Review: The 1895 Murder by Dan Andriacco
Welcome to the 221st post on Always1895.net!! In order to celebrate this Sherlockian milestone, I’ve chosen to review the latest offering from one of my favorite Sherlockian novelists and bloggers Mr Dan Andriacco. His blog Baker Street Beat was an early inspiration for Always1895.net and over the last two years Mr Andriacco and I have collaborated on a few small projects including a friendly debate on our favorite Sherlockians and most recently a contest where the winners receive inscribed copies of The 1895 Murder,not to mention innumerable Twitter discussions on all things Sherlockian.
The 1895 Murder is Dan Andriacco’s third foray into what I like to think of as the Benignusverse, or the fictional world inhabited by Jeff Cody, Professor Sebastian McCabe and a colorful assortment of friends and townspeople who either reside in Erin, OH or are connected to the fictional southern Ohio college town. Cody and McCabe are both employed by St. Benignus College, the former as public relations director and the latter as a professor and head of the Popular Culture Studies program. Besides being coworkers and best friends, they are also brothers-in-law, McCabe being happily married to Cody’s sister, as well as share a landlord/tenant relationship (Cody lives in McCabe’s coach house); oh yeah, and they also occasionally partner up to solve baffling local murders together.
The events of The 1895 Murder pick up a few months after Holmes Sweet Holmes (HSH) - where we found Team McCabe/Cody investigating deaths related to a recent Sherlock Holmes film adaptation entitled 221B Bourbon Street (featuring the “beloved detective as a goateed, saxophone-playing southern American working in 1920s New Orleans…”). At the onset The 1895 Murder, McCabe is focused on opening night of a Sherlockian play he penned entitled, coincidentally, The 1895 Murder - where he’s also playing the role of Mycroft to which he’s said/described to be physically compatible - and Cody is preparing for imminent nuptials with his previously on-again/off-again girlfriend, now fiancée, Lynda Teal whom readers of HSH and Andriacco’s first novel No Police Like Holmes (NPLH) are no doubt familiar (she’s a journalist by trade).
Unfortunately for Cody, McCabe and their (at times) long suffering family/friends, someone is murdered during the first performance of McCabe’s play - in an alley immediately outside the theater under ostensibly strange conditions - and bang (so to speak), the sleuthing is on! The action runs along two separate yet overlapping threads: the first and more traditional thread centers around our two intrepid armature detectives as they question witnesses, suspects, persons of interest and pertinent experts as well as devise and test various hypotheses. Each man brings a valuable skill set to the investigation but their real strength lies in the ability to discuss their findings and ideas. The second thread winds through the tumultuous yet necessary preparations which a contemporary wedding entails, including a ‘meet the parents’ subplot for Cody that could have been a novella all it’s own yet works as both comic relief as well as a surprising plot motivator. In the end both threads weave together to tie a perfect knot, both proverbial (I can’t wait for the Cody/Teal honeymoon!) and in regards to Cody and McCabe’s investigation.
A previous reviewer of The 1895 Murder (the novel) describes the experience of joining McCabe and Cody on their investigation as “going home and seeing the family after some time out” - which is precisely where Andriacco’s exceptional and growing talent as a novelist is most obvious. Even before completing 1895 I began wondering if Andriacco not only had a fourth novel in the works (he does), but if the McCabe/Cody series will continue indefinitely (it will!). And unlike a series which features protagonists in possession of powers and abilities well beyond the norm, the denizens and story arcs of the Benignusverse attain their power not from drinking from the fountain of needless violence and convoluted plot points, but by sticking to the glorious pedestrian and the heroically prosaic. Andriacco has created and cultivated a formula that works wonders within the context of a mystery narrative, which is only heightened by his judicious inclusion of a cross section of Sherlockian Easter eggs, direct canonical references and Watsonian (or Doyleian if you must) mannerisms and sentiment.
Without a doubt, being privy to the intricate unfoldings of the latest happenings and occurrences in the Benignusverse as captured in The 1895 Murder is a treat beyond compare which I wish on anyone prepared to invite Jeff Cody and Sebastian McCabe into their lives - though once they’ve arrived, you may not want them to depart anytime soon.
[A recent image of Dan Andriacco and the Egyptian god Horus from a recent trip to the British Museum.]
Dan Andriacco/The 1895 Murder Links of Note:
Dan Andriacco’s Baker Street Beat Mr Andriacco’s blog shares a title with his first book on MX Baker Street Beat and is best thought of as the Sherlockian portion of Andriacco brain, externalized and accessible on the Internet. I highly recommend adding this blog to your RSS feeds for regular posts about the Great Detective, book reviews, author interviews and thoughts on Sherlockian culture in general.
Always1895.net Interview with Dan Andriacco (Nov 2012) Join me as I pick the man’s brain on his latest novel, future books and his views on various elements of the Sherlockian world.
Baker Street Babes w/ Dan Andriacco (Ep 10, Nov 2011) Curly speaks with authors Charlotte Anne Walters, of Barefoot On Baker Street, and Dan Andriacco of Baker Street Beat about their writing, their love of Holmes, and The Great Sherlock Holmes Debate. Listen as Dan gets made into an honorary Babe!
Jeff Cody/Sebastian McCabe Interview A cleverly edited ‘interview’ with Cody and McCabe ‘conducted’ by a blog called Kathleen Kaska On Books and Birds. If you’ve read any of the McCabe/Cody series, you will enjoy this interview immensely.
Dan Andriacco Mysteries And what would an author be these days without a Facebook page? Connect with Mr Andriacco and others who enjoy his work, as well as links to recent reviews of The 1895 Murder and information on future Andriacco projects.
My Goodreads Review I wrote a short review of The 1895 Murder on “the largest site for readers and book recommendations in the world.”