In this charming, witty, and weird fantasy novel, Alexis Hall pays homage to Sherlock Holmes with a new twist on those renowned characters.
Upon returning to the city of Khelathra-Ven after five years fighting a war in another universe, Captain John Wyndham finds himself looking for somewhere to live, and expediency forces him to take lodgings at 221b Martyrs Walk. His new housemate is Ms. Shaharazad Haas, a consulting sorceress of mercurial temperament and dark reputation.
When Ms. Haas is enlisted to solve a case of blackmail against one of her former lovers, Miss Eirene Viola, Captain Wyndham is drawn into a mystery that leads him from the salons of the literary set to the drowned back-alleys of Ven and even to a prison cell in lost Carcosa. Along the way he is beset by criminals, menaced by pirates, molested by vampires, almost devoured by mad gods, and called upon to punch a shark.
But the further the companions go in pursuit of the elusive blackmailer, the more impossible the case appears. Then again, in Khelathra-Ven reality is flexible, and the impossible is Ms. Haas' stock-in-trade.
This zany queer and fantastical pastiche of the Sherlock Holmes stories froths with magic and humor. Its narrator, John Wyndham, is Watson to the Sherlock of Shaharazad Haas, a drug-bingeing sorceress who possesses formidable skills of deduction. Their client is Lady Eirene Viola Delhali, a socialite being blackmailed with anonymous letters that demand she break off her impending nuptials to her lover, Cora Beck. When Shaharazad narrows down the possible suspects to five, the stage is set for a series of adventures across the triple cities of Khelathra-Ven, a locale fluid in time and space that includes realms modeled on Robert W. Chambers's The King in Yellow and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Hall (For Real) nudges the reader's ribs with subtle satires of the works he's mashing up, and enlivens the plot with amusing scrapes and confrontations attributable to Shaharazad's infamy from (suggested) past exploits. This is a fun riff on canonical works of fantasy and detection.