Saturday, April 16, 2022

Book & Audio Review: The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King

The Art of Detection

Laurie R. King
Narrator: Alyssa Bresnahan & Robert Ian Mackenzie
Series: A Kate Martinelli Mystery (Book 5)
Publication: Bantam (May 30, 2006); Recorded Books (June 6, 2008)
Length: 528 p.; 13 hours and 38 minutes

Description: In this thrilling new crime novel that ingeniously bridges Laurie R. King’s Edgar and Creasey Awards—winning Kate Martinelli series and her bestselling series starring Mary Russell, San Francisco homicide detective Kate Martinelli crosses paths with Sherlock Holmes–in a spellbinding dual mystery that could come only from the “intelligent, witty, and complex” mind of New York Times bestselling author Laurie R. King….

Kate Martinelli has seen her share of peculiar things as a San Francisco cop, but never anything quite like this: an ornate Victorian sitting room straight out of a Sherlock Holmes story–complete with violin, tobacco-filled Persian slipper, and gunshots in the wallpaper that spell out the initials of the late queen.

Philip Gilbert was a true Holmes fanatic, from his antiquated d├ęcor to his vintage wardrobe. And no mere fan of fiction’s great detective, but a leading expert with a collection of priceless memorabilia–a collection some would kill for.

And perhaps someone did: In his collection is a century-old manuscript purportedly written by Holmes himself–a manuscript that eerily echoes details of Gilbert’s own murder.

Now, with the help of her partner, Al Hawkin, Kate must follow the convoluted trail of a killer–one who may have trained at the feet of the greatest mind of all times.

My Thoughts: Kate Martenelli, an 18-year veteran of the San Francisco Homicide Department, has worked on a number of odd cases in her career. This one might be the oddest.

It begins when she and her partner Al Hawkins are sent to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to see a body. The GGNRA is a crazy quilt of jurisdictions, but it looks like a body dump and not a murder scene, and the victim Philip Gilbert was a resident of San Francisco. 

Their first stop is a visit to his home in San Francisco where they discover that he was a very devoted fan of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. His home recreates Sherlock Holmes's rooms including gas lighting and bullet holes in the wall patterned to look like VR for Victoria Regina. Gilbert was a noted collector and also wrote books on Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. It is possible that he was murdered over possession of a typed manuscript that may have been written by Conan Doyle while he was visiting San Franciso in the 1920s.

The manuscript is included in this book and tells the story of an investigation conducted by a nameless narrator. The story concerns a missing person, transvestites, prostitutes, a murder, and the 1920s version of "don't ask, don't tell." If it is authentic, it could be worth more than $1 million at auction.

As Kate and Al dig into Philip's life, they learn a lot about the obsessions of collectors and devotees of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. They also learn that Gilbert had few friends beyond the nine other people who were part of his dinner club. They are all more than casual fans too and they are all potential suspects for his murder.

This was a great story. I liked Kate's relationship with her partner Lee and their daughter Nora. There was a great deal of contrast between gay life in San Francisco in 2004 as opposed to the 1920s. Though there are still some holdovers to old attitudes. 

The narration was well done. I especially enjoyed Robert Ian Mackenzie's narration of the long-long and newly discovered story that is the centerpiece of this book. Alyssa Bresnahan did an excellent job with the characters in the contemporary story.

Now I want to go back and read the earlier Kate Martinelli stories. 

Favorite Quote:
"A friend described Sherlock Holmes as a self-medicating bipolar with obsessive tendencies," Kate told them. After a startled moment, everyone in the room began to laugh excessively, as if relieved to break the personal direction the talk had been taking.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

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