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What Child is This?

What Child is This? A Sherlock Holmes Christmas Adventure by Bonnie MacBird, illustrations by Frank Cho

Harper Collins, s/b, £9.99

Reviewed by Matthew Johns

It’s almost Christmastime in Holmes’ London, and the detective is filled with his usual curmudgeonly disdain for the season despite his friend John Watson’s attempts to imbue him with the festive spirit. Returning to Baker Street after lunch, Holmes intervenes as a man attempts to snatch a young boy from his mother in the middle of a crowded street, and the friends soon find themselves embroiled in another case. Young Jonathan Endicott is the son of Lord and Lady Endicott, who are fearful of another attempt to take him. As Holmes digs into the case more, it becomes clear that Jonathan is not the biological son of the Endicotts. This then leads the detective to a recent court case where workhouse children were being taken from their parents and sold illegally for adoption. Could Jonathan be one of these workhouse children, and if so, who is the mysterious and desperate man who attempted to take him?

At the same time, Lord Blandbury pays Holmes a visit, engaging him to investigate the sudden disappearance of one of his sons who had been living in London. No longer returning calls or letters, Lady Blandbury is desperate to find out what has happened to her beloved son.

Assisted by one of his acquaintances, Miss Hephzibah O’Malley, the intrepid trio begins to work the two cases, discovering scandals and dangerous individuals aplenty. All (naturally) coming to a satisfactory conclusion just in time for Christmas!

Bonnie MacBird is no stranger to Conan Doyle’s world-famous character, having already written four other Sherlock Holmes novels. Having read just this one of her novels, she is indeed a skilled author, seemingly channelling the spirit of the long-dead writer and physician, so convincing is the tone of her work. She brings Victorian London and its inhabitants to life, ably assisted by the exquisite illustrations from the very talented Frank Cho. Incredibly lifelike, his monochrome illustrations have a real historical feel to them, looking as though they may have sprung from the original works or penny dreadfuls of the time. I’ve read a number of the modern adventures of Holmes and Watson written by a variety of authors, and while they are all excellent, it has to be said that Bonnie MacBird is the best of the bunch.

Reading her bio, it is clear that she has a deep and real love for the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, being on the Council of the Sherlock Holmes Society in London and even living just off Baker Street! Both author and illustrator are members of the Baker Street Irregulars, which was the first Sherlockian literary society in the world, founded in 1934 – another piece of evidence to prove just how much they are both committed to Holmes and his adventures!

Whether you’ve read her other works, Conan Doyle’s originals, or are completely new to the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, this is an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable book that can be read with no prior knowledge of the great detective. I recommend it highly and will seek out MacBird’s other books in due course!

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