Edinburgh medical student Arthur Conan Doyle plays Watson to Dr. Joseph Bell, his professor’s Sherlock Holmes, in this charming paean to the Victorian detective duo.
Alan Lambert is to be hanged in two weeks for slashing the throats of Hermione Clery, Royal Opera soprano, and her current paramour Gordon Edward, a clerk at the Board of Works. But Lambert’s brother pleads with Dr. Bell, who’s had some success in sussing out the truth in other miscarriages of justice, to free Alan from the bowels of the New Gaol. Bell, with extraordinary deductive reasoning, and Doyle, with game albeit limping legwork, discover the evidence against Lambert has been doctored. But proving who actually murdered the lovers will cause them to dispute facts put forth by Lieutenant Bryce and even to be followed while they dash about in hansom cabs for interviews with Sir William Burnham and his third son; principals in the Firth of Tay Bridge Company; and the diva’s estranged if always nearby husband. Though they frequently adjourn to Bell’s rooms for restorative pots of tea, they must bestir themselves to waylay the hangman for a bit more time before Holmes—pardon, that’s Dr. Bell—uncovers the identity of a Mr. XYZ, whose real name has been expunged from all official records.
A stylish departure from Engel’s amusing Ontario p.i. Benny Cooperman (The Cooperman Variations, 2002, etc.), rife with clues, misdirection, and an obvious love for the Holmesian canon.