This latest adventure of the aging (but still brilliant and surprisingly agile) Sherlock Holmes and his young wife Mary Russell finds Russell on an undercover assignment aboard a pirate ship. Well, it’s actually a ship owned by an eccentric film crew, in the process of making a silent movie based ever so loosely on The Pirates of Penzance. Russell is supposed to be investigating suspicious criminal activity that seems to follow this film company around, but when the director’s relentlessly quest for authenticity leads him to accidentally hire real pirates as actors, the original mystery takes a backseat to adventure. Holmes shows up, of course, and he and Russell combine their skills to solve the problem — solving the original mystery almost as an afterthought.
The plot’s a little flimsy here but that doesn’t really matter — this story is all about setting, with wonderful details about the silent-film era, and about character, as are all the Holmes/Russell novels. As I found the last two novels in this series (The Language of Bees and God of the Hive) a little dark, it was nice to have what was essentially a fun romp with lots of humour, and an adventure that never once left me doubting our hero and heroine would come through successfully.