The Baker Street Letters
by Michael Robertson
Cover Artist: Photo: Budovic Maisant / Hemis / Corbis
Review by Don Metzler
Minotaur Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312650643
Date: 01 February 2011 List Price $13.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
On the floor behind the desk was the bronze of American Indians hunting buffalo--a replica, but even so not inexpensive by Nigel's standards--and something that would never be found on the floor of the office. But that was merely odd.Successful attorney Reggie Heath has recently moved his offices to a second-floor suite of rooms on London's Baker Street. Not having carefully read the lease agreement, Reggie is unaware of one peculiar clause: the lessee is held responsible for answering any letters which should arrive at the offices, addressed to Mr. Sherlock Holmes. As Reggie eventually learns, over the years desperate people have sought out the help of the renowned, yet fictional detective, at his well-known address of 221-B Baker Street. The lease specifies that these letters are only to be responded to with carefully worded form replies.
But Reggie's younger brother Nigel, who has been put in charge of the task of dealing with the Holmes letters, is a bit of a romantic, and he takes a more personal interest in some of them than his brother might prefer. In particular, he runs across one set of letters that span a period of more than twenty years, the original missive having been written in crayon by a child who was eight years of age at the time. The correspondence concerns a missing person case, the missing person being the father of the eight-year-old girl.
Nigel, for reasons that are incomprehensible to Reggie, decides to personally look into the case of the girl's missing father, even though it occurred all of twenty years earlier. He flies to Los Angeles, California, where the disappearance took place. Reggie, with great reluctance, feels compelled to follow his wayward brother, although since Nigel has a 24 hour head start, Reggie isn't even certain that he'll be able to find him.
The investigations that Nigel and Reggie embark on, frequently at cross purposes, leads them to a construction site, where a portion of the new Los Angeles subway system is being tunneled, and eventually pit them against an extremely powerful though shadowy enemy. But worst of all, within a space of three days Nigel has become the prime suspect in two separate murders, on two different continents.
As a reader I had conflicting reactions to this book. My first reaction was that this is an absolutely wonderful premise for a new mystery series. Letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes at 221-B Baker Street, and fielded by members of a twenty-first century law firm... the possibilities are practically endless, as far as future plot scenarios, and also as far as holding readers' interest.
My second reaction was that, while The Baker Street Letters is engaging, and overall a fun read, there were instances in which the author could have made it a better novel. I refer specifically to several passages where the story lapsed in logic and/or logical sequence. For example, when Reggie and Nigel are finally reunited after having been incommunicado for a period of several days, Nigel seems to have knowledge of all of his brother's movements since Reggie arrived in Los Angeles, even down to which hotel Reggie has been staying at. How did Nigel learn any of this, given that he has been hiding out on skid row, and has not been in touch with any of their associates? It is not explained.
The story contains a number of similar non sequiturs which will baffle the careful reader. One hopes that Robertson will correct these sort of lapses in his future books. Because, as already stated, the idea behind this series is vastly intriguing, and would seem to have limitless possibilities.
I look forward to reading the next book in the Brothers of Baker Street series.