Book Review: Shirlee Holmes 221 Baker Street, San Francisco

May 23, 2010
Anuradha Prasad

Claire Hartman brings back a slice of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s timeless detective Sherlock Holmes in Shirlee Holmes 221 Baker Street, San Francisco.                    

The Sutro Murder Case is the first of a series of Shirlee Holmes books the author has written.

This is not the first Shirlee to rise out of Sherlock Holmes’ family. The 90s saw the appearance of Shirley (spelled with a y) Holmes, Sherlock’s great grand-niece, in The Adventures of Shirley Holmes, on television.

Hartman’s Shirlee, however, is Sherlock Holmes’ granddaughter who is a lawyer turned journalist, developing a taste for sleuthing in Shirlee Holmes 221 Baker Street, San Francisco.

Except she has crossed the waters to live in San Francisco now and by some coincidence it is at 221 Baker Street. And what’s more her roomie is none other than Dr Watson’s granddaughter, Dr Jaan Watson, a psychiatrist. Blimey!

Shirlee is settling down in Frisco and getting ready to cover the Sutro Hotel and Bath’s dedication ceremony for her editor, Ted Hardman. She gets more than a story when she walks in to discover cops crawling all over the place. The bases of the priceless figurines of Princess Tou Wan and her court of six maidens are found destroyed.

The Sutro Hotel made for an ideal setting, while the missing quotation marks and unequal spacing between words proved to be a distraction throughout the book. The story which was slow paced in the beginning, took off once the criminals got to work.

The figurines, which were once part of a single sculpture, are brought to the hotel by seven art dealers at the request of Mr Alisio, the hotel’s manager, who thinks reuniting the figurines that were separated and sold years before will generate good publicity for the hotel.

The plot was similar to Doyle's The Adventure of the Six Napoleons, which Shirlee recalls in the book. It was engaging, plausible, and carried the suspense almost to the end.

Shirlee’s inquisitive nature finds her sniffing out clues the cops have missed and by the end of the day she discovers a dead body and is almost killed. She encounters Chief Derrigan of SFPD, who wasn’t (thankfully) Captain Lestrade’s grandson. That would’ve been a little too cute.

Shirlee strikes a pose on the book cover with a deerstalker hat, pipe, and cloak a la Grandpa Holmes. Apart from a well-known relative, there wasn’t anything unusual about her character to make her stand out in the crowd.

Some dialogues, particularly the ones about her background and Sherlock Holmes’, were not credible and sounded like she was spouting facts out of a textbook. For instance,

“His parents, Siger Holmes and Violet Sherrinford were married in May 7, 1844. His oldest brother Sherrinford, was born a year later. Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s second brother was born in 1847. Then on Friday, January 6, 1854, William Sherlock Scott Holmes was born on the farmstead of Mycroft in the North Riding of Yorkshire.”

The Sutro Murder Case might click with a younger audience with a budding interest in mystery novels. Two more books, The Hearst Castle Case and The Catalina Casino Case, are en route and maybe that’ll decide if Shirlee will grow to compete with the pros in the field.

Anuradha Prasad is a freelance writer living in Bangalore.
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Book Review: Shirlee Holmes 221 Baker Street, San Francisco


Author: Anuradha Prasad


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