Is Sherlock Holmes the devil? Don’t be too quick to dismiss the possibility until you’ve reviewed the evidence MacBird (Unquiet Spirits, 2017, etc.) has amassed.
November 1890 sees Dr. John Watson return for an extended visit to Holmes at a critical moment. Gabriel Zanders, of the Illustrated Police Gazette, is spreading the word that Holmes is the devil and whipping the crowds who hear him inveigh against the great detective into a frenzy. Titus Billings, the new Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, doesn’t go quite as far as Zanders, but he’s equally contemptuous, even to the point of violence. Ironically, these attacks on Holmes’ authority come just when his brother Mycroft and the City of London need him most. It seems that a number of wealthy members of the mysterious Luminarians have died under suspicious, and diabolically appropriate, circumstances. Shipbuilder Horatio Anson has been found drowned in his bed; Theodore Clammory, who owns a chain of barber shops, has had his throat slit with a razor; MP Sebastian Danforth, who made a fortune in paper goods, has been stabbed 17 times with a letter opener. Billings, convinced that Danforth was murdered by his son, Charles, is deaf to any talk of a serial killer; Holmes, noting the near-alphabetical progression of victims, wonders when he’ll hear about B, who turns out to be a thriving cloth merchant hanged with a bolt of his own product. Viscounts Andrew and James Goodwin, pillars of the Luminarians, blandly assure Holmes that no one has ever listed its membership, and Holmes, stymied by their stonewalling and distracted by an apparently unrelated case the importunate Lady Eleanor Gainsborough has brought him, fails to prevent the asphyxiation of operatic baritone Claudio Enrietti and can only hope he’ll be in time to save Luminarian playwright Oliver Flynn.
Loose-limbed, prodigiously inventive, plotted with infernal logic, and riotously implausible from beginning to end.