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The Italian Secretary: A Further Adventure of Sherlock Holmes Paperback – October 27, 2009
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For Holmes and his affable annalist, Dr. John Watson, this spirited escapade begins sometime in the late 19th century with their receipt, in London, of an encrypted telegram from Sherlock's eccentric elder brother, Mycroft, "a senior but anonymous government official." It summons them to Edinburgh, Scotland, where architect Sir Alistair Sinclair and his foreman, Dennis McKay, have been slain in the midst of rehabilitating the medieval west tower of the Royal Palace of Holyrood--the very wing where Queen Mary had lived, and where Rizzio had met his brutal, politically motivated end. Mycroft fears these murders portend new threats against Britain's present monarch--the elderly Queen Victoria, who infrequently lodges at the palace--by a known assassin, perhaps in nefarious league with the German Kaiser. En route north, Holmes and Watson are menaced aboard their train by a red-bearded bomb thrower (supposedly a rabid Scots nationalist), only to discover that still greater dangers await them, and others, at Holyroodhouse. The plaintive drone of a weeping woman, cruelly punctured and shattered corpses, a pool of blood "that never dries," and a disembodied Italian voice with unexpected musical tastes all imply the wrath of wraiths behind recent atrocities. But Holmes and Watson deduce that greed, rather than ghosts, may be to blame.
Carr, who earned renown with his historical mysteries, The Alienist (1994) and The Angel of Darkness (1997), apparently intended The Italian Secretary to be a short story; however, he couldn't stop writing. The result is a fleet-footed, atmospherically gothic, and often amusing Holmes tale (with an exposition scene in Watson's bed chamber thats truly priceless), but one that makes scant attempt to enhance our understanding of Conan Doyle's characters--a less ambitious undertaking, in that respect, than Mitch Cullin's concurrently published A Slight Trick of the Mind. And while Carr displays a gift here for adopting another author's literary techniques, it is really his own style and series players that his fans are waiting to see more of in the future. --J. Kingston Pierce --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I have read and enjoyed Carr's earlier fiction, The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness. One of the hallmarks of both books was Carr's ability to create a seemingly auhentic picture of life in 19th-century New York. He also created a wonderful pair of characters in Dr. Lazlo Kreizler and his trusted comrade John Schuyler Moore. However, Carr faced two hurdles in writing the Italian Secretary. He had to recreate the atmosphere of Victorian-era Scotland, a region he was probably not as intimately familiar with as New York City. Further, while Kreizler and Moore sprung solely from Carr's imagination, here Carr had to find authentic voices for the esteemed Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, whose characterization by Arthur Conan Doyle must be fixed firmly in the imagination of anyone who has ever read the original Holmes tales. That is no easy task.
I have read virtually all of Conan Doyle's work but admit that I cannot claim as much expertise as devoted Baker Street Irregulars or other followers of Holmes. However, this amateur thinks Carr has done a terrific job replicating their original voices. It sound like Holmes and Watson to me.
The plot line is set out in detail in the product description and I won't go on at length about the plot or discuss any of the many twists and turns along the way. I did like the way Carr threw Sherlock's brother Mycroft into the story. Carr does an excellent job describing the petty sibling rivalries that must affect even the most accomplished of brothers.Read more ›
As a Caleb Carr novel, THE ITALIAN SECRETARY is quite good. The book is exciting and the plot holds the reader's interest. Carr greatly expands the character of Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's brother, who has a special though vaguely defined relationship with the queen. Mycroft calls upon his brother and Watson to investigate murders that may call the queen's safety into question.
As a Sherlock Holmes story, the result is a bit weaker. Carr captures the relationship between Holmes and Watson very well. His portrayal of their individual personalities is fairly good though just slightly off. This does not disrupt the story, however, and merely serves to remind us that Carr is not a clone of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Carr's weak spot is that his portrayal of Holmes' logic is not as tight as one might have hoped. Although some clues are presented to the reader, they are tied together far more loosely than in the original stories. Although Doyle himself would sometimes have Holmes make inferential leaps, those times stood out starkly as the exceptions to the rule. Indeed, one major plot twist is presented by Holmes stating what he had earlier observed even though no clue whatsoever had been presented to the reader. This makes THE ITALIAN SECRETARY read more like a crime novel than a detective novel.
Another point to note is the subtle supernatural aspect that Carr employs in the book. Although he tries to gloss this over in the final chapter, it nonetheless feels artificial in a Sherlock Holmes tale.Read more ›
Having quite enjoyed Carr's historical crime fiction, I was looking forward to seeing how he treated the world's first consulting detective. At first, my expectations for success seemed to be realised. Watson's voice in narration, the initial depiction of Holmes, the outre nature of the crime, all are reminiscent of Conan Doyle at his finest. However, as I continued reading, I began to be less and less satisfied. Something was...not quite right, and it kept getting less and less right as the book progressed.
First off, it seemed to me that Carr had only the most superficial understanding of the characters, and this was not enough to carry them beyond the confines of Baker Street. Once Holmes left his familiar props, he became quite flat. I always imagined the master with a twinkle in his keen, grey eye, but this Holmes didn't have one. I did not see his excitement over the case or his delight in his own powers. Carr also seems to have forgotten the numerous times Holmes was able to put distraught females at ease when Watson could not, which made later portions of the books sit quite ill with me.
For his part, Watson was too...active. We, the readers, know that Watson was an integral part of this duo, as does Holmes himself. But John H.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I loved The Alienist. This book I despise. It is poorly structured, erratically plotted, full of loose ends and random irrelevant story spikes that go nowhere. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Genuine Redhead
This book moves at a ponderous pace and is embroidered with over-the-top wordy dialogue and exposition. Perhaps that is an authentic period style? Read morePublished 2 months ago by Wildiewill
I felt like I was reading an Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock mystery! A great read!Published 12 months ago by Alisha Horst
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. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Ken
At this point, there are certainly hundreds, and possibly thousands of Sherlock Holmes pastiches published. Read morePublished 18 months ago by A. Ross
Something of a disappointment, but readable. The writing is polished enough, mostly -- MOSTLY -- with the exception of numerous instances of weak sentences such as the oft-repeated... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Joe Lewis
To compare to the classic Holmes canon, 'The Italian Secretary' is closest to stories like 'Charles Augustus Milverton', or more appropriately, 'The veiled lodger'. Read morePublished 23 months ago by James B.