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I had been keen to read this book for ages as I know it’s received really good reviews and attention (and I usually like the Richard & Judy Book Club choices too!). But I found it quite an odd book. The first two thirds seemed to drag, the final third was more engrossing, but then I was left with unanswered questions at the end, so I was quite dissatisfied overall.

The book begins with the early lives of Arthur (Conan Doyle) and George Edalji, follows them through their teenage years and into adulthood, and through their lives dealing with marriages, friendships, troubles, etc. We then learn about their eventual meeting, and how Arthur helps George who has been falsely accused of killing horses.

As I mentioned earlier, the first two thirds (dealing with Arthur’s and George’s early lives) I didn’t find particularly interesting or fascinating and I didn’t particularly warm to either man. The chapters mostly alternated between each character, and I found this a bit disjointed, if I’m honest. George’s persecution was more interesting as I was wondering who the real culprit was, but I found I didn’t particularly care for George as a person as he seemed very detached and distant and quite arrogant at times. I had questions (unanswered) about his home life, particularly why he and his father slept in the same room, and was even wondering if this was because his father was actually suspicious of whether George in fact committed the crimes he was accused of and wanted to observe him closely.

I also didn’t particularly warm to Arthur Conan Doyle – there was nothing to dislike about him, but I didn’t find anything particularly engaging either to keep my interest through the early stages of the book.

I found the book more exciting when Arthur was helping to defend George, but then felt cheated as the real culprit was not revealed. The man Arthur suspected of harming the animals (Sharp – a character I can’t remember ever being mentioned earlier in the book) was apparently never investigated or charged. And the Author’s Note at the end of book states that another man entirely (Knowles) admitted that he wrote the letters. Did Knowles then harm the animals too? Why was Sharp (the suspected animal harmer) never investigated? Did either Sharp or Knowles actually have any personal grudge against George, or if not then why was George targeted? Or was it that the Staffordshire Constabulary were fixing evidence? I don’t like having questions at the end of books, I like nice neat tidy endings!

I also wondered where the author obtained all these thoughts and feelings of George and Arthur? The crime and the people are obviously all real, but I would be surprised if all the personal thoughts of the two men are fact. Obviously Arthur wrote an autobiography, but would all his personal thoughts and fears (particularly about Jean, the ‘other woman’) have been included in this? And how about all of George’s in-depth thoughts – were they all made-up?

I am glad I read the book as it was interesting to find out more about Conan Doyle, and it is a very unusual and unique book. I wonder if part of my disappointment with the book was because my expectations were so high after hearing such good things about it and knowing it had won awards. The front cover has the Independent on Sunday’s description of ‘beautiful and engrossing’, but I can’t say I agree really.