THE NIGHT CALLS
In British author Pirie's second novel to feature a young Arthur Conan Doyle and his real-life mentor, Dr. Joseph Bell, as prototypes for Watson and Holmes, the pair pursue a serial killer stalking 1878 Edinburgh, but the results fall short of the high standard set by last year's The Patient's Eyes. Tormented as before by his family's desperate circumstances caused by his father's descent into dementia, Conan Doyle again finds some relief in a romantic interest, this time a fellow medical student threatened by faculty and staff appalled at the prospect of female doctors. The baffling clues left behind to both engage and taunt the detectives, including carefully constructed piles of coins and a room painted in blood, point to two obvious suspects. Alas, the early unmasking of the real murderer owes less to Bell's tremendous Sherlockian deductive gifts than would be expected. The less-than-compelling remainder of the story climaxes in a cliffhanger that will annoy some readers and leave others breathlessly anticipating the sequel. Hopefully, next time Pirie will present Bell, Doyle and the killer as psychologically complex characters, just as he did in his marvelously twisted whodunit of a debut. (Aug. 4)
FYI:Pirie was nominated for an Edgar for his script of Murder Rooms, the BBC series inspired by Conan Doyle's relationship with Dr. Bell.