Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye, 2009 Simon & Schuster hardcover, mystery novel, Sherlock Holmes pastiche, subtitled An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson
In a foreword, writing in 1939, the elderly Dr. Watson decides to leave his manuscript account of the Ripper killings to his estate for publication after his death. The account was confidential until then, but Watson feels its important that the true facts be known, since the deceased Sherlock Holmes, for once in his life, was wrong when he predicted that “the world has already forgotten [the Ripper].”
In 1888, Watson is horrified by the news of Mary Ann Nichols’s murder and mutilation, but Holmes dismisses it as an isolated incident. However, when Annie Chapman is murdered in a similar manner, and Inspector Lestrade asks for help, Holmes is forced to notice the similarities between the two killings, and predicts that more will follow if the killer is not stopped. Investigating the murder scenes in Whitechapel, Holmes and Watson meet Mary Ann Monk, a casual friend of Mary Nichols, who agrees to spy on their behalf. After a few nights, she excitedly claims to have identified the killer, from tavern gossip, as a soldier named Johnny Blackstone, on leave from his regiment.
In spite of their efforts, Holmes, Watson, and the police, are unable to prevent the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes. Holmes interrupts the killer in the process of murdering Stride, and suffers a near-fatal stab wound without being able to catch the man. Worse, newspaper stories suggest that Holmes himself is the killer, based on his proximity to each of the murder scenes. Holmes also receives an anonymous note from the killer, identifying himself as “Jack the Ripper.”
Patient investigation leads Holmes to an elementary solution that horrifies Watson, Monk, and Lestrade: the Ripper is actually a police Constable. Could it be?
I had read a small number of this author’s short stories featuring Holmes and Watson, but this is her first novel, and the first I read by her. I found it to be very well written and it kept me turning the pages to what I found to be a satisfying conclusion. Recommended for those who enjoy Sherlock Holmes pastiches.