Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: Bait & Switch: A sci-fi Sherlock Holmes by Ashley Marie Bergner

Bait & Switch: A sci-fi Sherlock Holmes by Ashley Marie Bergner

This is a review of the Kindle version.

The author, Ashley Marie Bergner is a fan of the science fiction genre and Sherlock Holmes. This book successfully combines both these components and the end product is a delightful Sherlock Holmes pastiche with a sci fi flavor.

There are a total of 6 cases in this pastiche. The first one begins with Sherlock Holmes and Jaymie Watson meeting at building 221 in Quadrant B. A woman disappears shortly and our duo is off on their first case together. The second and third cases have Holmes solving the murder of an actress and the theft of a precious diamond respectively.

The final 3 cases have Holmes piecing together the pieces that would help him stop a criminal mastermind with unlimited resources and power at his command.

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Here are the things I liked the most:
  1. Good representation of the Canonical Holmes – Calm with a dry/sarcastic sense of humor. Some of his exchanges with other characters are similar to those of Cumberbatch’s version.
  2. Nods to classic Holmesian traits – Conducting experiments, operating outside the law, thorough knowledge of London, lack of respect for social titles and designations, breaking into buildings as part of investigations, using his memory to store facts only when needed, knowledge on poisons, Holmes’s penchant for adopting disguises and accents.
  3. Lestrade is featured heavily in this pastiche. As can be expected, there are familiar jabs by Sherlock at the efficiency of the Official Police force and the “little sallow, rat-faced, dark-eyed fellow” in particular.
  4. Good sci-fi flavor to the Legendary Detective – All the familiar settings and characters but cast in a different universe. Couple of examples: London is Loudron and Scotland Yard is Civic Security Station.
  5. My favorite character is Miles Zawker. To reveal more will be spoiling the fun and I will leave it at that!

Ashley Marie Bergner
Ashley Marie Bergner
Canonical References
  1. When Watson first meets Holmes, the latter is conducting a chemical experiment.  A very similar scenario happens in A Study in Scarlet.
  2. This line from the pastiche - “… his eyes quickly darting about the room like a praxit cat’s, taking in every detail.” is a nice variation on following observation made by Dr Watson in The Sign of the Four: “So swift, silent, and furtive were his movements, like those of a trained bloodhound picking out a scent..”.
  3. There is a reference to this line in The Adventure of the Three Garridebs – “The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain.”
  4. One of the characters refers to Holmes as a meddlesome, far-too-nosy busybody. Readers familiar with the Canon will recognize the “Holmes, the busybody!” line spoken by Dr. Grimesby Roylott in The Adventure of the Speckled Band.
  5. Sherlock Holmes cautions Watson against judging her date based on his (seemingly) nice behavior. Reference to The Sign of Four - "It is of the first importance not to allow your judgment to be biased by personal qualities… The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning."
  6.  I especially loved "room No. 1893". Very subtle and yet very satisfying!

I found some nods to the current Sherlock Holmes adaptations:

Guy Ritchie directed movies
  • Holmes pastes pictures, words and thoughts on his bedroom wall. He calls the wall his "association map". This is similar to the diorama maintained by Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes in Watson’s office.

Sherlock Holmes Diorama from the movie 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows'
Diorama from the movie 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' 
  • Holmes enacts his plans as a digi-drama in his mind before things happen. This reminded me of the Holmavision of Robert Downey Jr.'s version.

Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) performing his Holmesavision
Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) performing his Holmesavision 
  • The plot of Case # 4 has some similarities to the first movie.
BBC series Sherlock
  • The sci-fi version of Holmes is verbose and wears a trench coat and scarf.
BBC Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) in his signature trench coat
BBC Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) in his signature trench coat
  • Anderson, Sherlock's nemesis in the Scotland Yard is referred to indirectly.

Anderson in 'A Study in Pink' BBC Sherlock
Anderson in 'A Study in Pink'
Some things that did not work out:

  1. In Case # 1, Holmes guesses some things about Watson. This is a significant departure from the Canon. In The Sign of the Four, Holmes makes the following observation - "No, no; I never guess. It is a shocking habit - destructive to the logical faculty." But to the author’s credit, this is a rare misstep.
  2. Case # 5 - I personally found it to be considerably less involving than the rest. There is not much mystery or suspense in this section and the main focus is on Watson’s date with another character.
  3. The final case contained some melodramatic elements and the resolution was a bit clichéd.
  4. Too many times, the words “meddling” and “meddler” are used with reference to Holmes. I can only guess that the author likes Scooby Doo a lot!
In conclusion, this pastiche is a good example of how to give a futuristic update to the Victorian settings of the Canon. It is an excellent homage to the legend of Sherlock Holmes.

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Image Sources: Amazon, Fanpop, GQ Magazine


  1. Meddler: refer to The Speckled Band, Jeremy Brett movie ;)

  2. A sci-fi Sherlock? I am definitely checking out this one!

    1. If you are fan of the sci-fi genre in addition to Sherlock Holmes, you will love this book :)

  3. Thank you for doing a review, and for sharing your thoughts! :)