When Britain wants to inaugurate a secret service, who better to assist than the greatest detective in history?
London, 1909. Vernon Kell, head of counterintelligence at the War Office, buttonholes two-fisted adventurer Wiggins on the street and asks him about joining his elite new unit. Wiggins comes highly recommended by his mentor, who’s none other than Sherlock Holmes. Free-wheeling Wiggins declines but recommends his friend Bill Tyler, a police officer at Tottenham station. Even as this meeting unfolds, Kell’s operative Leyton is walking into a deadly ambush. While Kell identifies Leyton’s body, Wiggins is at Tottenham station, where Bill’s agreed to float him a loan. A shootout there leaves Bill dead and an enraged Wiggins out for vengeance. The perps seem to be a clutch of Russians, the same people Kell is trying to neutralize. Wiggins tries striking out on his own, but his violent actions earn him a short stay in prison, though at the perp's lair he meets Bela, a lovely Latvian woman. It’s Kell who rescues Wiggins from prison and at length enlists him for his new secret service. Where better to begin than by consulting his retired mentor? Holmes advises him to build a network of informants by finding friends. The heedful Wiggins chooses Bela as his Watson (and more), and the game is afoot. Fans of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories will remember young Wiggins as the leader of the Baker Street Irregulars.
Sherlock Holmes’ delayed first appearance here is shrewdly calculated. Though Lyle’s debut novel is certainly an homage, it’s not a flat-footed imitation but a crisp, stylish spinoff.