Most Baffling, Mrs. Hudson
By Sydney Hosier

Avon, 1998 (246 pp)

Reviewed by J. Ashley (7/98)

I picked up this book because I've always had a soft spot for Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock Holmes's much put-upon landlady. I came away disappointed.

Emma Hudson and her sidekick, Violet Warner, have taken to detecting crimes. Violet has put an ad in the paper and the answer to the ad arrives within the first few pages of the story.

A wealthy industrialist, Edgar Bramwell, has been murdered at a party in his house, shot during a game of charades. The puzzling thing is, no one in the room saw anyone shoot him or even heard the shot fired. Scotland Yard is baffled. The wife of the murdered man hires Mrs. Hudson to discover what happened.

Mrs. Hudson questions the suspects, an old school friend of the dead man's, the old school friend's wife, a disgruntled, recently fired employee and his fiance, a hearty African explorer, and of course, the household servants. From questions, chance encounters, and the testing of theories, Mrs. Hudson is able to unravel the puzzling case, and she presents the solution to Inspector MacDonald of Scotland Yard in the last chapter.

I say the book was a disappointment because the only intriguing thing about it was the use of Mrs. Hudson as the detective. Everything else is cliche and formulaic, including a victim dying just as he is about to reveal the the murderer's identity, the gathering of suspects at the scene of the crime at the end, the baffled policeman eagerly taking the solution from the amateur sleuth. This story is supposed to be a baffling puzzle mystery, worthy of Sherlock Holmes himself, but I figured out how the murder was done while Mrs. Hudson interviewed the suspects early in the story, and the "subtle" clues in the rest of the book banged me over the head while Mrs. Hudson ran past them, blissfully unaware.

So, the story is much too predictable, and to add to that, characterization was minimal. I found I didn't care about any of the characters and was indifferent about who did the murder (which I guessed--correctly--about half-way through the book). Violet Warner is a charming sidekick, but I never got much feeling for Mrs. Hudson. To be fair, her character in the Holmes stories was never well developed, so the author has room for much artistic license, but I think so much more could have been done.

This is the third book of the series, the first two being Elementary, Mrs. Hudson and Murder, Mrs. Hudson. Though Most Baffling, Mrs. Hudson is a quick, sometimes amusing read, I prefer stories with more meat on their bones.


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