… intriguing & fun update …

audible sherlock holmes

Gosh, I haven’t done a book review for ages but then this came along and I was intrigued.  A virtual Sherlock? A young, black, female Watson? Well, I thought I would give it a whirl.

It’s fast, twisty and with some great humour. Watson’s back story makes her more than just a foil for Sherlock’s genius and Ian’s world building gives excellent pictures to roll around your head.  If this sounds like your sort of thing, here’s a quick Q and A between Ian and myself  …

Your world building is amazing. How much did you have to take out or are you really disciplined about such stuff? Thank you – world building is an organic process for me, and the landscape can change as I write the first draft. A couple of years ago, I had an idea for a book set completely on an electric, autonomous, semi-intelligent transport system. That book didn’t get written, but it was the starting point for the world of Clockwork Sherlock. When I wanted to write about a virtual reality story about Holmes, I knew it should unfold in the same universe. I’m very keen not to overdo the details in a first-person story. The smotch, for instance, is a device that’s evolved from two items we have now: a smartphone and a watch. But Jo doesn’t point it out, she just uses it. I had to cut two info dumps from the first draft, if memory serves.

Young, black, female: how did you prepare for writing from Captain Jo Barnes’ point of view? I’m a middle-aged white bloke. BAME characters are still under-represented in many mainstream books, as are gay, trans, and non-binary characters. Jo’s gender and race has no relevance plot-wise, and that’s how she appeared to me from day one. I don’t often argue with my creative instincts.

Do you practise any martial arts – or is it just all your imagination? If this was a face-to-face interview, you wouldn’t need to ask that question. My brother once emailed me after reading an earlier book and asked the same question. I think he was quite worried. It’s all imagination.

Having this as an Audible exclusive lends itself to the Virtual Reality setting, did you know you were writing for an audio presentation, or did you adapt the story?We’ve chatted about the idea of an Audible Original for a while. I agreed to pitch something last year, and as soon as I had the idea, I knew it would work really well as an audiobook.

In the original series, there’s just Holmes and Watson plus the housekeeper, in Clockwork Sherlock there’s two more in the team, did it take time to work out how many people were needed for this version – or was it obvious from the start? Strictly speaking, Toby was already an occasional member of the team (albeit as a different species). Poplar turned up in an early scene, and my editor, the splendid Julie Crisp, liked her so much she asked if I could flesh her out more. Great decision, as she turned out to be indispensable. On the other hand, Holmes has always struck me as a lonely figure, isolated by his brilliance. Without any spoilers, the version of him in Clockwork Sherlock retains that isolation, despite being surrounded by a bigger team.

In future series, are you planning to expand on some familiar tropes such as opium smoking, Mycroft, etc? Some familiar themes, and characters, will definitely be present, but I don’t want to stray too far in that direction. I love Conan Doyle’s Holmes, as does the character in Clockwork Sherlock who has taken on the persona of the famous detective. There will definitely be nods towards the original, but I want my own Holmes and Watson to develop their own style. Holme’s drug habit always fascinated me, but virtual reality might offer other ways of scratching that particular itch…


The narrator’s voice is especially important to an audio book of ten hours plus and Ian has been very fortunate as the excellent actor Shvorne Marks (TV inc. Endeavour / Theatre inc. Royal Court & RSC) has now become Capt Jo Barnes in my mind. The delivery of Barnes’ sassy humour and sarky asides are a real pleasure to listen to.


Clockwork Sherlock is an Audible Original by Ian W Sainsbury. Narrated by Shvorne Marks. Length: 10 hours and 25 minutes.  Further details of pricing packages and a free sample can be found here.

btw. I was given this book by Ben at MidasPr in return for a honest review. I really enjoyed the book and it is my policy not to post negative reviews – I mean, let’s spread the happiness … or something.