Book Review on behalf of an Edgar Awards nominee for 2019 | “A Knife in the Fog” (Margaret Harkness and Arthur Conan Doyle series, Book One) by Bradley Harper

Posted Friday, 26 April, 2019 by jorielov , , , , , , , , , 1 Comment

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Acquired Book By: Last year, ahead of “A Knife in the Fog” being released I came across the author on Twitter – as Bradley Harper started following me. It was at this exact moment where I was starting to research new and upcoming book releases from one of my favourite publishers of dramatic Crime Fiction – Seventh Street Books – finding amongst the releases, there was a new author of after canon stories featuring a narrative styling similar to Sherlock Holmes but uniquely its own variant within the canon of interest as this new series was featuring Conan Doyle rather than Holmes himself. The uniqueness of the approach is also by bridging in the character Professor Bell which would also draw an eye towards a crafty nod to the traditional Holmes/Watson partnership.

I had originally requested this title for review consideration however, I hadn’t realised Seventh Street Books was about to undergo a sale and reacquistation by Smart Publishing; of whom has taken on this imprint and Pyr both of which were once under Prometheus Books. I came to know the imprints by being a reviewer for the parent publishing company of Prometheus Books wherein I request and review books throughout an eclectic subject focus within the branches of Science and Mathematics which interest me to research for personal enrichment as well as the pursuit of knowledge within those fields.

Thereby, earlier this year [2019] I submitted a purchase request for a paperback copy of “A Knife in the Fog” whilst I concurrently attempted to listen to the audiobook version. As I had some hiccups in my listening rotations through my Scribd subscription, I did a free trial of Libro.FM (for seeking audiobooks by giving Indie bookshoppes credit for those purchases – where I listed Powells (Portland, Oregon) as my bookshoppe of choice) allowing me to download a copy of “A Knife in the Fog” on MP3. I began listening to “A Knife in the Fog” on audiobook in-line with developing questions to ask Mr Harper during a phone interview (which I conducted in late March, 2019) wherein I discovered I loved his approach to writing this series.

Ahead of posting my review on behalf of the story, I wanted to read the print edition of “A Knife in the Fog” which had recently come into my library as my purchase request was not only accepted but fulfilled. There were some key parts of the story I wanted to re-read over and I also wanted to dig into the written aspects of the story-line outside of the scope of the audiobook.

Although my main interest was to seek out an interview with Mr Harper based on my readings and listening hours of “A Knife in the Fog” my ruminations on behalf of the audiobook and print edition are being shared for my own edification and to help introduce my readers to the series overall whilst sharing my own journey in its discovery. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. The Press Materials I received by Mr Harper’s virtual authorly assistant Stephanie @ Paste Creative are being used with permission on both this review and on my forthcoming interview with Mr Harper as dual showcase of the story, the series and the writer’s approach to the craft of Crime Fiction.

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Why reading after canons about Sherlock Holmes and/or Conan Doyle appeal to me as a reader inasmuch as why I love Historical Mysteries, Suspense & Thrillers:

I personally feel as if Crime Fiction has a soft spot in my heart and mind; for as long as I can remember I’ve been claiming Mysteries, Suspense and Thrillers as being my most keenly interested section of television teleplays and dramas of interest. Counter to that pursuit, are the novels – spilt between the Cosies I personally adore and have a deep affection for devouring and the more intriguingly brilliant and layered Cosy Historical Mysteries which have passionately become a favourite pursuit of my readerly life since I became a book blogger.

Adjacent to those inclinations, I am also most intrigued with the Historical Suspense and/or Thriller – there are a few of my interests in these kinds of stories which are on the ‘outer edge’ of my tolerance levels for visuals and/or inclusive scenes which are relevant to the story/series itself. Those I happily refer and reference as “Hard Boiled” entries for a point of reference here on my blog as well as a marker of interest in my own pursuit of the stories themselves.

When it comes to chasing down television dramas in Crime Fiction as much as Fictional series of the same nature, I have a profound affection for those writers who give keen insight into Forensic Science, Forensic Pathology and Forensic Investigative Techniques or the Psychology of the Crime through Forensic applications on the psyche.  What is interesting about studying Forensics through Fiction is how crafty writers have to become to keep us not only invested in their stories but for giving us a truism of realism within the boundaries of their stories. When they go to infer a step into their worlds – a world they are illuminating to become the mainstay of interest for a series in development for the new reader whose found their words – they are giving us a prime example of what is become expected of their collective works in future volumes.

This is why if a writer of Crime Fiction can capture me straight out of the gate – by their voice, their style or their world – over and beyond their lead character(s), supporting cast and the delivery of the suspenseful bits interwoven into the back-stories – they will have found a loyal reader in me for the life of their series*. (*) co-dependent on the fact they do not disappoint my palette of interest in future installments.

When it comes to Sherlock Holmes and the after canons of his stories – I have a very, short list of interest – at which you will find the Mary Russell stories at the very top as Laurie R. King was the first author I had discovered in 2009 who was writing a level of intuitive intention regarding Holmes which felt naturally intrinsic of the character I had remembered. Enola Holmes by Nancy Springer arrived a bit lateron but was a bit of a harder sell for me being that Enola’s story-lines were slightly a hit/miss for me but the character of Enola was intriguing enough to where I wanted to read more of her adventures. With Mary Russell – I was immediately smitten by her and Holmes at this junction in his life and thereby, wooed immediately into the world King had set out for us to discover.

