RogerBW's Blog

The Angel of the Crows, Katherine Addison 15 April 2022

2020 Victorian fantasy. Wounded in Afghanistan, Dr J. H. Doyle returns to London and takes up with a new roommate, a renegade angel interested in the solving of crime.

So well yes. This is unashamed Sherlock Holmes fanfic (or, as the author's note points out, "wingfic"). But it's well-researched fanfic, blending the events of several of the novels and short stories with historical murders – and yes, that includes Jack the Ripper, at which I always tend to sigh a bit because so many dreary people have come up with their dreary theories… none of that here, thank goodness, and the events are spread out among the rest of the stories so that in the end it's one among many cases rather than the focus of the book.

So even as we learn that this London has not only angels but also a veritable array of other magical creatures… it all seems to fit together, and the elephant in the room ("if all these weird things have been there all this time, how can history possibly be recognisable") is at least written round a bit rather than simply ignored.

There was speculation, naturally, about paranormal activity — what polite London (those who called the woman an "unfortunate") termed the "unusual." But the wounds had distinctly been made with a bladed weapon, which ruled out hell-hounds, rogue werewolves, and any other creature incapable of holding a knife, and none of the body was missing, which ruled out necrophages and ghouls, while neither vampires nor any desperate hemophage would have been so wasteful. All the signs pointed toward human agency, and although it was only a matter of time before the howls of "witchcraft!" started up, none of the witches I had met was any more likely to do this sort of thing than their respectable neighbors.

Addison's having fun with this; there are occasional mild references to other mysteries, but this isn't one of those books that tries to wedge in everything. This "Watson" gets to do things rather than merely to be a chronicler, often indeed without "Holmes" as last-moment salvation.

He was a hypochondriac of the first water, taking great and obvious pleasure in reciting his symptoms. He would periodically ask for my opinion; since I was not listening to him, my answers were rather hit or miss, but since he was not listening to me, being too enthralled with the saga of his own health, it hardly mattered.

This is mostly a revisiting of the high points of the Sherlock Holmes canon given a supernatural twist or viewed from a slightly different angle, not an exploration of the nature of this world's angels or other supernatural beasties. There may be an actual hell-hound near Baskerville Hall, but Stapleton is still Stapleton. In some ways it feels more like an academic exercise than like an independent work of fiction, but it's one that worked very well for me, particularly because its Crow and Doyle manage to make their Holmes and Watson sympathetic and interesting even as they fail to fit into normal society.

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