(8. – 938.) Body on Baker Street by Vicki Delany – Gemma Doyle is back in fine form as the brilliantly deductive, though a touch condescending to the less quick of mind, owner of the Sherlock Holmes Bookstore and Emporium. It is summer on the coast of Massachusetts and the town is overflowing with tourists. A fair share of the visitors stop by the store and Gemma is well stocked with mysteries.
A regular, if busy week, is upended by the visit of Linda Markle, a rather plain young woman, who asks Gemma if the store would host an author event for Renalta Van Markoff, the author of the wildly successful Desdemona Hudson mystery series. Van Markoff has added to the trove of Sherlockia by making the estimable Mrs. Hudson into a detective, brighter than Sherlock, who actually solves the mysteries. This Mrs. Hudson is a member of the aristocracy and bears but a slight resemblance to the Mrs. Hudson of Conan Doyle’s books which becomes even slighter with the revelation Mrs. Hudson and Sherlock are lovers.
Gemma instantly agrees to the author event for best selling authors rarely come to her store and, wth the newest book, Hudson House, just published and already atop bestseller lists readers will flock to the store.
That afternoon Ms. Van Markoff deigns to drop by the store. She makes a grand entrance:
The older woman paused for a moment, one perfectly manicured hand resting on the car door. She stood there smiling while camera and smartphones clicked. It was a hot summer afternoon, but she was draped in a black ankle-length cape with a scarlet satin lining hat shimmered as she moved. Her ruby-red shoes had four-inch heels. Her black hair was gathered behind her head in a tumbled mass, and her ruby earrings gathered the light of the sun and threw it at us ….. She extended her hand toward me, and I was enveloped in a cloud of Chanel No. 5. Expensive and classic. For a moment, I wondered if I was expected to kiss the ruby ring.
Gemma is bemused by the author as diva but appreciative of the public flair. Her mere appearance instantly draws readers to the store and a flurry of sales take place. On departure Gemma advises her sole employee, Ashleigh, that there were 27 copies of Hudson House sold. When Ashleigh asks how she knows without checking the computer Gemma says she observes what is going on the store. She is momentarily flummoxed when Ashleigh says the records show 28 sold. Observing the store more closely Gemma determines a book has been sold from the window display.
Holmesian purists, represented by local retired lawyer Donald Morris, disdain the series for, in their vision, distorting and contorting the traditional characters. Gemma, though not fond of the overblown dramatics of the series, is happy at the prospect of selling piles of books.
Gemma re-arranges the store to accommodate over 100 visitors and works out overflow with Jayne, co-owner of Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, which adjoins the bookstore.
Early Saturday afternoon Ms. Van Markoff and entourage – publicist Kevin Reynolds and personal assistant Ms. Markle and publisher Robert McNamara - sweep into the store.
Gemma is surprised to observe that the great author appears nervous about addressing her fans. Yet in the spirit of the show must go on Van Markoff is giving an excellent performance until, in the grand tradition of Victoria melodrama, she collapses and expires.
With suspects all around Gemma feels compelled to assist the police in their inquiries.
Her handsome ex-fiance, Ryan Ashburton, is leading the investigation with her nemesis, detective Louise Estrada, from the first series working with him.
Gemma does not rely only upon observation. She casts about on the worldwide web for information about the suspects.
The strength of this series is in the intrepid Gemma and the fascinating characters. The clever Emma cannot comprehend the inability of those around her not to observe the details that are instantly absorbed by her.
The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mysteries are fun and I think Delany uses them to prick, not skewer, the pretentious. In this book the egos of inflated authors are exposed. I wonder upon which prideful group Ms. Delany will focus her attention in the next book of the series.
****Delany, Vicki -
1.) Const. Molly Smith - (2013) - A Cold White Sun
2.) Fiona MacGillivray - (2014) - Gold Web
3.) Writing as Eva Gates the Lighthouse Library Series
with Lucy Richardson - (2014) - By Book or by
Crook and Bodie Island Lighthouse; (2015) - Women v. Men in
4.) The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mysteries with Gemma
Doyle - (2017) - Elementary, She Read and Fictional and Real
Life Bookshops and Sherlock and Where is "Gemma" From?