The Angel of the Crows - the new novel from award-winning author Katherine Addison

by Katherine Addison

Hardcover, 2020



Call number



Solaris (2020), 500 pages


In an alternate 1880s London, angels inhabit every public building, and vampires and werewolves walk the streets with human beings in a well-regulated truce. A fantastic utopia, except for a few things: Angels can Fall, and that Fall is like a nuclear bomb in both the physical and metaphysical worlds. And human beings remain human, with all their kindness and greed and passions and murderous intent. Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of this London too. But this London has an Angel. The Angel of the Crows.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jsburbidge
This is a brilliant and amusing foray into Holmesiana and beyond.

Addison/Monette may be, in a sense, a worthy successor to Walter Jon Williams in that her novels are successively different. The Doctrine of Labyrinths is not much like The Goblin Emperor, and this is different yet again.

In a world
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where the Sherlock Holmes analogue is an angel and the Watson analogue was injured, not by a bullet, but by a fallen angel, both the historical murders of late Victorian London (notably the Jack the Ripper murders) and close analogues to Doyle's fictional cases play out.

The Watson analogue (Doyle) is brighter and more of an agent, and things have to be different in a world where the obvious first hypothesis involving the Hound if the Baskervilles is that there really is a hell-hound involved. Crow - the Holmes analogue - is both like and unlike the original, in a carefully thought out way. Unlike with many pieces of spec fic Holmesiana, Addison leaves much of the cases essentially intact (although changed somewhat by their different context): this is not a mystery novel, but one of which the pleasure lies in seeing how the changes are rung on Doyle's canon.
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LibraryThing member readinggeek451
The second book published as by Katherine Addison (who also writes as Sarah Monette) is nothing like her excellent The Goblin Emperor, except for being also fantasy and equally well written.

In fact, this is a Sherlock Holmes novel, with different names and a very different London. The doctor
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wounded in Afghanistan is the intelligent and insightful J. H. Doyle. The eccentric investigator is an angel named Crow. Yes, this fantasy London has angels, also hellhounds, necrophages, vampires, and werewolves.

This is something of a novel in stories, with separate episodes corresponding to the Sign of the Four, the Speckled Band, the Hound of the Baskervilles, and others which a more Sherlockian reader might recognize but I did not.

The characters are complex and sympathetic, the puzzles are intriguing, and the world-building is first-rate. I enjoyed it. Someone who is not tired of Sherlock Holmes pastiches would probably like it even more.
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LibraryThing member ladycato
I received an advance copy of this book via NetGalley.

So many things about this book are perfect for me. An homage to Sherlock Holmes with fantasy elements! Victorian London! Plus, it is written by the author of the enchanting Goblin Emperor. My expectations were high.

And yet, it took me a week to
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get through the book. It struggled to hold my attention, and there was no glaring reason why. The writing is by no means bad. I loved Crow, the angel-winged ethereal guardian of London who plays the role of Holmes. I had to really mull why the book left me with such a vague sense of disappointment.

Foremost, there is the format. This is Sherlock fanfic that takes on a voice similar to the original work, as you follow Doyle (aka Watson) the newly-injured army medic as he meets Crow/Holmes and initiate their intimate friendship at 221 Baker Street and begin to solve fantastical rewrites of the original cases. One reason I never really engaged with the original books is that the POV of Watson was very distant, as the focus is on Sherlock. Here, Crow is a major subject, but I found myself craving an intimate understanding of Doyle. Very, very slowly, the reader finds out more secrets about Doyle, but even then, there is a profound aloofness from the character that left me feeling shutout. And that's a shame, as the type of secrets involved are usually ones that would snare me, big time.

I was also disappointed in how Doyle's secrets solved the overall plot arc of the book, the mystery of Jack the Ripper. Doyle has no agency. He solves it, beyond his own conscious control.

The biggest reason the book didn't click for me, though, is that so much about the book felt aloof. The worldbuilding is painfully slow and teases about a lot of cool things that are never explored in detail. The ways of angels are very gradually explained, but I was left wanting to know more. I'm okay with the steampunk elements being contained to scant mentions of airships and mechanical guard dogs (that's a sound marketing choice at this time, as steampunk books don't sell) but an alternate history aspect is hinted at but never explored. The Americas are still colonies! How, why? What else is changed? As someone who loves alt history, this frustrated me. This element piqued my curiosity far more than the vampires and werewolves that play important parts in certain cases. The cool, original aspects felt like they were ignored as the book replayed tired old tropes instead.
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LibraryThing member Dokfintong
Sherlock Holmes is an Angel

Not the agent of God kind of angel, but a being that the people of 1870s London call an angel. A being with feathered wings (not really feathers) and a very odd social structure. Dr. J.H. Watson becomes Dr. J.H. Doyle who has just come back from Afghanistan after being
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badly injured by some Fallen (who are not well explained but are really really bad beings to meet). Dr. Doyle has secrets.

