Plot Summary: When Sherlock Holmes receives an encrypted message from an informer that something bad will soon happen, no one can know that a murder has already been committed. A Mr. Douglas of Birlstone Manor has been found shot dead, but the odd thing is that his wife and best friend seem unphased by it. What might they have to do with the crime? And what does a strange branded symbol on the dead body, a missing dumbbell, and the initials V. V. have in common?
My Book Review: It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a Sherlock Holmes tale. I remember cutting my teeth on classics with Sherlock Holmes when I was in 7th grade, and steadily read several novels and collections of short stories, while also loving the Jeremy Brett adaptations of the world famous fictional detective. No other detective quite compares. It’s hard to remember Sherlock isn’t a real person– he has such personality! Although I am not a big fan of the newest Masterpiece Sherlock tv series, it was sort of fun to now pick up the original stories and read about Holmes with a different interpretative view of him.
I believe this was the last novel I haven’t read in the series, so I wanted to make my list complete. One thing that made the story interesting was for it to be told backwards. We are given the mystery and Holmes’ solving of it in Part I, and then we are taken back in time 20 years earlier and told a story in an entirely different setting. At first it is hard to figure out how these events and people are connected with the murder at Birlstone. Some readers may not like this for the main fact that the second half of the book excludes Sherlock Holmes. But for me this method of storytelling kept things interesting and it kept me guessing back and forth! Doyle must have had some sort of fascination with American secret societies, as it reminded me a lot of A Study in Scarlet and The Five Orange Pips.
I began the novel chuckling; a surprise twist at the ending, and an unpredictable epilogue did not disappoint. I love that it leaves you with an unsettled feeling that makes you craving the next installment in the Sherlock tales. If you are in for an exciting ride full of intrigue and suspense, this one is certainly for you!
You can easily read the book for free here.