Music, Murder, and Stolen Art

Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure, by Bonnie MacBird, (Collins Crime Club), 320 pages, release date 6 October, 2015

These days, the literary world has a wealth of new titles riffing on Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved Sherlock Holmes. Bonnie MacBird’s Art in the Blood is a welcome addition to this body. Of the many Holmes variations I’ve read (and I am a huge fan of Holmes variations), Art in the Blood comes closest to matching the pacing and voice of the Conan Doyle originals.

In this title, a depressed Holmes, who has recently succumbed once again to his cocaine addiction, is faced with a trio of mysteries, all of them with the Earl of Pellingham and his estate at their center. The Earl’s illegitimate son has disappeared and his estranged mother, a French cabaret singer, fears the worst. Several boys who work in the Earl’s silk mill have turned up brutally murdered. In addition, the Earl, an obsessive and unscrupulous art collector, is suspected of having obtained a stolen French art treasure: the Marseilles Nike.

Holmes has a great deal of help in his investigations, some welcome, some not. He’s glad to reunite with Dr. John Watson, whose wife is visiting relatives. He’s deeply ambivalent about the guidance being offered by his brother Mycroft, with whom he is in constant competition and who is quite ready to use Sherlock for his own political ends. Then there’s the detested (by Holmes at any rate) French criminal investigator Vidocq (an actual historical figure), who claims to have left his life of crime behind in his new pursuit of justice.

This bounty of mystery and characters makes for lively, multi-stranded reading. MacBird succeeds in keeping readers guessing about the various whos of the who dunnits. She also recreates the personalities of and relationship between Holmes and Watson quite effectively. I hope there will be many more Holmes novels from her.

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