Ms Addison reprises some favorite Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper stories in the context of a world whose natural and social structures are quite different from ours. The result is fun to read. I look forward to the next installment.

I received a review copy of "The Angel of the Crows" by Katherine Addison from Tor Books through
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LibraryThing member rivkat
Sherlock Holmes rewritten with angels (Holmes is one), hellhounds (Watson is one after a wound in Afghanistan fighting the Fallen; Watson is also a trans man and trying to escape exposure of both of his secrets, since registration is required for hellhounds), werewolves, and so on. There’s the
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Hound of the Baskervilles and Jack the Ripper. I didn’t feel it came together in a particularly coherent way but if you like Holmes pastiche then this one may satisfy.
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LibraryThing member quondame
A really good read, episodic but working to its conclusion. This is for those open to reworkings of Sherlock Holmes. Dr. J.H. Doyle retired from Afghanistan takes rooms with Crow, a de-homed angel, in a world where angels seem to be more like genii locorum than heavenly messengers, and werewolves
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and vampires are legal, but hell hounds and nerophages are not. There is sort of a best-hits tone overlayed with the hunt for Jack the Ripper but the combination of familiar with novel really worked for me.
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LibraryThing member Veronica.Sparrow
I love Sherlock Holmes. I love alternate timelines. I love stories with angels, werewolves, and vampires. I love the 1880's especially Jack the Ripper times.

In this alternate 1888 London, there are angels, the Fallen, the Nameless, and werewolves and vampires roaming the streets. Most importantly,
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there is the Angel of the Crows keeping watch over his City.

Where do I start with this book? Some readers were not enthused but I adored this book and am planning to read it again. I don't often do that with books. I grew up with Sherlock Holmes and I was dubious that anyone could successfully fiddle with the stories but Katherine Addison aced it. I grew to like the main characters very much. The author also added a few surprises that I don't want to expand on as they would be spoilers. To be honest, this book is not enough for me. I would love to read more adventures with Crow and Doyle.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
Sherlock Holmes, except there are angels and demons in the world and Watson was injured by a demon which turned him into a werewolf and Holmes is an angel who is duty-bound to protect London and Moriarty is a vampire.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it was a fun read. Addison's
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world-building is very good. This is far and away the most likeable Sherlock Holmes I have ever encountered. Addison is clearly riffing off not only Doyle's original stories, but also the BBC Sherlock series, but her version of Holmes is far more endearing and vulnerable than either of those. Her version of Watson is also vulnerable, which gives Watson/Doyle and Holmes/Crow a much closer bond than previous versions.

On the other hand, this is a pretty straightforward retelling of several Sherlock Holmes mysteries, with a Jack the Ripper mystery thrown in. With such good worldbuilding, and such good characters, I was really disappointed that there wasn't more to it. Addison didn't tell any story here that she couldn't have told with the original characters. She just took the original stories and added some supernatural to them. It seems like there were opportunities to tell a story about the nature of good and evil, or to change one of the stories to make an unsympathetic character sympathetic, or to do something really unexpected.

That makes this book a frustrating blend of really original and really not original at all.
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LibraryThing member LisCarey
Firstly, this is a Holmes/Watson pastiche, in an alternate 1880s London.

The Watson character is Dr. J.H. Doyle, MD, recently returned from Afghanistan, wounded in an encounter with a Fallen Angel, and very lucky to be alive. The damage to his leg is lasting and painful, but we will gradually learn
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that it's the lesser injury. Doyle has brought back another consequence of that encounter that will affect every decision he has to make, and will keep him in London, where he can lose himself in the crowd.

Under that, there's another secret, but that one, Dr. Doyle had brought with him to Afghanistan.

The Sherlock character is an Angel.

Not a Fallen Angel. Not an Angel in good standing, with a building for his Habitation and responsibility, and his name likely taken from it, such as the Angel of Scotland Yard, or the Angel of Whitehall. Not a Nameless, wandering London with little or no sense of identity or genuine, consecutive memory. No, though he was once the Angel of the Sherlock Arms, he's a bit of a rogue Angel, not Fallen, but one who, when the Sherlock Arms was torn down, took a bit of marble from the balustrade, refused to fade back into the Nameless, and kept the name of Crow that he'd almost accidentally acquired.

