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on 15 January 2015
Dust and Shadow is a brilliant first novel by Lyndsay Faye. She effortlessly brings together two great icons of crime together, Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper, with a story so logical you forget it is a work of fiction. No plot spoilers but at the end you will see the why and the how. Book also contains a street map of Whitechapel which helps in seeing where the action takes place. A brilliant read as are her other two books about the early work of the NYPD.
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on 10 November 2009
Sherlock Holmes once again tackles the mystery of Jack the Ripper in Lyndsay Faye's 2009 debut novel Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson. The potential for a fictional face-off between literature's master detective and the most infamous murderer in British criminal history has, over the last few decades, been the basis for at least two movies and literally dozens of novels and short stories. Though the premise was in serious danger of being over-used, it is fair to say that Faye's belated addition to the list of `Holmes vs. the Ripper' fiction is generally superior to most of the previous efforts, and succeeds in giving the reader a fresh (if perhaps a little too coy and cosy) take on the old story.
Faye's novel isn't a perfect approximation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writing style (despite the reviews on the back of the book claiming the contrary), but it is probably as close as we are likely to get in 2009. As is usual with these latter-day Holmes pastiches, the main stumbling block of the book is the portrayal of the central characters themselves. In characterising the Great Detective as a quick-thinking, good humoured, and essentially very likeable man of action, Faye critically misses Holmes' mercurial eccentricities and (admittedly politically incorrect) misogynist streak, and whilst Watson remains the dogged, canny narrative voice familiar from Conan Doyle's originals, he is allowed a couple of emotionally charged outbursts that don't ring true. However, Faye largely avoids the kind of tedious, ill-advised attempts to modernise the characters that have blighted so many contemporary Holmes novels (no Alan Vanneman-style amorous encounters for Watson here, at any rate). The writer's research into the Whitechapel murders of 1888 was clearly thorough, and she carefully weaves fact with fiction to intermingle the world of Conan Doyle with the historical details of the still officially unsolved Ripper killings. And though the set-up and execution of the story are clearly the work of a contemporary writer (with such themes as the mercenary nature of the tabloid press playing a dominant part, not to mention a very prominent role for a gutsy and independent-minded female character, and a couple of very un-Conan Doyle swear words thrown in for good measure), Faye admirably avoids sensationalising the Ripper mystery, instead presenting the reader with a somewhat mundane and prosaic, though ultimately quite realistic, solution to the murders (again, this comes as a relief after far too many pieces of Ripper fiction insisting on the involvement of the British Royal Family or a massive Government conspiracy as the key to the mystery).
Despite the rather odd dating of Watson's foreword as 1939 (over fifty years after the case itself, and by which time the good doctor would have been well into his eighties, it contradicts the generally accepted notion that he actually 'died' around a decade earlier), this novel has no need for either the tedious revisionism, nor the obsession with internal chronology that usually blight modern attempts to tell this kind of story. Dust and Shadow isn't a perfect book, but it is an atmospheric and fairly suspenseful one, and for Sherlock Holmes fanatics is well worth a look.
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on 25 January 2015
I was surprised to find the story so well written with few obvious Americanisms. The plot was a good one with a twist or two that I won't share so as not to spoil the reading experience. The tone for Holmes is slightly out but Watson seems about right. I would be interested to read other books on Holmes by this author.
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on 9 December 2012
Jumping into a crowded area Lyndsay Faye's Dust and Shadow is a good read. She has managed to capture the flavour of Conan Doyle,something other writers stuggle with.Another plus is keeping the Ripper tale away from the well known 'Royal' conspiracies.One of the most enjoyable(dispite the grisly subject) of the Sherlock Holmes pastiches.
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on 21 November 2009
Lyndsay Faye's "Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr John H Watson" is commended by the Conan Doyle Estate and praised by Caleb Carr, Daniel Stashower and Leslie Klinger. And it is very good. Ms Faye knows her two subjects, the Holmesian Canon and the Whitechapel murders of 1888, disturbingly well. There have been other attempts to link the great detective with the butcher of Whitechapel, but "Dust and Shadow" is the first I can recall in which just about every detail is accurate. Rather boldly, the author gives us a very broad hint as to the murderer's identity right at the beginning, so that we can watch the clues as they arise and see how Holmes deals with them. The numerous historical characters are presented very fairly, and they are all people who actually had a connection with the crimes or their investigation. No members of the royal family, no distinguished surgeons, no psychics. (I'm glad to meet, so to speak, George Lusk, head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, whose grandson I knew twenty years ago.) All the dramatis personae are memorable, a result, perhaps, of Ms Faye's theatrical training, and everyone behaves in character. The identity of the killer is perfectly plausible, as is the reason for his success in evading suspicion. He is, in a way, like GK Chesterton's Invisible Man. He has a different name, but he is based on an actual person, though it's impossible now to know just what the real man was like. Lyndsay Faye captures the flavour of Dr Watson's style very acceptably, though there are a few sentences that could profitably be trimmed (Dr Watson was hardly ever verbose) and there are minor niggles such as references to `the Baron' (technically correct, but he would be `Lord Ramsden' or `his Lordship'), `the London Royal Mail' (just `the Royal Mail' or even `the Post Office') and `St Bart's' (just `Bart's') - but they're very minor indeed compared to the book's many triumphs. Ms Faye gives us the real Holmes and Watson, and the real squalid violent Whitechapel of 1888. She gives us atmosphere, excitement, suspense and terror. And she makes us think.
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on 29 January 2010
As one who has a decades-long fascination with the Jack the Ripper case, and more than a nodding acquaintance with Arthur Conan Doyle, the topic here was immediately fascinating - yet I knew that capturing characters so classic often is a risky and unsatisfying effort. This book did not disappoint. I had to remind myself that this wasn't really the work of Watson. :)

The plot and characterisation are excellent, and show a very solid acquaintance with the Ripper murders and Conan Doyle's work. The author captured the Holmes and Watson characters superbly, and one may fine oneself wishing that Sherlock Holmes had existed (other than on paper) to be called in to investigate the Ripper situation. The underlying idea is a chestnut, but this was one of the more entertaining efforts in this direction.

