Adam Colclough lives and works in the West Midlands, he writes regularly for a number of websites, one day he will get round to writing a book for someone else to review.
Holmes and Watson are back; the year is 1888 and the world's greatest detectives is on the trail of the missing child of a French cabaret performer and an English aristocrat. Along the way he and his faithful biographer encounter a complicated case involving a missing Greek statue and mysterious goings on at a Yorkshire cotton mill.
The line between homage and pastiche is a thin one at the best of times, when it involves the best know detective duo of them all it might as well be a tight rope stretched across the Richenbach Falls. To he credit Bonnie MacBird walks this narrow line with scarcely a wobble.
She has a knack for keeping the action flowing that Arthur Conan Doyle himself would have approved of, the final chapters of Art in the Blood are an adrenaline fuelled blur as she switches villain and victim at the last moment to wrong foot her readers.
The period detail is strong without need to resort to fog and gas light clichés, MacBird also adds to the murder and mayhem ensuing from the theft of the statue a darkly modern sub-plot. Her unsettling twist on the mistreatment of young mill workers rings a neat twist on a reliably Victorian trope without being gratuitous.
The true test of this book is, of course, how its author handles Holmes and Watson; again MacBird passes this test with flying colours. She name checks Jeremy Brett, perhaps the best television Holmes of them all and there is a touch of his driven to the point of madness performance in her characterisation.
She also makes a good fist out of the difficult job of bringing Dr John Watson to life. Too often actors and script writers handed this job either play the role for laughs or make him so dull be blends into the wallpaper. MacBird’s Watson is loyal and stolidly dependable for sure, but never so much so that he is in unquestioningly in awe of the great detective. She also never loses sight of the fact that as a former soldier he is no slouch when it comes to dealing with the rough stuff.
The four novels Conan Doyle wrote featuring Sherlock Holmes are rather disappointing, many of the writers who have taken the characters on since have made a far better job of things. Bonnie MacBird can be counted amongst their number.