He also calls himself the Angel of London, taking on a certain responsibility for the safety of the city's inhabitants.

When we meet Crow and Doyle, they are both in need of a flatmate who can put up with their unavoidable eccentricities, in order to split the costs of a reasonably comfortable flat in a reasonably respectable neighborhood. You know where this is going, though the landlady's name is Mrs. Climpson.

I really thoroughly enjoyed this book. Of course a number of Holmes'Watson stories are adapted to the setting, starting with "The Sign of the Four," very little different, and gradually growing more divergent, more affected by the changed setting, where vampires and werewolves exist in a negotiated truce with humans, clairvoyance is a skill most respectable young ladies learn, and various kinds of magic users exist in varying degrees of respectability and legality.

Oh, and there are hellhounds. This turns out to be very important.

We see something of the caste system among Angels, something of the workings of vampiric clans, called "hunts," less of the workings of werewolf packs, but like vampires, werewolves can live peacefully and legally among humans. There's potential for interesting stories in which we learn a lot more about these groups, and the relations between and among them, including the political roles played by some of the higher-ranking Angels, including Whitehall. But we do see something of these things, and we are also seeing the building of the relationship between Crow and Doyle, and between the flatmates and Lestrade, Gregson, and other London police inspectors.

I'm carefully not saying anything more specific about Doyle's second secret, the one he had even before going to Afghanistan. That would be a significant spoiler, but I found it to be a really interesting twist on the tale Arthur Conan Doyle gave us. Of course, A. Conan Doyle would probably be appalled, but that's okay. I really like it.

The Jack the Ripper story is also woven through the entire book, and it's the source of much of the interaction with Lestrade. Given the time, and the prominence of Jack the Ripper even today, it could hardly be ignored.

The character development, and the changes Addison has rung on 1880s London, are well done and absorbing. Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.
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LibraryThing member KittyCunningham
Steam punk Holmes with angels
LibraryThing member MontzaleeW
The Angel of the Crows
by Katherine Addison
I loved this! It was so incredibly fun! If you are a Sherlock and Watson fan and like things just like the original then do not read! But if you want a fun and twisted supernatural element to the stories then read this! There are more twists then you can
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In here they are Crow and Doyle. Doyle was a doctor in the war too. It is written from Doyle's point of view. Many of the stories have the same sort of story lines but Doyle was injured in the fight with the Fallen, (Angels, that is!). Other stories come up such as the Hounds, special appearance by Jack the Ripper, and a couple of side jobs too. Exciting, fun, and definitely not as boring as the original Sherlock! (I like Sherlock but when Sherlock has wings, well, game over!)

There's Hellhounds, ghosts, Angels, vampires, psychic, mechanical Cerberus, and more! What's not to like when added to great characters and realistic backgrounds, mysteries, sprinkled generously with humor and intrigue!
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LibraryThing member Lucky-Loki
Let me be clear: I really liked this book. But two things kept me from enjoying it as much as I should have, and so this review will be spent mainly on those. I will, however, try to summarise some of the many, many positives before I close.

As with "The Goblin Emperor", Addison's storytelling
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sucked me in here as few books do. I enjoyed the book immensely, found myself reading for longer than I usually do every sitting until I'd finished it. Alas, as with "The Goblin Emperor", I found the ending lacklustre. It's not bad (nor was the one in "Goblin Emperor"), but it feels small and unsatisfactory. Everything just sort of works out. There are no major reveals, no major emotional conflict or unexpected obstacle. The end of "Angel of the Crows" is sweet and lovely, but it does so by repeating a theme the novel has already done several times (that of the particular love and friendship between the protagonists), and the ending otherwise doesn't add anything particularly new or interesting. The choice to use the Jack the Ripper killings as a framing plot around the various retellings of Sherlock Holmes mysteries is compelling, but the resolution to it, sadly, feels predictable, perfunctory and underwhelming. I was hoping for some kind of twist in the narrative that would tie the disparate elements of the various plotlines earlier in the book together ine some shape or form, and while that's obviously on me for projecting my expectations onto the narrative, it definitely hurt my overall impression and left me a bit underwhelmed.

