Review: A Case of Spontaneous Combustion by Stephanie Osborn

case of spontaneous combustion by stephanie osbornFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: mystery
Series: The Displaced Detective #5
Length: 344 pages
Publisher: Twilight Times
Date Released: May 10, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

When an entire village on the Salisbury Plain is wiped out in an apparent case of mass spontaneous combustion, Her Majesty’s Secret Service contacts The Holmes Agency to investigate. Unfortunately Sherlock Holmes and his wife, Dr. Skye Chadwick-Holmes, have just had their first serious fight, over her abilities and attitudes as an investigator. To make matters worse, he is summoned to England in the middle of the night, and she is not — and due to the invocation of the National Security Act in the summons, he cannot even wake her and tell her.

Once in London, Holmes looks into the horror that is now Stonegrange. His investigations take him into a dangerous undercover assignment in search of a possible terror ring, though he cannot determine how a human agency could have caused the disaster. There, he works hard to pass as a recent immigrant and manual laborer from a certain rogue Mideastern nation as he attempts to uncover signs of the terrorists.

Meanwhile, alone in Colorado, Skye battles raging wildfires and tames a wild mustang stallion, all while believing her husband has abandoned her.

Who — or what — caused the horror in Stonegrange? Will Holmes find his way safely through the metaphorical minefield that is modern Middle Eastern politics? Will Skye subdue Smoky before she is seriously hurt? Will this predicament seriously damage — even destroy — the couple’s relationship? And can Holmes stop the terrorists before they unleash their outré weapon again?

My Review:

Mass human spontaneous combustion–it sounds like something that would be reported in the tabloids at the grocery checkout stands. And that is what happens in A Case of Spontaneous Combustion. But unlike the usual tabloid stories, this one is true, and MI-5 calls in Sherlock Holmes to investigate.

The Case of the Displaced Detective - The Arrival by Stephanie OsbornIf it sounds like I’ve sailed even further into tabloid-land, I haven’t. This story is the fifth book in Stephanie Osborn’s Displaced Detective series, where Sherlock Holmes has been brought to our world through quantum physics. (Read The Case of the Displaced Detective: the Arrival (reviewed here) for details.)

The difference is that the Sherlock Holmes in this particular pastiche is a real person, not a fictional construct as he was in our version of the multiverse. And being human and not literary, he does not completely resemble the literary version in Conan Doyle’s stories. Because this one managed to fall in love, and get married. Eventually, and with a lot of persuasion and adaptation from the 19th century to the 21st. (See The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed (review) and The Case of the Cosmological Killer (review) for the full story.)

A Case of Spontaneous Combustion is a story designed to showcase both sides of the Holmes that came to our world. On the one hand, he has a diabolical mystery to investigate, and on the other, he’s in the middle of a fight with his wife, and it’s affecting the case. It also becomes a minor case in its own right.

Holmes and his wife Skye have their first major argument. And it’s the kind of thing that looms large at the time, but could be quickly gotten over in the morning, when both tempers have cooled off a bit. Instead, Holmes gets hauled off to England, and his orders specifically exclude Skye and invoke the Official Secrets Act. He’s stuck and screwed (or not, as the case may be)

He gets to London, and almost immediately goes undercover to look for the terrorists who set off something in the middle of a small town that exploded all the inhabitants, and every other living thing for a radius of two miles, without harming any of the buildings.

Skye can’t reach him, and it’s literally more than his life is worth to call her. They both write letters trying to patch things up, but neither set of letters is getting through. Each thinks that they have been abandoned by the other, and that their marriage is over. They both descend into a certain amount of self-destructive behavior, while Holmes is undercover among the terrorists.

Things look like they are not going to end well. The case turns out to be much bigger, and considerably more dangerous, than was originally believed. By the end, Holmes and Skye’s bodies may be among the dead, if someone doesn’t solve their missing communications first.

