Posts Tagged Sherlock Holmes

Romance Saturday Returns with Stephanie Osborn’s Displaced Detective Series, Book 4

It’s Romance Saturday! And considering it’s been a while since we last checked in with Stephanie Osborn’s inestimable Displaced Detective Series, which features the great detective Sherlock Holmes as brought to the modern-day by hyperspatial physicist (and love interest) Skye Chadwick, what could be better than to discuss book four, THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS? (Note that books one and two of this series were reviewed here, while book three was reviewed here.)

During the previous book, THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT, our Sherlock and Skye got married, went to England for their honeymoon, and did their best to figure out whether or not a UFO was truly involved in a perplexing incident. But they also were contacted by an alternate universe’s version of Sherlock and Skye, who have a rather difficult problem of their own to solve. Simply put: the cosmos appears to be falling apart at the seams, and because other-Skye lost most of her original team due to sabotage, only the other-Sherlock is left to assist her. And while other-Skye and other-Sherlock do have feelings for one another, they are currently not lovers — instead, their relationship is that of rather strained good friends, albeit with a whole lot of sexual tension between them.

Anyway, other-Sherlock and other-Skye need our Sherlock and Skye’s help to figure out whether or not other-Skye’s equations are correct. Because of a twist of physics (crudely put, you can see any time that’s in the past from your own, and universes don’t always match anyway, time-wise), other-Sherlock and other-Skye are actually four chronological years older than our versions of the same. Because of that time differential, they are able to give our versions of Skye and Sherlock some space to get up to speed on the equations.

During book four, ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS, our Sherlock solves what’s going on in the English countryside while Skye works with other-Skye and other-Sherlock to save the cosmos from complete and utter destruction. Which would make you think there’s no time left for romance . . . but actually, there is.

You see, our Sherlock and Skye are worried about other-Sherlock and other-Skye. The latter pair has been overworked and underslept for quite some time; further, neither of them is able to derive any comfort, physical or otherwise, due to all of the emotional baggage they both have picked up due to the disastrous events that took out nearly every member of other-Skye’s Project Tesseract team.

As our Sherlock and Skye just got married and are on their honeymoon, they obviously want to rectify this. But how can they do so without intruding on other-Sherlock’s legendary privacy and other-Skye’s tragic calm?

Anyway, even though it’s never fully stated in the text, the subtext is clear: our Sherlock and Skye do not want to see their other selves floundering like this.

So we have a triple-stranded plot going on. The first plotline deals with the wrap-up of the Rendelsham case. The second plotline deals with Skye’s efforts to check other-Skye and other-Sherlock’s physics equations (what I like to think of as “their homework,” in short). And the third, which overarches both of the other plotlines, is this: How can two extremely intelligent people like other-Skye and other-Sherlock, who’ve gotten off on the wrong foot romantically, make their relationship work?

One of the delights of ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS is in seeing these two strong characters be vulnerable in both sets of incarnations. Our Skye admits things to other-Skye she’s never said to anyone; ditto for our Sherlock and other-Sherlock. And because of this vulnerability, which is a direct outgrowth of their overall intelligence and strength, it’s possible for other-Skye and other-Sherlock to repair their relationship at the same time as they do their best to repair the cosmos itself.

And that, my friends, is exactly why ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS is such a delightful book from beginning to end.

There is only one quibble I had, though, and I needs must mention it: We don’t actually see what other-Skye and other-Sherlock do to fix the cosmos. We see all the preparation beforehand, yes. But we don’t see the actual events.

Mind you, it’s possible that it wouldn’t have made any sense to do so from an action-adventure perspective. (Which is why this is but a minor quibble.) Still, I would’ve liked to see a little bit more physics and a whole lot more of the sense of menace and danger while other-Skye and other-Sherlock actually fixed everything . . . and I didn’t get it.**

That being said, this is the best SF/mystery/romance I’ve read thus far in 2014. It has everything you’d want, and then some . . . and the romance between the two sets of incredibly intelligent people is to die for.

