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The Dark Water: The Strange Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes
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The Dark Water: The Strange Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes

(Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Joseph Bell #3)

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  559 ratings  ·  48 reviews
In a literary tour de force worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself, author David Pirie brings his rich familiarity with both the Doyle biography and the Sherlock Holmes canon to a mystifying Victorian tale of vengeance and villainy. The howling man on the heath, a gothic asylum, the walking dead, the legendary witch of Dunwich-perils lurk in every turn of the page throug ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Pegasus Books (first published May 1st 2003)
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3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  559 ratings  ·  48 reviews

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 Ariadne Oliver
Nov 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: murder-mystery
The Dark Water is volume three in the series following Arthur Conan Doyle and Joseph Bell. This series doesn't lend itself well to just dipping in, so if you want to try it I recommend starting with The Patient's Eyes.

A good mystery with satisfying twists and turns. But the relationship between Doyle and Bell just didn't work for me. It hasn't changed and grown since the first book. There doesn't seem to much affection between them. They don't feel like friends or mentor/mente or even comrades.
Aug 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
This book is not what I imagined, but I have no complaints. The title came up when I was trolling through a library catalog for books on "Sherlock Holmes". It's not about him, nor is there any specific mention of him in the entire book. On the other hand, this is an action-filled adventure staring Professor Dr. Joseph Bell (MD) and Arthur Conan Doyle, MD. "Who?" do you ask? Bell is the real-world archetype used to create Sherlock Holmes and ACD is the man who created him and his "Boswell", John ...more
Aug 17, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008, mystery
The third Arthur Conan Doyle book (and last? I'm inclined to say it's not a trilogy now, but I can't find any information about future books online) isn't as focused as the second one was. Although the case that Bell and Doyle take on in a superstitious village is directly related to their search for the villain Cream, it seems tangential until the end. I've really enjoyed reading all three books, but the strength in plotting and pacing does seem to go up and down.
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: n-to-r-authors
The novel is narrated as if by a Victorian gentleman called Arthur Conan Doyle and so the language may seem a little affected to readers of more modern fiction. It is, however, a very intriguing murder mystery with many gruesome murders committed as if for fun by the perpetrator. The infamous narrator is helped by his side-kick, another famous doctor called Dr Bell from Edinburgh. The chase the known murderer from Wiltshire to London and on to the South East coast, always one step behind him. Fr ...more
Apr 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sherlock-holmes
I had such high hopes for this book. I have read other books with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as the main character before and really enjoyed them. I always think it is fun to see him put into situations like his creation Sherlock Holmes. It kind of shows how an author pulls ideas from real life experiences. That being said I just couldn’t get into this book. It became a chore to read and I struggled to move through this.

My problem with this book was the story. It took forever for any type of action
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is the third book in Pirie's series about Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Joseph Bell. Unfortunately, I haven't read the first book. When I read the second book, I thought it was mildly interesting and enjoyable, but I wasn't really impressed. Well, either Mr. Pirie greatly improved, or I just didn't give his book sufficient attention, because this novel was excellent. Doyle and Bell, in their Watson and Holmes roles, continue to pursue the serial killer who has haunted them for the last several ...more
Riju Ganguly
Jun 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
The end of game, or was it merely the end-game? This third volume of "Murder Rooms" trilogy keeps the reader as well the protagonists (Dr. Joseph Bell, and Arthur Conan Doyle) on a tight leash till the end, with the shadow of Doyle's nemesis lurking at every unseen corner and unknown angle. I have to admit that towards the end of the book, the author had succeeded in making me rather paranoid and that had revealed a few things before their 'official' exposure caused by Dr. Bell, (e.g. the asylum ...more
Nov 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Plus minus. Overall, interesting plot and characters, but the flow was somehow lacking. Some of the classic holmes-ian erratic movements were more choppy than erratic. Some of the conversation seemed stilted, even for the time period. There were intriguing elements, but lack of overall cohesion. Where Doyle is perhaps supposed to come across as intense, he is merely melancholy, to the point of being a bit annoying and blind. Some elements were predictable. There were a few turns of events toward ...more
Elizabeth (Miss Eliza)
May 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
*Special Content only on my blog, Strange and Random Happenstance, during Sherlocked. (October - December 2015)

Arthur Conan Doyle's nemesis has returned to England. He and Dr. Bell have made it their life's work to capture this man, Dr. Neill Cream, and see him pay for his crimes, not the least of which is murdering Elspeth, Conan Doyle's fiance. Yet Conan Doyle didn't expect Cream to strike first, kidnapping the would-be author and holding him hostage while heavily drugged. But Conan Doyle mira
Apr 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nook
It was indeed a very "strange beginning" for the novel. It opens with Arthur Conan Doyle being held drugged & captive by a mysterious evil psychopath. Doyle escapes and goes to see his friend Dr. Bell, purportedly the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. What follows is a lengthy and complicated search for the psychopath during which Dr. Bell proves to be the ultimate Holmes, eerie intellect & rude behavior to the max. Good read.
Cecilia Rodriguez
Aug 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Doyle returns to narrated a mystery that references:
The Speckled Band and The Final Problem.
Set in Edinburgh and in the town of Dunwich,
Pirie's style echoes Doyle, while having a unique
Anyone who has read H.P. Lovecraft may recognize the town's
name, as he used it as a title for a short story: The Dunwich Horror.
Victoria M.
Nov 06, 2017 rated it liked it
More like 3.5, this was a surprisingly interesting novel involving the back story of Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation of Sherlock Holmes. Dr. Bell is the prototype of the famous fictional detective, who doesn’t make an appearance at all. Rather gruesome in places, but clever.
A.J. Wright
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had previously read "The Patient's Eyes" in this series, and I enjoyed this entry as well. Joseph Bell and Arthur Conan Doyle pursue serial killer Thomas Neill Cream [a real person like Bell and Doyle] to remote Dunwich and finally catch up to him.
Margaret Gordon-Espe
Grisly, but a page-turner

I loved the old-fashioned diction and style of this book. I felt as though I were reading a book written in the 1880's.
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
A terrific mystery reminiscent of the "Hounds of the Baskerville". A bit more graphic and dark that the author's previous novels. Very fun read!!
Anna Bergmark
Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Strange beginnings? So it says. A strange ending? Well, possibly. But the strangest thing of all - the journey itself!

A leads to B. I understand. B leads to C. Yeah, I get it. C leads to D. Sure, I'm still... No. No wait. How did the story end up here, in THIS place, with THESE people?

It's a meandering river indeed. You flow with it just fine for awhile, but after the umpteenth bend you start feeling disorientated and the starting point is completely lost to you. Confusion follows. You read on,
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is -by far- better than #1 and #2. I actually liked it ;)
This is a dark story about Mr. Doyle and Mr. Bell. The riddles and mysteries are quite nice and not only to keep the great Bell busy (the reader has just enough clues to solve it). It even contains a polyalphabetic cipher!
Mr. Bell does what Mr. Bell does: he solves things without much attention for people (as long as it is rational...). Mr Doyle feels like he is not really a part of the solution to this mystery and gets a little frus
May 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
The Dark Water: The Strange Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes is Pirie's third novel in his series featuring A.C. Doyle and Dr. Joseph Bell, Doyles' inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. Originally published in 2006, the novel is being republished this month.

Dr. Bell and Doyle (Holmes and Watson) have a complex relationship, and Pirie uses fact and fiction as he describes the cases the duo pursue.

The villain in this piece is Dr. Thomas Neill Cream, the real-life murderer known as the Lambeth Poisoner and
Feb 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Not my favorite of the 3. It had some suspense and mystery, creepy atmosphere but it also follows the pattern of the previous 2 so it's predictable at times and found it a bit too long.
Dec 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, fiction
I have enjoyed several books by other authors based on Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books and many of them are better than the originals. This one was only about as good as A Study in Scarlet.

It doesn't seem like a good strategy to start a book with a first chapter as dark and disconnected as this one. I almost stopped there and wished that I could get back to the library before Tuesday to get something better. But I forged ahead.

Although I have not read any other books in this series, I am already
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was the continuation of Night Eyes, right where the last story left off. Doyle finds himself kidnapped and being drugged by Cream. Through cunning and careful planning he manages to escape and then begins the hunt for the evil man who has caused him so much pain.

The hunt leads him and Dr. Bell to a small town where strange things are going on in a supposedly haunted area. The town is rife with old legends and someone is using these legends to kill and scare people.

Doyle and the doctor mana
Laura Salas
Jan 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, adult
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 26, 2015 rated it liked it
I would give it one star if I was judging my level of "liking" but that is not fair to the author. This trilogy was purposefully and artfully crafted, but it gave me the creeps. I hated the cliff hanger at end of book 2, but I dutifully took myself to the library this AM and gave it 2.5 hours of reading. This endless recounting of yet worse and worse circumstances befalling Doyle and all those he encountered or had occasion to be comforted by was too much for my sensibilities. I understand the l ...more
Apr 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

Enjoyable, but not as good as The Night Calls.

The beginning of the book was by far the best part, with Doyle imprisoned by Cream. The middle was interesting, but lacked some of the urgency that I think it needed. The climax doesn't pack as much of a punch as I expected after two books of build up.

Cream is still a chilling villain. Bell is excellent, yet again. Doyle feels mostly useless this time around, which is a shame.

All in all, I really enjoyed the series, and I wish there were
Jonathan Kramer
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this for several reasons, the most important of which is the POV narrative. In other words, while I've read stories with new characters that took place after the rise of Sherlock and spins on stories Doyle never wrote, this is the first where the POV storyteller is Doyle himself where he's playing the Dr. Watson role along side Dr. Bell, who is obviously the model for Sherlock.. Well done, plenty of surprises and could make a good film too.
Feb 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
I disliked the opening- felt a little too modern- but as it progressed the Wilkie Collins and Doyle tributes began to pleasantly pile up.
Good plot- liked the witches bits

$$$$$$$$$$$$$spoiler Alert$$$$$$$$$$$$

I, for one, hope Cream stays dead. Had enough of him already. Stand alone stories are best
Jul 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
Picked it up on a whim from a display at my local library....

A mediocre read. Not a satisfying mystery - Dr. Bell (on whom Holmes was based) spends half the book off-stage detecting, and then solves the case all at once at the end, and the reader is left wishing we had been left some clues as he went gallivanting off.
May 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Hm. Despite my love for Sherlock Holmes, I think I'm going to have to give this one a pass. Hit a little too high on the grisliness scale for my taste, and while Dr. Bell (Doyle's inspiration for Holmes) had some good insights, he lacked the obnoxious brilliance of the Man Himself. Not a waste of time, but not a book I will be coming back to either. I give it a big fat MEH.
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I love anything Sherlockian in nature and I found this book to be no exception. While this book isn't about Holmes and Watson it is about Arthur Conan Doyle and his partner Dr. Joseph Bell. The author does an amazing job of interweaving Holmes like characteristic into his characters and if you love Sherlock Holmes you will like this book as well.
Mike Nebeker
Apr 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is the first book of this series that I have read. I liked it. There are obvious spoilers from the first books included in Dark Water, but it will not dissuade me from reading the others. Great premise.
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David Pirie was a journalist and film critic before he became a screenwriter. Just a few of his numerous credits are the BAFTA nominated adaptation for the BBC of The Woman in White and his collaboration with Lars Von Trier on the script of the Oscar nominated film Breaking the Waves. David Pirie lives in Somerset.

Other books in the series

Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Joseph Bell (3 books)
  • The Patient's Eyes
  • The Night Calls