The Affair of the Mysterious Letter

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter

In this charming, witty, and weird fantasy novel, Alexis Hall pays homage to Sherlock Holmes with a new twist on those renowned characters. Upon returning to the city of Khelathra-Ven after five years fighting a war in another universe, Captain John Wyndham finds himself looking for somewhere to live, and expediency forces him to take lodgings at 221b Martyrs Walk. His new...

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Title:The Affair of the Mysterious Letter
Author:Alexis Hall
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Edition Language:English

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter Reviews

  • Pam Faste aka Peejakers

    6/24/19

    OmG, that was good! Whew! What an utter tour-de-force!

    This book is full of

    ! 😊

    But, okay, now let me try to compose myself and I'll (hopefully) be back with a full review in a day or so! ❤❤❤❤❤

    ***************************************************

    6/29/19

    Okay, well, not sure how composed I am, but I'm finally back with my review!

    So, as you will have gathered, and to my complete lack of surprise, The Affair of The Mysterious Letter is an unqualified delight and charming as all get out. Wha

    6/24/19

    OmG, that was good! Whew! What an utter tour-de-force!

    This book is full of

    ! 😊

    But, okay, now let me try to compose myself and I'll (hopefully) be back with a full review in a day or so! ❤❤❤❤❤

    ***************************************************

    6/29/19

    Okay, well, not sure how composed I am, but I'm finally back with my review!

    So, as you will have gathered, and to my complete lack of surprise, The Affair of The Mysterious Letter is an unqualified delight and charming as all get out. What a wildly happy ride!

    Opening this book is like opening the gates to the most amazing and immersive adventure park ever, a gloriously queer-normative and mind-boggling Wonderland full of magic, fantastical beings, extraordinary places, fascinating (if not bizarre) characters, and many other delights.

    The writing is witty, adroit, and gorgeous, and rendered in charmingly wordy Victorian-ish style amusingly peppered with

    anachronistic modern slang – a thing I super-adore. I loved the narrative style so much that . . . well, you know that thing where you watch a show or a movie set in 1880’s London or whatever, and end up talking like an upper class British Victorian for the rest of the day? (Or is that just me?) Anyway, it’s kinda like that. So if at any point I sound like I’m writing this in John Wyndham’s voice, please forgive me!

    The story itself is a captivating fantasy twist on the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, set in an alternate, notably Lovecraftian, universe wherein “Sherlock Holmes” becomes “Shaharazad Haas”, an extravagantly eccentric, pansexual sorceress, and “Doctor John Watson” gives way to “Captain John Wyndham”, a shyly puritanical and compulsively polite, gay, trans man with a heart of gold.

    Staggeringly original and imaginative, the book is also liberally strewn with the loveliest literary and pop culture Easter eggs, paying loving homage first and foremost to Holmes and Watson, and to the Lovecraftian style of surreal, dread-filled fantasy/horror. But scattered throughout are also hints of steampunk, adventure story, fractured fairy tales, screwball comedy, even a nod to classic Agatha Christie, and probably more that I’ve missed, all tumbled together, cheek-by-jowl, in the most delightfully chaotic way.

    The book is also richly veined with humor and frequently hilarious. I especially loved how enchantingly absurd it was. This is possibly my favorite kind of humor and one this author excels in. I spent a significant portion of this book

    with glee! To paraphrase more than one other reviewer, this book is utterly, joyfully bonkers!

    But it’s also so much more. There were moments of haunting disquiet, even of horror, that were somehow, also eerily beautiful. And there were scattered moments that surprised me with a tug on my heartstrings, including

    which brought an unexpected rush of tears to my eyes. And there’s plenty of insightful human commentary tucked in there among the other treasures.

    Now a little more about the main characters.

    John Wyndham, it must be said, is simply

    : Endearingly prim and fastidiously courteous, kindhearted and honorable to a fault, a bit naïve and pedestrian in his thinking (at least in the beginning), he’s also admirably open-minded given (or perhaps because of) his upbringing. And though frequently bewildered and more than a little out of his depth hanging out with the likes of Ms. S. Haas, what I loved was how he’s always absolutely

    . He’s also admirably resourceful, braver than he gives himself credit for and, on occasion, pretty darn dashingly heroic. Not to mention genuinely humble and self-effacing! Aaand I’ve probably made him sound like an insufferable Mary Sue now, but he’s not in the least. He’s the loveliest; a good friend, the perfect foil for his more glamorously drawn partner in crime-solving, and I adored him.

