The mystery is slight and the frequently coy footnotes annoying, but there’s sturdy adventure for Sherlock-ians whose...

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THE ADVENTURE OF THE PECULIAR PROTOCOLS

Prolific screenwriter, showrunner, and sometime Sherlock-ian Meyer (The Canary Trainer, 1993, etc.) returns to update the Sacred Canon once more with a previously undiscovered adventure from 1905 that might just as well have stayed hidden.

As so often in latter-day Holmes pastiches, the great detective’s brother, Mycroft, drags him into this one. Popping up at a dinner Dr. John Watson gives for Sherlock’s 50th birthday, Mycroft quietly demands a meeting the next morning at the Diogenes Club, where he shows his brother a single bloodstained page of a manuscript so incendiary that it’s already provoked the murder of Manya Lippman, Mycroft’s colleague in the Secret Intelligence Service. The manuscript, written in French, is The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, a forged plan for world domination designed to stoke anti-Semitism that Mycroft’s determined to suppress or discredit before it can metastasize and turn a generation yet unborn against the Jews. Since the Protocols are a real-life phenomenon, not so much peculiar as monstrous, that would ultimately travel the world to be embraced by parties from Hitler to Hamas, it’s no surprise to read in Meyer’s introductory note that this adventure marks “the biggest and most consequential failure of the detective’s entire career.” But that’s not for lack of trying. Tracing the source of the monstrous hoax to Russia, Holmes travels with Watson and American translator Anna Walling across Europe to the czar’s kingdom, quickly identifies the manuscript’s vengeful creator, and extracts a written confession that it’s a forgery and a plagiarism to boot before returning on the Orient Express for a climactic episode cribbed, as Meyer’s closing Acknowledgments cheerfully admit, from Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Lady Vanishes. So many historical figures, from translator Constance Garnett to future Israeli president Chaim Weizmann, put in appearances that only the canniest readers will spot the few characters who are actually invented rather than summoned.

The mystery is slight and the frequently coy footnotes annoying, but there’s sturdy adventure for Sherlock-ians whose appetites remain unsated.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-22895-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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