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The Seventh Bullet: A Holmes and Watson American Adventure Hardcover – November, 1992
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From Publishers Weekly
The suspicious death of a crusading American journalist brings Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson out of retirement, across the pond to the Big Apple and into the lives of prominent American citizens. Artfully blending legend, history and spirited invention, Victor chronicles Holmes's investigation of the 1911 murder of muckraking journalist and novelist David Graham Phillips, whose expose of political shenanigans in Washington made powerful enemies for the dandified writer. Phillips was shot six times near Gramercy Park by a fanatic purportedly obsessed with vampiric possession; the assassin then killed himself with the same gun. Technical anomalies (all six shots from the gun entered the victim's body, yet the murderer still had the means to end his own life with a fatal shot) and the undercurrents of political cover-up and demonology contribute to the relish with which Holmes takes on this case. Theodore Roosevelt and William Randolph Hearst are the first interview subjects for a very flustered Watson, who, in Victor's measured prose, details the path Holmes's icy logic cuts through the subterfuge and bluster of the powerful. Victor's debut reveals a welcome "discovery" of yet another "lost" Holmes case.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson leave retirement for America in order to tackle the case of a famous journalist/novelist struck down by a man who then killed himself. The victim's sister suspects a conspiracy and hires Holmes to uncover it. This "newly discovered" adventure utilizes suitably stylized prose, ornate description, and references to previous cases as the famous duo question historic figures and arrive at an astounding and picturesque conclusion. An admirable first novel.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
Back to the review. When teaching university-level statistics and research-design classes, I would constantly admonish my students that statistics are the servants of research NOT the other way around. The same I would maintain is valid in literature namely, the plot is everything; Supplemental information should constitute the minimum-wage servants of the process. When this does not occur, what results are narratives that are disorganized, disjointed and too often leave the reader wondering where the plot went. I recall attending a faculty meeting at the Queen Mary when teaching for one of the larger 'Nontraditional' universities in existence. In the writing segment, it was agreed that student papers, essays and the like should be graded on an 80/20 approach. In other words 80% for content, 20% for grammar, punctuation, syntax and things that only hard-core English teachers (Yes, Dr Victor, this means YOU) insist upon. In the meeting I pointed out that students need only throw information in any order in short, putting info into a bucket, dumping it on a page, taking the B- grade and moving happily along. Didn't matter. In this new age simply throwing information on a page or so seems acceptable. But I digress.
My giving this work a generous 3 stars stems from Dr Victor's attempting to mix and match plot and context and failing miserably. Too much of the narrative was on 'By the way' bases where some odd bit of information like the color of wood paneling in a gentleman's club or other items (including some words about a character's cat) that could have been deleted without harming the narrative even slightly. In works of this nature, you find yourself wondering if the author was paid by the word. Although the reader meets many historical figures, the background information is presented in disjointed ways and included information of dubious quality. I mean, is it really relevant that Teddy Roosevelt had a squeaky voice?
In my collection of 300+ Holmes/Watson pastiches, there are examples where authors demonstrated they could include historical information without the background overwhelming the plot. I visualize the plot like a powerful locomotive. The more muscle in the engine, the more freight cars it can pull. Too many freight cars though, you get my drift. Continuing this metaphor, in this work, the loaded freight cars clearly won the day.
The `Preface' to this 1992 book explains finding a manuscript at Princeton University supposedly written by Dr. John Watson. Daniel Victor wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on David Graham Phillips and knows the details of the life of this "Muckraker". The copyrights to Arthur Conan Doyle's works expired around 1972 so anyone can use his fictional characters in novels or short stories. Nobody has equaled the original. Victor had a great idea in using Holmes and Watson to illuminate a long forgotten investigative journalist. A biography would be less popular than a mystery novel that entertains as it educates. I think Victor was wrong to speak of a "conflicting personae" since Phillips was a graduate of Princeton University (like F. Scott Fitzgerald) and not a character from "The Front Page". The table of `Contents' used Roman numerals for chapters but these are not used in the chapter headings.
Dr. Watson said Phillips had so successfully attacked the evil-doers in government that he brought upon himself the wrath of the powerful. [These are the Big Trusts of that day.] That is why Dr. Watson will obfuscate their identities. [Yet it is part of the public record!] Threats against journalists are not new, see Asa Mercer's "The Banditti of the Plains". This book lacks a photograph of David Graham Phillips. Would Dr. Watson "chortle" (p.7)? Holmes explained his identification of Phillips through a newspaper drawing from 1893 (p.9). [Weren't some of these less than exact?] Mrs. Carolyn Frevert wanted Sherlock Holmes to investigate the murder of her brother. She believes it was a conspiracy, not a lone gunman (p.11). What can Holmes discover long after the shooting? Holmes agrees to take this case (Chapter 2). [The author is careful to omit most monetary values of that day; this makes it less educational.]
Holmes and Watson visit the scene of the crime (Chapter 7). Something happened to convince Holmes there was a conspiracy that killed Phillips. They visit Washington D.C. (Chapter 8). They go to see `Peter Van den Acker' but he tells them nothing. Holmes explains his deductions. [That clue of a nail from a shoe-heel reminds me of a Charlie Chan novel.] Holmes continues his work, and developed a ruse to get a reaction from one suspect. But this doesn't work out, the suspect leaves England on a ship going to America (Chapter 11). Chapter 12 ends this story: "Justice has been served. Case closed." [Not really.]
Victor shows his knowledge of those times in this historical fiction. Some of the story does not agree with the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (as I remember it), or the recorded facts. There was no need to obscure the names of the US senators attacked in Phillips' articles. They were Nelson W. Aldrich (RI) and Arthur P. Gorman (MD). Populist parties of that era advocated the direct election of US senators, the 17th Amendment was adopted. Dr. Watson would know better than to assume the son would be as good as the father. If Victor had read some of Upton Sinclair's novels he might have done better. That is why I gave this book a low rating. [Could a revolver hold seven bullets? What did the people on the street do? Using a deranged individual for political murders goes back to the original assassins in Medieval times. I could find no details about this murder on the Internet.]