Sherlockian.Net: Stark Nakid

Review by Chris Redmond

In this novel by Sean McGinnis, best described as slapstick noir with a lot of local colour, Watson and Holmes live at 221 Baker Street. That is, Baker Street in Nelson, British Columbia — one of Canada's more picturesque small towns, with a historic district, lovingly restored in the 1980s, of which Baker Street really is the main drag. (Fans of older movies will see much of Nelson in the background of Steve Martin's “Roxanne“, which was filmed there in 1986.)

Did I mention that Holmes is a woman, and that there is some kind of relationship going on at 221? Near the end of the book, the duo take a quick vacation trip to a nude beach on the Cuban coast. “Holmes had each of her toenails and fingernails painted alternately blue and green. Watson was managing to keep his arousal in check with a well-placed magazine.” Earlier, they go skiing together. Mrs. Hudson also makes a few appearances, and the Holmes-Watson apartment is located on an upper floor of a heritage building that also houses an inn called the Smoking Hound Bed and Beverage (it “catered primarily to the hung-over skier and backpacker crowd”).

Also on the premises at 221 is the character introduced in the book's title, private eye Stark Nakid, pronounced nah-KEED. Most of the plot, if the word “plot” can be used here with a straight face, involves Nakid's search for his origins, which turns into an investigation of a ship's sinking on nearby Kootenay Lake (another real place) in 1898. Holmes and Watson were his instructors at the Vallican Hole School of Stealth, Detection and Hard Knocks, but otherwise appear in the story only intermittently. However, it does feature penguins, rather like Maltese falcons, and there are obscure yoga positions galore, including “White Crane Soils His Nest”. And let us not forget the past cases about which Watson and Holmes periodically remind each other: The Case of the Belgian Whopper, The Case of the Purple Nurple.

Maybe you had to be there. Actually you do have to be there, as the real star of the story is Nelson itself. Surely such business establishents as the Dancing Bare Inn, the Blushing Beaver, Pet Those Puppies (“a combination lingerie shop and pet store”), and a couple of shoe stores, Camel Toes and Bare Paws, are not really to be found in Nelson? But the city's website describes it as “a city where life is unhurried and people say hello to strangers”, not far short of the community full of random hugging that Nakid inhabits.

The only Sherlockian book I can think of that ranks with this one is Gahan Wilson's Everybody's Favorite Duck (1988). That says all you really need to know.

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