The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars

The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars cover

Since I like Sherlock Holmes and Golden Age mysteries and old Hollywood, Anthony Boucher’s The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars was an enjoyable read for me.

It’s important to remember that this was originally published in 1940. Which explains why there’s one major female character, Maureen O’Breen, an attractive redhead who works in publicity for a film studio making a new Sherlock Holmes movie. (Maureen is the sister of Boucher’s series character, a PI in LA. Boucher was better-known as a reviewer although he wrote both mystery and science fiction novels.)

That movie provides the premise for the murder. Steven Worth, screenwriter, fancies himself a tough guy, and he’s determined to show up Sherlock Holmes as a “cocky bastard” who can’t measure up to a real man and his fans as “pantywaist deductionists”. Once word gets out, the producer gets hate mail from fans of the traditional version of Holmes.

Five members of the Baker Street Irregulars (only men at this point in history) are invited to provide advice on the film to counter this approach. They’re types more than characters: the shy writer of an adventurous hero; a hearty, retired, cigar-smoking doctor who’s also written a book; the publisher of a men’s magazine; a refugee Austrian lawyer fleeing Hitler; and the nice-guy professor who’s tongue-tied by Maureen’s presence. They all wind up temporarily staying in the same Hollywood house with a hired housekeeper named Mrs. Hudson.

The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars cover

Each has a secret in his past, and the way they’re revealed evokes a number of Sherlockian allusions, all of which I found sufficiently explained. There’s some stereotyping of the Jewish movie producer, particularly in his speech patterns, and I found it a little tricky to keep track of the men at times, but overall, particularly as an early example of a Holmes fan writing, not a pastiche, but an “inspired by” mystery, I found it fun.

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