I sit here with a text of The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes on one side of my desk, and Martin Allison Booth’s The Reichenbach Problem on my desk. It should be obvious that the latter is utterly dependent on the former for its existence, not only for plot and inspiration, but in the case of genre and popularity.
I will certainly not endeavor to delve into all of the eccentricities of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, though I will point the reader to Jim Weiss’ excellent retelling of Holmes’ stories. As a side note, I first heard Jim Weiss as a storyteller recounting the biography of both Doyle and Holmes. Masterful.
Let us turn attention, instead, to Booth’s The Reichenbach Problem. Booth’s work is an attempt to capture the magic of the Holmes stories by taking a different approach. Rather than rewriting Sherlock or adding to Sir Arthur’s work, The Reichenbach Problem puts the mystery into the hands of one exhausted author, the creator of Holmes, Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle.
I would speak of the negative first. This is the first in a proposed trilogy, and so tries exceedingly hard to build up the potential for the next two while also creating a story line that can be resolved within 369 pages. It is almost too much to try and build the backstory of Doyle, excuse his frustration with Holmes, and solve the mystery. This leads to parts of the work feeling underdeveloped. I would reserve final judgment until the whole series is produced. While as a stand-alone, this might be a 3-star book, a good series would pull it to 4. Likewise, a bad follow-up would pull it down.
Now, the positives. First of all, while there is some spirituality to the book, Booth has done well in The Reichenbach Problem to not Christianize Doyle, who was, based on my understanding, certainly not a believer. I like this: it shows a willingness to work with a character as he is, not as we wish he would be.
Second, I like the development of Doyle into understanding he is not the genius that Holmes is. Booth’s Doyle sees what I have wondered: that Dr. Conan Doyle wrote himself into the Holmes stories as the doctor. He is Watson. Holmes is something greater, more ideal.
I also enjoyed the idea of a man aggravated by his own success. Conan Doyle wrote many other works besides the Holmes stories, yet the Royal Mail still delivers to 221 B Baker Street, even to this day. The obvious affection for Holmes grates on the Conan Doyle of The Reichenbach Problem, and this makes the odd gentleman of history a little more real.
This was a fun read. It is not as complex of a mystery as some of the actual Sherlock Holmes tales, but The Reichenbach Problem remains a worthwhile diversion. I cannot help but wonder, though, if Booth will remind us that it is at Reichenbach Falls that Sir Arthur first killed Holmes…
Note: Kregel Publishers, on behalf of Lion Fiction, sent me this book to review. No monetary compensation was given, nor is any control exercised over the content of this review.
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