Something you should know about me: I am a fan of pretty much anything Sherlock Holmes. When I came across The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall, I needed to read it. I just can’t resist a good Sherlock retelling (in any form). Bonus: this one features a female “Sherlock” character and some really great LGBTQ+ representation. So, perfect for Pride Month!
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) In this charming, witty, and weird fantasy novel, Alexis Hall pays homage to Sherlock Holmes with a new twist on those renowned characters.
Upon returning to the city of Khelathra-Ven after five years fighting a war in another universe, Captain John Wyndham finds himself looking for somewhere to live, and expediency forces him to take lodgings at 221b Martyrs Walk. His new housemate is Ms. Shaharazad Haas, a consulting sorceress of mercurial temperament and dark reputation.
When Ms. Haas is enlisted to solve a case of blackmail against one of her former lovers, Miss Eirene Viola, Captain Wyndham finds himself drawn into a mystery that leads him from the salons of the literary set to the drowned back-alleys of Ven and even to a prison cell in lost Carcosa. Along the way he is beset by criminals, menaced by pirates, molested by vampires, almost devoured by mad gods, and called upon to punch a shark.
But the further the companions go in pursuit of the elusive blackmailer, the more impossible the case appears. Then again, in Khelathra-Ven reality is flexible, and the impossible is Ms. Haas’ stock-in-trade.
The Affair of the Mysterious Letter is a really fun novel. Some of my favorite Sherlock Holmes retellings are those with a bit of a fantasy elements. I think it makes them different enough from the original that they can stand apart, and this book definitely does that. I think my favorite part of this novel is actually the writing. It drew me in quickly, and was so much fun to read. Hall creates a great atmosphere that lends itself brilliantly to the story. It was worth reading for that alone.
I also loved that the character based on Sherlock was female. I’m always here for an intelligent female character. The fact she’s a sorceress was just a bonus. I also really enjoyed the LGBTQ+ rep. I thought it was done well in the context of the story. I’m a huge fan of when a cast of characters accurately reflects human diversity, especially within a fantasy novel. That said, I just didn’t love the characters as much as I wanted to. There wasn’t anything in particular I didn’t like, they just didn’t speak to me that much.
While the plot was incredibly creative and fun, I also struggled to get into it at some times. Honestly, I don’t really understand why, because the writing was great. It was a little heavy-handed with the references (it was a little distracting), but it wasn’t something I disliked, per se. There’s just something I can’t put my finger on that kept me from being completely absorbed in this book. But I can definitely see how a lot of people will fall in love with this novel.
★★★☆☆ – I might not have loved The Affair of the Mysterious Letter as much as I wanted to, but I did really enjoy it! And I think a lot of you will, too. If – like me – you like weird fantasy or Sherlock Holmes retellings, I would definitely recommend checking this one out.
The Affair of the Mysterious Letter will be available in bookstores June 18. If you’re interested, you can order a copy on Amazon now.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose The Affair of the Mysterious Letter as one of your two free books.
This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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Also check out my review of the Jackaby series by William Ritter – another great Sherlock retelling!