The Will of the Dead
A young man named Peter Maugram appears at the front door of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson’s Baker Street lodgings. Maugram’s uncle is dead and his will has disappeared, leaving the man afraid that he will be left penniless. Holmes agrees to take the case and he and Watson dig deep into the murky past of this complex family.
The Will of the Dead is the latest addition to the growing line up of Titan Books Sherlock Holmes series. In order it is the fourth book in the “series” but each one can be read as a standalone. The Will of the Dead is written by George Mann who is well known for his other Sherlock Holmes stories as well as his best selling Newbury and Hobbes series, that focuses on a different investigative duo in the same time span as Sherlock Holmes. I haven’t read any of the other Sherlock Holmes stories of George Mann but was very impressed by his short story collection of Newbury and Hobbes, and have been since looking forward to read more of his stories.
Something that I really have come to like of the Sherlock Holmes stories is the introduction of Watson, where he recounts several dealings of the story you are about to read. This just put you right there in the story. The Will of the Dead is a short read with only 214 pages, however, it feels way shorter than that but moreover the story is very rich and I hadn’t anticipated that a story like this could have been told in just these few pages. This could ofcourse be partially owed to the fact that Sherlock Holmes is an established genre by itself, everyone must have heard about him at one point, but it is also owed to the fact that George Mann knows how to write. I have read several other Sherlock Holmes stories from other authors and yes Sherlock is in the large lines comparable the scene is the same, but I can see that George Mann gently exerts his own influence on the world of Sherlock Holmes in The Will of the Dead. Might not be in the way of changing Sherlock drastically but more with the story itself.
Which now brings me to it. There are two different storylines in The Will of the Dead, one focusing on Sherlock Holmes and the other on detective Bainbridge. I haven’t seen this so far in any of the Sherlock books that I have read but this dual investigative twist added a great overall pacing to the book, even more so was the usage of the different points of view to highlight each case. For the investigation lead by Sherlock, the narration was followed mostly through Watson’s point-of-view, but there are a nice few excerpts of confessions and the like by several other characters which really produced a well rounded feeling to the story. In the case of Bainbridge’s story it’s similar, a nice change in perspectives to add a few extra layers to the story telling. In the earlier confessions it was hard to pinpoint the culprit behind the affairs but later on in the book, the hints become more obvious and the scheming comes to show.
But back to the two stories. Sherlock is tasked with finding the person who has destroyed the only copy of the will of the rich Sir Theobald Maugham, and has left the cousins divided. Who in entitled to what? The story picks up with the murder scene and Sherlock setting out to investigate, as reader you are fully immersed in this investigation and get the full story from the different characters, but this wouldn’t be a Sherlock Holmes without some twists and turns and I have to say you are in for a really really big one! There is this interesting character, a fifth cousin to Theobald Maugham. This fifth cousin threw some extra coals on the fire of the story. He is presumed to be the murder and Sherlock and Watson are determined to catch this culprit. He leads the investigators on a merry chase, writing letters to the other cousins with quiet provoking texts. And then it’s like a door-slamming-you-in-the-face kind of feeling when you read the twist, man did it put a smile on my face, I was grinning ear to ear big time. It’s these kind of things that I like, totally out of the blue but directly in the lines of what you WANT to read surrounding the eccentric character Sherlock Holmes!!!
The second story focuses on Bainbridge and features as a separate story. Bainbridge is solely in the lead of this investigation. Several robberies of the rich have been occurring in the streets of London by mysterious Iron Men. These automata that were designed for helping people with daily chores but some nefarious mastermind has gotten control over them. Though this investigation was more of a sidetrack in the book, there were some cool moments, it was good to see how Bainbridge was thinking in trying how to solve this case, when he questions the original creator there were some very strong points, that when you look back should have pointed me in the direction of who was the bad guy in this. After the story of Sherlock with the will has been concluded, Bainbridges case with the Iron Men soon follows. And just when you were allowed to catch your breath after the door slamming episode, you are again in for a surprise!! Both storyline are a true pleasure to read.
With The Will of the Dead George Mann again delivers an amazing story. I had anticipated a certain level for The Will of the Dead, but George Mann went far, far above it. Having read George Mann’s Casebook of Newbury and Hobbes and now The Will of the Dead I can clearly understand why he is so popular. George Mann writes with a definite confidence, the idea’s behind his stories are interesting and fresh and he knows how to come up with a brilliant plot twist that will set you mouth agape. Even in the established world of Sherlock Holmes, George Mann is a strong voice and sets himself apart! It’s a pity that The Will of the Dead is such a short book, it’s a true pleasure to read and I look forward to what else George Mann will be able to conjure next.