The Baker Street Jurors by Michael Robertson is the 5th book in the Baker Street Letters series (Available July 19, 2016).
221B Baker Street in England, the former abode of the fictitious Sherlock Holmes, now houses the legal offices for the Heath brothers—Reggie, a barrister; and Nigel, a solicitor. Letters for Mr. Holmes arrive daily from the worldwide fans of the detective who want to believe that not only does Holmes truly exist, but that he is still ensconced in his Baker Street digs, with the faithful Dr. Watson by his side.
The letters, it seems, must be answered. A stipulation in the Heath brothers lease on the Baker Street property is that someone in the office must answer all missives addressed to Mr. Holmes. Usually, a form letter stating that Sherlock Holmes is “retired and keeping bees in Sussex” is sufficient for the true believers who want to know that Holmes is doing well. However, what does one do about a letter that is an official crown summons for jury duty?
Sherlock Holmes, yes the famous literary detective Sherlock Holmes of 221B Baker Street, has been issued a summons to appear for jury duty. All well and good except the summons has been issued in the 21st century, when it can rightly be assumed the fictitious Mr. Holmes as well as his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have long been gone.
Never fear, Nigel knows exactly what to do with the summons. It has to be a computer-glitch mistake he tells his serious secretary Lois. Making a paper airplane out of the summons, he sends it sailing around in his office. Unexpectedly, it is caught by a breeze from an open window and quickly flies out into the streets below. Though his secretary is appalled at the thought of a crown summons being treated in this manner, Nigel feels the matter has been taken care of and seems satisfied with his little deed. Now, he says, it is time to get down to work and answer serious mail.
But, it appears that Sherlock is not the only one to receive a summons to be a juror. In the pile of letters on his desk, Nigel Heath finds that he has received his own summons. When he reluctantly reports (it seems jury duty in Great Britain is something the populace wants to avoid as much as citizens in any other civilized country), he meets a tall man with an aquiline nose named Mr. Siger, who reminds Nigel of the famous Sherlock Holmes not only in appearance, but also in specific Holmesian manner and speech. Siger’s statement concerning serving as an astute jury member has all the hallmarks of Mr. Holmes:
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
The game, it now seems, is afoot.
Nigel is picked as an alternate juror, along with an attractive woman with a tattoo named Lucy and the interesting Mr. Siger, for the trial of one Liam McSweeney—top cricketer, three-time Cricket champion, and sports hero who has been accused of murdering his wife with his own cricket bat. The clues and evidence against him are concrete. In the epilogue to the The Baker Street Jurors, it seems positive that his cricket bat, with only his fingerprints on it, is the weapon that killed the missus. “A textbook illustration of injuries consistent with a crime of passion,” says the chief inspector on the case. His wife, it appears, had been cheating on him.
Yes, but, everyone is entitled to a fair trial by their peers, revered sports hero or not, right? The problem is that, with a championship game hanging in the balance, finding unbiased jurors will be a problem. There are those who have bet good money and want to make sure that their super-cricketer McSweeney gets to play. Civic-minded jurors notwithstanding, there is a force that is working hard to make sure McSweeney goes free, no matter what has to be done to make that happen.
Nigel Heath, an easy-going man with a soft heart, is up to his ears in mysteries surrounding the prospective trial, the least of which is his fellow juror—the tall man with the aquiline nose, a penchant for having a pipe in his hand, and playing the violin, who keeps repeating statements from the stories of Sherlock Holmes. What is this man up to?
As jurors, through injury and other “accidents,” seem to get quickly replaced by the alternates the judge has determined were needed, Nigel and each of his fellow alternate jurors worry which of them will be chosen to serve as primary jurors, what verdict that jury will give, and, if people keep disappearing, which jurors will survive to give the final verdict.
Without giving anything away, the reader will find a satisfying endgame. Two wonderful twists towards the book’s end—one concerning Mr. Siger and the discarded summons to jury duty, the other a secondary but crucial character, a police sergeant—make this book an excellent choice for those who love a good detective story.
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Kristen Houghton is the author of nine top-selling novels, including the best-selling new series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation. Book 3 in the series will be published this summer. She is hard at work on a new series that features a paranormal investigator with distinct powers of her own.
Houghton is also the author of two non-fiction books and numerous short stories.