I am quite critical about after canons, stories inspired by classical novelists and sequel authors – notwithstanding my interests in Conan Doyle, there are my inquisitive pursuits of chasing down stories of this nature within the embodiment of Jane Austen and the re-tellings of Jane Eyre.

What I am constantly seeking out is a certain layer of conveyance of presence, of loyalty to the authentic voice of the inspirational character in question and a purposeful dedication of not just honouring the past but of elevating the tone of the new incantation against the old. I love finding authors who have their own unique approach to re-writing a familiar character and giving us a newfound way of appreciating them through their new variant of interest in the here and now. Thus, what captured my attention with the Margaret Harkness and Arthur Conan Doyle Mysteries was simply this – how a pathologist was motivated to write these stories based on his own interest in Holmes and the writer behind Holmes (Conan Doyle) led him into a portal which granted us an immersive look at how Doyle himself might have approached investigative interests which re-lead us to appreciate how he created Holmes and Watson.

Overall, what I love most about Holmes and Watson in the traditional sense is the camaraderie of their relationship – their zest for intellectual dissection of the facts and their pursuit of uncovering the sociological implications of what is fuelling the crimes in which they investigate. They are uniquely timeless in how they inter-relate to one another but also how they approached their techniques – leaning on the intellect and the divisiveness of their research talents, they uncovered the criminology of their cases because of how they approached their ability to sleuth.

My hopes for this novel and the subsequent series ranked high – I was dearly hoping this would become another ‘beloved’ entry in my pursuit of Seventh Street Books and their Crime Fiction stories – whilst my love and appreciation for Holmes and Watson was inspiring me to take a chance on this new entry into a Holmesian niche of after canon story-lines. Not that this is a traditional after canon in the sense that there is an influence of Holmesian styling but it is not effectively a re-telling or a reincarnation of that canon per se but as you read or listen to A Knife in the Fog you’ll find Holmes and Watson have materalised anew in a different vehicle of interest altogether.

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Book Review on behalf of an Edgar Awards nominee for 2019 | “A Knife in the Fog” (Margaret Harkness and Arthur Conan Doyle series, Book One) by Bradley HarperA Knife in the Fog
Subtitle: A Mystery Featuring Margaret Harkness and Arthur Conan Doyle
by Bradley Harper
Source: Purchase REQ | local library, Purchased | Personal Library, Scribd | Audiobook Subscription
Narrator: Matthew Lloyd Davies

September 1888. A twenty-nine-year-old Arthur Conan Doyle practices medicine by day and writes at night. His first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, although gaining critical and popular success, has only netted him twenty-five pounds. Embittered by the experience, he vows never to write another "crime story." Then a messenger arrives with a mysterious summons from former Prime Minister William Gladstone, asking him to come to London immediately.

Once there, he is offered one month's employment to assist the Metropolitan Police as a "consultant" in their hunt for the serial killer soon to be known as Jack the Ripper. Doyle agrees on the stipulation his old professor of surgery, Professor Joseph Bell--Doyle's inspiration for Sherlock Holmes--agrees to work with him. Bell agrees, and soon the two are joined by Miss Margaret Harkness, an author residing in the East End who knows how to use a Derringer and serves as their guide and companion.

Pursuing leads through the dank alleys and courtyards of Whitechapel, they come upon the body of a savagely murdered fifth victim. Soon it becomes clear that the hunters have become the hunted when a knife-wielding figure approaches.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781633884861

ASIN: B07HKJ71X5

Also by this author: A Knife in the Fog (Interview), Queen's Gambit

Also in this series: A Knife in the Fog (Interview), Queen's Gambit


Genres: After Canons, Amateur Detective, Classic Detective, Crime Fiction, Hard-Boiled Mystery, Historical Fiction, Historical Thriller Suspense


Setting: London, England, UK


Published by Seventh Street Books

on 2nd October, 2018

Format: Audiobook | mp3, Trade Paperback

Pages: 288

Length: 8 hours and 40 minutes (unabridged)

A Knife in the Fog by Bradley HarperA Knife in the Fog (audiobook) by Bradley Harper

Published By: Seventh Street Books (@SeventhStBooks)

As an aside, despite the fact Seventh Street Books has been bought out by Smart Publishing – all links to their website and social accounts have remained active and use the same urls. The new publisher has maintained all their sites and thereby, the transition was seamless for readers who wanted to keep in touch with the authors and the series they come to love by Seventh Street Books & Pyr!

