Baker Street barrister Reggie Heath (The Brothers of Baker Street, 2011, etc.) is faced with three puzzles fully as strange as his enforced avocation of answering letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes.
The most straightforward case involves the kidnapping of Lord Robert Buxton, Reggie’s wealthy, pompous, wholly ineffectual rival for the affections of American actress Laura Rankin, which would on the whole be a welcome development if the £1 million ransom (“Is that all?” exclaims Laura) didn’t include as a supplement all the recent correspondence addressed to Holmes. The second, far more recondite, concerns Mr. Liu, a translator who appeals to Holmes, and to Reggie as his agent, to persuade Elizabeth Winslow, of Standard Translation Services, that his Chinese translations of several nursery rhymes are indeed correct. The third is an awkward bequest by Hilary Clemens, a deceased centenarian in Texas, who has left her entire fortune to Sherlock Holmes and whose grandnephew Darby fails to see the humor of the situation. There’ll be much crosscutting among the adventures of Laura, Reggie and Reggie’s brother Nigel, who’s sweating the results of the California bar exam, as they struggle to trace possible connections among these three problems, or at least extricate themselves from the dangers they pose individually, before a climactic sequence that may mark the first time in history or fiction in which political terrorists seek to promote their nefarious ends by using talking toy ducks.
Readers who, unlike Mr. Darby, know not to take the proceedings seriously will find the deadpan tone perfectly suited to the whimsically improbable developments. As a bonus, all the policemen the heroes consult are so imperviously dense that they might have stepped out of your own comic nightmares.