Friday, April 8, 2011
Books By Theme: It's elementary, my dear Watson...
No doubt many mystery writers point to Conan Doyle as an influence, but some have gone a step further, writing additional cases for Sherlock Holmes. In Caleb Carr's The Italian Secretary, a series of killings at Holyrood House in Edinburgh bear an uncanny resemblance to crimes committed against the advisors of Mary, Queen of Scots 300 years earlier. Holmes and Watson are called in to solve the case before anyone close to Queen Victoria—or the monarch herself—ends up dead.
If the appeal is the Victorian setting, suggest Gyles Brandreth's series opener, Oscar Wilde And A Death of No Importance, in which Arthur Conan Doyle helps his friend Oscar Wilde discover the truth about the murder of an artist's model. What unfolds is a plot familiar to anyone who's read The Picture of Dorian Gray, but the duo's path to the truth is the real treat for Conan Doyle fans.
If you crave more mysteries, there's Laurie R. King's excellent Mary Russell series. In the ninth and most recent title, The Language of Bees, Mary is in Sussex deciphering the destruction of one of Holmes's beehives while Holmes looks for a missing wife and her daughter. But Holmes needs Mary—and his brother Mycroft—to help him solve the case. Each title stands on its own, but if you want to watch the development of Mary and Sherlock's relationship, start with the first, The Beekeeper's Apprentice.
For something contemporary and different, pick up Michael Robertson's The Baker Street Letters. Brothers Reggie and Nigel Heath rent an office on Baker Street, with the stipulation that they must answer letters sent to Sherlock Holmes. After reading a 20-year-old missive from a little girl in California, Nigel disappears, leaving a dead body behind. More of a caper than an intellectual mystery, but Holmes fans and even mystery book groups will enjoy the ride.
All summaries are from Library Journal.