I thank my lucky stars that made me decide to pick up this excellent book, and whether you’re a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, love good crime fiction, or simply enjoy a well-written novel with a good dose of humor, do not let this pass you by.
Inspector Lestrade is probably the best known of all of Holmes’s police contacts, and like most of them, frequently bumbles his way through a case without the ability to see past his own nose. M.J. Trow decides to turn things on their head, certainly not a novel (ho-hum!) idea. After all, Sherlock Holmes wasn’t all he was made out to be in the fabulously entertaining comedy, “Without A Clue,” starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley. In the movie, Dr. Watson is the actual sleuth who invents a fictional detective to allow him to solve crimes incognito. He hires Michael Caine’s character, an unemployed actor, to step in as Holmes. Inspector Lestrade, played by Jeffrey Jones, is the familiar jealous doofus.
M.J. Trow, however, not only gives his Lestrade a first name (Sholto), but also a personal life and enough smarts to successfully navigate his career in the police force. If anyone finds Sholto reminiscent of an Adventure of Sherlock Holmes, you are not mistaken. “The Adventures of Inspector Lestrade” is peppered with literary allusions harking back to the Conan Doyle canon. I won’t give any others away in order to not spoil your fun, but I’d like to say that I enjoyed finding them strewn throughout the text.
There is also an imposing cast of characters, from Conan Doyle, Holmes, and Watson as themselves, to familiar faces such as Athelney Jones and Inspector Gregson. A few real-life writers of the time make an appearance in smaller roles, like Oscar Wilde and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. They may be small details, but they imbue the story with a wonderful sense of playfulness, while at the same time betraying Mr. Trow’s background as a historian. A couple of scenes center around misadventures with surnames. I thought those were quite funny and not overdone.
Readers familiar with European children’s literature will cotton on quickly to the fact that the murder series Lestrade must investigate is apparently based on Heinrich Hoffmann’s “Struwwelpeter” (Shock-headed Peter) stories. On a side note: As someone who loves those frequently gruesome tales to this day, I am more than a little appalled at the clunky and inelegant English translations which lack a lot of the charm of the originals, but I understand that in order to preserve the rhyme, certain linguistic sacrifices had to be made.
Lestrade takes more than a few literal and proverbial beatings in the course of his investigation, as the murderer seems to remain a solid step ahead of the police, while pressure to solve the case mounts as the months drag on. Red herrings abound, and the conclusion is a well thought-out surprise (at least that’s what I felt). I feel utterly satisfied on many levels by this wonderful book – it took me less than a day to race through it!
“The Adventures of Inspector Lestrade” is published by Thistle Publishing. I snagged a free copy for review via Netgalley. All opinions are absolutely my own, unless otherwise stated.