    And then we have the inimitable Ms. Haas, or “The Sorceress Shaharazad Haas”! as she is fond of announcing herself. A strange woman with a number of strange habits, among which a proclivity for drugging herself to the gills when not more entertainingly or profitably engaged is perhaps the

    remarkable. Whose penchant for joyfully flouting the rules forms the perfect counterpoint (and possible antidote?) to John Wyndham’s ingrained habit of upholding them. And, as we quickly discover, a woman also as formidable as she is outrageous, with zero patience for fools, and altogether magnificent. On the more human side, we also get the feeling that behind that rather grandiose exterior she’s probably a lonely and not terribly happy person (I mean, the

    / . . .), but she’s a bit of a fortress, only giving brief glimpses of her more vulnerable side before slamming the door.

    For fans of the author's other work who may be wondering how this stacks up, it’s important to note this is not a romance but does contain romantic elements, including some adorable flirtations, with a sly hint of more to come should there be more books about these characters. I’d also say this contains the best adventure, fantasy, and humor elements of the author’s Prosperity (sans dialect) and his Kate Kane series (sans detective noir tone). It also reminded me at times of the completely bananas “Squamous with a Chance of Rain” (a personal favorite from the Prosperity follow-up “Liberty & Other Stories”). Especially in its zanier moments, and with its similar theme of a sensible Victorian (ish) protagonist thrown suddenly into outlandish circumstances and gamely making the best of them with a kind of bemused aplomb. Something about the absurdity of that juxtaposition delights and amuses me to no end, both in that book and this one, though I think this book is a little more serious and a little less intensely Lovecraft-on-acid. All in all, I think if you read and enjoyed any of those books you will probably like this one too, and if you’ve read this one and not the others, you might want to check them out! 😊

    Now, before I go, here is but a small sampling of my favorites among the riches to be found in this book:

    This book contains the most

    swordplay sequence, of sorts,

    played out against a thrillingly dramatic background and narrated by the protagonist in such excitingly detailed play-by-play that I could see the whole thing as if it was playing out before my eyes. So awesomely cinematic!

    And then we have Chapters 50 and 51, wherein things get mega-bizarre and mega-serious: A standout not to be missed, like, whoa! Equally spellbinding and disturbing, the action building to a nightmarish crescendo, these 2 chapters were a hallucinatory, heart-pounding masterpiece. I read this part at a full gallop, with a death grip on my Kindle and finished literally breathless. Damn!

    Finally, here, have a lovely, haunting quote:

    Okay, I could go on and on some more, but I guess I should probably stop.

    I

    this book; it made me supremely happy and I didn't want it to end (which is why I’m currently re-reading it)! I really, really hope there will be more stories about these characters and their world, because already I can't wait for them!

    ❤❤❤❤❤

  • Emma Newman

    I was lucky enough to get a galley from my editor and OMG I loved this book so much. It was a sheer delight to read and has dragged me out of a massive reading slump that lasted for months. Honestly, do yourself a favour and get it as soon as it comes out. It's like the joy of reading Gail Carriger's Soulless all over again, but wrapped in a gleeful love affair with Sherlock Holmes.

    Read it. READ. IT.

  • Empress Reece (Hooked on Books)

    This is without a doubt my favorite book of the year so far and my favorite fantasy pastiche of all time! It would take one hell of a book to usurp The Affair of the Mysterious Letter's first place position. Even though this is a fantasy pastiche of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, the likeness to the characters and their peculiarities is absolutely remarkable. The writing is also phenomenal. I really, really, hope further adventures of Shaharazad Hass and Captain John Wyndham will be coming to us so

    This is without a doubt my favorite book of the year so far and my favorite fantasy pastiche of all time! It would take one hell of a book to usurp The Affair of the Mysterious Letter's first place position. Even though this is a fantasy pastiche of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, the likeness to the characters and their peculiarities is absolutely remarkable. The writing is also phenomenal. I really, really, hope further adventures of Shaharazad Hass and Captain John Wyndham will be coming to us soon. I need more of these two immediately.

    If you're a Sherlock Holmes fan and like the fantasy genre, then this is a must read right now. You won't be disappointed!

    *I received this ARC from Penguin Random House and the First to Read program in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

  • ☕️Kimberly

    What a fun tale. This is a Sherlockian based tale set off planet and filled with magic, vampires, gods and limitless worlds. Come travel with John and Shaharzad Haas as they try to uncover a blackmailer.

    Witches, underwater cities, shape-shifting, flying and more await you in this clever tale. I loved this female version of Sherlock. John Wyndham comes from a deeply religious planet and found after college he couldn’t quite move home. When he looks for housing on Khelathra-Ven, and answers an ad

    What a fun tale. This is a Sherlockian based tale set off planet and filled with magic, vampires, gods and limitless worlds. Come travel with John and Shaharzad Haas as they try to uncover a blackmailer.

