Friday, October 18, 2013

Review: The Reichenbach Problem by Martin Allison Booth

Sherlock Holmes is the world's greatest (fictional) detective of his time, but can his creator Arthur Conan Doyle solve mysteries?  What if his life depended on solving the mystery and clearing his name?  That's the premise of The Reichenbach Problem by Martin Allison Booth.

Doyle has grown weary of being recognized everywhere he goes, so he escapes to Switzerland for a respite. Unfortunately, he is joined on the train by a fan who ruins his chances of anonymity. If that were his only problem, however, he still could have had a relaxing holiday.  Instead, a fellow traveler dies and Doyle is pushed into investigating it. Soon, he discovers that he is the primary suspect and he MUST solve the case in order to protect himself.

My Thoughts:
I wanted to like this book more than I did.  I enjoy reading mysteries or other books where my favorite authors are placed as the protagonists.  Maybe the problem is that I am not a big Sherlock Holmes fan.  I haven't read one of  Doyle's books, though I have enjoyed several Holmes movies (both modern and older).  I never grew to sympathize with the character of Doyle in this book very much.  I did dislike Holloway (the annoying fan) but I wasn't as invested in rooting for Doyle as I should have been.  He just seemed too remote, too cerebral, and too self-absorbed for me to connect with.  I suppose he is the typical stereotype of an English gentleman doctor of that era, though. 

The beginning of the story is slow moving with lots of walks in the Swiss mountains and the village.  Doyle meets many different people, eats, smokes his pipe, and thinks.  His actions are detailed so carefully that I often was surprised that it was only lunch time in the story.  That didn't really improve once he began to work the case, because then there were pages of him thinking - in his room, as he walked, as he hid (later in the book).  I often found those passages tedious and skimmed them. 

Two-thirds of the way into the book, it began to move more quickly, and held my attention better.  Though one aspect of Doyle's escape from pursuit left me a little skeptical.  It seemed too easy and implausible, and for once the story skimmed right over it instead of giving us the blow-by-blow.  If more detail had been given, making it seem harder, it would have been more believable. The struggle just suddenly was over, in a stroke of apparent pure luck.

The mystery itself was good, and the solution was a surprise in the end. The characters I had been led to suspect weren't actually involved. I just didn't enjoy the first person narrative style, with so much detail of Doyle's thoughts and actions spelled out minutely.  I guess most of the mysteries I read are written from a third person point of view. 

I was surprised that this book wasn't as overtly Christian as I expected. (Though I have said that about several recent books written by British authors and published through Kregel over the past two years.  Their style of Christian fiction is different from American authors.) To be honest, Doyle no longer believes in Christianity or the church.  He is, however, willing to rationally consider whether or not spiritualism is real.  This book does include a seance, for those who wish to avoid that, and one character believes he has been endowed with the spirit of the fictional Sherlock Holmes.  Doyle does engage in a few spiritual conversations with a Franciscan monk who meets Doyle right where he is and accepts his doubts without seeming shocked.  He seems to be slowly turning Doyle's mind back to God and planting seeds that might grow in future stories.

Although I personally found the book slow-moving and I didn't really connect with Doyle as much as I hoped to, I will look forward to reading more books by Martin Allison Booth starring Arthur Conan Doyle.  Maybe now that I'm used to the style, I'll find it easier to read the next one.  Even though it seems like I've shared negative things about the book, I did enjoy the mystery of  The Reichenbach Problem.  It just wasn't as fast, easy, or enthralling of a book as I usually read.

This book is published by Lion Fiction and distributed by Kregel Publications .  I was given a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.  All thoughts contained in this review are my own.  No further compensation was given.

April E.

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