Is it all part of the terrorist plot, or is there a spy in MI-5? Holmes needs Skye to save him from himself, and to figure out the high-level physics behind the mass spontaneous combustion.

Escape Rating B: I love this series. The whole concept of an alternate-world Sherlock Holmes works for me. He’s Holmes, but he’s not quite Conan Doyle’s Holmes, and that provides enough leeway for the ways that he’s different. In fact, a point in this story is that people keep equating the living Holmes with the fictional creation, and make assumptions that prove very, very wrong or hurtful, sometimes both.

There are two stories here; the marital tension being exacerbated by the missing communication, and the terrorist plot. I’ll admit that there were points where I wondered if they might somehow be part of the same plot, but there were different “baddies” for each one.

One issue with basing a series on whether or not a romantic relationship forms between the main characters is that a significant part of the dramatic tension can dissipate when the sexual tension is consummated. The depths to which both Holmes and Skye sunk as a result of their argument took over too much of the story. And it felt like a misunderstandammit that should have been resolved much more easily. The reasons behind the plot to keep them from communicating were a bit simplistic and it was easy to spot the perpetrator.

The terrorist case was much more nefarious, and it took longer to develop and to bring to a (temporary) close. Watching Holmes work his undercover magic in a contemporary setting was marvelous. Changing his identity and immersing himself completely in his role is a skill that translated well from one century to the next. But I think the ringleaders of this one will be back, and I’m looking forward to it.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Once More with Feeling: The Best Ebook Romances of 2013

LJ 2013 Best BooksIn spite of what the opening paragraph of the article at Library Journal says, this is actually the third year that I’ve been asked to choose the Best Ebook Romances of the Year for Library Journal.

Just check the archives, if you’re terribly curious, here are the links to the 2011 and 2012 lists. This is one of the most fun things I get to do all year that can be more or less labeled as work, even though, as what I call reverse full-disclosure, Library Journal does not pay for the writing of this particular article or for the book reviewing I do for them.

Creating this list is always personal for me. These are books or series that I read or am in the middle of. They are the books that I gave either A ratings or 4.5 or 5 star ratings to, depending on where I did the review. Or in a few cases, B+ reviews of books I absolutely couldn’t get out of my head.

The first year, I was told to list 5 books. Last year, 5-ish. This year, my editor said 10 from the start. I think she figured out that I cheat and list series. I did again this year and went over the limit.

skies of gold by zoe archerArcher, Zoë. Skies of Gold. Avon Impulse. (Ether Chronicles, Bk. 5). ebk. ISBN 9780062241443. STEAMPUNK ROMANCE (4.5 star review)

The first four books in the Ether Chronicles (Skies of Fire, Night of Fire, Skies of Steel, Night of Steel) were on my 2012 list for good reason; this series is simply awesome steampunk worldbuilding. Also we have all the story possibilities inherent in a world war, but with airships and “ether” power. While Skies of Gold is a more than worthy successor to the first four books in the series, it is unfortunately the last book in the series. If you love steampunk romance, you’ll be enthralled. And then sad that it’s over.

forged in blood 1 by Lindsay BurokerBuroker, Lindsay. Forged in Blood I. ebk. ISBN 9781301493357. Forged in Blood II. ebk. ISBN 9781301349876. ea. vol: Lindsay Buroker. (Emperor’s Edge). FANTASY ROMANCE
I’ve adored the first five volumes of The Emperor’s Edge series (The Emperor’s Edge, Dark Currents, Deadly Games, Conspiracy, Blood and Betrayal) so much that I haven’t wanted to see it end. So I’ll confess that I put the entire series on the list even though only the last two books were published in 2013, and I’ve been saving reading the ending for a treat for myself. LJ was slightly puristic about things and only put the 2013 titles as the main entry on the list. The Emperor’s Edge is Epic Fantasy with a touch of Steampunk. The primary story isn’t a romance, but, and it’s a truly lovely but, there is a romantic subplot. Or maybe that’s sub-subplot. Our heroine convinces the best assassin not to kill her, and keeps on convincing him to help her, even though everyone tells her he’s just a heartless killing machine. Of course he’s not. Well, not completely.

