cover image The Irregular

The Irregular

H.B. Lyle. Quercus, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-68144-027-9

Lyle’s ambitious first novel, a Sherlock Holmes spin-off with a fresh angle, centers on the events leading to the establishment of the British Secret Service. In 1909, Holmes recommends Wiggins, who was the leader of the Baker Street Irregulars as a boy and is now scratching out a living as a debt-collector, to Vernon Kell, the head of a counterespionage unit for the War Office. Wiggins at first refuses to work for Kell, but he changes his mind after his closest friend, a police constable, is gunned down while attempting to apprehend two robbers—and he finds evidence, in the form of a “small brass eight-pointed star, inlaid with red enamel,” that makes him doubt the official theory of the crime. Kell is eager to have Wiggins’s assistance in identifying the foreign power he believes funded the criminals. James Bond fans will appreciate that in the end Kell decides to call Wiggins “agent double 0” (“You can call me C,” Kell tells him), but others may have a problem with Wiggins’s underdeveloped character and a plot that doesn’t realize its potential. [em]Agent: Jemima Hunt, Writers’ Practice (U.K.). (Nov.) [/em]