    Witches, underwater cities, shape-shifting, flying and more await you in this clever tale. I loved this female version of Sherlock. John Wyndham comes from a deeply religious planet and found after college he couldn’t quite move home. When he looks for housing on Khelathra-Ven, and answers an ad for a flatmate he finds himself at 221b Martyrs Walk.

    The owner of the dwelling is a hoard of bees and lives in the attic. I will let you discover more, but as John will tell you, “Don’t drink the tea.” Shaharazad Haas is over the top. A female sorcerer who uses prohibited magic when it suits her, annoys everyone and yet it seems everyone owes her a favor. Why John agrees to live with her, you must discover for yourself.

    John narrates the entire story as he recounts the first case he works with her. His explanations and direct conversations with us, the reader were delightful and more than once I laughed aloud. This is pure fantasy at its best.

    Because John is speaking to us, the story had a nice flow with pauses, to share information about the planet, place or city we are visiting. I thought this was rather clever. John’s mannerisms and upbringing offered humor as he relayed the outlandish behavior of the brilliant, opinionated and troublesome Haas.

    Fans of diversity and LGBT storylines will appreciate the refreshing acceptance and characters found within.

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

    The Affair of the Mysterious Letter is a fantasy retelling involving Sherlock Holmes characters.

    Captain John Wyndham is returning to Khelathra-Ven after fighting a war elsewhere for five years. He is desperate for someone where to live and winds up with Ms. Shaharazad Haas as a housemate. She’s a moody one, Ms. Haas, and is known for darkness.

    Ms. Haas is asked to solve a case

    ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

    The Affair of the Mysterious Letter is a fantasy retelling involving Sherlock Holmes characters.

    Captain John Wyndham is returning to Khelathra-Ven after fighting a war elsewhere for five years. He is desperate for someone where to live and winds up with Ms. Shaharazad Haas as a housemate. She’s a moody one, Ms. Haas, and is known for darkness.

    Ms. Haas is asked to solve a case of blackmail against a former lover, and Captain Wyndham becomes invested in the case and drawn into the rabbit hole where he meets all kinds of unsavory characters. The case begins to feel impossible to solve, but nothing is truly impossible when Ms. Haas is involved.

    I loved this quirky, zany tribute to Holmes and Watson. What a trip! Alexis Hall’s writing is on point, and the pacing is so well-done, I just breezed through this fabulous story. I start to write something and back it back out because I don’t want to overshare the goodness within these pages. Just know: Alexis Hall is a born storyteller, this book is fresh and tons of fun, and I’m certain you’ve read nothing like it either. Cheers to Alexis Hall!

    I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

    My reviews can also be found on my blog:

  • laurel [suspected bibliophile]

    This was a

    .

    On the one hand—a gender-swapped (well, for the sorceress) and queer as hell retelling of Sherlock Holmes, set in a complex fantasy world? On the other hand—a Sherlock Holmes retelling written in the style of the original books.

    After an unfortunate injury that prevented him from serving in the military, Captain John Wyndham, feeling adrift from his religiously conservative home (and not welcome in his father's house), returns to the city of his unive

    This was a

    .

    On the one hand—a gender-swapped (well, for the sorceress) and queer as hell retelling of Sherlock Holmes, set in a complex fantasy world? On the other hand—a Sherlock Holmes retelling written in the style of the original books.

    After an unfortunate injury that prevented him from serving in the military, Captain John Wyndham, feeling adrift from his religiously conservative home (and not welcome in his father's house), returns to the city of his university days, gets a job as an alchemist in a hospital, and finds a housemate in the form of the infamous sorceress Shaharazad Haas, who is just as brilliant as she is drug addled (if you're wondering, she is

    drug addled).

    When Haas' ex-girlfriend shows up with a letter and demands that Haas figure out who is blackmailing her from marrying her fishmonger fiancée, Haas drags Wyndham all over the three cities of Khelathra-Ven to discover the culprit. Haas and Wyndham have a list—and they are going to use deduction, logic and a whole lot of luck to figure it out.

    It's a good story, but I felt like it was lost in the mountains of exposition and Wyndham (bless his ooey, gooey soul he's so precious) choosing to tell us what happened versus showing us what happened. I kept reading, hoping it would get better and that the action sequences would be...actiony...but it did not.