[Bittersweet Blood by Nina Croft]Croft, Nina. Bittersweet Blood. Entangled. (Order, Bk. 1). ebk. ISBN 9781622669592. PARANORMAL ROMANCE (A- Review)
What a difference just a few days makes! At the time I wrote the article, I was just about to read the second book in Croft’s Order series, Bittersweet Magic (B+ Review). I didn’t want to jinx things by listing it, but I shouldn’t have worried. What’s so much fun about this paranormal romance series is that the standard definitions don’t really apply; the vampires maintain the Order of the Shadow Accords on Earth to prevent the Fae and the Demons from repeating their use of Earth as the battleground in the long-running Fae/Demon war. The contemporary fallout seems to be over the descendants of the Fae Juliet and the Demon Romeo of that war. But Demons are immortal, so Romeo isn’t dead. But his half blood daughter is ground zero for armageddon, and only the vampires can protect her. Make that one vampire with a personal “stake” in the result. The world-building in this just keeps getting better, and the love stories more complex.

black dog blues by rhys fordFord, Rhys. Black Dog Blues. Coffee Squirrel. (Kai Gracen, Bk. 1). ebk. ISBN 9781301668625. M/M PARANORMAL ROMANCE (4.5 Star Review)
This is a dark and gritty post-apocalyptic urban fantasy much more than it is a paranormal romance. There are several characters in this story who care a great deal for the elfin Kai Gracen, but Kai doesn’t even like himself enough to be ready for more than friendship with anyone else. He’ll get there, but he isn’t there yet. The story drops us into Kai’s world as it is; we know what he knows. We don’t know why or how the sidhe suddenly merged with what used to be our normal, just that Kai has to endure whatever crap gets thrown his way. It’s the person who emerges from the endurance that makes the story. That and dodging the dragons mating over the Mojave Desert.

Take What You Want by Jeanette GreyGrey, Jeanette. Take What You Want. Samhain. ebk. ISBN 9781619213746.
Ignore the New Adult label. Take What You Want is an absolutely marvelous contemporary romance that just so happens to be about two people in college. Ellen can’t go away for Spring Break, so she takes a vacation from herself. Just for a few days, she tries to be someone a bit different; instead of being shy and retreating into her books, Ellen buys sexy clothes on sale, goes to a townie bar and picks up the hottest guy in the place. She pretends to be “New Ellen” for just one night. Josh thinks no-strings-attached sex with a girl that he’s had a crush on since freshman year is a fantastic idea, but he knows exactly who she is. Ellen really doesn’t recognize him without his glasses. The next night is where pretense starts butting up against reality, because he wants to turn their one-night-stand into something more and New Ellen and regular Ellen have a difficult time deciding the difference between what they should want and what they do want.

armies of heaven by jane kindredKindred, Jane. The Armies of Heaven. Entangled. (House of Arkhangel’sk). ebk. ISBN 9781620611067. FANTASY ROMANCE (4.5 star review)
The fall of the House of Arkangel’sk is a deliciously complicated blend of the historic fall of the Russian Imperial House of Romanov with Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen with more than few tablespoons of the deviance, decadence and twisted political machinations of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart. There is love to be found, but the path to reach it leads through dark places, and our preconceived notions of good and evil, right and wrong, do not apply in Kindred’s Courts of Heaven. The best man in the entire series is a demon, although he would never think of himself as good. The biggest fool is a certainly an angel, and he would definitely label himself as such. The series begins with The Fallen Queen (4.5 star review) and continues with The Midnight Court (A Review) before the conclusion in The Armies of Heaven. Prepare to be enthralled.

