Book review - Sherlock Holmes and the Irish Rebels

This is the second book by Kieran McMullen following Watson’s Afghan Adventure. His first book told the story of Watson’s experiences in Afghanistan before he met Sherlock Holmes. As a result it was very much Watson’s story with Holmes only briefly appearing at the beginning and end of the book.

On this occasion McMullen has jumped to the other end of the famous duo’s relationship. His story picks up from where Conan Doyle’s His Last Bow left off. Holmes has changed from a private detective into a fully fledged spy and, still in the guise of Altamont, he is now in Ireland and doing his best to disrupt the 1916 Easter uprising against British rule. Watson is sent to join Holmes by Mycroft and the two men infiltrate the rebel ranks in their attempt to upset the revolutionary plans.

As you may have guessed, this is very far from a traditional Holmes story. Although there is a conventional crime buried in all the revolutionary action, Holmes does not get the opportunity to spend time indulging in investigations or deductions. In fact this is really an out and out espionage thriller. As such it may not be for you if the traditional Holmes adventure is what you crave.

The action takes place in a surprisingly small number of locations. In the first two-thirds of the book the majority of scenes take place either at the government headquarters, the rebel headquarters or Holmes and Watson’s lodgings. Once the uprising begins the number of locations expands. This small number of locations might appear to make for a dull story but in fact it does not and actually aids you in keeping on top of how events are proceeding.

McMullen shows his grasp of history by filling his pages with many real figures from Irish history. Famous names like Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera are joined by other lesser known figures. Actually that’s not fair. To someone living in Ireland many of the names will probably be familiar but to someone, like me, who is only partly acquainted with those events, Collins and de Valera are naturally the ones who stand out.

The book moves at a good pace and I was certainly never bored. I cannot comment on the historical accuracy as I lack familiarity with this period in Irish history but it certainly feels authentic.

Away from the plot itself there are issues. As with his previous effort, McMullen’s book suffers from a number of typographical errors. The occasional spelling error rears its head and there are cases of the wrong word being used in a sentence. For example, on one occasion a character elects to keep his ‘council’ when it should, of course, be ‘counsel’. A competent editor would have easily sorted these out and I strongly advise McMullen to avail himself of an editor’s services when it comes to book three.

The odd Americanism rears its head too with McMullen referring to a “pant” leg. Bearing in mind that he is American you might think this acceptable but given that he is supposedly writing as Watson he really needs to use British terminology. In this case it really should have been “trouser” leg.

McMullen also makes use of a number of footnotes to explain terms during the story. In a good many cases I don’t think they were necessary. He could have avoided a lot of the terms that needed explanation by using more generic words. It comes across in places as if he is trying to prove a little too hard that he has done his research. I would also say that footnotes should really be confined to non-fiction works. In a novel they are just a distraction from the plot.

In summary, this is a good story that is easy to follow despite the complex historical events it is portraying and the sheer number of characters taking part. It flows better than Watson’s Afghan Adventure and a number of the former book’s cosmetic issues have been sorted out for this adventure.

While McMullen really should avail himself of an editor familiar with British English for his next outing his second adventure is well worth the read.

1 comment:

  1. Always a pleasure to meet an esteemed Sherlockian :)

    Nice review of the pastiche. I need to check this one out. I liked "The House of Silk" by Anthony Horowitz and am reading "Holmes on the Range" right now.