Life is a labyrinthine web wherein one event taking place over here has repercussions over there, affecting relationships down the line. Relationships may be fragile, broken as easily as they were formed, but often they impact a life in so many ways unseen. You see, there is so much more to be learned about Sherlock Holmes than that which has been written . . . as even you, Mycroft, are about to discover.
Those lines from the prologue of When the Song of the Angels is Stilled make an implicit promise which is fulfilled in a most satisfactory fashion.
This novel of the young Holmes before Watson is in part a retelling of "The 'Gloria Scott'," but only a small part. There's also a subplot about a gruesome criminal enterprise involving babies. But, most of all, there is romance. This is, in fact, essentially a fine romance novel about Sherlock Holmes.
"I like adaptations to be period-perfect and somewhat rigidly and canonically exact," A. S. Croyle writes in an "Author's Note." "Thus, in this novel, I do not attempt to narrate in John Watson’s voice and deliberately place the novel in a 'Before Watson' time period, so that replication of his voice is not an issue."
Instead, the narrator is Priscilla "Poppy" Stamford, sister to "young Stamford" of A Study in Scarlet, and fiance to Holmes's college friend Victor Trevor. It is her dog who bites Holmes on the ankle. An aspiring physician in Victorian England, Poppy is inevitably a strong-willed character. Thus watching her fall in love with the equally strong-willed - and emotion-shy - young Sherlock is fascinating.
We know the relationship is not going to end well because we know the detective's future doesn't include Poppy. That adds to the suspense rather than killing it, and prepares us for a very moving ending.
The author writes out of a deep knowledge of the Canon. Sly references to familiar characters and other stories abound. Reginald Musgrave, John Watson, Shinwell Johnson, Stanley Hopkins (Sr.) and others we have met before make welcome appearances, along with the not-yet-notorious Oscar Wilde.
Happily, the epilogue opens the door for more "Before Watson" adventures. I look forward to them.
When the Song of the Angels is Stilled: A Before Watson Novel is available for pre-order from all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository . In ebook format it is in Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).