Holmes and a hunter: two books reread

I first read EXIT SHERLOCK HOLMES by Robert Lee Hall back at Oberlin and loved it; rereading, I still loved it. It’s 1903, Moriarty has returned and Holmes disappears to work against him (his “retirement” to Sussex is a cover story). Watson, inevitably, gets drawn into the struggle, and finds himself with questions — like why didn’t Holmes ever mention Moriarty was an identical lookalike? Why does Holmes have a secret lab in the basement of 221B Baker Street? Why did Holmes tell so little of his past? With the help of the grown-up Baker Street Iregular Wiggins, Watson realizes that to stop Moriarty, he’ll first have to find out the truth about Sherlock Holmes.

This is very much a fan’s book, judging by Hall weighing on some of the debates of Holmesians over the years (who was Watson’s second wife? Did Holmes have a thing for Irene Adler?) and giving Mrs. Hudson some backstory. It’s also very enjoyable, though it’s annoying Watson doesn’t get to do more detective work; Hall keeps him as loyal sidekick and lets Wiggins do most of the deducing. I also have a couple of reservations about the big reveal, but nothing that’s a deal-breaker.

Y/A author Lisa J. Smith is probably best known for the original Vampire Diaries trilogy and for the final book in her Night World series never coming out (it was imminent when I finished rereading the series back in 2012). Her best work, however, is THE FORBIDDEN GAME trilogy, which kicks off with The Hunter. Protagonist Jenny buys a board game for her party from Julian, a creepy but sexy salesclerk in a strange store. The game involves moving your pieces through a haunted house where you face your own nightmares — and isn’t that cute, when you start all the players have to swear that they’re staking their very lives on the outcome. Isn’t that funny?

One of the things I love about this is that the nightmares get so weird. So many “face your worst fear” stories make the fears a logical outgrowth of the characters’ personalities and in my experience, they tend to be much more random. Here we have one character with a nightmare that her messy room is a thousand times more filthy, the only way out is to dig through the piles of crap between her and the door. And when you do, it disturbs the roaches … Like Exit Sherlock Holmes, this lives up to my memories.

I read a bit more than these two but I attended Mysticon this weekend (details to follow) and didn’t bring my computer so I had to write this up before I left.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jordi Penalva, all rights remain with current holder.

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