Another Review at MyShelf.Com

The Art of Detection
A Kate Martinelli Mystery, No. 5

by Laurie R King

      The body of an unidentified adult man, clad in pajamas and barefoot is found in a deserted gun emplacement on the Marin headlands outside San Francisco. Medical ID tags identify him as Philip Gilbert, resident of San Francisco. After the police jurisdiction is resolved (body found on Federal land; victim identified as San Francisco resident), San Francisco detectives Inspectors Kate Martinelli and Al Hawkin are assigned to the case.

When they gain access to Gilbert's home, they find that he has transformed it into a replica of 221B Baker Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes. It is apparent that Gilbert was an obsessively avid Holmes collector. They learn that Gilbert had obtained a previously unpublished story by Arthur Conan Doyle. The story, told from Holmes point of view, could be worth millions, if authentic. The original typescript, along with its provenance, is found in Gilbert's safe deposit box. Several copies had been made; one of which is turned over to the police. Kate reads the manuscript hoping to find a clue to Gilbert's murder.

The story is that of Lt. Jack Raynor, stationed with the U S Army in San Francisco in the 20's, and Billy Birdsong, a transvestite. Raynor's body was discovered in the same situation as Gilbert's in the present day. His death and the events preceding and following it are investigated by an English gentleman who we assume is Sherlock Holmes. It is a beautiful but sad story which leads Kate to speculate about Gilbert's association with various members of the Strand Diners, devotees of the Sherlock Holmes stories. She and Al are confronted with the members' varied opinions of Gilbert's personality. They have formed a possible scenario for the murder when new evidence surfaces which causes them to rethink their conclusions.

This is an excellent story, which combines a present day narrative interspersed with the purported Conan Doyle story. The author has captured the time and place of both stories, and gives an interesting comparison of the investigative methods in the two time periods. There is attention given to the tough daily grind of police work with glimpses into the personal lives of Martinelli, her partner Leonora, their daughter, Nora, and that of Hawkin.

This is a superbly written story with enough suspense and red herrings guaranteed to hold the reader's interest continuously.

The Book

Bantam Books
May 30,2006
More at

The Reviewer

Barbara Buhrer
Reviewed 2006
© 2006