Compelling if at times convoluted “herstory” of Holmes’ famous woman.

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THE CASE BOOK OF IRENE ADLER

THE IRENE ADLER TRILOGY

The sharp-witted actress who earned Sherlock Holmes’ admiration offers her own recollections in this first installment of a Conan Doyle–inspired series.

Irene Adler begins her “case book” by describing how she disguises herself as a frumpy older woman to become Holmes’ housekeeper. He appears to buy her masquerade, although when he’s high on cocaine, he calls her by her real name. Irene then circles back to describe how she has, after “patchy if unspectacular success” as an actress, joined a bohemian group of justice-seeking avengers self-dubbed the Club des As, after an aristocratic lover swiped a beloved brooch. She proceeds to recount the group’s adventures, which are largely focused on righting society’s wrongs or at least puncturing its pretensions: kidnapping racists to teach them a lesson; forging a Millais painting, which fools even Holmes; and switching out letters being used against an Oscar Wilde–type club member, a scam that Holmes at least partially unravels. Irene’s account culminates with her perspective on the King of Bohemia case (where she first appeared in Doyle’s fiction), which reveals why she became Holmes’ housekeeper and battled Professor Moriarty with him at Reichenbach Falls. Edinburgh-based Cassimally has created a fun, feminist twist on the Holmes canon, fleshing out a character who was only briefly mentioned yet, in Doyle’s “A Scandal in Bohemia,” received the ultimate accolade: “To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.” Irene provides wonderfully acerbic observances on a host of topics, particularly on Holmes himself: for instance, “I discovered that he had no ear for irony.” Occasionally, her libertinelike persona is a bit disturbing, however, as when she falls in love—or at least lust—with a child murderer. More problematic is the narrative’s episodic, somewhat chronologically confused construction, which gets a bit bogged down with some less-than-stellar cases and may displease readers looking for a more linear path to solving the Irene/Holmes relationship. Still, the showdown at Reichenbach Falls is worth the wait, serving as a powerful cliffhanger and launchpad for The Memoirs of Irene Adler, the already published second book of the series.

Compelling if at times convoluted “herstory” of Holmes’ famous woman.

Pub Date: July 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1497301573

Page Count: 202

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2014

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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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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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