There’s a Murder Afoot
Earlier this year I had the chance to meet the author Vicki Delany in Toronto. (The Bootmakers of Toronto, the local Sherlock Holmes society, were celebrating their 50th anniversary by having an event with guests and presentations.) So I thought I’d brush up on her Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery series.
So far I’ve read the first five, and I stopped to talk about that fifth book, There’s a Murder Afoot, because it’s the best one so far. And the reason for that is, the regular cast go to London for a Sherlock Holmes conference.
As the previous books establish, our hero is Gemma Doyle, an Englishwoman living in Cape Cod after a nasty breakup. She is managing her Uncle Arthur’s Sherlock Holmes bookshop, and she’s quite observant, so much so that she winds up getting involved in various murders. The first book in the series even has her as the suspect, because the killing involves an important piece of Sherlockian memorabilia. She clears her name with the help of her faithful friend Jayne Wilson, who runs Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, next door to the bookshop.
Followup stories deal with a dedicated Sherlockian angry at a writer who’s taken liberties with the character; a staging of the play version of The Hound of the Baskervilles; and a museum fundraising auction. The previous books, in order, are Elementary, She Read, Body on Baker Street, The Cat of the Baskervilles, and A Scandal in Scarlet.
The stories are not particularly Sherlockian; the structure falls firmly in the cozy genre, which are full of women who return to a family-based location after hardship to make a living from some hobby. There are nods and hints, though. For example, the shop cat is named Moriarty and hates Gemma. Her deductive powers put some people off. And in this volume, we meet her seven-years-older sister, “a minor functionary in the British government” named Phillipa who does everything well. (As my favorite Holmesian character is Mycroft, Sherlock’s seven-years-older brother, I adored this addition.)
As I said, Gemma, Jayne, Gemma’s two potential boyfriends (another staple of the cozy mystery — attractive men fascinated with our heroine), and the aforementioned dedicated Sherlockian are all visiting London in There’s a Murder Afoot. The various nods and mentions that surround that kind of fandom made the whole thing more fun for me. Then a long-lost relative appears, a murder happens, a relative is suspected, and investigation occurs. I enjoyed the read and the various London settings, and I’m eager to continue with the series.