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LESTRADE AND THE BROTHER OF DEATH
By M. J. Trow
Regnery Press, hardcover, 224 pages (September, 1999) $19.95
Reviewed by J. Ashley (11/99)
When I first picked up the Lestrade books, I feared another trite Holmes knock-off. There are many mediocre "Holmes" stories out there with cardboard characters and thin plots, published, I'm certain, only because they feature Holmes, Watson, or other of Conan Doyle's characters.
But these books stand out as an exception. The Lestrade series is funny, well-written, thoughtful, and wonderfully characterized. The books tend to be similar to each other, but each takes you to a stage in Lestrade's life where you learn more about this weary policeman.
In this particular book (Volume VII, set in 1912), Lestrade is a widower, has a grown daughter, and is engaged to be married to the daughter of an old friend. In the first pages of the book, Lestrade breaks his leg and spends the rest of the book convalescing at the home of said friend and fiancée.
Almost at once, the butler is murdered, and Lestrade begins a wheelchair investigation of the crime. After yet another murder occurs, Lestrade receives a cryptic letter, one that reminds him of a case that occurred on his very first day as a constable with the Metropolitan police.
This book takes a look back in time at Lestrade in various stages of his life, from his stint on the Metropolitan police, to his first years at the Yard, to his promotion to Inspector, then Chief Inspector. He reminisces on cases that seemed unconnected, and yet the winter of 1912-13 proves they have very much in common.
We meet characters that populate all of the Lestrade stories: Constable (and later Inspector) Dew; Harry and Letitia Bandicoot, who raise Lestrade's daughter; Adderline, whose incompetent authority Lestrade suffers under for years; and an odd man called Sherlock Holmes, who flits about in fantastic (and silly) disguises.
Trow makes Lestrade a real person. He doesn't solve cases in a flash of brilliance, he uses common sense and good old-fashioned detective work. The only thing I object to is Trow's constant use of puns, double-entendre, and running gags. They are funny, but sometimes distracting. The constant back flashing in this book also distracted me, but each case, a mini-story of its own, is intriguing.
These books are fast reads, and Lestrade is engaging. If you like one, you'll want more and more and more.
Other books in the series include: THE ADVENTURES OF INSPECTOR LESTRADE, BRIGADE: FURTHER ADVENTURES OF LESTRADE, LESTRADE AND THE DEADLY GAME, LESTRADE AND THE GUARDIAN ANGEL, LESTRADE AND THE HALLOWED HOUSE, LESTRADE AND THE LEVIATHAN, LESTRADE AND THE RIPPER, THE MANY FACES OF JACK THE RIPPER, MAXWELL'S HOUSE, THE SUPREME ADVENTURES OF INSPECTOR LESTRADE, and to be published in 2000, LESTRADE AND THE GIFT OF THE PRINCE.
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