2019 Silver Falchion Winner
A Knife in the Fog
By Bradley Harper
Seventh Street Books
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
A Knife in the Fog
Review by Emma Reed
A Knife in the Fog is a wonderful read. Not normally a fan of the “Sherlock Holmes” genre, I have passed on reading many such novels, but this one was different. It is written from the point of view of young (29 years old) Arthur Conan Doyle as he assists the London police as a “consultant” investigating the notorious Jack the Ripper. He is joined in his investigations by Professor Joseph Bell, Doyle’s real-life inspiration for the Sherlock Holmes character and an amazing (albeit fictional) Miss Margaret Harkness. What I enjoyed most about this novel was that it was not a Sherlock Holmes inspired story, but a story about events that could have inspired Doyle to write Sherlock Holmes. Fact and fiction are wonderfully blended together.
Writing Historical Fiction is challenging – especially when there are readers, like myself, out there that have to fact check everything, but also when you decide to start with such famous and infamous characters as Arthur Conan Doyle and Jack the Ripper. Bradly Harper’s research is spot on. I could find no fault with what he presented as “facts”. It is his ability to use those facts that made the plausibility of the novel very interesting to me. I believe this story could have happened. The truly fictional characters, like Mis Margaret Harkness, were just as believable and fully developed as the factual characters. The qualities they bring to the story seasoned the tale to perfection.
I really enjoyed that Harper did not try to make Doyle more than he was. There were qualities of Doyle’s character that I found disappointing, but real people are disappointing sometimes. Perhaps it is our warts that make us the most interesting.