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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King

The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King. New York: Bantam Books, 2006. ISBN: 978-0-553-80453-9

As soon as I read the blurbs about this book, I thought to myself, “Is Laurie King combining her two major series?” I got hooked on Ms. King, of course, with her new Sherlock Holmes stories, featuring a young Holmes protegé, Mary Russell, who later marries her mentor. In the last Holmes/Russell novel, Locked Rooms, Mary and Holmes travel to San Francisco, the place where Mary was born and had lived until shortly after the 1906 earthquake.

Laurie King's other series, of which this is the latest, involves Kate, a modern era San Francisco policewoman detective, who just happens to be gay. And sure enough, at the center of this book is a novella inside a novel, a previously undiscovered, lightly disguised Sherlock Holmes story set in San Francisco, during the period when Holmes would have been there with Mary Russell.

Kate, and her police detective partner (not her lesbian partner) are trying to solve the murder of the man who led the local Sherlock Holmes society, who had just discovered the new Sherlock story. The disposal of the body, it turns out, is based on an event in the newly discovered story, which pretty much narrows the field, since only a tiny handful of people had seen or read it.

The central portion of the book is filled by the insertion of the Holmes story in its entirety, a welcome and enjoyable diversion. The story involves a transvestite and “her” lover, a young military officer. Holmes solves the unfortunate murder of the officer, and the connection between that story, and the modern one is that the bodies of both murder victims are left in the same location, one of the old abandoned gun emplacements on the bluffs overlooking the Bay.

Once the modern murder mystery is also solved, although not without trauma and violence, the final capstone to the story is a surprise marriage. Kate and Lee, her long-time companion, along with their 3-year old daughter, are among the very first to take advantage of the mayor's decision that “discrimination is unconstitutional,” and get married in an apotheosis that will bring tears to the eyes of any sentimental person such as myself.

Highly recommended, but the book will not have nearly the impact if you haven't read at least SOME of the previous titles in both series, especially Locked Rooms (see above).

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