Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Fifth Heart

by Dan Simmons
617 pgs

Once again Dan Simmons has shown just how versatile an author he is. His latest book, The Fifth Heart, is a Sherlock Holmes story that fits in nicely with the chronology of Doyle's original books. The story takes place in America in between the time Doyle tried to kill Sherlock off in The Final Problem by having him go over Reichenbach Falls and then succumbing to pressure and bringing him back in The Adventure of the Empty House with the explanation that he had faked his death to fool Moriarty, his arch enemy.

It's the 1890's and Holmes has traveled to America to investigate the death of a prominent socialite in Washington D.C.. Her death occurred seven years ago and had originally been ruled a suicide, but every year on the anniversary of her death, her widower and closest friends all receive a typed letter in the mail containing only one sentence, "She was murdered."

Simmons does a masterful job of incorporating historical figures from that era into his story, Samuel Clemens and Henry James both play central roles. He also incorporates one of the largest events that took place in the country during that time--the Chicago World's Fair. Simmons is an author who has always impressed me with the apparent research he puts into each of his books, and this one is no exception. He does an excellent job of bringing to light many aspects of Holmes's life that aren't so commonly known.

I'm a big fan of Dan Simmons' books. They're never real quick reads, but that's one of the things I like about them. Simmons takes his time constructing his stories and fleshing out his central characters. By the time the pace starts to quicken and you're heading for the climax of the story, you're intimately familiar with the characters involved, and you feel emotionally connected to them and truly care what happens.

The Fifth Heart is a must-read for fans of both Dan Simmons and for those of the iconic detective he borrows. Neither will be disappointed.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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