This book is a rare example of how characters from the past, whether real or literary, may be captured in a fashion which will appeal to devotees of both. It is a commendable effort, and one seldom achieved, for all that the attempts in that direction are so constant as to be clichés.
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VINE VOICEon 3 January 2010
"New" Sherlock Holmes novels are nothing new; some might say that they are ten a penny. Most search for the holy grail of being as "faithful" to Conan Doyle's originals as possible, whilst a few set out to be deliberatley as unfaithful as possible.

It's also safe to say that pitting the great detective against one of history's most infamous, and un-caught, serial killers Jack The Ripper is not an original idea either. All that said, Lindsay Faye's debut novel is definately one of the better, if not THE best, attempts that is available.

For a start it is a very well researched book. And by that I mean that it takes the whole idea of Jack The Ripper and Victorian London VERY seriously. I would go as far as to argue that it's more factualy correct than many a "non-fiction" look at the Ripper crimes in that it broadly presents us with the known facts with only the slightest use of artistic licence (although understandably, the "explanations" for the various truths are of course used to keep up the momentum of the story). Many a "plausible" suspect identified by supposedly serious authors fall down with even the most cursory glance at the known facts; here we're not concerned with a writer trying to fit their theory by massaging the facts, we're just concerned with what ia a rollocking good read. A bonus is that whilst there is obviously no "fact" in the unveiling of the Ripper it is a good deal more plausible outcome than many of the non-fiction books you will read on the subject.

Very little feels out of place, either for the Ripperologist of the life-time fan of the Conan Doyle Holmes, and as such the book can easily be said to acheive what it sets out to do. If you have any interest in either sphere that this book covers (Holmes or the Ripper) you are unlikely to be disappointed with Dust and Shadow. In fact, if you are a Holmes fan, you'll be hoping that this isn't Faye's last atttempt at helping to expand the case-books of Sherlock Holmes.
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on 1 August 2011
Holmes v/s Ripper has always been a favourite subject of discussion among people fascinated with the subjects of crime & retribution, essentially to "prove" that had there been any body like Sherlock Holmes in London, 1888, he must have caught the Ripper, and therefore, Holmes did not exist. Those who wish to bring the two Victorian icons (yes, even as you wince thinking about it, swirling fog brings the fiend of Whitechapel to mind as easily as it recalls Sherlock Holmes) together had always tried to invent newer & newer methods.

In A Study in Terror, despite all the character-building, the story appeared somewhat stilted, in book version as well as in the film A Study In Terror [1965] [DVD],(which is a classic, I must admit), primarily because the frenzy concerning Ripper had not reached such alarming proportions till then.

Michael Dibdin broke every Holmesian rule in his entertaining-but-extremely controversial The Last Sherlock Holmes Story.

Then came a delight to brighten up any film-lover in the form of Murder By Decree [DVD] [1979] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC], but by following one of the pet conspiracy theories propounded by the now-notorious Stephen Knight in his Jack the Ripper: the Final Solution the film undermined itself in terms of credibility.

Geoffrey Landis' "The Singular Habits of Wasps" (to be found in The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) the conclusion was indeed ingenious and quite revolutionary (and yet, much more palatable compared to Dibdin's efforts).

Edward B Hanna's The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Whitechapel Horrors: 10 was the first serious attempt to keep both of these characters firmly footed onto their socio-politico-geographical ground, and perhaps because of this very attempted authenticity resulting from enormous amount of researches into the past of the historical personalities, the book had a rather open ending, probably because it was entering Stephen Knight territory.

I am very-very happy to state that this book is, till date, the only effort where at times I had to re-kindle my disbelief, rather than the other way around, to assure me that this is not a book in Begg-Sugden-Rumbelow tradition. The sentences, the characters, and the ending, all ring so true that you would be forced to think... No, let me conclude the review here. Go read the book, and wait for this author's next venture. I am sure, the wait will be worthwhile.
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on 1 April 2012
This was a fascinating premise to base a Sherlock Holmes Novel on
but I am afraid it falls sadly short of the mark.
There are two main faults:

1-The writer let the Ripper facts guide the story thus making for needless detail and chapters.
It bled the novel dry of tone.

2-The Writer tried too hard to emulate the speech of Victorian London without
knowing what slang was current and in what sense it should be used....the word "Bollocks" for instance in the way she used it
is out of kilter with what the word meant to those using it between the 17th and 19th centuries.
She is in fact using "Bollocks" in a 20th century fashion.

Lastly but most importantly she strained too hard in her efforts to catch Watsons voice.
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on 17 April 2016
A really good read. Well written and a very good homage to the originals. Would really appreciate a second book.
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