    At first, I was digging Wyndham's long-winded way of telling things, with the hope that eventually he'd cut it out and get to the story, but I was waiting for him to cut it out and get to the story for...the entire story. I felt like half the book was him going, "oh no dear reader, I cannot show you this," or "this person

    say

    word," or accidentally spoiling what was to come by telling us what was to come and how it turned out before it happened. It's a schtick that gets old very quickly.

    The summary promises drowned cities (okay, Ven was pretty cool), vampire seduction (much of it edited out by our favorite prude Wyndham), punching a shark (more like a graze, actually, because water drags a lot), and sky pirates (okay, that was pretty cool). Thanks to the mass amounts of exposition, it felt like each chapter draaaaaagged on, and

    , I found myself reluctant to pick this up. It felt like it took me forever to read (forever being three days, which is forever based on how short this is).

    Oh sweet pickles, I'm starting to write like the book!

    Anywho. I really appreciate this book, despite my previous complaints. Dammit, still like the book!

    Khelathra-Ven is a fascinating city, and the world was complex and deliciously weird.

    There are really creepy vampires, bending reality, lots of oozing sores and ichor, and a landlady that is really just a hive of very annoyed bees (I mean, I'd be annoyed too if Shaharazad Haas was my tenant and she kept blowing holes into walls and destroying perfectly nice watercolor paintings) who possesses rotting dead bodies in order to have a single, solid form.

    Shaharazad Haas was the perfect version of Sherlock Holmes—and by that I mean a general asshole, degenerate, self-interested, druggie genius with waaaaaay more confidence and firepower than any one person should possess (this is, surprisingly, a compliment).

    John Wyndham, for all his narrative faults, was hilariously uptight but willing to just...go along with things, because—well, we never really got that explained. He just follows her around and is constantly changing his clothes (this was a gimmick that didn't get old, surprisingly) because what he is wearing is never fit for the occasion (I feel his pain). He's also loyal, brave and truthful to a fault (as the many interrogations reveal...poor Augur Lawson).

    Finally, the LGBTQIA+ rep is off the charts. John is trans (and also gay? He mentions a husband but no other lovers?), and Shaharazad and much of the rest of the cast seem to be pansexual. There are so many queer characters and a lot of diverse representation all around.

    I just wish that the narration had been a little more straight-forward.

    However, if you loved the original Sherlock Holmes novels and are looking for an updated, queer as fuck, gender-swapped Sherlock Holmes in a weird fantasy world (or just more queer fantasy rep in general),

    I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.

  • Chaima ✨ شيماء

    *delighted pterodactyl noises*

  • Moony Eliver

    I won a GR giveaway for this one, but it pains me to say it was not for me. I DNFed it really early because it was just not holding my interest. There was a lot of exposition that was pretty dry, and I wasn't hooked enough to plow through it. :(

  • Kat

    Absurdly fun and completely wonderful. My favourite book of the year (so far).

  • K.J. Charles

    Absolutely gleeful. A wildly enjoyable Holmes/Watson riff in a mad Lovecraftian fantasy world where reality is optional at best. Holmes is a drug-addled sorceress, while Watson is a buttoned up refugee from a terrifyingly puritanical country, and a large part of the fun is how he attempts to narrate a story of wild sex, appalling behaviour and a lot of swearing without actually putting any such shocking material on paper. It's very meta, as Wyndham comments on the goings-on from a distance of tw

    Absolutely gleeful. A wildly enjoyable Holmes/Watson riff in a mad Lovecraftian fantasy world where reality is optional at best. Holmes is a drug-addled sorceress, while Watson is a buttoned up refugee from a terrifyingly puritanical country, and a large part of the fun is how he attempts to narrate a story of wild sex, appalling behaviour and a lot of swearing without actually putting any such shocking material on paper. It's very meta, as Wyndham comments on the goings-on from a distance of twenty years; I particularly liked his argument with his editor about whether it's possible to have a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter when he is writing this now which clearly means he isn't going to die.

    It's bursting with invention, horrors, good jokes, and bonkers characters. Also, fantastically queer throughout. Wyndham is a gay trans man and there's some lovely hints of a future romance that I really want to read, Shaharazad is pansexual (and that's probably understating the matter), their client is hoping to save her forthcoming marriage to a woman despite a chequered history.

    It's not a complete Holmes analogue (though there are lots of satisfying little riffs), more using the odd couple as a jumping off point, as the detective here works more by elimination than any great deductive powers. This is fine with me, as if I want to read about amazing deductive powers, there is actual Sherlock Holmes. The mystery here is far more an excuse to roam around a fantastic world with fantastic characters. I can't say this bothered me in the slightest: the book could have been twice as long with my goodwill.

    Intensely readable and brilliant fun. I really hope there will be more of these.

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