Bottom line? Anyone with a brain and a pulse who loves SF, loves mysteries, loves Sherlock Holmes and/or loves it when intelligent people find their true soul mates should adore this book.

Grade: A.

— reviewed by Barb

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**This, for the record, is the only reason ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS did not receive an A-plus.

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Osborn’s “Displaced Detective,” Book 3 — The Cosmos In Danger

Stephanie Osborn’s Displaced Detective series is about Sherlock Holmes as transported to the modern day via the hyperspatial physics of Dr. Skye Chadwick.  In books 1 and 2 of this series, Holmes and Chadwick solved some mysteries, then fell in love.  (These books were reviewed here.)  So what happened next?

Lucky for us, Ms. Osborn’s third novel in this series has just been released by Twilight Times Books; it’s called THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT.  Here, we have a possible UFO, another mystery — was a local farmer killed by the UFO, or not?  And if not, who killed him, and for what purpose? — and we also have more romance between Holmes and Chadwick, along with a new threat to the entire cosmos, which only Dr. Chadwick may be able to solve.

THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT (for short), is packed with action and plot, but it may not seem that way at first.  After a jam-packed introduction, the book quiets down to show more of Holmes and Chadwick’s romance — something I found very welcome — but this isn’t as idyllic as it seems, either.  This is because Holmes’s subconscious is working overtime; he keeps dreaming that he and Chadwick are separated by a thin barrier, and he doesn’t know why. 

This important plot point is disguised because Holmes and Chadwick are about to make their romance official as they’re about to get married.  While these two intensely private people want a very small service, their friends of course all want to be there, so there’s some minor conflict there (which ends up getting resolved favorably); then, the newlyweds retire to England to deal with the latest incident at Rendelsham — the possible UFO that’s been sighted there — while Holmes tries to figure out why farmer James McFarlane is dead.  (Was it the UFO?  And if not, what else could possibly have happened?)

In similar fashion to some of the mysteries in book 1 of this series, THE ARRIVAL, anything Holmes turns up regarding the death of McFarlane only leads to more questions.  (My guess is that most of these additional questions will be answered in book 4 of this series, THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS, which is due in 2013.)

But there’s an additional problem; as Holmes and Chadwick dig deeper into this “UFO” that everyone is worried about, Chadwick gets contacted by her “other self” — that is, a Dr. Skye Chadwick from a different dimension.  That Dr. Chadwick also invented the Tesseract, and also “imported” Sherlock Holmes before he could get killed on the rocks of Reichenbach Falls — but that Chadwick and Holmes did not have a lengthy romance, much less get married.  Worse, the incident in THE ARRIVAL that killed one of our Chadwick’s team ended up killing most of the other-Chadwick’s team, including Chadwick’s best friend in any dimension, Caitlin Hughes, which has had a terrible effect on other-Chadwick’s morale.

This is the main reason why other-Chadwick has contacted our Chadwick-Holmes; other-Chadwick needs help to figure out why the multiverse seems to be on the verge of imploding or exploding.  (This isn’t exactly what’s happening; the universes being in danger — the cosmos, in short — has something to do with the use of the Tesseract device.  By the time other-Chadwick comes to our Chadwick-Holmes, things have rapidly worsened.  Thus other-Chadwick’s solution.)  And because both universes that contain a version of Chadwick and Holmes are fairly close, if our Chadwick-Holmes cannot help other-Chadwick, it’s possible that these two universes will end up disappearing — and taking much, if not all, of the rest of the multiverse out with it.

Once this happens, Chadwick-Holmes starts to work feverishly, something that disturbs her new husband Sherlock Holmes something fierce.  They have a small argument or two (neither have the temperament to get extremely irate, which is probably just as well), mostly because Holmes doesn’t understand why his wife is working so hard.  He believes our Chadwick-Holmes should be able to take more rest, preferably with him, and continue working on their marriage — but the sense of urgency is real.  (Note that Holmes isn’t being obnoxious here; it’s part of the plot that the various universes have to synch up by time — that is, because the universes can look “forward” and “backward” in time, universes must pick whatever time they look into another universe, so other-Chadwick and other-Holmes are able to give our Chadwick and Holmes some extra time to solve this problem.  But as our Chadwick explains via mathematics and logic, the other-Chadwick/other-Holmes can only give them a certain amount of extra time.)

