Sherlock Holmes (who you might have heard of), fresh from winning his ITV Best Detective award, is on the trail of a murderer. Members of a prestigious club are being targeted, alphabetically, it seems, by a killer leaving a literal calling card. And moreover, for each victim, a second death, not by the killer’s hand, seems to occur as well.
With his links to Scotland Yard severely limited and the national press turning on him, Holmes finds his resources limited, but thankfully Watson has come to stay for a sort-of holiday. But as the killer works through the alphabet and the letter H gets closer, it seems that Holmes – one Holmes at least – is directly in the killer’s sights…
I was sent this one by the publisher to take a look at it. It’s the third book in the series “written in the tradition of Conan Doyle himself” – well, that’s a bold statement. Now I’m on record of not being the world’s greatest Sherlock Holmes fan, mostly due to the stories revolving around information that hasn’t been shared with the reader, but there seem to be so many “new” Holmes books out there and I figured it was about time to take a look at one. After all, I’ve given the new Poirot books a good scrutiny…
I’m not sure how much this is written in the tradition of Doyle to be honest – there isn’t a diatribe against murderous Mormons in sight and Holmes doesn’t bugger off to hide on a hill for half a book. I don’t think there really is a style to his novel length adventures, but the detail seems to be right, so let’s assume that’s what they mean. McBird also resists most temptations – Holmes doesn’t fall in love, there’s no sign of Irene Adler – but Mycroft does make a significant appearance. I guess we can allow one such indulgence, if you don’t count the doesn’t-appear-as-much-as-you-think Lestrade.
As for the story, it buzzes along nicely, and feels like a Holmes adventure, admittedly with a little more action and broken arms than one might expect. There are the expected disguises, the references to Holmes’ addictions and young urchins doing his work for him – in particular, the young girl who helps him out is a strong addition to the cast, and would certainly benefit from more time in the narrative in the future. There’s an element of the plot – namely that the exclusive club happens to have an appropriate victim beginning with the necessary letter of the alphabet – the does stretch the believability a tad, and I thought the finale was a little drawn out, as by that time the identity of the perpetrator was clear to me, and if it wasn’t, the finale certainly made it so before the revelation.
But it’s an entertaining read – I may well take a look at the other books in the series – and while Holmes is a tad more human than he has come across to me in the Doyle stories, it doesn’t make him unrecognizably Holmes. Definitely an entertaining read, and the potential for this to be an enjoyable series.
The Devil’s Due is out now in paperback from Harper Collins. Many thanks for the review copy.