Tag Archives: writers

Review: A Study in Velvet and Leather by K. Caine

The second volume in Improbable Press’s 221b Series (the first was my own A Dream to Build A Kiss On) is the splended A Study in Velvet and Leather, due for release on 1 December 2018. An advance review copy was coaxed into my greedy little fingers, though, and promptly gobbled up.

K. Caine may have written a female Sherlock and male John in a canon-era setting, but  her tale departs wonderfully far from a traditional telling of thie enduring pair.

John Watson, invalided war doctor, is gay. It’s a surprise to find Stamford’s flat-hunting friend is a woman, but she’s an unusual one. Sherlock is a consulting detective, dressing most often in men’s attire and (we later learn) a reader of Sappho. They move into Baker Street together.

John narrates their life together: his increasing involvement in Sherlock’s cases and John recovers his health, along with his fascination for Sherlock’s methods and curiosity about so much that remains secret and unsaid about Sherlock’s life. John also records his bemused yet growing devotion to his astonishing flatmate, recording but not always understanding Sherlock’s response to him.

But as John develops his surprised and secret feelings for this remarkable woman, an undercurrent from Sherlock’s unspoken private life breaks the surface. The case involves “the well known adventuress” Irene Adler, a compromising photograph, and a private club. The meaning of velvet, leather and many of Sherlock’s mysteries will come to light.

One of the many glories of this book – which include engaging characters, the gorgeous flow of the writing and an exploration of the fluidity than can exist in gender and sexuality – is how seamlessly K. Caine uses the 221b ficlet format to tell a single story.

The 16 chapters of the book are subtly separated into 221-word sections, the last word of each section beginning with ‘b’.  This meets the rules of a 221b ficlet, yet is so smoothly done that the reader may not notice it, as the story’s rhythm moves so gracefully.

A Study in Velvet and Leather is one of those delicious books where you can’t decide whether to gulp it down in one go, or sip it slowly to make it last.

I’ve never been a sipper, though – and I was so involved in Sherlock and John’s adventures and feelings, so invested in them too – that I gulped that story down in a few hours one Saturday. The conclusion was both fantastically satisfying and left me yearning for more of these incarnations of Holmes and Watson.

A fabulous bonus to the whole story is the series of Appendices, in the form of notes between the two. I seriuosly can’t get enough of this fluid John and Sherlock. Additionally, the artwork by Avid Branks is sparing and elegant, and contains little clues of its own .

Which makes it doubly awesome that K. Caine is now writing another Improbable Press book with them, Conductivity.

I can’t wait.

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Five questions for Karen J Carlisle

Today, Karen J Carlisle answers five questions about her latest book.

Karen J Carlisle

  1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?

I’m currently writing Aunt Enid: Protector Extraordinaire. It is the first book in ‘The Aunt Enid Mysteries’ series. I’m told it’s a cosy parnormal mystery.

The ‘Aunt Enid’ was there from the beginning (based on my own great aunt Enid). The Subtitle was problematic; how to hint at what the story was about, without giving it all away?

Usually a title will pop in my head, giving me something to hang the story on. I have fun making up titles.

  1. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book?
  • Aunt Enid: Miriam Margoyles
  • Agnes Farrow: Helen Mirren
  • Alfred Knowles: Richard E Grant (aged up a bit.)  Those eyes…
  • Sally: someone in late 20s/early 30s. Perfect for a ‘newcomer’ This is flexible. Sally is the newcomer discovering everything – a substitute for the reader, so she can take on any likeness. She has a role and personality. She’s sometimes blonde, sometimes brunette but always Sally.
  1. What five words best describe your story?

Cosy, supernatural mystery in Adelaide.

  1. Who is your favourite fictional team/couple?

The Doctor (as in Who) and Donna. (Even they do the Agatha Christie thing!)

  1. What song reflects a theme, character, relationship or scene in your book?

I had to think a lot about this. (Usually I can rattle the song off immediately: Doctor Jack – Behind Blue Eyes by The Who, my work-in-progress fantasy – Stay by Shakespears Sister.)

I didn’t really have one song for this book. It was mostly driven by childhood memories. I suppose I’d say: Curious World by Alice’s Night Circus, and the line: “Don’t be afraid of the dark.”

About Aunt Enid: Protector Extraordinaire

Daemons, fairies, magic: it’s all real! The Otherworld is bleeding through cracks into our world. And Adelaide is ground zero.

Something is coming. Something dark – trading souls for passage. And only one person stands between The Dark and the fate of the world.

Aunt Enid is just your average seventy-something year old. She loves to cook, is a regular at bingo and spends hours in her garden, talking to her army of garden gnomes and fussing over the colour of her hydrangeas…

When people start disappearing, her great niece, Sally, is drawn into a secret world and soon discovers her great aunt is a Protector Extaordinaire.

Aunt Enid: Protector Extraordinaire is the first book in ‘The Aunt Enid Mysteries’, the first series in ‘The Otherworlds Chronicles.’

About Karen J Carlisle

Karen J Carlisle is an imagineer and writer of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy.

She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition and published her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, in 2015. Her short story, Hunted, featured in the Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’.

Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat. She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.

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Buy Aunt Enid: Protector Extraordinaire

Smashwords offers a special 66% off Aunt Enid: Protector Extraordinaire from 21st May to 7th June. Visit Karen J Carlisle’s Aunt Enid for Smashwords and Amazon links.