• The Affair of the Mysterious Letter

  • By: Alexis Hall
  • Narrated by: Nicholas Boulton
  • Length: 10 hrs and 36 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (219 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this charming, witty, and weird fantasy novel, Alexis Hall pays homage to Sherlock Holmes with a new twist on those renowned characters.

Upon returning to the city of Khelathra-Ven after five years fighting a war in another universe, Captain John Wyndham finds himself looking for somewhere to live, and expediency forces him to take lodgings at 221b Martyrs Walk. His new housemate is Miss Shaharazad Haas, a consulting sorceress of mercurial temperament and dark reputation.

When Miss Haas is enlisted to solve a case of blackmail against one of her former lovers, Miss Eirene Viola, Captain Wyndham finds himself drawn into a mystery that leads him from the salons of the literary set to the drowned back-alleys of Ven and even to a prison cell in lost Carcosa. Along the way he is beset by criminals, menaced by pirates, molested by vampires, almost devoured by mad gods, and called upon to punch a shark. 

But the further the companions go in pursuit of the elusive blackmailer, the more impossible the case appears. Then again, in Khelathra-Ven reality is flexible, and the impossible is Miss Haas' stock-in-trade.

©2019 Alexis Hall (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

I really enjoyed this book. It was absolutely delightful, like a chocolate box, full of unexpected and brilliant references, sparklingly witty.” (Genevieve Cogman, author of The Invisible Library)

The Mysterious Affair of the Letter is a witty, enjoyable, extravagantly imagined slant on the Sherlock Holmes canon. Hall nails the Holmesian aesthetic in marvelously amusing ways while taking us on an extended romp through a wild range of alternate universes with a bizarre cast of characters. Don't miss this fun, queer, clever intrigue!” (Malka Older, author of Infomocracy)

"I haven’t been so enchanted and delighted by a book in years. It’s like the literary equivalent of being wrapped in a blanket and being driven in a horse drawn carriage through a magical park filled with the most amazing things happening all around and feeling safe and loved all the way through. A sheer delight from start to finish and the most perfect blend of gentle humour, wild creativity and love for the feel of Sherlock Holmes." (Emma Newman, author of Atlas Alone)

What listeners say about The Affair of the Mysterious Letter

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Pure enjoyment!!

I heard about this on a bookriot podcast (Get Booked!) and it sounded right up my alley and Nicholas Boulton narrating sealed the deal. I adored it!! A weird, sort of Lovecraftian, gender switched Sherlock Holmes retelling, set in space? Irresistible, really. The narrator Wyndham (this book’s Watson character) uses hilariously Victorian repressive writing style, avoiding any swearing, or sex and even blushes at the sight of ladies ankles. This world has witchcraft, multiple realities, vampires, pirates, necromancy, sharks and eternal vengeful gods. Loved this iteration of the detective, Shaharazad Haas, a powerful sorceress who blithely drags Wyndham into many bizarre adventures and also displays many classic Holmes characteristics.

Like many Holmes stories, the mystery itself is arguably low stakes, but there is nearly constant adventure and clever banter and the ground is well laid for future books with these characters. The audio narrator was the PERFECT voice for Wyndham and was great with the others. I did find it easier to read the ebook version for first few chapters before I got a grasp on the style and the key names and locations. If your favorite part of AMZN adaptation of Good Omens was the relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale, you may also enjoy this. Am very much on board for any and all future installments.

17 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Nonsensical and lacking in emotional impact

This book was disappointing. The premise sounded fun and the diverse representation of characters was really exciting, but the rambling storytelling was pretty much nonsensical. There was too much randomness for randomness' sake and no emotional arc. The characters were the same way, quirky just for the sake of making an impact without having internal conflict or personal nuance. The writing style was fun, but would have been significantly better if it were telling a story that felt like it mattered at all.

Rating it 3 stars intead of 2 for having a trans MC, kudos for that

7 people found this helpful

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Brilliant fun!

I climbed into this book and never wanted to climb out. First, Boulton seems to be having the time of his life reading this material. His performance is a one man tour de force.

And Alexis Hall gives him plenty to play with. The imagination! The wit! The entertainment. Hall is a true wordsmith. I haven't enjoyed a book this much in ages. Now to go search for more books by this author.

5 people found this helpful

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A truly original retelling of Sherlock Holmes

The Affair or the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall is a strange and original reimagining of Sherlock Holmes. Told from the perspective of John Watson or in this case John Wyndham as he recounts his first adventure with Sherlock Holmes, aka the sorcerous Ms. Shaharazad Haas; the story is written as a memoir. Part sci-fi, part fantasy, part paranormal, part steampunk, and part mystery it’s hard to categorize the genre. It’s certainly and original creation.

The mystery here is a letter blackmailing a frenemy of Ms. Haas and so Mrs. Wyndham who has just recently become the roommate to Ms. Hass is roped into the investigation. The two travel to distant places back in time, forward in time and a bunch of other wacky, crazy escapades that puts their lives in danger more than once.

Once you get use to the weirdness of quirkiness of the story and the world-building it’s very enjoyable. Clever and smartly written it weaves its tale and mystery beautifully. Though, I would say the mystery was huge, its resolution was inventive and unexpected. You start to warm up to the characters the more you get to know them.

One of the things I did found annoying was how the author chose to do omissions and how they were explained away. There was a lot of, “I won’t waste the readers time by going into such trifling matters” (paraphrasing). And it happens a fair amount throughout the book. A few times here and there is okay, but it happened far too often for my taste. And by the way the book is told in first-person, so FYI.

