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Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box
George Mann
Titan Books, 336 pages

Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box
George Mann
George Mann is the Consultant Editor of Solaris and the author of The Mammoth Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction, The Human Abstract and Time Hunter: The Severed Man. He lives and works in Nottinghamshire, England.

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A review by Sandra Scholes

George Mann is the author of Newbury and Hobbes and a popular steampunk author as well as someone who is quite the authority on all things Sherlock Holmes. Like James Lovegrove, he has penned these, the later writings of Dr. Watson on an elderly Holmes's exploits in wartime England. Sherlock Holmes: The Lord of the Dead is the next in this series, but first let's get onto The Spirit Box as it is the second of the Mann novels I have read so far. As in the Gods of War by James Lovegrove, Holmes and Watson are retired from sleuthing, enjoying (or not) endless days of solitude where they can take up their safer pursuits. Holmes is the more bored by this than Watson who, as it is 1915 and pained by England being in the grip of war. A knock at the door brings him out of his troubles when a young man delivers a message from Mycroft Holmes about three deaths he believes are inexplicably linked. The deaths are of Captain John Cummins, a British Army officer who urged surrender before tossing himself into a tiger enclosure at London Zoo, a suffragette, Mary Temple, who threw herself under an Underground train and MP Herbert Grange who worked at the War Office and once gave a pro-German speech before hurling himself into the Thames.

Holmes has a hard time thinking of any connection between the three of them, believing the whole thing is one of Mycroft's twisted ways of getting Holmes hopes up of a great case to unravel. It isn't long before Holmes thinks that the two of them are just coincidental, while the Herbert Grange one actually gives him cause for concern. Leaving the other two cases behind, Holmes further investigates Grange as he needs to gather all the necessary data before he can be sure the man has been the victim of a murder.

Holmes so far has got nothing of consequence from Grange's body, but an investigation of his house uncovers an assortment of photographs taken using a spectrograph generator to simulate ghostly auras around the person's image. This, coupled with the belief by others that he was interested in the occult due to another's influence, seems to lead Holmes in the right direction. The more he finds about the man, the more he finds about the Spirit Box. The Spirit Box is "a practise originating in the West Indies, in which the soul of a person is captured and trapped within a small wooden casket, the eponymous 'spirit box.' "The shaman then has control over the person's soul and can use their magic to make the person do as they are bid by him.

Mann has penned several novels; The Affinity Bridge, The Osiris Ritual, The Immortality Engine, Ghosts of Manhattan, Ghosts of War, Gods of Karnak, and Ghosts of Empire. Other than this Holmes novel, his genres include steampunk, Victorian fantasy and Dr. Who fiction. In The Spirit Box, it is as if Mann has successfully continued Conan Doyle's work on Holmes and Watson and rightfully taking them out of retirement and into another world of the occult and would-be scandal in wartime England. The ingredients are what make it an effortless read for those used to the wit and wisdom of Conan Doyle's original works. Where these well-known characters are brought into Mann's original story and made to thrash out a conclusion is the best yet. As an added extra to this novel, there is a short story from the casebook of Newbury & Hobbes featuring Sir Maurice Newbury called The Lady Killer.

Copyright © 2014 Sandra Scholes

For the past few weeks Sandra has been drawing some manga chibis based on popular characters and some of her own creations, garnering a laugh or two along the way…other than that, she's been reviewing for Albedo One, Hellnotes, The British Fantasy Society, Love Romance Passion and Rainbow Book Reviews.

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