Elementary, She Read – Vicki Delany

“The Great Detective eyed me. I eyed him back. ‘Don’t give me any of your cheek, you.'”

I’m a sucker for books about books, or set in book shops. I’m also quite fond of Sherlock Holmes, especially the newer versions, so there was a lot to catch my eye with this one.

Gemma Doyle – probably distantly related to the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, according to her own uncle Arthur – left England after the breakup of her marriage, and now owns and runs a Sherlock Holmes-themed store in a small tourist town in Cape Cod, North America. When she discovers what looks to be a rare original magazine containing the first Holmes story, hidden on a shelf in her shop, her instincts tell her something is clearly afoot.

Her own sleuthing abilities quickly help her track down the magazine’s owner – alas, a little bit dead. Unless there’s a hugely improbable coincidence going on, Gemma deducts that the two events are likely connected. However, her attempts to figure out what might be going on bring her into the focus of the police – and Gemma is soon the prime suspect in not one but several crimes!

I found this a sweet, light little tale. The mystery is well handled, overall, and suitably, urm, mysterious (!), but to be honest the ‘nice’ tone is probably the strongest element. Small town life, great friends, owning a bookstore, eating leftover scones from the tearoom every day – it’s all very lovely. Just, y’know, with added dead people o_O

The characters – supporting in particular – do tend a little toward the one-dimensional (harridan neighbouring shop owner, for instance). As the main character, Gemma is a bit harder to critique. On the one hand, there is a large amount of hinted-at backstory, which provides an interesting depth, but on the other it’s odd that she is so completely unaware of being a female Sherlock Holmes. In fact, that’s sort of the point of the book: female sleuth with incredible powers of deduction, and a best friend with the initials JW.

Overall, I liked – I was in the mood for something candyfloss light, and this pretty much fit the bill. I’d happily peruse some of the next volumes if/when they happen, but don’t go looking for the next thrilling page-gripper.

NetGalley eARC: ~320 pages / 21 chapters
First published: March 2017
Series: A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery book 1
Read from 18-20th February 2017

My rating: 7/10

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