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The Italian Secretary

The Italian Secretary: A Further Adventure of Sherlock Holmes - Caleb Carr I was truly disappointed by this novel. I was looking forward to reading it on two fronts. First, as a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. Second, as an introduction to Caleb Carr. The Sherlock Holmes story fell far short and left me not likely to read anything else by Carr.

To call the novel wordy would be an understatement. It was a full third of the way through the book before we arrive at the crime scene. While I understand that a novel with an historic base will require a fair amount of back-filling to get the reader up to snuff on the facts, the sometimes vicious banter between Holmes and his brother, Mycroft only added page upon page of useless wordiness that Carr seemed to feel necessary. Thirty pages in a hansom between the railroad station and Hollyroodhouse was a bit much, especially after fifty pages on a train.

Sadly, by the end of the novel Carr has managed to paint Mycroft as a bumbling fool, which is far from the character as presented by others.

Where Holmes typically will hold all theories on a crime to himself, often to the frustration of those closest to him, Carr's Holmes seems to take every player in the book into his confidence, leaving very little to the reader to figure out. In fact, the crime was pretty much solved and laid out with a full third of the novel left to go, leaving Carr a third of the novel to weave the most ridiculous, disconnected ending to any Holmes pastiche that I have ever read.

Without spoiling the story for anyone still inclined to bother reading it, I will share the most bizarre part of the chase scene at the climax of the story. After Watson has taken a potshot at one of the story's antagonists and has then been reassured by Holmes that he is still in pursuit, Watson rounds a corner to find Holmes sitting, tuning and playing a lute. WTF? Really? I thought I had missed something and turned back a couple of pages.

I don't know what else I can say about this travesty.

ONE STAR, BUT ONLY BECAUSE I COULDN'T GIVE IT ZERO.