by Cynthia Chow
& Vicki Delany
This week we have the first in a brand new series by Vicki Delaney, and a fun Sherlock Holmes related guest post by Vicki. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Elementary, She Read. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Elementary, She Read: A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery by Vicki Delany
Review by Cynthia Chow
Five years ago, Gemma Doyle moved to New England from actual England to take over half of her Uncle Arthur’s Sherlock Holmes Bookshop. Her uncle claimed to have a genealogical tie to the famous author, leading to a fanaticism that led to the purchase of a store on 222 Baker Street, West London, Massachusetts, for a bookstore devoted to all things Sherlockian. Gemma since transformed it to include an Emporium, selling not just books and reprints by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but Sherlock Holmes souvenirs, television and movie promotions, and other works inspired by the genre. Gemma also became the half owner of Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, with friend and anglophile Jayne Wilson being the baker and tea shop’s other owner.
Gemma may not be a particularly avid fan of the Great Detective, but she shares more than one of his rather unique traits. Not only does the structured Gemma take a tea break at the exact same time every day, she is extraordinarily organized and a little OCD, which explains why she immediately notices a misplaced book on her shelf. Not only was the bound magazine filed alongside books, the 1887 Beeton’s Christmas Annual featuring “A Study in Scarlet” was never purchased by Gemma for her stock. It just wouldn’t have been feasible, as the first ever published Sherlock Holmes story would be nearly priceless. Gemma’s gift for noticing details has her remembering an earlier customer who entered with a bag and left without one, leading Gemma to the hotel room where its occupant is decidedly dead. Gemma uses the minutes it takes for the police to arrive to photograph the scene and make quick Sherlockian deductions. Her extraordinarily, and correct, conclusions immediately place her at odds with Detective Louise Estrada, who sees Gemma’s insight as evidence of guilt. With her freedom at risk and some ego involved, Gemma devotes herself to solving the case, even as that entails meeting angry heirs, the victim’s just-as-angry-son, and risking her heart to a man she never thought she would meet again.
There have been many adaptations of Doyle’s iconic detective, but this one succeeds in presenting a unique and delightfully entertaining twist on the genre. With Jayne Wilson as her Watson, Gemma outmaneuvers and out thinks the police through her attention to details and her clever deductions. Those same abilities have also unsurprisingly hindered her romantic life, destroying a relationship when he decided that he couldn’t live a life without secrets or surprises. What is refreshing is that Gemma is unapologetic about her skills or dedication to the truth, and is never willing to be less than true to herself. The humor in the novel stems from Gemma’s observations of human nature and the reactions of those who encounter her blunt and often tactless statements of truth. The author of numerous cozy and detective series novels, Vicki Delany crafts a mystery that will delight Sherlockian fans by blending together an awkward investigator, a nefarious cat Moriarty, brilliant deductions, and even more brilliant humor.
By Vicki Delany
There isn’t anything hotter in the world of popular culture today than Sherlock Holmes. The continuing popularity of the original books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; the massive number of modern short story collections and pastiche novels; two TV series; and several movies speak for themselves.
I’m a cozy writer and I’m also a keen mystery reader. So when I was looking for inspiration for a new series, I thought a bookstore would be fun. And then the idea popped into my head: A bookstore dedicated to Sherlock Holmes.
When I started to do some research on that, I quickly discovered it’s not such an unfeasible idea. You could easily stock a store with nothing but Sherlock. Not only the things I mentioned above but all the stuff that goes with it: mugs, tea towels, games, puzzles, action figures, coloring books, cardboard cut-out figures—the list is just about endless. Throw in nonfiction works on Sir Arthur and his contemporaries, maybe a few books set in the “gaslight” era, and, presto, a fully-stocked bookstore.
And thus was born the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. Because cozy fans (and me) love food to go with their reading, I put Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room next door, run by the bookshop owner’s best friend, Jayne Wilson.
My original intent was that the protagonist would be a normal cozy character—a nice young woman who owns an interesting bookshop, lives in a pleasant community (in this case, on Cape Cod), and has a circle of friends. But, by the time I got to page two, Gemma Doyle had become “Sherlockian”.
And that’s been enormous fun to write. Gemma has an amazing memory (for things she wants to remember), incredible observational skills, and a lightning-fast mind. She is also, shall we say, somewhat lacking on occasion in the finer points of social skills. Jayne is ever-confused, but loyal.
Sometimes Gemma’s observations don’t go down well with a sceptical police officer:
“It was perfectly obvious,” I said. “I smelled flour, tea, and sugar the moment we came in. Those are normal scents in anyone’s house, but tonight they’re of a strength that indicates they’ve been recently dumped from their containers. Overlaid with the odor of rotting vegetables, by which I assume the fridge door has been left open. I keep meaning to eat that kale because it’s supposed to be healthy, but I really don’t care for it.
“We can also assume that our intruder is a nonsmoker and doesn’t apply perfume or aftershave regularly. Unfortunately, it hasn’t rained for several days, although the forecast did call for some, so they didn’t track mud into the house. The flour! An unforgiveable oversight on my part. You will, of course, want to take casts of footprints that have tracked through the spilled flour and sugar.”
“It didn’t get on the floor,” Estrada said. “But it’s all over the counter.”
“As the front door appears to be untampered with, and I don’t hand spare keys for my house to all and sundry, I’ll assume our intruder came in through the back door. Therefore the kitchen would be the logical first place to search.”
“Enough, Gemma,” Jayne whispered to me.
“I only want to point out the obvious facts.” I’ve been told on more than one occasion that some people don’t understand my attention to detail and thus misunderstand the conclusions I draw from it. I have tried to stop, but I might as well stop thinking. And this didn’t seem like a suitable time in which to stop thinking.
“The back door’s been forced open, yes,” Estrada said. “I’ll admit, that was a good guess.”
I was about to inform her that I never guess, but Jayne elbowed me in the ribs.
From: “Elementary, She Read,” by Vicki Delany
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, re-imagined as modern young women just trying to get on with life!
To enter to win a copy of Elementary, She Read, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “elementary,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 25, 2017. U.S. & Canadian residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:
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