on February 13, 2018
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Also in this series: Elementary, She Read, Body on Baker Street
The show is coming to town on Cape Cod. The West London Theater Festival is putting on a stage production of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Gemma Doyle is excited and participating with her friend Jayne Wilson, whose mother, Leslie, just happens to be volunteering with the company. Leslie arranges a fundraising tea party at the home of the festival organizer, catered by Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room. The tea is a rousing success, but Sir Nigel Bellingham, the famous star cast as the lead of Sherlock, goes missing. And Gemma finds him at the bottom of the cliff. Dead.
Before the tea, Sir Nigel had come by the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop, only for Gemma to realize that he’s not at all suited to the role. But as Gemma and Jayne investigate, the list of suspects just grows longer. Long past his prime, Sir Nigel was second to a younger actor who had first been given the role. The festival’s executive director also expressed that he had been hired over her objections. Then there are the slew of people to whom Sir Nigel was rude. They all have motive, but then a scrap of Leslie’s apron caught on a bush by Sir Nigel’s body is found. And the police are set to pounce as she becomes suspect #1.
It’s up to Gemma and Jayne to team up again and clear Jayne’s mother’s name in The Cat of the Baskervilles, the delightful third Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
This cozy mystery series starring a Connecticut bookshop-owning, ex-pat British woman with Holmesian powers of observation and logic has been a favorite of mine since I read the first one a year or two ago. This book fell a little flat for me, however. I didn’t see the solution coming, in part because neither Gemma nor I really had all the clues. That’s always disappointing; half the fun of a mystery is trying to figure out whodunnit, and without all the facts, that’s pretty hard to do. I’m perfectly happy to have the author confound me, hide clues in plain sight, or trick me into swallowing a red herring, but I like to have a fighting chance at solving the mystery.
On the other hand, The Cat of the Baskervilles was an entertaining read. I do enjoy heroine Gemma Doyle, as well as some of the other recurring characters: her best friend and business partner Jayne, with her propensity for falling for the wrong guy; Grant the antique book dealer, who may be interested in Gemma; police detective Ryan (who is also Gemma’s ex-boyfriend); and even Moriarty the shop cat, who seems to love everyone but apparently loathes Gemma for reasons that escape both Gemma and me. (Oddly, given the title of this book, Moriarty doesn’t play much of a role; he’s just sort of there.) Jayne’s mother Leslie plays a bigger role in this mystery than in previous ones, and I enjoyed getting to know her better as well. I do get a little tired of the overt hostility shown by the other police regular, Louise Estrada. I know that an adversarial relationship with the police is common in cozy mysteries, but Estrada’s hostility is deep-seated and belligerent.
The new characters, most of them actors or otherwise related to the theater, are interesting as well, and provide a certain amount of scope for suspicion. I kept wondering if Sir Nigel, the victim, might be based on Sir Alec Guinness; they do share the experience of stardom resulting from a movie they are rumored not to like (though Guinness changed his mind after he saw Star Wars: A New Hope.) Unlike Sir Nigel, however, Sir Alec was never a lush, and his star stayed ascendant throughout his later years. The other characters… well, my small experience with professional actors leads me to conclude that some are certainly as, um, self-centered as a few of these characters. Others, of course, are perfectly normal, charming people.
In addition to my disappointment over not having enough clues, the pacing of the book seemed a bit off this time around as well, and it didn’t draw me in quite as well as the previous two books. And Gemma, while still observant, didn’t seem to pull off as many amazing deductions as usual. I don’t want to imply that I didn’t like The Cat of the Baskervilles, because I did, but I don’t feel it was as strong as the first two. If you want to read the series, you should really start with the first one.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge (March 2018)