Sun
Mar 31 2013 10:00am

Fresh Meat: The Baker Street Translation by Michael Robertson

The Baker Street Translation by Michael Robertson is the third book in the Baker Street Letters mystery series featuring Reggie and Nigel Heath, barristers whose office address happens to be 221B Baker Street in London (available April 2, 2013).

I am a big fan of anything Sherlock Holmes, and there have been many different spin-offs related to the master detective. You even see modern day Sherlocks on television, giving the sleuth 21st century cases to solve. What I loved most about Michael Robertson’s version is that it’s kind of based in reality; the reality of fiction of course.

Reggie Heath and his brother Nigel are barristers who rent the office located at 221B Baker Street in London. As you can imagine, tourists are constantly flocking to the location to get a glimpse of the famous address. What fans are also doing is writing letters. These letters are actually addressed to Sherlock Holmes and arrive at Reggie’s office daily.

Some of the letter writers—typically the very young, or the very old—believed Sherlock Holmes to be real.

In theory— and as stipulated in the lease— Reggie was obliged to open the letters personally and respond to them—always in a standard way—assuring the letter writers that Sherlock Holmes appreciated their interest but was now retired and keeping bees in Sussex and was unable to respond personally to their inquiry.

Now I don’t know anything about who actually lives or works at 221B Baker Street, but I am willing to bet that people actually do write letters to Sherlock Holmes. I am also willing to bet that many of them think he was a real person. There are societies out there, some involving membership by invitation only, dedicated to the study of the great detective. So this is where Robertson bases his series on reality. It’s a “what if” sort of situation. What if you were responsible for answering the fan mail of a famous, yet fictional person? And what if one of the letters led you into a situation where you actually solved a case. Therein lies the premise of the Baker Street Letters.

Before you give Reggie Heath too much credit, though, you have to understand that he hates the job of answering the letters. Even though the letters have been responsible for the increase in business at his law practice, he still secretly ships them off to his brother Nigel who is living in Los Angeles, California. When Nigel responds to a particular letter with a little more advice that his standard canned reply, it sets a series of events in motion that take Reggie and his girlfriend, actress Laura Rankin, along with them.

Dear Mr. Liu—

Thank you for your inquiry regarding the enigmatic nursery rhyme. Unfortunately, Mr. Sherlock Holmes is at the moment unavailable, and children’s verses are not within his particular area of expertise anyway—but perhaps my poor attempt at a response will help.

First, be aware that there is no such thing as a “dub-dub.” It is not, in fact, a word. When used in English following “rub,” all those words together constitute an idiom that means, roughly, “scrub away with abandon.” That is only an approximation, of course; such is the way with English idioms, and especially the ones that rhyme.

Other English phrases for which you should show caution in translation include “Bugger off, mate!” and “Bob’s your uncle.” These are not meant to be taken literally.

You may find it comforting to know that this particular nursery rhyme has many variations in its English form. When it first popped up, it referred to “Three maids in a tub,” and shortly after the enthusiastic scrubbing, all the young ladies went off to the fair. The Victorians found this tale a bit too titillating, and so they tried many variations to take the fun out of it. Perhaps that’s why your version of it uses “toff s” instead.

But it is just a nursery rhyme, after all, and I’m sure that your translation of it, whatever it turns out to be, will be fine.

Yours truly,

Mr. Sherlock Holmes’s personal secretary.

What seems like an ordinary response to an ordinary, albeit somewhat strange, question quickly leads to murder. When the police don’t seem to want to investigate further, Reggie feels the need to get involved, and ends up risking his life to do it.

This book was a fun read for me and a great dive into a new series. Since this is the third book in that series, that means I have two more to look forward to. I was really taken with the quirky characters and assuming each installment relates to a new letter written to Sherlock Holmes, there are endless possibilities of adventures that lie ahead for the group. To quote the master, the game is afoot.

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Kerry Hammond has been an avid mystery reader ever since she discovered Nancy Drew at the age of 8. She enjoys all types of stories, from thrillers to cozies to historical mysteries.

Read all posts by Kerry Hammond for Criminal Element.

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2 comments
Deborah Lacy
1. DeborahLacy
Sounds like a great read. I love the concept. I have added it to my ever growing TBR pile. I also love the cover art work. Thanks for the great review.
Kim Hammond
2. KimHammond
This is an interesting plot line. Now I need to see if these are on audio. Maybe we should send our own letter to the address and see what happens.
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