Bravo! Applause! Doff yer cap!
Now, this is not a 10/10 book despite the above. My delight is for the audaciousness of the novel and the fact that rather than rehash old cliches with familiar characters, Lescroart moves things on a level and gives us a story with the progeny of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler. Or at least that is the assumption the clues are meant to lead us to.
It is WW1 and in a small town in France, near St Ettiene, and the war is starting to gather momentum with spies coming to the fore. Jules Giraud is a wealthy man who also happens to be a spy. It is through his eyes that the story is told and after a couple of mysterious deaths he is drawn to the aloof chef Auguste Lupa.
The plot is a classic murder with a sprinkle of espionage story. Lupa is the son of Holmes and shares many of his mannerisms. He is American but a freelance agent and is currently working on behalf of the allies. Style and prose wise there are a number of similarities with ACD’s original work but enough of Lescroart’s own seasoning to hold the story apart. He alludes to many events and links back to the original canon and looking out for them is nice. One of my favourites was calling Mycroft “M” as per his role in the Government, riffing on Fleming too.
Breakneck is not a word you would use to describe the pace of the book as food and beer are discussed nearly as much as the war and the murders, but nonetheless, this is in keeping with the style Lescroart is going for and it works. This is before mobiles phones, social media and mass communication and thus, people accepted that it would take a day or two for a communicae to arrive. Weird as it may seem.
I enjoyed Lupa’s character, and that of Giraud. The latter was less Boswell and more Hopkirk whilst the former was Holmes with a penchant for beer. A problem with the book however is that the rest of the characters seemed to morph into one at times and it became difficult to tell them apart.
Whilst this is not a 10/10 book it is still a fine take on the world around Sherlock Holmes. It adds a wee twist and while I am not a fan of hamming up the Adler-Holmes connection, Lescroart deserves credit for handling it well here and for creating an interesting story as a result. I will be looking out the follow-up Rasputin’s Revenge for a future read.