Saturday, June 25, 2022

A STUDY IN CRIMSON -Sherlock Holmes 1942





Sherlock Holmes 1942

By Robert J. Harris

Pegasus Crime

303 pgs


Like author Robert J. Harris, our first introduction to the Great Detective, Sherlock Holmes, was from the Universal movies featuring Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. Having been born after World War II, one of millions of Baby Boomers, we would discover these black and white films on televisions years after they had been produced and shown in theaters around the globe. We were instantly taken with Holmes cool and calculating powers of observations and Watson’s courageous loyalty, despite his often depredations as to the perils they were led into. In those days, this young boy had no clue as to who Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was. That would come later in our high school classes dealing with the history of English Literature.  

What we would only marvel at many years later was how successful the script writers at Universal had been in transferring Holmes and Watson to the 20th Century. It was a smooth and flawless transition and though some Doyle purists may have had their issues, most Holmes enthusiast relished these entries.

Now along comes writer Robert J. Harris, another fan of those films, with the marvelous idea of writing brand new mysteries set in those familiar years. With “A Study in Crimson,” we are once again in war torn London, as England bravely fends off the German Blitz fervently hoping that the United States will eventually enter the conflict. When the bodies of two murdered young women are discovered, each having been physically mutilated, Inspector Lestrade calls on Holmes for assistance. At the site of each murder, the words Crimson Jack are found painted in black clearly referring to the most brutal serious killer of all time, Jack the Ripper. Whereas it is unlikely Jack has returned from the grave, what the murders suggest is that a new fiend has arrived on the scene and is mimicking the original monster.

From the opening chapter, Harris brilliantly lays out his tale and it was impossible for this reviewer not to see Rathbone and Bruce, along with Dennis Hoey, Lestrade, in our imagination. This considerably heightened our enjoyment of the book. Bravo to Harris for recapturing that cinema magic while at the same time giving us a gem of a mystery. He plays fair, the clues are all there for the most diligent reader to discern and maybe, just maybe, solve the case before the Great Detective. All in all, a truly marvelous experience and we hope there are more of these 1942 mysteries in the works.


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