Review: A Question of Time by Jamie Ashbird

Improbable Press, recently acquired by Clan Destine Press, has come of of its new gate with two new books: A Question of Time by Jamie Ashbird, illustrated by Janet Anderton, and The Case of the Misplaced Models by Tessa Barding.

A Question of Time is the third in IP’s 221B series (which began with my own A Dream to Build a Kiss On and then K. Caine’s A Study in Velvet and Leather) and continues the theme of writing Holmes/Watson love stories a succinct 221 words at a time. (The last word of each short story begins with ‘B’, hence the 221B name for the form.)

The Blurb

Sherlock Holmes
whether he’s a grimy student in 1980, a consulting detective in 47BCE, or a smitten neighbour in 1969, will always find his…
John Watson
whether he is a military doctor in 1917, an angry Saxon with an axe in 1086, or a priest in 1603.

A Question of Time is an illustrated journey through the ages told by our heroes, by their friends, and by a scorched manuscript.

This new collection begins with 221 words set in 2085, a bittersweet eulogy for two men who loved each other all their lives, delivered by their child. There is so much love and humour in these words you feel like you’ve known the three of them. The illustration of the twined elm trees is a lovely, evocative symbol of the emotion of this window into their story.

The remaining 49 stories flit about through time, from 19,873 BCE (oh, how heartstrings can be tugged in 221 words about ochred hand paintings!) through the disco years [and two world wars and molly houses and Jack the Ripper’s London] to a lovely two-parter in 2019 where an appreciative and babbling Watson meets a busking Holmes.

Each is a delicious little tale, woven into history yet standing alone as a snippet of a time and place. Huge amounts of personality, delicious wickedness and humour are part of the weave; as are darker moments during the black plague and its 20th century counterpart during the 1980s with the AIDS crisis.

All the cleverness, compassion, giggle-out-loud-at-the-cafe quirks are turned into double delights with Janet Anderton’s illustration: the orchids, bees, coins, singed manuscripts and strange paraphernalia, and glimpses of hands, mouths, eyes in each setting highlighting elements of and adding dimensions to each story.

In short, A Question of Time is small and perfectly formed, the delights of the text enhanced by the charms of the illustrations, and if you like your Holmes and Watson to be in love, no matter where in time they exist, you’ll get 50 little hits of joy.

Buy A Question of Time

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