DiscoverHistorical Mysteries

The Keys of Death


Loved it! 😍

A new Holmes story for fans of the original, Keys of Death is a satisfying new mystery, true to character, and delicious to read!

Keys of Death is not Gretchen Altabef’s first foray into the world of Sherlock Holmes, there are at least three other novels in this vein according to her Goodreads page, but this novel does serve as an origin story of sorts. Not necessarily for Holmes himself, the great detective strides across the early chapters fully formed, with all of the knowledge and upright intelligence we expect from true, turn of the century Holmes, but for the trio that is Watson, Holmes, and Mrs. Hudson.

And do not get me wrong, in Altabef’s version of this story, they are very much a trio. A genius detective, a veteran of a foreign war, and a young widow all roughly the same age, and all living together at the most infamous address in literature.

Keys of Death is augmented by two massive innovations in the Holmesian lore: the first is a change to the typical portrayal of Hudson from a fussy old woman who has to keep reminding her tenants that she is not their housekeeper to a young woman of intelligence, strength, and deep emotional turmoil.

The second is that Hudson’s late husband, whose murder kicks off the story and is the impetus for her renting rooms to Holmes and Watson in the first place, was Jewish.

The ripples of these two changes allow Altabef’s novel to take place. By making Hudson an energetic young woman, she is allowed to become a far more active participant in the story. By making her late husband Jewish, and her subsequent ties to the Jewish community of London strong, an entire community and culture is drawn into the fray of this mystery with unerring accuracy.

Told largely as a first-person narrative that rotates by chapter between the three leads, the dialogue and details can get a little muddled at times, but the changes in perspective and thus priority allow for interesting changes of pace from the traditional, Watsonian narration.

Innovative with story, but still largely true to the characters as Doyle wrote them over a century ago, Sherlock Holmes and the Keys of Death is a Sherlock Holmes mystery written by a fan of the original stories, for fans of a similar bent. There have been many, glossy updates, adaptations, and re-writes of the Holmes stories across the decades, but Altabef brings us back to the beginning and the basics with this novel, and at the result is incredibly satisfying.

Reviewed by

I'm an author, poet, part time book reviewer, and PhD. None of which impresses my cat, and only some of which pays my bills. I tend towards urban or dark fantasy and poetry, but will read anything. If you enjoy my reviews, don't forget to like or leave a tip!

Last and First Meeting

About the author

Human heroes exist, the genius & the everyman. My Award-Winning writing springs from the same sense of justice as Dr. Watson’s. THE KEYS OF DEATH, THESE SCATTERED HOUSES, & REMARKABLE POWER OF STIMULUS brim with imagination, mystery, & a news reporter’s excitement for the true history of the day. view profile

Published on December 13, 2021

Published by MX Publishing, London

70000 words

Genre: Historical Mysteries

Reviewed by