London, March 1895. The West End is full of strange happenings. Theater critic Jonathan McCarthy has been murdered. A young actress has also been killed - her throat slit. The Marquess of Queensberry is being sued for libel. And a police surgeon has disappeared along with two corpses.
Prominent figures in the theater district seem to be somehow involved in these various mysteries, including Bernard Shaw, Ellen Terry, Bram Stoker, and Oscar Wilde.
Scotland Yard is mystified by what appear to be unrelated cases. Sherlock Holmes, however, finds it all elementary: a maniac is at work. And his name is Jack.
©1984 Nicholas Meyer; (P)2009 Random House
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.
I went through these out of order, so I can now say that to my mind the three books in this series get progressively better. This one, being the middle book, is average... just average... really average. But not without merit as the characters are personified to the hilt. Holmes meets up with the likes of George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and Bram Stoker as the quest to catch a critic's killer unfolds. The mystery presented here is considerably better than the other two books in all honesty, but that mystery at times seems to take second stage to the characters themselves. If it were written as a parody rather than as pastiche, I'd say it actually feels more like one of those old Scooby Doo cartoons where the gang meets up with the likes of Don Knotts or Cass Elliott, but thankfully this is written with the tone of a Sherlock Holmes story. If nothing else, the grand finale is suitable to nudge the overall quality to just above average.
I have nothing but respect overall for Nicholas Meyer as a writer, but this one being written within short order of The Seven Per-Cent Solution (which I loathe as a story), I was a bit worried. Now I can see the progression of how these were written, and if nothing else, I can see where he improved and where he still needs work. Ultimately I think in the case of all three of these, the biggest problem is the incorporation of the famous people and characters as it does come across more as fan fiction than a serious attempt at Holmes stories from a professional. But that's just my personal bias as a self-proclaimed Sherlockian. Disagreement will always abound about such things, and if nothing else it's always interesting to compare similar offerings by other writers.
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