Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review for Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy's Curse, book by Stephanie Osborn, review by Aaron Lazar have always loved Sherlock Holmes stories. As a teen, I read The Hound of the Baskervilles and was immediately hooked. As an adult, I continue to read or watch stories featuring Holmes, whether from the eyes of Mary Russell (Laurie R. King) or those of the modern day Sherlock in Stephanie Osborn’s The Displaced Detective series. To date, I have been particularly enamored with the contemporary BBC series featuring Sherlock Holmes, and anticipate each new episode’s release.But now I have a new favorite – The Gentleman Aegis series, starting with book 1: Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse.

It’s almost like going full circle, because this book is written in a style unique to the Victorian era, not unlike that first Sherlock book I read as a youth. Aside from a riveting good tale, replete with a wonderful mystery steeped in ancient cultures and vibrant personalities, this book stands out from the usual offerings in contemporary fiction.

Readers like to be brought right into the scene when they’re reading a book. They like to feel “present” in the moment, to feel the character’s joy and discomfort, to hear the sounds of the forest, or to taste the piquancy of a freshly made sauce. It’s not something a lot of writers can pull off – but in this case, Ms. Osborn has accomplished this both elegantly and with great style.

Part of the reason is because Ms. Osborn uses dialect and phrases that match the decade in which her story takes place. The societal norms, everyday phrases, science of the day, the medical treatments, the objects, the clothing, food, the methods of transportation, even the curses, are all genuine to the times. The research behind these elements must have been gargantuan.

Another component that brought this story to life is the richness of linguistics, in other words, the frequent phrases in unique languages such as Portuguese, French, and Arabic. With a good set of footnotes at the end, there is no doubt what each of these phrases meant. However, in most cases it was easy to discern the meaning by the context in which the phrases were used.

Now on to the plot and characters, both of which mesmerized this reader. The local color of Egypt and the all-time favorite topic of mummies, lost pharaohs, scarabs, ancient curses, and the like would be enough to hook me. But add to that a splendid cast of offbeat and delightful characters, each bent on their own agenda, and a wonderful unrequited love subtheme, and Ms. Osborn has created a genuine treasure with this story.

The characters of Holmes and Watson were charmingly delineated, each with distinctive voices and accompanying actions. Never for one moment did I doubt that they were “real”; they convinced me from the very first chapter. I rooted for them every step of the way, and could only relax when they were safe and sound back in London, ready to chase their next adventure.

Bravo, Ms. Osborn, and thank you for a beautifully rendered book. 

(Click in book cover above for link!)

Aaron Paul Lazar