My rating: 5 of 5 stars
San Francisco Detective Kate Martinelli loves the city for its acceptance of alternative life styles, in her case, a lesbian relationship with therapist Leonora and daughter Nora. The victim in Kate’s latest case is Philip Gilbert, a man so obsessed with Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes that the first floor of his apartment is a perfect replica of 221B Baker Street. Gilbert’s body was discovered several days after his death, stashed in a 19th century gun emplacement in Marin Park, and, while Kate did not yet know it, the investigation will take the form of a mystery straight out of the pages of a Sherlock Holmes mystery.
Laurie King is well versed in Sherlockiana, as she has so eminently demonstrated in her Mary Russell series, and she’s more than adept at injecting The Art of Detection with authentic Holmesian atmosphere. My favorite quote from this novel is Leonora’s description of Holmes as “a self-medicating bipolar with obsessive-compulsive tendencies.” As the linchpin around which the present crime is built, King has composed and embedded a short story, involving an eerily similar murder set in 1920’s SF and solved by Sherlock Holmes; masterfully, she’s caught the essence of Conan Doyle’s style. When I first realized that I was expected to read this story as well as the one about Kate, I wasn’t pleased, but within a couple of pages, was hooked.
Congratulations to King for her fresh plot and her skills at layering mystery upon mystery. Ever since I read her debut novel, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, in 1994, she’s been on my top ten list of favorite authors.