Converse via: #AKnifeInTheFog, #HistNov and #HistFic OR #HistoricalMystery
Available Formats: Trade Paperback, Audiobook & Ebook

A Knife in the Fog was nominated for
an Edgar Award in 2019 for “Best First Novel”

Initially, I was going to do this review ‘ahead’ of the Edgars announcing their winners, as I wanted to help re-highlight the novel to an audience of Mystery appreciators who might be seeking their next wicked good Historical Suspense – however, due to everything going on the past month and a half, I’ve been a bit behind in my readings and in my reviews. As a result, I shifted this review forward a bit to where I could await the announcements – per the author’s suggestion to run this instead on Friday after the winner’s were officially declared. Although, Mr Harper did not win the Edgar I felt it befitted the nomination and blessedly showcased a publisher I personally love for dramatic Crime Fiction! Harper is amongst a list of novelists I turn to whenever I want to read a crime narrative by this publisher – Susan Spann, Larry D. Sweazy, Jennifer Kincheloe and Terry Shames round out the list (thus far known as I am going to be reading new authors this year to see which of them whet my thirst of joy for Mysteries).

On that note, I am thankful to announce I’m discovering the Cosy Spice Shop Mysteries this late Spring/early Summer by Leslie Budewitz – whilst I am eagerly in wait for the seventh Hiro Hattori novel “Ghost of the Bamboo Road” by Susan Spann; the third Anna Blanc Mystery “The Body in Griffith Park” by Jennifer Kincheloe and the sequel to “A Knife in the Fog” – “The Queen’s Gambit” by Bradley Harper.

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About Bradley Harper

Bradley Harper

Bradley Harper is a retired US Army Pathologist with over thirty-seven years of worldwide military/medical experience, ultimately serving as a Colonel/Physician in the Pentagon. During his Army career, Harper performed some two hundred autopsies, twenty of which were forensic.

Upon retiring from the Army, Harper earned an Associate's Degree in Creative Writing from Full Sail University. He has been published in The Strand Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine and a short story he wrote involving Professor Moriarty in the Holmes tale of The Red Headed League (entitled The Red Herring League) won Honorable Mention in an international short fiction contest. A member of the Mystery Writers of America, Authors Guild, and Sisters in Crime, Harper is a regular contributor to the Sisters in Crime bi-monthly newsletter.

Harper’s first novel, A Knife in the Fog, involves a young Arthur Conan Doyle joining in the hunt for Jack the Ripper, and has been nominated for an 2019 Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America for Best First Novel by an American Author.

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to preface my reasons for reading/listening to this noveL:

Although, I have a personal preference for reading and listening to audiobooks as a special treat to give myself as a reader – as I delight in being able to read a book in print whilst hearing a story performed by the narrator – in this particular instance, I wanted to re-draw myself back into the story-line as a reader rather than as an audiobook listener who was listening to the story in an effort to interview the novelist on behalf of his debut novel. Sometimes it is best to re-attach yourself into a story after you’ve assembled a guest author feature – as you might pick up on things you might have overlooked or hadn’t thought to write down a note about during your previous visitation.

I also knew as I moved into the interview with Mr Harper how much I appreciated his style of directing us back into a Holmesian narrative but with the uniqueness of re-touching the original canon and styling of a Conan Doyle detective novel with his own museful incantation of a Historical Suspense set during the canon’s own history of publication whilst honing in on the time-line of an infamous criminal case (ie. Jack the Ripper). It was a unique portal of entry and one I enjoyed hearing as I listened to the audiobook – however, I was listening to it not entirely as a reader or listener who loves audiobooks but as an interviewer who was intuiting out the discussion points of reference and the questions which curated in my mind to pitch to the author behind the words and plot points.

Thereby, as I re-alighted into the context of the novel in print, I felt I could better offer a more direct explanation of what I enjoyed about the story, the direction of the characters as they were introduced and how the flow of the story threaded through my thoughts as I once again re-visited this story. It is a most impressive debut and I felt it begins the series on good footing – the trick for me was in finding the proper way to articulate my own reflections on its behalf.

My Review of a knife in the fog:

A reflectively pensive voice gives us the impression the following account of an investigation into the Ripper murders of East London was in effect not only of profound impact on the narrator of this story (of whom I presumed immediately was Conan Doyle) but was in reality, an important marker of time for this person. It envelopes itself into a pertinent relationship of mind and arms; of a person who not only of equal mirth of enquiry and investigative instincts but of common interests and conveyances which were equally dynamic in their own rights. It is here – within the fragmented touchstones of what is yet to come where you start to distinguish the ‘voice’ of the novel A Knife in the Fog to being very decisively Holmesian.

Doyle, similar to Holmes does not suffer fools gently nor does he wish his personal or professional time to be waylaid but people who are less than honest with him on first meeting. It is here where you can infer how much Harper was researching his protagonist not just as the subject study to influence his own series but how Doyle himself could embody a lot of the characteristics we’ve all come to love in our beloved Holmes; than thus even more readily, it would be Harper who gives us a fuller advantage of seeing the inspiration behind Watson. The interesting bit here is of whom was the inspiring force behind both characters as your own mind might have readily adapted itself to thinking it was Doyle to Holmes and Dr Bell to Watson when the reality of the truth is a bit more intriguing to say the least! For my own capacity of interest – I did vacillate at first to make the distinction myself – as there are aspects of both men within both characters, however, there are firm clues towards whom is whom so to speak throughout the narrative Harper has delivered leading to the truer truth behind the designation of which current characters elude to the infamous ones!

