The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall: Witty and Engaging

In this charming, witty, and weird fantasy novel, Alexis Hall pays homage to Sherlock Holmes with a new twist on those renowned characters.

Upon returning to the city of Khelathra-Ven after five years fighting a war in another universe, Captain John Wyndham finds himself looking for somewhere to live, and expediency forces him to take lodgings at 221b Martyrs Walk. His new housemate is Ms. Shaharazad Haas, a consulting sorceress of mercurial temperament and dark reputation.

When Ms. Haas is enlisted to solve a case of blackmail against one of her former lovers, Miss Eirene Viola, Captain Wyndham is drawn into a mystery that leads him from the salons of the literary set to the drowned back-alleys of Ven and even to a prison cell in lost Carcosa. Along the way he is beset by criminals, menaced by pirates, molested by vampires, almost devoured by mad gods, and called upon to punch a shark.

But the further the companions go in pursuit of the elusive blackmailer, the more impossible the case appears. Then again, in Khelathra-Ven reality is flexible, and the impossible is Ms. Haas’ stock-in-trade.

This book is simply one of the most witty and engaging novels I have read in a long time. Author Alexis Hall accomplishes a slant on Sherlock Holmes that combines magic, twists in reality with gender and sexual inclusiveness. She has blended the language and style of Sherlock Holmes with Byzantine style machinations (similar to Steven Brust) and added fantastical trappings that will keep readers unable to put the novel down.

The characters are charismatic, the dialogue humorous and every scene is riveting.  It is one os the best twists on Sherlock Holmes that I’ve seen as well, evading stereotypes and adding the author’s own unique ideas while still maintaining the style of the genre and having a mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end.

If you love Sherlock Holmes, fantasy or mysteries, I highly recommend this novel by Alexis Hall. It is witty and engaging, fun and magical from page one until the very end.

Rating: 5 out of 5 gods

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