Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab by Columbkill Noonan
Barnabas Tew, a detective in Victorian London, is having a hard time making a name for himself, probably because most of his clients end up dead before he can solve their cases. His luck is about to change, though, for better or worse: Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead, notices him and calls him to the Egyptian underworld. A terrible kidnapping has occurred; one that promises to put an end to the status quo and could perhaps even put an end to the entire world. It is up to Barnabas (along with his trusty assistant, Wilfred) to discover the culprit and set things to right. Can he turn his luck around and solve the most important case of his life?
As a huge Sherlock fan, I thought it would be fun to give this a go. The book wasn’t quite what I anticipated, and to be honest, once I started reading and realised the direction the plot was taking, I was expecting to dislike intensely. You see, since childhood when it comes to history, I’ve always been very firmly in the Roman and Norse camp, Greeks are ‘meh’, and Egypt has never held any interest or fascination for me. Quite the opposite, I’m bored by it, so I was rather taken aback at how much I liked this novel, and whilst we are never supposed to judge a book by its cover….I really like this one.
The author has attempted to write in a way that befits the Sherlockian period and style, and most of the time she succeeds. While some odd phraseology jarred a little, and led me to read it in stages, the fabulous cast of characters and their interactions with each other, makes this book a real delight. It has levels of absurdity which draw you in, and a degree of farcicality that leaves you shaking your head and laughing. Yet the whole preposterousness nature of the story is so well drawn that, whatever madness the writer throws at you, the reader blithely accepts it and carries on with their enjoyment.
Since reading his first Sherlock story as a child, Barnabas Tew has wanted to emulate his hero, and worked towards it ever since. Complete with caped coat and deer-stalker, an assistant called Wilfred, and a decade of calamitous cases, Barnabas has not had the meteoric rise to detective stardom that he had hoped for. Indeed, more often than not, someone has ended up dead, and this is the fate that Barnabas and Wilfred meet.
Barnabas is a lovely character, quite modest, and often admits his shortcomings. He makes detailed descriptions, minute observations, and works through them with meticulous good intentions, sadly to little or no avail. He is a bit of a bumbler, and his assistant, the well-intentioned Wilfred, is the perfect foil to Barnabas. It is the eminently patient Wilfred who takes the pair of them off to the Egyptian exhibition at the museum, to distract his employer from their lack of success and failure to acquire more clients. The interaction between Barnabas and Wilfred is at times hilarious, and the more you read, the more you realise how Wilfred is NOT like Dr Holmes, and Barnabas is no Sherlock.
I loved the humour, and the well-developed characters. The author plays with mythological Gods; through the use of anthropomorphism she makes them more accessible as personalities, hence more 3-dimensional and so less distant from our understanding. You can’t help but laugh at the odd statements that pop up. Like the Ferryman stating that Barnabas’ demise was definitely ‘in the top ten of strange deaths’ he’d ever seen, or when Anubis was exasperated with Barnabas rambling and interrupting, put his head in his hands and muttered, ‘Oh sweet baby Horus why me?’
This strange, humourous, Victorian, supernatural detective novel, with its mythological afterlife (or afterlives….) is a real peach. I want to say lots more, but there are two more books coming and I’d rather you read and enjoy this one now, so we can go deeper and discuss more next time.
A happy 4 stars so, Go, Read, Enjoy!
Columbkill Noonan lives in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, where she teaches yoga and Anatomy and Physiology. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. Her first novel, “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” by Crooked Cat Books, was released in 2017, and her latest work, “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Nine Worlds”, is set to be released in September 2018.
In her spare time, Columbkill enjoys hiking, paddle boarding, aerial yoga, and riding her rescue horse, Mittens. To learn more about Columbkill please feel free to visit her website (www.columbkill.weebly.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ColumbkillNoonan) or on Twitter (@ColumbkillNoon1).
Social Media Links – Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ColumbkillNoonan/
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