The Disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore by Dan Andriacco

Review by Chris Redmond

Dan Andriacco takes his detective — his quartet of detectives, really — to England in this fourth volume of his “Sebastian McCabe — Jeff Cody Mysteries”. And whereas the Sherlockian content was getting a little thin in the previous volume, The 1895 Murder, it's laid on thickly in this story, which as the title suggests is based on an “unpublished case” of Sherlock Holmes that's mentioned briefly in the story of “Thor Bridge”.

Readers of the three previous books know that Sebastian McCabe, besides being a blusteringly egotistical English professor who owes a bit to Nero Wolfe and a bit to Falstaff, is a dedicated Sherlockian, a member of his local society (which somewhat resembles author Andriacco's local society, the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati). In this affair, he gets entangled with a very exclusive British Sherlockian group, dubbed the Binomial Theorists of London, and with murder and glamour and all the things that make a comic mystery novel a page-turner.

The Sherlockian content includes bits of Baker Street, the 221B sitting-room reconstruction at the Sherlock Holmes pub, and a few other London locations. The McCabe-centred narrative (well, centred on McCabe and brother-in-law Cody too, as well as their respective wives) is interrupted by a pastiche about the unpublished case, “that of Mr. James Phillimore, who, stepping back into his own house to get his umbrella, was never more seen in this world.” And there's actually some Sherlockiana dense enough to chew on, in the form of a debate between McCabe and his would-be nemesis about which is the greater and more influential detective, Sherlock Holmes or the Chevalier Dupin.

The non-Sherlockian plot involves the disappearance of a dishonest financier somewhat reminiscent of Bernie Madoff. It's tied to the Sherlockian strands of the story by the coincidence, if it is a coincidence, that the missing money man is named Arthur James Phillimore. But it's all done with a light touch, including the involvement of Phillimore's current wife, movie star Heather O'Toole (HO'T for short).

All the books in Andriacco's series have given glimpses of narrator Jeff Cody's romance with the beauteous Lynda Teal. In this volume, they're actually on their honeymoon (when one might prefer not to be dealing with a brother-in-law or a murderer, but that's how life deals the cards sometimes). Jeff's comments on his new wife's physical charms, and her lingerie, and the frequency with which they retire to their hotel room for a “nap”, provide a sweet and spicy counterpoint to the more serious action, but get to be frequent enough that the reader's eyes start rolling.

The books in this series are put out by Sherlockian niche publisher MX, which could well mean that non-Sherlockian audiences aren't seeing them very much. That would be a shame, because they hold up well in the generally popular category of comic (and more than just cozy) mystery.