But it's a shame, because up until this, it was a wonderful story. My main other gripe (minor in comparison) is that Addison is throwing (for my tastes) way too many unnecessary fantastic elements into the world. I'm meant to believe that a world with one or two supernatural aspects happen to develop a Victorian London virtually identical to the historical one? Fine. I can suspend disbelief enough for that. But it gradually becomes apparent it's not one or two supernatural elements -- it's every single one. Ghosts, fetches, automatons, werewolves, hemophages, necrophages, clairvoyants, the book is brimming with supernatural entities that amount to little more than cameos. This lessens the impact, the awe and the interest in the ones that actually matter to the narrative: angels (including fallen ones), and to a lesser extent hellhounds and vampires. The story could easily have consolidated and in many cases even removed all these elements, without being much changed. These thingss are admittedly each of them fun in isolation, but when all put together they make each other lesser, and also can't help but leave the deductions of Crow (the Sherlock Holmes-standin) seeming prosaic and pointless. A detective is only so impressive when you can interview the ghosts, seek the motive with clairvoyants, and track the villain with a werewolf's nose. And in fact, the Holmes-character rarely contributes much to any of the stories, here. The Watson-equivalent is (and I liked this) much more active and intelligent than the original Watson, and between that and the flashy supernatural elements, the brilliant detective often felt to me almost pointless except as a device to drive the protagonist's interest in mysteries. His contributions to actually solving the mysteries were strangely anonymous, usually boiling down to "I have better eyesight and hearing than humans", and I wish he'd gotten to dazzle with his brilliance more.

The Sherlock Holmes-character cameos are a bit odd to me -- some are just themselves with no real change (Lestrade, for instance), others are hugely changed (Moriarty), while yet others are renamed entirely (Holmes, Watson, Mycroft). This kind of irritated my sense of tidiness, I wish they'd all either have kept their names or been reinvented. Changing some of them and not others sort of gave me the impression early on this would end up somehow mattering, but it gradually became apparent it never would. It took me a bit out of the story, and I'd rather they were all treated the same way (hidden cameos or direct, named analogies) so as not to distract me with meta-narrative questions. But that's probably just a personal preference.

Ah well. To be clear once again, the book is stuffed full of good stuff. The almost seemless switching between real world murder mysteries and Sherlock Holmes-retellings is captivating (though a bit glaring in that the real world ones nearly always are the ones to go unsolved). The characters are sympathetic, engaging and well-drawn, and their relationships are endearing and touching. The supernatural elements that actually matter -- notably the angels -- are well thought out and fascinating, and even the ones that don't are captivatingly described. The automatons, for instance, which second only to the ghosts undermine the reality and plausibility of the world the most for me, are incredibly cool and fun when they appear. Furthermore, the prose is engaging, the portrayal of the period immersive without being oppressively hammered home at all times, and the protagonist's first person narrative sucked me in from the very beginning. I wish there were more of a through-line in the story than there was -- the ending made me feel like I'd been reading a short story collection pretending to be a novel -- but considering there wasn't, it sure did make me keep flipping the pages at a great speed.
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LibraryThing member jjmcgaffey
So - I dislike Sherlock Holmes, he's an arrogant know-it-all. I dislike Jack the Ripper stories...possibly for the same reason Crow doesn't like the newspaper stories. I do like urban fantasy. And this urban fantasy version of a Sherlock Holmes-ish catching - among others - Jack the Ripper
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completely captivated me. The world is complex and fascinating - Angels and Fallen and Nameless, werewolves and vampires and less familiar types of...creatures? People? Both, really. Dr. Doyle is very interesting - lots of secrets. Crow (the Angel who is the Sherlock Holmes character) has even more secrets, and the slow reveal of both his personal secrets and who and what the Angels are kept me reading way too late at night. Katherine Addison is amazing, and the only problem is that she doesn't have enough books out yet. Looking forward to reading anything else she puts out.
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LibraryThing member Tikimoof
Boy, this one is tough.

So I still love Addison's prose. The characters themselves hearkened back a lot more to the Doctrine of Labyrinths characters more than Addison's recent work. I could see a lot of Mildmay in Doyle, and a lot of Felix in Crow, so that part was like coming back to old friends.
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I could see how Addison was trying to update the racism of the old Sherlock Holmes stories.

But her attempts to update the gender identity stuff fell really incredibly flat to me. I stopped reading for about a month after those revelations about Doyle and Crow about halfway through the book. They were really, really bad.