how to misbehave by ruthie knoxKnox, Ruthie. How To Misbehave. ebk. ISBN 9780345545305. (4 star review)
Knox, Ruthie. Along Came Trouble. ebk. ISBN 9780345541611. (5 star review)
Knox, Ruthie. Flirting with Disaster. ebk. ISBN 9780345541703. (A- Review)
Knox, Ruthie. Making It Last. ebk. ISBN 9780345549297.
ea. vol: Loveswept: Random. (Camelot). 4-vol. set. ebk. ISBN 9780804180436. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
This small town romance series set in central Ohio is all about the Clark siblings, Amber, Katie and Caleb. Knox specializes in contemporary romances where real people solve very real problems while going through major life experiences. The tension in her stories comes from the kind of situations that cause stress in ordinary life; trying to reinvent yourself, trying to maintain a marriage, dealing with grief, not dealing with grief, returning home, being part of the sandwich generation, financial stress. The difference is that Knox makes her characters people that we all identify with and lets them have a fantastically steamy romance while they resolve their problems. Her stories pull at your heartstrings and make you smile. Every single time.

case of the displaced detective omnibus edition by stephanie osbornOsborn, Stephanie. The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus. Twilight Times. SF ROMANCE
I adore Sherlock Holmes re-imaginings, with the exception of the whatever-it-is that Guy Ritchie birthed with Robert Downey Jr. (who should stick to Iron Man). But I seriously digress. I read, and reviewed, Stephanie Osborn’s Case of the Displaced Detective somewhat in its originally published parts: The Arrival (A- Review), At Speed (B+ Review) and The Case of the Cosmological Killer (B Review). In the case of Stephanie Osborn’s continuing opus, I very much admire her concept of a Holmes who is not quite our Holmes and has an excuse for being so. She has used theories of quantum physics to create not just a possible universe where Holmes would have been a flesh-and-blood person, but to create causality that would bring that person into our 21st century. He is not quite the “thinking machine” of Conan Doyle’s fiction because he is not supposed to be, and that opens up a world of possibilities. Real human beings, after all, feel real emotions as they solve mysteries. Sometimes they even fall in love.

The Story Guy by Mary Ann RiversRivers, Mary Ann. The Story Guy. Loveswept: Random. ebk. ISBN 9780345548740. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE (A- Review)
There was only one thing wrong with this story. It was too short, and at the time it was written, it was the only thing available by Mary Ann Rivers. The story is absolutely awesome, I wanted more by this author, and there just wasn’t anything else, yet.
What’s a “story guy”? A story guy is someone who may or may not be long-term relationship material, but who will, sometime in the future after the heartache is over, make a terrific story. Librarian Carrie West answers a personal ad from a very hot guy for one hour of kissing in the park every week. The answers to the questions about why this unattached and gorgeous man is willing to settle for so little for himself, and to make sure that no one is able to get attached to him, make for one marvelous and nearly heartbreaking love story. (And if you fall in love with The Story Guy you’ll probably also love Ruthie Knox’ Big Boy.)

Anything for You book coverScott, Jessica. Anything for You. Loveswept: Random. (Coming Home, Bk. 2.5). ebk. ISBN 9781301165766. (A+ Review)
Scott, Jessica. I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Forever Yours: Grand Central. (Coming Home, Bk. 2.6). ebk. ISBN 9781455554249. (A Review) MILITARY ROMANCE
Jessica Scott’s Coming Home series, which began in 2011’s Because of You (A Review) and continued in 2012 with Until There Was You (A- Review), is a military romance series that gets to the heart of what it means to love someone who serves in the military, because author Scott is herself a career army officer and is married to a career NCO. So instead of writing about the glory of the battlefield, she writes about the toll that deployments take on a family with inside knowledge of what it’s like to wonder if someone is coming home, and how hard it is to wait and worry. She’s able to convey the emotional cost to a soldier with a career-ending injury, not just because his body is messed-up, but because he’s lost his purpose and he’s worried about the people he’s left behind. If you want to read a military romance with real heart, read Jessica Scott.

That’s it for this list. The specific requirements for the Library Journal list were that they all had to be ebooks, either ebook-only or ebook-first, or ebook-mostly. In some cases, there is a print available on demand, but the ebook looks like the primary format, or it did at the time. Also, for this list, there had to be a romance in the story. Yes, a couple of times you have to be looking for the romance, it’s not the primary plot. But there had to at least be a romantic element.

I used to be able to put this list in preference order, but it’s gotten too big. And there’s kind of an apples/bananas problem. How do you compare a steampunk romance to a paranormal romance when they are both at the top of their respective trees?

I will do a “best of the year” list next week (which includes a few contributions from my friend Cass!) These type of lists are loads of fun. It’s great to look back and see what I’ve read and which books stick in the mind by the end of the year.

Review: The Case of the Cosmological Killer by Stephanie Osborn

case of the comological killer the rendleham incident by stephanie osbornFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Science fiction; mystery
Series: The Displaced Detective, #3-4
Length: Rendlesham Incident, 252 pages; Endings and Beginnings, 254 pages
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Date Released: Rendlesham, July 15, 2012; Endings, November 4, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & NobleBook Depository

The Rendlesham Incident
In 1980, RAF Bentwaters and Woodbridge were plagued by UFO sightings that were never solved. Now a resident of Suffolk has died of fright during a new UFO encounter. On holiday in London, Sherlock Holmes and Skye Chadwick-Holmes are called upon by Her Majesty’s Secret Service to investigate the death. What is the UFO? Why does Skye find it familiar? Who – or what – killed McFarlane? And how can the pair do what even Her Majesty’s Secret Service could not?

case of the cosmological killer endings and beginningsEndings and Beginnings
After the revelations in The Rendlesham Incident, Holmes and Skye find they have not one, but two, very serious problems facing them. Not only did their “UFO victim” most emphatically NOT die from a close encounter, he was dying twice over – from completely unrelated causes. Holmes must now find the murderers before they find the secret of the McFarlane farm. And to add to their problems, another continuum – containing another Skye and Holmes – has approached Skye for help to stop the collapse of their own spacetime, a collapse that could take Skye with it, should she happen to be in their tesseract core when it occurs.

My Review:

I’m going to combine my reviews of books three and four in Stephanie Osborn’s Displaced Detective series because they read as one “case” even though they were divided into two books. The stop between book 3 in the series; The Rendlesham Incident and book 4; Endings and Beginnings, felt a tad artificial to me. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

The Case of the Displaced Detective - The Arrival by Stephanie OsbornAnd if you haven’t read the first two books in this series, and you enjoy Sherlock Holmes adaptations, start with The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival and At Speed, previously reviewed. (A new omnibus edition including all 4 ebooks has just been released to make this easier) The game is definitely and marvelously afoot!

The case that Holmes and Chadwick have to solve is quite marvelously convoluted; a farmer in Suffolk, England has died of fright during a UFO encounter. The whole thing is of course patently ridiculous, and yet, the man is quite definitely dead.

And the whatever it is, UFO or not, is showing up on radar and all sorts of other high-tech instrumentation, moving at speeds that current aircraft, even top-secret military aircraft, are simply not capable of. Something is going on that is making some alphabet agencies extremely nervous. There are secret intelligence bases under the green fields of Suffolk, and that “UFO” is spooking MI-5 and MI-6. These are not the kind of people who enjoy being nervous. They much prefer making other people nervous.

The Intelligence services do something, well, intelligent. They request that Holmes and Chadwick come to Suffolk to investigate these strange happenings.

So they re-direct their honeymoon trip to London into an investigative trip to Suffolk. And thereby hangs a case. As well as a book or two.

And if you, like me, think that one version of Holmes is fun, just wait until you try it with two!

