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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars

The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars - Anthony Boucher

If I try to remove my bias, this is probably more a 4.5 star read, but my unapologetic adoration of Sherlock Holmes makes it impossible; this story was just too much fun for a fan like me.

 

In brief (ok, not really):  a movie is being made of The Adventure of the Speckled Band and a Holmesian society called The Baker Street Irregulars is vociferously opposed to the studio's choice of writer.  The society roster has enough Big Names that the studio must take them seriously, but the writer - an unapologetic and acidic critic of everything Holmes - has an iron-clad contract making it impossible to fire him.  In an effort to appease the Baker Street Irregulars, 5 of them are invited to Hollywood to act as script advisors, but during their welcome party, the scriptwriter crashes the party, makes a drunken spectacle of himself, is rendered unconscious, and taken upstairs to sleep it off. He is subsequently murdered during the night, long after the party is over, leaving the Baker Street Irregulars both prime suspects and eager amateur investigators determined to do The Master proud.

 

The best part of the story is the way Boucher works both actual Holmes titles/plot points into the story and the ones that Watson only teased readers with; those stories mentioned in passing during the published narratives.  Boucher was, without a doubt, a true Holmes aficionado.  

 

The story takes place in 1939, right on the eve of WWII and there's a strong political atmosphere woven throughout.  Hollywood in 1939 had a lot of Nazi spy and anti-Nazi activity, and this story takes place on the fringes of that atmosphere.  As a result, there are a few anti-Semitic comments throughout the text, but at no point did I ever feel this was editorial opinion on behalf of the author.  Any confronting comments are a natural result of the story and the overwhelming attitude of the book is not anti-Semitic.  

 

Most of all, the story is just fun; it's got that great Golden Age vibe to the writing that a reader either likes or not; done well, I love it, and here it's done well.  The story doesn't take itself seriously at all, but the plotting does: this is a fair play mystery; the clues are all there for everyone to use and in the end neither I, nor the Baker Street Irregulars, nor the LAPD could see what was right in front of us (although I did guess a plot twist, fat lot of good it did me).  But the person who solved it all ... that was almost the very, very best part of the book.  Boucher could not have ended it any better in my opinion and once all is revealed, it was clever. as. hell.

 

In short:  I loved it!

 

 

I read this as part of the Kill Your Darlings game, in fulfilment of the cause of death: dark alley beat down card.  It actually fulfils all three tasks on the card:

Read a book that was written or set between 1925-1975;

Read a book written by an American author;

Read a book that is set in a large city (LA).