The Scottish Ploy (A Mycroft Holmes novel) Paperback – 27 Mar 2002
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In fact, Mycroft Holmes is confronted with a mare's nest of problems including a Turk's missing brother, a famous phrenologist, and perpetually being pursued and shot at. It is all that Mycroft and Guthrie can do to find the common threads and come to grips with a plot that makes devilish use of what are normally Holmes strengths.
This series has a great deal of charm to it. While I wouldn't say that Mycroft Holme's personality is exactly true to Conan Doyle, he is certainly in character for an intelligent man of his position during the 1890's in London. Paterson Guthrie is perfectly typecast as a gentleman of breeding. Paterson is certainly younger and brighter than Watson is, but he is cut from the same cloth. Sometimes he is so stuffy you just want to kick him.
Greatly increasing Guthrie's stuffiness quotient is the reappearance of Penelope Gatspy, the indomitable agent of the Golden Lodge. The Lodge is a secret organization of mysterious goals, which, on occasion, coincide with those of Mycroft Holmes. Miss Gatspy, who can outshoot, out think, out race and out last just about any English gentleman, is the undoing of Guthrie. Of course, the only person who doesn't know that Paterson Guthrie is in love with Penelope is Guthrie himself. He has, unfortunately, no idea how to deal with a `modern' woman and this provides much of the humorous by-play in "The Scottish Ploy."
The book is very well written. Aficionados should know that most of the key bit players also put in their appearances. By the fourth volume though, I have finally realized that, while there is a great deal of deduction and adventure in these books, Holmes and Guthrie are often dry and humorless to a fault. Penelope does her best, but it is too much to ask of even such an incredibly talented woman to completely humanize two such paragons of British propriety.
Oh well, just because they never seem to laugh at anything doesn't meant that we can't, and there as enough humor and mystery and suspense to keep the story from ever flagging. I would, however, suggest reading one or more of the earlier volumes before taking up "The Scottish Ploy." Much history is carried forth from previous volumes and Fawcett is not one to offer extensive explanations. Have no fear, once you start reading them you will never regret the decision.
The period treatment here is simply superb, by far the best of any of the many Holmes pastiches I have encountered. In this installment, we also receive a number of tantalyzing clues about the relationship of Mycroft and Tyers, his manservant, to the noxious Brotherhood.
This is a book that leaves one in eager anticipation of the next one in the series. Here's hoping there are many more books to come in this series!
No one detests the Brotherhood more than Mycroft Holmes, the older brother of the famous private detective, does. He recently learns the Brotherhood, which has been absent from England for quite a while, has set in motion a scheme to gain entrance on English soil. At a time that Mycroft needs to remain at full alert, he is beset by conflicting problems that pull him into different directions. He knows in his gut that the Brotherhood is responsible for his troubles an also he must stop them if he can.
Quinn Fawcett turns his hero into a mysterious person with complex depths and an incisive intelligence. Mycroft is James Bond turned M, a spymaster operating in the deepest shadows. THE SCOTTISH PLOY includes an excellent mystery filled with numerous twists and red herrings that continually fool readers who never know what will happen next. The novel provides insight into Mycroft's psyche that in turns allows the audience to understand his patriotic fervor. This is a great entry in fantastic series.
It just isn't the Mycroft Holmes from Conan-Doyle (which is kind of distracting). There is no Holmesian deduction, Mycroft isn't Mycroft, I don't know why this wasted Mycroft's name on this. (And Watson appears, but just as a generic doctor).
I derided the first book, Against the Brotherhood, for making Mycroft Holmes into a Gary Stu to end all Stus, not just brilliant and insightful, but also unfailingly good-tempered, and so physically fit he can carry a man two miles over wooded terrain, despite being middle-aged and sedentary. At least in that book, Patterson Guthrie, Mycroft's secretary and the book's main character, was inexperienced and insecure enough to give his narration a charming naivete.
In The Scottish Ploy, however, not only has Guthrie caught Mycroft's Stuitis, so has every other male major character, including Mycroft's valet, Philip Tyers, and Edmund Sutton, the actor employed as Mycroft's double when Holmes needs to be in two places at once. Every one of them is brilliant, insightful, even-tempered, brave, and whatever else the plot needs them to be to keep it going. None of them have serious physical or mental challenges; none of them lose their tempers, do anything really dumb, or show any other kind of normal human frailty. True, a couple of times Mycroft supposedly gets angry, but his "anger" is conveyed so unconvincingly I didn't even know he *was* angry until he apologized for it.
I was so annoyed with the relentless perfection of the characters that there was no dramatic tension for me because I just *knew* no group that perfect could achieve anything other than complete success. Penelope Gatspy, the one interesting, semi-human character, turns up again to make things slightly less boringly perfect. Fortunately for my interest, she had a larger role in The Scottish Ploy than she did in Against the Brotherhood. There are also two gruesome attacks on horses that are completely gratuitous, serving no purposes other than to create false tension and show how mean the bad guys are. We *know* how bad they are; we never get a chance to forget because we get told that repeatedly.