The narration is done by Nicholas Boulton, who is one of my favorite narrators. He does a phenomenal job and really brings the characters and the world to life with his performances.

Overall, I enjoyed it a great deal and I can’t wait for their next adventure together.

4 people found this helpful

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Charming

This is a charming reworking of the Sherlock Holmes story, but it needed a good copy editor to weed out the unnecessary repetition. Several of the little jokes that were funny the first time, but soon became predictable and tedious. Even so, it was a fun little book and an enjoyable listen.

2 people found this helpful

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Fun Queer Mystery

so good I loved it !! so queer and so well performed. couldn't putit down.

2 people found this helpful

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Sherlock Holmes by way of Rick and Morty

Funny, imaginative, and delightfully queer! This spin on Sherlock Holmes features a charming transgender Watson figure in the form of Captain Wyndham, and a wonderfully dysfunctional and nihilistic take on the Great Detective in Shaharazad Haas, with colorful world building and heavy Lovecraftian elements setting the backdrop for their adventures. As a lifelong fan of the Holmes stories I unreservedly loved this, despite the subject matter being so different I feel like this book came much closer to the original tone and style of Arthur Conan Doyle’s work than any of the numerous other homages that have popped up in recent years. I sincerely hope the author will bring us more Shaharazad Haas stories in future!

1 person found this helpful

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Delightful!

This was a delightful read! Fun and witty - it has it all… fairytale illusions, time travel, magic, and multiple universes, and quirky characters. The narrator was a great fit for the style of the writing - I found myself smiling as I was listening.

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Fun and funny beyond expectations

Ms. Hall's story and style are priceless. This is a terrific Sherlock Holmes pastiche married to a tongue-in-cheek Mythos send-up (tying together some of the lesser known works into a marvelous macrame). Subtle and broad by turns, combining the unexpected with wonderful takes on the familiar. And Mr. Bolton's reading is on-target and flawless. A perfect entertainment.

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Amusing, entertaining, and more

I rarely write reviews. This book has one amusing play on words after another, leaving me wishing I was as gifted as the author. The performer does a wonderful job of bringing this story to life. It is a take on Sherlock Holmes, full of plot twists with time travel, space oddities, underwater creatures, vampires, an acid tripping Ground Hog Day, and much, much more. No boring or slow spots in it. Through plot twist and adventure we are brought to the end…complete with extra twisty bits.
Enjoy it!

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  • elly gausden
  • 07-28-20

Clever, rather than great

Great reader. Brilliant in fact. But the story dragged for me. It's clever in the literary references it picks up and parodies, but the story itself just went on too long.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Musebeliever
  • 04-25-20

Outstandingly witty and enjoyable

This is a lovely take on Sherlock Holmes with extravagant characters, twisted plotlines and delightful characters. The style is exquisite. I hope there will be another book!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mr Frazer S Braddock
  • 03-07-20

Imaginative, whimsical - more please!

An excellent nod to all things Sherlock while being as far removed as one could imagine. This is a truly fantastic and fantastical book that I couldn’t (figuratively out down) - just buy it, there’s not much more to say because it’s hard to compare this book to any contemporary. The narration too by Nick Boulton is sublime. Good as the book is, I feel as a narrated book, it simply wouldn’t work without the richness of reading, accents and poise that NB brings to all his readings

1 person found this helpful

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  • Richard
  • 02-01-20

Most amusing

Well what a rediculous tale of irrational nonsense and ludicrous falsehoods. Quite marvelous I thought

1 person found this helpful

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  • Antonia
  • 01-17-20

Sheer delight, and outstanding narration!

I listened to this over a couple of weeks as I drove back and forth to work. I expect the other people in the traffic jams were slightly surprised and discomfited to see me laughing out loud on a regular basis. I loved this book, and Nicholas Boulton's superb narration brought clarity and gravity to this delightfully insane caper, bringing it vividly to life. Besides Captain Wyndham and Miss Haas, I grew very fond of Lawson, the long-suffering policeman. Before I finished this book, I had already downloaded two other books by this author and narrator.

1 person found this helpful

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  • paul sparks
  • 07-19-19

Absolutely outstanding 😀

Words can’t describe my utter joy when I was listening to this book, the story of what is essentially Holmes & Watson but set in universe(s) so vastly different is beautifully narrated and the world that Alexis Hall crafted is brought to life in a funny and quite endearing way, I really hope that there will be more books featuring these characters because I would be buying them immediately

1 person found this helpful

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  • BevS
  • 04-02-22

Great performance from Nicholas...🥳🥳🥳

What a brilliant audio narration from Nicholas Boulton...yet again!! He really did justice to this story [even though to me it seemed to lag slightly in the middle], and was well worth listening to. I defy anyone to actually guess who the culprit was. Nicholas' mastery of accents, nuances, humour and the spoken word itself was just marvellous.

Of course, Miss Shaharazad Haas was my favourite character...so droll, so sarcastic, so utterly fantastic. Alexis' take on the Sherlock Holmes stories was superb, and his John Watson [actually a trans character named John Wyndham] was prim, proper and completely deserving of another chance to solve mysteries with his housemate. The world building was superb, with some very weird and wonderful characters and creatures, but for me, Nicholas Boulton deserves all the plaudits for his outstanding work. 4.5 stars for the story, 5 shiny stars for the narration.

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  • Tina
  • 07-13-22

Love love loved it!

I'ved enjoyed every Alexis Hall book I've read or listened to but this one is my new fave. Hall has deliciiusly combined period manners, witty use of language,, humour, fantasy and romance in a rousing good listen, perfectly narrated! More please!

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