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The Italian Secretary

Narrated by: Simon Prebble
Length: 6 hrs and 40 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (478 ratings)

Regular price: $20.97

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Publisher's Summary

The best-selling author of the Alienist series returns with a chilling elaboration on the Sherlock Holmes canon, as the famed detective investigates a pair of gruesome murders, which cast an otherworldly shadow as far as Queen Victoria herself.

It all begins familiarly enough: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are summoned to the aid of Queen Victoria in Scotland by an encrypted telegram from Holmes' brother, Mycroft, a royal advisor. Rushed northward on a royal train they soon learn of the brutal killings of two of the Queen's servants who had been working on the renovation of the famous and forbidding Royal Palace of Holyrood.

Mycroft has enlisted his brother to help solve the murders that may be key elements of a much more elaborate and pernicious plot on the Queen's life. But the circumstances of the two victims' deaths also call to Holmes' mind the terrible murder of "The Italian Secretary", David Rizzio. Only Rizzio was murdered three centuries ago.

Told with his unique feel for historical detail and the architecture of human evil, Caleb Carr's brilliant new offering takes the Conan Doyle tradition to remarkable new heights.

©2005 Caleb Carr (P)2005 Simon & Schuster Inc. AUDIOWORKS is an imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"The gloomy aura of Edinburgh, particularly the Gothic pile of Holyrood, is a perfect foil for a Victorian mystery." (Booklist)
"The novel captivates" (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Sagar
  • Burbank, CA, USA
  • 06-03-05

A True Delight for the Holmes Enthusiast

Confession: I am a Holmes buff. I love reading and re-reading stories from the canon, and have many audiobooks of ACD's stories read aloud by the likes of Robert Hardy and Ben Kingsley. Caleb Carr has avoided all the pitfalls of those who would attempt to add to the Holmes lexicon. His characterizations ring true, the relationship of Holmes and Watson is authentic, and (dare I say it) he even elevates the genre with this addition. No review would be complete without mentioning the outstanding performance of the narrator. He moves between Holmes, Watson, Scottish lasses, and Punjabi grocers effortlessly. Outstanding production overall, and one that I intend to enjoy again several times.

28 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars


Simon Prebble is a fantastic narrator and Caleb Carr really does justice to Conan Doyle's characters. An excellent listen!

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Dennis
  • Washington, DC, United States
  • 06-16-05

No Hit, Sherlock

Caleb Carr has written two superb mysteries, "The Alienist" and "Angel of Mercy." His take on Sherlock Holmes in "The Italian Secretary" is true to the original Conan Doyle and is read with the proper British intonations. The story is told using the murder of David Rizzi in the chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots, as a background; this is the best part. The rest of the story just plods along and the bad guys are revealed too soon. The weapons used in the murders are bizarre and unbelievable. It's almost like Lucas' using too many special effects in the latest Star Wars trilogy. Just an okay read.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Cidney
  • New Orleans, United States Minor Outlying Islands
  • 09-15-06

an enjoyable listen

I really enjoyed listening to this story. Prebble, nimbly bringing each character's voice to life, was the perfect choice as reader. The story itself is simple and "popcorn", but what stands out is the banter between the three men--Sherlock, his brother Mycroft and Dr. Watson. There were moments I laughed out loud. If you like wry wit and light suspense then you could do worse than to download and listen to "The Italian Secretary". I just wish it could have been longer.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • R.A.H.
  • Peachtree City, GA
  • 06-21-05

First-rate narration

I listened to "The Italian Secretary" and then listened to it again, for the sheer pleasure of hearing Simon Prebble read it. Prebble doesn't just read the story. He inhabits it. His Dr. Watson is pitch-perfect, his Holmes totally convincing. His Scots accents are spot on, as well. As for the tale, this book may be the first from Carr that approaches the elegance and intricacy of "The Alienist." It's a marvelous period piece that seems to capture stony old Edinburgh perfectly -- as "The Alienist" captured New York. Well done!

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

atmospheric and great fun!

This book is well-written and a fun listen, but very atmospheric (a little spooky), so you might not want to listen to it alone in a quiet house.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Highly recomemnded

In the first thirty seconds I "knew that voice" and it only took a bit to recall my first listen with Simon Prebble (The Egyptologist). Where the only redeeming factor of that audio book was Prebble, The Italian Secretary is a wonderful new tale to add to the Holmes post-Doyle canon.

My husband and I are avid Holmes fans, and truly this tale earns a place with the best. The plot does take a while to unfold, but Carr gives plenty of time to get to know his rendition of familiar characters and even add to the Mycroft Holmes legend.

I highly recommend this story for the family car trip; little ones could do worse than doze under Simon Prebble's voice, and older children will probably find the tale's scarier scenes enough to hold their attention.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Nathan
  • San Diego, CA, USA
  • 10-10-05

Download if you run out of Holmes

This is a thoughtful Holmes story that's very like the orginals. Although some might argue that it is impossible to recreate the originals, it's very likely that you will enjoy this story. Even though the Holmes canon is fixed historically, the character is very worth revisiting. Many mystery writers still work from the Holmes model, perhaps without knowing it, so it doesn't make sense to be worried in a purist way that someone's not getting it just right. Even in the originals, writing about Holmes doesn't appear to be an exact science.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Good Not Great

I'm a huge fan of the Alienist series, but this book just missed the atmosphere that Mr Carr was able to create on 19th century New York. He tried, but wasn't nearly as successful as in his other books. This was still entertaining, but not on a par with his other books.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Lawrence
  • Birmingham, AL, United States
  • 09-22-06


Good narrator, appropriate language, all spoiled by one of the sillest plots I've ever read. I've got a six year old child and the books I read to him at night have a more credible story line.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful