cover image Lestrade and the Dead Man's Hand

Lestrade and the Dead Man's Hand

M. J. Trow. Gateway Editions, $19.95 (237pp) ISBN 978-0-89526-288-2

Mystery fans may recall Inspector Lestrade as a decidedly inferior policeman who appears in the Holmes canon. Trow's Lestrade is all too human but more competent than Conan Doyle's. This 11th entry in Trow's Lestrade series provides a good time and a vatful of fascinating Victorian lore. It's 1895, and the inspector (last seen in Lestrade and the Magpie) is desperate to stop a homicidal maniac who is killing women on the Underground. Since the murders appear to be random, Lestrade has difficulty constructing a trail, and his frustration mounts with each death. As if the case were not challenging enough, Lestrade must also contend with cranky bosses, green underlings (excepting the loyal Constable Walter Dew), and mysterious ""relatives"" of the victims who show up at the station house. Then there's the distraction of the highly appealing Trottie True, the sister of one of the victims. The possible suspects are nicely drawn, and the cameo appearances by many famous Victorians--the Marquess of Queensbury and Aubrey Beardsley among them--turn this book into a kind of parlor game. The ending yields a rather arbitrary but adequate villain. But the plot is incidental; the heart of this story lies in its clever, lively language. The brazen wordplay occasionally may elicit a groan, but much more often a smile. (Aug.)