The Art of Detection, by Laurie R. King

Last summer Jason and I got drawn into the world of Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell novels, most of which I read on our trip to England (although King is an American writer.  It just seemed appropriate to be reading about Sherlock Holmes in England).  King’s latest novel draws upon her Holmesian writings, but takes place mainly in the present and features the detective-heroine of her contemporary mysteries, police detective Kate Martinelli.

Martinelli, who knows little and cares less about Sherlock Holmes, finds herself investigating the murder of a Holmes expert/fanatic who may or may not have been killed because of a highly valuable manuscript he’s found, possibly a lost Holmes story by Arthur Conan Doyle himself.

That manuscript forms part of the novel as well, a first-person story narrated by the great detective.  Of course, as a reader of the Holmes/Russell novels, I know it’s not by Conan Doyle; it’s by Holmes himself because Holmes is, after all, a real person. Sadly, there’s no appearance by Mary Russell in this story. But both the Holmes story, set in 1924 San Francisco, and the Martinelli story, set in modern-day San Francisco, are page-turning, engaging mysteries with interesting characters.

The one shortcoming I found was that I didn’t feel I got to know Kate Martinelli very well as a character in this novel.  However, since she has appeared in several earlier stories and there’s so much going on in this one, perhaps there wasn’t time or need for a lot of character development.  From that perspective this may not be the best introduction to the Kate Martinelli novels, but as a reader drawn in to Laurie King’s contemporary fiction because of the link to her historical fiction, I was interested enough that I’d probably pick up another King novel about Martinelli if it came my way.

One note: this novel is very gay friendly (Martinelli is a lesbian, and both the historical and contemporary mysteries feature important gay characters) so if you’re not OK with that, you may not enjoy this novel.  If, on the other hand,  you celebrate gay-friendly literature, this may be a favourite of yours.

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