Some might say the Sherlock Holmes hype has come and gone, but Bonnie MacBird has proven the timelessness of the wonderful Holmes and Watson duo. The Three Locks is MacBird’s fourth Sherlock Holmes novel, which captures the essence of Doyle’s fiction perfectly.
The novel cleverly disguises itself as the work of John Watson, a manuscript that he hesitated giving to Doyle to publish, only now falling into the hands of MacBird. It allows for great fidelity to the original texts— like you really have picked up an old battered copy of Doyle’s in a second-hand shop. It’s a testament to MacBird’s dedication and research to the series and the historical period. Likewise, MacBird’s creative genius is displayed when we are introduced to not one, but three interwoven mysteries. Holmes and Watson must uncover the secret of each lock they encounter, and build a narrative upon the three.
Thrust into an intolerable Indian summer, the scene is set for conflict and tension. We begin by finding Watson with a mysterious impenetrable box that an unknown aunt finally remembers to send. A gift from his mother, who died during his childhood from uncertain circumstances. The novel’s first mystery follows Watson attempting to unlock this box. However, it runs synonymous to Watson unlocking some troubling memories. He grants us a look into his private life, beyond his role as Holmes’ assistant, at work as a doctor and as a friend.
Madame Ilaria Borelli, the wife of the famous escape artist, soon becomes our second mystery. Her husband’s life appears to be threatened when he receives a severed finger. Not long after, his body is found burnt during a performance and Madame is missing. Holmes and Watson find themselves inspecting the Borelli’s marriage as a catalyst for their danger, allowing a tragic insight into the toxicity of marriage in the nineteenth century.
And then there’s Dillie, a missing young girl who’s doll is found in Jesus Lock. Holmes and Watson are quickly off to Cambridge after an infatuated Deacon expresses his concerns. They soon find Dillie has three suitors and a terrible dislike for her family. A dislike that also seems to be returned. Holmes and Watson have to try and work alongside this ambitious young girl to keep her safe — but her sex only leads to tragedy.
The Three Locks was a light and witty book I didn’t know I needed, allowing you to relive your youthful love for Holmes and Watson. There is a lot of fun to be had spotting and picking apart the plethora of locks scattered around this novel, especially unlocking the mystery of female experience in the nineteenth century. MacBird’s Sherlock doesn’t just uncover murders, but also the dangers women are willing to face for a moment of freedom.
Words by Georgia McInnes
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