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Book Review: Work Capitol

Work Capitol (Fight Card)

By Andrew Salmon

fight card

As with most pastiches, the story told in this book is narrated by John Watson and it is one of those cases which have never been told before. Very often we encounter accidental finds or stories involving people whose names had to be protected during their lifetime. Andrew Salmon finds an interesting new way to explain why his stories (and I write stories, as there is also a second novel to be reviewed soon) were not published by John Watson when the others were:

Work Capitol is as much about brawn as it is about brain.

We all know that Sherlock Holmes was a great boxer and that he could hold his own in several other sports and martial arts. In Work Capitol we encounter McMurdo, who has a quick friendly exchange with Holmes in The Sign of Four where he has taken on the job of the bodyguard of the Sholtos. This story explains how Holmes and McMurdo knew and fought each other in the ring and how their fight dragged Holmes and Watson into the ring of a closely knit criminal syndicate.

Watson claims that he couldn’t publish the story as it features graphic descriptions of violence, and, make no mistakes, Watson is right. While we find some cut off thumbs and ears or bashed in heads in the Canon, Work Capitol features a variety of graphically described injuries, both within and outside the boxing ring.

The case itself is a complex and dangerous one, which sees Holmes and Watson having a close brush with death more than once, and every bit as good as Doyle wrote his cases. I had long wanted to read this story, but was kept from it by work, but now that I sat down again to read it I couldn’t stop and finished it in one go. It’s beautiful prose and while not always sounding true to Doyle, the writing style draws you in and involves you almost physically. Salmon makes you feel the incredible heat of the place when Watson steps inside a crowded bar from the bitter cold. There are many passages in the text where I just stopped to enjoy the words, which is a rare thing in Sherlock Holmes pastiches or any kind of novel these days.

I also enjoyed that Dr. Watson gets to be a doctor in this story. Too often we only see him grab a flask of brandy to aid a fainted or distraught man, but in this story, due to work related injuries, we see Watson working his real job, which also comes with his mixed feelings about the case and the physical danger which is involved for Holmes. He is quite adamant at telling his friend just how little he appreciates precipitous and potentially life-threatening plans and actions. In a way, this Dr. Watson reads very realistically – occasionally even more realistically than in the Canon. He is someone who has the utmost admiration for his brilliant friend, but he also knows when Holmes is going too far and he judges him, even if Holmes proves to be right in most cases.
I do not want to go into the case too much as to give nothing away, but I enjoyed delving into this rougher case very much. Andrew Salmon also offers a short introduction into Victorian bare-knuckle boxing and the legal issues behind it and a glossary at the end of the novel explains boxing related slang terms.

If you are not squeamish about descriptions of injuries, you will definitely enjoy this book. You can buy the book as a paperback or an e-book on amazon.com, amazon.co.uk and other distributers.

Note: The e-book version lists the name Jack Tunney as the author, which is due to the book being part of the Fight Card series. The author is still Andrew Salmon.

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 @stuffasdreamsmaria@bakerstreetbabes.com

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