When Doyle is commissioned to tackle this case by the mysteriously reclusive Gladstone – it was with a joyfulness of chucklement I read over his reactions to being placed in this position! The humour of course is classically dry in wit as one would have presumed such a case to be proposed to Doyle would be fashionably complimentary to his work as a novelist but it was quite the other way round! He was feeling slightly over his head in a depth of a murky proposition he felt less than able to tackle with or without Dr Bell’s insistence of being involved. It was a curious state to see Doyle – how his insecurities about his abilities were on display but also how he curiously was unable to quell his doubts in order to go through the regular motions of eating and sleeping! He was aflame with thoughts about what would come next and his nerves, of course, were eating him alive with the self-recriminations I am not sure any of us would expect him to have made against himself. I think it was more to the fact Doyle saw himself as a physician who happened to have this ‘hobby’ of writing which was only secondary in interest to his first passion of medicine. To have this turnt back round on him to where someone was making his character of Holmes the basis of investing in his efforts to cast a light on a real case I think was a bit more than Doyle could process to be honest!

I remember laughing into a knowing smirk when Doyle first revealled his discomforting reaction to the prospect of meeting Margaret Harkness – not just limited to the fact she was a woman who had the means to live amongst the people she was reaching out to help through the injustices of living conditions but it was more towards the fact, as a woman of independent means, he was not accustomed to being in a woman’s company unchaperoned. This is of course, a leftover courtesy from his own generation which was slowly starting to fade out in contemporary society (in which this novel is set) wherein women could be freer with their social engagements.

Finding little details of historical influence and relevancy like this uncomfortable reaction in Doyle made it a joy to read A Knife in the Fog – as there are other small touches of where the past feels ever-present and where the narrative has a lovely tone and style of being decidedly British and Historical in scope. I believe it is this kind of detailed fine tuning in the story which help alight you into the era we’re being presented – it is lovely when you can find writers who are going the extra mile to give us a presentation of an era which we can find plausible and believable like what Mr Harper has done within his series. Although some of his words and phrasing is wickedly British, he does revert back to writing this in an American voice – I would have preferred it to be more British in the choices of words but blessedly it felt British by how he conveyed the backdrop of the setting and how he approached our immersion into Doyle’s life.

I hadn’t realised how dearly depressed the East End of London had been at the turning of the 19th Century – I’ve had East Enders as friends in the past, though try as I might to learn more about this area of London I never was given a lot of back-history on the East End or their time within it. I had known it was the poorer areas of the city but when Harper highlights the residency of the area against the harrowing realities of Whitechapel and how many people were forced to live within an acre of land – it re-humbles your understanding on overpopulation, population density and the difficulties the financial poor have endured during different generations. However, I think the greatest insult of course is how they were enduring their ‘rent’ – not just by room but it was cut down by bed, inch of space and portion of wall! Quite a maddening way of seeing how landlords treated those of whom were steps off the street and simply wanted the security of a roof!

Honestly, you have to laugh – at the absurdity in which Doyle criticises Harkness as he is a duff of a bloke in this story! He is too attached to his old school ideas – not readily in the mindset to accept Harkness had to take-on a different kind of identity in order to walk the streets of Whitechapel without the anxieties of what most women would have afeared by their presence in the neighbourhoods therein. In many regards, Doyle comes across as a bit of a prude, a proper stick-in-the-mud but mostly, he is allowing his nature of propriety overshadow the mirth of what he has been presented by a companionship of acquaintance with Harkness. She, to her credit didn’t let Doyle affect her mood nor her discerning perception of the kind of man he is – as she could readily tell he was a posh gentleman clearly out of his depth.

I, on the other hand, took an immediate liking to Margaret – she was her own person, owning her truths and her way of life with the confidence you’d expect from a woman of her nature. She did not apologise for her choices in life (nor should she) and she had an upper edge against Doyle as his presumptive assumptions about her were loudly present even if they were left unsaid aloud. Harkness is the kind of no-nonsense woman who was game for anything and had this zest for believing she could accomplish whatever she needed to simply due to the courage she had to believe in herself. Ironically, her dedication and her fortitude seemed lost on Doyle – at least at this first crossing of their paths.

You truly appreciate how Harper has sharpened our impression of Harkness, as my favourite passage which involves her and Doyle at this junction of the story is when she saves him from a would-be robber. The event itself isn’t a spoiler for the story but it is a clear representation of how foiled Doyle was in thinking he would have held an upper hand in this situation. I love how Harkness not only re-proves the point about how women can be independently secure in their beings but also be resourceful enough to intervene whenever danger arises. It was a classy look at how misconceptions in gender and how unnecessary misunderstandings within the classes of gender can put undo judgement against people. I personally felt it was a rather fitting sequence as it set a tone for how Doyle would view Harkness and how Harkness would become endeared to the reader.

It was not too far afield from when they first met, that Harper found a way to bridge Harkness, Doyle, and Bell together – they became a bit of a ragtag group of investigators, each with their own purpose and passion for undertaking the case. For Harkness, I think she was partially wanting to better understand the darkness surrounding her environs and to reinforce her own pursuits at making a difference in the East End for the women who lived there. These were crimes which were the most heinous about women – thereby, giving you a true impression of the kind of mind in which could concoct the plans to carry them out. Blessedly, despite the grisly nature of what happened during the Ripper murders, Harper only gives the descriptions without taking them to a graphic level of intensity. He describes what is needed and necessary without tipping the scale over to the horror of what could turn a stomach.

