Moriarty Returns a Letter is the fourth in Michael Robertson’s contemporary Baker Street mystery series, and includes the predicament of a brash Pinkerton detective of the past, who adopts the persona of Professor Moriarty to protect himself from a criminal (available January 28, 2014).
In 1893, the Sherlock Holmes stories are newly popular, and when a detective is pursuing a criminal name Redgil, it's desperation that makes him pretend their fictional villain is a real man, and that he is Moriarty in the flesh:
If the shackled man was just who he claimed to be—a great crime organizer extraordinaire, a deviser of illicit schemes, a money launderer with international resources at his disposal—then everything was fine. Redgil thought himself a great crime organizer extraordinaire in his own right, and he did not fancy competition.
But will his subterfuge be successful?
“If I were working for the Yard, you’d have all been in the nick a month ago. And so would everyone else in the Whistler pub. Use your head, man. This was Holmes’ doing. He thwarts me at every turn! It had to be him! There’s no one at Scotland Yard with a mind like that!”
The American detective’s attempt to take down Redgil back in 1893 creates something much more far-reaching than he could ever have imagined. In fact, the situation reaches all the way to 1998, to the brothers Reggie and Nigel Heath who lease a law office at 221B Baker Street in return for answering mail that arrives for the Great Detective. What follows is a complex tale of old letters, rescued ladies, broken-down cars, and accommodating hotel employees.
Nigel opened the security panel next to the lift, and punched in the code. Nothing happened. It should have beeped. It should have flashed green. It should have announced that the code was accepted and that access was granted. He tried it again. Still no announcement, but this time Nigel noticed the LED display. SECURITY DISENGAGED, it said, with the red letters flashing faintly against the black display. ALARM OFF. That was odd, Reggie would never leave it that way.
Hmmm. Is that a clue?
Who doesn’t love the idea of Sherlock Holmes? He’s the ultimate detective, because his author created him that way. I can well imagine that when the stories were originally serialized in a form that anyone could share, that there were those who believed in him as a true detective. He sensationalized the idea of finding clues. How many different TV shows feature real-life detectives and fictional ones as they discover new and fascinating ways of pinning the crime on the actual perpetrator and solving new and old cases using science that seems like magic? Many more than I can count on my two hands. While I can’t say that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional hero revolutionized the way that crimes are solved or founded the science of forensics, I will say that Mr. Holmes’ popularity was quite telling. People want to believe that crimes can be solved using the mental tools we have all been given. Everyone wants to be amazed and astounded.
Michael Robertson’s Baker Street series is one Holmes homage that seems to bring back the fascination of the well-thought-out mystery novel, while tipping its hat to those original tales of wonder and wit. It invites readers to indulge in a nostalgic treat, while pulling us along on a thoroughly modern story full of the vagaries of fate, the impossibility and wonder of family, and the importance of trivialities.
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April Dawn is an avid reader who will get her nose out of a book long enough to walk the dog but frequently burns dinner due to “I’ll just read to the end of the chapter” syndrome. She reviews fantasy novels at bookspotcentral.com because, hey, anything is more exciting than her everyday life!
Read all posts by April Dawn on Criminal Element.