Escape Rating B: This series is solidly fun. If you enjoy Holmes’ stories, it’s an absolute blast. This one reads like an action-adventure story with romance added to give it flavor, and there were a few points where I expected a version of Indiana Jones to show up just for more fun.

The first half of the Rendlesham Incident is mostly taken up with wedding and honeymoon arrangements and the romantic aspects of the relationship between Holmes and Chadwick. I enjoyed that part, it’s the payoff for having watched them struggle to figure out whether they could manage a relationship. While it takes up a lot of book, I would have felt cheated if these issues hadn’t been resolved.

Also, it was a great setup for introducing the other version of Holmes and Chadwick, the ones who didn’t figure out how to have a romantic partnership, and just how badly they screwed up their lives. The fact that in their continuum, they didn’t avert the sabotage and made their world much messier only adds to their stress, but we get to see different versions of the relationship.

Also the sabotaged continuum resulted in a sabotaged tesseract which is having a ripple effect across spacetime. It’s case number one, so we see the two couples working together to avert one major crises while watching each other to see what might have been in its various permutations. This part is excellent.

Then we have the crazy case of the man who supposedly died of fright. This one turns out to be of very worldly motivations. No, he didn’t die of fright, he died of radiation poisoning. Holmes has to investigate the source of the radiation. What got buried in Suffolk during World War II and what certain idiots think got buried in Suffolk during WWII are quite dangerous worlds apart. This case was the point where I was half expecting Indiana Jones.

What I got was Dr. John H. Watson. His appearance was marvelous and sweet and amazing. But it slightly tripped my willing suspension of disbelief meter. Both Moriarty and Watson were real in this universe but not Holmes. I’m not sure Holmes would take that case.

But I still enjoyed every flick of every page, so I’m thrilled there will be more.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed

The Case of the Displaced Detective - At Speed by Stephanie OsbornFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Science fiction; mystery
Series: The Displaced Detective, #2
Length: 298 pages
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Date Released: November 5th, 2011
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Aborting one attempt to sabotage Project: Tesseract, Sherlock Holmes — up to speed in his new life and spacetime continuum — and Dr. Skye Chadwick — hyperspatial physicist, Holmes’ new “Watson” — must catch a spy ring when they don’t even know the ring’s goal. Meanwhile Skye recovers from two nigh-fatal gunshot wounds.

A further complication is their relationship: the ups and downs between the pair are more than occasional clashes of demanding, eccentric personalities. Chadwick is in love with Holmes. Knowing his predilection for eschewing matters of the heart, she struggles to hide it, in order to maintain the friendship they DO have. Holmes also feels attraction — but fights it tooth and nail, refusing to admit it, even to himself. For it is not merely Skye’s work the spies may be after — but her life as well. Having lost Watson to the vagaries of spacetime, could he endure losing another companion?

Can they work out the intricacies of their relationship? Can they determine why the spy ring is after the tesseract? And — most importantly — can they stop it?

My Review:

The Case of the Displaced Detective - The Arrival by Stephanie OsbornI adore Sherlock Holmes pastiches, and yes, I know I’ve said that before. Most recently in my review of the first book in this series, The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival.

I’ll also say that the titles for all the books in this series so far are absolute mouthfuls. But so what? If you enjoy watching the Great Detective get thrown into situations that Conan Doyle couldn’t possibly have imagined, well, that’s why so many of us watch Sherlock and Elementary, isn’t it?

But Stephanie Osborn hasn’t created a 21st century Holmes, she’s figured out a way to displace the original — or nearly the original — 19th century Holmes from his own time to the 21st century. She’s used a scientific experiment based on Madeleine L’Engle’s tesseract concept (combined with a bit of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next universe) to create the possibility of Holmes being a living man in an alternate universe, and providing an excuse to drag him to our 21st century; to a universe where he only existed as fiction.

