Bonnie MacbirdMay 4, 2021
A Sherlock Holmes Adventure
Sherlock Holmes is one of the rare literary characters who has achieved a kind of cultural immortality. As Bonnie MacBird notes in this interview, display an image of a deerstalker hat and a pipe almost anywhere in the world, and people can identify the great detective without a second thought. So is it any wonder that an entire industry is devoted to expanding the Conan Doyle canon?
Not all these attempts succeed, but MacBird’s novels are a gem. The Three Locks (Collins Crime Club, 2021), fourth in her series and set in 1887, opens with a mysterious package delivered to Dr. John Watson. London is in the midst of a heat wave, Watson’s friend Holmes has withdrawn in one of his periodic funks, and the package offers the rather disgruntled doctor a welcome distraction. Its appeal increases when Watson discovers that it contains an engraved silver box sent by his father’s half-sister, an aunt he didn’t know he had, and represents his mother’s last gift to him. But as he struggles to unlock the box, Holmes appears, warning of danger.
Watson’s drive to prove Holmes wrong (he rejects his friend’s suggestion that the aunt’s letter may be a forgery and the lock designed to cause harm) must compete with the demands of two other cases. The wife of an escape artist requests help in protecting her husband from an angry rival, her former lover—a case that becomes more urgent when the escape artist’s most dramatic stunt goes awry, leading to murder. Then the rebellious daughter of a Cambridge don goes missing, to the great distress of the local deacon who has unwisely fallen in love with her.
Holmes initially dismisses the second case, although he takes a personal interest in the first. But when a doll made to resemble the young woman is found in the Jesus Lock on the Cam River, with a broken arm and an illegible threat written in purple ink on its cloth chest, the hunt is on, for both the don’s daughter and the person who wishes her harm. In time, it becomes clear that the two cases are connected—and that Holmes must defeat not only a cunning villain but the over-zealous local police.
C. P. Lesley is the author of 11 novels, including Legends of the Five Directions, a historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible. Her latest book, Song of the Sisters, appeared in January 2021.