I don’t read many mystery novels because I find them terribly predictable and I can usually solve the case within a few chapters. (Though, that is not true of all mystery books. I find some of the older mysteries quite thrilling – i.e. Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers).
This particular book has two plots: a story set in our time about the missing Doyle diary and a story about what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was up to during the period of the missing diary. Of the two plots, I found the tale of Dr. Doyle the more interesting and entertaining. The plot set in our time was very, very predictable and very, very slow for a mystery novel.
I realize that mysteries employ a set of standard plot devices – red herrings, twists, etc. – but this book didn’t even use those elements in a surprising way. That being said, there was a redeeming factor in this book for me, and that was the second plot about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The plot set in Victorian London involved the murder of several young women, and Dr. Doyle is the only man who seems capable of solving the crime. What I enjoyed most about this part of the novel was the way that Dr. Doyle was portrayed. Part of the novel involves him dealing with the aftermath of having killed off Sherlock Holmes. People act as if he has killed an actual person. As a writer, he struggles with how attached to his character fans have become. He also explains why he loathes the character of Sherlock Holmes. However, by the end of the novel, Doyle does solve the murder and he has decided to bring Holmes back to life. I thought this plot was a clever way to explain the writing choices of Doyle.
In addition to the character of Doyle, Bram Stoker also makes an appearance as Doyle’s trusty sidekick. The character of Stoker is also entertaining. The novel explains Stoker’s personal struggles with writing and what Stoker had to as his day job. His friendship with Doyle is also a very important element of the novel.
All in all, it was an okay read.