Sometimes I set myself to the delightful task (although “task” sounds too much like “work”) of reading a new-to-me author’s first book in a Cozy Mystery series. In this case, I decided to try the first book in Vicki Delany‘s Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series, Elementary, She Read. Despite that she has been publishing books since at least 2001, somehow I had never gotten around to reading one of her books >> but of course with my to be read lists of books being so long that I cannot even remember what is on it without resorting to one of my lists, it is not unusual for me to miss gems such as this series for quite some time.
I read Elementary She Read for part of my continuing series that I call the Most Popular and Recommended Series. And, I am so glad that I finally decided to read it >> after her books being recommended many times.
This book is narrated in the first person by the sleuth, Gemma Doyle who describes herself as:
… the half owner, manager, head shop clerk, and chief duster of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium in the Cape Cod town of West London, Massachusetts. As well as reprints of the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books, we carry new books representing anything and everything in the pastiche or vaguely derived from the Holmes legend.
The bookshop and emporium is located in the fictional town of West New London, Massachusetts, and it’s address is on Baker Street. Gemma is said to be a distant relative of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and her Uncle Arthur (who owns the shop with her) has been a big fan and collector of Sherlock Holmes related manuscripts and books for a long time. Gemma, who is British, came to West New London five years earlier to take over the running of her Uncle Arthur’s shop.
West New London is a charming Cape Cod town that is built near the water. Gemma live with her dog Violet in Uncle Arthur’s house which is within walking distance of the shop. As though the book and emporium aren’t enough of things related to Sherlock Holmes in the story, adjoining the shop is “Mrs Hudson’s Tearoom.” Uncle Arthur and Gemma co-own this tea room/bakery with Jayne Wilson, Gemma’s best friend.
The mystery in Elementary She Read revolves around the discovery by Gemma of an early edition of the earliest Sherlock Holmes story in the bookshop. Gemma figures out who probably left the old magazine there, and Gemma and Jayne go looking for her. Soon they discover a body, and the hunt is on!
The book has many of the hallmarks of modern Cozies. Gemma has a mysterious romantic past. The small town setting, the main characters running a small shop, the main characters former relationship with the town’s chief detective are also plot devices that are typical nowadays of our beloved genre.
What elevates this book, however, is the great writing. As I read more and more of the book, Gemma became very “real” to me. I found myself entering the town of West New London and regretting the moments when I had to put the book down and return to my real world. What better praise for a book than to say that you can get lost in it!
Elementary She Read, published in 2017, is the first of four books in the series so far with the fifth book, There’s A Murder Afoot, scheduled to be published in January 2020. If the quality of this series holds up (as I believe it will), we will be entertained by Gemma and the goings on in West London for many, many more enjoyable hours.
P.S. Vicki Delany writes the Lighthouse Library Mystery Series as Eva Gates.