Three Pint Problems by Melvyn Small #BookReview #BlogBlitz


Doctor John Watson has reached into his archives to treat us to three feature-length adventures. In The Darlington Substitution, The Devil’s Advocate and Murder on the Teesside Princess we see Boro’s greatest detective at the height of his wisecracking, foulmouthed, law disregarding and deductive brilliance.

If the devil is in the detail, he has nowhere to hide.

It's my pleasure to be sharing my review of Three Pint Problems today. Many thank to Mel Small for inviting me and for sending me a digital copy of his book.

Although I wouldn't consider myself a Sherlock aficionado, I have read several of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's stories in the past and enjoy seeing how such a well-known character can be adapted and updated. Three Pint Problems is the third book in Melvyn Small's Accidental Detective series which finds Sherlock Holmes as a sweary working-class man with a criminal record, who solves crimes in current day Middlesbrough. Of course, Sherlock needs his Watson and fittingly, this Dr John Watson also chronicles the pair's adventures. It's not necessary to have read the previous books in this series, as the three novellas and a bonus short story, are all standalone tales.
Watson narrates all of the stories and even though they are full of humour, there is never any suggestion that Melvyn Small has parodied the Great Detective. The setting may be modern and transposed to Middlesbrough but the key elements of what makes Holmes and Watson such abiding characters are all here. Holmes is still a rather arrogant, often tactless character whose intelligence and unique observational skills means he is able to solve cases that stump other, more prosaic minds. He is as rude about poor old Lestrade as he ever was in Conan-Doyle's books and is still apparently a functioning addict – although his drug of choice here is alcohol, rather than cocaine. 
Watson serialises their exploits in a local newspaper but he has recently published the stories in a book and in the first story in Three Pint Problems, The Darlington Substitution, he attempts to step into the limelight to publicise it. His dreams don't quite go to plan and while it's impossible not to sympathise with his disappointing book signings, it's his chance to appear on local radio which he hopes will drive up sales. However, when nervously gathering friends and family together to listen to the recording, they are surprised to hear something completely different. Sherlock is naturally intrigued as to why the change took place and this leads them to a mystery involving a case that never was...
Murder on the Teeside Princess was probably my favourite of the three stories. Holmes and Watson are joined by Mary and Martha Hudson – Holmes' landlady, of course – on an evening booze cruise. Naturally, things don't go to plan, not helped by Sherlock discovering how much he enjoys champagne. However, even though there are several moments which made me laugh, there is also a murder committed, and the nature of the crime and list of potential suspects means this story also pays its own idiosyncratic homage to the Golden Age locked-room murder mysteries. 
The final novella has a number of surprises in store, which makes it the most difficult to say much about. There's an intriguing look into Sherlock's past which is actually quite moving in some parts but also reveals just how his moral code is different from other people. There's an unexpected person who needs his help too and I really enjoyed discovering the truth behind this clever little mystery. 
The bonus short story, The Riverside Thriller is an extra treat and the perfect way to round off a collection with such a strong sense of place. Middlesbrough features prominently throughout, particularly the references to the football team and the regional slang adds further authentic flavour to proceedings. Sherlock and Watson drink pints of Engineer's Thumb in the Twisted Lip which is a real pub in Middlesbrough's Baker Street (of course!) The Man with the Twisted Lip and The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb are also both among Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes, which indicates the attention to detail given to this entertaining, witty and respectful re-imagining of the beloved detective. I enjoyed it very much and look forward to reading more.

Three Pint Problems is published by Indipenned and you can support an independent publisher by purchasing directly from their bookshop.

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About the Author
Born in Stockton-on-Tees in the North East of England and raised in nearby Billingham, Mel left school at 16 to train as a civil engineering technician within the engineering department of the local authority, Cleveland County Council. Continuing his education he gained certificates in a number of civil engineering qualifications including a Bachelor of Engineering in Civil and Structural Engineering. After 14 years Mel drew a finally draughted line under the world of hydraulic modelling and roundabout design and undertook a Master of Science degree in information processing, before commencing a career in information technology.

It is perhaps Mel’s technical upbringing and his drafting of countless technical reports and specifications that give him a succinct and efficient writing style that lends itself to the fast-paced short stories he has had published to date. This, layered with the gin-dry humour, garnered from a Teesside upbringing, provides a thoroughly entertaining read.

Mel's books take the great detective Sherlock Holmes and reimagine him in a new time and place. In these comical escapades, Sherlock Holmes is a working class anti-hero living in the modern-day North East of England. Dismissing a brush with the law that led to him meeting court-appointed psychologist Dr John Watson as "ethical hacking", he swears a bit, drinks beer and solves the mysteries that have the local constabulary baffled.
So much more is coming.