Review: ‘The Fifth Heart’ by Dan Simmons

21423346.jpgIn the tradition of Drood, a historical mystery in which Sherlock Holmes and Henry James team up to solve a literary puzzle.

In 1893, Sherlock Holmes and Henry James come to America together to solve the mystery of the 1885 death of Clover Adams, wife of the esteemed historian Henry Adams–member of the Adams family that has given the United States two Presidents. Clover’s suicide appears to be more than it at first seemed; the suspected foul play may involve matters of national importance.

Holmes is currently on his Great Hiatus–his three-year absence after Reichenbach Falls during which time the people of London believe him to be deceased. Holmes has faked his own death because, through his powers of ratiocination, the great detective has come to the conclusion that he is a fictional character.

This leads to serious complications for James–for if his esteemed fellow investigator is merely a work of fiction, what does that make him? And what can the master storyteller do to fight against the sinister power — possibly named Moriarty — that may or may not be controlling them from the shadows?


Book Details:

Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

ISBN: 9780316198820



This review was originally posted on The Bluestocking Review, and the book provided courtesy of Writers Write.

Fiction and history collide as never before in Dan Simmons’s latest novel, which centers on Sherlock Holmes and Henry James as they juggle two inexplicably related cases: the mysterious “suicide” of Clover Adams, and the protection of the president from an assassination attempt. Holmes is in the midst of a rather complex existential crisis, whilst James suffers from severe depression. Their peculiar partnership leads them to America, where James is submerged in an unfamiliar world of conspiracy and confusion.

Simmons’s decision to blend actual historical figures with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional characters is intriguing, and the core aspects of his narrative are brilliantly and seamlessly plotted. However, the intricate storyline was forced to compete with the author’s exploration of a myriad of dense issues, including (but not limited to) an intense discussion of existentialism in a literary context. The slow pacing – a direct result of Simmons’s excessive, and often excruciating, detail – only added to my frustration.

Nonetheless, Simmons’s take on the classic Sherlock Holmes tale is undoubtedly unique. If anything, his reinvention of the historical fiction genre is reason enough to read his novels, although I can’t promise that doing so will be an easy feat.


Rating: 3/5

Recommended to: Lovers of Sherlock Holmes looking for yet another retelling to indulge in.

1 Comment

  1. Fantastic review 🙂


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