The master detective, defrosted and revived nearly a century after he was immured in an Alpine glacier (The Strange Return of Sherlock Holmes, 2010), returns for a second very contemporary case.
At first glance the mystery seems distinctly old-fashioned: Who purloined a letter, allegedly written in 1592 by one William Shakespeare, perhaps to the Dark Lady of the sonnets, that holograph expert Rachel Random was asked to authenticate? Since very few people even knew that Rachel’s uncle, eminent Shakespearean Professor Hugh Blake, had uncovered the letter, suspicion falls on his family: his actress wife Lotte Linger, her sons Alexis Gray the critic and Bart Gray the scientist, and her daughter Marianne Hideaway, an Oxford undergraduate. Even though he’s been dead for nearly 100 years, it doesn’t take Holmes long to identify the culprit. By the time the guilty party confesses, however, the question of why someone would steal such an item has only deepened, and Holmes has become involved in a far more baffling riddle: Why have so many ill-assorted victims—an urban landscape artist, a fox-hunter, a pair of music reviewers—suffered indignity or worse from microbombs hidden in such unlikely objects as violins and vitamin pills? The link between the two cases leads Holmes and his roommate, journalist James Wilson (“not Watson”), to an Al Qaeda plot Holmes foils with an élan worthy of Conan Doyle.
The Sherlockian pastiche serves as brilliantly effective cover for a whimsical retro Chinese box of a puzzler reminiscent of Christopher Fowler’s Peculiar Crimes Unit, one that’s just as much fun as it sounds.