“The Cat of the Baskervilles” Is Fun Holmes Pastiche


Gemma Doyle, proprietor and co-owner of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium returns in Vicki Delany’s The Cat of the Baskervilles, set in West London, Massachusetts, where the West London Theater Festival is putting on a stage production of The Hound of the Baskervilles. They have hired Sir Nigel Bellingham, whose claim to fame was having starred as the general 40 years earlier in the movie trilogy Roman Wars. But when Sir Nigel comes to West London and the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, Gemma and the Sir Nigel enthuasts discover that the man is drunk and not the most affable.

But then Jayne Wilson, Gemma’s best friend and partner in Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, gets thrilled to be invited to cater an afternoon tea at the home of Rebecca Stanton, president of the theater festival, to raise money for the costs of putting on this play. With 130 people to cater for, Jayne, Gemma, and their staff stay busy wining and dining the guests, who each paid $200 to attend and meet the great Sir Nigel, who arrives intoxicated and gets drunker throughout the course of the afternoon. When tea is finished, they ask Sir Nigel to give a recitation from The Hound of the Baskervilles, but he proves unable to do so, whether because of his drunken state or his poor knowledge of the play. Fortunately, Eddie, his understudy, steps in and impresses everyone.

As the program has ended, Gemma begins to wonder what has happened to Sir Nigel and goes out searching, along with her friend Grant, a rare book collector. As they near the cliff, they spot a red cravat on a bush near the edge and, bending over, see the body of Sir Nigel on the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. As Grant goes to summon the police, Gemma ckimbs down to the body, just in case he is still alive. But not only does she find him dead, she finds a small piece of one of the aprons used by the serving staff, making this potential murder personal to Gemma. And then as the police zero in on Leslie Wilson, Jayne’s mother, Gemma determines to get to the truth before her best friend’s mother may get arrested.

The Cat of the Baskervilles is another delightful addition to Elementary, She Read and The Body at Baker’s Street. I love this particular pastiche of the Sherlock Holmes books and am impressed by the way Gemma plays Holmes without seeing herself as a Holmes character. Her relationship with Jayne develops throughout the course of the book, and it is nice to see the two as real people. Further, we see the way Detective Louise Estrada shows her ever- growing hatred and resentment of Gemma, while Gemma’s ex-boyfriend, Detective Ryan Ashburton, tries to find a legitimate balance between the two.

The plot contains many interesting angles, which kept me drawn to the book and unable to put it down. I was intrigued by all the deductions and especially loved the ending. This book was a little less riveting than the previous books, but perhaps that was a result of my already having read the previous two books and not being as surprised by Gemma’s gifts.

Kim Hicks performs the audio version of this book. I confess to preferring the work of Kelly Clare, who narrated the first two books, but Hicks does a good job. The role requires someone able to handle both a British and an American accent.

I really had fun with The Cat of the Baskervilles. This book created plenty of delight as I listened to it. The characters and the plot joined together to make the book a great listening experience. I give it five stars. I don’t

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