This book can be confusing from cover to 59% of the short story. The title is probably Deadly Curse by John Pirillo. The cover indicates it is a Sherlock Holmes mystery but that is only true in the loosest sense of what most people think Sherlock Holmes mysteries are. This is closer to a parody but not only of Sherlock Holmes. Imagine an environment in which Sherlock Holmes, Watson, and Harry Houdini are working together to solve a mystery involving William Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll. The victims are all characters from Alice in Wonderland. Not to ponder too long, John Pirillo explains his constructs in an author note. Think of this as a break from overly serious reading. A short break.
The story begins before Chapter One with the beheading of an unimportant character, one not even described. The problem is that the executioner’s ax disappears immediately after being embedded in the back of the executioner. That wasn’t supposed to happen; I am sure the executioner would agree. Fade to Chapter One where William Shakespeare is trying to calm the fears of Lewis Carroll. They are at a play opening and Carroll is worried that his first murder mystery will not be well received. Shakespeare assures him it will, thinks Carroll worries too much and had hoped this play would distract Carroll from his obsession with young girls. It is this type of almost snarky comment that appears throughout the story.
The idea of the play is that the Jack of Spades, a villain, would attempt to kill various characters in Wonderland and sow a lot of suspicions as to the identity of the killer. Wonderland would self-destruct. Magic appears in the form of an ax. The ax in the play should be fake. A new, enchanted, heavy, real ax has replaced the fake prop. It demonstrates its sentient nature by disappearing after being used by a character in an actual killing. Note: This is the same ax that was in the executioner’s back. It is sort of like the pea in a shell game, it will reappear in other parts of the story.
P.T. Barnum and Lizzie Borden also appear in this short story. Are there any readers out there confused about how so many well-known characters can appear together in a time frame that doesn’t feel right? The explanation comes in an author note that appears at a point 59% into the story. This explanation and everything that follows it is a description of John Pirillo’s world and the many stories he has created. “My stories, what makes them relevant and different is that I can populate them with any science, any character, any famous figure, writer, artist or whatever and they all fit! They fit because I created them. For fun. For pleasure. To be able to play on a field of dreams with no end in sight.” (Kindle Location 632).
Holmes and Watson usually worked with local constables and inspectors although the famous team was always amazed at the slowness of official investigators. At one point, Inspector Bloodstone wants to speak with Holmes, but the detective turns his back to the inspector and walks away. Inspector Bloodstone remarks “That man frustrates the dickens out of me sometimes.” (Kindle location 321). Charles appears nowhere else in this story.
Fans of puns and not-so-obscure cultural and literary references will have fun with these stories. After reading a few of these, many will feel better about returning to the TBR shelf and getting on with their reading schedule. Pirillo’s stories are a good mental break for which I give four Amazon stars.