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Murder at the Diogenes Club

Series: Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries #1
Translated Into: Asesinato en el Club Diógenes (Spanish)
Assassinato no Clube Diogenes (Portuguese)
Meurtre au Club Diogène (French)
Mord im Diogenes-Club (German)
Omicidio al Diogenes Club (Italian)
Author: Lientz, Gerald
Illustrator: Horne, Daniel R.
Release Date: 1987
Length:574 sections plus prologue
User Summary: This book contains two mysteries to solve. In the first one, a prestigious racing horse loses a race under suspicious circumstances, and as a private detective, you are called upon to find the culprit, the motive and the drug used to slow down the horse.

In the second half of the adventure, a dishonest businessman with a checkered past suddenly dies of a stroke in a prestigious London club. If he was murdered, who did it, how and why? There are many suspects, but finding the actual culprit will require uncovering a tragic past that no one seems to want to discuss anymore...

Guillermo's Thoughts: This is an awesome read. The writing, while not Nobel prize material, is top-notch for this kind of book, including enough British English expressions to give it a bit of a Victorian London feel (this last one, by the way, is a welcome change of pace from the fantasy settings present in so many gamebooks). The text sections are also considerably lengthy, some of them spanning two or even several pages, but the prose is entertaining and fast-paced enough so that the book never becomes dull. Considerable effort has been put into character development: people of different social strata speak in different ways and have different motivations; also, Communications skill checks are needed to succeed at questioning particularly touchy characters. As a result, playing this adventure feels like interacting with real people and not just cardboard stereotypes. It ought to be mentioned that the idea of having Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson appear in the adventure was excellent; not only do they offer plenty of useful advice, but seeing them interact with each other, as well as with the other characters in the story, contributes to a very pleasant reading experience. Sherlock's brother Mycroft appears in a minor role in this adventure as well.

Since the bulk of the adventure consists of questioning people and doing observation and deductive work, this is definitely not a book for people who crave plenty of action. Nonetheless, the amount of logical reasoning needed to complete it successfully was enough to keep me hooked to it.

The first case – the one about the racing horse – seems designed so that readers new to the series "learn the ropes", so to speak. The mystery is rather simple and short, and relatively few clues are needed to solve it. The design is not perfect, though. Finding the culprit and the drug is not hard to do, since the player is given several chances at skill checks and options that lead to the uncovering of evidence. However, finding conclusive evidence to accuse the culprit's employer is more difficult to do, because it requires the player to succeed at a rather tough skill check roll, with only one chance being given. This is not that frustrating, since if you reach the final day of the case without all necessary evidence, you are given the option to start over again, keeping all the clues and deductions you gathered on previous attempts until you succeed at enough die rolls to figure out the solution for yourself. Of course, you can also choose to give up and have Holmes tell you the solution, which certainly is not as much fun but provides an outlet for the easily frustrated.

Despite the book's flexibility, having to backtrack and go through the same adventure several times just to find one clue can be rather frustrating, so at least two chances at finding critical evidence should have been given.

After the second case is completed, the player is instructed to turn to a new section, where the second case begins. The murder mystery is quite interesting, since there are a lot of likely suspects and their backgrounds are interlinked in intriguing ways, so a well thought-out backstory is gradually revealed if the player makes the right choices and succeeds at some skill checks. The adventure seems a bit too easy at times, since most die rolls aren't too hard, but a key clue is very difficult to figure out. This particular clue requires the player to succeed making a tough skill check, or to try his / her hand at solving an intricate secret code. Figuring out who the culprit is without this clue is rather difficult, but the player almost certainly won't have to backtrack so many times in order to complete the adventure: other evidence pointing to the culprit is not hard to find, and alibis for most of the other suspects are also easily found, so even without the critical clue, it's possible to figure out the culprit by elimination.

After figuring out who the culprit is, the player character is asked to bring him to justice. This actually leads to an interesting, action-based final part of the adventure, where success depends on strategic, logical choices being made and success at some skill rolls (though, thankfully, several chances to succeed at them are given). So far, I've found three possible outcomes: the culprit is captured, the culprit outwits you and flees, or he kills your character (an uncommon event in the Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries series).

The book has a couple of bugs, none of which render it unplayable. It's possible to "discover" for the second time a critical clue after it being revealed by the culprit, so continuity is disrupted at this point. Furthermore, an option is given at one point to hunt down the murderer without the player character having done the detective work to point him out. This serves no real purpose and only makes for a confusing read. In spite of its minor flaws, I believe this is an excellent double-feature gamebook and a very good introduction to a great series. The writing and gameplay are satisfying enough, and the fact that this quality was maintained throughout the series only speaks in its favour. Highly recommended if you like deductive reasoning and want a break from the all-too- frequent fantasy stories found in other interactive series.

More reviews by Guillermo

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary.
Users Who Own This Item: Ardennes, bigcobra, bookwormjeff, breity (Berkley), damieng, dave2002a, Dronak, Ed, exaquint, firefoxpdm, Fullerton (Berkley), Guillermo, Gurvo, katzcollection, kinderstef, knginatl, le maudit, Malthus Dire, mir1812, mlvoss, nerelax, Radjabov, Sir Olli, sireeyore, Thanos6, truce57, twar, Twoflower, Yalius, zat, Zolika
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