Young Sigmundo Salvatrio is the son of a shoemaker and the apprentice to Renato Craig. His master
is one of the Twelve Detectives, an exclusive club made up of the twelve most illustrious and successful
detectives in the world. Craig runs a school for apprentices, as each Sherlock must have his Watson,
and Sigmundo works hard to be the best he can. When things go disastrously awry, Sigismundo is sent to
the Paris World’s Fair to represent Craig on the school’s stand. There he meets the other detectives
and their apprentices, and there the detectives start to get murdered, one by one.
The UK cover to this book is rather delightful, with a Toulouse-Lautrec-style painting on the front and
a facsimile of a newspaper on the back. It promises all sorts of fun and games, and the reader is
enticed therein for a splendid romp. The problem is, this book is not that type of novel at all, being
more the sort of thing to appeal to a more literary audience. Although it can be described as a class
act, it is rather lacking in a sense of fun. The tale is told in Sigmundo’s own words, and much is made
of the pompous arrogance of the detectives and their disapproving apprentices. Surely nobody can make
the transition from the one to the other? Much is also made of the detectives expounding on the nature
of crime, and what constitutes a case worthy of their attention. Of course it is going to be Sigmundo
to the fore when the deaths start halfway through the book, and then the pace picks up somewhat.
If you like your crime to be lively and fun, you might be disappointed, but if you are looking for
something more abstruse and thought-provoking, then this might fit the bill.