‘The Devil’s Due’ by Bonnie Macbird
Harper Collins, pb, £7.37
Reviewed by Mikaela Silk
Sherlock Holmes is on the case of a serial killer who is working through the alphabet, killing off philanthropists with dark pasts; a killer who Scotland Yard refuses to believe exists. He is hindered by the new head of Scotland Yard, Titus Billings, who would rather have him arrested than let him help on a case, and by an onslaught of unfavourable journalism trying its hardest to paint him as a devil. With the death toll rising quickly, and fears that his brother Mycroft is next on the list, Sherlock needs Watson’s help to close this case as swiftly as possible. Fortunately, Dr Watson has decided that now is the perfect time to take a holiday from work to visit his old friend.
Before picking this up, I hadn’t read any of Macbird’s previous Sherlock Holmes Adventures and was glad to find that this didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book at all. Furthermore, I was surprised to find that I didn’t constantly try to compare the book to Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes; mostly this was because I was too engaged in the mystery to do much critical thinking at all! However, I did note that Macbird had picked up on Conan Doyle’s technique to use Watson as the narrative voice for the story. I found this very effective as his inner commentary on the world around him added a great deal of depth to the narrative. His viewpoint also allowed for a greater provision of detail and explanation as the mystery unfolded without it being overwhelming.
As well as being an effective narrative device, the character of Watson was well written as a relatable and easy to follow. I particularly enjoyed the multiple references and uses of his medical career, which added depth to him as more than just a ‘sidekick’ to Sherlock Holmes. Similarly, Macbird’s characterisation of Sherlock Holmes made him easily recognisable as the aloof, eccentric, genius detective that we all love. However, for me, the character who stole the show was Heffie. Her unexpected and slightly unconventional character added an intriguing element to the narrative, and the vital role she played in solving the mystery was believable as well as impressive.
As for the mystery itself, it was just different enough to feel new whilst retaining the expected tone of a Sherlock Holmes tale. There were a few instances when I temporarily lost track of the mystery and a few details which I thought needed to be explained in more depth, but overall I enjoyed the complexities of the case. I formed a few suspects in my head along the way, but was still surprised by the final reveal and enjoyed the showstopper ending that accompanied it.