Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson
Written by: Lyndsay Faye;
Narrated by: Simon Vance;
A pastiche of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, this one takes place in 1888 London. The mystery, of course, is Jack the Ripper and the horrible murders that shocked and frightened Victorian England.
Faye has a wonderful talent for writing in the style of Conan Doyle. Other than a few instances of (humorous) sarcasm, I felt like I was reading/listening to an original. Holmes and Watson are true to type. The language is entirely authentic (to my knowledge) and includes rich descriptions and dialog from the voice of Dr. Watson.
The mystery, although well-known by most, is given new life by characterizing Sherlock Holmes as the fallible but tenacious pursuer. His frustration at his inability to find the culprit is palpable, even as his arrogance is irritating. Watson is not the bumbling fool as some have drawn him, but a loyal friend and partner to Holmes. One of the main characters is a lower-class woman who has an important role as a resourceful investigator and who is shown respect by the men; this is obviously a modern affectation that most Victorian novels lack. The end of the book is satisfying and nothing was left hanging.
As for the narration, I’ve stated before that I would listen to Simon Vance read the phone book, he’s that good. He is a prolific narrator and I’m heartily glad of it. His accents in this story, varying between street Cockney and aristocrat, are excellent.
This is an adult story because of the harshness of the murders, but nothing was jarring or out of place for me. There is no sex other than a few references to prostitutes, and no foul language.
I highly recommend this story to history mystery readers, Sherlock Holmes fans, and those who love a good mystery.