SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE RULE OF NINE
British author Roberts follows the mediocre Sherlock Holmes and the Crosby Murder (2002) with an equally unmemorable effort, which draws on two of Dr. Watson's legendary untold tales. Holmes's failure to bring the vicious thieves of the valuable Vatican cameos to justice rears its head seven years later, when the prime suspect, Cardinal Tosca, a prominent member of the Catholic Church, returns to England. Meanwhile, Holmes's probe into a protection racket victimizing small businesses leads him to a Mafia-like secret society known as the Rule of Nine. Predictably, the two cases quickly become one, and a real-life Italian-American undercover detective joins the campaign, posing as an organ grinder to infiltrate the gang. The search for the stolen cameos is sidetracked by a murder investigation in which the master detective typically disagrees with the theories of Scotland Yard. The solution to the murder turns on a set of coincidences that strain credulity. Despite his convincing portrayals of Holmes and Watson, the author, who has done some excellent pastiches in the past, fails at marrying a traditional tale of deduction with the adversaries he's chosen for Holmes—a ruthless organized crime syndicate. Conan Doyle did much better with a similar premise in "The Adventure of the Red Circle." (Jan.)
Correction: The literary agent for Harley Jane Kozak's Dating Dead Men (Forecasts, Dec. 8) is Renee Zuckerbrot, not Amy Schiffman.