Finlay does a good job of creating a plausible alternative to Sherlock Holmes in his first novel and series debut. In London in 1895, photographer Caroline Cousture, a French woman, turns to Arrowood because she can’t afford Holmes’s fees. Her brother, Thierry, has vanished after being accused of stealing from the bakery where he worked. Though Arrowood suspects her of lying, he accepts the case, only to find that it reawakens some painful and dangerous memories. Arrowood was once a successful reporter before he lost his job to a relative of the new owner of his paper. His reputation for muckraking led to a career as a detective and an eventual partnership with former law clerk Norman Barnett. Their first joint inquiry, into a suspected bigamy, ended disastrously, with an innocent man losing his life. Arrowood took to the bottle, causing his wife to leave him. Finlay’s characterizations are better developed than in some similar series, such as Will Thomas’s Barker and Llewelyn mysteries (Hell Bay, etc.). Agent: Jo Unwin, Jo Unwin Literary Agency (U.K.). (July)
"The Victorian workingman's answer to the higher-class Sherlock Holmes-a foul-mouthed, hard-drinking, shabby detective with a seriously bad attitude toward his more famous counterpart.... It's a terrific premise... Finlay has fun referencing the Holmes canon, and he gives his hero a skill that the more famous detective lacks" -The Seattle Times
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"If you ever thought the Sherlock Holmes stories might benefit from being steeped in gin, caked in grime and then left unwashed for weeks...Mick Finlay's 1895-set detective debut is for you." Crime Scene
"How I loved this book. Arrowood is an almost infuriatingly absorbing, awkward and brilliant character. I wanted to start his next mystery with him as soon as I'd finished his first. More than that, Arrowood feels strangely like he's always existed, we're only now being treated to an introduction. Mick Finlay's atmospheric, detailed, singular London is a terrifying place I hope to return to again and again." – Ross Armstrong, bestselling author of The Watcher
"Arrowood is a flawed but engaging hero and the plot spins from peril to twist and back with real panache.... Finlay's debut marks the start of a new series that historical crime fans will be clamouring to read more of." The Times of London
"Finlay debuts with a tale built on a wonderful premise: a downscale Sherlock Holmes for the rest of us... Finlay has a fine time recasting the friendship between Holmes and Watson, as Arrowood and Barnett repeatedly quarrel, swap obscenities and threats, and pummel each other."
"Fiercely edgy... Finlay captures the filth, frustration, and dark humor of the Victorian-era slum, plopping the reader into the story among the odoriferous, life-encrusted characters... Doyle's fans will be entertained."
"A plausible alternative to Sherlock Holmes... [with a] reputation for muckraking."
"Fans of Sherlock Holmes might appreciate an alternate view of Victorian London from the perspective of people struggling to survive."
While the wealthy turn to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson for help when the police fail them, the working class relies on investigative agent William Arrowood and assistant Norman Barnett. Arrowood resents Holmes's fame and insists he can read people better than the celebrated sleuth. In South London in 1895, Arrowood hasn't had a case in weeks, so he agrees to find Caroline Consture's missing brother. When he and Barnett learn Caroline's brother disappeared while working for the notorious Mr. Cream, they regret that decision. Witnesses are murdered when they're involved with the man. The case is so convoluted that Barnett admits, "Sometimes I lose sight of the case"; readers may become confused as well. VERDICT Unfortunately, the plot of Finlay's debut mystery gets lost within the tangle of various police, criminal, and political groups. Still, fans of Sherlock Holmes might appreciate an alternate view of Victorian London from the perspective of people struggling to survive. [Optioned for television.]—LH
Finlay debuts with a tale built on a wonderful premise: a downscale Sherlock Holmes for the rest of us.Just like everyone else in 1895 London, French photographer Caroline Cousture would love to hire Holmes to investigate the disappearance of her brother, a pastry cook who's gone missing from the Barrel of Beef, the chophouse where he found employment. But, unable to afford Holmes' presumably stratospheric prices—though his clients are rarely shown actually paying him—she has to settle for ex-journalist William Arrowood. In some ways it's an excellent choice. Arrowood is obsessed with his great rival; he can expound on every limitation and logical fallacy in A Study in Scarlet and "A Scandal in Bohemia." In other ways, Caroline's choice is less fortunate. Arrowood, who declares to his client and his amanuensis, Norman Barnett, that he's "an emotional agent, not a deductive agent," isn't much of a detective at all. His first interview, with a barmaid Thierry Cousture had befriended at the Barrel of Beef, gets the poor girl killed, and Neddy, the likable neighborhood 10-year-old who does his legwork, gets kidnapped twice, the second time from under Barnett's nose. Even worse, Arrowood's sleuthing skills, at least in this first recorded case, seem limited to antagonizing Inspector Petleigh, repeatedly butting heads with Stanley Cream, who owns the Barrel of Beef, and calling in an expert to identify the bullet the dead barmaid was clutching in her hand. But Finlay has a fine time recasting the friendship between Holmes and Watson, as Arrowood and Barnett repeatedly quarrel, swap obscenities and threats, and pummel each other. A great concept worked out with more grit than inspiration. The inevitable franchise has already been optioned for television, a medium you can only hope will hang on to the best bits here and toss out the rest.
A top-notch performance by Malk Williams makes Mick Finlay’s debut novel as good as it gets. The setting is the London of Sherlock Holmes. A woman comes to ex-journalist turned private investigator Arrowood because she can’t afford Holmes. Her brother has vanished, and she wants Arrowood to find him. The story is told by Arrowood’s partner, Barnett, who soon makes it obvious that Arrowood is an anti-Holmes who is obsessed with his competition. Williams makes Arrowood’s scorn palpable as he derides Holmes’s deductive crime-solving techniques, declaring himself an “emotional agent” who relies on his gut to solve crimes. Dangerous criminals, gangs, murder, mayhem, and the arrival of Arrowood’s sister, a missionary with salvation on her mind, make for entertaining (really!) listening. Here’s hoping for more from Finlay and Williams. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine