Review: A Case of Spontaneous Combustion (Displaced Detective #5), by Stephanie Osborn

About the book, A Case of Spontaneous Combustion A Case of Spontaneous Combustion

Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Print Length: 344 pages

When an entire village on the Salisbury Plain is wiped out in an apparent case of mass spontaneous combustion, Her Majesty’s Secret Service contacts The Holmes Agency to investigate. Unfortunately Sherlock Holmes and his wife, Dr. Skye Chadwick-Holmes, have just had their first serious fight, over her abilities and attitudes as an investigator. To make matters worse, he is summoned to England in the middle of the night, and she is not — and due to the invocation of the National Security Act in the summons, he cannot even wake her and tell her.

Once in London, Holmes looks into the horror that is now Stonegrange. His investigations take him into a dangerous undercover assignment in search of a possible terror ring, though he cannot determine how a human agency could have caused the disaster. There, he works hard to pass as a recent immigrant and manual laborer from a certain rogue Mideastern nation as he attempts to uncover signs of the terrorists.

Meanwhile, alone in Colorado, Skye battles raging wildfires and tames a wild mustang stallion, all while believing her husband has abandoned her.

Who — or what — caused the horror in Stonegrange? Will Holmes find his way safely through the metaphorical minefield that is modern Middle Eastern politics? Will Skye subdue Smoky before she is seriously hurt? Will this predicament seriously damage — even destroy — the couple’s relationship? And can Holmes stop the terrorists before they unleash their outré weapon again?

Buy, read, and discuss A Case of Spontaneous Combustion

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Please note: at this time, this title is only available in digital formats. A print edition is planned.

About the author, Stephanie Osborn Stephanie Osborn

Veteran of more than 20 years in the civilian space program, as well as various military space defense programs, she worked on numerous space shuttle flights and the International Space Station, and counts the training of astronauts on her resumé. Her space experience also includes Spacelab and ISS operations, variable star astrophysics, Martian aeolian geophysics, radiation physics, and nuclear, biological, and
chemical weapons effects.

Stephanie holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in four sciences:
astronomy, physics, chemistry and mathematics, and she is “fluent” in several
more, including geology and anatomy.

In addition she possesses a license of ministry, has been a duly sworn, certified police officer, and is a National Weather Service certified storm spotter.

Her travels have taken her to the top of Pikes Peak, across the world’s highest suspension bridge, down gold mines, in the footsteps of dinosaurs, through groves of giant Sequoias, and even to the volcanoes of the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest, where she was present for several phreatic eruptions of Mount St. Helens.

Now retired from space work, Stephanie has trained her sights on writing. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than 20 books, including the celebrated science-fiction mystery, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. She is the co-author of the “Cresperian Saga,” book series, and currently writes the critically acclaimed “Displaced Detective” series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files.” She recently released the paranormal/horror novella El Vengador, based on a true story, as an ebook.

In addition to her writing work, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery now happily “pays it forward,” teaching math and science through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, as well as working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank.

The Mystery continues.

Connect with Stephanie

Website | Twitter

My Thoughts

Sherlock Holmes and Skye Chadwick-Holmes are back in the fifth installment of Stephanie Osborn’s fabulously entertaining Displaced Detective series, and while this story is complete in one volume (unlike the others which were pairs of companion stories), it feels just as meaty and satisfying as its predecessors.

What I really love about this series is that Osborn bases her mysteries in real (if sometimes theoretical) science, and that she relays the science in ways that are easy for people like me, who were music and theater majors, to understand. From the moment the mass disappearance (death) of an entire town was described, I was able to make reasonably accurate guesses about the technology that caused it, but this in no way spoiled the story, because knowing the cause wasn’t enough, the real mystery was as much in the “why” as in the “how.”

As well, I love that, a year into their marriage, Skye and Sherlock are evolving as individuals and as a couple. While they are separated from each other for much of this story, when they do come together, the reasons for their separation explained, we see two people who have become better because of their relationship. Anyone can write “falling in love” reasonably well. Writing about a couple who can stay in love takes finesse, which Osborn has in great amounts.

Over the last several years, Sherlock Holmes has been reintroduced to us in many, many guises, and the beauty of the character is that there’s room for every version, and enjoying one doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy others. Regular visitors to this blog know that I’m a massive fan of Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series, and that I especially love that she’s incorporated early feminism and the art culture of the early twentieth century into her work.

This doesn’t mean that I like Osborn’s work any less. In fact, I think these two series make really good bookshelf buddies, because both give us a glimpse at Holmes as a married man, and both do it in unique ways.

Back to Stephanie Osborn’s latest offering, though, I’ll confess that at one point I, who was an original viewer of Sex and the City felt that Skye and Sherlock’s relationship was a bit too restrained, even when they were out of the public eye, until Skye herself reminded one of their friends, and we readers as well, that Holmes is from a more restrained time and culture. It’s worth noting, also, that the relationship they have is absolutely true to the characters Osborn has created, and that these are genre-defying science-fiction/mysteries and not romance novels.

While A Case of Spontaneous Combustion is best enjoyed after reading books 1-4 of the Displaced Detective series, fast reads all, it also has enough backstory to be a satisfying standalone.

Goes well with: Falafel, with extra-garlicky tahini sauce, tart strained yogurt and cucumbers, and a side of tabouleh, with mint tea.