At the start of Ryan’s solid sixth Sherlock Holmes adventure (after 2020’s Through a Glass Starkly), Holmes is irked to get a note from a stranger, Ralph Prescott, imperiously announcing that he will be at Baker Street that afternoon and expects the detective to be available. Instead, Holmes takes Watson shopping, but when the pair return they find Prescott dead in their sitting room of what appears to be strychnine poisoning, based on the victim’s contorted facial muscles. The clientless murder inquiry leads to a probe of possibly widespread art fraud that threatens the reputation of the South Kensington Museum just as it’s about to be renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum as a tribute to the monarch and her late husband. The warmth of the Holmes-Watson friendship makes up for some weak spots, such as Holmes’s reference to Lestrade as a “culture maven” and his deduction that a visitor from out-of-town must be in London for the first time based on the man’s clothing. Still, the book’s strengths, including the imaginative setup, make Ryan’s taking up Conan Doyle’s mantle again welcome. Fans of traditional pastiches will enjoy this.
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