My rating: 4 of 5 stars to Vicki Delany‘s Elementary, She Read, the first in a new “Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery” series. I’ve read a few other books by this author, jumping at the chance to read this new series, as I really enjoy her ability to immerse you in the setting of a quaint and charming little town full of memorable characters. And it did not disappoint.
Gemma is a transplant from England, now residing in West London on Cape Cod in Massachusetts as part-owner of her uncle’s Sherlock Holmes bookshop and new friend’s traditional tea shop. When a busload of mystery loving grannies invade their stores, and a rare edition of a magazine turns up hiding on the bookshelves, Gemma knows something is not right. She tracks down one of the women, but finds her murdered in her hotel room. The police suspect Gemma, as her story of “Good Samaritan to return the magazine” cannot possibly be true. When she learns the woman was serving as a nurse in a very rich family of known Sherlock Holmes book collectors, the story gets even more puzzling. But it’s when another death puts her back in the spotlight that Gemma begins to worry she may be put in jail for a crime she had nothing to do with. Using her own highly-skilled research and investigation techniques, Gemma solves the case but almost goes down as one of the victims.
Includes a few side stories with her friend Jayne, her former boyfriend the cop and a few interesting neighborhood characters who either love her or hate her! Oh yeah, and her dog and cat who are quite a hoot.
I always enjoy the first in a new series… to see how the author introduces characters, builds a setting and invests in the themes and motifs which will guide the future books. Vicky Delany does not disappoint, as this one looks to be as strong as the “Year Round Christmas” series. Delany has a knack for creating vivid and personable characters. Sometimes you don’t really care for the character, but not because the character is poorly written — it’s always because she packs a punch in finding ways for you to hate people and love them at the same time. That’s how I felt about the new detective who showed up to crack the case. The woman must have a soft spot somewhere, but Gemma can’t find it. And I wanted to slap the cop on many occasions for her rude behavior. Good writing makes you feel that about someone in a story.
Sherlock Holmes has been done before. But this is done in a lighthearted way, such that it’s not over-the-top, rarely boring and usually well-integrated. You learn a little about Doyle, 19th century England and various other historical tidbits all the while enjoying the differences between American and Britain. Plus there are several goofy moments where you can picture the scene happening at some point in your own life. Might even make you want to become a Sherlock-follower yourself!
The book was consistent, just like all of the rest of Delany’s novels that I’ve read before. It’s a good read, full of great characters, but… I want to see Delany push it a little further next time and have a very complex mystery with more players about the town. Introduce more families, show more connections, bring a bit more of England to Massachusetts… Transport us somewhere different where we want to find ourselves lost in. We’re right on the cusp, and I’m betting book two in this series will do it.
Good plot. Fun characters. Clever writing. Everything you need in a basic murder mystery with a splash of something new and exciting. A definite read for fans of the author and genre, and a good intro to the cozy for those not ever having the pleasure of encountering one before. Plus… who doesn’t love a book about famous authors and detectives?