Series: Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery #1
Published by Crooked Lane Books Genres: Cozy Mystery
Source: the publisher
Gemma Doyle, a transplanted Englishwoman, has returned to the quaint town of West London on Cape Cod to manage her Great Uncle Arthur's Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. The shop--located at 222 Baker Street--specializes in the Holmes canon and pastiche, and is also the home of Moriarty the cat. When Gemma finds a rare and potentially valuable magazine containing the first Sherlock Homes story hidden in the bookshop, she and her friend Jayne (who runs the adjoining Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room) set off to find the owner, only to stumble upon a dead body.
The highly perceptive Gemma is the police’s first suspect, so she puts her consummate powers of deduction to work to clear her name, investigating a handsome rare books expert, the dead woman's suspiciously unmoved son, and a whole family of greedy characters desperate to cash in on their inheritance. But when Gemma and Jayne accidentally place themselves at a second murder scene, it's a race to uncover the truth before the detectives lock them up for good.
Fans of Sherlock Holmes will delight in the sleuthing duo of Gemma and Jayne in Elementary, She Read, the clever and captivating series debut by nationally bestselling author Vicki Delany.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
A very promising start to a new cozy series!
Ex-pat Englishwoman Gemma Doyle (no relation to Sir Arthur Conan Doye, as she’s quick to point out) owns the Sherlock Homes Bookshop and Emporium in Cape Cod’s New London; her best friend Jayne runs and co-owns Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room next door. Gemma is tall and slender, cooly intelligent, observant, and good at deduction — much like the fictional detective himself. If you’re familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality types, Gemma is an ISTJ: decisive, extremely observant, and valuing truth and reason over feelings, sometimes to the detriment of her personal relationships (particularly with men.) She is the main character and first-person narrator of the series.
Jayne, on the other hand, is petite and pretty, extroverted, loyal, transparently honest, loves to bake, and has terrible taste in men. If I had to type her according to Myers-Briggs, I’d say probably ESFJ. The two women don’t have a lot in common other than the tea room, so it’s a little surprising that they are such good friends… but they are, each one loyal to and looking out for the other.
The trouble begins when a mysterious customer hides a magazine containing a Sherlock Holmes story in Gemma’s store. Gemma’s not a rare book dealer, but she knows enough to suspect the magazine is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. When she and Jayne try to contact the woman to ask her about it, they find her lying dead in her hotel room… and things go downhill from there. The lead detective is Gemma’s ex-boyfriend, and his partner suspects Gemma. She’ll have to investigate the crime herself if she wants to clear her name.
There’s always a difficulty with cozy mysteries: how do you get the protagonist involved enough in the mystery to actually solve it, without getting them arrested for obstruction of justice or interference in police business? (And preferably without portraying the police as incompetent, either.) Delany has crafted a reasonably believable solution to that dilemma. Given Gemma’s curiosity and her observational and deductive skills, plus a pride in those skills bordering on arrogance, it’s natural that she would attempt to give the police the benefit of her deductions, whether they want her observations or not. And she’s certainly not the type to meekly allow a hostile detective (her ex-boyfriend’s partner) to jump to the wrong conclusions about her. So Gemma’s continued involvement in the case rings true both in terms of the situation and her personality.
That said, there were one or two incidents that stretched my “suspension of disbelief” almost to the breaking point. But on the whole, the plot and the story overall both hold together pretty well. Delany does a good job depicting Gemma’s observations of subtle details and the conclusions she draws from them. Her observational and deductive style will be familiar to fans of Sherlock Holmes. I was surprised, therefore, when Gemma jumped to a logical but completely wrong conclusion at one point; it felt out of character. (Although even the great Holmes made the occasional error.) Still, Gemma is an engaging if sometimes socially awkward character, and I rather like her. I did find myself wondering at times if she might have Asperger’s syndrome.
Another thing I really enjoyed about the book is the continuing references not only to the original Doyle stories but to several of the adaptations and pastiches through the years. Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell books and the BBC’s modern adaption starring Benedict Cumberbatch are each mentioned more than once, along with the Jeremy Brett adaption and Anthony Horowitz’s authorized continuation of the series. While I wouldn’t put this mystery, with its lighter treatment of the Holmes material, on the same plane as Ms. King’s more literary novels, it’s a whole lot of fun — well worth reading whether you’re a Holmes fan or just a cozy mystery afficionado.
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