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cover of The Widow of Dartmoor

The Widow of Dartmoor is the sequel to The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Beryl Stapleton felt joy, when her husband Jack was sucked into the Grimpen Mire. Free of his oppressive evil, she opened a fashionable dress shop in London. Known as The Widow of Dartmoor, her enterprise is a success …until she is caught, at 2am dragging the body of a murdered man into an alleyway. Who better to defend her than ‘The Bastard’, the nephew of Sherlock Holmes? A barrister, Jeremy Holmes is the illegitimate son of Sherlock’s oldest brother. Revered by the criminals of London, Jeremy lives to peel the masks off witnesses and find the truth. But his gifts are not the product of reason. Rather, his art. His pictures reveal the passions of those he draws. He can feel their hearts.

Editorial Review

Elementary! Denver author channels the master

By Sandra Dallas for The Denver Post, July 12, 2014

The Widow of Dartmoor by Warwick Downing

At the end of Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” the villainous Jack Stapleton flees into the treacherous Grimpen Mire and disappears, most likely swallowed up by quicksand. Sherlock Holmes closes another successful case.

But maybe not.

It’s two years later, and Stapleton’s widow, the beautiful Beryl is newly married to Lord Russell, a wealthy sportsman, a union, it would appear, of love. Lady Beryl, known as the Widow of Dartmoor due to her earlier marriage
to Stapleton, is also the proprietor of a fashionable dress shop. One night, she is caught tugging the blanket-wrapped body of a man out the back door.

The victim is none other than her first husband, the evil Jack Stapleton, who has been masquerading as a scientist and professor and was reintroduced to his spouse by none other than Lord Russell. Stapleton, of course, is in reality Roger Baskerville, and his intention is to use foul play to off the rightful Lord Baskerville and claim the title and inheritance for himself. Lady Beryl is charged with murder, not to mention bigamy.

Terrified that she will be hanged, the Widow seeks the services of Jeremy Holmes, who is the bastard son of one of Sherlock Holmes’ brothers. He is aided by his Watson-like associate, Edward Greech, who tells the story.

The Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes series has spawned a host of imitations and follow-ups by would-be writers, fans and scholars, all refusing to let the famed detective rest in his grave. Among the best of these Sherlockians is Warwick Downing, a Denver writer known for his edgy novels. Downing, a former Colorado state prosecutor in Cortez, is the author of 11 novels, including four courtroom dramas. No surprise then that much of “The Widow of Darkmoor” takes place during the Widow’s trial.

Jeremy Holmes, like his uncle, is a brilliant man, but unlike the famed detective, Jeremy does not solve crimes by deductive reasoning. Instead, he uses pen and ink to plumb his subjects. As he draws them, he discovers their traits and foibles. Lady Beryl, Jeremy knows from the way her face appears on his artist’s paper, is innocent of the crime.

But who, then, did it? The suspects include the cast of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” — Lord Baskerville, Dr. Mortimer, Laura Lyons — along with some new characters. Jeremy, known as “the Bastard,” may be the only one who thinks the Widow innocent. Lord Russell’s family, already suspicious of his bride, had hired detectives to follow her. Even the loyal Edward Greech urges Jeremy to use a self defense plea — until the Bastard points out marital rape is quite legal.

Jeremy’s strategy is to cast blame on someone else — principally Lord Russell. The consequences of that is a bit of buffoonery. Lord Russell challenges Jeremy to a duel. Jeremy chooses bows and arrows, on horseback. The Bastard, you see, was raised in the U.S. by Cheyenne Indians and had ridden in war parties and counted coup  before puberty. The scene probably is not one Arthur Conan Doyle would have written, but it adds a nice touch of comic relief.

The book is written in Sherlockian style, of course, and takes some getting used to. But after a few pages, the rhythm becomes part of the story, and “The Widow of Dartmoor” is as satisfying as any mystery by the master.

Complete review at The Denver Post

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