Not even being slighted at a police station would deter Harkness! I loved how she championed herself out of being left out of the discussions by surprising Doyle for her industrious nature! A knitter can always have a ready-made hobby at their disposal if one is willing to cart their UFOs on their person! I love being able to tuck into rows and stitches whenever there is a long wait about to be had – it not only passes the time but you have a wonderful ‘distraction’ in front of you which can allow for observational pursuits – I had wondered if this was the keen reason why Harkness took to knitting as any person looking at her would presume her fullness of attention was on the yarn and not what could be ‘overheard’.

There is a cheekiness to the pacing in this novel – mostly when it reflects Doyle’s inability to properly find a way to respond to something Harkness has stated. She has a way of taking Doyle unawares to the brink where I am unsure he was readily aware of being able to be done previously. She intrigues him but she also serves as a caution to Doyle, I think, as it eludes to how women were now able to champion not just the causes they were impassioned about but they could in theory, accomplish more than they were previously allowed. I am not saying Doyle comes across as someone who would delay progress but I think the progress of the woman’s movement in Harkness’s era was one which was becoming an ‘adjustment’ to Doyle who was previously accustomed to the ways things once were prior to this newfound freedom of choice Harkness was embodying.

There is also a philosophical undertone to how Doyle infuses his knowledge and observations into the narrative as well. Whereas Bell comes across as a mentored inspiration to Sherlock Holmes, in how he uses his intellect to deduct intellectual reasoning, Doyle is emotionally triggered by what he experiences but has a quieter approach to sharing his ideas and thoughts. In many ways, Doyle withholds his immediate reactions and thereby leaves Harkness and Bell in the dark about where he rightly stands whenever they’ve broached a discussion. I would imagine for Harkness, this quirk of his would lead her to never quite know how he might stand on any topic she wanted to engage in discussing as how to discern someone who remains stoic and silent?

The declaration by Harkness at the beginning of Chapter Twenty-Four was of most importance to me as it acted as a lever of grounding towards where we enter this narrative in the fictional world of deduction and quite readily bridge it into a harrowing realisitic impression of how Harkness (or someone like her) would have been reacting if they had had first-hand knowledge of the methodology of the Ripper. It is humbling on behalf of Harper to write this declaration by Harkness as it roots you back into the reasons why Harkness wanted to become personally involved in the case but also, how it re-attaches itself to the pursuit of all of us and how fragile our walk on Earth truly is once you take into account the events which are outside our scope of control.

Harper also discloses Conan Doyle having a moment of reckoning – of questioning the merits of being a crime novelist against the rising tide of awareness of true crime through his experiences in the Whitechapel case to smoke out the Ripper. It brought a curious question about the line of disconnection between story and reality as much as the right of the writer to decide for themself where they want to draw the line in the sand. It speaks towards conscience fortitude and having a pulse of societal influences of commentary on behalf of the lives we can only know through headlines. It also gave me something to reconsider about Conan Doyle and other novelists like him who have left a firm mark of impression in Crime Fiction – is this something they once considered themselves and how do writers separate their fictional lives with the real cases their stories are sometimes inspired by or at the very least might draw a connection towards even if indirectly intended as sometimes the imagination can foretell a circumstance not yet lived?

I had a feeling I knew where A Knife in the Fog was directing me in regards to whom would become unmasked as the Ripper. Harper did something quite classic in how he developed the story-line, the characters and the persons of whom they encountered along the route of the story as it shifted forward – he kept you close to the dialogue, the discoveries and the case as it evolved through the investigation. All of which is brilliantly within the guise of the genre this story is set but he also did a hat trick from a magician’s bag of tricks – he re-directed your attention away from something you might have clued in on more readily if you weren’t equally distracted from addressing what it was you thought you had picked up on earlier in the story! Laughs. I actually was quite impressed how long the suspense lasted as it takes you straight (almost!) to the concluding chapters to where Harper knits together the conclusion (some) readers might not expect to be the solution to the mysterious identity of the Ripper. I, for one, felt it was a right proper choice – it staid within the scope of the journey we took walking beside Conan Doyle, Harkness and Bell whilst it also eluded to a reality you could find believable about this infamous case of crime.

It is in the final chapter wherein I felt reconnected to Conan Doyle – as for me, he held within his character (within the scope of the series) a bit more Holmesian attributes than I think Harper even realised he had etched into his nature. He might have meant for us to view Doyle differently but in the final chapter, there was a brilliant moment of recognition and also quiet acceptance of how this characterisation of Conan Doyle was a classic representation of why I have loved Sherlock Holmes. It is fitting truly, Harper has found his voice in fiction to be fulfilling a missing gap in stories which I believe the real Conan Doyle would have appreciated had he lived to see their publication.

On the interconnective partnership of Doyle, Bell and Harkness:

One of the key reasons I felt as connected within the first installment of this series is the winsome connection Harper developed between his characters of Arthur Conan Doyle, Professor Bell and Margaret Harkness. Of the three, uniquely – despite the fact I reference Conan Doyle quite a heap – as he is the overseeing narrator of this story as it is through his journalled notes and observations we are peering into their lives – it is interesting to mention it was Harkness and Bell I felt myself drawing a closeness towards in regards to the characters who intrigued me to see where their future stories might develop further as the series finds it’s footing in future installments.