So, what happens next?  We get a cliffhanger, that’s what, though it’s not packaged as a “usual” cliffhanger due to the gentle nature of how THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT ends.  (Further reviewer sayeth not.)

Overall, the romance in THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT is superb, especially when contrasted against the failed romance of other-Chadwick and other-Holmes.  The physics, once again, are rock solid, yet understandable for the intelligent layman.  And the underlying mystery as to what happened to farmer McFarlane, much less how Holmes gets to the bottom of the various layers of this newest case, is extremely interesting.

Thus far, Ms. Osborn’s writing quality has continued at a very high level.  Which is why despite the quiet section that lasted nearly 75 pages (yet contained very many plot points that were vital to understand what happened for the remaining 200+ pages of the book), THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT held my interest from beginning to end.

Bottom line: THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT is a fine addition to the Displaced Detective series and does not disappoint.  (Can’t wait for book 4.  Write fast, Ms. Osborn!)

Grade: A.

— reviewed by Barb

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SBR 2-for-1 Special: Stephanie Osborn’s “Displaced Detective” Series, Books 1 and 2

Stephanie Osborn’s Displaced Detective series is about Sherlock Holmes as brought into the modern era by a well-trained team of scientists led by hyperspatial physicist Skye Chadwick.  The first two books in Osborn’s series are THE CASE OF THE DISPLACED DETECTIVE: THE ARRIVAL and THE CASE OF THE DISPLACED DETECTIVE: AT SPEED.

The first novel, THE ARRIVAL (for short), is about Holmes’s first experiences in the modern era.  He was brought to our world because Chadwick’s team was tuned in on him as he went over the Reichenbach Falls.  While the team was only supposed to observe, Chadwick couldn’t help but intervene; she’d been trained in the past to help others as a reserve police officer, and due to that training, she couldn’t just let Holmes die.  But lest you think Holmes is coming into a world where no one knows him, think again; Chadwick’s Earth realizes that Holmes, in our world, is fictional, but believes that Robert A. Heinlein’s “World as Myth” concept was on to something.  That’s why they went looking for a universe where Holmes was real in the first place.

Now, you might be wondering, how did Chadwick manage to grab hold of Holmes despite being in a different universe altogether?  She did so through the top-secret Tesseract device, which is how her group of scientists can safely observe multiple universes.  Before Chadwick grabbed Holmes, no one was quite sure what would happen if a modern-day person transferred — briefly or otherwise — into a universe that wasn’t his or her own.  Obviously, since Chadwick and Holmes both survived going to a different universe than the one he or she was born, this can’t help but cause some major plot complications down the road — interesting ones, that rely as much on science as they do on the knowledge of Holmes as the world’s detective par excellence

So, we have multiple universes.  We have a fictional character, Holmes, who’s been given a thorough and realistic grounding in a non-fictional universe due to the “World as Myth” concept (Osborn references Heinlein exactly, though the concept itself is probably much older).  We have a very competent hyperspatial physicist in Chadwick, who becomes Holmes’s best friend and confidante in fairly short order, and does so in a thoroughly logical fashion.  Yet because Chadwick is still a reasonably young woman (in her late thirties, as is Holmes), and because she’s extremely bright and appreciates Holmes for his mind as well as his body, it’s obvious a romance is possible between the two whether Holmes realizes it at first or not.

And, as if all of that wasn’t enough, there’s a very nifty mystery at the heart of the story, to wit: why, after Holmes is brought forward in time and across universes, is it that the Tesseract Project runs into serious distress?  Is this because there’s a group out there who wants the technology for itself?  And if so, why cause this specific sort of trouble at all?

