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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Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

HEAVEN, MY HOME

The redoubtable Locke follows up her Edgar-winning Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) with an even knottier tale of racism and deceit set in the same scruffy East Texas boondocks.

It’s the 2016 holiday season, and African American Texas Ranger Darren Matthews has plenty of reasons for disquiet besides the recent election results. Chiefly there’s the ongoing fallout from Darren’s double murder investigation involving the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. He and his wife are in counseling. He’s become a “desk jockey” in the Rangers’ Houston office while fending off suspicions from a district attorney who thinks Darren hasn’t been totally upfront with him about a Brotherhood member’s death. (He hasn’t.) And his not-so-loving mother is holding on to evidence that could either save or crucify him with the district attorney. So maybe it’s kind of a relief for Darren to head for the once-thriving coastal town of Jefferson, where the 9-year-old son of another Brotherhood member serving hard time for murdering a black man has gone missing while motorboating on a nearby lake. Then again, there isn’t that much relief given the presence of short-fused white supremacists living not far from descendants of the town’s original black and Native American settlers—one of whom, an elderly black man, is a suspect in the possible murder of the still-missing boy. Meanwhile, Darren’s cultivating his own suspicions of chicanery involving the boy’s wealthy and imperious grandmother, whose own family history is entwined with the town’s antebellum past and who isn’t so fazed with her grandson’s disappearance that she can’t have a lavish dinner party at her mansion. In addition to her gifts for tight pacing and intense lyricism, Locke shows with this installment of her Highway 59 series a facility for unraveling the tangled strands of the Southwest’s cultural legacy and weaving them back together with the volatile racial politics and traumatic economic stresses of the present day. With her confident narrative hands on the wheel, this novel manages to evoke a portrait of Trump-era America—which, as someone observes of a pivotal character in the story, resembles “a toy ball tottering on a wire fence” that “could fall either way.”

Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-36340-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Like her cast, James gets in a little more drama for a lively continuation of her series.

CARELESS WHISKERS

An impossible actor’s career ends when he dies midperformance, leaving a cast and crew who would have been all too willing to have done the deed.

Charlie Harris and his feline sidekicks, Maine coon Diesel and kitten Ramses, are all excited that Charlie’s daughter, Laura, and her husband, Frank, will be headlining Athena College’s spring production as lead actress and director in a homegrown new play, Careless Whispers. Laura was excited too until the male lead, who had to bail suddenly, is replaced by someone she knows all too well: Luke Lombardi. Laura’s had run-ins with Luke in the past and knows that he’s a drama queen in all the wrong ways. When Luke shows up in Mississippi, Charlie and his partner, Helen Louise Brady, are suitably unimpressed with his imperious attitude and clueless mini-entourage, but both figure there’s little to worry about until a string of pranks seems to escalate to Luke’s onstage murder. Though Charlie is concerned that Laura’s dislike of Luke might point to her as a suspect, c’mon! Chief Deputy Kanesha Berry, whom Charlie’s earlier investigations (The Pawful Truth, 2019, etc.) have made something of a family friend, doesn’t think Laura is guilty either, though she does have to follow procedure and question anyone with means and motive. While there aren’t many folks in the means category, Luke’s volatile and narcissistic manner has heaped the motive category with suspects—and can anyone blame them? It may all come down to unraveling the mystery behind the identity of the playwright, Finnegan Zwake, a pseudonym no one had thought to question until Charlie decides he can’t help but, once again, get involved.

Like her cast, James gets in a little more drama for a lively continuation of her series.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-451-49115-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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