Being privy of where the next few stories in the Harkness/Doyle series are being directed, I was given a bit of insight during my conversation with Harper how their interconnective partnership will ebb and flow as the stories continue to shift forward after this first meeting of the minds. Knowing what I do, I was quite thankful to learn that there is much more in store for this trio of sleuths – as despite having a slight preferential leaning towards Bell/Harkness it is the ensemble of them together which is what illuminates the fuller joy of reading A Knife in the Fog.

If you separate in your mind this is not a direct after canon sequelling of Sherlock Holmes but rather a Historical Biological Fiction narrative wherein Conan Doyle, Bell and Harkness are inserted into the background of the series itself – re-establishing their lives with a purpose they had not actually lived it is quite easy to see how this series has developed its own self-identity within the plausible realities of a Holmesian universe.

For that reason directly, it is a readerly joy to disappear into the 19th Century Harper is developing – not just to see where the early practices of Forensic Science were first gaining traction (especially in this installment to focus on Forensic Photography) but to where Criminology and Forensic Science were co-merging in developing a better approach to crime solving techniques used by law enforcement. I can’t wait to see what comes next and to see where the technological advances continue to interweave into the series.

Before, During or After your own readings:

Before, During or After your own readings you might want to take a look into the back pages of this novel wherein Harper delights us with pictures of his main cast: Conan Doyle, Harkness and Professor Bell. There are short biographies accompanying the photographs whilst he also offers a countering intuition about which aspects of their personal characters and lives are both a) plausible but not provable to be true and b) which bits are authentically pulled from their living histories. It is a lovely collection of notes from the author whilst it also gives you a full insight into how he penned the novel.

on the historical writing styling of bradley harper:

The delivery of this story is in diary-format – a technique I have oft enjoyed in Mysteries, Suspense and Thrillers – as well as other genres, as it gives an interpersonal accounting of the events as they were once lived or observed. It becomes a vehicle of interpretation as well – seeing a bit more directly into the heart and the pulsing of thoughts of the lead character whilst seeing externally a concise impression of the supporting cast. In this way, Harper drew us intimately close to Conan Doyle whilst also embarking on an personal odyssey backwards in time to where Doyle himself was drawing closer to Holmes and how Holmes in a fashion of artist and creation was inspiring Doyle to create Holmes himself. I oft mused that Holmes was fashioned out of a love and respect of the genre Doyle once wrote inside – of drawing out a persona of interest others could relate to themselves and then, using Holmes and Watson as a foreshadow of IRL curiosities and conversations which in effect could have become lived through the adventures Holmes took with Watson. In effect, which occurred first? The stories or the experiences and of the two, which held the greater fodder of interest in Doyle to recollect?

As you delve into this narrative through Harper’s vision for it – you start to see how those thin lines of interest start to double-cross and weave back through your own mind. Of where the lines blur between the writer and the character but also, of where a contemporary writer can re-trace the inspirational points of a classical writer and develop his own vision of an authentic voice of the previous writer’s canon with his own bent on rooting out the hidden truths and insights of an era long secluded in the past.

From the very first moment we lock eyes on Conan Doyle, we denote how his intuitiveness for observation is not just present in his personal life but how he could have readily augmented this deductive reasoning into his writings as easily as he breathed ink onto his pages of thoughtful repose. It is through this keenly intuitive introduction we see where the markings of a fictional plot could have taken root out of this gentleman’s life’s work and in so doing, it not only humanised Doyle to the reader but gave a brilliant lead-in to the series Harper was intending on developing to capitalise on this character trait within Doyle. It also speaks well of Harper’s intentional plottings to give the reader much to contemplate whilst they are reading his story.

A note on the forensic and descriptive details of A Knife in the Fog:

The detailed observations on behalf of Professor Bell hint towards Harper’s own knowledge and professional experiences in the medical field as he has an acute and precise way of describing the medical bits which are necessary for crime detection. He takes you through a threading of details which would befit a medical examiner and through Professor Bell, we gather those truisms of observational medical data. It isn’t necessarily graphic in the same vein of thought as NCIS but rather, more introspective and scholarly to look at the body and see where the crime altered its state. Very much in-line with Quincy, M.E. or Crossing Jordan which focus more of the examiner side of detection and crime dramas. Although, the sequences on both NCIS and NCIS: Nola which give us the perception of analysis from both Duckie and Loretta would be equally of merit and interest as they follow the same rules of disclosure.

Being this is also fuelled through the lens of a Forensic Pathologist – you can also prepare yourself for the dissective details which strike to route the pathway a medical examiner would use to disclose how (medically speaking) the crimes not only affected their victims’ bodies but how this knowledge of intentional malice was used to paint a Forensic Psychological portrait of whom they were pursuing in the case. It is a curious ‘back-door’ into how examiners and pathologists (sometimes they are not interchangeable as they could be separate people) prove their theories in the lab by what they can deduce from the physical evidence they are given to work against. These kinds of details are not always inclusive of Crime Dramas (in Fiction or television) and it was lovely to see the approach Harper made towards that end. He gives you the information behind the cause of death you’d see on a DC (death certificate).

