cover image A Study in Crimson: Sherlock Holmes 1942

A Study in Crimson: Sherlock Holmes 1942

Robert J. Harris. Pegasus Crime, $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-64313-758-2

As Harris (The Thirty-One Kings) explains in the preface, the Sherlock Holmes films made and set in the 1940s starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce inspired him to transplant Holmes and Watson to the same period in this superior pastiche. In 1942, with London under nighttime blackout restrictions, a serial murderer modeling himself on Jack the Ripper has struck twice. Holmes is called in by Inspector Lestrade after the second killing, which, like the first, happened on an anniversary of a Ripper murder. The current killer leaves his chosen nickname, Crimson Jack, emblazoned in red chalk near the bodies. Efforts to keep the savage murders a secret fail, and the ensuing panic has broader consequences, including a clamor to lift the blackout so that Londoners can travel at night safely. With less than a month until the expected date of the next killing, Holmes pursues every reasonable theory, including the possibility that Crimson Jack is a descendant of the Ripper. Besides providing the duo with a worthy challenge, Harris makes his Watson an intelligent and competent sidekick. Both the strong characterization and plot bode well for a sequel. (June)