A Knife in the Fog: A Mystery Featuring Margaret Harkness and Arthur Conan Doyle

Bradley Harper. Seventh Street, $15.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-63388-486-1

In 1888, Jonathan Wilkins, a representative of Prime Minister William Gladstone, calls on Arthur Conan Doyle to assist in the hunt for the Whitechapel murderer, who has already slaughtered three prostitutes, in Harper’s workmanlike debut. Gladstone was impressed by the recently published A Study in Scarlet, and hopes that the writer can emulate his fictional creation’s methods. The reluctant Conan Doyle invites Dr. Joseph Bell, his mentor and inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, to join him. Together with real-life radical journalist Margaret Harkness, designated by Wilkins to serve as their guide to the East End, they team up with Scotland Yard to catch the killer before he strikes again. Harper is faithful to the historical record of the Ripper murders, but his solution, which combines elements of several theories, disappoints. Also, the novel suffers in comparison to David Pirie’s superior The Night Calls (2002), which likewise puts Conan Doyle and Bell on the trail of Jack the Ripper. Readers will hope Harper treads less familiar ground in any sequel. Agent: Jill Marr, Sandra Dykstra Agency. (Oct.)