Pink, Molly Hooper is first introduced as a contrast to and amplifier of Sherlock’s character. His abrupt, almost alien behavior as he flogs a corpse and fails to notice any normal social signals is contrasted sharply with Molly’s slight attempt at humor and shy flirtation. She immediately gives the viewer a window into the detective’s differences from the rest of the world—a world where a woman’s attempt to impress a man with lipstick would be appreciated at best and ignored at worst. In Sherlock’s world, however, facts come first, no matter what, even when it comes to the size of a woman’s mouth. At the same time, Molly shows herself to be more persevering than one might expect, since she doesn’t give up on Sherlock.

In The Blind Banker, Molly again amplifies Sherlock’s character, this time helping to show that he is not always quite as socially oblivious as one might expect and not above cashing in on relationships to get what he wants. His blatant flirting with her in the cafeteria line not only works on a general level by capturing her attention and flattering her (a certain amount of investment in the relationship for the future), but it also leads to an immediate look at a body that he needs to see in order to complete his investigation. Though Molly appears to be completely under Sherlock’s spell in this instance, readers of her blog, which is produced by the BBC and considered to be part of Sherlock canon, will have encountered the following quote:

“Oh, and Sherlock came in again tonight. And he was his usual arrogant self! And he was blatantly flirting with me and I know he’s doing it and I should tell him to stop but I don’t! And, of course, he was only doing it so I’d help him with something. As soon as he got what he wanted, he was off.”

Molly may intermittently act as Sherlock’s dupe, but she’s not an entirely oblivious victim.

Along with other major arcs of the series, Molly’s story comes to a head in The Great Game, when she is shown to be the unwitting pawn of two extremely clever men, neither of whom is terribly scrupulous about using her for his own ends. Sherlock once again hurts her by abruptly pointing out that her boyfriend is gay, though his offensiveness is apparently unintentional in this case. Jim’s use of her is far colder and more sinister, as she becomes a part of his deadly game.

The cliffhanger at the end of the series leaves Molly hanging as much as the other characters—a woman with a preference for two men who use her, but at the same time a competent career woman who isn’t as gullible as she seems.

Molly and the Holmes Canon

Virtually every incarnation of Sherlock Holmes shares the common characteristic of willingness to use innocent people to accomplish his own ends, and the BBC version expresses this quality no more ruthlessly than his original predecessor. One of the most famous and most discussed canon examples occurs in Conan Doyle’s story The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, in which Holmes disguises himself as a laborer and becomes engaged to a housemaid in order to find out information about a case.

John Watson is horrified by his flatmate’s behavior and remonstrates with him, but instead of expressing remorse, Holmes remarks that he expects the girl to find ample consolation in the arms of another suitor. Similarly, in The Great Game, John is the one who indignantly criticizes Sherlock for his callousness toward Molly. In both cases, Sherlock does not appear to be actively malicious in his intent; nevertheless, his willingness to treat individuals as means appears almost limitless.

Most of Sherlock’s flaws—such as pipe smoking, drug use, and some aspects of his sociopathy—have been portrayed as glamorous and attractive in various books and films, to the point that in many cases, they have become like backhanded strengths. His selfish, borderline-exploitation of other people, as exemplified in his treatment of Molly, however, is impossible to glamorize.

In simple terms, Molly shows the viewer an ugly side of Sherlock, one that is absolutely necessary to the character. Without true flaws, Sherlock Holmes is a caricature—an impossibly heroic genius who is good at everything and even successfully controls his vices. Molly’s frequent presence on the show is a reminder that the world’s only consulting detective can be selfish, thoughtless, and occasionally cruel. He may be a hero, but he is also an anti-hero, a duality that makes him one of the most intriguing characters in the world.

