Monday, August 3, 2015

The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons

The Fifth Heart: A Novel by Dan Simmons --- 617 pages

The most unlikely pairing you could imagine, as Sherlock Holmes ditches Dr. Watson to partner with the American novelist Henry James to solve a very complicated set of interwoven mysteries. Unbelievable? Yes, but Simmons makes it work in this fin de si├Ęcle story set in the United States. Far more than a simple Holmes pastiche, Simmons adroitly combines a Conan Doyle style sensational plot with the refined sensibilities of a James novel.

Virtually every major and many minor characters, places and events in the book are real people, places and events, with a few well known fictional characters mixed in, plus a running undercurrent about the relationship of authors to their creations. In the midst of all this Simmons unfolds his take on the suicide of Clover Adams, wife of the distingished American historian Henry Adams and the inspiration for James' The Portrait of a Lady, and how it relates to an anarchist plot to assasinate the leaders of the western world, beginning with President Grover Cleveland at the Grand Opening of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, a schme masterminded by Holmes' nemesis, Professor Moriarty.

Be forewarned, this doorstopper of a book starts slowly. It requires persistence and patience, but once the gears begins to spin, the pay off comes. The wonderful cameo appearances of Sam Clemens, Teddy Roosevelt, and Clarence King (just to name a few), the vivd descriptions of Washington D.C., Boston, and Chicago's "White City" (site of the Columbian Exposition), are the icing on this improbable but engrossing literary conundrum.

Click HERE to read a review in The Guardian.

Click HERE to read a review in the Washington Post.

Click HERE to read a review in the Denver Post.

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