Article published on March 12, 2017.
Gemma Doyle runs the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium located at 222 Baker Street (221 Baker Street not having been for sale at the time her uncle started the business) in the town of West London, Massachusetts. Jayne Wilson, her best friend, runs Mrs Hudson’s Tea Room, which adjoins the bookshop. While Gemma certainly loves most books, she is decidedly less than fond of the Sherlock Holmes stories and she positively dislikes the Sherlockian paraphernalia that she stocks.
It is fortunate, however, that she has more in common with the great consulting detective than she would like to admit, since West London is about to become the scene of murder and [literary] mayhem. Gemma discovers a copy of the 1887 edition of Beeton’s Christmas Annual, that is, the edition that marked the first publication of Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, tucked away on a shelf in her shop and, when she and Jayne attempt to return it to the most likely owner, they discover that she has been murdered. Her almost preternatural powers of observation and ability to determine the mechanics of crime mean that Gemma is viewed as a likely suspect in the crime by most of the West London Police Force, although Detective Ryan Ashburton, her former boyfriend, seems to think that she can help solve the case.
Elementary, She Read is the first book in Vicki Delany’s new Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series and it certainly represents a great start to the series. Gemma Doyle has the skill and tenacity (to say nothing of the pig-headedness and willingness to break the law) necessary to be a great detective. She might not be great at human interactions – she certainly manages to rub many people up the wrong way, which is not a helpful characteristic when some of those people are investigating her involvement in a murder – but she is excellent at human observation and deducing the truth behind people’s circumstances and motivations. Plus, she has Jayne Watson to help her out when the investigation requires a more delicate, human touch.
Gemma’s investigation of the murder involves some nice twists and turns, as well as a fair bit of action for what is essentially a cosy mystery. There are a good number of suspects lurking around West London (and that’s without counting Moriarty, the shop cat) as anyone who knew the potential value of the Beeton’s Christmas Annual might be willing to kill for it. In addition to the many entertaining Sherlock Holmes references (some subtle, some not so subtle), there’s certainly a lot of evidence for Gemma (and readers) to puzzle through, which helps to make Elementary, She Read such a hugely entertaining read.
Erin Britton 4/4
Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany
Crooked Lane Books 9781683310969 hbk Mar 2017