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Dead Man's Land

(Dr John Watson #1)

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  600 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Deep in the trenches of Flanders Fields, men are dying in their thousands every day. So one more death shouldn't be a surprise.
But then a body turns up with bizarre injuries, and Sherlock Holmes' former sidekick Dr John Watson - unable to fight for his country due to injury but able to serve it through his medical expertise - finds his suspicions raised. The face has a
ebook, 480 pages
Published January 3rd 2013 by Simon Schuster UK (first published December 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  600 ratings  ·  109 reviews

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Dec 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books, 2015-reads
The first book in the "Dr John Watson" series.

A World War I crime mystery starring Dr John Watson.

Murder in the gruesome trenches of Flanders Field. Dr John Watson face the enemy in front and a killer in the back.

This is an intense story where the aged Dr John Watson shows his detective qualities.
Strong characters - male AND female - in their daily fight to survive.
You do not read often the name of the famous detective. It is not necessary because you immediately identfy the chapters where he
Manda Scott
Nov 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Rob Ryan was one of our speakers at the Harrogate History Festival in October this year (it was a blast, did I mention? If you didn’t come this year, you should next) and I was so impressed by his talk that I brought one of his books back with me – and have just finished it.

Dead Man’s Land is based on the fact that at the very end of the Sherlock Holmes series, we discover that Dr Watson returned to his job in the RAMC – and it’s 1914, so guess where he ends up? There may be 1,000 books on the
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I fell into this genre by accident a couple of years ago (I even know the name for it now!-pastiche :)) Up until now I have read two novels from this genre with varying degrees of disappointment. Which was why I started this novel with some trepidation. However I can say that in my opinion Robert Ryan has got it right! I was thinking about what made his novel work while others have not. One theory I have is: Ryan chose the 'sidekick' instead of the main (and very iconic) character. He is writing ...more
Mar 31, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Gripping WW1 crime thriller set amid the dying on the Western Front where a serial killer appears to be as eager as the German enemy to kill British soldiers.
I liked the premise and loved the research that reflects on life and death in early MASH, here termed a CCS Casualty Clearing Station. Here amoung the nurses and VADs we find Major Watson an army doctor determined to save lives with blood transfussions.
The story is padded out by details of German snippers, a visit from Field Marshall Haig
Once it going, I quite enjoyed this. Will look out for the next book(s) in the series.
May 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle, book-club
This book is just a bit unwieldy to be as good as its potential. Conan Doyle often crafted amazing stories in not a lot of space: short stories and novellas were the most he ever wrote (yes, probably in part because of how publishing worked at the time but still) and Ryan could have done with taking a leaf out of his book. There's too much going on, and so much of it turns out to be irrelevant that I think some serious slimming down could have been done with little to nothing being detracted ...more
Sam Roberts
Nov 21, 2015 rated it liked it
A book that ultimately had a great ending with a number of loose threads neatly drawing to a close. The story paints a raw image of what life would have been like in the trenches of WW1 and from a historical point of view there are some interesting factoids, my favourite being the 'Fray Bentos wound', which got the name from a soldier shooting himself in the foot through a can of 'bully beef' in the hope that the wound would become infected and therefore give him a more likelier chance of a ...more
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, other-war
A good read, old fashioned in its style and perfectly in keeping with the period and the quiet dignity of Watson and Holmes. Set in the First World War Watson is a medic at a casualty clearing station. He befriends the volunteer nurses and eventually finds a mystery to solve. I am a big fan of Robert Ryan's WW2 books but felt the pace here was a little slow. For example, it took about half the novel for the mystery to be revealed and then things got exciting as Watson turned detective. Overall ...more
Mar 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. I loved the character of Watson in this setting. It really did work. I was hooked from the start.
Excellent characters. Excellent mystery. Excellent setting and harrowing account of the war. I even liked the slight references to Sherlock. So all in all an excellent read. Thank you Mr Ryan. Well done.
Matt Hamilton
Jan 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Dr Watson after Holmes. Sort of. Watson stumbles across mysterious deaths amidst the carnage of WW1, and investigates. Cameos for Churchill and Holmes himself raise interest, but while the mystery is competent and done well enough, it fails to catch light fully, either in plot or character.
Cold War Conversations Podcast
An interesting, enjoyable piece of historical fiction with the added bonus of Holmes & Watson thrown in.

The novel moves along at a good pace and describes the horror of the trenches very well. I also learnt alot about WW1 medical practice along the way!

Andrew Ward
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first of the Dr John Watson series I've read, and I will definitely be starting on the second very soon. Regardless of one's interest or lack thereof in Holmes & Watson, it still works both as a detective story and a WW1 story; in fact I would rank it close to Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks as a WW1 novel, and its depictions of the carnage and the industrial scale waste of life are as powerful and graphic as any others I can think of.

Of course it does help if you're familiar with
Rob Kitchin
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Dead Man’s Land is the first book in the Dr Watson series set during the First World War. After parting ways with Sherlock Holmes, Watson has re-enlisted as a medical officer and headed to the trenches of Flanders where part of his mission is to extol the virtues of the new method of blood transfusion. His first post is in a relatively quiet section in a casualty clearing station where he discovers the Leigh Pals, a regiment he met a couple of months earlier in Egypt, are serving. When one of ...more
Karen Ford
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This may sound blasphemous, but I have never read any of the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories but I love the BBC television series. I picked up this novel and was rewarded with a great tale that centers on Holmes' companion, Dr. John Watson, who, after a tiff with Holmes, returns to military service wIth the British Army. Watson is assigned to France to test out a new method of storing blood to use for emergency transfusions in battlefield conditions in World War I.

Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. This is the first one that i have read from Robert Ryan and i was very impressed with it. I picked it up and decided to read it based on the blurb alone, i was completely oblivious that it was Dr Watson from Conan Doyle!

The story develops really well and has some really good descriptions of the trenches and the horrors of WW1. There is someone murdering people on the front line using a horrible method, with horrible results and Watson has been stuck right in the
Jun 09, 2019 added it
Shelves: epub
Where better to get away with murder than a place where thousands are dying every day?Deep in the trenches of Flanders Fields, men are dying in their thousands every day. So one more death shouldn't be a surprise. But then a body turns up with bizarre injuries, and Sherlock Holmes' former sidekick Dr John Watson - unable to fight for his country due to injury but able to serve it through his medical expertise - finds his suspicions raised. The face has a blue-ish tinge, the jaw is clamped shut ...more
Josh Griffiths
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dead Man's Land is a powerhouse of a novel, easily the best Sherlock Holmes pastiche ever written. Robert Ryan should be commended for not only staying true to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original vision, but also evolving it in compelling ways.

Dead Man's Land takes place in World War I, during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. The novel was officially approved by the Conan Doyle estate, meaning Ryan had total freedom to use the later Sherlock Holmes stories as a jumping off point. The novel
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed "Dead Man's Land". I really liked this version of Dr Watson, older, wiser and sadder but I still felt like he was ACD's Watson. The other characters were well written and the WW1 details showed a great deal of research had gone into the book, but the details did not overwhelm the story. The Great Detective is there and his influence over Watson's life is clearly seen. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in WW1 fiction and also fans of the original Holmes canon. I ...more
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
A pastiche novel that acts as a "sequel" to the Sherlock Holmes series of books. Set during World War 1, Doctor Watson trades crime fighting for being an army doctor once more only to stumble across a serial killer in the trenches of course. But having been estranged from his old friend Holmes, can he solve it alone?
A curious novel, the detective element is lacking compared to ACD's books but I stuck through with it as it proved to be a much stronger historical drama instead (though perhaps
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This takes Sherlock Holmes’ Dr Watson, initially estranged from the detective, and sets him as a major in the medical corps on the Western Front where horrific murders, victims of which are soldiers from a battalion raised in a mill town, gradually emerge from the mass slaughter in the trenches. The motive is a bit over-the-top and a sub-plot with a German sniper seems irrelevant but it’s a page-turner with a genuine feel for the trenches as poison gas, Churchill, nurses, a succession of ...more
Richard Howard
Sep 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2019
There have been many continuations of the adventures of Holmes & Watson. Some, like the 'Cthulhu Mysteries' are ridiculous whilst others like 'The 7 percent Solution' are excellent. 'Dead Man's Land' sees the attention on Dr Watson who, as one character declares must have been more perceptive than the stories suggest and he proves so in this very entertaining novel. The author has done his research and captures the feel of the trenches and the class and sex discrimination that marked the ...more
Colin Harding
Jan 10, 2018 rated it liked it
A nice homage to Holmes and Watson, with the latter taking centre stage. The setting is authentic and the plot kept me guessing right until almost the end.

A relatively superficial novel, but as far as quick reading detective stories go, this is as good as any. I'll probably progress through the series.
Daniel Etherington
3.5 stars.

Solid thriller and credible take on Dr Watson.

Particularly impressive for how Ryan managed to delineate the horrors being perpetrated by a serial killer clearly against the backdrop of the enormous meat-grinder horrors of the WWI, with its extraordinarily grim trench, gas and artillery warfare.
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this: great to see Holmes and Watson back in action but even better to see them in the hands of a very skilled writer who brings out the best in them, the setting and the era. So, so good.
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great summer reading! Dr. Watson is investigating horrible murders at the WWI front line. Great characters, good plot. I usually do not like Holmes/Watson sterilizations, but this one was quite alright.
Dec 04, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Half way through and gave up. I’m sure it’s a great book for some but just wasn’t for me. I found myself bored and just wasn’t a page turner for me. To point I just rarely read so I thought I might as well give up and read something I enjoy.
Steve H
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan this is a excellent read.
If you like a book written by an author that knows how to write a damn good story and you like the subject matter then this is a book for you.
Highly recommended
Jul 05, 2017 rated it liked it
This took me forever to read. It is slow and gradually grows. The plot is very interesting. The writing is good. There is much to absorb in this story.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An exiting combination of detection and war.
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great start

Watson on his own. Vivid WWI battle scenes. Good plot and some great characters. Looking forward to the next installment.
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aka Tom Neale

Robert Ryan was born in Liverpool but moved to London when he was eighteen to attend university. He lectured in natural sciences for several years before moving into journalism in the mid-1980s, first with The Face and then the Dylan Jones-edited Arena. During this time, he also wrote for The Daily Telegraph, US GQ, US Conde Nast Traveler, Esquire and The Sunday Times.

Robert Ryan

Other books in the series

Dr John Watson (5 books)
  • The Dead Can Wait (Dr John Watson, #2)
  • A Study in Murder (Dr John Watson, #3)
  • The Case of the Six Watsons (Dr John Watson, #3.5)
  • The Sign of Fear (Dr John Watson, #4)