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.

Post-Post-Modern Holmes

Sherlock New Pic

This past weekend brought a strange and wonderful gift to fans of Sherlock Holmes, the first clip of Sherlock’s Christmas Special, an episode set entirely in the Victorian period.

Click here to see it.

Most reactions to the footage that I’ve encountered have been positive, including my own. There’s something charming about seeing the versions of Holmes, Watson, and Mrs. Hudson that we’ve come to love in the modern era suddenly swanning about in Victorian London.

But there’s something weird about it, too. Suddenly, it’s not 2015 Sherlock Holmes who feels like the AU of a Victorian original; it’s Victorian Holmes who feels like a period AU of a modern character. I realize I’m getting very meta here, but I’m trying to describe the slightly strange feeling I had when the clip came out. For once, I think, I had the experience of fans who met Holmes first in the BBC version (or Elementary) and then went back and met the original.

I’d like to say I gleaned a whole bunch of Sherlockian wisdom from this, but I really didn’t. What sticks out to me is the overarching truth that Holmes is a character universal in time and place. It really doesn’t matter where you put him; he’s still Holmes. I sometimes wonder exactly where we might be headed with him, now that the “Holmes renaissance” is giving way to something else–an era where Holmes mania is less of a fad but more of a cultural staple. I’m not very worried, though. What Benedict Cumberbatch in a deerstalker reminded me of this weekend is the fact that Holmes isn’t going anywhere, and he’s not changing into a different person. As he once said about his friend John Watson, he’s a fixed point, no matter how much the age around him changes.

Oh, and I can’t wait for Christmas.

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.

Being Watson: Appreciating the Genius of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Jude Law Watson

This past Saturday, I finished writing a story I’ve been working on for several weeks, a Sherlock Holmes short story that will become part of an anthology to be published later this year. The challenge of the project is that the stories have to be completely traditional mysteries in Watson’s voice.

For those who may be unfamiliar with my books, Watson’s voice is not something I normally write, In fact, I never write it. My novels, while traditional in setting and characters and running alongside the canon, include the perspectives of Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes. Watson appears as a character, but his perspective isn’t the focus.

I took on the anthology project as a personal challenge, something new to build my authorial muscles. I did it; I wrote a completely traditional Sherlock Holmes mystery in Dr. Watson’s voice; those who have read it for editing purposes have enjoyed it, and I’m excited to share it with lovers of traditional stories.

I’m still wiping the sweat from my weary brow. The story took me longer to write and was far more difficult than I ever would have expected. Ultimately, I gained a new perspective on the challenges that traditional story writers face and a new appreciation for the incomparable Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

FreeWatson

Here are some reasons why:

1) The Narrator versus the Main Character Issue–There’s a reason that Sherlock Holmes famously says he would be lost without his Boswell. Like Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson, the Holmes stories are about the man in the name, not the narrator (though, of course, both are also about a relationship). Normally, when I’m writing my own books, I know that I will periodically reach a section where I can explore Holmes’s point of view. Writing as Watson, I was limited both in what Watson knows and what Holmes is allowed to show. I found myself, at times, needing to excise Watson inserting his thoughts where Doyle’s Watson never would have. I also found that I had to be careful not to have Holmes be overly obvious about what he knows before it would be logical for him to do so, since his point of view is not a direct part of the narrative.

2) The Secondhand Discovery Issue–Sometimes, both in the original stories and in the ones that come after them, Holmes and Watson make a discovery at the same time. Often, however, Watson is the secondhand discoverer of information Holmes already knows. This makes the pacing and plotting of a traditional story an intricate exercise in keeping things straight. Watson needs to be writing about the actions of a man who is often at least a few steps ahead of him, while maintaining the integrity of his own knowledge level. In other words, a huge part of what makes traditional stories interesting is that Holmes and Watson don’t have the same brain, and they are not usually able to have long conversations about exactly what Holmes knows the moment he knows it. As a result, for a writer, this means maintaining a narrative voice that is in a slightly different place in the story than the man he’s constantly writing about.

3) The Watson is No Idiot Issue–John Watson is not stupid. This is a fact, borne out by his actions in many of Doyle’s stories. He is, however, not the deductive reasoning expert that Sherlock Holmes is. As a result, barring unusual situations, he needs to be firmly in the dark about certain facts that are relatively easy for Holmes to grasp. For a writer, this means having to think like Sherlock Holmes. Stay with me for a second. What I mean is this: if a writer writes a deduction for Holmes that is overly simple, but Watson doesn’t get it automatically, Watson looks stupid, which is a bad result. In order for Watson to take his rightful place as audience stand-in and conductor of light, his deductive abilities need to look average compared to Holmes’s abilities seeming brilliant. This means the writer of a traditional Holmes story has the burden of coming up with something brilliant enough to seem like an average person wouldn’t get it right away. This is a lot harder than it sounds. Ask me how I know…

The above are just a few of the challenges inherent in writing the traditional Holmes and Watson dynamic of the original Sherlock Holmes canon. My own attempts to navigate them made me marvel, in a totally new way, at how easy Doyle made it look. That’s the true mark of genius, isn’t it?


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.