cover image Lestrade and the Guardian Angel: Volume VIII

Lestrade and the Guardian Angel: Volume VIII

M. J. Trow. Gateway Editions, $19.95 (235pp) ISBN 978-0-89526-267-7

British history teacher Trow clearly enjoys writing his period mysteries about the Scotland Yard inspector Sholto Lestrade; his latest (after Lestrade and the Brother of Death, Forecasts, Oct. 4) is stuffed with enough broad humor, bad puns and knockabout physical humor to delight an audience of nine-year-olds. Unfortunately, in this outing the author's enthusiasm isn't contagious: neither Lestrade nor the murders he is investigating provoke much interest. The inspector is supposed to be a seasoned professional, a man of intelligence who has consorted with the likes of Winston Churchill and the Prince of Wales, but as he struggles to find a pattern behind a series of corpses found with strange objects stuffed into their mouths--a soldier with medal, an archeologist with a scarab, etc.--Lestrade seems more like the bumbling Inspector Clouseau than Holmes's occasionally worthy adversary. The investigation is further complicated by Lestrade's long-standing friendship with the main suspect--an affectionate but hot-headed young man. It's 1897, and--as Trow tells us when Lestrade meets Dr. John Watson--the exploits of the ""late and legendary Sherlock Holmes"" are being ""embroidered and indeed invented by Watson's coauthor, another quack by the name of Conan Doyle: ""Conan the Barbarian, as one reviewer had called him."" You don't have to be a Holmes purist to flinch at the line, and Holmes fans may be put off by Trow's version of the English Inspector. Nonetheless, others may enjoy the novel's strong period setting and loopy humor. (Dec.)