Elementary, She Read – Review

Vicki Delany. Elementary, She Read. New York: Crooked Law, 2017. Print.

Gemma Doyle (yes, that is her last name) has taken over as manager of the Sherlock Holmes Emporium at 222 Baker Street in West London, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Her great uncle Arthur is a Sherlock Holmes fan and bought the property because of its address. There is no 221B in town.

Cape Cod makes its living form summer tourists. The emporium specializes in Holmes memorabilia including books, film, DVDs, issues of Strand magazine, even a six-foot cardboard cutout of Benedict Cummerbatch. There is nothing especially valuable here—this is no rare book store—but they do sell reasonably priced copies of old illustrated books and issues of Strand with Holmes stories in them.

Gemma herself is like Holmes. She is no detective, but she observes people the way Holmes used to and comes up with similar clever deductions. Here are two examples from the first few pages:

“How did you know I went to Oxford?”
I waved my hand in the air. “You picked up a trace of an accent.”

“I see Fiona had a fight with her husband,” I said.
“She didn’t tell me that. How did you know?”
“Wedding ring’s off again.”

Yes, there are echoes of Holmes. Unfortunately for Gemma as for Sherlock, some people get annoyed at this. Others think she knows more than she is letting on. Perhaps she knows too much. It is not always the best way to make friends.

Indeed, West London Detective Estrada takes an immediate dislike to Gemma and thinks she is responsible for a recent murder in town. A woman that Gemma has never seen before arrives at the same time a tour bus group comes into the store and leaves behind a copy of the 1887 Beeton’s Christmas Annual. That annual journal contained the very first Sherlock Holmes story every published and is quite rare. Gemma and Jayne—her best friend and manager of the tea shop at 220 Baker Street—track down this woman from a postcard left with the magazine. When they get to the inn where the woman has been staying, they discover her murdered body. Gemma becomes a suspect.

Besides Gemma, her uncle, and her friend, there are a few other characters. There is the attractive Detective Ryan Ashburton who had once proposed to Gemma but changed his mind (she blew it). We infer that one reason Detective Estrada does not like Gemma is because the detective herself has a crush on Detective Ashburton. There is Doug Morris, a local member of the Baker Street Irregulars, the international Holmes fan club. Gemma’s young, newly hired clerk Ruby also knows a lot about Holmes, though she is not a terribly dependable worker. Grant Thompson is a rare book dealer who has heard rumors about a Holmes coup on the market. And Irene, the reporter for the local paper, who wants to find out as much as she can about the murder.

Then there are the people associated with the wealthy Kent family. The patriarch Kurt Kent has recently died and his children and grandchildren are fighting over his estate—especially his son and daughter-in-law. It turns out that the murder victim nursed Mr. Kent at the end of his life and was also included in his will. Mr. Kent collected rare Holmes memorabilia—not the kind of tchotchkes that Gemma sells to tourists—and some people suspect that the Beeton’s may have been stolen from Mr. Kent’s estate. The nurse’s son shows up in town saying that he should inherit from his mother.

Like most cozies, there are also a couple of pets with personality: the store cat Moriarty and Gemma’s pet spaniel Violet. And what could be a better location for a cozy mystery than Cape Cod? Elementary, She Said should appeal to fans of both Holmes and Miss Marple.

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