cover image A Samba for Sherlock

A Samba for Sherlock

Jo Soares, Jose Eugenio Soares. Pantheon Books, $23 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-375-40065-0

Soares, a TV talk-show host known as the ""Johnny Carson of Brazil,"" offers a story about Sherlock Holmes on the loose in Rio de Janeiro in 1886. The book has sold 400,000 copies in Brazil, but American readers--especially those spoiled by such accomplished Holmes pastiches as Laurie R. King's Mary Russell books--might come away baffled and disappointed. There are a couple of good jokes, like Holmes mistaking a gold brooch on Mrs. Hudson's collar for an egg stain and Dr. Watson saying to the Emperor Pedro II of Brazil, ""Elementary, my dear Pedro."" Much of this dense and unnecessarily gruesome tale consists, however, of large gobs of research on all aspects of 19th-century Brazilian life dropped into a plot that strives for audacity but achieves mainly tedium. In Rio, actress Sarah Bernhardt learns that a Stradivarius violin belonging to a close female friend of the emperor has been stolen and suggests inviting Holmes to investigate the crime, which may be linked to a string of grisly killings of women. Holmes accepts, falls in love with a gorgeous mulatto actress and makes the local cannabis his drug of choice. But he fails to solve the crimes. Soares--an actor, humorist, director and artist as well as a TV celeb--may have touched a pulse that beats in Brazil, but his Sherlock is not likely to play so well in the States. (Nov.)