Book Review: A Congression of Pallbearers
Fight Card: Sherlock Holmes – A Congression of Pallbearers
by Andrew Salmon
The third Fight Card: Sherlock Holmes novel is set in 1894 and very much concerned with the end of the nineteenth century and the changes in European society and politics. Another account by Watson published long after the events have taken place due to their political implications and the graphic descriptions of violence, A Congression of Pallbearers sees Holmes and Watson meet an old friend again. Eby Stokes is involved in yet another mystery and it is up to Holmes and Watson to find out which role she plays in the context of Irish terrorism, German espionage and money laundering.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, so I won’t go into further detail here. However, what is interesting about this pastiche is that only half is told by Watson, and the other, for good reasons, by Holmes himself. Once again, Salmon’s prose is simply beautiful to read, even if the occasional very graphic descriptions of violence are not for the faint-hearted. While diverting from Doyle’s writing style, Salmon’s language draws you in and adds colour to the narrative in a way which I have only very rarely encountered. Just for the language, the short novel (as well as Work Capitol and Blood to the Bone) is well worth the read.
In terms of plot, the story is quite traditional, following several clues without Holmes giving away his hand until it is time to impress us (or, rather Watson and Stokes). Salmon integrates several brilliant Canon references, including a very clever one in one of Stokes’s acquaintances, which will make any Sherlockian smile, and while it features some boxing, it is now rather used in self-defence and close quarters combat.
The story itself is engaging and, like the first two, referencing historical events and topical issues. We follow the protagonists through a time which is marked by rapid changes in society and culture. The case itself is complex and multi-layered, calling aspects of loyalty to both individuals and the Crown into question while simultaneously offering us another glimpse at the feminist side of Sherlock Holmes, which is occasionally implied in the Canon, but explored in greater depth in Salmon’s tales. Eby Stokes remains one of my absolute favourite female characters in any Sherlock Holmes pastiche. She is brave, quick, the best team player imaginable and she is able to impress Sherlock Holmes time and time again. The novel ends on the possibility that she, too, might chronicle her own adventures, and I do hope for some stand-alone accounts from Stoke’s pen.
The book includes a fighting term glossary as well as some historical notes, a comment on Holmes and mixed martial arts and samples of the other two novels.
I read the novel in one go and was sad to put it down. So if you like boxing and don’t mind to read a less clean shaven version of Sherlock Holmes, the Fight Card: Sherlock Holmes series is definitely for you!
A copy of the above-reviewed work was provided for consideration by the author. All opinions expressed are the reviewer’s own.
Maria teaches English Literature at Leipzig University, Germany, published a German introduction to Sherlock Holmes and is a fan of all things Holmes – but especially of the Canon stories and Sherlock BBC. Contact her at @stuffasdreams & email@example.com