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broodings from the burrow

January 31, 2012

into the stacks: the baker street letters
posted by soe 3:13 am

The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson

From the jacket: “In Los Angeles, a geological surveyor maps out a proposed subway route — and then goes missing. His eight-year-old daughter in her desperation turns to the one person she thinks might help — she writes a letter to Sherlock Holmes. That letter creates an uproar at 221b Baker Street, which now houses the law offices of attorney and man-about-town Reggie Heath and his hapless brother Nigel. Instead of filing the letter like he’s supposed to, Nigel decides to investigate. Soon he’s flying off to Los Angeles, inconsiderately leaving a very dead body on the floor in his office. Big brother Reggie follows Nigel to California, as does Reggie’s sometime lover, Laura — a quick-witted stage actress who’s captured the hearts of both brothers. When Nigel is arrested, Reggie must use all his wits to solve a case that Sherlock Holmes would have savored, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fans will adore.”

My take: When one rents the real address of 221b Baker Street, with the lease comes the responsibility of replying (by form letter) to the inquiries that arrive addressed to the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.

High-class lawyer Reggie Heath is so excited by the space and the location that he doesn’t really pay attention to that bit of the lease agreement. But his office manager does, and assigns the task to Reggie’s younger brother, Nigel, who is recently out of the mental hospital and awaiting clearance from a review board to resume practicing law after an embarrassing misunderstanding.

Nigel, who tends to work from his heart rather than from a logical perspective, disregards the directive to use stock language to reply to Sherlock Holmes queries. His curiosity is particularly piqued when he comes across a request for the return of an item included with correspondence dated 20 years earlier. When that original letter turns out to be from a young girl seeking the sleuth’s help finding her missing father, and when Nigel detects that the signature on the modern request is a forgery, he decides to get involved.

Unfortunately, his abrupt trip to California to investigate overlaps with the discovery of the dead body of the office manager in Nigel’s office — with his head bashed in by Nigel’s statue.

What’s a big brother to do but put off Scotland Yard and follow his hapless sibling to the U.S. — even if it does ultimately mean that Reggie will visit unsavory neighborhoods, get arrested for a second murder, and nearly lose his own life?

I picked this book up at Sam Weller’s in Salt Lake on their second day open at a new location. They didn’t have the book I was after in soft-cover, so instead of buying it in hard-cover, I bought two other books instead.

I hadn’t heard anything about the mystery prior to picking it up off the shelf and thought the premise sounded promising. I’m not sure the execution lived up to the promise, with heroes whose powers of deduction at times would have put Inspector Lestrade in a positive light. However, the book was still a good — light and quick — way to pass a flight and may be considered worth checking out from the library.

Pages: 277

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