I'm docking another point because while I'm in no way a Sherlock Holmes fan (movies/books/tv shows, any of it), the resolutions of the stories weren't exactly original. I think I would have liked a bit more imagination in the mysteries themselves.
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
Dr. J.H. Doyle, wounded in the British Afghan Wars, returns to London and finds himself in need of a flatmate. A chance encounter with an old acquaintance leads to him rooming with Crow, an eccentric angel who devotes his time to solving crimes. Doyle finds himself assisting Crow with his cases,
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but the whole of London's police force (as well as Crow and Doyle) are stumped when it comes to tracking down the serial killer who's been brutally knifing prostitutes in the East End...

I tracked this down after reading Addison's other works. The writing is engaging and the characters are strong, but I prefer when Addison creates her own worlds (unpronounceable names and all). Still, a solidly good read that I'd recommend to fans of fantasy featuring angels, urban fantasy, and Sherlock and/or Jack the Ripper stories.
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LibraryThing member macha
okay, here's an alternate history of London, Victorian period, in which Sherlock Holmes in all but name and his roommate Doyle are solving the big cases of the day, both real and literary, while dealing with (and embodying) a world full of angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, and many more. it's a
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lot of fun, but it doesn't go near what Sarah Monette is capable of, and i'm holding out for more of that.
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LibraryThing member jennybeast
I downloaded the ARC sometime ago and then promptly forgot what it was about, so when I started reading this, it was a revelation. I think that's a good way to come to it, actually, with no expectations, or idea of what it will be about. I loved it. Really, really loved it.

I wasn't expecting
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Sherlock Holmes, and once I confirmed in my mind that that was where we were going, I was delighted at the world I had fallen into. As per usual, Addison writes good worlds, with very interesting twists and characters and unusual interpretations. Angels as I've never seen them, a somewhat kinder, gentler Sherlock, and a really capital Watson. The cases felt fresher than most Holmesian rewrites, the paranormal elements worked very well for me, and I even liked the inclusion of the Ripper case, lurking sullenly in the background. I found it delightful.

Advanced Reader's copy provided by Edelweiss.
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LibraryThing member wyvernfriend
This is a story of what-if, what if Sherlock Holmes was the Genus Loci of London, a sort of guardian angel for the city, most of the crimes they get involved with have supernatural elements. Watson has come back from Afghanistan with scars and secrets; some of which Sherlock can help with, some are
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a little more complicated.
I enjoyed the twist on the story and had fun reading it.
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LibraryThing member beserene
Everything written under the Katherine Addison nom de plume has, thus far, been exquisite and this Sherlockian novel with an angelic fantasy twist is no exception. You will be caught up in the world, in the elegant details, even in the sheer weirdness of it all. I promise.
LibraryThing member mmparker
I haven't read Sherlock, but this was a delight.
LibraryThing member g33kgrrl
So this is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is like it was written specifically for me. I love it, I love it, I love it.

I don't even know what to say so I don't give too much away. I have been a long time fan of Katherine Addison, including her writing under the name Sarah
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Monette. I will read anything she writes, and I already had this book preordered, so when I was able to snag this as an electronic ARC via Netgalley (in exchange for an honest review) I was thrilled. I honestly didn't know anything about it going into it. I have had a real difficult reading during the pandemic, and this shook me out of my rut perfectly. I went from not sleeping because of pandemic-anxiety to not sleeping because I was staying up late reading. It was a wonderful change of pace.

If you don't want any spoilers, don't read past this. Just go buy this wonderfully, lovely, humane book. Preorder it from your local bookstore right now. Email your local library and politely demand they purchase many electronic editions.

It starts with a medical doctor being injured in the leg in Afghanistan in the 19th century, and being saved by his orderly named Murray. But the doctor was injured by a Fallen Angel and was injured in some sort of supernatural way. I immediately went to twitter and lost my mind about the idea because SUPERNATURAL SHERLOCK HOLMES OH DANG BRING IT COUNT ME IN. It's just *so* clever and *so* well done and it's not just re-told Sherlock Holmes stories, everything is re-imagined in for this different world, and it fits so beautifully. Everything terrible about the late 19th and early 20th century is made better, and it's like a cool drink of water on a hot day.

Seeing Addison/Monette getting to write about Jack the Ripper and other murders is just icing on the cake.
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LibraryThing member decaturmamaof2
One of my favorite writers does it again! Addison's take on Victorian England and Sherlock Holmes'ian detecting is amazingly in-depth and fun to read. Would dearly love more about JH Doylecs story AND Crow's story (please


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Physical description

500 p.; 8.66 inches


1781088500 / 9781781088500
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