Picture this: a queer, sci-fi, fantasy twist on the classic mystery styling of Sherlock Holmes. Need I say more?! Honestly: take my money, gimme-gimme-gimme, file this in the category of something I didn’t know I needed but DEFINITELY needed!!! Lucky for us the wickedly talented Alexis Hall gave us just that in his new book The Affair of the Mysterious Letter.
The detective of The Affair of the Mysterious Letter is Ms. Shaharazad Hess; a bi-sexual sorceress of renowned wit, unmatched intelligence, and an often caustic temperament. The Watson to Shaharazad’s Holms is Captain John Wyndham. Wyndham – a trans-gendered, former soldier from a very puritanical society – becomes housemates with Shaharazad and unintentionally gets himself tangled in her affairs. The two become a gumshoe team when Shaharazad’s former lover, Miss Eirene Viola, comes to the sorceress for aid in solving an old-fashioned case of blackmail. But as you’ll come to find when you read The Affair of the Mysterious Letter: nothing in this book is old-fashioned! The mystery leads our detective duo on a whirlwind adventure through the bizarre city of Khelathra-Ven, the multiverse, and their own minds all while interacting with necromancers, vampires, sky pirates, gods, and even a landlord of sentient bees (just to name a few)!
Framed as publication installments, The Affair of the Mysterious Letter is written as Wyndham’s reflection on the case. It includes asides from Wyndham concerning his editor and even references future mysteries and adventures between him and Shaharazad. The story threatened to be bogged down by too many kooky ideas and I think in a less skilled hand, the story would have suffered. BUT Alexis Hall’s writing holds the entire weird story together. An obvious homage the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the writing style echoes the original Sherlock Holmes stories with its flowery, witty, and somewhat dense prose. It took me a second to adjust to the writing but I quickly fell in love!
The Affair of the Mysterious Letter is charming, unpredictable, amusing, extravagant, and above all fun! The story is presented as the first of many adventures between Shaharazad Hess and John Wyndham, so let’s hope for you and me both that we don’t have to wait too long for Alexis Hall to give us the next installment of this brilliant queer, sci-fi, mystery!
** Advanced Reader Copy was provided by Ace Books for an honest review
- Title: The Affair of the Mysterious Letter
- Author: Alexis Hall
- Published: June 18, 2019 (Ace Books)
- Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, LGBT
- Booky Nooky Rating: * * * *