“Unquiet Spirits,” Bonnie MacBird’s second novel in her Sherlock Holmes series, is a charming and suspenseful mystery which sees Holmes and Watson attempt to decipher a bizarre series of events that eventually involves an incident from Sherlock’s past - an incident Sherlock has concealed from Watson.
Set in December, 1889, MacBird inserts Sherlock and Watson into an adventure that occurs between adventures written by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Recently returned from a mystery involving a spectral hound that haunts the Baskervilles, the two friends resume their lives in London. Incidents pile up quickly. There is an attempt upon Sherlock’s life at 221B Baker Street that Sherlock brushes off without concern. Isla MacLaren, of a Scottish whiskey baron family, requests Sherlock’s services after relating a tale that involves Highland ghosts and a mysterious disappearance. Holmes surprises Watson by refusing the case.
He does, however, accept a mission to France from his brother, Mycroft, to investigate a potentially explosive situation. The invasion of a small parasite has collapsed the French vineyards, and some of the French blame English treachery for the vineyards’ collapse.
While in France Sherlock is reacquainted with his morally corrupt French rival, Jean Vidocq. More importantly, violent events lead Holmes to reconsider the importance of Isla MacLaren’s case. Soon he and Watson take their investigation to Scotland, where they encounter a web of mysteries surrounding the ambitious MacLaren family, who have secrets to hide.
The trick with writing an authentic Sherlock Holmes is to retain Doyle’s elegant and muscular prose while maintaining your own authorial voice. Doyle’s distinctive writing style is essential to Sherlock’s charm. It’s a difficult tightrope to walk, but MacBird has great balance. Her interpretation of Holmes as a brooding, moody, but of course brilliant man dedicated to justice and the law is always entertaining.
Familiar characters, such as Inspector Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson, make their appearances. Sherlock’s early meeting with his brother Mycroft is one of my favorite scenes in the book, and my only complaint is that I would like to see more Mycroft.
It is certainly a novel worthy of the Great Detective, and should have fans of Sherlock Holmes ready for more. I shall certainly seek out the first novel, which I have not yet read.