Molly and the Mystery Genre

The concept of flawed heroes runs through all of literature, film, and television, but mystery novels and shows have made the concept of the heroic antihero an art form. Larger-than-life detectives bring larger-than-life vices to the cases they solve. Dr. House has his Vicodin, Flavia de Luce her vindictiveness, Adrian Monk his obsessive compulsions. Arguably, most of these characters are the descendents of Sherlock Holmes, attempts by authors to capture the complex interplay of light and dark that makes up Conan Doyle’s hero. The creators of the BBC’s Sherlock have seen fit to soften their hero’s smoking habit and take away his drug use almost entirely. Molly is essential to the show because she highlights what makes Sherlock so very imperfect—his frequent lack of understanding of people or concern for them. The things she amplifies in him make him a reflection not only of Conan Doyle’s original source, but also of the mystery genre as a whole, a gray-shaded world of flawed heroes.

And yet, there’s something a little bit different about Molly Hooper, a little bit independent, a little bit unwilling to give up, something in her that might even surprise Sherlock Holmes some day.

Postscript: Molly in Series 2

I’ve left most of these character studies as they originally were, but the revelation of Molly’s true importance in Sherlock’s second series, particularly throughout The Reichenbach Fall, certainly met and then exceeded fans’ expectations. The part she played in Holmes’s master plan has yet to be fully explained, but it’s clear that by the end of the story, Sherlock considers her a major ally and confidante.

Previously, Molly’s humiliation at the Christmas party in A Scandal in Belgravia had revealed an unexpectedly contrite, even sweet, side of the detective. Later on, her perceptiveness regarding Holmes’s true mental state (“You look sad when you think he can’t see you”) helped him to understand her value. Finally, in the end, when even Watson had to be deceived, Holmes looked to her for help.

In the first series of Sherlock, Molly was a humorous character with a great deal of potential. In the subsequent series, she revealed her true nature as a multi-faceted, faithful, and intelligent friend. Her future in the series is certainly something to anticipate.

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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.

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.

Canon Thursday: Studying Sally Donovan

This week’s character study takes the subject of an antagonist, Scotland Yard’s Sally Donovan. Even though Sally is not a direct adaptation from the Holmes canon, she is a representation of canon concepts. As with last week’s study, this one was written before Sherlock’s second series aired.

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Deducing Sally: A Character Study

Sherlock Holmes is a polarizing figure, no matter when or where he appears. Some, like John Watson and Mrs. Hudson, learn to accept and even love Sherlock for his brilliance and eccentricity and in spite of his frequent coldness and lack of expressed emotional sensitivity. Others, found in every incarnation of Holmes’s world, dislike and oppose him, arguably a more normal and expected response to some of his behavior. These characters are not villains or heroes on a grand scale. They are Sherlock’s everyday irritants, the wrenches in the works of The Game. One such character is Sergeant Sally Donovan of Scotland Yard, a skilled, cynical police officer with a personal vendetta against her boss’s favorite secret weapon. The following sections will evaluate her character in detail.

Meeting Sally

Sally is one of the very first characters introduced in A Study in Pink, and she appears in her professional capacity as Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard’s right-hand officer. The immediate implications are clear: Sally is almost certainly skilled, intelligent, and upwardly mobile, or she would not have reached her position at her age. Her frustration with Sherlock Holmes is also made clear very quickly because of her negative reaction to his text-message disruptions of Scotland Yard’s press conference. Lestrade is bemused, but Sally is angry, a difference that carries throughout the series.

As the story continues, Sherlock shows Sally and forensic specialist Anderson an uncharacteristic level of animosity when they oppose his work at the LauristonGardens crime scene. Sherlock is dismissive of most people, but he takes the time to verbalize his deductions about the affair between Sally and Anderson and is obviously aware of the discomfort it causes them. Anderson’s embarrassment is apparent, and he seems to know that he cannot compete with Sherlock’s mind, so he seethes internally. Sally, on the other hand, seems resigned to Sherlock’s barbs, angry, but also cynical, as if she expects nothing else from him. The dynamics of this encounter are worth noting because they indicate a negative prior history between the characters.

