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The Italian Secretary: A Further Adventure of Sherlock Holmesby Caleb Carr
Synopses & Reviews
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are summoned to the aid of Queen Victoria in Scotland by a telegram from Holmes' brother, Mycroft, a royal advisor. Rushed northward on a royal train — and nearly murdered themselves en route — the pair are soon joined by Mycroft, and learn of the brutal killings of two of the Queen's servants, a renowned architect and his foreman, both of whom had been working on the renovation of the famous and forbidding Royal Palace of Holyrood, in Edinburgh.
Mycroft has enlisted his brother to help solve the murders that may be key elements of a much more elaborate and pernicious plot on the Queen's life. But the circumstances of the two victims' deaths also call to Holmes' mind the terrible murder — in Holyrood — of "The Italian Secretary," David Rizzio. Only Rizzio, a music teacher and confidante of Mary, Queen of Scots, was murdered three centuries ago. Holmes proceeds to alarm Watson with the announcement that the Italian Secretary's vengeful spirit may have taken the lives of the two men as punishment for disturbing the scene of his assassination. Critically acclaimed, bestselling author Caleb Carr's brilliant new offering takes the Conan Doyle tradition to remarkable new heights with this spellbinding tale.
"Writing a Sherlock Holmes tale is, for popular writers, equivalent to playing Hamlet for male actors: a challenge that few refuse and many regret. Bestselling author Carr (The Angel of Darkness, etc.) acquits himself with honor, though not high honors, in this short novel that pits Holmes, Watson and Mycroft Holmes against conspirators at Queen Victoria's Royal Palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh, Scotland. When the men are killed at Holyrood in a fashion similar to the slaying centuries before of David Rizzio, an Italian confidant of Mary, Queen of Scots, Mycroft, who is Victoria's head of intelligence, calls upon his brother and Watson to help solve the mystery. Are the killings the work of Scottish nationalists? Or perhaps the sign of a restless ghost? From the latter question, and the novel's primary setting of the dank castle, emanates a well-drawn atmosphere of gloom that makes this story a nice companion to The Hound of the Baskervilles. Holmes fans and scholars should be pleased with this novel, which generally hews to 'the Canon' (unlike, say, Nicholas Meyer's Seven-Per-Cent Solution) and reflects a deep knowledge and understanding of Holmesiana, but the primary base for this novel will be, of course, Carr fans, who won't be quite as thrilled — for while the novel captivates, it matches neither of Carr's previous megasellers in plot invention or depth of character. Still, this should hit bestsellers lists, though not in a major way. (May 10). FYI: The afterword by Lellenberg explains that this novel grew from a story that Carr was writing for a forthcoming Carroll & Graf anthology of original Holmes stories dealing with the supernatural, Ghosts of Baker Street. Lellenberg goes on to plead to Carr that he write a novel featuring both Holmes and Laszlo Kreizler, protagonist of The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Carr's return to historical fiction...blends detailed history and thrilling suspense while giving perfect cadence to the verbal discourse between Holmes and Watson. Placing these famous characters into Carr's capable hands is a gift to anyone who enjoys mysteries, historical fiction, or just a great read." Library Journal
"It's fun for about a hundred pages, because Carr apes Conan Doyle's plummy storyteller's voice quite ably, making Watson (who narrates) agreeably bluff and direct. But the successive disclosures become increasingly preposterous." Kirkus Reviews
"Carr fails [to replicate Conan Doyle's style], but aside from that (and that's a big aside), the novel has a number of appealing features for readers who enjoy Carr and don't mind secondhand Holmes....Great setting, intriguing history, but clumsy evocation of the inimitable Holmes." Booklist
The bestselling author of The Alienist returns with an historically rich elaboration of the Sherlock Holmes canon. The famed detective and Watson investigate a pair of gruesome murders which cast an otherworldly shadow as far as the Queen herself, in a chilling tale that has been written in cooperation with the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
About the Author
Caleb Carr is the critically acclaimed, bestselling author of the Alienist series, The Lessons of Terror, Killing Time, and The Devil Soldier. His books have been translated into over twenty languages worldwide. He is also a contributing editor to MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, and the series editor of the Modern Library War Series. He was educated at Kenyon College and New York University, and currently lives in upstate New York, where he teaches military and diplomatic studies at Bard College.
Jon Lellenberg, author of the afterword, is the U.S. agent for the Conan Doyle Estate, co-editor of a number of anthologies of new Sherlock Holmes stories by mystery writers, and the historian of The Baker Street Irregulars.
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