Any Sherlock Holmes fan will recognize the "Elementary" from stories, movies, and TV, if not from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's actual work. Vicki Delany's clever Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery, Elementary, She Read, is a wonderful addition to the tributes to "the World's Greatest Detective".
Gemma Doyle, whose Great Uncle Arthur claims to be related to Holmes' creator, is "the half owner, manager, head shop clerk, and chief duster of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium in the Cape Cod town of West London, Massachusetts". The Englishwoman is also half owner of Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room, run by her best friend Jayne Wilson. Uncle Arthur established the store at 222 Baker Street for tourists, not for collectors or rare book dealers. Gemma, who is as observant as Sherlock Holmes, and almost as lacking in social skills, knows every item in the shop, and instantly tallies in her mind what has been sold. That's why she recognizes the presence of a magazine that doesn't belong in the shop, a copy of Beeton's Christmas Annual of 1887. Mentally, Gemma can picture all the people in the shop that day, and identify the woman who left it behind. Gemma and Jayne track the woman to a local hotel, but they're too late to return the magazine. They find her dead.
Gemma's honesty and straightforward conversation do not necessarily work well for her when the police show up. One officer is a man she used to date. One is a woman who takes an instant dislike to Gemma. If they won't let her help with their investigations, she'll take it upon herself to find answers. After all, she found the body, and what appears to be a magazine worth a half million dollars. Everyone in town seems to think Gemma now owns the copy of Beeton's, although she protests she only found it in her shop. She might as well use her intelligence and observation skills to find a killer.
Delany's newest series introduces a delightful amateur sleuth with recognizable traits. Her honesty, observation skills, and her lack of awareness are perfect. There's a sense of humor in the book, and it's at Gemma Doyle's expense. The clues and case are so obvious as Gemma explains them, and, sometimes, so obviously wrong. Elementary, She Read is a charming addition to all the stories related to the subject of Sherlock Holmes.
Vicki Delany's website is www.vickidelany.com
Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany. Crooked Lane. 2017. ISBN 9781683310969 (hardcover), 308p.
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