Then she turns him loose to adapt to modern life. But not too loose. After all, any project that could manipulate the spacetime continuum to that extent would have to be top secret, and Holmes’ detection abilities relied on his brain, which certainly arrived intact. But he is only human after all, and he has lost his entire support network. Watson, Mycroft, Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade and the Baker Street Irregulars are irretrievably back in the 19th century, in a universe where Holmes truly did die with Moriarty at Reichenbach.

Or so it seems.

Holmes turns to the person who brought him to the 21st century, Dr. Skye Chadwick. She is a brilliant physicist, and has also been a volunteer investigator as part of her own past. They work together to discover who, or what agency, has repeatedly attempted to sabotage and infiltrate the tesseract project.

In the process, Chadwick becomes Holmes’ Watson, but much more. She is his co-investigator, and his partner. But she is also the person in whom he can confide, because she understands the depth of his loss. Skye is as alone in the world as he is; her parents died when she was young, and she feels his isolation keenly, even worse, she feels responsible for it.

But as Chadwick and Holmes grow closer, Holmes begins to lose his famous objectivity. The “thinking machine” develops romantic feelings for the woman who saved and changed his life. He fears that if he loses that dispassionate objectivity he is so famous for, he will be unable to act as decisively as necessary to save Skye when the gang of saboteurs still dogging them closes in for the kill.

And he knows he can’t lose her. She is the only one he has. Even if he can’t let himself express what he feels. And even if his seeming coldness hurts her. It’s better that he hurts her a little than that he neglect his discipline and that she be killed by his inattention to some vital clue.

Escape Rating B+: I’m having so much fun reading this series, that I couldn’t make myself stop and went straight on from this one to the next.

That being said, a lot of this story is tied up in the growing romance between Holmes and Chadwick. It is tremendous fun to read, but isn’t quite as action-oriented as the first book. I still had a ball.

The characterization of Holmes as a Victorian, albeit a very unconventional one, adapting to the 21st century, works for me. He enters his new life in fits and starts, some things come easily to him, some things are difficult. Technology is easy, he always pursued the latest methods in his own research. The changes in mores and dress are often difficult. He finds concentrating on the practicalities help, but his reaction to Skye in a two-piece swimsuit is absolutely priceless.

The case here is involves closing the espionage ring that was introduced in The Arrival. The way the story unfolds revolves some absolutely fascinating delving into the Holmes canon stories, including inconsistencies about Moriarty and Reichenbach. It was a great way of resolving the case, and letting Holmes have a sense of closure about his life.

But it did raise one inconsistency in the 21st century world. That being, if Holmes didn’t exist in our universe, how did Moriarty? Read and find out!

jeremy brett as holmesSherlock Holmes is the “most portrayed movie character” according to Guinness World Records. I found myself wondering who Osborn based her description of Holmes upon. I see Jeremy Brett (see picture at right), but your mileage may vary.

At Speed is essentially a continuation of The Arrival. I don’t think a person could read this book without having read the first one. I also don’t think it would be a hardship for anyone who enjoyed new or reinterpreted Sherlock Holmes stories. These are just plain fun. The game is very much still afoot!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival by Stephanie Osborn

The Case of the Displaced Detective - The Arrival by Stephanie OsbornFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Science fiction; mystery
Series: The Displaced Detective, #1
Length: 332 pages
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Date Released: November 5, 2011
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Displaced Detective is a science fiction mystery in which brilliant hyperspatial physicist, Dr. Skye Chadwick, discovers there are alternate realities, often populated by those we consider only literary characters. Her pet research, Project: Tesseract, hidden deep under Schriever AFB, finds Continuum 114, where Sherlock Holmes was to have died along with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. Knee-jerking, Skye rescues Holmes, who inadvertently flies through the wormhole to our universe, while his enemy plunges to his death. Unable to go back without causing devastating continuum collapse, Holmes must stay in our world and adapt.

