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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr

The Italian Secretary: A Further Adventure of Sherlock Holmes by Caleb Carr. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2005. ISBN: 0-7867-1548-0

I suppose there are Sherlock Holmes fans who are so loyal to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that they don't have room for any modern additions to the sacred canon of the original tales. But I'm certainly not one of them. I'm always intrigued when a current author attempts to write a sequel or continuation of a classic story or series. Some succeed better than others, obviously.

Carr does OK, but left me a little disappointed. First, he tries too hard to recapture the tone and style of Conan Doyle, and frankly, it's distracting, and sometimes obfuscating. It slows you down too much to figure out exactly what he's trying to say. The language should never get in the way of the story, and it does here on occasion. Not all the time, but often enough to be annoying.

Second, the plot just isn't that good. There's no real mystery. We aren't kept in a proper state of suspense. The story just seems to unfold, step by step, and the criminals are uncovered in a fairly straight line manner. Plus, the characters are too easily reversed. The person who initially strikes us as sinister turns out to be a genuine good old boy, and the all affable host turns into the decadent, evil genius behind the crimes. But all of this happens without sufficient preparation. It seems so arbitrary, so deliberately plotted, and not sufficiently believable. That was my impression, anyhow.

Nevertheless, fans of the original Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes tales should enjoy this book. It's a good read, and more than adequately entertaining. Recommended for Sherlock Holmes fans, but if you've never read the original tales, start there, not here!


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