Synopsis from publisher’s website:
In the spring of 1932 the private detective agency of Messrs. Singleton and Trelawney quietly opens its doors in Bloomsbury.
The first person to call on their services is a worried Lady Arthur Conan Doyle. She tells of mysterious events at 221 Baker Street – and a premonition that the London murders signal terrible danger for mankind.
Their investigation will take our intrepid heroes into a world of séances and spirits. Aided by the most famous detective of all time, they must draw on their knowledge of the imaginary to find the perpetrators of some very real and bloody crimes before they strike again…
In short, I absolutely loved this book. If books could be caricatures, this would be a blended caricature of detective and sensation novels. It takes the most thrilling fundamental aspects of both genres and emphasizes them wonderfully in a slightly comedic manner, which might feel like a parody if it didn‘t feel so much like a loving tribute by the author. So, the first thing I would say to any potential readers looking for a modern Christie or Conan Doyle equivalent, this book is not what you‘re looking for. It is however well worth reading. It’s a mix of crime fiction and supernatural fantasy – essentially imbuing the classic detective novel with an element of the Gothic sensation novel. It is a light, easy read which never takes itself too seriously.
The writing is very engaging, the story inspired by a historical photo and featuring historical figures. It is well enough researched to give it a satisfying level of depth despite it‘s short length- even including fascinating footnotes about Arthur Conan Doyle, his master creation Sherlock Holmes and his other works. Fast-paced and featuring twists at every corner, it is most exciting because neither the reader nor the characters have a minute to pause for breath. All the same, you quickly get a feel for the likeable characters and the narrative is accentuated perfectly by their interesting back-stories. The two main characters, Singleton and Trelawney take a little bit of a back seat to the plot; considering it’s their introduction I thought there might be a bit more time spent with just them, but solid character types are established and I expect they will develop brilliantly in later titles. As previously said, it’s quite a short novel, so it actually works in it’s favour that the author doesn’t get too bogged down in gratuitous detail- there’s plenty of time for development as the series progresses!
I adored the element of the supernatural in this story. The author pays tribute to some of the greatest Gothic literary figures of the Victorian era not only with the classic style of this story, but with their actual inclusion in this novel. As an avid fan of these famous figures I must admit to giggling with delight when I realised who they were. The story is exaggerated, fantastical and darkly humorous at times. It’s also quite original, and I was more than happy to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the supernatural elements. Lastly, I cannot possibly review this book without mentioning: the classic feel of this novel is enhanced by the beautiful cover art, a vintage style which features the effect of faded, bent cover edges. Absolutely perfect for the novel.
Overall, this is a very exciting debut novel, which I think should be enjoyed by fans of crime, mystery, suspense, classic Victorian detective fiction, fantasy, the supernatural – so very many things! A very promising introduction to the Singleton And Trelawney series; I’ll definitely be looking out for more.