Meanwhile, the Schriever AFB Dept of Security discovers a spy ring working to dig out the details of – and possibly sabotage – Project: Tesseract.

Can Chadwick help Holmes come up to speed in modern investigative techniques in time to stop the spies? Will Holmes be able to thrive in our modern world? Is Chadwick now Holmes’ new “Watson” – or more?

My Review:

I’ll admit to being an absolute sucker for Sherlock Holmes pastiches, so what drew me into the concept of Stephanie Osborn’s Displaced Detective series was seeing whether her concept of pulling the “Great Detective” into the 21st century worked reasonably well.

It doesn’t just work, she figured out a brilliant way of handling the transformation of Holmes from literary character to flesh-and-blood human. And managed to give a nod to possibly everyone’s gateway SF author into the bargain.

The story begins with physicist Skye Chadwick and the top secret Project: Tesseract. Anyone who remembers Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time will not only smile, but find the reference totally apt. Dr. Chadwick’s project does travel through the variations in universes by jumping between “wrinkles”. In other words, the shortest distances are to universes most similar to our, or her, own.

Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls by Sidney Paget
Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls by Sidney Paget

Chadwick is a Holmes aficionado, like so many of us. She has not only found a universe where, unlike ours, Watson and Holmes were real people and not just fictional characters, but she is using that universe as a final test to determine whether her “Tesseract” is fully functional. She and her team picked Holmes’ solution to his problem with Moriarty at Reichenbach as a place where they could observe without contaminating the scene, because of its remote location.

But Skye could not stop herself from jumping out of the tesseract and rescuing Holmes in the very last second. He should have fallen to his death, but he didn’t. She pulled him from the 19th century to the 21st. A time and place he had no business to be.

There was no way to put him back. In his own time he was meant to fall. Returning him to his own universe would change what should have been, and cause serious ripple effects. Not just his universe, but neighboring continuums could collapse.

Is Sherlock Holmes a great enough detective to detect a new life for himself over a century after he should have died? Are his detection skills up to the task of ferreting out an espionage ring determined to sabotage the project that brought him to this strange new future?

Escape Rating A-: The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival is so damn much fun that I couldn’t stop reading the series. I swept right on through the first three books one right after the other. I only stopped because I want to savor the last one.

The author’s solution for slight variations in Holmes’ personality is sheer genius. There are differences. He is still the brilliant and calculatingly observant detective of the stories. That shines through every time he is on the page. But he also evolves past the “thinking machine” of Conan Doyle’s fiction. Partly, that’s because Ms. Osborn expressly made her Holmes a living person from the beginning, and partly because her Holmes is from a different universe and is similar but not exactly the same as the literary figure in our universe. She gave herself license for him to be different. It works for me.

Holmes wouldn’t be Holmes without a case to be solved. Here, there are effectively two. One is simply Holmes studying how to adapt to the place and time he finds himself. His universe has changed a lot from London in the 1890s to 21st century Colorado. On the other hand, human nature hasn’t evolved a bit, and the tesseract has way too much potential as a weapon or for nefarious gain. When a plot to sabotage the tesseract is discovered, it seems natural that Holmes becomes part of the team to thwart that sabotage.

Of course, Holmes must have a “Watson”. In this story, that Watson is Dr. Skye Chadwick. That they gravitate towards each other seems inevitable, but Skye is a good choice. Unlike Watson, Skye is a mirror for Holmes, both are brilliant, but each in their own sphere. And both have tragedy in their pasts, even if Holmes’ tragedy is seemingly of Skye’s making; she pulled him out of his own time, but if she hadn’t, he’d be dead.

There’s an inevitable comparison to Laurie R. King’s Holmes/Russell series, starting with A Beekeeper’s Apprentice. King made her Holmes both a living person and started her series after the final Conan Doyle story, so she didn’t conflict with the Canon. Different approach, and I adore those too. If you like Mary Russell, give Skye Chadwick a try.


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