With one particular exception – Chapter Thirty-Nine wherein I felt the crime scene was described a bit too well and with too fine a recollection through what Conan Doyle saw through the window. As for me this took this a bit past where I could handle the visuals to take me as a reader – it was quite macabre and horrific and although in-line with the narrative and scope of the story itself, it just was a bit ‘much’ for me.

Not my first story involving Jack the Ripper yet it is the one I preferred:

In the past, I have shied away from certain plots and story-lines – one of them being anything remotely connected to Jack the Ripper or other gruesome true crime narratives which I felt would tip my interest in reading Crime Fiction to a new level of grittiness I was not willing to read. However, in the past, another novel came across my desk to read which was entitled: The Ripper’s Wife – despite thinking it was a novel which would work well for me, in the end, I found it to be a bit past my upper tolerance levels for where a story can visually take you. However, despite that slight difficulty of not being able to read all the descriptive details as they were revealled – I did have takeaways I felt were relevant to how the story was depicted and how the subject was approached about Jack the Ripper. Overall, I ended up enjoying writing about the novel but I knew I could never read it again.

Thereby, finding A Knife in the Fog was a bit of a personal redemption in finding a novelist who could hold my interest through a narrative involving Jack the Ripper but done in a style of narrative which would have my flinch less and becoming intriguingly captivated by his approach instead without the afflictions of anxiety I had previously reading The Ripper’s Wife.

Now I have concluded my interest in this subject, I feel the case for me at least, is closed.

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Post Script banner created by Jorie in Canva. Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.

Acquired Digital Audiobook by: As I had some hiccups in my listening rotations through my Scribd subscription, I did a free trial of Libro.FM (for seeking audiobooks by giving Indie bookshoppes credit for those purchases – where I listed Powells (Portland, Oregon) as my bookshoppe of choice) allowing me to download a copy of “A Knife in the Fog” on MP3. I began listening to “A Knife in the Fog” on audiobook in-line with developing questions to ask Mr Harper during a phone interview (which I conducted in late March, 2019) wherein I discovered I loved his approach to writing this series. – thereby, I was not obligated to post my opinions about the audiobook, as I am adding these notes about the performance and sound of the audiobook for my own edification as I personally love listening to them! I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

specifically in regards to the audiobook:

As I am relatively new to reviewing audiobooks and listening to them with a greater frequency than of the past, I am appreciative of Ms Jess providing a cursory outline of how best to articulate my listening hours on behalf of this audiobook and the others I shall be blogging about or reviewing in future. I’ve modified the suggestions to what I felt were pertinent to respond too on my own behalf as well as keeping to the questions I felt were relevant to share.

Number of Times I’ve heard the Narrator(s):

This was my first audiobook to listen to on behalf of the narrator Matthew Lloyd Davies – for which I was thankful as he has such an impressive sense of character in how he intuits a performance to give the listener whose seeking a particular kind of narration for a story of this nature.

Regards to the Narrator’s Individual Character performances:

Arthur Conan Doyle: Doyle had such an authentic voice – I nearly felt I had travelled back through time to hear his words being spoken aloud as he might have uttered them IRL! I love how Lloyd Davies approached narrating Doyle’s presence for our ears – in many regards, it is the same appreciation of thoughtfulness I had observed in the William Todd Sherlock Holmes stories! His voice has a commanding presence with the humbleness of his observation and profession. You can see a lot of his personality through how he is being presented; including his stoic nature and the way he feels about what he is experiencing. This was a cross-over effect I found between the print edition and the narration Lloyd Davies was giving us.

Margaret Harkness: Lloyd Davies increased the height of his voice to give us the impression Harkness was speaking rather than Doyle. I would admit, Doyle was a natural voice for him to produce whereas I was not entirely sure if the same was as true of Harkness. Once he found his pacing and timing between the characters, I felt they felt smooth and natural. When we first heard her entering the conversation when Doyle first visited with her – I was surprised to realise all things being equal this might have been how I would have envisioned how Harkness might have sounded. She had a voice you can’t miss and her fierce confidence is dearly present which I was thankful to hear as it was part of what drew me towards her and what I championed about her straight through the story. Doyle dearly underestimated her and this would become a reoccurring presence between them.

Secondary Characters:

Professor Bell: Bell on the other hand, had a playfulness in his voice – he had a different personality from Doyle and I loved how Lloyd Davies altered his accent to present Bell in a different air of manner and presence from that of Doyle. You could easily tune your ears into whom was who in a scene by the conveyance of their voices – this was a good thing as this particular story would be harder to follow if you didn’t have those distinctions in the performances. I found Bell had a lightness about his voice – his personality is more like friend who likes to serve a mentoring advisor to those in his circle. He also has a longer tolerance for things than Doyle but only just ‘so’ as there were some instances in life where they both found things to be infuriating on a mutual level.

Inspector Abberline: You might not notice the differences in the voices when Bell and Doyle met with Abberline the first time except for how he drew out some of his words and phrases. I also detected a slight difference in his accent compared to other two men. He was definitely a man straight to the point when he was speaking to people and since the men were at a disadvantage in his vein of light, you can hear the strict code Abberline adhered too.

