Summary: Tall, thin, androgynous Shirley Combs considers herself the world’s greatest living detective because she uses the methods and casebook of Sherlock Holmes to solve crimes of the gentry of the American city most closely resembling London, England — in terms of the weather, at least. Sidekick/narrator Dr. Mary Watson both delights in and is frustrated by her partner’s behavioral resemblance to Sherlock. Combs is unemotional, analytical, and given to pacing through the night in the streets of the almost perfectly livable city of Portland, Oregon. Her ability to observe details and understand their relationship to a case is unmatched; her demands on Watson’s time are too.
Shirley Combs bills herself as the world’s greatest living detective, and why not? Taunted and teased as a child because her name sounded so much like Sherlock Holmes’s, she developed an early obsession with the adventures and methods of Sherlock himself. She considered her fate sealed when she met up with Dr. Mary Watson. Shirley adds the technology of today to Holmes’s 100-year-old casebook and solves the mysteries of her much-beloved hometown. Mary Watson assists, and – of course – chronicles their exciting exploits. The planned series of novels incorporates and explores current events, types of people, social/economic situations that occur in Portland and the Pacific Northwest.
In their first documented adventure, Shirley is hired by 19-year-old Goldenhawk Vandeleur to investigate her wealthy mother’s untimely death. Timber heiress Priscilla Vandeleur Leoni, direct descendant of Sir Charles Baskerville, decides to spend the family fortune saving the old-growth forests of Oregon. She is a product of the 1960’s – former hippie and free-love advocate who gave birth out-of-wedlock, experimented with lesbian separatism, and married late. When faced with midlife, she tries to outrun her fears and give away her huge fortune. Haunted by a phobia of dogs, she is literally frightened to death by a pair of hounds.
My View: Ah, to say it from the very beginning, the title put me off track. In the sense, that I may not have picked up this book based solely on the title. (Update: The title has lots of significance that my naive mind couldn’t understand. It’s a reference to the doggedness of a detective & to one of Sherlock’s most famous stories. Thank you Mary Preston for pointing that out). However, I’m extremely glad I did pick it up.
This book hooked me from the very start and its lovely pace made sure to hold my attention. Taking Shirley and Mary as the main characters, it immediately reminded me of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. But it is entirely different from it, more like a Sherlock Holmes, but fully unique and innovative.
The mystery is well done, the characters are nicely built and the pace is breathtaking. I could not identify the killer till the very end and although I hoped the killer’s reason for the act was more substantial, the overall beauty of this book nudged me over.
I loved the writing style and look forward to more of the author’s work.
Sandra will be awarding the winner’s choice of a backlist eBook to a randomly drawn commenter at every stop, and a $25 Amazon GC to one commenter from the tour.
Follow her on Twitter @dehelenSandra de Helen lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. See more of her work at www.SandradeHelen.com. de Helen is also a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and International Centre for Women Playwrights.