Friday, October 20, 2017

Books: Sherlock Holmes Examines "Unquiet Spirits"

Unquiet Spirits: Whisky Ghosts Murder, A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
By Bonnie MacBird
Harper Collins Publishers

Bonnie MacBird’s latest rollicking Sherlock Holmes adventure Unquiet Spirits revolves around a Scottish whisky dynasty and a series of murders and hauntings in the Highlands.

Unquiet Spirits is set in the winter of 1889, and Holmes and Watson are fresh off the terrifying affair of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Watson finds his friend is the target of a mysterious, tongue-less man bent on murderous revenge.

A beautiful Scotswoman implores Holmes to travel to the Highlands on a vague case of a missing chambermaid and ghosts. But to Watson’s surprise, Holmes dismisses both cases, opting instead to go to the South of France at Mycroft’s behest to investigate threats to a French scientist.

All three cases come together and blend into a single, deadly conundrum which the duo track to a remote, “haunted” castle in the highlands of Scotland.

Among the copper behemoths of a whisky distillery, Sherlock Holmes must come to terms with a ghost from his own mysterious past before he can put to rest the most confounding case of his career.

MacBird was asked by Publishers Weekly if there was a historical basis for the rivalries among Scottish whisky manufacturers in Unquiet Spirits, and she said, "Absolutely! When brandy and wine skyrocketed in price, innovative Scots marketing geniuses - James Buchanan and Tommy Dewar - took on London to set up whiskey as the new drink of society. Among Highland distilleries, before they became big business at about this time, strong rivalries led to sabotage between some of the rival families. All that was very real."

The novel comes on the heels of MacBird’s debut, Art in the Blood, which was published in 14 languages and earned legions of fans and wide critical acclaim as an “Editor’s Pick” from Publisher’s Weekly,  “a smashing fast-paced page-turner" by BookPage, “a worthy addition” (Kirkus),and a “faithful, full-blooded and breathlessly plotted homage” by the Irish Times.

Unquiet Spirits is similar to Art in the Blood, and Conan Doyle’s originals, in that it is narrated by Dr. John Watson and set in Victorian times.

While MacBird emulates Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s style and remains faithful to his characters and the timeline of the canon, she also aims to shine a little light on the mystery that is Sherlock Holmes himself.

Just as Art in the Blood explored the perils and blessings of the artistic temperament, Unquiet Spirits pits the scientific Holmes against the seeming supernatural, while forcing him to face the very real ghosts of his own past. Thanks to Watson’s efforts, the reader learns a dark secret about the young man who would become the world’s first Consulting Detective.

MacBird’s meticulous research, vivid period detail, superb plotting, and deep respect for the works ensures that Unquiet Spirits satisfies and delights both Sherlock Holmes experts and new fans of the genre.

MacBird told Publishers Weekly what inspired her to write her first novel, Art in the Blood, In 2012, I had just survived something quite trying, and I have always found solace and recovery in maximally challenging artistic work. I set out to test my writing chops with something I knew would be devilishly hard - a long-form Sherlock Holmes story, emulating Conan Doyle, all facts and timeline consistent with canon, but adding a deeply personal dimension without overstepping or destroying the mystery of Holmes himself. I have loved Sherlock Holmes since age 10, and so I aimed to write the novel I most wanted to read."

On some of the difficulties she faced in writing these novels, she said, "Holmes must be ahead of the reader and Watson. The forensics of the era are different, everything requires massive research, and a full-length Holmes novel demands intricate plotting to convince the reader that even the most brilliant detective in the world can't solve everything by page 30. The crime and the deductions are the hardest parts to get right. How Holmes deduces and in what order to present the clues to the reader pose the toughest challenge."

For two unique features, note the artist-designed drop caps which tease each chapter, and visit for annotations with fun historical and Sherlockian facts to enhance the reading experience of the book.

AUTHOR APPEARANCE: Bonnie MacBird is appearing in New York City at Mysterious Bookshop on Thursday, October 26th at 6:30 pm. It is located at 58 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007. 

Bonnie MacBird. Photo by Ray Bengston.


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