THE PATIENT'S EYES: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes

David Pirie, Author . St. Martin's Minotaur $22.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-29095-5

This brilliant debut mystery from British screenwriter Pirie offers a novel twist on the Sherlock Holmes pastiche, with Doyle as the Watsonian narrator relating the exploits of Dr. Joseph Bell, his real-life mentor and model for the fictional detective. Young Dr. Doyle, trying to make a fresh start after a tragic loss, finds himself enmeshed in the affairs of a patient with unusual eyes, Miss Heather Grace. An heiress who survived the attack of a lunatic who slaughtered her parents, Miss Grace is now terrorized by a nightmarish figure who follows her as she cycles to and from her new home. The plot borrows elements from several Holmes stories ("The Speckled Band," "The Solitary Cyclist" and "Wisteria Lodge"), which ostensibly are merely "fictionalized" versions of the real puzzle Bell and Doyle tackle. Doyle's falling in love with his patient complicates his and Bell's probe into several murders. The suspects include the young woman's intimidating uncle, who maintains a large collection of poisonous creatures, her perpetually smiling fiancé and an unscrupulous doctor. The author masterfully manufactures suspense, and several passages are truly spine-chilling. Doyle, a painfully human and sympathetic figure whose vulnerabilities help drive the action, and Bell, a very plausible Holmes substitute, are well-matched by their subtle and cunning antagonist. An unsettling solution makes a perfectly appropriate ending for this hard-to-put-down and richly atmospheric thriller. (May 20)

Forecast:Pirie wrote the screenplay for the first of five BBC-TV movies, Murder Rooms, which aired in the U.S. in 2000 and starred Ian Richardson as Bell. Needless to say, the airing here of further episodes will give this a boost.

Reviewed on: 05/06/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-933648-43-9
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