Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Review: The Baker Street Letters (Baker Street Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun story, good characters
Cons: Too little explanation at the beginning
The Bottom Line:
Has Holmes as a hook
But provides a puzzling case
Anyone will love

Sherlock Holmes Leads Two Brothers to Danger

I must confess that, for a mystery lover, I am not very well versed in Sherlock Holmes.  But the current resurgence in interest in him has lead to several fun mystery series.  The Baker Street Letters caught my eye because of the intriguing premise, and I'm glad it did because I enjoyed the book.

Reggie Heath has recently moved his law offices to the 200 block of Baker Street in London.  What he doesn't realize is that part of his lease is answering the letters that people still write to Sherlock Holmes, a fictitious detective who wouldn't still be alive even if he'd been real.  The job of answering those letters has fallen to Reggie's younger brother Nigel.

One letter in particular has caught Nigel's attention.  It's a follow up letter asking for some attachments back that were sent to Sherlock Holmes 20 years ago.  Something about it doesn't feel right to Nigel, and a second letter identical to the first makes him even more suspicious - suspicious enough to hop the next plane to Los Angeles and see if the letter writer is okay.  Reggie, concerned for his brother, follows, but when he arrives he can't find Nigel anywhere.  As the bodies begin to pile up, with one or both of the brothers as suspects, Reggie will have to work fast to figure out what is really happening.

I have seen some complaints from die hard Sherlock Holmes fans that this book doesn't really follow the style of those stories.  From what I know about them, I would tend to agree.  This is more of a traditional mystery with clues and red herrings and very few deductions based on small pieces of clues.  This falls closer to the realm of mystery I normally read, although not as cozy.

That means that I loved the story.  There were several good twists, and it kept me reading pages as quickly as I could.  Unfortunately, a few pieces of the puzzle were obvious to me before the characters figured them out, but I was still engaged in the story even then.

One thing that kept me going was the characters.  Reggie got developed the most since he was on the page.  He softened up quite a bit as the book progressed, and I felt like I really got to know him.  His relationship with Nigel was complex enough to be real.  And there's an complex love interest as well.  The other characters we encountered were just as interesting, even though most will only be around for this book.

I've got to admit I had fun with the setting as well.  Most of the story takes place in Los Angeles, and I got a kick out of seeing my home town through a foreigner's eyes.

As much as I enjoyed the book, I did have a hard time to getting into it.  We were kind of thrown into things and it took a little while before we got the back story that was being hinted at.  It might have made more sense if this weren't the introduction to the characters.  But I kept reading, and I was rewarded as the story progressed.

Overall, I enjoyed The Baker Street Letters, and I'm sorry to be done with it.

From here, you'll go on to enjoy the rest of the Baker Street Mysteries in order.

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