A Case of Domestic Pilfering
by Rohase Piercy with Charlie Raven
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 2017)
192 p. ISBN 9781539782209
Summer 1890. Guy Clements, spoilt, rich and charming, has invited his friend Max Fareham to spend a month of hedonistic leisure at his London residence. Meanwhile below stairs, clever, streetwise Madeleine Peterson is hatching a scheme to lift herself out of domestic service and her brother Michael out of prostitution. A few streets away, amateur spy Louis la Rothiere is gloating over his latest cache which may, just may, turn out to be the scoop of a lifetime.
An apparently straightforward case of domestic pilfering is about to take an unexpected turn involving blackmail, mistaken identity, War Office documents and the love that dare not speak its name – and for once, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson find themselves repeatedly and hilariously wrong-footed.
A Case of Domestic Pilfering strikes me as a comedy of manners rather than the most traditional of pastiches—and I don’t mean that as a critique because having the comedy of manners style applied to a Holmesian narrative was immensely satisfying. Throughout the story I was reminded of Wilde and his characters, particularly those found in The Importance of Being Earnest or Lady Windermere’s Fan.
The comedy of manners aspect comes through most strongly with the two central characters of the book, Guy and Max. Guy and Max are immensely enjoyable to watch; Guy is dramatic and a bit overblown, while Max is the quieter, more practical of the two. They have a fascinating relationship dynamic, simultaneously sweet (you root for their romance!) and exasperating (oh, Guy…). Having such characters encounter Holmes and Watson is endlessly entertaining, to the point where I laughed out loud throughout the entire story.
With Guy and Max as our central characters, we get to see an investigation by Holmes and Watson from a different angle. The story switches points of view quite a bit, so we do get to see the investigation from our normal perspective as well, but it’s fun to see how two suspects- one of whom hero worships Holmes- cope with interacting with our dynamic duo, especially when they’re not entirely sure what’s happening.
Because of the rotating points of view, we also get to see the investigation from the perspective of the actual criminals, which is just fantastic. Knowing what they think of being investigated by Holmes helps bring home just what an excellent detective he really is. One of the criminals any Holmesian will recognize, and I appreciated them being given a little more page space. And I adored the main criminal; they were sympathetic and understandable, while still also still doing something illegal, quite willingly. That ending, too! I clapped my hands with joy at the way it all comes together in the end.
This book is a short one, and the prose very simple. I was able to read it just over an hour, and longed for more. I would love to see another adventure involving Guy, Max, Holmes, and Watson, who play off of each other in the most spectacular ways. Watching Holmes react to Guy at his most outlandish was so, so satisfying; Max’s awe and bumbling around his hero/crush was sweetly hilarious. And of course, Watson helped guide them throughout their interactions.
The queer themes in the book are lovingly and subtly handled. The few kisses that we see Guy and Max share are a mix of sweet and passionate, depending, and their banter helps us get a grip on how much history they have between them, even though we never hear their full backstory. The presence of Michael in the story serves to highlight a potential avenue for our queer protagonists, as well as draw attention to a well-known, but less talked about, part of Victorian history (as well as far more modern history). I also enjoyed the small hints towards queerness in Holmes and Watson, though it’s never stated explicitly in the text if they ARE queer or not. This will probably appeal to readers who don’t particularly want Holmes or Watson to be read as queer; you can choose to do so or not as you please.
I’m quite thankful that the author sent me this book to review; it’s definitely one I’ll be returning to for a re-read whenever I want something that has that touch of humor to it, while still remaining faithful to who Holmes and Watson are in canon.
What About Our Watson?
What an excellent Watson! The canon Watson shines through in this book in every way. We get to see Watson from the perspective of other characters throughout the story, and he’s consistently described as warm and kind and generous. It was so good to see other characters appreciating Watson.
From his very first appearance, Watson is depicted as compassionate. His part in the book begins with an average day in Baker Street, working on his writing and fretting about Holmes, and doing what he can to keep Holmes from turning to the cocaine/morphine. In the very same scene he’s shown to be clever enough to outwit Holmes at times, which instantly warmed me to this author and the story.
His acquaintanceship with Guy and Max is beautifully drawn, from his wry amusement at their antics to his genuine pleasure at being in their company. We almost never get to see Watson interact with his own group of friends or acquaintances, as attached as he is to Holmes, and I really enjoyed seeing who Watson is when he isn’t part of the Holmes-and-Watson package. It isn’t that he is so radically a different person or anything; but people are subtly different depending on the company they’re in, and this author reflected that well.
Of course, I also like this Watson because his instincts and insights prove vital to the case. He may not be portrayed as a deductive genius like Holmes, but he certainly is shown to contribute, vitally, to their partnership.
You Might Like This Book If You Like:
Oscar Wilde; romance; the canon stories SECO, NAVA, and BRUC; outsider perspectives
Is there a book you want Lucy to review? Let her know! Contact the Society and they’ll pass your request along.