Review of “The Affair of the Mysterious Letter” by Alexis Hall

Hall, Alexis. The Affair of the Mysterious Letter. New York: Ace, 2019.

Paperback | $16.00 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0440001331 | 352 pages | Fantasy

5 stars

I received an ARC of this book through a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

I was so excited to win a copy of The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, especially since at the time I originally found out I won, I was still coming down from the high of the awesomeness of one of the author’s other books, For Real, and was curious to see what Alexis Hall could bring to the fantasy genre.

And I think the results are great. I love both the fun LGBTQ twist on Sherlock Holmes (although I admit I have not actually read the original novels) and the pastiche of the 19th century writing style. While the narrative relies heavily on exposition and telling as opposed showing in a lot of places and there is a lot of purposeful in-narrative editing and censoring, I felt it worked for the style he was going for, although I can see why it may bother some people.

Wyndham (the Watson of this novel) is an incredibly charming narrator, and incredibly deadpan at time, which serves as a great balance to the somewhat bizarre events and world building that happen. I’m not always the biggest fan of books that feel this absurd in terms of its world, one of the reasons I haven’t read that much steampunk, but I could not help but be charmed by it due to the incredibly humorous delivery.

In spite of my lack of real knowledge of the original Holmes stories, I knew enough that the mystery grew to feel more and more in the vein of something I would expect from a Sherlock-inspired story given what I did know, right down to the use of deductive logic to figure out the culprit. That element was so cleverly done, and while it was pretty obvious in hindsight given the evidence presented, Hall employed clever use of misdirection to imply otherwise.

This is a fun take on Sherlock Holmes and the classic “episodic” novel with a fantasy twist that I think most fans who love both historical fiction and the classics as well as fantasy will adore.

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