cover image Mrs. Hudson and the Malabar Rose

Mrs. Hudson and the Malabar Rose

Martin Davies. Berkley Publishing Group, $14 (326pp) ISBN 978-0-425-20282-1

At the start of Davies' light-hearted second caper (after 2004's Mrs. Hudson and the Spirits' Curse) to feature Mrs. Hudson, a Baker Street housekeeper and crime solver, the Malabar Rose, a priceless Indian ruby given to Britain by the maharajah of Majoudh, arrives in London just as the Great Salmanazar, famed magician known for his vanishing act and ""escapology,"" comes from Europe for a much-heralded Boxing Day performance. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are standing guard duty when the gem inexplicably vanishes while Salmanazar is performing nearby. The indefatigable Mrs. Hudson suspects a link with Salmanazar, and leads scullery maid Flottie, her assistant, on a search of London alleyways. While Holmes remains aloof, Watson eventually joins the hunt and is treated to a humorous encounter with an exotic dancer linked to the case. Tension builds as shadowy figures lurk outside Flottie's bedroom at Baker Street, but she ultimately measures up to the challenge and joins a breathtaking chase amid New Year's revelers in Trafalgar Square. The author has eliminated the confusing narrative shifts that bedeviled the first in the series, making for a seamless and enjoyable adventure.