How the Novel sounded to me as it was being Read:

(theatrical or narrative)

I honestly consider this to be spoken narrative a bit more than I do to view this as a theatrical performance simply due to how the audiobook is performed and executed. Despite this declaration – what gave it an added advantage is how Lloyd Davies approached the subject of the story and how he illuminated the gruesome alongside the scientific. It is not an easy story to hear nor to read but it is how he approached his narration to be humbled through the context of the story which I appreciated the most. Of all the characters he’s narrated, he had such an innate spin on Doyle, I was nearly confusing him for Holmes on more than one occasions!

Preference after listening to re-Listen or pick up the book in Print?

Uniquely – being that I listened to the audiobook to dive into my interview questions for Mr Harper and then, returnt back into the story via the print book my local library had purchased for me – I have a different perspective on the answer for this question this time round. I can honestly say, although I did love the performance of Lloyd Davies in this story – for me personally, I enjoyed reading the print version a bit more than listening to the audiobook as my whole attention was on the styling of Harper’s narrative, the development of his characters and how he led us to believe the illusion of how Conan Doyle, Harkness and Bell could become an investigative team in the 19th Century – it is believable because of how he humanised their experience for us and how he took us through an emotional drama set behind a notorious crime spree.

Usually I am one who would opt to read and then re-listen to an audiobook – however, because I took the audiobook as an introspective study to etch out questions to ask the author, the print version allowed me to re-view the story through the lens of a reader and thereby became my favourite version for this particular novel. I would admit, one day after time has past I might re-listen to a few select chapters of the audiobook – especially the exchanges involving Harkness and Conan Doyle and a few others, which were my favourite scenes and sequences to read. However, as a whole – this is a story I can only handle reading in length one time due to the nature of what is involved in the case itself. Even if I found it poetic justice how Harper concludes the story!

In closing, would I seek out another Matthew Lloyd Davies audiobook?

Technically, I already have – “The Lost History of Dreams”! I believe Lloyd Davies simply has one of those kinds of voices I’ll be happily seeking out for quite a long while as he just immediately gives you a joyful heart in listening to his performances! I also like his style of narration and how he’s articulating both the characters and the ambiance of the stories themselves. As you listen to audiobooks, you start to mentally keep track of the narrators whose voices are your favourites and Lloyd Davies is definitely on my short-list now!

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This book review is ancoured to a guest author feature I am working on feat. an author interview with bradley harper

My forthcoming conversation will be discussing his writing process and also keen insight into what is forthcoming in this lovely series of Historical Suspense! I would consider this a slice of Cosy Historical Fiction as well – as similar to my beloved dramatic Crime Dramas from Seventh Street Books previously mentioned – Harper holds back the lens of the grisly depictions and gives you a riveting read without pushing you too far outside your literary interests into deductive criminology.

It is a conversation I thoroughly enjoyed as it isn’t oft I’ve been blessed to interview an author by phone – this is my 3rd such interview and I am wicked thankful it will be forthcoming to Jorie Loves A Story this coming MAY wherein I’ll be re-highlighting more stories of Crime Fiction – both from Seventh Street Books and other publishers who are giving me thrilling reads in a genre I love!

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Paste Creative logo provided by Paste Creative and is used with permission.This review is conjuction with working with stephanie @ paste creative to bring an interview with Bradley harper to Jorielovesastory.com – i am in full gratitude to being working with her on this guest author feature. do check out her authorly services to see if you as an author might wish to hire her – I highly recommend her professionalism & dedication to both her clients (authors) and the outreach she does on their behalf with book bloggers (like me) who are social readers (on the social of their choice – for me it is Twitter). i hope to work with her again as this experience has been a wicked joy this Spring, 2019.

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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Reading this novel counted towards some of my 2019 reading challenges:

2019 HistFic Reading Challenge banner created by Jorie in Canva.

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Beat the Backlist banner created by Austine at A Novel Knight and is used with permission.

2019 Audiobook Challenge banner created by Jorie in Canva.

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{SOURCES: Book cover “A Knife in the Fog”, book synopsis, author photograph of Bradley Harper, author biography and the promo banners were all provided by Paste Creative and are used with permission. Paste Creative logo banner provided by Paste Creative and is used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Beat the Backlist banner provided by Novel Knight and is used with permission. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna, Historical Fiction Reading Challenge banner, 2019 Audiobook Challenge and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2019.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Friday, 26 April, 2019 by jorielov in 19th Century, After the Canon, Amateur Detective, Arthur Conan Doyle, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Review (non-blog tour), Crime Fiction, Detective Fiction, England, Historical Fiction, Historical Thriller Suspense, Inspired By Author OR Book, Inspired by Stories, Margaret Harkness, Paste Creative, Realistic Fiction, the Victorian era




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One response to “Book Review on behalf of an Edgar Awards nominee for 2019 | “A Knife in the Fog” (Margaret Harkness and Arthur Conan Doyle series, Book One) by Bradley Harper

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful review. I enjoyed our interview very much. I was given audition tracks of three different narrators and Mr. Davies was my immediate choice.

    Book two is with my editor and is on track for a mid-September release. It’s a wonderful feeling to learn that something I put so much of myself into provides enjoyment to others.

    Best of British luck to you!
    Brad

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