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A stand-alone weird fantasy novel that is also a homage to Sherlock Holmes.

Publication year: 2019

Format: Audio

Running time: 9 hours, 13 minutes
Narrator: Nicholas Boulton

Captain John Wyndham writers a serialized story in the Strait magazine about how he first met Ms. Shaharazad Hass, the infamous consulting sorceress who has a dark and ruthless temperament. Wyndham writes the story years after it happened, indeed after Ms. Haas has (seemingly at least) died.

Wyndham had been fighting in a war in another dimension for five years. When he returns to the city of Khelathra-Ven, he needs a place to stay and ends up at 221b Martyrs Walk. Ms. Haas is his new housemate and she seems a very quirky character indeed. But Wyndham has no choice. Soon enough, Miss Eirene Viola comes to Ms. Haas to ask her to find out who is blackmailing Miss Viola to break out her engagement with Cora Beck.

Wyndham is an entertaining first-person narrator. Of course, since this is a first-person POV, a lot depends on if the reader likes the voice. He’s from Ii which is a Puritan society so it has much more rigid sexual and social mores than Khelathra-Ven in general and Ms. Haas specifically. So, he’s forced to downplay cursing that the other characters constantly do. He’s also easily shocked by the behavior of Ms. Haas and the other characters. He also throws in meta-commentary since he’s telling the story a couple decades later. He’s loyal and too truthful for his own good. Haas takes a little bit of personality from Holmes but she’s far more morally gray character, being drug-addled most of the time, not just when she’s bored. She insults everyone and is very sure of her own power and skills. She’s also bisexual. Miss Viola is her former lover and so are quite a few other characters we meet.

The world is wildly imaginative and the blackmail plot is just an excuse to take a tour in and around the city and even to the lost Carcosa. The characters are very entertaining, such as the long-suffering Augur Lawson who is trying to rein in his too enthusiastic collages while trying to uphold the laws of the city, which forbid the use of magic. And Eirene who was a thief and an adventurer before she fell in love with Cora.

I enjoyed this book a lot. The only thing I didn’t really care for was the horror aspect which came quite late in the story.

“Co-tenant required. Rent reasonable to the point of arousing suspicion. Tolerance for blasphemies against nature an advantage. No laundry service. Enquire S. Haas, 221b Martyrs Walk.”

“To be reprimanded by one’s landlady is never pleasant, but when the censure in question is delivered in an atonal buzzing from within a partially skeletonised cadaver, within which a teeming mass of insects swarms and moves with ungodly purpose, it can be quite disheartening.”