I started Scott’s latest with eager anticipation after having read A Jane Austen Daydream, which I absolutely loved.
Seeing the cover of Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, I came away with a preconceived notion of what the book would be about.
Look at the cover. What tone does the cover set in your mind?
Well, needless to say, I was surprised by the tone. I was expecting a light-hearted mystery novel, when in fact the story trends the opposite after a humorous, tongue-in-cheek opening about the exploits of Maximilian Standforth, aristocrat, bachelor, and genius detective. The Dangerous Dare follows Standforth’s latest adventure where he is dared to investigate a haunted castle. The mystery tests Standforth’s genius unlike any of his previous adventures and leaves Standforth and his cohorts changed forever.
The story is told from the point of view of Standforth’s bodyman, Bob Wordsworth whose name alone gives hints as to how the story will unfold. There are numerous plot twists, especially as the story builds up to the climax. I did not see how the tale would end until it hit me in the face. The author writes a clever mystery novel, making good use of the gothic setting. The setting is haunting and the characters are endearing and likable, especially Bob Wordsworth and Maximilian Standforth.
I came away from the story feeling surprised though, because I went into it hoping for a light-hearted detective story. In the end what I got was a dark Gothic mystery that shares much with another novel I like, Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson. The mechanisms by which each novel reach their conclusions are wholly different, but the punchline, so to speak, is essentially the same.
I do recommend Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, especially if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes. In fact, if I had to classify this novel I would say that it is a mix of Sherlock Holmes and Darwinia.
The author, Scott Southard, once said that the story was an experiment, and at the time I had no idea what he meant, because, again, the cover had given me a preconceived notion about the story, but now I know. Now I know.
- Book Review: A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott Southard (christopherleedeards.com)