Sally acts out her dislike for Sherlock when she becomes part of the drug bust Lestrade uses to blackmail him in A Study in Pink. She forms part of the group Lestrade wryly calls “very keen” to implicate Sherlock in illegal activities. Again, a contrast can be seen between her overt distaste for Sherlock and Lestrade’s more cordial feelings. For Sally, the bust is clearly an attempt to get back at Sherlock for everything she hates about him. For Lestrade, it is a tool to nudge cooperation from an asset he admires but cannot figure out how to motivate.

Through A Study in Pink and The Great Game, Sally turns most of her attention to John Watson and tries to dissuade him from trusting or forming a close friendship with Sherlock. She tells him that Sherlock “gets off on” murder and calls him a psychopath who will some day be responsible for a murder himself. Later, as she sees John’s involvement increasing, she again tries to convince him to abandon the relationship. Her motives for her repeated warnings seem mixed and are not completely clear. Perhaps she wants to hurt Sherlock by ruining his one real friendship; perhaps she feels some genuine concern for John; perhaps she sees herself in John and wants to spare him the angry disillusionment with Sherlock she herself seems to have experienced in the past. Whatever her full motivations, Sally acts as a constant, unavoidable antagonist in Sherlock’s life, a woman who is unwilling to be impressed with his abilities no matter how impressive they are shown to be and who opposes him personally and professionally as much as possible, even to the point of trying to drive a wedge between him and his flatmate.

Meaning of the Role

Fans of the BBC’s Sherlock find themselves divided in their opinions of Sally, with some liking and admiring her character’s unwillingness to accept Sherlock’s rudeness and others deploring her inability to see his brilliance. Either way, Sally is an inescapable part of the first series and serves several purposes. This section will look at her character in three ways: Sally as a composite, Sally as a contrast, and Sally as a window into Sherlock.

First, Sally serves as a composite of several Holmes canon characters. Many different stories feature minor antagonists to Sherlock, unconvinced law enforcement officers and others who dislike his methods and do not believe in his brilliance. At times, Inspector Lestrade is one of these. The creators of Sherlock chose to focus on a different side of Lestrade, the more supportive and paternal side that leads him to become Sherlock’s ally and even, at times, to act as his friend. As a result, they were left with an opening in an area that is almost always filled in Conan Doyle’s stories, the role of the irritant who should be on Sherlock’s side but chooses to oppose him instead. Rather than inventing a series of forgettable characters to fill this position, the Sherlock team chose to create Sally, a recurring character with an unexplained history of antagonism toward Sherlock and an insatiable appetite for insulting him. Sally may not be a popular character, but she is a strong, capable, and believable update of a canon concept.

Second, Sally serves as an accessible contrast between the world’s conventional view of Sherlock and John’s unrelenting friendship. Theoretically, from observing Sherlock’s behavior, viewers can easily surmise that he would be likely to engender dislike in a great number of people. Sally is a specific example of how virulent this dislike can be, and her responses are not difficult to understand. The idea that Sally has formed a low opinion of a man who is constantly rude, abrupt, and arrogant is logical and believable. This is why her behavior provides a wonderful counterpoint to John’s. In the face of extremely eccentric and sometimes sociopathic behavior, John is the anti-Sally, the friend who continues to care for Sherlock no matter what the world thinks. Having Sally as a physical example of the opposite view makes John’s behavior seem all the more poignant.

Finally, Sally provides a window into Sherlock himself through the responses she provokes from him. As referenced above, Sherlock’s response to most people is to dismiss them without a great deal of thought. In Sally’s case, however, he behaves with actual antagonism in response to hers. His behavior can be interpreted in several ways, but some of his reactions seem to be the results of genuine pain. As he tells John early in the series, most people cannot stand him because of the knowledge his deductive abilities give him about them. Bank employee Sebastian bears this out in The Blind Banker when he says that none of Sherlock’s university classmates liked him. Sally’s treatment of Sherlock is an extension of the dislike that has followed him all of his life. Instead of coldly shrugging off her antagonism, Sherlock seems to feel the need to defend himself, proving that he capable of being hurt. Without Sally, this dimension of Sherlock’s humanness would be less apparent.

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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.

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.