Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Great Detective, by Delia Sherman

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(Steampunk) In 1880s London, Sir Arthur's "Illogic Engine" has gone missing, so he seeks help from Mycroft Holmes. (12,752 words; Time: 42m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended
Recommended By: RHorton:4 JStrahan

Readers who already read The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor may like this story better than I did, since this is the sequel.

"," by (edited by Liz Gorinsky), published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: If you're a Sherlock Holmes fan, you'll find this full of allusions to the stories.

Con: It's long and dull. There's almost no story here, and no one behaves rationally. Why would Mycroft steal anything when Sir Arthur was clearly very happy to collaborate? But after being kidnapped by a thief, why would Sir Arthur cooperate at all--no matter how eccentric he was.  Dr. Watson's agreeing to work for Tacy (and raising no objections at any stage even when she has him shooting people) is also pretty hard to believe. And Tacy abruptly falls in love with Arthur and he with her and they get married, even though there's been little sign he even realized she was a woman.

The magical results of combining the Illogic Engine with the Reasoning Machine were rather hard to believe in as well.

There seems to be a lot of excess in this story. For example, there's a haunted automaton who plays no role in the story whatsoever. Likewise the police are in and out for no apparent purpose other than to make an allusion to Gregson.

A very minor nit: The story opens in November 1880, but then we're told that Gotobed escaped from prison in 1883.

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5 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I found this one amusing. There were some classic romance story hints that Tacy and Arthur would end up together. Her finding it preposterous that Gregson thought she was his mistress. Arthur's embarrassment at her teasing that he was buying jewels for a mistress when he ordered the sapphire tipped gears. As for the haunted automaton, this is a sequel to the story of how the ghost got in the machine.

    1. Horton liked it as well.

      I didn't spot the romance hints. Good catch. Do you see those much in other SFF stories? And are you sure it's a sequel? I can't find anything about the original.

      I've actually read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels (they're fun) and it's true that they also have quite a few believability gaps if you don't accept that Holmes's deductions are nearly always perfect. However, none of them has anything quite as over-the-top as Mycroft kidnapping people who didn't need to be kidnapped.

    2. I'd say that *if* there's a romance subplot, there's usually some subtle hints. The previous story which featured Angharad, Tacy, and Arthur is "The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor."

      Available here:

    3. Meant to say: Yes, the resolution of the mystery was over-the-top. Sherman went for least likely suspect and stretched it a bit far.

    4. Thanks. I added a note about this being a sequel.