These questions will be answered, thoroughly and enjoyably, but as in most Holmesian mysteries, they only lead to more and broader questions.  And while logic chain follows logic chain amidst Holmes getting up to speed with our modern-day language, culture, idioms, etc.,  the deepening friendship between Chadwick and Holmes helps to keep the reader focused while giving Holmes an understandable motivation to fully integrate himself into our present-day reality.

And there’s a good reason why Holmes needs to do this; if he goes back to his own time and universe, he could potentially cause all sorts of problems with that universe.  Yet even the smartest and best-prepared man in the world — or of all the multiverse — has to feel melancholy from time to time considering he’s away from everything he knew.  All the people.  All the settings.  Everything.  Which is why Holmes’s ruminations matter, even though there aren’t many of them; they help remind the reader that Holmes is real, as real as Chadwick, and has just as many things to worry about as anyone else.  (If not more so.)

Osborne’s next book in the series is AT SPEED (in the short form), where Holmes and Chadwick must figure out what the bad guys who caused the Tesseract Project to stall out are actually doing.  These bad guys have a funny tendency of coming up dead in ways that seem beyond prediction; it’s elementary, my dear reader, that the world’s greatest detective is both needed and necessary to solve this mystery.  Because before Holmes and Chadwick can stop the bad guys, they first have to understand what they’re all about or they haven’t a prayer.

Of course, by this time, Holmes and Chadwick have become extremely close.  This is a good thing, as the bad guys have caused them to go “on the run” (if you can call being in a first class hotel such) and to stay hidden; they’re thrown together, and of course their relationship both deepens and runs into some rough spots.  This is because Holmes is in love with Chadwick, yet isn’t easy on himself as he believes for the most part that physical love is exalted way too much, while being companions and friends is not.  And Chadwick’s had her own share of problems in the past, mostly because she’s a brilliant woman who hasn’t been able to find a man who’s up to her weight, intellectually speaking, so the fact that their relationship has turned sexual means there are realistic complications aplenty.

One thing to keep in mind here; the first book is closer to a “normal” Sherlock Holmes mystery in that there’s little sex (though there is love of the agape sort) and it’s closer to a traditional action-adventure plot.  Here, there’s still action and adventure, but the romance is a big part of the plotline, so you must be aware of it or you won’t appreciate what happens even though it makes perfect sense.

Now, is this “explicit” sex, as one Amazon reviewer put it?  I don’t think so.  This is PG-13 sex, not R or X-rated stuff; this is what you’d see out of any committed couple who cares about each other, nothing more and nothing less.   So don’t let it put you off.

Getting back to the mystery, of course Holmes ends up having to go back to his own continuum as that’s where the clues are.  But he can’t stay long due to the fact he really should’ve died (and would’ve, had Chadwick not grabbed him); what will he do in his universe?  How will what he does synch up with Arthur Conan Doyle’s “resurrection story” (i.e., the last story of Sherlock Holmes)?  And what will happen to Chadwick after she sees it all?

Ultimately, the mystery is solved with a traditional Holmesian explanation at the end as to why the bad guys were doing what, and what Holmes believed they were planning to get out of it.  (Chadwick puts in the traditional Watson parts, albeit with a flair all her own.)  And the only remaining mystery is, will Holmes stay with Chadwick, or not?  (Hint, hint: feel free to expect a happy ending.)

Ultimately, both of the first two books in the Displaced Detective series are faithful to the Sherlock Holmes milieu and mythos.  Holmes acts like himself, albeit with a bit more heart than head; the romance between Holmes and Chadwick makes perfect sense in context, and the mysteries being solved are appropriately complex.  That’s why they’re such a pleasure to read.

Bottom line: buy these books, whether you love science fiction, Sherlock Holmes, realistic romance, or just enjoy cracking good yarns.  (You’ll be glad you did.)

Grades:  THE ARRIVAL — A-plus; AT SPEED — A.

— reviewed by Barb

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One further note:  Osborn’s next novel in this series, THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT, will be reviewed next week here at Shiny Book Review.

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