No Police Like Holmes by Dan Andriacco

Review by Chris Redmond

Novels about Sherlockians, as distinguished from novels about Sherlock Holmes, go back a long way, to Anthony Boucher's The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars (1940), but most of them are far from satisfying. Authors do have to simplify things, I realize, but the characters in a number of books of this kind are not just simplified but imagined, presumably by writers who have never met any Sherlockians. Dan Andriacco, who is active in the world of Sherlockian societies and also online (with his Baker Street Beat), does not have that problem, and so his Sherlockians are much closer to plausible than we are accustomed to seeing. This murder mystery takes place during a Sherlockian weekend at a small college — many of us have been to such things — and the weekend's agenda, for instance, seems realistic. Even the stolen artifacts (let's not get more specific, for fear of spoilers) are more or less believable as the treasures of a high-powered collector.

For me, a bonus was the plausibility of the narrator, the young man who serves as communications director at the college where the weekend's events are unfolding. I spent my career working in university communications (Andriacco has spent much of his in church communications, which are not all that different) and I found the routine and worries of Jeff Cody, of St. Benignus College, very familiar. Yes, there really is a St. Benignus — in fact there are two Saints Benignus — although I for one couldn't help translating the college, which Andriacco locates near his real-life home of Cincinnati, into Albertus Magnus College of Connecticut, where the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes were born.

I suspect the murder investigation itself is the least realistic part of this book; would the police really let a Sherlock Holmes weekend continue uninterrupted if one of the leading participants were found shot dead? But that rather large gulp of unreality can perhaps be attributed to the convention that amateur detectives have to be allowed to mingle with the suspects so there can be enough events for 35 chapters, and eventually a solution to the mystery.

The cover blurb for this large-format paperback from MX Publishing calls it a "satirical romp." I'm not sure it's funny enough to be a romp or exaggerated enough to be satirical, but it's certainly a lot of fun. It's also easy reading, as Andriacco is a fluent, articulate storyteller who doesn't let the reader trip over awkward sentences. Three or four typographical errors are unfortunate but don't wreck the book.

The best feature of No Police Like Holmes is its detective, Sebastian McCabe, portly and blustering professor who happens to be Cody's brother-in-law and enlists him as an unwilling Watson. Since McCabe is, as Cody is not, a Sherlockian, he is bound to end up in the middle of another Sherlockian murder or two — apparently Andriacco has written two sequels to this 2011 volume, and I look forward to getting hold of them.