Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Review: There's a Murder Afoot by Vicki Delany

There’s a Murder Afoot
By Vicki Delany
Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery #5
Crooked Lane Books, 2020


Gemma Doyle and her friends travel to London for a Sherlock Holmes convention--but will Gemma's father take the fall for a felonious forger's fatality?

The 6th of January is Sherlock Holmes's birthday, and lucky for Gemma Doyle, January is also the slowest time of the year at both the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, and Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room. It's a good time for Gemma and her friends to travel to England for a Holmes Convention. For Gemma, the trip provides an opportunity to visit her parents, Jayne Wilson is excited about seeing all the sites London has to offer, and Ryan Ashburton just wants to spend some time with Gemma. But the trip is immediately derailed when Gemma's father Henry recognizes his brother-in-law Randolph Manning, who disappeared more than thirty years ago on the night he stole a valuable painting from his own parents.

Henry, a retired detective with Scotland Yard, has been keeping tabs on the man's career as a forger of Old Masters and he warns Randy to stay away from his family. Randy is at the conference selling his own art, a series of sketches inspired by the Holmes Canon. The ever-observant Gemma notes that he isn't exactly popular with some of the other conference attendees, but when Randy is found dead after the banquet with a dazed and confused Henry Doyle standing over him, the police leap to assume his guilt. It's up to Gemma, with the help of her friends, to plunge into the "lowest and vilest alleys" of London to save her father from prison.

My thoughts

There’s a Murder Afoot is a wonderful cozy mystery and I enjoyed every minute spent in reading it. While I’ve read Vicki Delany before, I’m new to this series and eager to begin on previous books. The story is very well written, creatively plotted, and populated with endearing characters.

So many elements propel this story – sights and sounds of London, sightseeing, a polite tea custom where cookies are called biscuits, art galleries and masterpieces of old, and a world of Sherlock Holmes fans. London scenery is vividly conveyed and I loved the Sherlock Holmes convention and all that it entailed – costumes, artwork, souvenirs, etc.

The series regulars are delightful … Gemma, owner of a Cape Cod bookstore; Jayne, her close friend; Ryan, her boyfriend; Grant, a rare book collector; and Donald, fascinated by all things Sherlock. This story, however, takes them to London in a plot revolving around a Sherlock Holmes convention. Gemma’s sister, Pippa, is introduced and I found her intriguing – very businesslike, somewhat mysterious as to her job, no real friends. And who exactly does she work for? Possibly the Queen or some highly-placed individual?

There’s some delightful humor quietly placed here and there. For instance, if Gemma wanted to enjoy her trip, she probably shouldn’t have left Arthur in charge of her shop in West London, Cape Cod.

Another interesting element is that the villain and murder victim just happens to be Gemma’s newly-discovered uncle, with a background of art forgery that opens things up to several suspects. The mystery is well crafted and I loved that we don’t see one attack after another on Gemma as she prods around seeking to prove her father innocent. As for Ryan, Gemma’s police detective boyfriend, I’m not quite sure what I think of him. He seems to care for Gemma, but doesn’t want her investigating. While that’s probably natural, I’d like for him to be more supportive of Gemma.

There’s a Murder Afoot is a wonderful cozy mystery and I’m thrilled to have discovered this series. It’s also a clean read – no sexual scenes or profanity.

Highly recommended to cozy mystery fans.

I received a copy of this book through the Review Crew. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


      Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers and a national bestseller in the U.S. She has written more than thirty books:  clever cozies to Gothic thrillers to gritty police procedurals, to historical fiction and novellas for adult literacy. She is currently writing three cozy mystery series: the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series for Crooked Lane, the Year Round Christmas mysteries for Penguin Random House and, as Eva Gates, the Lighthouse Library series, for Crooked Lane Books.
      Vicki lives and writes in bucolic Prince Edward County, Ontario. She is a past president of the Crime Writers of Canada.  Her work has been nominated for the Derringer, the Bony Blithe, the Ontario Library Association Golden Oak, and the Arthur Ellis Awards.

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