Book Review: What Child is This? // Bonnie MacBird


I picked up MacBird’s latest Sherlock Holmes Christmas adventure on the first day of September, just as the heatwave was beginning to fade and the air grew colder — I have never felt more in the mood for the chillier months. Bonnie MacBird’s latest novel in her acclaimed Sherlock Holmes series What Child is This? is the perfect book to pick up this winter season or gift to a loved one who adores the renowned detective. 

Disguised as an original manuscript by Dr John Watson, MacBird’s foreword is written in light of the pandemic, promising a warm but stimulating experience. Similar to her other novels in the Sherlock collection, this allows for great fidelity to the original texts, mimicking the experience of picking up an old battered copy of Doyle’s original masterpieces. It’s a testament to MacBird’s dedication, research and writing skills. 

MacBird catapults the reader back to 1890 London, on a snowy December, where Watson pulls a scrooge-like Holmes into the streets of London for some festive fresh air. Oxford Street is packed, which makes it perfect for the odd pick pocketer. However, on this occasion, Holmes and Watson are in the right place at the right time as a man knocks a young woman to the ground and tries to take her young son. Holmes and Watson are swift to the rescue but everyone is left wondering who would want to kidnap this child and will he try again. 

As Holmes and Watson meander through London’s workhouses and prisons on a dangerous journey to find the culprit, the reader learns about the conditions of work, raising children and take a deep dive into sexuality in the 19th century.

Not only does Holmes display his renowned scientific knowledge and bravery, but this Christmas adventure also displays him as charitable. Both the reader and Watson observe Holmes as never seen before as he discovers a new way to solve a mystery — empathy as the final solution. 

We are all rightfully sceptical when Sherlock Holmes is made into a new series, diverging from the original; but don’t worry, MacBird knows precisely what she is doing! She perfectly encapsulates the tone of Dr Watson’s first-person narration and the humour of Holmes. She is passionate about Victorian London and lives in a 1980’s building just off Baker Street, which is reflected by her spot-on context. There are no historical inconsistencies in this book which might throw you off the gripping storyline. 

What makes this novel even more special are the wonderful pen and ink illustrations littered throughout the novel, drawn by Marvel Comics artist Frank Cho (also a Sherlockian), bringing to life the characters and the Victorian winter surroundings. You really couldn’t ask for a better team to bring justice to such beloved literary figures. This is a novel to treat yourself to after its release on October 13th, as MacBird promises to accompany your winter afternoons with the excitement and comfort of the familiar detective Sherlock Holmes.

Words by Georgia McInnes

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