This is an old fashioned novel in the nicest sense of the word. It’s a Sherlock Holmes style tale set in 1882 London, featuring the nasty, rude, very smart and insensitive Sidney Grice. As the book opens, young March Middleton has moved into his home. She’s his goddaughter and she’s been orphaned. She arrives just as Grice welcomes into his parlor one Grace Dillinger, whose daughter has been brutally murdered and whose son in law is in prison, accused of the crime. Mrs. Dillinger is sure he is innocent.
Grice refuses to take the case as Grace can’t afford to pay him, but March opens her purse enough to pay and the hunt is on. This meticulously assembled plot includes no clue or subplot without a reason, and the story is a truly mysterious one filled with conundrums and puzzles galore. The feisty March proves a good foil for Sidney Grice, who desperately needs a humanizing touch. She’s also a good sounding board for his ideas. He’s trying to train her to think logically and clearly, fine-tuning her deductive reasoning skills.
While the story of the dead woman and her accused husband is somewhat brutal, as are a series of other crimes the duo looks into throughout the novel, the tone is never heavy handed. This is story telling in its purest form. If you enjoy Sherlock Holmes and have read every word, this novel is an excellent alternative, and looks to be a part of a series. There’s a sly bit toward the end with a certain Dr. Conan Doyle.
I liked March very much and was interested by Sidney Grice. The way he figures out the crime is pure enjoyment. He fooled me and he’ll probably fool you as well; all in all, a nicely done pastiche.