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Readers familiar with the recent outpouring of inane Holmesiana will look askance at the subtitle here: ""A Memoir of Sherlock Holmes. From the Papers of Edward Porter Jones, His Late Assistant."" But the happy surprise is that this fabrication, though unremarkable in its plot, is neither stuffy nor silly--with a low-key charm that sets it well apart from the usual pedantries and gimmicks of routine Holmes reruns. ""Porter,"" an ex-Baker Street Irregular who has become (circa 1900) Holmes' chief assistant, is a most agreeable narrator--admiring (but not gushy) about his moody boss and gently ironic about Dr. Watson (who's a bit jealous of Porter's investigative prowess). And it's Porter who sets off to the Isle of Graesney in Kent, where young Edmund Quallsford--the isle's young lord-of-the-manor--has committed suicide. . .or has he? His devoted sister is convinced that it was murder. And evidence at the death scene (a lonely tower where Edmund used to brood) soon confirms those suspicions--especially once Porter is joined in his sleuthings by the canny Holmes (often in disguise). Was Edmund's murder connected to his small-scale import/export trade? Or to the hostility between the dead man's sister and wife? Or to old family debts and new rumors of smuggling along the coastline? The answers are less than surprising--including the identity of the smuggling-ring mastermind--but, with a lively cast of locals (including a one-legged vicar) and the engaging Holmes/Porter team, this is solid, pleasant diversion: the best neo-Sherlocking in quite some time.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1986
Publisher: St. Martin's