From Publishers Weekly
British author Roberts follows the mediocre Sherlock Holmes and the Crosby Murder (2002) with an equally unmemorable effort, which draws on two of Dr. Watson's legendary untold tales. Holmes's failure to bring the vicious thieves of the valuable Vatican cameos to justice rears its head seven years later, when the prime suspect, Cardinal Tosca, a prominent member of the Catholic Church, returns to England. Meanwhile, Holmes's probe into a protection racket victimizing small businesses leads him to a Mafia-like secret society known as the Rule of Nine. Predictably, the two cases quickly become one, and a real-life Italian-American undercover detective joins the campaign, posing as an organ grinder to infiltrate the gang. The search for the stolen cameos is sidetracked by a murder investigation in which the master detective typically disagrees with the theories of Scotland Yard. The solution to the murder turns on a set of coincidences that strain credulity. Despite his convincing portrayals of Holmes and Watson, the author, who has done some excellent pastiches in the past, fails at marrying a traditional tale of deduction with the adversaries he's chosen for Holmes-a ruthless organized crime syndicate. Conan Doyle did much better with a similar premise in "The Adventure of the Red Circle."
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Sherlock Holmes fans will be delighted with Roberts' latest updating of the Conan Doyle series. Roberts' style is surprisingly similar to Doyle's, and the adventures he sets for Holmes and Watson are nearly as baffling as the originals. In this outing, Holmes and Watson are up against a gang called the Rule of Nine, headed by one Don Vito Corese. The New York-based gang has extended its reach to London, setting up a protection racket and forcing local shopkeepers to pay up or risk having their businesses destroyed. When a man's body is found crammed into a tea chest, Holmes is called in to assist and soon discovers that the protection racket is only a cover for a much darker scheme. In his usual inimitable style, Holmes (with help from Watson and a New York detective) employs disguises, trickery, logic, and legerdemain to confuse the perpetrators, amaze the police, stun even the unflappable Watson, and solve the case with flair and aplomb. A cleverly plotted, entertaining imitation that just might please even Holmes purists. Emily MeltonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved