Lyndsay Faye braves the legendary waters of both Ripper and Holmes with her imaginative novel, Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson. Let me say right up front that I’m not an aficionado of either genre. However, I enjoy a good historical fiction mystery / thriller. So I was all in for this audiobook!
Told in the classic Arthur Conan Doyle style, Faye writes from Watson’s point of view. Sherlock Holmes has been called in as consulting detective on the gruesome Whitechapel murders. He and Watson employ various methods to information gathering, including the use of people who live and work in Whitechapel.
Chief among these is the fictional Miss Mary Ann Monk, who proves a welcome addition to a testosterone-heavy cast of characters. She’s able to elicit information and gain entry to places in a way that the men cannot. And she does it with considerable aplomb. Miss Monk reminds me of Faye’s Jane Steele from the pleasing 2016 novel of the same name.
As you can imagine, Holmes and Watson hit some bumps in the road. Inflammatory reporters are suggesting Holmes is the killer. Plus, he’s wounded during their investigation. These combine to increase the urgency of finding the Ripper, and add to the novel’s suspense.
Faye strikes the perfect note in her writing style, strongly reminiscent of the Conan Doyle oeuvre. The plot and pacing roll right along, never straying into unnecessary details. She pokes gently at social commentary, both about the nineteenth century and at Fleet Street journalists.
The narration by Simon Vance was spot-on. He articulates the many accents, as well as Watson’s measured tones perfectly. A perfect match for Faye’s writing!
This was the last book I’ll complete for 2017. Interestingly, my first book was also a tale with ties to Sherlock Holmes—Kareem Abdul-Jabar’s Mycroft Holmes. Bookish synchronicity, FTW.