The Mystery of Briony Lodge by David Bagchi

Say nothing of the dog…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

When a client turns up at Baker Street, she is accidentally shown to 221d by mistake – the room upstairs from the famous consulting detective Sherlock Holmes. This room is occupied by J. Yes, that J. The one from Three Men in a Boat. He’s there that day with Harris and George, to say nothing of the dog, Montmorency. And when the lovely Miss Briony Lodge appeals for his help over some mysterious letters she’s been receiving, he’s so taken with her that he decides to play along with her belief that he is Holmes and investigate the mystery himself, with the rather dubious help of his friends.

So begins this mash-up pastiche of two of my favourite bookish delights of all time. When I was offered a copy of this my first impulse was to shudder violently and issue a haughty thanks but no thanks – regulars will know nothing is more guaranteed to make me froth at the mouth than people messing with my literary idols. However something made me glance at the ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon. The first line made me laugh out loud…

“To Montmorency she is always the woman.”

One good line doesn’t necessarily mean the whole thing will be good though, so I read on…

“Young men such as ourselves, with active minds (naturally I excuse you from this generalisation, George) and active bodies (forgive me, Harris, I don’t mean you, of course) do not need rest. Rest for us is the mere counterfeit of death. There will be time enough for rest when the Grim Reaper taps us on the shoulder and asks to see our ticket.”

This is followed by a delightfully silly argument between the three men on the subject of how many servants a knight of yore would have had as he went off to “try his valour against all manner of foe”

By now I was sold! And I’m happy to say that the entire book lives up to the promise of these first few pages. Bagchi clearly knows the originals inside out and loves them, and he replicates J.’s voice with impressive accuracy and warm affection. Holmes himself is an off-page presence, but there are zillions of references to the stories and it’s great fun trying to spot them all. I’m pretty sure Bagchi must also be a Wodehouse fan, because there are occasional touches of his kind of humour in there too.

The plot is a mash-up of several of the Holmes stories combined with a trip down the Thames to some of the places that appear in Three Men in a Boat. If I have a criticism, it’s that occasionally Bagchi veers too close to the original – such as in J.’s musings on the mysterious workings of the British railway system. But for the vast majority he achieves that difficult balance of staying true to the source while stamping his own originality on top, and the story all hangs together very well.

It’s mostly told by J. in the first person, but it turns out that by coincidence Holmes has sent Watson to follow a chap who happens to be involved in the mystery too (being deliberately vague here). So, in the manner of The Hound of the Baskervilles, we get to read Watson’s reports to Holmes along with extracts from his personal journal, and Bagchi has totally nailed Watson’s style too.

My dear Holmes,
Today’s proceedings have been as full of incident as we could have wished or feared. I only hope that my pen can do justice to the high drama of the day.

Deliciously, even the chapter headings match the style of the originals. Here’s Chapter 2, a J. chapter…

Of the power of female beauty upon the male brain—A decorated ceiling—On the supernatural abilities of dogs—The railway guide a threat to public morality—On the glorious freedom of God’s special creation, the locomotive—Harris has an idea—The moral degeneracy of the downstream man.

David Bagchi

It’s 155 pages – long enough to be satisfying without reaching the point of outstaying its welcome. I’ve said snootily in past rips of dreadful pastiches and follow-on novels that writers shouldn’t set themselves up for comparison with the greats unless the quality of their own writing is up to standard. Bagchi’s is – there are bits which, if taken out of context, I’m sure would fool most of us into thinking they had genuinely been penned by either Jerome or Conan Doyle. I enjoyed every minute of the couple of hours it took me to read, laughing out loud many times along the way. Highly recommended – a better cure for the blues than cocaine, liver pills or clumps on the side of the head…

Oh, and, Mr Bagchi… I think there’s plenty of room for a sequel…

NB This book was provided for review by the author.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

38 thoughts on “The Mystery of Briony Lodge by David Bagchi

  1. Bravo, bravo! This sounds absolutely fantastic. The excerpts here are just brilliant. The pastiche is such a difficult line to walk and are rarely pulled off, even by the most talented of writers. Congratulations to Bagchi – I shall certainly be casting an eye over his tome 🙂

    • Normally pastiche is guaranteed to make my teeth gnash, but he really hits the nail on the head with both styles. Plus it’s very funny! I do hope he’s working on a follow-up. I think you’ll enjoy this one, and it’s nice and short… 😀

  2. Clearly someone was suffering from dyslexia long before it was ever given a name! This sounds superb and I need a copy straight away to lift the gloom of yet another grey, snowy and sleety weekend.

    • Hahaha – yes! In this case, a fortunate error though! This one is guaranteed to cut through any amount of gloom – I smiled and laughed all the way through, both at the actual plot but also at the cleverness of all the references. Enjoy!

    • I can never resist a Holmes pastiche even though most of them end up annoying me. But generally it’s not a genre I’m fond of. This one shows how much fun it can be when it’s done well, though… 🙂

  3. I can see why you thought this was so funny, FIctionFan. I don’t normally read pastiches of even one famous character, let alone two together. But this does sound fun. And the writing style’s terrific. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • I’m not a fan of pastiche in general either, even though I get sucked in from time to time. But this one is so well done – both styles – and so clever how he’s mixed the two together. Great fun! 😀

  4. I don’t typically read pastiches, but your review makes this one sound like I ought to make an exception to that! How nice to start the week off with something you can recommend wholeheartedly. Um, nothing bad happens to the dog, right??

    • So much fun and so well done! Yes, I do like when an author or publisher actually take the time to find the right readers – in this case, people who happen to love both Holmes and Three Men in a Boat. It makes such a difference. I’m glad I checked before rejecting it – it would have been tragic to miss out on this little gem… 😀

  5. Sounds great! I’m not usually a fan of this type of book either, but I love Three Men in a Boat and it seems as though Bagchi has captured the spirit of the original.

    • He definitely has! And I’m hugely picky about pastiche usually, so the fact that it won me over is an indication of how well it’s done. If you’re a fan of J. and his friends, I suspect you’d love this as much as I did… 😀

  6. I hope the author reads this review. You’re the right reader for this type of work! He also looks like a rather shy person if I were to judge from his photo and the way he almost wasn’t captured in it. Like maybe he is more of a fan of the originals and an introvert than someone good with publicity.

    • He did! Yes, I liked that he’d taken the time to hunt down readers who loved the originals – so often authors just blast requests out to everyone they can find an email address for. Ha! I never really look at the pics, but I see what you mean!

  7. Sounds brilliant and quite funny. I like the writing already just based on the excerpts that you shared. I am glad that you enjoyed this one. Great review.

  8. I’m glad it surpassed your expectations. I’m afraid it wouldn’t land as well with me as I’ve never read Three Men in a Boat, and I’ve only read one Holmes story! (I know! I can feel your disbelief from here!)

    • Hahaha – you were hoping for a rip, weren’t you? I fear he tricked me by writing a good one – bah! 😉 Yes, I think he nailed both voices brilliantly – great fun!

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