Regarding the plot, one would think a book with two authors and at least one editor would be free of obvious mistakes, but this one has two glaring continuity errors. In chapter 5, Guthrie and Holmes are running from the bad guys when Guthrie loses his overcoat and is unable to go back for it. (Of course, Holmes is easily able to outdo Guthrie in both speed and endurance, despite the twin handicaps of being morbidly obese and old enough to be Guthrie's father.) Two pages later Guthrie remarks on missing it because the weather is cold and damp. Yet a little later he has his coat again, despite there being no mention of his having retrieved it.
In chapter 11, Guthrie runs into Gatspy in a park. When somebody starts shooting at them, they have to hide in the bushes together in the pouring rain. (There must be dozens of references to the rain in this book, another source of annoyance, since this had nothing to do with the plot and served no purpose other than perhaps to create atmosphere.) They hide there long enough to be soaked; there is a detailed description of how cold and wet Guthrie is. When they reach Mycroft's apartment, Guthrie takes a long, hot bath, then changes his clothes. But although Gatspy must be just as wet as he is, there is *no* reference to her being wet at all, let alone needing a bath or new clothes. Everybody carries on as if she just arrived on a warm, sunny day.
The authors don't even know how to use a dictionary. On page 57, Mycroft stands by the fire to warm himself because "this November day had remained sere from dawn until now." "Sere" means "dry, arid, (of plants) withered," so it has nothing to do with being cold, which is apparently its intended meaning in this sentence. That's a particularly dumb mistake given the umpteen references to rain in this book. On page 310, Guthrie is trying to cheer up Gatspy, and she tells him that's not necessary. He replies that he does not wish to cause her "distraint," and she assures him he is not. I have a huge vocabulary, but I'd never seen the word "distraint" before, so I looked it up. It means, "the seizure of someone's property in order to obtain payment of money owed, esp. rent." I'm not sure what word the authors meant to use, probably "distress," but it certainly was *not* "distraint." These mistakes are completely inexcusable in a book by not one, but two, professional writers that has been issued by a major publisher.
Most ridiculous of all, Mycroft has been demoted from the solver of the mystery to just one of the guys, a member of Team Stu who sometimes has to be bailed out by the other guys because he's overlooked an obvious clue. Three or four times in this book, another character points something out and Mycroft says the Victorian gentleman's equivalent of, "Wow, it's good thing you noticed that because I sure didn't." I realize this was probably done to make the characters seem more equal and to give Mycroft human frailties. The problem is, Fawcett can't have it both ways. He/she can't both have a dumb detective who frequently misses clues others see *and* call that detective "Mycroft Holmes."
This is what Sherlock Holmes said to Dr. Watson about his brother in "The Bruce-Partington Plans": "...You are right in thinking that he is under the British government. You would also be right in a sense if you said that occasionally he IS the British government...Mycroft...remains the most indispensable man in the country...He has the tidiest and most orderly brain, with the greatest capacity for storing facts, of any man living...The conclusions of every department are passed to him, and he is the central exchange, the clearinghouse, which makes out the balance. All other men are specialists, but his specialism is omniscience. We will suppose that a minister needs information as to a point which involves the Navy, India, Canada and the bimetallic question; he could get his separate advices from various departments upon each, but only Mycroft can focus them all, and say offhand how each factor would affect the other...In that great brain of his everything is pigeon-holed and can be handed out in an instant. Again and again his word has decided the national policy. He lives in it. He thinks of nothing else save when, as an intellectual exercise, he unbends if I call upon him and ask him to advise me on one of my little problems...." '
In other words, Mycroft Holmes is the Albert Einstein of British Victorian governmental policy--and Einstein didn't need the average guy on the street to help him do his job. I realize there are mystery books featuring spouse or partner detectives, and even groups, all of whose members are equals. However, those stories feature *original* characters who can be delineated any way the author wishes. When a writer chooses to take over an already established fictional character, he/she has an obligation to stay with the strengths, weaknesses, and features that character is already known to possess. In other words, Fawcett's character is *not* Mycroft Holmes, any more than that dimwitted doormat in Laurie R. King's trashworks is Sherlock Holmes.
The fact these stories were authorized by an heir of Conan Doyle means nothing. The heirs of Jimi Hendrix allowed his music to be used on commercials, and Yoko Ono was happy to trick Paul McCartney out of his share of the rights to the Lennon/McCartney song catalogue. Thanks to her, Michael Jackson bought the rights and subsequently handed them over to Sony to finance his profligate lifestyle. Now Beatle fans also have to put up with our favorite songs being used to sell everything from snack chips to appliances. Not all heirs to classic works of art appreciate or deserve the legacy bestowed upon them by fate.
If you want Mycroft Holmes, look elsewhere than these books. I agree with the reviewer who said the authors just wanted to write Victorian spy novels and plugged in Mycroft Holmes. No doubt, like King, they did this for marketing purposes.
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